Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The 31st Day of Attempting to Live with Zero Waste

So it has been a month. It has been fun this little challenge of trying to live with Zero Waste. Naturally the zero is not really an attainable goal (rather like the "Be perfect, for I am perfect" sort of thing) but it was something to aim at. Tomorrow I plan on taking trash pictures and giving you a run down on how the month went. I think over all it was pretty good but I will share more details tomorrow. :-)

   I have missed several days of blogging for this series. I rather hope to go back and fill in the empty days but we shall see. 

  The next few weeks look to be pretty busy. We have decided to do a "Handmade Christmas Sale" on the evening of Black Friday and then on Small Business Saturday. I have been looking for ways to earn a little more money just now and we are going to try this out. So I will be very busy working at creating.

Mittens re-purposed from sweaters is the project I am currently working on. This activity isn't completely zero waste but it certainly reduces the amount of waste that needs to go in the landfill. And if I can make some money from it as well - that would be pretty sweet.

   Many of you are familiar with things I have made in the past (and if you are not you could just click on the "Handwork" button on the side bar) and I am curious what you might suggest would be a good item for us to work to make and sell from what you know that we make. And whatever you make you can be pretty sure that I will be keeping it as Zero Waste as possible. :-)


Sunday, October 29, 2017

God's Encouraging Word

A view of summer which is now past. I should have taken a picture of the beautiful snowy trees that we have been enjoying lately.
I just wanted to share a section of scripture today that I have been enjoying lately. I wrote it up on our blackboard door so that I could see it and meditate on it regularly.

  "Do not forget: thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap. Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver. And there is no limit to the blessings which God can send you- he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works." 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

I love both the reminders to me of what I should be doing and then also so very much I love the promises that God has given to us. Followers of Jesus Christ are so incredibly blessed!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Traveling Zero Waste

Ken and I got to go on a quick trip down to Iowa this week. An insurance company that he represents invited him to come down for an event they were having and he is wanting to work with them more and they were paying for our motel (with a breakfast) and supper out the night we arrived and then also lunch for him the next day so we thought it sounded like a kind off fun and productive outing so we went. I was also able to go visit a friend (and her children - 2 of whom I hadn't met yet as I hadn't seen them for over a year).

Anyway, we had a good time and it was also a fun time for me to see how well I could stay zero waste while being away from home. It added to my challenge and I had fun with that.

  To live zero waste I have discovered there is definitely a certain amount of planning ahead. It isn't hard but it does need to be done in order for things to work out very well. It is similiar to saving money (and actually these things often do both - create less trash and save money) - you just have to change your habits a little but it really isn't that hard. You do also have to sometimes be willing to be a little different. 

  My goal was that not only would I make this trip with zero waste but that Ken would as much as possible as well. So when planning ahead I tried to think about what I would need to do that as well as what Ken would need. It isn't always the same. I don't drink or want coffee - he does. I don't care if my water is cold or not (in fact I kind of like warm water) but Ken does. If I wanted to prevent him from buying bottled water or iced coffee then I better have a substitute available.

  So the special items that I brought along particularly because I wanted to stay zero waste were:
  • Water bottles
  • An ice chest with plenty of ice
  • cloth napkins
  • a few plates
  • silverware
  • Ice coffee that I made myself in some old Starbucks bottles. It wasn't perfect, I was experimenting but Ken was game and drank it and gave me tips on making it better next time.
  • Hot coffee as we started out.
  • Car mugs for both of us.
  • A packed homemade lunch
Things went fairly smoothly.

  At one of the first towns we went through however Ken decided that he needed more hot coffee, that he wasn't quite ready for iced coffee that day. So he stopped at a filling station to get gas and coffee. I suggested that he use his coffee mug and fill it up inside. He had never done that before and wasn't sure if that was appropriate (he hasn't been drinking coffee that long and doesn't usually buy it at gas stations) and we embarrassed to do it. I had never done it before either (I don't drink coffee) but I volunteered to do it for him while he pumped gas. He said sure. So I took the mug in and sure enough it was fine to fill it up and it also cost less that way. We saved around 50 cents and didn't waste a throwaway cup. Woohoo! However in my excitement of using the coffee mug I put creamer in for him and used up 3 little plastic packets of creamer and just threw them in the gas station trash without thinking about it. I don't know that I had any other options for making the coffee the way he likes it but feel I felt a little silly for getting excited over avoiding other trash just to make some in another place.

  We at the lunch I had packed on the way. We didn't have to stop anywhere besides rest stops on the rest of our trip down.

  That evening in DesMoines we were taken out for supper. Thank-fully it was a sit down restaraunt with reusable dishes and cloth napkins. No waste happened there except when I ordered a cup of juice I forgot to say that I didn't want a straw. So they had one in my juice. Oops! I did remember to ask for it without a straw when I got another one.

 At the hotel I was able to get some coffee from a machine in the lobby and put it in the bottles that were now empty to use for our return trip. I filled them up the night before and put them in the fridge in our room. The next morning I added cream (from the breakfast area) to it along with sugar and we were good to go. I also got more ice from the ice machine at the hotel to keep our ice chest cold.

  I had packed my own toiletries so I didn't need to use ones that they provided but I was impressed that they had them in dispensers in the shower. That is so much more practical and makes much less waste than all those little bottles.

  The next morning we went down to the continental breakfast. This is where I did have to go outside of my comfort zone and be a little different but I don't really know that anybody noticed. They only had disposable plates, cups and silverware available but thank-fully I had brought my own. So I used them. I may have looked strange but it worked fine and really I much prefer using a real fork to a plastic one any day! My mug worked well for drinking apple juice (from a dispenser) out of.

  That day Ken went to the insurance company's office and I went to visit a friend. We were both fed lunch. Mine was zero waste (I don't think Ken's was but I didn't grill him on that).

    On our way back home we did buy supper out. I had hoped that possibly we could go to a sit down restaurant both for fun and because it is better for being zero waste but that didn't work out. We had been slowed down by rush hour traffic and then were driving in to a blizzard and it was time to just get home. So we went through a drive-through.  Ken did get some stuff with a little bit of waste that wasn't recyclable or good for fire starter but I just ordered a burger that came wrapped in paper (and used my water bottle for a drink) and so I was able to use that paper for a fire starter when we got home.

  So that was our low waste and low cost trip. We had lots of visiting time and it was fun to go somewhere together.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Handmade Birthday Candles

 Personally I am not a huge fan of birthday candles on cakes. In fact I find it a little gross to have someone blowing (spitting) all over my food. But alas, my family doesn't completely agree with me. In fact some of them find them pretty important. Mara is one of those. So though I think I got by without candles for Jonathan's birthday in August, Mara announced that wasn't happening for her birthday.

  Well, we were basically out of birthday candles. Even though we save them and re-use them over and over they do at some point get rather short and aren't usable any more. So this time we decided to make our own. We had candle wicking on hand and we also had beeswax that I had processed from the cappings that I had to cut off the combs of honey when I was extracting honey.
 We melt it down by putting wax chunks in a large tin can (I have a couple that I save to use whenever we feel like candle making) which then goes into a kettle with water in it and is put onto heat.

 We had cut our wicks to the desired length and then dipped them in the wax many times letting them dry a bit in between times. We made the spot above to hang them while they were drying. It was a fun little project that all of my kids were interested in and lent a hand from time to time.
 The kids wanted candles for Ken's 40th too.
 Aaron just turn 14 this week and he got to use our new candles as well.
Here they are in the jar that we are storing them in between birthdays. As you can see we will re-use them (probably quite a few times) again.

Have you ever made candles?

Naturally making something using things that we already have on hand rather than buying it is pretty much always a way to create less waste. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Buying in Bulk Reduces Waste

 Fall is the time that not only do we put up hundreds of pounds of produce from the garden but we also make a little trip to pick up a half a beef and grain for the year.

  We made that trip not long ago and came home with a van and trailer full of food. I was also hauling some for both sets of grandparents so that made it even fuller.

  Our beef does come in packaging but when we get it from the farmer and then processed at a butcher it isn't packaged in all the plastic and Styrofoam and I appreciate that. It is in paper that I can stick in the stove or the compost afterwards.
Our wheat, oatmeal, brown rice and rye come in either 50 or 60 lb bags. Mostly the bags are either reusable or recycle-able (or fine for fire starter). As far as the Zero Waste movement is concerned anyway - even if I do have to deal with a little bit of waste that those that just buy in bulk bins don't we are still creating the same amount of waste by buying these products. Bulk bins are going to be filled with bags just like these. I just prefer to buy the large amount all at once and have it done with.

  Some of the reasons I like to buy in bulk:

  • It saves me a large amount of money. (Just for interest sake - I paid $9 for 60 lbs of wheat, $8 for 60 lbs of rye, $25 for 50 lbs of Oatmeal and the same for the brown rice. None of them are organic. That would be nice but it isn't in the budget right now. The beef is grass fed and finished with no hormones or antibiotics but it isn't super cheap either - but neither is meat at the store. I don't know the exact price per pound on that. )
  • It saves me time as now I just have those things on hand for the year and don't need to shop for them again until next year.
  • It saves a lot on packaging. To keep them free from bugs or potentially mice I do store them in 5 gallon buckets, ice cream buckets or stick the bags in a clean metal trash can that seals well.
  • I like to have some food security. Certainly anything could happen and if our house should burn down pretty much all of our stored food would go with it. However if we get into extreme financial troubles - we already have a lot of food. If we have a bad snow storm (We already started getting snow today!!!) and can't get out for a month we will have plenty of food anyway. 😊 

Do you like to buy food in bulk? Do you stock up for the winter?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Homemade Bread

Bread is a delicious thing to make yourself that also saves on packaging that will potentially go in the trash. I make bread about once a week. My batch is pretty large and makes 5 loaves. It tastes delicious and we love it for eating fresh, toast, french toast and more but for the most part our family doesn't prefer it for sandwiches. So I went searching and found a different recipe to try out for sandwich bread. I used this one and we liked it pretty well. Many of us were good with it for sandwiches but not everybody yet (with two of the holdouts being people that take the most sandwiches to work). So I guess I am still looking. Does anybody have any great suggestions?
Here is my bread recipe:

Whole Wheat Bread

3 Tablespoons active dry yeast
5 1/4 cups warm water or I often substitute quite a lot of warm pureed squash instead.
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup oil or butter or I often use melted beef tallow
1 Tablespoon salt
Around 15-17 cups of whole wheat flour (it is fine to use some or all white flour instead)

Combine 4 cups flour, the yeast, honey and warm (blood warm) water. Stir well. Sometimes I let this sit and react for around 15 minutes but sometimes I am in a hurry and I don't. Then stir in the salt and oil and as much flour as you can. Then need in enough flour to have a nice smooth and not to sticky but not to hard lump of dough. Cover and let rise until double.

 When the dough has risen punch it down and then divide your dough into 5ths (or if you would like bigger loafs you can do 4) or you could deep fry some of it in oil to make fry bread. Shape your lumps into nice loaves and place them in greased bread pans. Cover and let rise again until they are looking like they are filling up the pans.

Preheat over to 375 degrees and then bake them around 40 minutes or until nicely browned and sounding hollow.

 We love to eat it warm but it does squish up and get misshaped when you slice it while warm. That is okay - it still tastes wonderful! We do also store some for later.

As far as packaging goes.....
When we do buy bread from the store (for sandwiches) we do save the bags and wash them over and over again and then use those bags for our homemade bread. I wouldn't mind finding a nice bread shaped (or even the size for two loaves) container to keep them in but that hasn't happened yet. So we are using what is eventually disposable wrapping but we re-use for a long time so at least it is a fair amount less that is going to the land fill. Not a perfect "zero waste" but a less waste way to do things.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Homemade Laundry Soap

I have blogged about laundry soap before but since I am writing about zero waste this month and also I needed to make a batch of laundry soap again I thought I should bring it up on here again as well.

  This is something I have made for many, many years. I am sure over that time it has helped us save a pretty large chunk of money. We have also dealt with no plastic laundry bottles in that time. We simply have some cardboard boxes from time to time (and sometimes some small amounts of plastic wrapper from the soap- we didn't this month). 

  • It is not hard to make and my kids enjoy helping me. 
  • I make over 3 gallons of liquid laundry soap at a time so it lasts quite a while.
  • It is cheap.
  • It is pretty much scent free which is very important to me (that was helpful for me having less headaches).
  • It still gets our clothes clean.
  • It is pretty natural.
  • I can make it with zero waste!!!

  I use:
1 bar of soap (pretty much any type)
4 cups of water in a pot.
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
3 gallons warm water in a big bucket

Shave the bar of soap into the pot of water and heat until melted on the stove. Then mix that in with the water in the bucket. Then add the washing soda and borax in and mix thoroughly. It is now ready to use. After sitting for a few hours it will probably get gelled. That is not a problem. Just use it like that.

We also avoid scents and waste by not using fabric softener or dryer sheets. We just don't use anything and it works fine. I try not to over dry my clothes as that creates a lot of static cling. I also do a lot of line drying which prevents static cling. I do still want to make wool dryer balls sometime however.

 Do you make your own laundry soap?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Blowing Your Nose with Zero Waste

One area which I have wholeheartedly embraced the Zero Waste concept for many years now is in the nose blowing department. :-) I switched the handkerchiefs quite some time ago and haven't looked back. For the most part the rest of the family uses them as well but we do have a couple of members that prefer tissues especially when they have colds. It isn't a big deal as tissues can be composted or used to start a fire. But still I do prefer handkerchiefs because I find them softer, cheaper and less wasteful.

I recently made a few new ones (they do wear out from time to time and if everybody gets a cold at once then it would be nice to have more). I simply used a portion of a worn out flannel sheet, cut it into squares and hemmed them up. So nice and easy!
 We use mostly cotton flannel which we like. This is our drawer which is in a central location where we keep the handkerchiefs.

 This system works pretty well for us. Do you use hankies? Have you ever tried it?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Making Butter

I don't find butter highly packaged. The butter wrappers I use to first grease pans and then for fire starter. The box can either be recycled or work for fire started as well. So buying butter even during this "zero waste" month is fine for me. Except....... it has been really expensive lately! And I had extra cream on hand.

So we skimmed the cream off of the milk and made some butter.

It is really pretty easy to do. I reviewed the process by reading this post on Wellness Mama.  We beat it with the mixer until it got past the whipped cream stage and started separating into butter.
You keep going until it is all either liquid (the buttermilk) or in little chunks. You then drain off the buttermilk to use for other purposes (baking and such). Then you rinse the butter a few times and work in some salt if desired.
We got a nice amount of butter to use. And it is cool to be able to make yet another thing that we can get with no packaging!

Friday, October 20, 2017

A New Homemade Doll

I was working on a silk wedding flower order last week and while I was doing that I had to unwrap a flower "stem" that was covered in this really soft string/thread. I immediately thought - "What pretty hair that would make for a doll. I mentioned it to Megan and she thought it would be lovely too and pretty soon she was working to make a new doll.

 Megan is my doll collector. She enjoys dolls and thinks it is fun to have all different kinds (though her favorites are China dolls). She had really wanted a wax doll so I made her one for a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. She also has made her own dolls and clothes for dolls. She has been making dolls for a long time, this post tells about us making one together in 2010.

  The hair that Megan used for making this doll would have gone to the trash had we not figured out a lovely use for it. If we take the time to think often we can use "trash" rather than sending it to the landfill. What ways have you reused trash?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Variety of Harvest Pictures

One way that we are able to create much less waste is by growing, harvesting, using and putting away much of our own food. I love doing this. Not only does it mean we deal with much less packaging but also we have food that is much better for us and we know exactly where it came from.

  I had taken a bunch of harvest photos this year that I had never gotten put on this blog so here they are in this post. :-) In order of when they were taken - some of the harvest that we have rejoiced over this year....

 One of the earlier meals from our garden. New potatoes, green beans and cucumbers along with meatballs which had veggies in it and the sauce as well. So yummy!
 One of Mom and Dad's lovely watermelons - displayed by Aaron. Isn't it so cool??? Those watermelons looked funny (though most of them were normal shaped just yellow too) but tasted great!
 Aaron using the apple picker to get apples at Mom and Dad's.
 The grapes at my parents were really lovely this year.

Mara and Mom picking grapes. I picked grape leaves once as well to try making dolma but that never happened. I did however can a lot of grape juice and jelly.

 Green beans, husk cherries and cucumbers all did quite well in our garden.
 Boxes and baskets like this can feel overwhelming - both with how am I going to get these all processed and also just overwhelming thankfulness. God blesses us abundantly!
 Many jars of applesauce were canned.
 Nana gave Aaron her old juicer. It was so much fun to enjoy fresh yummy juices. We enjoyed a grape, apple, cucumber and husk cherry juice. It was really good!
 I love these big jars for canning juice in. I tried making husk cherry jam this year and I really like it.
 Snapping green beans over at my parents. It is a very fun job to do while visiting but not quite as much fun to do it by yourself.
 Final garden clean-up (though I do still have carrots and beets to dig) after the frost. We had covered the peppers for a couple of nights but we just picked everything (green tomatoes too) now. We only got our first frost last week which was extremely late for us.

 Apple sauce process.... I put yucky stuff in a bucket to go to the chickens (wormy parts, bad spots, etc), "good" cores and such go into a kettle which I cover with water and make apple cider from. Good pieces go into a put which I put a little water and cinnamon with and cook until soft. Then I add some honey and puree it and can it.
My pantry shelves are nearly full. Woohoo! Much of veggies actually go in our freezers too.

  When I can I use reusable jars, bands and tattler canning lids (for the most part - I do also use some metal ones which I will generally use several times as well). That means no waste is created either now or later. For frozen foods I will re-use containers over and over again.

  Do you put up food for the winter? I would love to hear about it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Zero Waste Sour Cream

I don't buy sour cream all the time but it is something that we enjoy fairly often. I didn't know of any way to buy it however except in plastic containers with a plastic seal. So I tried making some instead.

 I figured if I was now buying raw milk with cream that I could somehow turn some of that cream into sour cream.  So I started searching that online to see what I could learn.
 I found instructions at Gemma's Bigger Bolder Baking and at OhLardy. I decided to try it two different ways. In one jar of cream I put 1/4 cup of sour cream that I had on hand and stirred it up well. In the other I put 2 teaspoons or white vinegar. I stirred them and covered them with a cloth napkin and set it on the windowsill for 24 hours. I then checked it but it didn't seem like it had done much so I left it another 24 hours.

   The cream did get nice and thick. It got a little sour but not as much as I would like. I don't feel like we were completely successful yet. But it does work okay.

  This time I used older cream and I think there was a little after taste from that. Next time I want to use cream that is pretty fresh. I also may try using citric acid to help sour it.

Have any of you ever made sour cream? I would love to hear if you have. 


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