the fruits of my labour

With the change of the season came the need to harvest our gardens. I will be the first to admit that I didn’t plant as wisely as I could have. We moved to our acreage in early March and then created two small gardens from scratch. I planted vegetables late in the season in one, only to uproot them and move them all to the second one a few months later. My husband warned me that doing so would mostly likely kill them. It didn’t, but it certainly stunted their growth!

Negativity aside, everything managed to grow. It was just on the smaller side, or cute side as I like to call it. I was still able to get a haul of everything that we use in the kitchen daily.

Remy and I harvested some white onions, green onions, thyme, and bell peppers. We even managed to cut down one massive sunflower that grew from one tiny seed from the children’s festival.

The afternoon was bitterly cold, and our haul was on the tinier side, but it was a summer filled with growth. All of our hard work paid off in the end. I was able to learn a lot from my first two gardens, which will only benefit me next year! I will start my seeds earlier, plan better, and with Geoffrey’s help, build a larger and raised garden bed on the west side of our property.

Trial and error is never a bad thing. I still call this past season a successful one.

For any gardening tips please leave them in the comments below!

Emory

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our acreage: gardens

When we first moved out here, we didn’t have a garden. Geoffrey and I talked about making a large vegetable garden somewhere in our yard, but we couldn’t agree on where. What we did agree on was waiting at least a full year to think about it and get a feeling for where it would work best before we went ahead and dug up the grass. Then the snow began to melt.

What we noticed first was a small square perimeter of wood in our front yard. As the snow melted more, we began to see sand. Once it completely disappeared, we were left with an old 8′ x 8′ sandbox that had clearly been neglected. Not wanting to keep it a sandbox because of all the stray cats and wildlife around here, I eventually chose for it to become my rock garden.

I envisioned a desert-inspired garden with lots of cacti and rocks. I asked many people what I should do to transform this sandbox into a usable, grow-able space and was given lots of ideas. My sister-in-law was the most knowledgeable, so I listened mostly to her. The first thing I did was stain the wood. I chose a darker colour called “Coffee” thinking that it would contrast our light grey house nicely. I went in blind since I had no idea what exterior theme we would eventually go with- modern, western, etc. I therefore aimed for a slightly more modern look.

Next I dug several 1′ x 1′ holes. I think I started with around seventeen. Then I filled them with soil. It was still too cold to plant anything, so for days I just stared out the window at these holes. To me, it looked much too cluttered. I decided to fill those holes back in with sand and dig new ones. This time I ended up with ten. Much better.

Over the next few weeks, I set about getting everything planted in my garden. I started by propagating a few cacti that were growing in our home. Right away it was clear that they weren’t going to survive. (I was too excited and planted them too early.) Then my next door neighbour gave me thyme to put in my garden. I thought, ‘OK, this will be a thyme and cacti rock garden’. A few days later I went to a greenhouse and came back not with cacti but bell peppers, white onions, succulents, and red Canadian roses. Clearly my desert-inspired garden was slowly becoming a vegetable/flower garden. Oh well!

Have you ever tried growing green onion in water from food scraps? It is ridiculously easy, even for a brown thumb like me! After you buy some from the grocery store and consume the dark green part of the vegetable, take the leftover part (the white bulb with roots attached) and put it in a glass of water. Be sure to change the water every day or every second day. Almost instantly you will see new growth occur. I did this for about two weeks before I transplanted them into my garden. That’s when they really took off! They are over 3 feet tall. I have never seen green onion quite like this before. Geoff and I still laugh about how massive they are.

To finish it off, I purchased large river stones to cover the sand. I think that it took around eight bags. Then I bought small smooth pebbles to fill in the gaps. I found the large rocks to line the plant holes along the dirt roads that we walk on everyday.

After filling my rock garden with all of the plants and vegetables that I could think of, I felt like that it began to look a little disorganized. Somewhere along the way I lost my vision of a minimalist cacti haven. Following advice from my mother-in-law and mum to start a garden along the garage, I decided to do just that. I removed the rhubarb from the rock garden, then the sunflower plant, then the white onions, then the peppers, and put them in my new garden that Geoff made for me by rototilling a long and narrow patch. We also added the peonies that we took from our other house. Garden thieves.

I tended to that second garden for a few weeks before I began to notice that every night animals were digging in it. After a lengthy search on Pinterest, I found simple and practical fence options that one could DIY in a matter of a few days. Back I went to Geoffrey, asking him to now build a fence around our spontaneous little garden. He was probably hesitant at first, but once I showed him the pictures, he became very excited and said that he would love to do it.

As an added treat, I took the kids to visit an out-of-town friend for two days. Armed with music, beer, and hot weather, he constructed the cutest darn fence that we have ever had. He used cement, chicken wire, and treated 2′ x 4’s and posts. Then I laid down mulch.

We finished it off by adding hinges and a latch on the gate. Beautiful and practical. Yet, we weren’t done.

Once I saw how lovely the treated lumber looked, I knew that my slightly-modern outdoor theme was now out the window. Rustic was the way to go for our acreage. This meant that I wanted to change the stained wood that housed my rock garden. I sent Geoffrey back to Home Depot for treated 2′ x 6’s. He went and picked them up, then came home and replaced the wood, making it much taller as well. I love the way it turned out. This rock garden will forever remind me of my sister-in-law.

Next year we have plans for raised flower beds in an enclosure along the sunnier side of the garage. Until then, these are our acreage gardens.

Emory

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zero waste (part two)

” … [W]hen we say ‘we threw something away,’ what do we really mean? … After all, our discards don’t just evaporate because the garbageman whisked them off. Our waste end up in our landfills, spoiling our precious environment, leaching toxic compounds into our air and soil, wasting the resources used to create the discarded goods, and costing us billions of dollars each year in processing.”

Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson

Above is how the second chapter of Zero Waste Home begins, detailing why eliminating our waste output is imperative. As gathered by the title, this is my second post in my newest zero waste series. In the first post, I discussed composting for the first time, utilizing a clothesline, our septic field, and collecting rainwater. Looking back, I focused on reducing our waste outdoors. This time, I will examine bringing it indoors- from recycling, to phasing out paper towels, and cleaning products.

Let’s begin with recycling. I am fortunate enough to have access to bins in the city where we can take everything there to recycle without having to sort it out beforehand. This has made going from recycling nothing only a few months ago, to now recycling practically everything! Geoffrey and I always have cardboard boxes or reusable bags in our home that are dedicated to these items. A couple of times every month we drop them off at the depot on one of our trips into town.

These depots accept all paper, plastics, aluminum foil, tin cans, milk jugs, cartons, glass bottles, jars, and bagged plastic bags. The only items that they don’t accept are hazardous materials, electronics, clothes, food, and tires. Having a depot located on the side of town that are closest to makes this an incredibly easy and rewarding experience.

We also have a collection of recyclable bottles in the bottom of our pantry that we drop off at SARCAN.

Let’s move on to cleaning supplies- or more specifically, vinegar. Growing up, my mum had always used vinegar and water as a cleaner, so by default when I moved out on my own, I did as well. Yet, I didn’t realize the power of vinegar or how all-purpose it is until only recently! In Zero Waste Home, it lists what vinegar can be used for and how to use it. For example, vinegar can be used as: an adhesive remover, bathroom cleaner, colour set, drain cleaner, eraser sponge, flower food, glass cleaner, herbicide, insect repellent, jewelry cleaner, kitchen cleaner, laundry booster, mildew remover, nicotine stain remover, odor neutralizer, pet repellent, quick mop, rust remover, stain remover, toilet cleaner, upholstery freshener, vinyl cleaner, and wood renewer. Simply dilute 1/4 cup white vinegar with 1 cup water (for added scent, you can also add citrus peels to vinegar several weeks before diluting it).

Of those, I was using it as a bathroom and kitchen cleaner, pouring it down my drains with baking soda, pouring it over weeds to kill them, in my laundry to boost colour, in bowls to eliminate odors, on my floors when I washed them, and to clean my windows- all without a second thought. It really is just an incredibly simple and versatile cleaner to have on hand! (I will return to window cleaning in a moment.)

Now if I am writing about cleaning products, at some point I need to address the elephant in the room. That is the notion of paper towels. Paper towels are a huge zero waste problem. In my research I found that paper products account for roughly 25% of landfill waste. Additionally, the US produces over 3000 tonnes of paper towel waste each day, which significantly increases methane gas. Cutting out paper towel would save trees, water, the atmosphere, and us money!

Until very recently, I was horrible when it came to buying and using paper towels. Being somewhat of a germophobe, I proudly used an entire roll every two days. I used to think more paper towel equaled a cleaner home. I loved the idea of spraying something down, wiping it with those fresh white sheets, and then throwing them out and thus getting rid of the dirt. Now, I shudder at the idea.

When I began this journey a few months ago, I knew that I would have to eventually stop buying paper towel. I was anxious and a little grossed out at the thought of using rags to clean up my dirtiest messes, and then having to touch and wash said rags with our clothes that we wore. I know what you’re thinking, ‘princess, get over yourself’. So one morning I purchased one more six-pack of paper towel with our groceries, and announced to Geoff that it would be our last. I also told him to start collecting every piece of old clothing in order to cut it up into rags. We went through one roll, then two rolls, then slowly went through the third and fourth. Then somewhere along the lines, I completely stopped using them. In all honesty, I can’t even tell you when I did this. Opening our kitchen drawer and grabbing a rag to clean quickly and seamlessly became second nature. I thought that it would be such a hard transition having to break a thirty-year habit, but it really was one of the most natural things that I have done in a long time. We still have those last two rolls laying around our home, but I have no intention on ever using them.

So how do we keep our windows clean? Guys, have you ever used newspaper for this job? If you haven’t, please switch now! I didn’t believe people when I heard and read that it kept your windows streak-free. I thought that it would certainly leave ink or bits of paper behind. I was so wrong. It’s thickness and durability make for a wonderful texture to clean your windows (using vinegar and water for the cleaning agent, of course). I have never had clearer windows. Afterwards, you have the added bonus of throwing the newspaper in the recycling bin. I hope to never, ever return to paper towel and Windex.

If anyone was needing tips for ditching paper towel, you can find a cute and helpful website here.

Please join me on my next zero waste post in just a few weeks!

Emory

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becoming a zero waste household

This post will be one in a series of our new zero waste journey.

Now I have been pretty horrible in regards to taking care of our planet up until this point. We had bins for recycling when we lived in the city. I rarely used them. I gave Truman our table scraps and then threw out what he didn’t eat. I didn’t conserve water. I ran the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer nearly everyday. I let the tap run excessively when I washed my face or washed my hands. The list goes on.

Since moving to our acreage, we have began to adopt a more waste-free lifestyle. It all began when I read this Instagram post on composting:

In recent years, only an estimated 38% of food was composted in the US. Food scraps make up about 30% of everything we throw out 😱 not only that, when we send our food scraps to the landfill, they decompose with no air, creating the greenhouse gas methane – a gas that is 34x more potent than CO2.⁣

Composting diverts food scraps from landfills and creates rich, nutrient soil that can be used to grow more food- it is truly circular!⁣

Then I went on to read this one:

“So why is it so important to keep organic matter out of landfill anyway? Won’t it just breakdown there? Well basically, no.⁣
.⁣
Landfill areas are so densely compacted that there is not enough microbes, air, light or moisture for organic matter to breakdown. Did you know that they have found 20+ year old intact carrots in landfill!?! Compared to my worms who could break down a blended carrot in a couple of hours…⁣
.⁣
When organic mater does begin to breakdown in landfill, it does so anaerobically (without oxygen), which produces greenhouse gases as a byproduct.⁣
.⁣
So by throwing your organic scraps into your kerbside bin you’re ensuring they probably wont break down – and if they do, they’ll produce green house gases.

After that, I was convinced. I told Geoff that we were going to start composting that day, and he was on board. He went outside a few days later, and built me a bin out of spare wood that we had laying around.

Now we keep a large container with a lid inside of our house where we collect everything. Then once a day, or every second day, we go outside and empty it into our compost pile. I can’t wait until we are able to use it in our garden!

Because we have to get our water hauled to us, we conserve conserve conserve. We have a 1500 gallon tank in our basement. I do the dishes in the sink every morning, making sure to not fill the sink too full. We don’t flush the toilet with every trip to the bathroom. Instead of bathing once or twice a day, I instead have a quick shower every second day. The kids, on the other hand, share a bath once a day. I wash our clothes only once a week, and hang them out to dry instead of using our dryer. We only turn the taps on low and quickly turn them off whenever we are done.

Our liquids get pumped to a spray field in our yard while our solids go to a septic tank.

We are also collecting rainwater from the eaves on the garage for all of our outdoor plants.

At the moment, I am striving towards eliminating all paper towel from our household. Producing paper towel consumes 110 million trees and 130 billion gallons of water per year. I am in the process of cutting up old towels and shirts to use them as rags. I hope to stop buying paper towel by the end of the month!

Finally, because we do not have garbage pickup, we now make a point of separating our recycling and bottles out of our trash. We take those in, and store our garbage in a bin behind our garage until it is ready to go to the dump. For now, that is our solution.

Stay tuned for my next post on further changes toward leading a more waste-free household.

Emory

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  • Welcome, friends! My name is Emory. I am a wife and mother to three (two on earth and one in heaven). This is our life on the Canadian prairies.
    email: helloscarlettblog@outlook.com

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