29
May

Small Scale Aquaponics – Growing Greens With a Fish Tank

by Tiffany in Gardening

Small Scale Aquaponics Growing Greens With a Fish Tank

One of the biggest hopes you can have as a mom and an environmentalist is that your kids will want to take up your causes as they grow and mature. I could not be prouder of my oldest child (nearly 14) as he grows into a stellar young man. He is kind, empathetic, smart, a great cook and fisherman, and very much interested in sustainability and homesteading practices. He helps me in the garden and listens relentlessly to my babbling about political issues, food integrity, and saving the planet.

In an attempt to be more sustainable himself and grow greens for his three reptiles he decided he wanted to have a small scale aquaponics system in his bedroom. Actually he said something about a 50 gallon drum but I had to nix that idea and instead talked him into using his existing fish tank. He has a lovely 30 gallon tank and quite a few fish, all of which he purchased second hand on Craigslist by himself, using money he earned helping someone with a roofing project. With a bit of guidance from his Dad (who told him what he needed) he managed to rig together this pretty awesome little system. He spent about $40 for the materials. I love how easy this system is to put together. So many people have fish tanks in their home. It would be super easy for them to start using the nutrient rich tank water to grow greens, herbs, and other food items in their home. Plus when you clean the tank you can use that water in your outdoor garden. We do! Here is the fish tank:

fish tank

You can see the aquaponics grow bed in the upper right hand corner of the photo. He took a small plastic storage container (which we already had) and he cut holes in the lid so that he could fit it with eight small baskets or hydrofarm net cups commonly used for hydroponics. In the baskets you find hydroton expanded clay pellets… no dirt or soil in sight. The baskets hang down inside the storage tub and the bottoms dip into the water which is continuously filled using a small aquaponics circulation pump inside the fish tank. The water is pumped up into the aquaponics grow bed, it is filtered for debris, and then once is reaches a certain height it overflows back into the fish tank via a plastic tube (got it from Menards).

aquaponics system 003

And of course he added a grow light over the top of the grow bed to help the seedlings grow. And boy do they grow! A seed wrapped in a tiny bit of cotton ball will sprout and shoot up in a day or two, much faster than the those same seeds grown in soil outside. It is amazing. I can’t wait to post pictures of his mature greens and lettuce.

aquaponics system 010

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

11 Comments

28
May

My Week With the Kia Forte

by Tiffany in Green Cars

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Another week, another Kia. This time I got to test drive the Kia Forte. I must say up front that I fell in love with the fully loaded Kia Soul and any other car will suffer in comparison but this was a solid little car. I love the color and the body style. It also had some of the familiar perks that I love…hello rear view camera and satellite radio.

The gas mileage was about 22-24 mpg. Nothing to write home about there so I wouldn’t call it green, even though it has the “Eco” drive feature. But the budget still makes this a good car for those who don’t want $600 a month car payments. The price tag is only about $16K. Most of the green cars I drove in 2013/2014 were well over the 30K mark. You have to pay for green and some people just don’t have that kid of spending money. Kia makes very good cars though, for lower price points.

Other features:

Fog Lights
Auto Light Control
Navigation System
Bluetooth Wireless Capability
USB/Auxillary Input Jack

I continue to be impressed with the quality and price points for Kia vehicles. Even if they aren’t as green as I would like, that seems to be a rare find these days…for any car manufacturing company.

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Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

2 Comments

21
Apr

Healthy Weeds You Can Eat & Why You Should

by Tiffany in Eating Local

Healthy Weeds You Can Eat & Why You Should - NatureMoms.com

Weeds have gotten a bum rap. All over the shelves of gardening and home improvement stores you see tools and chemicals designed to get rid of weeds fast. They are often considered to be unsightly and they also tend to strangle out the plants you DO want to grow, like grass or veggies from the garden. Weeds are very hardy, drought tolerant, and they propagate quickly. Pluck a few out of the ground and a couple day later there are ten more. They can be like a mythical Hydra when you cut its head off. That is why they are such a problem. Unless you decide they aren’t such a problem and you embrace them for these very qualities. Because they are so hardy and they grow so well, even in unfavorable conditions, perhaps that means we need to live and let live and find uses for them. After all one person’s weed filled lawn might just be your own personal salad bar…

Why Eat Weeds?

There are many reasons to get familiar with edible weeds and start growing and eating them. Because they are so hardy they are a reliable food source. You can save money on expensive greens and do your foraging in the backyard, in public spaces, or in vacant lots. If times get tough financially you still have a salad bar you can visit for fresh food, loaded with nutrients. We also see many communities turning into food deserts with little to no access to real grocery stores and farmer’s markets….usually the poorer areas of our urban landscapes. Weeds though will grow with abandon in these areas and provide food. Foraging for wild edibles also teaches us an important skill we seem to be losing…the ability to survive and thrive on our own. Money savings, providing nourishing foods to those that need it, and making us more self sufficient… that is what weeds can do.

What Weeds Should I Eat?

Dandelion – Regal queen of weeds right? Dandelions are extremely hardy and their seeds are carried on the wind to create an endless supply. They are edible, tasty, and actually very good for you….the flowers and the leaves. You can gather flowers to make dandelion cookies, dandelion jam, dandelion tea (yum!) or even dandelion wine. My husband has fond memories of gathering the flowers by the bucket full so his grandmother could make wine. You can also use the flowers and the greens in salads, soups, and smoothies. Dandelion is well known as a liver cleanser and also for soothing wounds so they are excellent in homemade salves and body care products.

Lamb’s Quarters – This sounds like a juicy cut of meat right? Well, Lamb’s Quarter’s are commonly referred to as wild spinach and they taste very much like spinach. Their abundance and hardiness make them a darling of wild food foragers everywhere. They are a weed but very edible and can be cooked or used just as you would use spinach and they are loaded with beta carotene and calcium. Gobble them up in salads, soups, on pizza, in smoothies, or saute them lightly in oil. They are really tasty in a pureed garlic, onion, and avocado spread. If you don’t have any growing in your own yard just look around in vacant and abandoned lots (that are not being sprayed)…you may hit the jackpot.

Watercress  – You often see bundles of this tasty green at farmer’s markets but they grow wild near waterways and riverbanks in just about every state. The favored way of eating it is raw in salads usually as they are close in relation to mustard greens and arugula. It is packed with vitamins A, K, and C and has also been used since ancient times as a healing aid.

Queen Anne’s Lace – This is another well know weed (like the dandelion) due to its beautiful flowers. They grow in fields, meadows, waste areas, and roadsides. It is also called wild carrot and you can dig it up and eat the finger like roots just as you would carrots. They taste great in soups and stews. The flowers can be eaten too (usually fried in batter).

Plantain – This weed can survive in pretty rough conditions. You will often find it sprouting up in sidewalk cracks or growing in gravel. It seems to find a way. It is related to spinach and is rich in iron and vitamins A and C. You eat it much like you would spinach but usually cooked. You can even eat the seedpods. Cook until tender and serve the leaves as you would spinach. The seedpods should also be cooked (quite tough) and served as you might serve green beans or asparagus.

This handy weed is also antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and a poison antidote. When you get a bee sting or mosquito bite you can chew the leaves and put the moistened /chewed leaves on the would to help draw out any toxins and help to heal it. It also works for bleeding, bruising, and itchy rashes. Beyond making poultices you can also make healing plantain oil by infusing the leaves in olive oil for several weeks.

As you can see weeds can be quite miraculous. Their hardiness, their nourishing properties, and their healing properties should be enough to make anyone reconsider and just let them grow.

Monday, April 21st, 2014

10 Comments

16
Apr

BlackFish – Have You Seen It Yet??

by Tiffany in Environment

blackfish

I recently sat down to watch the movie BlackFish again. It made me just as angry watching it the second time as it did the first time. The first time I watched I had to keep leaving the room because some parts were very upsetting to me. This time I made myself watch it. I cannot believe that Sea World still has patrons. I cannot believe that anyone who has seen this movie and lives in the vicinity of one of these parks has not been going to them and picketing or laying down in the entrance ways to prevent people from entering. The stuff going on in these parks is horrifying.

One of the worst things they are doing IMO is lying to the public and calling it “education”. There are videos of Sea World employees telling visitors that the average age of an Orca is 30-35 years in the wild and that they live much longer in captivity. This is a bold faced lie. Orcas live as long as a human, anywhere from 60-100 years old. In captivity they live on average 30 years so Sea World is essentially robbing them of more than half their life and that short life is spent living in prison like conditions. Employees also “educate” the public that the dorsal fin of Orcas collapses in 80-90% of all male Orcas no matter where they live. Again this is a lie. Their fins collapse when in captivity. This happens in the wild only a measly 1% of the time.

Die hard supporters of Sea World and places like it claim that they are important because they provide education. As seen in this movie that education is hugely flawed and sprinkled with lies. There goes that whole argument. They also claim that kids will not come to love or appreciate animals like dolphins or Orcas if they don’t see them in captive situations. Again, I call that a load of steaming you know what. As my husband pointed out while watching he thinks kids will find more to love and appreciate about Orcas from watching this film than they ever would attending a show at Sea World. I agree.

The movie goes into a long history of attacks by frustrated Orcas in captivity (as in 70+). The former Sea World trainers who worked with these whales never even knew about most of them, even when they were working with the exact same whales who had attacked at other facilities. They are not told because their employers really don’t want them to know. How that is not seen as criminal is beyond me.

The movie is creating change though. Sea World’s profits have plummeted 15% and OSHA imposed rules upon them declaring that trainers cannot openly swim with the whales anymore but must have a barrier between them. Sea World appealed and was denied just a few days ago. A court in California also stated recently that they are launching a year long investigation into whether or not to ban Orcas in captivity. We have to keep the pressure on to make sure that happens.

No person should avoid seeing this movie. If you do, you are choosing to bury your head in the sand when it comes to this HUGE issue of animal cruelty and corporate profiteering. It was filmed with the greatest of intentions and to quote a great man “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. Endorsing Sea World and supporting them in any way is being silent. It makes one culpable.

I have been to zoos and aquariums where the goal is species protection and rehabilitation. Sea World does not even begin to qualify as one of those. For instance the aquarium near my home in Ohio has manatees. All of them were hit by boats in the Florida region. They get medical care and rehab and then they go back to the ocean. They are never made to sing for their supper. Maybe they are not capable so that is why they are not cared for in their own home state by (ahem) Sea World??? I don’t know but it sounds fishy.

Sea World has been under fire for decades for their practices. They ignored these concerns and kept up with business as usual. Now we are supposed to feel sorry for them because the backlash got too big?? No. If they wanted to do the right and honorable thing they would announce a plan to use ALL profits (after expenses) to revamp every single habitat to one of proper size and condition. They would no longer make animals perform like baffoons and endanger themselves and trainers. And they would promise to never, ever take a healthy animal from the wild again and instead house animals that are sick, injured, or endangered with a plan to rehab and return ASAP. Only after they made such statements (and backed it up with ACTION) would I consider supporting them with my money.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet…watch it, with your kids. It is so important.

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

11 Comments

14
Apr

Stinky Pits? Go Primal With Pit Paste

by Tiffany in Beauty

Primal Pit Paste sm

Attn: Giveaway the bottom of this post!

Deodorant is a hot topic among crunchy, natural, health-minded folks. Conventional deodorant has lots of nasty ingredients and more than one report coming from the scientific community has hinted at a possible link between the nasties in deodorant and beast cancer. Just a quick gander at breast cancer rates and you may soon find yourself freaking out about what kind of deodorant you are using. Think about this tidbit. It is said that it only takes 26 seconds for a body care product to be absorbed into our bloodstream. That should make us very aware of what we use on our skin, no?

Putting toxic chemicals under your arms stinks! That’s why MightyNest, an internet retailer of extraordinarily high quality and safe products for your home and family, asked me to put non-toxic Pit Paste to the test. Find out why you should choose a natural deodorant, then take the pledge below. Your pits will thank you, and you could win a Happy Pit Pack from MightyNest!

But I digress…

No one wants to smell bad, especially a woman. Yet we are are the ones getting breast cancer for the most part so we have to take special care that we are not slathering our pits with carcinogenic products or ones that will mess with our hormones (think parabens). We want to smell nice and we want a safe way to achieve that goal. The answer quite clearly is to use a more natural product right?

Well, yes.  The problem for me though is that I have tried oodles and oodles of deodorant products that make the claim to be healthier and safer. Some of them actually did fit this bill. The problem though is that they didn’t work . After a couple hours their odor fighting ability cancelled out and left me thinking that I must go back to the toxic stuff. I won’t name brands but I have literally tried several dozen natural deodorants and never ever found one I liked until Primal Pit Paste.

I have been using it for about  a week now and I am one happy camper. The ingredients are all natural: organic shea butter, organic coconut oil, organic beeswax, organic arrowroot powder, aluminum free baking soda, and essential oils.  The Lavender scented stick is my favorite but the orange creamsicle is also really, really nice. You put it up against your skin (and body heat) for just a few seconds and then it glides on easy and provides pit protection all day long. Work, gym, life…it has you covered.

Mighty Nest also has a pretty cool  campaign going on right now. You can win $1,000 for your school in MightyNest’s Earth Day Challenge going from April 7th through April 22nd (Earth Day!). They know that simple actions can have a mighty impact. This could be sending waste-free lunch to school with you kidlets or using reusable bottles instead of bottled water. Planting seeds in a school garden. These things contribute to healthy, engaged kids and also benefit our broader communities and the health of the planet.

Join MightyNest in celebrating Earth Day by taking simple pledges and actions to earn  Impact Points. The school with the most Impact Points earned between April 7th and 28th will win $1,000. Another $3,000 in prizing will be divided between nine additional schools. (See site for complete rules.) And every school community benefits when families get engaged. And schools also earn cash through our MightyNest for Schools program. Shop any of our essential gear for a mighty life, we donate 15% of your order to the school of your choice.

So celebrating Earth Day with MightyNest is a win-win-win: mighty family, mighty schools and mighty planet!

The Giveaway!

One lucky NatureMoms.com reader will get the following prize: sample pack of deodorants (several scents), Lifefactory glass water bottle, Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil, Go Toob reusables travel tubes (set of 3), Preserve razor and extra replacement cartridges, Planet Wise wet/dry cosmetics bag, and Dr. Bronner’s organic shave gel. Value = $ 107+.

Now you know — there’s a natural deodorant that not only works, it’s also completely safe for your body. So, pledge to green your pits and you could win a Happy Pit Kit from MightyNest. You’ll also have a chance to help your school celebrate Earth Day and win up to $1000 in the MightyNest for Schools Earth Day Challenge! Good luck!

Everything we do at Mightynest is about inspiring, supporting and rewarding simple changes for mighty living. our site provides ideas, tips and information about healthy changes. all the products we offer are selected as the healthiest of their kind, in addition to being practical, durable and beautiful. and through our school program parents and other supporters can earn funds and bonuses for their school.

With the Earth Day Challenge, MightyNest is mobilizing parents and schools to make healthy changes that benefit families and the planet. Until April 28th, school supporters can earn impact points at schools.mightynest.com by pledging to make simple changes. The school earning the most points will win a $1000 grand prize and other top schools will share $3000 in additional prizing.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post on behalf of MightyNest. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Monday, April 14th, 2014

10 Comments