On Being a Conscientious Consumer and a Good Steward

One of the purposes/missions of our new lifestyle- on our journey to buy land and live differently than we do now. My thoughts- sometimes scattered, but enjoy if you like. 🙂

 

On Shopping.

Retail Therapy-we all know this term. When one is feeling down and depressed, it often helps to drive to the mall and browse….and maybe buy.

Impulse Shopping- another well known term. When one is at the store and sees an awesome pair of shoes for half off or a new flavor of ice cream. Just have to have it. Throw it in the cart- credit card charge.

But what about the terms “Conscientious Consumer” and “Conscious Consumer?”

I had always used these terms but was surprised by how common they are. I used the terms ideally, as goals for my life, aspirations. I just entered the phrases into Google and was quite surprised by the results. Apparently, conscientious consumerism is not an unheard of or uncommon term. Many are trying to think more as consumers, and that movement gives me hope.

 

A Part of Our Mission

My husband and I are buying land (about 10 acres) with hopes of growing our own food and raising animals for food. There are many reasons why we are choosing this lifestyle, and there are many aspects that may come into question from those of you who know us but believe we may be a bit crazy right now. My last post discussed food, which was (partially) the beginning of this journey for us. The search for real food led us to wanting to grow our own, but our overall mission is about so much more than food.

Most US Citizens are natural consumers. We buy. We buy food. We buy clothes. We buy stuff. We buy…but rarely do we really think about what we buy. Now, initially, most of  us will claim this isn’t true (or instinctively want to). You spend your money wisely- you budget and save and only buy what you need. But, it’s not about the money or the savings. It’s about the need. Do we really need all the junk we buy? Or do we buy because we have bought into a belief system that tells us we need it, or we deserve it, or it’s just what everyone else is doing?

Why do women buy so many body products and so much makeup?

Why do people throw out old clothes and old shoes and old purses once they rip?

Why do we buy so many cool gadgets which we rarely use and end up in a drawer a year later, never to be used again?

Why do we feel the need to have the latest editions/versions of everything?

 

Sometimes, we really do need something. Sometimes.

But, most of the time we probably don’t.

 

Our food journey inspired us to inspect our lifestyle. We questioned why we ate what we did. We questioned where it originated. We questioned. This questioning led us to other lifestyle investigations. It led us to question and that made us want to do so more often. I know, I know, the word “question” has just lost all meaning. But, what we did by questioning is what we want to continue doing. We want to be conscious.

One of our major goals for our life together sounds so simple- THINK. Why do we feel that we need to paint the walls of our new house once we move? Why do we need a new washer and dryer? Why do we need a riding lawnmower? Why do we want to eat out tonight? Why? Is it necessary? Is it best? Are we simply doing this because it is what we do? Because it is what everyone else does? Are we thinking? Are we aware?

We may come to a decision to eat out- we are tired, don’t have time to cook, or want to see friends. But, it is not so much the end decision as the discussion. The consideration of options. The questioning.

Is it worth it to have cheap meat at the expense of our health and at the expense of animal mistreatment?

Is it worth the pollution of the environment to not have to work as hard to mow the lawn?

It’s about the conversation, about being conscientious.

It’s scary when you start this conversation (why some will probably want to avoid it). As the blog continues, I will show where these conversations have led us.

I’ll be honest. I like doing things the way I have always done them. I like modern conveniences. I like being able to buy anything and everything to make my life easier. But, what are the effects of me making my life easier? What happens when I make these seemingly innocent decisions? What happens when I feel too lazy to make dinner and we go out to eat instead? What happens when I throw away those plastic bags because I don’t feel like driving them to Kroger to recycle them? What happens when I wear a shirt for only a couple hours but throw it in the dirty clothes anyways? What happens when I give into buying something I don’t need? Sometimes nothing. Sometimes the results are worth it. Sometimes. But, often we don’t consider the results, the effects of our actions.

 

On Research

Cause and effect- we study it in school. It is always applicable. Every decision we make has an effect, has consequences. But we, as a society, a culture, have decided to remove ourselves from these consequences. They are too messy, too disturbing. We wear rose-tinted glasses and shop till we drop with little concern for what businesses we are supporting and for what we are teaching others and ourselves. We ignore where the things we buy originated. We buy the newest version of X-Box or I-Phone because it is “faster” (by a few seconds…we need Facebook and Twitter to download instantaneously). We snap our fingers and our every desire is available (for a small price, of course). And, we are removed. We ignore what our shopaholic, consumerist, materialistic mindsets are producing.

Just because we don’t see an immediate effect doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

I am a woman. I am a consumer. I like shoes and purses and clothes and makeup. I like shopping. I like making my home beautiful. Those desires are not bad.

What my husband and I are trying to escape is not the act of buying or shopping. We are trying to escape the mindset that we have bought into as a culture. We are trying to teach ourselves to think and to question every decision we make. We are trying to research what we buy, to be conscious and aware of where a product was made and how. Are we contributing to something in which we believe strongly? Or are we contributing to sweat shops and poor wages, to mistreatment of animals, to rich men’s pocketbooks, to a broken system?

It’s a pain, yes. Imagine researching every product you buy? Imagine rethinking that purchase in the store…. But imagine the beautiful effect of a society that thinks more than it shops.

 

On Stewardship

Although being a conscientious consumer is quite a green movement, for us it is more than that. It stems from a deeper belief.

We believe God created us with purpose. He created this world and everything in it for us; He gave us control over everything beautiful He has made. Many Christians preach stewardship, I believe, with an understanding that God intended for us to care for and protect the earth in our rule. I firmly believe that God intended for us to be good stewards and to take care of this beautiful planet. I highly doubt that  He intended for us to exploit and trash this world. And, I’m going to be honest for a moment- I think the world needs more examples of Christian stewardship. We have many examples of the green movement, and often it is labeled as liberal, causing conservatives to ignore it. Or is is labeled as hippie or hipster, enabling many more to ignore it. But, “being green” isn’t simply for liberals and hipsters; I see many underlying aspects of Christian stewardship in the green movement. I think the world needs to see more Christians being green.

I don’t want to be ignorant or blind to what happens to this beautiful planet when we are wasteful. So many sit back as animals are abused in order to eat a cheaper steak, hamburger, or chicken sandwich (research Tyson and Perdue and cattle farms and you may never want to buy meat again). People are abused and paid poor wages in factories to make cheaper clothes for Target or Old Navy. Many sit back and console themselves with the idea that they can’t do anything about it. I, myself, have used many excuses. I have often heard one similar to this: “the cow’s already dead…might as well eat it,”  or “I can’t find cheaper tank tops anywhere else…and I “need” them.” Whatever the excuse, when we choose to ignore the origin of what we buy, we feed huge problems….mostly because that’s how we’ve always done it.

We are natural consumers in our society. But, we are also blind consumers. And companies pay a LOT of money to keep us blind and buying.

But, I want to be a good steward. I want to take care of what God has given me.  I want to be aware of what I do each day and what I buy. I want to know what I am supporting when I spend my money. I believe God has given me this mission and purpose. I also believe that I am learning and making mistakes while I try to follow this plan. It’s one of the most difficult lifestyle changes I have ever tried to make.

These are my thoughts. Take them as they are. Know we are at the beginning of a journey and our lives are changing daily (something I think is beautiful). Be ready, as we grown and learn, to see changes.

However, my challenge to you is this: don’t take everything you read here or anywhere else at face value. Know that I am human and trying my best to learn God’s will and purpose. Research. Read. Think.

 

A short clip about marketing- watch if you like; I promise it does relate. 🙂

 

 

Happy Researching!

-The Pickle Family

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Food and Such

Recently Kevin and I have been searching for a home and some land. We would like to be able to fully pursue our vision. It seems, though, that when people who are not familiar with our journey hear news of our search, they become puzzled and immediately ask why. It strikes me as humorous sometimes, seeing as often the main objection is the distance, even though my dad commuted 40 minutes to work each day because he wanted his family to live in a certain area of the suburbs. No one questioned him about his 40 minute commute. But, a 35-40 minute commute in order to live in the country seems to make our friends wonder. On top of that, when I mention the word “farm,” most of my acquaintances’ (and even some friends’) eyebrows raise. I’m not always the best at articulating our reasoning and our journey over the last year in a five minute span. So, lately I have walked away from conversations frustrated, wishing I could better explain, better justify our plans. I would love to explain, but it’s a long story. And it started when Kevin and I were engaged in the spring of 2013.

Kevin has always had various stomach problems and heartburn. A good deal of what he ate seemed to cause him not to feel well, and his body often had poor reactions to food. My immediate solution was less eating unhealthy fast food and restaurant food; in other words, eat at home more. After all, home cooked food is better, right? So, I started cooking lunch at the apartment he rented about 3 months before we married, where I would live soon. We both worked about 5 minutes from the apartment, so we’d meet for lunch- I’d cook. I’d also try to cook dinner more often, and he ate breakfast at home.

These small changes seemed to help, but weren’t enough.

Our journey, as you will see soon, really began with food. I’ve always been interested in nutrition and healthy eating, but I haven’t always followed what I knew to be correct. I knew fast food was terrible for you, and I knew vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts, etc… were good. It seemed pretty simple in my mind. How little I really knew then. Our journey of eating indeednwas frustrating. Because, as I researched, I realized that what I knew wasn’t completely accurate.

A quick example- a simple meal of roasted chicken and potatoes with asparagus and a spinach salad. Sounds healthy right? Well, it’s definitely a better alternative to Taco Bell, but, it isn’t without its faults. Faults of which, until that point, I was unaware. First, the chicken-from where did it come? Did I know anything about that chicken? Was it healthy? Was it abused? Did it have a disease or sickness? Was it going to become number 50006069 in the latest salmonella outbreak? I didn’t have a clue…because I didn’t know about what I was eating. And that was when it hit me. I knew nothing about the food I’m eating. I didn’t have a clue as to whether or not that chicken was hurting or helping me. Of course, i was most likely better than fast food (most likely), and was better than starving. But, this was the point when I really felt the issues hit home- I felt separated from the process to an extreme measure. I didn’t know from where any of my meat comes….I didn’t know from where any of my veggies come. What was really in that potato salad at Kroger? What kinds of chemicals were used in my food? What was that random ingredient on the back of my seemingly simple can of soup? WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS I EATING? (Excuse the all caps- I usually hate that, but it seemed appropriate).

In other words: our journey began not with knowledge but with ignorance. We realized together that we were completely ignorant and removed from what we ate.

So, we researched. We learned. And, we were shocked. Let’s just say, once you start down the road of really researching what you are putting in your body, you will put down your diet soda (I did) and your processed hamburger, because you just can’t look at it the same way anymore.

We live in a consumerist, business world. The people who process our food are not concerned about our health; they are concerned with their business. Just because it is on the shelf in the grocery store, doesn’t mean you or your kids should eat it! That was a tough lesson for me to learn. It still is. It is not easy to change a lifestyle of eating, and it is even more difficult when it is not the norm.

Here is where I tell you to do your research. Don’t believe me? Cool- that shows you’re smart. This is a blog. I could tell you the sky is purple, publish this on the internet, and if you believed me, you’d be thick as molasses. Research- figure out what you are eating for your own sake and for your kids’ sake.

I learned. I saw and researched the conditions of the factories that were processing my meat. No thank you. I saw the chemicals used on my veggies. Nope. And, I learned what some of those ingredients meant.

So, we switched to organic. Easy transition. Many are doing this- it’s the new trend. So, I bought everything organic. I bought cage-free eggs and chicken. I felt pretty good about our new way of eating. And, I had a right to. We were doing better. Until one fateful day I learned that cage-free didn’t mean what I believed it did. I was livid. I had been paying almost 5 dollars a dozen for cage free eggs assuming that was pasture raised….nope, not the same thing. And, thus began a new bout of research. What did all these fancy terms mean on those beautiful green labels in the new expensive grocery store?

Oooooh, that’s right. We live in a consumerist, business world. And, business men have seen the new organic market is growing- they’d be fools not to get in on it. Now, how can we make the most money with the catchiest phrases for the least amount of money on our end? I know, let’s call things “cage free,” “all natural,” “traditional,” “pure.” Those aren’t regulated. Let’s trick the average consumer. Now, I don’t think every man in those corporations really sets out to “trick” the average consumer; but, they do set out to make their companies money….and that is how it works. Which, means we have to be more intelligent consumers. And, overall, we aren’t. We buy into the gimmicks. We truly believe that other people in the corporate world want what’s best for the average consumer. If it’s on the shelf, it’s not going to kill me right? Please.

Anyways, I was frustrated- I can’t even trust the organic labels and natural foods??? What do we eat?

So, we found a company called Grasshoppers-local food (and now Green Bean after Grasshoppers closed). Ah, local food (let’s hope corporations don’t get wind of this). So, now we buy local whenever possible from farms we recognize and see down the road. Foxhollow Farm, Ashburne Farms (all close to Louisville). We receive pasture raised chicken and eggs. We buy grass fed beef. We spend more money than I had ever planned on food. We made that decision. And, we believe it is a good one. Why do we spend so little on food in our country anyways? A dollar for a burger? Are you serious? And you expect that to be good beef? How could it be?

 

That is where we are today in our journey of eating. It is not cheap. We eat less meat, because we can’t afford it as often. We eat out less, and when we eat out, we are pretty limited. Of course, we still eat out with family and friends, but it is tougher on us (on our minds as we attempt to avoid more meat and on our stomachs, which aren’t always accustomed to the food). Thankfully, there are more restaurants now  that are committed to better food, so we have a few more options for when we do eat out with friends and family. But, overall, it’s pretty easy to see why we want to raise our own food, I think. Why not have a garden  and orchard? Why not have chickens and a dairy cow? It’s not impossible. It was food that really led us to our new adventure of self sustainability. Our desire to be conscious and careful consumers- not blind and materialistic has led us to this new search for land.

And, of course, the biggest reason of all is our future children. Eating good food shouldn’t be this difficult. Eating REAL food shouldn’t be this difficult…or this costly. And, it doesn’t have to be. I mentioned in my first blog why people choose to live more sufficiently. Our biggest reason is for our future children and their future. I want my kids to eat real food and to understand the process of how it got to the table. I want them to know real honest work and respect for the land and for animals. I want them to respect life and the beautiful and delicate cycle that we seem to take advantage of every day. I want what every parent claims- more- for my kids. And, for me and my husband, “more” comes with a price.

 

So, for those wondering about the journey- this is one of the major ones- our journey of eating. The self sufficiency mindset really stemmed from here. Our plans may seem crazy at first, but I assure you, they are necessary and purposeful.

 

Happy Eating!

The Pickle Family

 

Planting Seeds

We encountered a difficulty from the very beginning: our porch is almost completely shaded. Not many herbs or plants that we were interested in growing thrive in the shade. We did quite a bit of research, at first. Our goal this year with our porch garden is to learn some basics in growing plants from seeds. We figured there would be some failures…and we were never planning on having a garden this year that would actually provide us food. We simply considered this an experiment in growing plants.

So, about a month ago, I planted some seeds in a couple different ways. I had originally planned on growing plants the old fashioned way- put some seeds in some soil, add water and sun, and poof- plants! I went to a local organic store, which is apparently much more geared towards aquaponics (growing plants in water, basically). I tried to find some small soil pods in which to put the seeds. I assumed that was what I purchased, but as I began putting them in the container, I realized that they weren’t soil, but some spongy material…I ended up realizing what I bought a little too late…. The “soil pods” were actually called”Gro-Cubes,”which are placed in water and kept under a lid. I didn’t completely understand the concept nor did I have a lid, so it became a very interesting experiment. I also took some of our old egg cartons (these aren’t made of Styrofoam; those wouldn’t work as well), added potting soil (Happy Frog brand-pleased so far with brand), and planted the seeds. 

I have to admit, doing research lately has been equally fulfilling and frustrating. I’m always worried I’m doing something wrong. The more I read, the more nervous I become. I have herb book,s and I read blogs. I believe in doing my research, but the more I learn, the more confusing something as simple as growing plants becomes. I love the idea of getting to know each plant and how it thrives and in what environment. I do believe that soil PH is important, as is climate zones and ideal temperature, but I’m starting to learn something equally as important: no matter how much I read, nothing really replaces the actual process. I have learned more from growing the seeds out of ignorance than I did in the books and blogs. Now, I’m starting to understand the plants more; I’m learning about the specific ones we planted. And, this is really more encouragement to those of you who are starting out, doing research, and feeling overwhelmed. You will never know everything, nor do you need to. If you wait until you do, you will never begin. Just get some dirt and seeds and try your hand at gardening. It feels good to get your hands dirty, and you learn so much more through experience. I’ve barely done anything really….small porch garden with a few potted plants, and I’ve learned so much more from that than I believed possible.

The results of our planting endeavor so far are below:



180Our porch and seeds to begin- we purchased Rosemary and Lavender plants- didn’t start those from seed, because it was too late in the year when i went to buy the seeds.

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Some of our seeds- we are growing cilantro, spinach, oregano, thyme, parsley, and basil (along with rosemary and lavender).

165I just think these plants are lovely.

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So does Dodger.

 

 

It has been about a month since these pictures were taken. Below are our plants today! 🙂

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Above- Rosemary, Lavender, Cilantro

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Above- our tomato plant!

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Above-Spinach!

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Above- Cilantro grows quickly!

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Above- some tiny little plants- they’ll grow more soon!

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Happy Planting!

 

-The Pickle Family

Worms and Composting

Well, we now have composting on our patio. In the last month, our waste production has drastically lessened. With all of our plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum, and paper being recycled and most of our food waste being composted, we have been throwing out a lot less trash.

Now, much of what we do is to help lessen our negative impact on the planet, and honestly, I feel that most of what we are doing is common sense. However, one thing I didn’t know was how much people need to compost and stop throwing out valuable food waste.

Composting makes sense on a selfish level- it’s better for our plants. However, I had no idea how much of an impact composting could have on our food production. I was unaware of the soil problem that is growing in the United States. Agricultural practices and over-exploitation has created a top-soil problem. I honestly don’t know everything about the situation, yet, and I am not trying to use scare tactics, in any way. But, I did find it interesting to consider how much valuable waste is discarded each day by every person in our country. That waste could be used to help grow our food (and should be used in that way). Our farming practices in our nation are based more on supply and demand (which makes sense). However, farmers make up less than 1% of the job market right now, and they produce our food. Therefore, it makes sense that they are unable to use good farming techniques and practices. And, because of this, our soil is hurting. We don’t rotate crops or give back to the soil, and I had never thought of it like that before. We take nutrients out of the soil, but we don’t put those nutrients back. Common sense tells me that this practice is probably not the wisest. We are making too much food on overused soil…it’s hurting our planet and our own health. I hope that soon we will have a method of recycling compost-giving it to farms, because in the end, it helps us and the quality of our food.

Here are some interesting sites, if you want to know more. Don’t just take my word for it: research. That is what I do…and, I am still learning all the time. I definitely don’t know everything about these subjects, and I probably won’t ever know it all. 🙂

http://www.epa.gov/composting/benefits.htm

http://www.fewresources.org/soil-science-and-society-were-running-out-of-dirt.html

https://worldwildlife.org/threats/soil-erosion-and-degradation

http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/land_deg/land_deg.html

This last article is an interesting one; it is not quite about soil erosion and composting, but it is more about soil problems in the world.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/09/soil/mann-text/1

 

Okay, so back to our worm composting. The compost bin came in the mail a few weeks ago, and it has actually been on our porch for a few weeks. The worms have been eating the food, and we have been adding more. And, as weird as it seems to be excited about worms….we are really excited!!

 

Step One:

Receive (or make) Worm Composting Bin and Prepare for Worms- Below is a lovely mixture of Coir (ground coconut fiber), Pumice (lightweight, porous, volcanic rock), and Shredded Paper.

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In the bottom of our first feeding tray, we spread a couple sheets of dry newspaper. Then we added the above mixture and a couple cups of food (see below). There are certain ingredients you shouldn’t feed your worms. If you do want to set up a worm composter, make sure you keep a controlled number of browns (paper, cardboard, leaves, etc.) and greens (vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags, etc.). Browns are higher in carbon; they take longer to decompose, but they absorb offensive odors and capture the nitrogen in the compost. “Greens are higher in nitrogen or protein and higher in moisture content. They provide nutrients necessary for building cell structure in the microorganisms….they break down quickly and create heat.” (Our Guide to Vermicomposting from Nature’s Footprint is my source for setting up the worm factory in this blog. We purchased our Worm Factory from this company, and it is a great product. There is a good amount of information about the composition of worm bins in their guide.)

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Below are the steps for setting up the worm compost:

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And, then the worms came!! 🙂

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The above pictures were taken about 2.5 weeks ago. Below is a picture of our worms today!

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Happy Composting!!

 

-the Pickle Family

Using Our Own Home Products

One of our first steps in this process is to try and use our own home products. Most products we use on our bodies are full of chemicals. Now, I’m not all about criticizing….I don’t know enough about chemistry or science to understand what every ingredient in my shampoo does….or how those chemicals react together. And, honestly, I don’t have much time to research. There is always information for both sides and pretty good arguments, too. I am choosing to use homemade products because I like knowing what I put on my body…and in it (but that is for a different post). I believe that the fewer chemicals in my soap, the better.

I found this article helpful- It seems relatively non-biased.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/08/28/deconstructing-your-haircare-ingredients

Another interesting article is found on ecowatch.com – There seem to be some scare tactics used, but I still agree with many of the comments- not all chemicals are good and bad…but not all should be put on your body or skin…skin absorbs (why you shouldn’t cover your body in markers, kids 🙂 )

http://ecowatch.com/2013/08/29/cancer-causing-chemical-in-shampoos/

Do with these what you will- but, I believe it is easy to see, with all this information floating around, why many have chosen to create their own products. Plus, as a bonus- it saves a LOT of money! Win-Win in my book.

 

So, this week we started using our own shampoo, conditioner, and deodorant.

It has taken my hair a while to adjust. Yesterday was the worst! My hair looked like it hadn’t been washed in weeks. So, fair warning to you ladies, pick a time to transition to homemade shampoo on a low-key week (I picked my school’s spring break week). Today is much better. I can tell my hair is adjusting. It takes a while for hair to adjust because shampoos and conditioners are designed to strip your hair of its natural oils. I used to have to shampoo my hair every day, or it would be so oily and gross. But, I am looking forward to having to shampoo my hair less often. Another benefit of using your own products- your body adjusts, and they are natural and healthy- giving you less of a need to wash your hair every day. Another win-win to me! I hate drying my hair every day….

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So, if you would like to give it a go- here are the recipes I used. Play around with recipes….what works for one person’s body may not work for another’s. That is the beauty of humanity- the differences.

  • 1/4 cup organic coconut milk (store bought or homemade works)
  • 1/3 cup Liquid Castille Soap (like Dr. Bronners- I love the Tea Tree scent!)
  • 1/2 of a teaspoon (or several capsules) of Vitamin E oil (completely optional)
  • 20 drops of Essential Oil(s) of choice
  • For dry hair: add 1/2 tsp olive or almond oil (optional)
  1. Combine all ingredients in an old shampoo bottle or jar of some kind (pump soap dispensers and even foaming dispensers work well for this. If you use a foaming dispenser, add 1/4 cup of distilled water)
  2. Shake well to mix.
  3. Keep in shower for up to a month.
  4. Shake before each use.
  5. Use about a teaspoon every time you shampoo.
  6. If you use a foaming dispenser, it also makes a great shaving cream- just dilute with 1/4 cup distilled water!

For Conditioner I used this recipe:

  • Boil 2 cups of water.  Steep your tea of choice and a sprig or small handful of fresh or dried chopped rosemary. Steep for at least 30 minutes, (I was in a hurry), but a whole day is better.  The longer the herbs infuse the water, the stronger the healing powers.

Strain out herbs, (if needed), and to the 2 cup infusion:

  • Add a 1/2 c of ACV
  • Add 1 c filtered water
  • Add 5-10 drops of essential oil of your choice.

 

Deodorant was a bit more interesting. Here is the recipe I used:

Baking Soda
Arrowroot Starch (or Cornstarch)
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (liquefied)*
Essential Oil of Your Choice

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Mix equal parts baking soda and starch (if you have sensitive skin, you may want to try starting with less baking soda than starch). Add your liquefied coconut oil little by little, stirring well. Lastly, add a few drops of the essential oil (10 or so). The deodorant will firm up depending on the temperature in your home (some people even store it in the fridge).

It worked great, but putting it on was a bit more challenging. I tried a spatula…that was tough. Little crumbles fell to the floor…I used my fingers, but I knew I didn’t want to keep doing that every morning. Finally, I realized I could use an old deodorant container I happened to have….and so far so good. Lately, I’ve had some sensitive skin issues with the baking soda, so I’ll probably be making a different mixture next time with less baking soda.

 

Our next steps are to make our own facial wash, soap, and makeup remover (the last one is obviously for me).

If you have found any other great recipes, feel free to share.

I’m loving the smell and feel of the new products- and the fact that I am now spending much less on body care products! 🙂

-The Pickle Family

The Experiment Continues- On Eating and Our First “Livestock”

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In my previous post I mentioned the updates on how our experiment is going.

Here is where we stand thus far:

We currently have a subscription to a food delivery service called Green Bean. We used to get our food from Grasshoppers, but they went out of business. We really enjoyed their business; the food we recieved was mostly local. Green Bean is good, too, but their food is only local when available, which seems to be not often. Of course, winter is not the best time for local food, I’ve heard. We eat organic food- local when we can. Right now I’m working on trying to find better alternatives- local businesses to support. We do get our meat from a couple local farms, along with our eggs and milk.

So, our next step is trying to grow as much of our own food as we can on our patio. We started realizing the difficulties when we looked for potting soil. The best method is to make it yourself…but, that is challenging in an apartment. We finally settled on a brand called Happy Frog. But, of course, we want to try and make as much of our soil/compost we can. We bought a worm composter…and it arrived today! Kevin is very excited- he keeps calling the worms our first livestock. At first, I thought he was a little crazy….worms aren’t livestock. But, once he made the point that they are the first animals we have purchased who are solely here to work for us, not a pet like our dog, I realized he was right. This weekend I plan on figuring out which herbs and vegetables we can actually grow on our porch (mostly shade…so it is limited). But, we look at these steps as experimental- learning steps. We want to figure out how the simple process of growing plants and making compost works, so this is the best way we could think of to start.

Hopefully by next week we will have some progress in our patiogarden. And, soon we will have fresh herbs to use in cooking and homemade medicine.

My next big goal for the near future is to make our own detergent, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. I am getting the primary ingredients this weekend to try and make detergent, deodorant, shampoo, and conditioner.

We started recycling (sounds horrible to just be starting, but there isn’t an easy option, and we have almost no storage). We bought a huge set of shelves for our patio and are storing the recycling there.

My final goal for right now is to experiment more in the kitchen. I really want to know more about what goes into how food is made. I have a friend who went to school to be a chef, and we’ve been discussing the chemical components behind foods. I’d really like to know more about nutrition- why certain foods work together, the chemical makeup of foods, and what should go into a basic diet. I also want to start compiling some simple recipes.

Now that I have typed it all out, it doesn’t seem like too much. But, these are our first steps towards our major goal. We’ve been looking at different properties and planning out our first big home purchase. We really want to be learning a lot this next year- we believe that knowledge will help us in the long run. We want to keep learning and planning these next few months as we work towards our first piece of property.

I’m sure there is more…I’m sure Kevin will remind me. 🙂 But, this seems like a decently long post for now.

-The Pickle Family

An Experiment in Sustainable Living- Otherwise known as A Very Rough Draft

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

-Oscar Wilde

 

June 30, 2013 I married my best friend. My life changed, as we embarked on a new life together.

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Within this last year/our first year of marriage, we have slowly uncovered our desires for life together. Maybe we always knew what we wanted, or rather, how we wanted to live individually. Yet, through our avid documentary watching and exposure to this over-manufactured and materialistic world, and through our desire to have children in the future, we have embarked upon an adventure in which we try to live naturally and holistically.

Yes, we all know why people attempt to separate from this modern, over-packaged world: the processing of our food, the disregard for how waste affects the environment, the complete separation of man from the origins of his food, the lack of purpose in our day-to-day lives, the ability of humans to consume without creating…and that recent problem in our society. I could create an incredibly long and tedious list of all the reasons we are deciding, as a movement, to get back to nature and connect again to our environment. Yes, we all hate the mistreatment of animals, as they provide for our needs. Yes, we all hate the consumerism that is running rampant in our culture. Yes, we all want more for our children; we want them to live purposeful and full lives. Yes, we all want to be able to live on our own, without having to depend on our government for every small need. But, with all those desires, where does an average citizen begin? Where does a person, who never grew up on a farm, never learned to make soap or can veggies, who never milked a cow or killed a chicken, who doesn’t even know how to construct a simple shed or begin an herb garden, who wants to have chickens and gardens, but who doesn’t have land begin? Ah…and we have stumbled upon the real purpose of this blog: to track the process of a simple suburban couple (a database engineer and an English teacher), living in a small studio apartment, on their journey of becoming self-sufficient, creators rather than consumers.

A couple weekends ago, we attended a fair in Somerset, Kentucky, only a 2.5 hour drive from Louisville, Kentucky. We’ve dabbled with this idea for a while, explored bookstores, purchased a fabulous book (Self Sufficiency for the 21st Century by Dick and James Strawbridge-highly recommend) and perused its pages on plotting your land, building your shed, and creating home remedies; we’ve talked and planned (lightly). But, thatSaturday was special as we discovered other people want to do and are successful in doing what we desire.

I discovered that, as a teacher, there are materials available through Project Learning Tree for environmental education for our children, that there are classes on how to begin through a fabulous teacher (Ame Vanorio- Fox Run Produce and Education Center), that there is a Community Farm Alliance in Frankfort (only a 40 minute drive…maybe only 20 from our future land), and that we can connect with hundreds of people for information and guidance.

Thus, my husband, Kevin, suggested I write a blog. I suppose it is partly selfish. After all, this tracks our progress as a family more than helps others. However, maybe from our journey, others can learn and see how possible this life style is.

We are working civilians. We are not full-time farmers. We have full-time, incredibly time-consuming jobs. I teach English at a small private school- I have 5 preps (for those who know, that is A LOT)- meaning I teach AP 12th English, 12th English, 10th English, 8th Writing, and 7th/8th Creative Writing. My husband is a database engineer/designer- he is on-call one week every month and works long hours. But, we see our adventure as not only important, but necessary. So, we begin. We embark on a journey to improve our lives, the lives of those we impact, and the lives of our future children.

Follow along if you like- I will post soon on what we are already doing, to attempt to be more conscious of our impact on our planet and what we plan on doing in the next few weeks/months.