What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Time to make soup!

When you've got a lot of anything to harvest, the easiest thing to do is to make soup.
We have turnips busting out, and tons of collard greens, onions to thin, lots of nettles, parsley, canned pumpkin and green beans from last year, and last but not least a very spicy pepper from a friends garden. Throw in some local spicy sausage meat, locally grown rice some garlic, some New Zealand spinach from the perennial bed and viola, soup! But it is almost too spicy for Jacq.
Nice turnips!

That's New Zealand Spinach in the foreground, the plant that took over the world.

We take a tea break Annie gets a play break...from napping.

Friday, 20 May 2011

work interrupted.....for a baby bird

We were jamming today, getting the sweet potatoe bed ready for planting, going to do some mowing, etc, etc, ... when all of a sudden I saw it, a little yellow mouth turned upward to the sky,

right where I was about to drop some landscaping stone, yikes! ALL STOP! we've got a baby bird alert. Let's see if we can find the nest he dropped out of, leaned a ladder against the tree and went up about 10 feet, no luck, get a longer ladder, go up 15 feet, no luck. Removed the ladder and peered up one last time before trying to find someone who takes in baby birds, and there it is, just above head height and hanging half out of the tree. So I get the step ladder and have a look,

there is another little one, hunkered down trying not to fall out.

So I level out the nest and wire it in for safety, Jacq hands me up the little one, after a quick snack on a worm, and back in he goes. Eventually we saw a bird going into the nest, but too quickly to ID.We'll keep an eye out to try to make sure they haven't been abandoned and to ID them as well.
Now were were we....... Ah yes, load the mower in the car and off we go.......

We had a similar experience last May after we moved in with a baby cardinal,

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The most sustainable meal I've ever cooked?

We've had a cool spell here in the foothills of the Appalachians in North Carolina. It has brought very welcome rain, and relief from the early and impending heat of summer. With temps down in the upper 40's at night and damp seeping in through our barely opened windows, we've decided to fire up the wood stove again. It hasn't done much for our productivity. Now neither of us seem to be able to leave the room with the wood stove in! It's so cozy to sit by a fire and watch the rain outside.

But we have to eat. We've used up the last of the 25lb bag of organic brown rice so I have opened some of the multicolored local (50 miles) rice. I'll pull some onions from the east garden, dig up some wild crow garlic from the borders, clip some collard and turnip greens from the west garden, add some parsley from the herb bed, throw in some ground beef from local (30 miles) grass fed cows, and cook the whole mess on the wood stove in the pressure cooker.
pressure cooker sizzling away

To be fair, I have added 4 chopped organic carrots shipped from California, a heavy dose of imported curry powder (fortified with our own turmeric root) and a dollop of Italian extra virgin olive oil. But these ingredients amount to less than 10% of the overall meal. The wood is all rescued from the neighborhood waste stream so I'm wondering if this might be the most sustainable meal I've ever cooked.

I've experimented with low impact cooking before, check out these posts about my Free From Power Days in England.

While the cooking itself was probably more fuel efficient with the rocket stove, I was using scrounged fuel then as well but far less of it by weight, this time I'm cooking mostly food we've grown or was grown locally. In addition, the warmth of the wood stove is welcome in these cool temps. So while this is not another Free From Power Day I think it is a good step forward towards making our mealtimes more sustainable.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

350 challenge garden work party at UUCCV

watering in the nicotiana, beans and corn
The day went well, from donated materials to sweat equity the output was impressive, even from the 11 year old. Here's a few shots from our church garden work party.
laying out the composter
covering the vertical garden pallets, which are the front of the  composter.
very level headed our Bob
installing the stem wall to level the site, checked by Bob in the previous slide
Jacq planting the vertical garden
tidying up

Thursday, 5 May 2011

It's been a year!

Yesterday we celebrated the one year anniversary of our arrival in America and the start of The Sustainable Living Project. After a much needed night of rain, It was a beautiful, cool day with lots of sunshine; a lovely breeze stirred the new green growth of spring.

We spent the day planting three more trees, six more blueberries, a saw palmetto, twenty-four tomatoes, did some weeding, visited with a few local growers, and finally cooked a celebratory fish dinner garnished with some our own collards and wild garlic with an appetizer of our own fresh strawberries. Dessert was the last of the latest pumpkin pie made with last season's pumpkin and stevia.

When I look around the site I see so much to do, but more than that I see so much we have accomplished. Extensive mulching and growing beds have replaced 60% of the lawn we found when we arrived. The sickly holly hedge has tripled in size and been bolstered with fruit trees, leaf mould piles, perennial veggies and flowers, and is doing an admirable job of buffering the road beyond. After two failures, I have finally got one very successful bamboo and another holding its own next to the new pond. One massive terrace spans the width of the east side of the property while two more are rising on the south. Two of our grape vines are rapidly climbing the new arbor I'm building just fast enough to keep up with them, while a third is thriving on one of last season's cucumber trellises. Our kitchen herb bed is exploding, our nectarine trees are lush and healthy, standing five feet or more. The strawberry beds are profligate; the wood piles are sufficient to take us through next winter; my store of bagged leaves should meet our needs for mulch till fall; we've got a wide variety of double glazed windows and doors set aside for the conservatory, greenhouse porch, passive solar hot water heater and patio cover yet to come. Indoors we have removed a wall and installed the wood burner, cut insulating reflective inserts for the windows, but unfortunately are still living on subfloor as we have not found the 'right' tile, much less had time to install any. I'm now dismantling the temporary greenhouse which kept us supplied with greens all winter and helped to bring on spring plantings.

I've  included a few before and after shots below.
EAST side before
EAST side now

WEST side before

WEST side now

SOUTH side before

SOUTH side now