Green Your Home, Your Family and Your Life!

Green Your Home, Your Family and Your Life!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Small Turbines Bring Wind Power Home

Modern wind energy plant in rural scenery.Image via WikipediaWind speed varies by and from season to season. Wind is strongest in cold-weather months when electricity demand is also at its peak, so variability tends to mirror demand.

Fortunately for the small or hobby farmer, many of the best wind sites are in remote locations. Good sites for wind farms are the tops of hills, open plains, shorelines, and mountain gaps that cause wind to be funneled through a ravine.

The states with the most wind production are Texas, California, Iowa, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. The states with the most wind energy potential are North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Texas, and Kansas.

North Dakota alone has the potential to produce enough wind-generated power to meet more than one-fourth of U.S. demand.

Wind farms produce no pollution, greenhouse gases or toxic wastes. Wind is renewable, reliable and efficient and now affordable. It is compatible with other land uses and can boost rural economic development for farmers who lease their land.

Wind energy offsets emissions from other energy sources. In 2006, US wind turbines offset 30 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, 76,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 36,000 tons of nitrogen oxides by generating clean electricity.

Even if turbine production is included in assessing wind energy's "footprint", it still has 99% less CO2 emissions than coal and 98% than natural gas.

Ready to learn more? Read the rest here
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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Recipes Using Vegetables From the Garden

LégumesImage via WikipediaAre you reluctant to start a vegetable garden? Does the idea of finding ways to use up all of those vegetables leave you cold? Or even worse, are you convinced that you don't like vegetables?

Well, never fear. If you've eaten supermarket produce your whole life, then you most likely don't know what what vegetables truly taste like. Trust me, the two don't even compare.

If you're feeling hesitant because you don't know what to do with veggies that come from the garden and not from a can, never fear. This lens will show you what to do with what you grow.

And if you have too much produce to use, you might consider bartering with your neighbors or selling at your local farmer's market.

What to learn more? Read on here
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Friday, November 4, 2011

Improving Your Soil Naturally

A section of the vegetable gardenImage via WikipediaManufacturers of chemical fertilizers would have you believe that you can't grow plants successfully without the use of their products. So what exactly are chemical fertilizers? Mostly waste products from the petroleum industry.

Chemical fertilizers contain different ratios of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Unfortunately, this disregards all of the micronutrients present in healthy soil. Some chemical fertilizers have been found to have a negative impact on the microorganisms that thrive in a healthy soil.

In 1997, the Seattle Times newspaper began a series of investigative articles that found hazardous and radioactive wastes being added to chemical fertilizers. This waste, when added to the soil, can be taken up by plants and enter the bodies of people or animals who eat these plants.

Organic fertilizers may take a little bit of effort and a little bit of time, but in the long run by using natural fertilizers you'll be doing yourself and the environment a favor.

Want to learn more? Read more here
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Wildcrafting On The Homestead

Composite image to illustrate the diversity of...Image via WikipediaWildcrafting is gathering or gleaning plants found in the wild for food, medicine crafts or other purposes. Humans have practiced wildcrafting since time immemorial, but you may be surprised to find out that there are many people who wildcraft even today, including a growing segment of the population who wildcraft in urban areas.

How is this possible? Familiarize yourself with common edible species that grow in your area then take a look around. You may be surprised to find that even in a major city you may be surrounded by edible plants growing right under your nose. If you do plan to wildcraft in an urban area, be sure that you have permission to glean - particularly on private property.

The easiest way to get started with wildcrafting is to pick up a book that identifies plants that grow in your area or to take a class in wildflower, tree or mushroom identification from a local college or extension office.

Want to learn more? Read the rest here
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How To Build and Use A Solar Oven

Solar OvenImage by BreadnBadger via FlickrSolar ovens are cheap and easy to make and operate. I have been using solar ovens for two decades now, constructed from not much more than cardboard boxes and aluminum foil.

Cardboard ovens don't last forever, but they're so easy to make that I don't mind have to replace my old one every couple years.

I have even made a solar oven from an old pizza box, aluminum foil and saran wrap in a pinch. These are definitely not durable, but great to use in the short-term such as during a picnic or when you're camping. Just think, no stinky charcoal or lighter fluid to lug along!

For those who are looking for something that will last a long time (or if you simply don't have the time or temperment to make your own solar cooker, there are many commercial models available for purchase.

Want to learn more? Read the rest here
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Growing Vegetables on the Homestead

vegetablesImage via WikipediaAre you interested in growing your own vegetables? Welcome to the club! There is a growing movement of people who are growing their own produce.

There are many reasons for this, including the desire for affordable organic foods, to step away from the "factory farming" model which gives us few choices and has an enormous (negative) impact on the environment, to bring food dollars home, or simply to be able to savor fresh, chemical-free, homegrown vegetables again.

Across the country, people are growing their own food in pots on the patio, in raised beds in the back yard, in plots at their local community garden or on the windowsills of their apartment.

Young and old, urban and rural, people are flocking back to edible gardening. Ready to join the movement? Read on here
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Helping Hands: Dogs and Cats on the Homestead

An Australian livestock guardian dog (LGD) pro...Image via WikipediaDogs can be of great help to any homesteader. Besides companionship, there are certain breeds of dog that are suitable to guard your property or livestock animals.

Certain breeds are great at hunting. Others are natural shepherds, mustering cattle, goats, sheep and even poultry!

Dogs known for the excellent shepherding skills include the Australian Cattle Dog, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Border Collie, Australian Kelpie, Australian Koolie, Australian Shepherd, English Shepherd, Welsh Sheepdog, New Zealand Huntaway, German Shepherd and Briards.

It's easy to confuse a herding dog with a livestock guardian dog. A livestock guardian's job is to protect other animals from predators, especialy at night. LGDs are sometimes referred to as "sheep dogs", while herding dogs are referred to as "sheepdogs", hence the confusion.

They don't do the same job though. LGDs guard livestock without any herding behaviors. They tend to blend in with their charges, keeping a watchful eye out for predators, particularly while the group is grazing in open spaces. LGDs can even be trained to guard poultry, without predatorial behavior towards the birds.

Some well known LGD breeds include the Pyrenean, Spanish and Tibetan Mastiff, Anatolian, Carpathian, and Greek Shepherd Dogs, the Maremma Sheepdog and the Great Pyrenees.

The first human-dog interactions most likely consisted of mutual hunting and there are many breeds suitable for hunting including hounds, terriers, dachshunds, cur type dogs, retriever, setter, pointer and spaniel.

Want to learn more? Read on here
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Growing Sunflowers On The Great Plains

Sunflowers in Fargo, North Dakota.Image via Wikipedia

Sunflowers are easy to grow in any sunny spot and so beautiful they're a favorite even with children. Their sunny faces attract butterflies, bees, and birds. In my area, sunflowers are a favorite home for ladybugs, for whom I like to lay out the welcome mat.

Ladybugs love to eat certain pest bugs and help me to grow an abundant garden without any costly or dangerous chemicals, so I am happy to offer them the food, shade and shelter of a sunflower forest.

I usually plant an entire bed of sunflowers, Jerusalem artichoke and Mexican sunflower. In the shady areas at the front of the bed, I sow a succession of lettuces and other fast-growing greens that appreciate the cool, shady ground beneath the towering flowers.
 
Want to learn more? Read on here
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Why Consider Solar Power?

 
 
Certain materials have a property known as the photoelectric effects. This property allows them to absorbs photos of sunlight and release electrons. Capture of these free electrons results in an electric current. Through photovoltaics, light is converted directly into electricity.

Solar power can be produced by heat engines or photovoltaics. Some applications for solar technologies include heating and cooling, potable water through distillation and disinfection, hot water, thermal energy for cooking and process heat for industrial purposes.

Solar energy can be scaled to individual use (such as solar cookers or rooftop panels used to heat a home), to communities, or to industry in the deployment of solar concentrating power arrays.

Solar technologies are characterized as either passive or active. Active uses photovoltaic panels or solar thermal collectors to convert solar energy to electrical energy.

Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the sun, selecting materials with thermal properties and designing buildings that take advantage of natural properties of insolation.

Deriving energy from solar power is 85 times more efficient than growing corn for ethanol. On a single plot of land, enough ethanol can be produced to drive a car 30,000 miles per year. If the same acreage was covered with photos cells, the car could be driven 2,500,000 miles per year.

Solar power has been developed since the 1950s. This technology has advanced due to its use in the space industry. The energy crisis in the 1970s brought the idea of using solar power to provide electricity for individuals and industries on Earth to the forefront.
Want to learn more? Read the rest here
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Why Should I consider Geothermal Energy?

 
 
The potential of geothermal energy worldwide is estimated at 50,000 times the world's oil and natural gas reserves. It could provide all of our energy needs worldwide for 30,000 years.

California generates the most electricity from geothermal energy with 2,555 megawatts of installed capacity, nearly 5 percent of its electricity. Most of this capacity is in an area called the Geysers, north of San Francisco. The Geysers is the largest dry steam field in the world. It has been producing electricity since 1960.

The United States is the world leader in generating geothermal electricity, much of which is used to power oil pumps. In Europe, Italy and Iceland produce the most geothermal energy.

Iceland is number one in the world in the percent of its electricity generated from geothermal energy.

A study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that an investment of about $1 billion in geothermal research and development over 15 years could lead to an additional deployment of 100,000 megawatts by 2050. This is about the same cost as building one coal-fired plant.
 
Want to learn more? Read the rest here
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Plate: Teaching Your Kids the New USDA Guidelines

Various fruits and vegetables for sale at Pike...Image via Wikipedia
After 19 years, the USDA replaced its vague and confusing Food Pyramid with My Plate. 

The new graphic is meant to serve as a visual reminder that portion control is key to maintaining healthy weight. 

My Plate also includes some updated guidelines to help families make healthier food choices.

Portion control is the main theme of My Plate. Other guidelines include eating more veggies, choosing low-sodium foods, eating whole grains, drinking water instead of sugary drinks and low-fat milk rather than whole.  

So, how do you help your kids learn about and use the new guidelines? Read on
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Non-toxic Spring Cleaning

Verbascum chaixii in front of Tea CottageImage by deadmanjones via FlickrAsk the average person whether or not common household cleaners have been tested for safety and they'll most likely tell you  of course they have! Unfortunately, this is not true.

Manufacturers are protected by outdated laws from the 1970s that put corporate profits over human health. Under these old laws, manufacturers don't even have to disclose what chemicals are used in a product's formula.

Given that there are over 80,000 chemicals in the US marketplace today, it is not at all surprising that oversight groups simply can't keep up. Without knowing what chemicals are in a product, every product would need to be tested individually for safety. There are simply too many products on the market to make testing each product individually feasible.


I have been experimenting with non-toxic cleaners for years now, trying to find the products that have known safety and that work best for me and my family. Read on to learn more about my favorite non-toxic cleaning products.

1. Washing soda – Similar to baking soda but more alkaline so it does a better job of cutting through grease, oil and other substances that you might otherwise use toxic solvents to take care of. Look for washing soda in the laundry aisle of your supermarket.

To make a powder dishwasher soap, use two parts washing soda to one part borax.Put the mixture in a covered container with a 1/4 cup mixing cup and use it the next time you run your dishwasher.

2. Baking soda – No list of non-toxic cleaners would be complete without baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate. There are many uses for baking soda in the home, everything from tile and grout cleaner to trash can deodorizer and laundry freshener. I like to use baking soda as a non-toxic oven cleaner.

Mix 1 cup baking soda with enough water to form a paste. Use a cleaning brush to rub the paste onto the surfaces of a cooled oven. Leave overnight. The next day, use a clean moistened brush to scrub the baking soda mixture from the surfaces, rinse with water and you’re done!

This method can also be used to clean burnt food from the bottoms of pots and pans.

3. White vinegarWhite Vinegar contains about 5% acetic acid, a substance which has been proven to kill mold, viruses and bacteria. Triclosan, the most common antibacterial used in this country, is commonly found even in treated wastewater and is considered by some to be a driving force in the increase in antibiotic-resistant organisms. If you’re looking for a non-toxic antibacterial, white vinegar is your answer!

You can use distilled white vinegar as a cleaner/deodorizer for children's toys  as long as they're not stuffed or electronic! Add 1/2 c. vinegar to a bucket of warm water and soak toys for at least an hour. Make sure to rinse thoroughly after soaking. The vinegar scent will disperse as the toys dry.



4. Rubbing alcoholRubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) is another great non-toxic disinfectant. I use rubbing alcohol and cotton balls to clean children's toys that I can’t soak in the vinegar mixture above. The best part is that it evaporates very quickly, so it can be used on the fly when you need to clean something fast. Rubbing alcohol is also a great natural polish and build-up remover – pour directly onto a cleaning cloth to polish metal or tile surfaces. Don’t use near ovens or other flammable materials – remember, alcohol can catch on fire!

5. Hydrogen peroxideHydrogen peroxide provides all the germ-fighting action of vinegar, but without the strong scent.Use 3% hydrogen peroxide half and half with water in a spray bottle to clean counters, cutting boards and other kitchen surfaces where bacteria may be lurking. You can use the same mixture as a produce wash to remove germs and bacteria.

I use hydrogen peroxide as a non-toxic carpet cleaner, especially for pet urine spots. Make sure to spot test the carpet first if you're going to try this one! Pour 3% hydrogen peroxide directly on the spot you want to clean, let it bubble for a minute or two then blot with a clean towel.

To learn more about the safety of chemicals used in products in the US, visit Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families 

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Friday, April 22, 2011

permacultural aspect: co-operating niches at a...Image via Wikipedia

Blogging has changed the way we live our lives. My favorite blogs to read are those written by my fellow moms. I love reading about their trials, joys and triumphs. I especially love those a-ha moments when I can read about another woman’s life and think; yes, me too.

My family is pretty unique. First of all, we’re poor. Second, we don't care that we're considered poor. Yes, there is a lot of stigma associated with that word so let me say, we’re happily poor. My husband and I are non-traditional students, having chosen to earn college degrees later in our lives than most people do. So you might say we chose poverty, at least temporarily, in the hope that we’ll eventually make a better life for our children.

You’ll never read me writing a review for a brand new product because almost everything we own comes from the Salvation Army, garage sales, or our local freecycle list. We’ve figured out how to be happy with less, how to make do with what we have, how to budget carefully to meet the needs of the five people in our family. A side effect of this is that we’ve learned how to live greener, eat healthier, and be more active.

We grow our own food on windowsills and in the tiny back yard of our rented home. The children help, and as a result they get fresh air, sunshine, exercise and delicious homegrown produce that they pick and eat right off the plants. I’m happy that being poor taught us how to share these gifts with our kids; so much better in my opinion than a life spent eating fast food and walking around the mall for entertainment.

I look forward to sharing our green-living journey with you! I hope that by blogging about my family’s life, others may learn something different, take comfort from our trials, cheer our triumphs and have their own a-ha moments.

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