31
May

Make It Yourself DreamCatcher

by Tiffany in Crafts

I have always been intrigued by dreamcatchers. I grew up in the Southwest so I saw tons of them over the years and always thought they were astoundingly beautiful. They are essentially a hoop or web adorned with sacred items such as feathers and beads and are believed to filter bad dreams away. This video from the folks at Mode shares a DIY dreamcatcher with some added Glam. I love that most of the items could easily be found second hand at yard sales. I’ve seen embroidery hoops, lace, feathers on cheapy decor, beads, costume jewelry ect. at yard sales and estate sales that would all work well for a crafty project with the kids making dreamcatchers. Enjoy!

30
May

Straw Bale Gardening

by Tiffany in Gardening

Straw Bale GardeningIf you have enough space for a bale of straw, then you have enough space for a garden. Growing vegetables in a straw bale is easy, fun and a good way to inspire kids to start gardening. A straw bale acts much like a raised bed, you just plant directly in the bale. It is a great gardening method to use in areas that have poor soil, or if your dwelling has minimal outdoor space. Use these tips to grow your own straw bale garden.

Location

Any flat surface that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day is a great location for a straw bale garden.If it’s a grassy outdoor location, place several layers of newspaper or weed inhibiting fabric on the grass, then place the straw bale on top.

Straw Bale

Organic straw can be sourced from a local organic farmer. Bales can also be purchased from local garden supply center, but they may not be organic. I used Craigslist to source mine and I emailed before hand to see how the straw was grown and if it was sprayed with anything or grown in a field where the previous crop was sprayed.

Place the bale on its side with the twine running around the perimeter so it won’t impede plant growth from the top of the bale. The twine will also hold the bale together during the garden growing season.

Straw bales are usually cheap too! You can often find them for under $10 bucks a bale. We started our first straw bale garden with 20 bales and we got them for $6 a bale, delivered.

Bale Preparation

Start preparing the straw bale two weeks before planting time so the internal composting process will be well underway at planting time. You can find directions for how to do this but the basic idea is to water the straw bales thoroughly every day for a week. Every other day, place 3 cups of organic fertilizer on top of each bale prior to watering. The water will push the fertilizer down into the center of the bale where it’s needed. For a free natural source of nitrogen fertilizer look into human urine. It works!

On the tenth day place 1 1/2 cups of phosphorus and 1 1/2 cups of potassium on top of each straw bale and water thoroughly. Continue watering daily until the end of 2 weeks.

If you have prepared the bale(s) correctly, the interior should be hot and moist and black spots and/or mushrooms should be visible on the exterior of the straw bale.

mushrooms on straw bale

Essentially what you are doing when conditioning straw bales for a straw bale garden is you are causing the bales to start composting which makes it easier for planting and it fills the bales with beneficial microorganisms. You need to wait 2-3 weeks after starting so that your bales are not still “hot” from composting and burn your plants.

Time to Plant

Use a hand-held trowel to create planting holes in the top of the straw bale. Place potting soil in each planting hole, then place selected vegetable plants into each hole and cover roots with potting soil. Water plants well.

To plant seeds, spread 2 inches of potting soil over the entire top of the straw bale and sprinkle selected seeds on top. Cover seeds with a light layer of potting soil and water well.

Plants that grow upward (peas) or need support (tomatoes, cukes) can be grown quite easily too. Just add some stakes with wire or twine going across to support vines and plants with heavy fruit. You can even plant in the sides of the bales. The growing space seems small but it really isn’t.

For information on companion planting and ideal layouts for straw bale gardens I highly recommend the book Straw Bale Gardens. I borrowed it from the library initially and had to buy it, it is a great wealth of knowledge.

straw bale gardening

Water straw bale as needed during the growing season. Straw bales can dry out quickly so make sure you are harvesting rain water so you can water frequently. A good drip system or soaker hose down the middle of each row of bales is also beneficial.

lettuce and swiss chard straw bales

There is often no need to add more fertilizer, the straw bales contains enough nutrients to sustain the plants until harvest time. Though if you feel you need to add some extra nutrients you can use compost and compost tea.

Monday, May 30th, 2016

8 Comments on Straw Bale Gardening

24
May

Instant Pot Rabbit Soup

by Tiffany in Recipes

Instant Pot Rabbit SoupI could sing the praises of pressure cookers all day long. They make it amazingly easy to make a fast meal with a slow cooked taste. The flavors pop, the meat falls off the bone, and you can walk in the house with only 45 minutes to spare and still have an amazing dinner.

This soup imitates a classic chicken noodle soup except it uses rabbit. The flavor is very similar but rabbit is one of the healthiest, leanest, and most environmentally friendly meats you can eat. It is a very sustainable meat source and since rabbits are small and easy to care for they can be raised and butchered by the DIY homesteader. If that is not for you they can also be found at some farmer’s markets and in gourmet grocery stores.

This recipe was made in our much loved Instant Pot!

Ingredients:

4-5 lb. rabbit (with bones)
1/2 Onion (large, cut in large chunks)
3-4 Carrots (large, cut in large chunks)
2 Stalks Celery (cut in large chunks)
2 Inch piece of ginger (sliced)
3 Cloves garlic (chopped)
1 C White wine
1 C Noodles
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp Herbs de Provence
1 Tbsp Parsley
5 Cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

Rabbit Soup Recipe:

Dredge the rabbit pieces in flour and saute them inside the Instant Pot or pressure cooker for a few minutes on each side, using the sautee setting on your Instant Pot. After all pieces have been browned remove and add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and ginger. Saute for 3-5 minutes and then deglaze with the wine. Allow it to cook down for 2-3 minutes. Add the rabbit pieces once again as well as the water, parsley, and herbs. If you are using a deboned rabbit use chicken or vegetable stock instead of water.

Manually cook for 15 minutes and then allow it to depressurize naturally. Remove the rabbit, debone, and add back to the pot along with the fresh noodles. Allow them to soften, salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Enjoy!

Tip: Make it paleo by removing the noodles and flour. It’s still delicious.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

1 Comment on Instant Pot Rabbit Soup

13
May

The Importance of Water Conservation

by Tiffany in Environment

Importance of Water Conservation

With water supplies dwindling in certain areas, and with the amount of pollution in water supplies all over the world, it is more important than ever that we pay attention to cleaning up and conserving the precious resource we can’t afford to lose. Conservation typically begins and ends with the land surrounding the source. In order to conserve specific watersheds in an effort to preserve a clean source, the lands surrounding said source must be protected. There is funding – federal, state, and private – available for most conservation projects, which acts as an incentive to get the protection necessary. Prioritizing areas that are of the utmost importance, when it comes to conservation, is the first step in the right direction.

It Starts and Ends With Watersheds

A watershed is any area of land that drains water into one location. This can be lakes, wetlands, streams, rivers, estuaries, and so on. These watersheds supply our drinking water and are responsible for providing a habitat for plants and animals. Their importance cannot be overstated. Things like pollution, runoff, and erosion impact the health of a watershed, thus are all things to which we must pay attention in order to properly conserve our water. This nature.org article on The Importantce of Watersheds is a great resource for simple protection facts and tidbits. The health of our water supplies is obviously correlated with our personal health, and that of those around us. So it’s obvious that the more knowledge and information taken in regarding preservation, the better. There are efforts throughout our country (and throughout the world for that matter), such as the Cadiz Water Project EIR, to create sustainable solutions intended to protect our watersheds.

Causes of Watershed Pollution

There are numerous causes when it comes to the pollution of watersheds and, in turn, our water supplies. Runoff of fertilizer and pesticides, drainage of waste from farms and factories, failed septic systems, and more are responsible for polluting the water on which we rely. With so many pollutants, it is important to identify the source of the problem, or from where the pollution is coming. This begins at a community level, wherein the support and cooperation of the entire public is necessary.

Getting to the Bottom of the Problem

The solution to cleaning up our watersheds and keeping them clean and sustainable doesn’t stop at merely pointing out the problems. It’s necessary that there be constant innovations, sustainable improvements, public involvement and communication, program integration and implementation, and so on. It takes different levels of cooperation from different agencies and groups of people in order to truly get to the protection necessary.

The Magnitude of Clean Water Issues

Aside from the aforementioned issues of maintaining a functional habitat for plants, animals, and humans alike, the magnitude of issues related to clean watersheds is global. Foods, tourism, production of different fibers and other manufactured goods, and more depend on healthy watersheds. Thus the monetary impact is also huge. Sustainability and preservation of the water used for so many things is crucial to just about every element of how we live. Understanding that a single watershed can have a global impact is crucial when it comes to realizing how important each one truly is. It starts at a local level and reaches far beyond that.

Land Conservation

Local land trusts, industry groups, landowner groups, and more all have an impact on how we protect the land on which our watersheds exist. Overdevelopment of certain areas and overall pollution of the land surrounding water sources impacts the water we use for so many things. The conversation surrounding sustainability and clean water must incorporate how we use land and how it’s managed. Protection is necessary at level. The symbiotic relationship between water and the land surrounding it must be taken into account in order to better implement strategies that will have a long lasting effect.

Effective Conservation Overall

Conservation at any level requires effective strategies and cooperation every step of the way. Land conservation is crucial when it comes to protecting and conserving water sources. Land use, potential and existing contamination issues, and protection and restoration of said lands will only benefit the watersheds that exist within those habitats. Conservation starts with identifying everything surrounding the watershed itself. Once measures are taken to protect the land, the watershed requires special care and attention.

Educating the public on all the elements of sustainability, conservation tactics, usage, problems (potential and existing), and everything else surrounding our water will go a long way in protecting it. It starts at the source and goes well beyond that, which is important when it comes to understating the impact of everything we do. Once steps are taken to find solutions to each problem, it becomes increasingly important to stay on top things, as other issues will come to the forefront. An educated and knowledgeable public is the key component when it comes to bringing forth effective solutions for water conservation.

9
May

The Difference Between Good and Bad Palm Oil

by Tiffany in Environment

Difference Between Good Bad Palm OilYou may or may not be aware of the debate raging about palm oil. If you are pretty savvy about food ingredients and how they are sourced (ethically or no) than you probably already know a great deal about palm oil. If you are new to this journey, you might be asking yourself what is palm oil exactly? It is a big deal? The answer is a resounding yes. Chances are you are already using palm oil in your home and you need to know more about it.

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil taken from the pulp of the fruits that grow on oil palms. Oil palms only grow in the tropics and 85% of the world’s palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia on both large-scale plantations and small-scale family farms. It is in about 50% of packaged foods. That is a huge percentage. If you still buy the occasional package of cookies, noodles, ice cream, soap, or cosmetics than you are supporting the palm oil industry and which side you support has some pretty big ramifications.

palm oil products

Why Do We Use Palm Oil?

Okay so you might be wanting to say “Stop right there. If palm oil is controversial than we do we use it at all?” That is a great question. Palm is favored for a variety of reasons. It is has wonderful cooking properties and it maintains its properties, and does not degrade, even under high temperatures. It is smooth and creamy with no discernable smell making it perfect for all types of cooking and baking. It has natural preservative properties which give it a long shelf life and it extends the shelf life of food products. It is high yield crop, making it efficient to grow and harvest. It uses less than half of the land required by other crops to produce the same amount of oil. This makes it the least expensive vegetable oil in the world. Heck, it is even used as fuel for cars and power plants. It is pretty amazing how versatile this oil is.

The Bad News About Palm Oil

The bad news is pretty bad. In some regions of the worlds the palm oil industry has lead to some serious deforestation. Primary forest (forest that was previously untouched) or which housed protected species and biodiversity, was cleared in order to be converted into palm oil plantations. Also in some cases palm oil plantations were erected without consideration or permission from the communities in the area and thus they were responsible for forcibly displacing people from their land. There have also been issues with worker’s rights, fair wages, and safe working conditions. The biggest issue for may though (other than deforestation) is the fact that the conversion of the forests also threatens animals such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, elephants, and rhino.

Why Can’t We Just Stop Using Palm Oil?

The orangutans! The tigers! The virgin forests! We must stop using palm oil right?!

Well, the answer is not as simple as you think. Replacing palm oil with other types of vegetable oil (such as sunflower, soybean or rapeseed oil) would mean that much larger amounts of land would need to be used, since palm trees produce 4-10 times more oil than other crops within the same space. This means MORE forests would need to be converted for agricultural purposes and more environmental damage would occur. In addition to the fact that replacing palm oil with other types of oil will not be more beneficial for the environment (just the opposite actually) replacing palm oil is not always feasible due to palm oil’s unique properties as a food ingredient. Other oils might go rancid, they are more expensive, and they will not give the products the same texture and taste. This makes switching very unlikely from a business standpoint.

There is also the economic issue. In Indonesia and Malaysia, a total of 4.5 million people earn their living from palm oil production. Stopping the production of palm oil altogether would create significant problems for these people who support their families by working in this industry.

The Good News About Palm Oil

The good news is that there are companies and organizations working to fix these issues surrounding palm oil and we can choose to support those companies who are taking the proper steps to make palm oil more sustainable. In 2008, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). When they are properly applied, these criteria can help to minimize the negative impact of palm oil cultivation on the environment and communities in palm oil-producing regions.

good or bad palm oil

The RSPO has more than 2,600 members worldwide which represent all links along the palm oil supply chain. They have committed to produce, source and/or use sustainable palm oil certified by the RSPO. The RSPO dictates that no primary forests with high concentrations of biodiversity, endangered species, fragile ecosystems, or culturally important areas can be cleared. They require a reduction in the use of pesticides and fires, fair treatment of workers according to local and international labour rights standards, and the need to inform and consult with local communities before development of any land. Only if they are RSPO certified can a company claim to be making or selling products with sustainable palm oil. All products that meet this stringent criteria carry the RSPO trademark. However, good palm oil only accounts for 21% of all palm oil consumed globally, so that is why we all need to share the story of #GoodPalmOil and make sure that brands and retailers know that we, as consumers, care about this issue and expect them to take action.. And just to let you know why we need to worry about this…worldwide demand for palm oil is expected to double by 2050 to 240 million tons. We need to act now.

For more information and to participate in the debate visit RSPO.

What Can You Do to Demand Sustainable Palm Oil?

At a consumer level, you have an important role to play. You can vote with your dollars and use the power of your purse to encourage companies to increase their societal and environmental responsibility. You can support these efforts by making sure that you only purchase products that contain certified sustainable palm oil. And you can also be vocal in your grocery store and on social media in demanding that your favorite palm oil containing products get certified. Download and print a Shopping Guide that gives more information on RSPO-certified products, as well as a list of some available on supermarket shelves.

You can also help by getting involved with a new campaign from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) called What’s your food made of?. The campaign features three short fun films of knitted foods which raise awareness of good and bad palm oil. There is a difference and we need to know what that difference is and pursue the more sustainable products.

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Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this campaign. All opinions are my own.