Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Where we are going, and where we have been.

This post is my entry for the Hip Mountain Mama contest, asking the question what will you be doing this summer to be Green?

In order for me to explore what we'll be doing this summer to be 'green', i feel like i better explain where we have already been. As i truly believe that 'Going Green' is not the best term for this movement. As it sounds progressive...and forward, but it's not about going forward, as if we are going somewhere new... it's about stepping back - a sort of "undoing" the "progress" of the past 100 years. Slowing down, simplifying and going back to our roots.

Long before the term 'going green' became mainstream, i found myself on the path of living naturally and consciously. At the age of 14, i made the personal choice to become vegetarian and 23 years later i still am and have never questioned it. Eliminating or reducing meat is one of the best things you can do for the planet, although it is often ignored.

10 years ago, my husband and i moved out to the mountains of Virginia, from a city in Michigan, with a dream to leave behind the rat race and become self sufficient. We fell in love with a small enchanted cabin on 12 acres, blessed with organic fruit trees and berry patches, hardwoods, native plants, and wildflowers.

A few months after moving here, my husband returned to Michigan to spend 2 weeks learning glass blowing from a friend. A year later, he quit his job and became fully self employed. Our first child was born the following year, and i too, quit my job to be a stay at home/work at home mother. We have been self employed 8 years, doing our thing ever since, and are continuing to move down the path to self sufficiency.

i am a firm believer in Voluntary Simplicity. We live on an extremely low income, but we do not live 'poor'. We choose not to have any TV service , cell phone service, air conditioning, fancy gadgets or other 'luxury' items. We prefer simplicity.

So what do we do that is considered green?

1. We are a family of vegetarians. We grow and preserve much of our own food. We do consume eggs (our own) and dairy.
2. We organic garden. We have numerous gardens, fruit trees and berry patches. We do not and never have used any insecticides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers in our home, yard or gardens.
3. We raise organic free ranging chickens for eggs and companionship. (they are pets and all have names)
4. We conserve water. We have a low flow well, and learned really early on that we had to conserve water or we would drain our well. We do not shower daily, or do dishes daily, or laundry daily. We have to space everything out to keep our well from becoming too low. It is really a good way to recognize how much water you actually use. We do not water our lawn or garden, we depend on rain barrels and mother nature to keep things watered.
5. We line dry clothing as much as possible.
6. We buy most items we need used or make them ourselves. We are huge supporters of thrift stores! i love to make handmade toys and clothing for my kids.
7. We recycle. Items that our recycling center does not take we try to re-use in creative way.
8. We compost. We add manure from our chickens and goats, all our kitchen waste, yard and garden waste (that the animals do not eat).
9. We heat solely with wood, and use only dead/already downed trees from our property and surrounding areas. Burning wood is considered carbon-neutral, because the same amount of carbon is produced whether trees naturally decompose or burn.
10. We use only safe/environmentally friendly cleaning products, or make our own.
11. We are homebodies. we only go out once per week or once every two weeks to do our grocery shopping. We live about 30 miles from the closest grocery store and do not have the option to 'run to the store' whenever we feel like it. We work at home, so we do not have to go anywhere.
12. We always use reusable totes when shopping. ( i keep a large box and cooler in back of car to help transport groceries home)
13. We conserve energy. Our energy usage is far below the average for personal home usage and ours is actually combined full time business and home usage...because we work at home.
14. We try to avoid disposable anything and chose items that are reusable.
15. Our home is somewhat passive solar. We have sky lights for natural lighting, and it helps to heat the house in the winter.
16. i cloth diapered both of my children (using the same set of diapers for both kids), and use cloth pads myself.

My rockin' compost. :)

Organic peaches and homemade jam from our peach trees. We grow organic blueberries, peaches and red raspberries on our property. We also have an organic pear tree and cherry tree just beginning to produce. We have access to organic wild blackberries, apples and almost unlimited organic cherries (from a neighbor). i freeze as much fruit as possible, and make blackberry, raspberry and peach jam every summer.

Organic veggies from the garden.

eggs from our girls.

We have around 20 chickens, and should be hatching out new peeps in a bout a week.

We added goats to our family this spring. Our doe is a Dwarf Nigerian cross, and our plan is to breed her this fall and be able to milk her. We are planning to add a few more dairy goats to our family in the next year or two. i look forward to making goat cheese, and goats milk soap.

Green goals for this year.

1. Install gutters, and improve rain barrels. Last year we had to replace our roof. We replaced it with 'Green' metal roofing. We took down the gutters and have not replaced them all yet. So one of our goals for this year, is to get the gutters back up and improve our rain barrel system. Eventually putting in a cistern for more water storage.
2. Improve greywater system. Our home has a septic system. However, our washing machine, bathtub and sinks empty straight out onto our back hill. ( making environmentally safe soaps a must!) We are researching ways to collect this greywater and re-use it. It isn't safe to use in our veggie gardens, but can be used in the flowerbeds and yard.
3. recycled insulation. We have been working on adding a small addition to home, and have been looking for Environmentally friendly options. We are planning to use recycled denim insulation.
4. dairy goats/ raw milk share. Our goat Delilah is not old enough for milking, so we probably will not have goats milk until next year. Unless we purchase a doe already in milk (which is a possibilty.) Last year i was getting raw cows milk from a local girl, but she let her cow dry up. She is milking again, and i am planning to start getting milk from her again.
5. eliminate most plastic. We still have a lot of plastic in our home, and it seems like as soon as i get rid a bunch...i somehow acquire more. So this is a constant goal to try and reduce the amount of plastic in our home.
6. better food preservation. i freeze or dehydrate a lot of our extra fruits and produce. i have always used a water bath canner, and have a fear of botulism that has kept me from canning many vegetables. i was recently gifted a used pressure canner, so this year i am planning to do a lot of canning!
7. shopping local farmers market. Our little town of Floyd, just recently opened a farmer's market. Before this i would have had to drive over an hour to the Blacksburg or Roanoke farmers market to buy locally grown produce :) So i am very excited to be able to buy local produce locally now. :)
8. Removing diseased pine trees and planting more fruit trees. This is a tough one, because i really do not like to cut down live trees. We have an area that if cleared would be perfect for an orchard. The majority of tree are Pines, that are infested with pine beetles and are dying. We have looking at options of removing the trees, and planting an orchard.
9. Support local business more. i live about 30 miles from the closest grocery store. i live on the border of two counties, and often find myself shopping at the closer store (out of convenience)...rather than the one in my actual county. i had it in my head, that local meant closest. However, i'm beginning to better understand the importance of keeping the money 'local' in my own county...even though it's a few miles farther.
10. Cut back on processed foods. Processed foods require more energy, and resources. Although we eat pretty well, we still eat boca burgers, or other processed veggie products a couple times a week. i really want to work on eating more of the food we grow, and not depending on the 'processed stuff' for those easy meals.
11. Eat less dairy. When we grocery shop, the majority of our grocery bill is dairy products. i feel like once we are getting milk from our goats, or from a cow share again...we will be able to eliminate a lot of that, and be much less dependent on the grocery store.
12. Eat more raw foods. As a child i grew up on a meat and potatoes diet, and often joke that i am a 'meat and potatoes' vegetarian. Most of the meals i make are cooked, heavy and hearty meals. Eating raw is better for us, uses no energy (for cooking), less water (all those dirty dishes from preparing meals) the house stays cooler in the summer and it better utilizes the fresh foods that we grow.

We don't have just one garden, most of our land isn't flat or cleared. So we have to make due, by planting where ever we can. This is our potato patch, we have 50 lbs of potates planted here. Behind it is a lavender and Sage bed, and behind that is a small 3 sisters garden.

We have our front hill dived into tiered beds, because our lack of flat space. This bottom tier shows zucchinis and squash, above it is sweet potatoes. There are tomatoes and peppers on the top tier and then another garden area and two raised beds.

i could go crazy posting garden pictures, but this is really already too long.

Last year, the kids asked for their own garden space. This is their garden, they plant and maintain it (for the most part) and will eat anything that they grow themselves.

This has really been fun, looking back and writing all of this out. i didn't intend for it to be so long. There is so much that we have been doing for so long that i kind of take it all for granted. Sometimes it feels as though we are moving too slowly, and i get impatient. Looking through all these old photos, and reflecting back on it all it is kind of amazing for me to see how far we have come in such a 'relatively' short time.
It makes me feel incredibly grateful and blessed and i find myself excited for the coming years, and to see where we go from here.

Thank you Hip Mountain Mama, for the opportunity that inspired me to sit down and write this all out. :)


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  2. Tree this is so beautiful. You are truly living the life I dream of while sitting here in the middle of a city and ten minutes from one of the biggest cities in the country. I so want to live the way you do. But I don't see that happening in this lifetime.

  3. beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!!!

  4. wowza!

    reading your post was invigorating! i saw the link on the hip mountain mama site and came over to check it out.
    you are living my fantasy/fairytale and i am so inspired. my husband and i talk alot about having a home/farm where we could grow all our own food.
    i want to move in with you and your family and see how its done!
    can't wait to check out more of your blog, this post was awesome :)

  5. What a beautiful post Tree!! I loved reading it.

  6. Such a lovely post Tree! You are so right on Mama! Voting starts tomorrow...I will send out a reminder! Good luck!

  7. Hey Tree,

    The voting has begun for Hip Mountain Mama's Anniversary Contest. Be sure to tell you family and friends to stop by and vote! Voting ends a midnight on July 31 and the winners will be announced on August 1st. The person with the most votes will win $200.00 at Hip Mountain Mama and the person with the second most votes will win $50.00 at Hip Mountain Mama.

    Thanks for your participation...it was great to read about what you are doing to live a greener lifestyle this summer...

    Good luck! http://www.hipmountainmamablog.com/2010/07/anniversary-contest-voting_12.html

  8. So nice to "meet" you. I loved reading every bit of this post. We do what we can on our 1/2 acre, but dream of being on a property like yours. We just spent some time in the mountains of PA wilderness and thought about how "spoiled" we are where we live to be able to have two health food stores within a 15 minute drive, and how moving out of it would change that. Thanks for sharing. Ill be back!



  9. So awesome, Tree! You guys are SOOOOOO green!



  10. wow, I love your post for the HMM contest! you are such an inspiration!

  11. Wow, I loved this post!! Thanks for sharing!

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  13. Saving the world..one family at a time!! Go girl!! ~Deborah~

  14. #13...You deserve to win Mama!! You work hard and get it right!! Not to mention...raising those two cuties!!! Best of luck to you!!! ~Deborah~

  15. I am voting for you in the contest! My husband is a self employed glass blower and myself a stay at home mom. So many of the things you do are the same as us. Not vegetarians though...What does your husband make? Stop by my blog and let me know if you get a minute!


  16. I always love hearing about your family and your home. You described it so wonderfully!

    (from GC)

  17. Tree - just read your blog! I am so impressed!!! You guys have done soooo much green work! I envy you your garden, but am not sure i would follow up on all the work it needs! Love you a bunch and am sooo greenly proud of you!!! PattiL