Back to the Garden (+ the Littlest Permaculturist)

IMG_9408

Today was the first day I really dug my hands into the soil for quite some time.  I’ve been putting it off for a few reasons — mostly because of the weather, but also because I’ve felt conflicted about whether or not I should invest the time when we will hopefully be moving in the next couple of months.

However, the soil still calls asking me to dip my hands in, refresh my immune system, and connect with the Earthly energies.  I couldn’t resist.

A lot of today was just clean-up.  I was very pregnant last fall and didn’t get the beds taken care of the way that I should have.

There were also little surprise tasks like baby garlic plants ready to be separated and begin life anew.  Hopefully somebody will be able to harvest these culinary delights in the fall!

Continue reading

As the wheel turns…(Imbolc Intentions)

IMG_1313

Here we are at another turn of the wheel of the year.

Today marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  Many who celebrate the seasons of the Earth call this day Imbolc, although it is also known as Candlemas to some and Bride’s Eve to others.

This is the time when winter may start to feel long, gray, and drawn out, but the spirit of this holiday reminds us to keep searching.  Just beneath the snow are the rumblings of spring.  Just as we look out to another gray sky, we also see the days growing longer and new buds on the trees. Continue reading

Permaculture for Urban Homes and Small Spaces

Image source: permaculturesunshinecoast.com

One of the best things about blogging is discovering a new community of people with shared interests and goals.  One such kindred spirit is Mari of the blog Gather and Grow.  She is a fellow lover of permaculture and has graciously shared some great tips and inspiration for many of us who are interested in being more self-sufficient but feel limited by the space constraints of the urban environment.

Whether you live in an urban environment, or on many acres of land – I think you’ll find something useful here!

Permaculture Strategies for Urban Homes and Small Spaces

Permaculture designers love challenges. After all, permaculture is not just a set of organic gardening techniques, but a toolkit, a decision-making process, for designing sustainable human settlements. And one of its fundamental principles is: “The problem is the solution.”

What if we apply this principle to a challenge that many of us are all too familiar with: living in small urban spaces with little or no access to actual soil on which to grow food? Permaculture and gardening books present pictures of lovely, lush farm landscapes and large suburban lots overflowing with greenery, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens, perhaps even with small livestock. But what do you do if you live in an apartment, or have only a postage-stamp-sized bit of yard by your front door?

The permaculture answer: you can still do a lot. In this case, seeing the problem as the solution means turning the seeming constraints of an urban environment – the density of buildings, people, and resources – to your advantage, and doing things like intensive planting, vertical growing, and maximizing solar exposure in- and outdoors. Here I present ideas and strategies first for the apartment dweller, and then for those who do have yard space but it’s limited. Continue reading

Forest Farming, Inoculating Mushroom Logs, and a Surprise

IMG_4636

Recently I attended a weekend workshop focused on forest farming.

I can hear you ask, “What’s forest farming?”

Well, it’s the process of growing non-timber forest crops beneath the canopy of an established forest. In this way, forest farming is a form of “productive conservation” – you’re reaping benefits of crops grown in the forest while protecting the land from destruction. Examples of non-timber forest farmed products include: maple syrup, medicinal plants, mushrooms, nuts, ornamental woodland species, and fruit. (Learn more here.)

IMG_4660 Continue reading

It’s International Permaculture Day!

IMG_2402

Happy, happy International Permaculture Day! !

Have you been doing anything to celebrate (maybe even if you didn’t know it was today)? Continue reading

Adventures in Natural Building: Strawbale Studio

IMG_4458

Walking into Deanne Bednar’s Strawbale Studio in Oxford, Michigan is like walking into the future…or maybe the past.  Either way, it is at the same time homelike as it is ethereal and dreamy.  It is a wonderful, welcoming space in which to find oneself.

Here, you are immediately immersed in a more nature-based state of living: jars of herbs, kombucha, and kefir line the counters, whittling projects lie about the room, and natural trinkets like spiraling wood, herb bundles, and dried flowers can be found in every corner and adorning the walls.

What is more unique to those unfamiliar with natural building techniques are the wonderful Earthen plasters that soften edges, relax the eyes, and bring the outdoors into the home.  Continue reading

An Avian Visitor + Wormville Update

IMG_1947

Nearly every day for the past week, I will suddenly hear raucous alarm calls coming from the flock of sparrows that hang out in the backyard.

It appears that we have attracted a regular visitor who showed up on two separate occasions today. An adorable, killing machine – a Cooper’s hawk. Continue reading

Clean it Green: Laundry Detergent

IMG_1728

We recently went to a Sustainability Symposium at the Botanical Gardens. It was a day filled with a variety of lectures related to the impacts of climate change in Northeast Ohio, gardening, and green living.

One of the lectures discussed green cleaning products.  At one point, the presenter showed a picture of what it looks like in the cupboards underneath the sink in a “green” home — lots of cloth rags, vinegar, baking soda, and maybe some borax or washing soda.  She then asked, “How many of you have cupboards that look like this?”

I was one of very few people that raised a hand.  Hmm…I guess there’s still a lot of educational work to be done!  Continue reading

Tips for a Greener Valentine’s Day

IMG_1748

To be honest, I haven’t liked Valentine’s day much since middle school.  It was all fun and games with our shoe boxes and egalitarian distribution of Care Bears cards in elementary school, but then came the carnation sale.  Rather than a friendly gesture to celebrate a holiday, the carnation sale was really more of a contest between the three prettiest girls to see who would receive the most flowers.

While most of us sent one or two flowers to friends these girls were walking around with their 47 carnations leaving the rest of us awkward 12-year-olds with bruised egos.  The remainder of us “normal” girls sat at our desks, heads lifted eagerly each time one of the carnation messengers entered the room with the goods.  Nope, it’s for her yet again. Great.

And then when I was 13, my boyfriend gave me a box of chocolates (which really isn’t my favorite thing anyway) wrapped in paper made up of 2 inch scraps of all the letters and cards I had written to him.  I spent a lot of time on those notes – why in the world would he cut them into pieces as a gift??

Despite my less-than-perfect relationship with middle school Valentine’s days, the holiday continues on, and now I’m more concerned by the amount of waste and needless spending that the holiday promotes.  Why can’t we just be kind and giving to our loved ones on a regular basis?

However, I had an interesting request from a lovely reader recently asking what would make a good Valentine’s Day gift for someone who is interested in sustainability and reducing their consumption. Really, it’s a great question that more people should be discussing!

Here are my recommendations. Continue reading

Sprout It Out

IMG_4302

The weather remains snowy and cold, but there are fresh things growing indoors!

Sprouts are a wonderful way to introduce a fresh, healthy food to your winter diet.  And certainly, if you are aiming to eat a low-carbon diet that incorporates lots of local foods, sprouts are an ideal way to continue eating fresh through the winter months.

They’re also really good for you! The most common types of sprouting seeds (mixes of radish, alfalfa, clover, broccoli, legumes) are rich in nutrition containing:

  • Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K
  • Minerals such as phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and calcium
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Folate
  • Protein
  • Antioxidants
  • Chlorophyll Continue reading