Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

For a long time I’ve been reading about people deciding to chuck it all and go back to living a self-sustainable life on their own land. Supposedly this is a trend, but I didn’t believe it until it hit the Wall Street Journal. You know the biggest, baddest, pro-huge business regardless of the real costs newspaper.

Peggy Noonan’s column last Friday, Goodbye Bland Affluence, was all about moving back to the farm and being sustainable. Giving up the finer (read more expensive) things in life, to live in a more holistic, less driven manner.

Now, I am obviously a big proponent of living within your means, and I love the idea of us all giving up most conspicuous consumption. I think that when we focus on our stuff, we loose sight of the things that are actually important to us.  Getting sometimes becomes more important than time with family and friends, and we forget that we can have fun without spending money.

The problem is that it is hard not to focus on our stuff.  This is how we judge others in our society.  It is also how we have been trained to use our free time. We go shopping more than we need to, and we almost always find things at the store that we never knew we always needed.

All this goes back to my initial surprise at reading this post in the Wall Street Journal.  For the record, I actually like this paper, but arguably they have a vested interest in furthering conspicuous consumption based just on their name alone.  Not the ones that you would imagine to be advocating for a simpler life.


For more on conspicuous consumption, or the lack of it:


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Whenever a newly pregnant woman tells someone that they are planning on cloth diapering their baby, they are inevitably met with the same response: a disbelieving smirk. Trust me on this one, I have been on the receiving end of this very annoying gaze more times than I care to count for almost a year now.

At first, I was on the fence about cloth diapering; mainly because of the common perception that disposables are so much easier that has completely pervaded our culture. Then I actually researched it.

Modern cloth diapering is really very simple, especially for the first six months if the baby is exclusively breastfed. My hubby jokes that breastmilk poo is this magical substance. Supposedly, it doesn’t smell bad and it completely dissolves in water, making it safe to just throw the dirty diapers into the washing machine. As to the smell, it’s not horrible, but I find it funny that sweet smelling breastmilk poo is listed often as a benefit of breastfeeding. I can, however, attest to the fact that it does seem to magically disappear in the washing machine.

Once I found out about this magical disappearing act, I was sold. I figured that even if I only use cloth diapers for the first six months, that is still saving the world from at least a thousand dirty disposables in the landfills.

So far, I have been completely happy with the results. We haven’t had one case of diaper rash, which judging from all the diaper rash advertisements, seems like a national epidemic. I also haven’t had to send hubby out at 2:00 am because we ran out of diapers. All this and the cloth diapers these days work the same as disposables, meaning no pins and very few leaks (certainly no more than we have had the few times that we’ve used disposables).


Baby stuff galore:

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Isn’t it wonderful to read something and realize you are not the only one?  I love my all-natural stone ground flour from Wade’s Mill.  It tastes amazing, is relatively local, and I get all the wonderful nutrients of flour that are usually processed out and then chemically added back in.  I just finished an article that goes into other people’s quest for real flour, and I must say that I love that these issues are getting more and more national attention.

The article was in the New York Times, and it is called Flour That Has the Flavor of Home.  In it, the author looks at a couple of people that are trying to re-start the local wheat market in places that aren’t quite as conducive to growing the normal variety.  It is about re-learning what locals knew before they gave up growing wheat and grinding flour because everything became more standardized and homogenized.   I loved this article, because I love it when people realize that we’ve thrown out the baby with the bathwater, and we sure did when our country switched over to a far inferior way of growing and processing flour, all for the sake of shelf life and maximized profits at the expense of nutrition, sustainability, and flavor.

The Beautiful Wade Mill

The Beautiful Wade Mill

Flour Adventures:

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As we were driving the other day, I made hubby stop and turn around. We had just past a roadside stand for fresh organic blueberries, which sounded too delicious to pass up. The stand was just a little hut with a fridge and a money box, the owners relying on the honor system for their sales. The blueberries were just as tasty as they sounded, and we had enough to have some scrumptious blueberry oatmeal the next morning as well.

The food in Vermont in general is very good, and focuses on natural locally-grown produce and meat. I love reading the menus, which often list which farms the ingredients come from. It is nice to see such a great state pride, which is obvious nearly everywhere you go.

Delicious Roadside Organic Blueberries

Delicious Roadside Organic Blueberries

Beautiful Vermont:

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Now that the funky baby quilt is behind me, I am on to my next project. My cousin asked if I could make her some cloth diapers for her baby that is due in July. Evidently, store-bought cloth diapers can be quite pricey, but they are so much better for the environment that I decided that I would go ahead and give it a try.

This is where my readers will hopefully come in. I don’t have a baby to try different patterns on, so I’m praying that some of you have sage advice to give me as I start this adventure in cloth diaper making. As I have googled this topic, I have quickly become overwhelmed in all the different things to consider.

Because the all-in-one diapers are made out of fairly expensive materials, I am hoping to make some covers that have the diaper inserted into it. The other thing that would be handy is that I would really like some real life thoughts on sizing. Each pattern seems like it would only be good on a baby for a couple months. Is there anyway to size them so that they can grow with the baby? I doubt that I am going to be willing to make a set of 20 diapers for my cousin every six months.

This would be much easier if I could make one and then try it out, but I am up to the challenge (hopefully). So if anyone out there has wisdom to share on how to do this, make it cheaper, or make them last longer, I am listening.

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Ever since reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, I have been even more dedicated to eating as natural as possible. This is especially easy now that the farmers markets are back in full swing. The weakest link to eating completely like my great-grandmothers would have is flour. I make my own bread, but I do use white flour in it. Now many people may be shocked by this, but white flour is very different from what it was a hundred years ago, and is not nearly are natural.

White flour nowadays is treated with all sorts of chemicals to separate out every last bit of the germ and bran. Where as flour that is stone ground the old-fashioned way keeps intact the nutrients and also don’t strip as much of the bran. All this is well and good, but it is nearly impossible to find stone ground white flour. Even whole wheat is rarely stone ground and therefore has many of its nutrients lost due to heat.

I have finally found a source for great, old-fashioned flour. Wade’s Mill is an old mill that is still working in Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains. This coming weekend, hubby and I will be taking a trip down to see it and stay at a nearby b&b. My birthday happens to fall over this long weekend, and I am thankful that we are going to get to celebrate it by enjoying the mountains and little towns along the way.

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I have been amazed at how much I like the recipe that I posted for Homemade Vegetable Stock in a Jar. It is tasty, easy to use, and healthy (in moderation, there is after all a lot of salt in it). I used to make traditional stock all the time, which requires a bit of foresight, and now I rarely do. The only time that I still make stock from scratch now is when I need a lighter broth. While this soup base tastes great, it can overpower simpler soups such as egg drop soup.

This stock-in-a-jar has kept in my cupboard just fine so far. Which is great because I have so much of it around, that I can’t picture running out for a long long time. I used to keep store-bought bullion in the pantry, just in case I forgot to make homemade stock, but this tastes so much better and is significantly cheaper than the varieties found at the store. The good brands that are all natural cost about $2.50 for six little cubes, and the boxes of ready-made stock cost $3.00 a box.   All told, I spent about $10.00 on the ingredients for this recipe, and it has made untold numbers of soups and stews so far, with quite a few jars still sitting on the shelves.

Make it from scratch:

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