The Smelly Barn

My Junior Girl Scout troop has embarked on a large service project so that they can receive their bronze award at the end of next year.  We have applied for and received approval to submit items to Terracycle.  This company takes recyclable items and up cycles them into other products from bags to clipboards.  In fact, this month they had a contest encouraging the public to submit their creations from recycled materials.

Our school has 550 students and the girls have made signs, decorated bulletin boards and made lunch time announcements for the kids to put their used juice pouch containers, zip-lock type baggies, and empty lunchable trays into special containers.  Once we have collected 500 of any item, we can ship it to Terracycle and they will in turn donate 2 cents per item to the school, and then create new uses for the “trash.”

Here comes the smelly barn part…  since we have a nice large barn, guess which of the two troop leaders was drafted to collect all of the bags of recyclables??  Yep, you guessed it, me! J  So here’s to having a smelly barn, in a different sense, for the next 15 months!

seeds of contentment

tho' there has been quite a heavy frost on the ground the past couple of mornings, it won't be long before that's gone and our planting can start in earnest. so, i did a happy dance of joy today when my seed order from thomson & morgan arrived in today's mail. quite a few of these can be started indoors for planting out in a month or so when the weather is warmer.

i focused on heritage varieties, but i also focused on the unusual and things that said they would grow well in our climate - like kale and others in the brassica family (brassica just sounds so much more posh than cabbage, doesn't it?). tomatoes and eggplants will be grown in the terrace, as our growing season this far north is too short for them out in the garden.

last weekend, i planted herbs in the new herb bed that husband constructed for me. i picked up thyme, oregano and sage at the grocery store, moved a couple of last year's thyme plants and then planted parsley and basil seeds inside of a little tunnel that will keep them warm and protected.

we also planted 225 willow sticks of different pretty varieties - from purple to yellow to red. i'm not sure i have any great ambition to weave baskets, but i will be able to, should the fancy strike. willow is such an amazing plant - fast growing - you can make beautiful, living fences of it or it will serve as part of your water rinsing unit if you, like, we do, have your own well and sewage installation. and if it looks pretty to boot, all the better.

what are you going to plant in your garden?

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oh, and have you heard about
the app of the local food revolution.


My eggs

Our way of having fresh eggs is to take a stroll to a neighbour and buy them there.
Local produce!!!!



garden dreams

it's been a bit grey and dismal for the past week, tho' that big ball of fire in the sky showed itself yesterday. it didn't seem that fun because the temperature was still hovering around freezing. still, there are many signs of spring - the chatter of the birds, snowdrops dotting the lawn, the buds beginning to look plump and hopeful on the trees.

there have been enough warm days that the ground is beginning to thaw and we've even had our tiller out and begun to do a bit of preparation for planting, tho' it's still far too cold to begin. as you can tell, these photos are NOT of our garden here in denmark. they're shots i took last fall of a most lovely place  called sonia's garden - tucked away down a long winding road in tagatay, philippines. it's the sort of garden i dream of as our greyish brown world only begins to come to life.

little winding paths in a lush, green environment. of course ours will never be the tropical lushness of this garden since our season is too short and our climate all wrong for that. but the notion of little hideaways in the garden - secret rooms in which to listen to the birds and snooze with a good book -  that's appealing. 

when i think about sustainable living, my thoughts often turn to gardening - vegetable gardening - as there's something about sustainability that is inextricably linked to self-sufficiency.  but isn't it also important to sustain one's psyche, to imagine a garden that's a relaxing place of refuge after a long, hard day? to have a place to relax and commune with nature, maybe to eat outdoors. i'm trying to push myself to think of sustainability in broader terms. in terms of sustaining my soul and my family while sustaining the earth. and i think a garden like sonia's garden, which is also a restaurant serving only locally-grown, freshly-made food, is a good thing to dream of...

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some more practical sustainable gardening inspiration at eco etsy


Why Wait?

We've been pondering different livestock options and thinking about ways to use what they produce.  B keeps coming back to goats.  One of the things that we've been toying with is making goats milk soaps.  Well, we have been pondering this for a while and have not fully decided (there is a lot of ground work structurally we need to get completed to bring them on here).

In this months Martha Stewart Magazine, there were recipes for making soaps from herb and fruit purees.   As I was drooling over all of the luscious descriptions, I decided we should just start experimenting...why wait?  What is so nice about these soaps is that they are easy, made with a glycerin base (so I don't have to worry about scary lye concoctions with the kids around), and they can have components like goats milk added to them.  The craft store didn't have any of the clear soap pieces so I went with opaque.  This is after all experimental right?  So here goes....
As you can see from the photo, I decided to use some of the lavender that I dried from last years garden.  I figured that it would not get lost in the opaque base and would also have a mild exfoliating quality to it.  The first thing that I did was strip the flowers off of the dried lavender bunches and then ran a rough chop over them with a kitchen knife.
I then took the soap base, chopped it up, and tossed it in a microwave safe measuring cup (so the melted product would be easier to pour).  I microwaved in 30 second increments stirring in between(don't let it boil).  It starts to solidify very quickly so you have to be on your toes once it gets to the smooth consistency. 
Once it got smooth and liquidy like water, I quickly stirred in 3 tsp. of the chopped lavender flowers and a 1/4 tsp. of lavender essential oil.  Then very quickly poured them into apple sauce or pudding containers that I am recycling for this purpose.  They measure 1/2 cup each.  The article says you can use any kind of container and if you use something larger, then you can slice bars too. 
Once in the containers you let them sit on the counter for 20-60 minutes (depending on the size of the container you are using), so they can set.  At this point put them in the freezer for 2 hours.  This is a great tip, because the soap shrinks away from the container edges just slightly and pops out of the cups easily.
Voila!  Soap!  I linked the article above, there are tons of cool fresh recipes you can use, or just read through and wing it on your own!  I'm thinking these will make it into farm boxes for sure.

**quick tip...The glass container was a challenge to clean, I wouldn't let it sit for too long to solidify once you pour.  I think now that I know what I'm doing, I'll probably buy a dedicated container for this task :)

Sharing on different levels

Recently I found an article called The Gen Y Guide to Collaborative Consumption, with tons of links, over at the Shareable Network. While reading the article and following all kinds of links I ended up with another TedTalks. This time it was the message of Rachel Botsman that got my attention. Now Rachel has her own site with even more links so before I get drowned in another adventure with a surplus of links I thought I'd better share my start with you. 




Urban gardening swoon

Rhubarb (May 2010)

As might be obvious from previous posts, I am a huge urban gardening fan. And I just had to share this incredible group I came across today. They are "Food from the Sky"  and they are growing vegetables on the roof of a grocery store/supermarket in London. They are profiled in an article in the Guardian today, which describes how since May 2010, they have been growing on the roof enough produce to sell in the grocery store every  Friday!  Apparently, they are able to grow a huge variety of vegetables: " from peas and potatoes to kale and purple sprouting broccoli – alongside flowers, tiny strawberry and raspberry plants." Best all, they compost the unsold/rotting fruit and veg from the supermarket.
Combined with another group I came across a few weeks ago, I am buzzing with excitement for my own urban garden plans. The other group was Window Farming.   "Windowfarms are vertical, hydroponic, modular, low-energy, high-yield edible indoor window gardens built using low-impact or recycled local materials. They are designed for indoor home and school settings, and allow growing during the winter season." They are kind of hard to describe: its like hanging a cascade of pots against a window. I am not entirely convinced of the necessity of the hydroponic part but there is a lot to be inspired by and to think about for urban vegetable growing.  

I find all these groups so exciting!! I am off to do some planning for my own urban garden - and it will include growing some rhubarb!
What are you finding inspiring today?


one man's trash is another man's treasure

certain members of our household spend a lot of time on den blå avis - an online site here in denmark that's actually now owned by eBay, but functions more like craig's list. it's a cornucopia of used goodness and items (and even rabbits and horses and kitties and puppies (but no chickens)) looking for a new home. i am at times dismayed at what husband comes home with and initially, i was a little shocked by the purchase below.

huband bought this big messy-looking pile of wood. it's basically offcuts that a guy who has a little lumberyard had left over. it's the bits that weren't quite perfect enough to be sold as grade A wood to contractors and such. and it looks a bit like maybe he actually paid a guy something for his trash and then will actually need a container (or two) to haul it away. initially i was thinking that it wasn't the best deal he'd ever made.

these big pillars, i was less dismayed about, as they look pretty good and will make a great foundation for a variety of structures around here. he also got 9 pieces of that roofing that's on top of them to protect them from the rain at the moment - and those will make a great roof for a chicken coop, a pig shelter and possibly also my refuge in the garden.

the other day, we visited the wood (hence the photos) and if you look closely, there's a lot of good stuff there. this wood, that would otherwise have been wasted because it wasn't perfect enough for the building industry folks, will now be used by us to build a variety of structures in our garden in the rustic style of the building below. we'll be able to have chickens, a couple of pigs, a place to spend time at the bottom of the garden on a summer day. there's probably even enough for a treehouse for sabin and another rabbit hutch for our bunnies. it's upcycling at its best! purchased via a site that promotes an economy of exchange of goods between local individuals.  the more i think about it, the more i like it!

this building was on the site where we bought the wood. we'll use a similar construction technique on our garden buildings.  i can highly recommend perusing your local version of the den blå avis - you just might find treasure and you'll be supporting your local community and recycling efforts all at the same time. collaborative consumption in action.

and as soon as it warms up and the building begins, i'll be sharing our progress.