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One Gardener’s Trash is Another’s Compost

November 9th, 2010

This time of year I’m always on the lookout for bags of leaves to throw in the car and bring home. As you remember, I use them to make mulch for the gardens. I also wrap my hydrangeas and fill them with leaves to protect them from the harsh winter weather.

Since you never know what kinds of chemicals other gardeners are using on their lawns, none of these collected leaves get used on my vegetable beds. They’ll be used on the hydrangeas and on the ornamental beds.

Last year, our neighborhood made leaf collecting much easier for us. During fall cleanup season they put a few dumpsters by the front gate for leaves & tree trimmings. We simply have to head up there every week or so to collect a car full of leaves. So far I’ve collected 12 big garbage bags of free mulch and most likely I’ll double that by the end of fall!

Do you pick up leaves you see on the side of the road? Do you have another source for free garden amendments like seaweed?

Make Your Own: Toothpaste

October 5th, 2010

For the past couple years Mr Chiots and I have been trying to get rid of any products that contain harmful chemicals especially when it comes to personal care products. We were using some all natural toothpaste for a while, but it still contained fluoride. I won’t go into the details of why we try to avoid fluoride and sodium laurel sulfate here today, you can google it and find all kinds of information. The toothpaste brand we were buying was also bought out by a large corporation so that helped prompt our decision to make some toothpaste at home. Making toothpaste is quite easy, you can make it in powder form with things you probably already have at home. If you want it to have a sweeter taste and paste like texture like store bought then you’ll have to buy some vegetable glycerin.

I used a recipe that I found over at Mountain Rose Herbs which is where I bought the vegetable glycerin that I used for the batch I made. They have a bunch of recipes on their website. This is the one I used:

Citrus Mint Toothpaste

¼ cup baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons vegetable glycerin
10 drops peppermint essential oil
10 drops orange essential oil (I used lemon)
5 drops eucalyptus essential oil

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly in a small bowl. Store in a small, tightly covered container. To use, scoop a small amount out onto your toothpaste and brush. Beware, you’ll think you add to add more glycerin when you first mix this up, but resist the urge. If you do it will be too runny after it sits.

We actually were very impressed with this toothpaste and we really like it, we’ve been using it for about a month and a half now. It leaves your teeth felling fresh and clean, much cleaner than with regular toothpaste. The flavor and consistency are not like store bought toothpaste and it doesn’t foam since there are no added foaming agents (which is what we were trying to avoid). I think I’m going to try to make some tooth powder with myrrh next. We’ll be making homemade toothpaste from now on since we like it and it’s very inexpensive, this batch above cost me only about .50 to make, which is a great price for fluoride SLS free toothpaste!

Have you ever made your own toothpaste?

If you’re going to buy a few ingredients at Mountain Rose Herbs I’d appreciate a click through the link to the right as they give me a small portion of what you buy.

Learning to Love the Simple Life

June 12th, 2010

The older I get the more I enjoy the simple things in life. Sometimes they’re are a little more work but usually more rewarding. I really love kneading bread by hand, hanging the laundry outside, and sweeping the floor with a broom. I love the quiet time I have during these activities, no loud vacuum cleaner, mixer or dryer; just the swoosh of the broom, the quiet sound of dough, or the breeze rustling the leaves.

It seems like we’ve gotten caught up in having appliances that do chores for us, to save us time and make our lives easier. Then we have to work long hours to buy those appliances and to pay the electric bills to run them. Not to mention, we have to put up with the noise they create in our lives. Doing chores the old-fashioned way helps me slow down and appreciate the little things that might go unnoticed. My chores go from drudgery to relaxing by simply taking a little extra time to do them the simple way. Of course I don’t always do things by hand, but I try to when I can. I sweep every other week instead of vacuuming, I hand make bread most of the time and I line dry the laundry if it’s sunny and warm. Not to mention, I enjoy the lower electric bill and the longer lifespan of my appliances.

Are there any chores you like to do without the help of appliances?

Being Prepared = Saving Money

March 2nd, 2010

Mr Chiots and I are savers. We hate to spend money, especially on things that can be avoided, like eating out. Restaurant food is expensive and often unhealthy. It’s much cheaper and healthier to prepare food at home. Once you start eating healthful homemade food, often you find that you don’t really like restaurant food either. That being said, there are times when it can’t be avoided or times when you want to eat out. We do eat out on occasion and try to choose restaurants that serve healthy food. We have a set monthly budget for eating out, and if we do not spend it we transfer it to our vacation fund (which is also a deterrent to eating out, I’d prefer a weekend away to meals out).

The main way we manage save money in this area, is by being prepared. We always carry water with us (in stainless steel water bottles), this helps us avoid the need to buy drinks if we get thirsty (and we can refill at a drinking fountain). We also carry apples with us wherever we go. Apples are the perfect portable snack, they’re filling and you can eat them anywhere. We carry nuts and dried fruit as well and other quick snack foods that are high in protein and nutrition. Often a handful or two of nuts and an apple will keep you full until you can get home to eat a proper meal.

How do you find time to make a snack bag every time you go somewhere? I keep a bag with snacks in it by the back door. We simply grab the bag on our way out. We always carry snacks even if we only plan to be gone for an hour or two. It’s amazing how often you get behind or things don’t go as planned and you end up being out longer than anticipated. If we are planning on being gone during a meal time I will often pack sandwiches and more substantial snacks.

Another way we avoid eating out is by having quick meals at home. I always know that I have a few quick meal options that can be on the table within 15-20 minutes after arriving home. One of our favorite quick meals is homecanned tomato soup. Eggs also make the perfect quick meal, you can prepare them in all kinds of ways that are perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I often have soup or lasagna in the freezer and if I plan ahead I can thaw some out to be ready on short order.

Despite our best efforts, we occasionally find ourselves out and about without snacks and starving. What do we do then? Sometimes we just eat out and enjoy it, we have money budgeted for this purpose. Sometimes we buy a small snack and then eat a meal when we get home. Sometimes we go to a grocery store and buy apples, bananas, or nuts for a healthy snack that’s much cheaper than eating out. By doing this we save a lot of money and we eat more healthfully.

What strategies do you have for saving money on eating out?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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