Friday, July 31, 2009

Let's Start a Food Fight

Warning: Post contains political opinions.

As we prepare our Fall garden, I've been mulling over how far-reaching the ability to produce one's own food truly is. Growing your own food may be the single most important thing that one can do to promote freedom. By growing your own food, you:

  1. Take control over the quality, variety, nutritional value, and safety of your food supply.
  2. Reduce the amount of fuel spent transporting, cooling, and warehousing food.
  3. Save money that can be reallocated to debt reduction, investing in land, equipment for off-grid living, homeschooling supplies, or to simply hold in savings.
  4. Reduces the amount of money being fed into the Broken System.

The first three items are reason enough to grow a least a portion of your food. But, you may not have heard about the fouth. The Broken System is actually a network of systems. This network includes entities like the government, as well as health care, financial and food industries, and so on. Each of these entities share two things

  1. a gross lack of accountability to the American public,
  2. are wasteful, and operate in an unsustainable manner.

Considering the size to which these entites and industries have been permitted to grow, we are left with few real options with which to reign them in. The most powerful tool we have to take back control is through individual spending habits.

Career politicians, lending institutions, and giant manufacturers try desperately to get us to spend money. It keeps them strong, while keeping the general population weak with debt. But we have a choice whether to listen to them, or to listen to our common sense.

What we need to do is stop spending! Stop listening to the nonsense that it is supposedly patriotic to spend money you can't afford to spend. According to who? Here's the truth: it's patriotic to create strong, debt-free, American families. We can reduce our spending by growing some or all of our own food. You end up with more money in your pocket and better quality food at the same time.

There is a tremendous amount of waste of fuel and energy to grow food on large Agri-business farms, and especially on imported food from foreign countries. More fuel and energy is then wasted in the packaging, shipping, and warehousing of food. All of the fuel and utilities necessary to keep this process afloat is taxed and a source of government income. Considering that most produce travels an average of 1500 miles from farm to store shelves, that's a lot of tax revenue.

I do not know anyone who thinks the government has spent our tax dollars wisely. Yet, even with a completely different party in control of both congress and the White House, we are still subjected to the Patriot Act, paying for a horrendously expensive war, and bailing out companies and banks as a reward for mismanagement. Voting differently certainly didn't do much to help us.

The most effective way to create change is to change our spending habits. By growing our own food, we are refusing to feed into the Broken System. Growing our own food reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Growing our own food is an act of patriotism.

Live better, a little every day.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Garden Report, 7/24/09

Rain, rain go away! June was almost daily rain, and July has shaped up to be rain every 2-3 days. The pickings at local farmers' markets and even from our CSA farm share are slim compared to past years. From what many local growers have reported, many crops have simply rotted in the ground.

Our garden is just starting to get productive. Yesterday, I harvested eight peppers. There are several cucumbers ready to come off the vine either today or tomorrow. There are three tomatoes ripening on the vine, but dozens more flowers on the tomato plants then there were just a few days ago.

The bean plants are doing ok, but not spectacular. Most did not survive when put into the ground. I started them from seed, and they had wet feet in the containers. The plants were rather thin, and the wind and rain caused several to bend and break. I've planted a second group of beans and planted them much deeper so that there is no chance the wind will do that kind of damage again.

Yesterday, I put in the last of the cucumber plants and some replacement green bean plants. It was a race against time before the rain to get them in the ground. Such has been the story of our garden this year!

It's getting to be time to plant seeds for fall planting. With such a late season, it's somewhat hard to believe, but fall is but two months away. We will still keep some produce plants on our balcony, as it is a beautiful micro-climate for container gardening later in the season. I've got onion, carrots, garlic, lettuce, swiss chard, and elephant-neck squash planned. Some will actually get planted at our location in Maine, which is a really exciting to us.

As this garden is largely experimental, but it has taught us the importance of planting much more than you think you need, and multiple plantings. Redundancy in a garden plan is crucial if you are depending on the garden as your main food supply. A greenhouse, and plenty of large containers would be another source of garden redundancy, though that's something we're planning on for our Maine location. However, we will be using cold frames to extend the season here in MA as long as possible.

Live better, a little every day.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Progress Update #3a, Cabin Pics

The Cabin Site

Cabin Construction Begins

Gotta level the posts.

And... it's level!

Installing a Vapor Barrier

Installing Insulation

Installing the Subfloor

The Walls Go Up

The Outer Walls Go Up

Cutting the Front Door
Front Door and Windows
The Second Floor Begins

Progress Update #3, Building the Cabin

We're back, and what a week it has been! In spite of some minor setbacks, common to most building projects (and some not so common), we made incredible progress building our cabin.

Upon arrival, we found the camper was free of wasps, which had been our plague last year. However, the bed had been taken over by garder snakes. They made a home under the camper's water tank, which was stored under the bed. To get them out, it meant cutting out the water tank. However, we now have a water tank for future installation in the cabin. Eddie pulled a total of seven snakes out of the bed, patched the holes, and duct-taped over the patches and the entire under-bed storage area. Lots of duct tape- no more snakes.

Our second setback was with our initial attempt to pick up the lumber. Apparently, there is a spending limit on my debit card, and with the purchase of gas for the trip, and a stop at Cabela's for a solar shower, the total purchase price for the lumber was over my daily spending limit. This set us back a day building, but we cleaned up around the camper, cutting down all the tall grasses around and under it. We also put down some black plastic sheets underneath before returning home to prevent regrowth. Hopefully, this will cut down on invading critters.

Our friend, Jimmy, arrived during the night and slept in his truck. He brought up a bunch of power tools, ladders, etc. After some much needed coffee, we all headed out to the lumber yard. Between Jimmy's truck and our utility trailer, we were able to take everything in one trip. We spent the better part of the morning clearing the tall grass from the most level area, setting up the generator, and unloading tools and lumber. Construction got underway about noon, and by the end of the day, the floor was laid and insulated, and four posts were up.

The floor needed some levelling, and we set up the solar shower shelter. We needed some materials, but since the local place was closed, we had a long drive to the nearest Home Depot. However, we stopped at a sporting goods store and picked up a water filter/purifier to safely use the water we have on site. Jimmy had to leave as he had work in the morning, but we were joined by a new friend, Leif. How lucky are we to have met an architect who lives only a few miles away? Progress picked up quickly under a professional's guidance, and the south and west walls were framed and raised.

It was just us on Monday, with Eddie and his oldest son doing most of the work. Jimmy had left his power tools and ladders, which was a huge help. The remaining walls were framed and raised, and the outer walls on two sides went up.

The rest of the outer walls went up and openings for windows and doors were cut. Our new friend dropped by again to help us out with the second floor and roof. There was a slight mistake made with the window framing, that would be easily corrected the next day. We also ended up choosing to go with longer boards for the roof to give us more headroom in the second floor. By day's end, we had the floor for the second floor mostly done. My camera battery ran out of charge today.

It rained on and off all day. Work did get done, even through most of the rain. We exchanged the lumber for the higher roof, the window frames were adjusted, and the rest of the floor for the second floor was installed. We decided to stay an additional day.

Rain was predicted for the later half of the day. We took advantage of the morning to get a few more cuts done (for the roofing boards), clean up around the building site, and to pack up.

As soon as my camera is charged, I will post pictures. Even though it ran out of charge before we left, it doesn't look much different than the last few pictures I took. We still have the roof to put up, and the interior to finish, but it's starting to look like a cabin. We're also planning on putting in a wrap-around porch on the east and south sides.
Another couple weeks' worth of work, and the cabin will be complete. Now, back to raising funds for the next trip!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Progress Update #2

In a few days, we will be taking a week-long trip to put up a small cabin on our property in Maine. We will be joined by friends and family to build our "base of operations". I can't explain how much having this little home and sharing the building of it with loved ones means to us.

Eddie has finished assembly on the utility trailer, necessary for us to transport some of the building materials that we got through Craig's List and Freecycle. We will also use it to transport the lumber from the mill, avoiding a delivery charge. The expense of the trailer is about what we saved by getting the materials (doors, windows, etc.) through these sources. Though it didn't lower the cost of the overall project, it's like getting the utility trailer for free. Later today, he will pick up a generator and rechargeable tool set from a relative, and start packing up the trailer.

Due to both weather and my work schedule, I am way behind on my plantings, and every has got to get in the ground before we leave. June was nothing but rain! Everyone's gardens are way behind because of the lack of sun. Thankfully, the weather has broken. I have transplants that are more than overdue to get in the ground. We mulched really well with lawn clippings, so at least there isn't any weeding to do.

The meal plan for the trip is done, and so now the cooking begins. While I do have a functioning kitchen in our camper, making food ahead will save on prep time, clean up, the amount of garbage we have to dispose of during the trip, propane usage, gas driving from our land to the grocery store repeatedly, and money.

I'm baking banana and pumpkin breads for breakfast. I will bake at night, so I won't heat up the apartment during the day. Lunch choices are will be egg salad, black bean soup (good hot or cold), or tuna salad. For supper, I'm cooking up large batches of chili, American chop suey, chourico and peppers, and chicken salad. All are cost-effective and will pack easily for the trip. (I will post and link my recipes throughout the day, in between clients.)

There's so much to do, so I best get off this computer!

Live better, a little every day.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Recipe- Egg Salad

Over the past year of saving for and planning our homestead, we have a good idea of what kind of food we will be able to produce for ourselves. We have been adjusting our current eating habits to match what we will have available. One of the first animals we plan to raise are chickens, both for meat and for eggs.

Egg salad is easy and cheap to make, and can feed a lot of people without much effort. This recipe feeds 4 people.

  • 12 eggs
  • dash of salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 3 teaspoons prepared mustard (your choice, dijon, spicy, etc.)
  • 4-5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons green onions, chopped


  1. Hard boil the eggs. Put eggs in a pan and cover with water. Bring the water up to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs. Drain eggs into a colander and run under cool water. When cool to touch, peel the eggs.
  2. Place the eggs in a bowl with the salt and pepper. Using a potato masher, mash the eggs into small pieces.
  3. Stir in the mustard and mayonnaise. Add mayonnaise one tablespoon at a time and stir. Stop when you like the consistency.
  4. Add the celery and green onions and stir.

Serve on fresh bread, toast, crackers, in pita pockets, or any other way you prefer. Enjoy!

Live better, a little every day.

Eat Better to Save Money

Everyone is trying to save money, especially in this economy. Most of us do not have Food Independence (growing and raising most if not all you consume), and still rely on the grocery store. Meaning, most of us have a grocery expense.

Don't throw money away on cheaper quality foods for some perceived convenience. You can eat the freshest, healthiest foods available and save money at the same time. Here are my top five ways to cut back on the food budget.
  1. Eat at home. Cut restaurants out of your budget entirely. You can make healthier, less expensive food at home. Cut out the morning coffee drive-thru. That can add up to $40-$60 a month! That's money you can put towards paying off your debts or into savings.
  2. Cook from scratch. That may sound scary to some at first, but it's really not. You don't even need a cook book. You can find a lot of good recipes at for free. Prepackaged and convenience foods are hardly convenient when you consider the cost to both your wallet and your health. has some decent videos demonstrating cooking techniques.
  3. Source local foods. The food at your grocery store has huge built in expenses- shipping, warehousing, packaging, store overhead, etc. Instead, join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. Shop at local farmer's markets. Both will give you more food for less money. Check out to see what's in your area. Also, ask the folks at CSAs and farmer's markets if they know anyone who sells items they don't have.
  4. Grow an edible garden. If you have a balcony, porch, or a small patch of earth available, plant something you can eat. If you don't have a lot of sun, you can still grow leafy greens. For small spaces, there are books dedicated to container gardening. If you have more space, consider putting in a few berry bushes and fruit trees.
  5. Try bulk/wholesale stores. For the things that you cannot find locally or produce yourself, check out bulk and wholesale stores. You will have to pay a membership fee, but it will more than pay for itself. Our wholesale club has wide selection of hormone-free meats at half the price of the grocery store. Not to mention all the non-food items (tires, propane, water filters, etc.) on which you can save.

The more money you can save on your grocery bill, the more money you will have for things like debt reduction, savings, investing in land, hand-powered tools, garden supplies, how-to and DIY books, non-electric kitchen appliances, and so on. Insist on the best food possible, and keep more of your money in the process.

Live better, a little every day.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A New Independence Day

This Independence Day, our household chooses to assess our actual level of Independence. We will evaluate our current position in regard to debt freedom, food & energy independence, and identify ways to improve our level of independence.

We assert that we have a right to pursue:

  1. A safe food supply
  2. Renewable energy
  3. A debt-free life

Over the next week, I will address each concern individually, providing strategies to accomplish each.

Live better, a little every day.

The Past Few Days and Blog Comments

First, I haven't been posting much over the past few days because of two things.
  1. I've had a nasty cold, and just needed some down time.
  2. The entries I have written were a little off-topic, and really belong posted in a different blog.

Second, it has recently been brought to my attention that the blog comment permissions settings were restricted to members of this blog only. I appologize, as I thought I had set them for anyone to post a comment.

I would love to hear from anyone who reads the blog. If you agree or disagree with me, that's great! Tell me about it!

Please be aware that while I have the settings open for anyone to post, I do have all comments moderated to prevent spam from getting onto the blog. I'm on the computer probably more than I should be, so if you don't see your comments right away, know that I will get to it very soon.

Live better, a little everyday.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cloth Diapers, First Impressions

The two cloth diapers I ordered arrived this afternoon. I never thought I could get so excited about diapering. However, if this allows us to be free from an ongoing expense- even eliminate a future expense if we have more children- then I'm on board. Anything that can lower our long-term expenses gets me excited!

The diapers were both pocket diapers made by FuzziBunz. The diaper has a pocket that holds an absorbant insert. The At the next diaper change, I put one of the cloth diapers on my son.

The Upside
The diapers were not nearly as bulky as I thought they might be. The cloth diaper made it through his afternoon nap well. There is, however, a bit of a learning curve. The diaper did so well at keeping him dry, that I did not realize how full the diaper insert actually was. I also did not adjust the diaper size snug enough. It ultimately leaked, but it was clearly my error. I put the other diaper on him, properly adjusted, and it held up beautifully.

The main reason that I ordered these particular diapers was the sizing. Most diapers were recommended for babies 35 pounds or less. As our son is very tall for his age, he is also close to the upper weight limit at only 16 months. The FuzziBunz diapers I bought are recommended for up to 45 pounds. They have adjustable snaps to adapt to multiple sizes, and there's still room for Karl to grow in them.

The Downside
There are two distinct disadvantages of this particular brand. First, the company does not make an organic version of the product. For moms who would rather avoid the toxic chemicals normally used to grow cotton, you'll have to look elsewhere. Second, the labels on the diapers and the doubler (extra padding for overnights) say "Made in China".

Considering everything that we purchase in the US that comes from China, I shouldn't be surprised. However, many other brands of cloth diapers are made in the United States. The web site did not indicate where this brand was manufactured, but since there was the sizing issue, my options were limited.

The Takeaway
So far so good, when it comes to the ease of use and effectiveness of cloth diapers. I really like the diapers, but am disappointed about where they were manufactured. I will contact the store I bought them from and ask about a comparable sizing in other brands that are made in the US. If these are truly the only ones that will fit my son, then we will buy more- preferably on consignment. At least on consignment, no more money is sent overseas.

Live better, a little everyday.