3
Nov

Preparing Your Home For Cold Weather

by Tiffany in The Homestead

Preparing Your Home For Winter

When cold weather shows up and decides to stay that is when my cold weather to-do list starts being made. I have quite a bit I need to get done each year and making sure it all gets done is extremely important for a variety of reasons. Everything on my cold weather home preparation list ensures that our home is a safe, warm, affordable, reliable, energy efficient, and healthy place to be for the winter months. Some of it is just checking for problems before they happen. Other aspects mean doing some cleanup unique to fall and cold weather. Others address making sure we are not wasting energy or money during a season when bills can easily get away from you.

Here are some of the things I do to prepare my home for cold weather. Do you have any to add?

Clean and maintain gutters – Fall leaves, dirt, and debris can clog up gutters so it is good to do check them once or twice a year and clean them out. Doing it before winter is important because you don’t want ice dams or heavy snow accumulating up there. Also check to make sure they are fastened to the house securely and that none are loose.

Put away garden hoses – Drain and store garden hoses for the winter months to keep them in good condition. Sure they are cheap but why not take care of our things and save money and the planet??

Check for drafts – Go through the house and check windows, switchplates, vents, cupboards, doors, and any areas where cold air could be finding a way into the house. You can use foam insulation gaskets for switchplates and you can fill gaps with an insulating foam sealant. Small gaps can be effectively sealed with caulk.

Put the trampoline away – This is a high dollar item we don’t want to see damaged by winter’s foul weather and kids generally don’t want to jump on it in winter anyway. Away she goes until warm weather returns.

store trampoline for winter

Insulate – A hot water heater blanket can help conserve energy on your hot water heater and also gas or electric bills. You can also use blankets or foam for pipes to keep them from freezing if that is an issue in your home.

Clean and maintain your furnace – You want your furnace to work as efficiently as possible so clean up the area surrounding your furnace and make sure it has room to breathe. Now would also be a good time to have your vents cleaned out by a professional and get a furnace checkup.

Wash the windows inside and out –  Use water and vinegar and get to cleaning. Winter days are dreary enough as it is. Let’s not give the winter blues an even stronger foothold by making rare sunlight shine through dull, dirty windows. While you are washing you can also check for gaps/drafts.

Change your air filter – We should be changing our air filters with every season to maintain our A/C and furnace units properly but also to make sure our indoor air is as clean as possible. This is especially important in cold weather months when illness is more likely to be going around. Filtrete Filters last up to three months. Change your filter at the start of every season! You can get the Filtrete Healthy Living Filter, MPR 1900 at Lowe’s, Target, Walmart, Costco and your local hardware store or by visiting FindMyFiltreteFilter.com. It is ideal for allergens and small particles like bacteria and virus. It captures up to 93 percent of large airborne particles, such as household dust, pollen, mold spores and dust mite debris, from the air passing through the filter. It captures 4X times more microscopic particles, such as smoke, smog, pet dander and particles that can carry bacteria and viruses, than ordinary pleated filters.

change filter

Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors – You should be doing this regularly and during your cold weather prep/clean-up is no exception. Make sure everything is in working order and change batteries if need be.

Clean and store rain barrels – We use a rain barrel throughout the year to collect rain runoff from our gutters. We use it to water our garden and houseplants. When the temperature drops to freezing though our barrel can be damaged and cracked by the elements. To keep it nice we drain it, clean, and store it in our garage or basement until the spring. Goodbye old friend!

rain barrel in the garden

Use the reverse switch on ceiling fans – The reverse switch is available on some ceiling fans and it is very handy. It will reverse the direction of blade movement to turn clockwise instead of counter-clockwise. The air is forced downwards and heat rises so the heat will be pushed downwards.

Check insulation in the attic and roof area – Experts recommend a depth of about 12 inches so do a check and make sure your insulation is still effective against cold winters and remedy it if you find that your insulation is no longer cutting it.

Caulk windows and hang thermal curtains – Seal cracks and gaps with caulk to prevent drafts. Thermal curtains can also be used for the same thing. They are super heavy and will stop drafts in their tracks. Just make sure to open them on clear sunny days and let the sunshine in.

What do you do for cold weather prep??

This post is written as a Healthy Home Ambassador for Filtrete, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

5
Sep

Loving the Ball Jar Heritage Collection

by Tiffany in The Homestead

If you visit my kitchen, you’ll find glass jars everywhere. I use them for everything it seems… beverages, broth, bulk foods such as nuts and dried fruit, leftovers from dinner, salt, herbs, spices, fermenting, canning, vases, storage containers, and much more! Recently when my nine year old daughter decided to climb up the kitchen and rip the shelf that held all our drinking glasses off the wall, spilling its contents onto the floor, we had a huge mess to clean up and a decision to make. The only glasses that held up were the mason jars so we opted not to get any more conventional drinking glasses and just go whole hog with the jars. It was at that time when we decided to add some of the new heritage collection from Ball to that mix. I absolutely adore the lovely blue color.

They are so pretty I seem to gravitate to them… have you scored any of these lovelies yet?

Get the heritage collection =====> here.

blue vintage ball jars sm

21
Feb

I Am An Urban Homesteader

by Tiffany in The Homestead

Home Is Where the Heart Is...

I don’t know if you caught wind of the storm brewing lately in regards to those who embrace homesteading. I saw it myself last week and was absolutely flabbergasted. A well known family in California (The Dervaes) have decided to claim ownership of the term Urban Homestead(ing) and had it trademarked. Then they proceeded to send out letters to bloggers and even companies who used these terms or had them as part of their business name asking them to remove these references. Facebook pages for homestead groups and informational non-profits had their pages turned in for infringement and they were erased. This family insists that they are being vilified unfairly, yes several major newspapers and a myriad of homesteading bloggers have lambasted them, but in my opinion they are not. I myself was on the receiving end of one of their letters once and it was VERY clear that wanted me to stop using a term coined during war time America or credit them as the inspiration for my work OR face lawsuit. The response to crediting them was HELL NO. Urban Homesteading is a movement and it existed long before the Dervaes. That is why I am participating in the Urban Homesteaders Day of Action where we speak out about the fact that we ARE Urban Homesteaders and no other family, even if they do think they are the cat’s meow, gets to take credit for that.

In addition to talking about homesteading for years I would classify my husband and myself as urban homesteaders. We don’t butcher our own hogs or grow 7000 pounds of food in our backyard but we do what we can and what we can do increases with each year.

Lettuce Varieties in the Garden

– We grow as much food as we can in the space we have. Last year that was tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers. This year we hope to increase that x3 even though we technically have a smaller space to work with.

– We buy local. We support local growers and homesteaders by purchasing local grains, pastured eggs, milk, grass fed meat, honey, and other seasonal offerings. The farmer’s market is our second home!

– We make our own. I sew things for the home and my husband is also quite crafty. This year we plan to invest in wood working machinery so we can increase our self sufficiency. We also make our own yogurt, dairy and water kefir, sourdough, dried fruit, and bread. This year we plan to add more foods we have preserved, and make our own butter and buttermilk.

Sourdough Bread

– We cook and we rarely eat out. Our weekly produce box is the basis of our meals for the entire week. This morning hubby is making breakfast while I prep dinner and throw it in the slow cooker.

– We compost indoors with worms so that we have no food waste.

– We use green cleaners (of our own making) for our home and we use natural body care products (sometimes making our own as well). We hope to make our own bar soap this year.

– We don’t have much land to call our own but we take care of it and try our best to live off of it.

I am an Urban Homesteader. How about you?

Monday, February 21st, 2011

12 Comments on I Am An Urban Homesteader

9
Feb

Countertop Kitchen Compost Collectors

by Tiffany in A Green Home, The Homestead

Kitchen Compost Bin

After my post about our Worm Factory I got an email from a reader that asked if we put all our scraps from the table immediately into the worm condo AND if we microwave them first. I guess microwaving kitchen scraps to soften them up is a common practice.

The answer to both is no. We collect our kitchen scraps in a smaller compost collector because we don’t want to overwhelm our worms and we will very likely be generating more waste than they will be able to handle anyway, at least until we start having generations of worms babies. We also want to soften up our scraps and start the decomp process so that it will be faster and easier for the worms to tackle but we do not have a microwave. Nor do we want one, microwaves are not good for your health.

Kitchen Compost Bin

To that end we first collect food waste in a kitchen compost collector. This allows us to collect any excess food waste that can’t go in the worm bin yet and it gets the compost brewing in the meantime. We chose the Exaco Trading ECO-2000 2.4 Gallon Kitchen Compost Waste Collector for a couple reasons. Firstly because it was one of the biggest ones for the money (less than $20). Yes, I would have preferred a stainless steel or ceramic collector but we are a family of five… the rinky dink one gallon size on those models would be filled in a week… or less. Larger ones cost more than we wanted to invest. And of course any plastic that helps us in our greener living journey overall gets a pass from me.

Right now it sits on top of the worm bin but it could easily go under the sink as well. Our old collector was a big mixing bowl that was open and visible every time you passed by… yuck. I like this system much better. We mix it occasionally with a wooden mixing spoon or I dump it into a bowl and then dump it back in the composter to reverse the top/bottom.

Another aspect of our composting system is the fact that I collect a lot of scraps and freeze them. When I get a nice large bunch I will make my homemade vegetable broth and this is even better than microwaving. The scraps are super soft and I have broth to boot. Easy peasy!

7
Feb

Worm Factory for Indoor Composting

by Tiffany in A Green Home, The Homestead

worm factory

Can you believe how old my son looks?? Egads… he is getting this wide, strong jaw like his Dad and he is looking like a teenager!!! But… I am getting off track…

A couple weeks ago we welcomed some new “pets” into the house… Red Wrigglers (worms). They even have a posh new condo in the kitchen so they are getting royal treatment. They are of course expected to pay their way in the form of wonderfully rich and dark compost for our garden this spring/summer.

When we moved into this house it came with no composting area and we had other things on our mind prior to winter so we gave up composting for awhile. But I started to feel guilty about that as I saw scraps sitting in the garbage so I decided to try my hand at indoor composting for winter months. I started researching it and was intent to just rig up some sort of worm bin using plastic storage tubs we have in the garage but I saw there were some issues with doing it this way as well as it being really ugly.. and our worm bin was going to be in the kitchen, visible to all. So I decided that if this was something I was really going to pursue passionately I needed to go with an efficient and easy system. A commercial worm bin seemed the better option and after reading up the various ones and scouring reviews, I chose… The Worm Factory, specifically the Worm Factory DS5TT 5-Tray Worm Composter – Terra Cotta.

It came in only a few days (free shipping too) and I ordered my worms a few days after that. I tried to get them locally but the only source I could find wasn’t answering any calls so I ended up ordering from the go-to place for composting worms, Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm (via Amazon) where you can get a about 1000 Red Wriggler Worms for $15. They came from Pennsylvania, so almost local. We got them in a couple days and they moved into their new digs. I read several places that worms often try to escape and you should leave the lights on in the room where the bin is for a few nights so they choose to stay but my husband works second shift and gets in late and always turned off the lights. They chose to stay anyway… I guess they like it here.

Indoor composting Worm Factory

Anyway the Worm factory we bought has 5 trays. You start by laying a few layers of moist newspaper down on the bottom of the first tray and then cover with the included coir (coconut husk fiber) and some sand or crushed eggshells. We didn’t have any sand so we went with pastured eggshells. Then we filled the remaining space with shredded newspaper (also included) and a couple whole layers of moist newspaper. At one corner we put some food scraps… onion skin, grated carrots, lettuce, etc. It sat like that for a few days before we welcomed our worms. They came in dry soil so we added them and used a spray bottle to moisten things up and after a few days I took this photo which shows they gravitated to the corner with the food (top right). I went ahead and added some more scraps to the lower corner as well.

Red Wriggler Worms in the Worm Factory

When I add more scraps I do so in the corners, going in order. After about a month or so I will add the next tray and repeat the whole process. Gradually the worms will seek out new food and will move up to the higher tray (there are little holes for them in the tray bottoms). Or you can take the bottom tray and put in on top and the light will make them move to the lower tray. Repeat until all trays are full. By the time the top tray is being worked, the bottom tray is likely ready for adding to your garden or potted plants.

At the very bottom of the unit is a slanted collection tray for the compost tea. This was another reason I wanted this particular composter. I read several reviews from people who tried using storage tubs and they claim the amount of compost tea they got from the Worm Factory was double. It has a nifty spigot on the bottom so you can collect the tea easily.

Worm Factory

We are still early in the game but so far there is no odor whatsoever. It looks good sitting in the kitchen (IMO) and it is soooo easy to use. I am glad we went with this system. There is also no need for guilt about buying new plastic because the Worm Factory is made from post consumer recycled plastic. Yeah! Plus it is also helping us compost and encouraging us to grow our own food.. which we plan to do on our backyard deck this year, since we have so little space. I am also collecting and using newspaper instead of sending it to the recycling center. We seem to have enough for composting and for my son’s Bearded Dragons (yes we have two now) just with the little junk papers and community news that gets put on our mailboxes.

Newspaper Collecting for Compost

If you want to compost but live in an apartment or a small space or you just want to keep winter compost going strong by doing it indoors I recommend this system highly. I will post regularly about issues we may have… like potential fruit flies and the like. We may even move this unit outdoors as the weather warms because it can go inside or out if left in a shady, cooler, spot. Either way I cannot wait to get my hands on some of that black gold this spring!

Also another recommendation is this wonderful book on composting with worm bins, Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System. I read it YEARS ago and never acted on it. Lucky for me I kept it in storage until I needed it!

Are you composting yet?