The Sparrow Lofts

Amongst the branches of the miniature dome, they sing.  I watch them flitting in and out of their hogan happily, busily.  Some groups fly en masse to the bowl of bird seed in the front yard, another group will chat and catch up on the fence line, and yet another seem to be busy within the home, perhaps preparing for new babies or maybe they just got out of a town meeting.

I can hear them clearly through the thick, glass paned windows, and as the dawn breaks they begin to chant and chirp the loveliest, loudest songs to the sun.  As I approach them on my way to the hen house, they fly up in a tornado of song and air.  Exhilarating.

I shake my head when I see giant black trash bags of branches and yard clipping sitting in militant lines by garbage cans waiting to go to the dump.  Such a waste.  There they will never decompose.  Here on our urban farm, we throw them into a pile.  A large, haphazard pile (away from the eyes of the zoning lady down the street) behind a six foot fence.  An eyesore?  They are branches, for gods sake.  Make use of them.  They can be used for kindling or firewood or you can just let them be.  We thought we would get a wood chipper and attend to them but the sparrows had another idea.  As we threw the neatly clipped branches and larger weeds over the fence, blindly knocking leaves and clots of dirt into our eyes, they all landed in a great pile.  The sparrows dive in and out perfect holes.  A housekeeper I had said I ought to get rid of the mounds of wood because they invite mice.  So we dubbed it the “Mouse House.”  Haven’t seen any mice in there.  They are too busy in the chicken coop.  The mound gently settles each year and begins to decompose and we add more on.  Nature makes use of all things, they do not throw things blindly into a landfill to suffocate the land.

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Look at all the birds on the fence line and in the branches! Hundreds of voices come from this back yard pile!

The birds have created such a lovely haven out of those branches, carefully shaping them into lofts for hundreds of sparrows.  And their uplifting songs and antics please me as I watch them.  They make me laugh and smile.  Such a gift to be amongst nature and all of its inhabitants.

(Tip: create a place next to your compost piles for items that break down slowly.)

Hypocrisy and the Homesteader’s Guide to Saving the Earth

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First things first, a compost bin.  The very weekend we move in I do hope Doug can build me a compost bin.  He makes it with pallets, three open spaces to move the cooking fertilizer through.

The thing about apartment living is that it is really difficult to be ecologically friendly.  They don’t recycle in this town.  There is nowhere to put scraps (no chickens to be found).  There is nowhere to compost (piles of coffee grounds on the balcony would be a bit weird).  There are hills of trash here, eye-opening, mouth gaping amounts of overflowing trash near the dumpsters.  I am shocked and saddened.  And yet, my things join the piles.

I am very much against the pipeline going through Indian land. I am also very much against the fracking, hideous wind mills, and pipelines going through farmer’s land (who don’t get to protest, by the way, they just get the land stripped from them) across the country.  I can get mad and share a post on facebook about stopping the black snake then I go get in my car and drive to work.  I understand that I am among the billions of hypocrites on this lovely planet.

The answer lies, perhaps, in mindfully (perhaps maniacally) opting to use less electricity, oil, and its many ugly faces.  We know we are killing our beautiful Earth (we know she is getting mad as hell) but we seem to not know what to do about it.  Our life has woven itself so thickly through the oil reserves that we don’t know how to function.

Once I step into my new homestead tomorrow I will be starting a compost pile.  I will find recycling.  I hope someone still does it.  I will reuse.  I will be like my elder generation where one is not sure if the contents of a container in the fridge is butter or leftovers.  I will get chickens and feed them my scraps.  I will use organic methods to grow as much of my food as divinely possible.  I will get oil lamps again and still crazily unplug appliances and Doug’s IPOD.  I will use carbon neutral wood to heat my home (though it will be nice to have that back up furnace!).  I will be more mindful.  I will do the best I can.  I will walk.  I will ride my bike.  I will purchase less.  I will sew more.  I will….

We must….

Dawali and the Reusable Mug

 

forestWe stepped into the old stone house, its dark hallways lightened by small windows.  The older man with the white beard welcomed us, tall and Sean Connery-esqe.  He offered us a free farm, his kind eyes gazing softly at us.  We giddily agreed to see this beautiful place that we have dreamed of.  We had to take a small plane to get there.  It seemed to be a quick trip.  The lush green around us was welcoming.  Herbs and plants, grassy fields, tall mountains greeted us.  Vibrant green and fresh.  A group of sheep preceded by two small dogs approached us gleefully.  They stood before a large fenced garden patch waiting to be tilled and seeded.  That was when we realized it.  They weren’t real.  They were almost robotic in movement.  The animals were copies of the ones we fondly raised on our last farm.

Confused we went for a walk in this strange place.  We kneeled near a cliff and looked down at the shining waters, deep and mysterious as fish swam through the clear waves.  Suddenly several cars and RVs came driving over the water.  The water was not water after all but a copy.  A water-like surface that was actually hard and became a parking lot as the artificial fish floated mechanically.

I opened envelopes.  One from my sister.  One from my grandparents.  They contained photos.  Photos of our life.  Of things on earth so that our future generations would not forget what it was like on earth.  Someone yelled from a cave.  “Don’t tell anyone else know about this place!  Too many people are coming here!”  No birds could be seen.

We had destroyed Earth.  The animals, the plant life, our lives had been destroyed and now rushes of humans came to occupy this new planet called Dawali.  I was sad.  We cried.  We desperately tried to get back to Earth so we could warn everyone.

I awoke.

The sun shone through the window illuminated by the newly fallen snow.  The mountains in a cloudy mist.  Doug was making coffee and the gas fireplace created an artificial glow.

I thought of the waste created from one commercial store, the overflowing dumpsters near our apartment complex and times it by a billion.

On a homestead I felt secure with my wind powered clothes line.  My hand washed clothes and dishes.  Our carbon neutral wood heat.  Our huge gardens and preserves.  How can I make an impact from my third floor apartment?

I firmly believe in the power of the elements and that we will not destroy Mother Earth but rather we will feel the impact of our mindless decisions.  Cancer, illnesses, natural disasters, whatever it takes to lower the population and protect our resources are out of our hands.  I must be more mindful.  It is far too easy to throw out a bag of trash for the valet trash service.  Or to drive when I can walk.  Or not take a reusable mug around with me.  What are some things we can do to help sustain our Mother?  Our food, our medicine, our life stems from her chest, our bodies return to her soil.  We must become more respectful of our Mother.  I intend to be more mindful.  I hope you will join me.

 

 

 

The New Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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The three R’s, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle has sadly been overused and overlooked.  Folks think about the big green tub that their trash company may or may not pick up on any given Thursday to send their recyclables off somewhere.  Hopefully the rumors aren’t true and they really are being recycled.  Many people don’t have recycling services available to their homes so don’t even bother.  We tried, sorry, we’ll wait for recycling to come to our town.

Alright, now we need to slightly tweak our way of thinking so that we are not dismissing these three R’s.  We don’t want to view them as an inconvenience and we don’t have to wait for someone else to offer us a service.  It would be wise for us to start considering these R’s.  I know that we all have heard over and over again about our finite resources, islands of plastic in the ocean killing animals and fish, oil spills tainting our water and who knows what floating in our drinking springs.  We have heard of landfills the size of states and the problem isn’t decreasing.  But, when we can’t see the detriment with our own eyes, it is hard to fathom and is often easier to just go about our day and hope all that remedies itself.

Here are some easy ways to bring back the three R’s into our day to day routine, save money, and keep things out of the landfills and oceans.

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Reduce

This is one of the harder ones.  “I need this!”  I do attempt to stay out of stores all together now.  It doesn’t always work.  I try to see Walmart and department stores in a new light.  Shelf upon shelf upon shelf of cheaply made items shipped from overseas that may or may not be bought that will ALL end up in a land fill.  Boxes and packaging and cheap petroleum based items.  Tons and tons of it.  Scary.  Set it under fluorescent lights and you have the makings of a horror movie.

Do you really need it?  Probably not.

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Reuse

Things like twist ties and rubber bands can be reused in a myriad of ways.  I use the twist ties to fasten plants to trellises and cages.  I use the rubber bands to bundle produce, extra silverware, pencils, etc.

Paper bags can be reused to hold vegetables in the fridge or be used to pack a lunch.  Or to dry herbs.  Likewise, the plastic produce bags can be reused to hold homemade bread or potato chips for a picnic.

Sandwich bags and freezer bags can be washed and used several times.

Glass jars can serve as leftover containers or drink receptacles.

The obvious scratch paper can be used to make lists or write down reminders.  They can be shredded and added to compost.

Cardboard can be used to suppress weeds or make a playhouse.

Try to give everything a second life.

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Recycle

Now at some point we have to throw some things out or we get a little cluttered.  There are recycling services out there, whether the trash service that will take marked bags or a place you can drop off.  Try to recycle what can be recycled!

There are other ways to recycle.  When we need wood for a project we immediately go to the hardware store.  We have never thought twice.  Our friend, Rob, showed us another way.  He drives to building sites after hours and hauls off the wood that has been placed in dumpsters.  Perfectly good, wrong sized, wood thrown in a dumpster to haul off.  He has collected enough wood to build a goat barn and a chicken coop.

He came to our house (we are boarding his goats) and built a feeder out of wood strewn about the yard that has been here longer than we have lived here.  Now, mind you the goat kids flipped it over and are using it as a playground, but a recycled wood playground nonetheless!

Thrift stores have a ton of usable fabric instead of buying new.  They also have quite nice clothes that can be reused.  And dishes, and pretty much anything else one would need to set up house.

Craigslist is a great way to find what one needs without buying new.  I did end up buying a new cheese press yesterday because I had exhausted every avenue finding a used one, but in most cases, from furniture to cars, this service helps folks save money and reuse something instead of buying new.

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Analyzing the Trash

What is in your trash?  For me, most of the trash is paper towel (could I use clean towels that don’t attract cat hair?), plastic coverings (overused sandwich bags or bread bags…maybe I can sew some?), used cat litter (is there a litter that breaks down and can be put in the compost?), torn plastic bags (can I remember my reusable bags maybe??), and empty coffee bags (would they fill a different container?).  My business is trickier.  Wax and oils are really messy to work with and we almost have to  use paper towels and end up throwing away really gross jars and old bottles.  I wish I could find a more eco-friendly way to do business.  Could folks come over with their own bottle and fill it up?  If I could do business out of my house, maybe.  There will not be a perfect solution, we cannot go back to our great-grandparents’ time when things weren’t so over processed and packaged.

How about the recycle bin?  Beer bottles and wine bottles, organic soda cans, paper, and cardboard are the main things in there.  I noticed that if I do not buy packaged cereals, crackers, and other processed foods, I have a lot less waste.  Homemade food is not only better for us, but saves us money and creates less waste.

We could go on and on with ideas…compost, don’t buy it in the first place, make things into planters….but one day at a time.  We just need to bring the three R’s back into the forefront of our day to day and make better choices so that we can take care of ourselves and our planet.