It All Began With a Seed

This story of the gourd begins with my love for seeds and for growing things I have never seen before.

That can be a good thing, or not.

One problem of planting a bunch of seeds of varieties unknown to mankind – I mean to this woman – is that she can’t tell if its a weed or if its a plant.

Or which of the many things planted actually came up.

These are the seeds which got it all started.

seeds

How they came to me, I don’t really remember. Maybe I bought a seed pack. Or I picked some up at a seed swap. Or someone just gave me some. All of those are frequent events in my life.

To tell you the truth, the seeds you see in the pictures and the ones I used to grow this plant came from a gourd I grew last year and smashed up to get the seeds.

And this is what grew from these seeds.

The Plant

guard plant

Well, this one is obviously a cucurbit. When I first grew it, I told everyone who asked that it was a snake gourd.

And many asked since the fruit grows very long – several feet – and I had them hanging all over the place.

But when I checked in with my friend google, what I found there does not look at all like what I was growing. See for yourself

Snake Gourd on Wikipedia

This is what the flower of my gourd looks like.

squash_flower

It is a white flower and blooms mostly at night. When I first started growing them, I saw so many flowers developing and got excited about a huge harvest.

Only, not even one flower set fruit!!

Talk about being disappointed! I figured that my night flower just didn’t have the right pollinator around and that it needed help. Good thing that I had plenty of cheap paintbrushes laying around. I stored one in each area a squash was growing.

gourd flower pollination

Then, at dusk or in the morning, I went to work as a bee or moth or whoever is supposed to do the pollinating job.

It only works if at least two flowers are open. Then a quick dip in the middle of the flower to collect some pollen and from flower to flower I go.

 

 

 

Success!!!  We got a baby!!!

Success, we got a baby!!

baby squash

And the baby grew.

squash or gourd

This is a good size to harvest the gourd. The first picture is as big as you want it to grow to be good to eat. If they get bigger, the get hollow and the flesh gets tough.

The plant is a vigorous grower and has no problem to climb into trees or to spread out all over.

Squash vine

The finished length of the gourds I harvested last year was between 3 and 4 ft. They stayed the light green color you see in the very first plant picture for the longest time and later turned a light brown.

I was going to make instruments from them. The seeds were rattling inside and they sounded a bit like a rainstick.  But I neglected to wash them with peroxide upon harvesting and store them on a rack without touching each other until completely dried. They all got some kind of fungus which made them look ugly. That is when I learned what I should have done.

Oh well. I got a lot of seeds instead.

But, I have no idea what seeds I have. They are the babies of a nameless plant. Snake gourd or serpentine gourd is out (and that was such a cool name!)

The wikipedia picture of the squash shows a dark green colored fruit, a different flower, and tells of a different taste.

Whatever I have, it is delicious when eaten young and it is impressive when grown to maturity.

And that is good enough for me.

Steemit

Steemit really doesn’t have anything to do with a garden or squashes or guards per see. But I published this same content on the platform Steemit.com this morning and got lucky. I made over $73.00 so far. This is earned in cryptocurrency.

Here is a link to the post

Steemit

I am new to the concept of cryptocurrency but I am hearing more and more about it – even in mainstream media.  Actually, I am trying to get a person to come on the podcast and explain it to us all.

In the meantime, why don’t you join Jenise and me on Steemit. It is a social media platform which pays to post and to have fun. https://steemit.com/

A 30 Day Challenge to You All

30 Days? Why have a 30 day challenge? Glad you asked. Lots people say that it takes at least 21 days of doing a behavior consistently to become a routine. Well, maybe and maybe not.

I am glad you asked. Lots of people say that it takes at least 21 days of doing a behavior consistently to become a routine. Well, maybe and maybe not.

Continue reading

Guest Blog by Amy Oestreicher

Not Waiting for Life: How I Learned to Love My Detour

I’m the youngest kid in my family, and I grew up pretty well. With two doting parents and three big brothers to overprotect me, I guess I was used to getting what I wanted.  And when I didn’t, I was used to whining about it, while my oldest brother belted out “You can’t always get what you want,” as he sang along to his Rolling Stones Album.  That made me cry harder – I hated waiting.  I still do. Continue reading

The First Contest

Our very first contest is made possible by one of our guests – Marissa Vicario. Jenise and Marissa discussed their paths to better health and found that both had made many changes in their lives to overcome many health problems.

Marissa is a firm believer that we need a holistic approach to heal our bodies or to keep ourselves healthy.

She wrote an award-winning bestseller Your Holistically Hot Transformation: Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle Free of Dieting, Confusion, and Self-Judgment .

And

she offered us three copies of her audiobook to give away to our listeners!Click To Tweet

While we would love to give each and every one of you a copy, we can’t. But we can bring you a contest so three of you will be the lucky winners.

First Contest

How it Works

Easy. Find the bar on the top of the page that says Join the Sustainable Living Geeks. Fill in your name and email and press the button. Then, leave a comment below that you joined the tribe. Done! Your name will go into a hat.

“I already am subscribed,” you say. No problem. Find our latest email titled 

Announcing our First ContestClick To Tweet

You might have to check your spam folder or your promotion tab. Open the email and hit reply. That’s it. Easy right?

For a bonus entry, tell a friend about our podcast and help them subscribe. Then, let us know.

End Date and Drawing of Winner

Our first contest ends on July 22, 2017, at midnight Pacific Time.

On the 23rd, in the afternoon, we will draw the winner. Join us for a Facebook live video on our page. If all goes well, we will also stream it in our Facebook group called Sustainable Living Tips, Tools & Tactics.  

By the way, you are invited to join the group anytime.

The Rules

Anybody may enter as long as you are of legal age in your place of residence and this kind of content is allowed. You must live in a country which allows electronic transmission of books. You provide the equipment to listen to the book. We are not responsible if the download does not work with your equipment.

And to make this completely legal. If you really don’t want to give us your email, just send us a message that you want to be entered….. but you are going to miss out on some awesome emails from us 🙂

Good Luck!!

 

Embracing Holistic Health

If you can’t wait to read or listen to the book, or if you are not one of the lucky winners, you can buy the book through our affiliate link at Amazon Your Holistically Hot Transformation.

Dressing sustainably can be simple, when you know what you’re doing.

But just what kind of knowledge do you need to make informed choices about the clothes you buy?

In my recent interview with Chet Van Wert of the website “A Greener Daily Life,” we discussed how our individual purchase choices can impact humans and the planet in a powerful way.

That fact was the impetus behind the founding of “A Greener Daily Life,” as a site for folks looking to learn about everyday products created in an ethical and sustainable manner.

I imagine the popularity of the podcast was a direct reflection of how difficult it can be to discover brands that are dedicated to doing good.

The fashion industry can be particularly harmful.  In fact, according to a recent Forbes Magazine article, “The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil.”

So I was thrilled when Chet offered our audience a free download PDF on “5 Steps to Dressing More Sustainably.”

This PDF covers such topics as:

  • paring down your own wardrobe
  • mending
  • clothing swaps
  • vintage & thrifting
  • finding clothes made with sustainable fabrics
  • and more

It really is a treasure-trove of great advice packed into a handy, easy access guide.

Just click, 5 Steps to Dressing Sustainably to download the PDF.

I hope you’ll take advantage of this generous gift, offered completely free of charge by our friend Chet Van Wert.

I also hope you’ll visit Chet’s website, “A Greener Daily Life” when you need reliable information for making your purchasing decisions.

You may also wish to sign up for the “A Greener Daily Life” newsletter to get weekly inspiration for your own sustainable living path. I did and I look forward to great tips I get weekly in my inbox as a result.

For more information on sustainable living, you might also check out the following past episodes of The Sustainable Living Podcast:

Moving to a Tiny House

The Rise of Organic, Fair Trade Clothing

Rob Greenfield on Sustainable Living

Guest blog by Colleen Valles

We’ve all found ourselves in this situation: life is so hectic; we’re running from place to place trying to catch our breath, and feeling like we need to do everything for everyone all the time.

When we do finally take a minute to stop and breathe, we recognize the feelings of stress and overwhelm that have been plaguing us, and then the feeling of guilt that washes over us for not being busy at that moment.

A few years ago, I was at exactly this point. Each day on my excessive commute, I would wonder how everyone did it all — took their kids to activities, spent time with family and friends, read books. I would feel guilty for not doing as much as others; and I would be sad that I wasn’t getting to do enough of what I love: spending time with my daughter and writing.Colleen Valles

It was frustrating and unsustainable, and I knew that something had to change. That’s when I decided to simplify our lives and to slow down. As a single mother working outside the home, I had certain schedule constraints that would take longer to change than others, so I decided to make what changes I could and start working toward the bigger ones. It has been an exercise in patience, but the recognition that sustainable living lessens our footprint upon the earth, as well as the stress, overwhelm and guilt that come with leading overly busy lives have helped keep us on track toward a goal of an all-encompassing definition of sustainability.

That goal was helped along by a tour of a trash facility for work and seeing that nothing ever really gets thrown “away.” I had already taken steps to lessen the amount of trash my daughter and I produced, including reducing our use of plastic and disposables, but I knew there was much more we could do. So while I worked to streamline our schedules, I also worked to decrease our carbon footprint. What I found is they are not mutually exclusive, and in fact are very compatible. This effort led to major changes that have helped me slow down and simplify, and by doing so, I’ve actually found time to do more of what I love and less of the stuff that just doesn’t matter.

Here are 7 steps I took and realizations I had that helped make major changes in our lives.

Keep your eyes on the prize

You have to know: what’s your ultimate goal? For me it was more time with my daughter and more time to write, as I’m trying to build up a freelance writing business. Keeping focused on that goal helped me determine what would count as a priority. I would ask myself “could I be writing now?” or “What would be fun for my daughter right now?” and “Can this wait?” These questions helped me see that maybe I didn’t need to run to the store to buy some organizing contraption I saw in a magazine.

These questions also helped me decide which changes we should make. In order for me to spend time writing and with my daughter, our changes couldn’t be too time consuming. So, for instance, I could make yogurt and bread Homemade bread(http://slowsimplelife.com/2013/03/bread/), which are largely hands-off activities, but I wouldn’t be making butter or raising chickens for eggs. I buy my butter wrapped in wax paper and cardboard and my eggs come from the farmer’s market, where I return the carton each week so the farmer can reuse it. You have to decide what is right for you, and a lot of it has to do with your schedule. Which leads to the next step I took:

Be ruthless in decluttering your schedule

Simplicity and sustainable living aren’t just about decluttering your closet and not filling it back up again. They also are about making a schedule that’s right for you and that fulfills your values and aligns with your priorities. It took a long time, but I’ve been able to arrange that. It has meant leaving a job I really believed in, but where I was on-call 24/7 every other week and where my commute was eating up two hours of my day. I work close enough to home now that I can bike to work and my total commute is still just over half an hour. (That one was a two-fer: I got time back and decreased my carbon footprint!) But it took me three years of applying to jobs and interviewing to do it.

It has also meant saying no to friends when they want to hang out. I’ve had to be choosier about which invitations we can accept, but talking to my friends and partner (http://www.slowsimplelife.com/2016/07/slow-steps/) ahead of time have really helped. They know from all the complaining I did before just how much it has bothered me that I haven’t been able to do all the things that I’ve wanted. And because they love me and want me to be happy, they’ve been understanding when I can’t do something. Do I feel like I’m missing out sometimes? Yes, of course. But I’m also grateful for the opportunity to do what I truly value. 

Make things from scratch

food itemsThis might seem like it goes against the time-consuming rule, but it really doesn’t. I find it’s easier, cheaper and faster to do a big batch of shopping and cooking once a week. You can make dishes ahead of time and freeze them for later in the week. And it’s less time-consuming and less expensive than running to the store every time you’re out of certain ingredients. This helps you save money and cut down on things that come in plastic, plus it saves trips to the store. Luckily we can walk, but many people have to get in the car and drive. 

 It’s also healthier to eat fresh foods. We use our dinner leftovers for lunch the next day, and if we have a lot, my daughter, who loves to experiment in the kitchen, will sometimes try to get creative with what we have the next night.

Kill your TV

Well, not really. But downsize your cable plan or get rid of it altogether. We just use Netflix and Amazon Prime, and while that took some getting used to on my daughter’s part, it has freed up way more time for us to talk and be outside and do things together. If you don’t think you watch much TV but aren’t sure, do a little experiment. Track your TV watching habits for a week. Just write down the start and finish time every time you sit down to watch TV. Include those times you keep the TV on in the background just for the noise. I find the TV is really distracting, and even if I have it on just for the noise, I’ll wind up stopping what I’m doing to watch. I find during those times, TV can easily be replaced by turning on the radio or streaming some music or listening to a podcast.

I bet at the end of the week you’ll be surprised by how much TV you watch. The average American watches just over four hours of TV a day. Four hours! You don’t have to cut TV out entirely, but there are probably some times where you can cut down on your watching significantly. I think you’ll find yourself more active and more alert and able to focus in other areas better. That’s what happened to me.

Consider downsizing

We’re moving into a tiny house. My fiancé lives in another town and because we each have kids, neither of us can leave our respective towns to live together just yet. He’s not much of a tiny house dweller, but ever since I was a kid I’ve loved the idea of having a house that travels with you, and now I get the chance to live in one. Until my fiancé and I can be together in the same house, my daughter and I and the baby on the way are moving into a tiny house on wheels.

Items to be moved to the Tiny House

Colleen’s daughter is helping with deciding what will move to the Tiny House

We’ll put it in my parents’ back yard, which will be mutually beneficial — they help me out with my daughter, and I can help them out around the house more easily. It will also provide us a measure of stability in the crazy Silicon Valley housing market, as well as significantly decrease our carbon footprint — we’ll use less water and energy, plus we won’t buy unnecessary things simply because there’s no place to put them. We’ll be living with what we know we need, and not hanging onto things we’ve accumulated with no thought or intention behind them.

While it’s a lot of work to get to that stage, I’m excited to live in a carefully curated space. Everything will serve a purpose or be something we love. 

With a baby on the way, that can be difficult. Well-meaning loved ones want to help us out and get us what we need. The truth is, we’ll need more items with a baby, but this is where I’ve discovered the beauty of registries (http://www.slowsimplelife.com/2016/07/baby-stuff/). Baby registries can help you let others know exactly what to get you, and let you control the influx of items to your home. People really do want to get you useful items — no one wants to buy you something that will just sit in a corner gathering dust, 

Go with the flow

My partner and I are expecting, and the baby is due Nov. 4. The tiny house is due at the end of the year, but that hasn’t derailed plans to go tiny. We’ll just get rid of more of our stuff to make room for the baby and its stuff. It’s all about rolling with it. Stressing out over things doesn’t solve the problem, but taking a deep breath, stepping back and thinking about the best way to manage a situation can help you get past something that might otherwise seem to be a problem. In fact, it could really be a blessing.

Keep your eyes on the next prize

Living intentionally and sustainably isn’t a destination that you arrive at, it’s an ongoing journey that takes little tweaks every day and sometimes a few big tweaks here and there. I’m still working toward having even more time by trying to work as a freelance writer, which would give me more flexibility. With a new baby, that’s the kind of change I need to make next, and living more sustainably and smaller will help because it cuts expenses. 

There’s always another goal to be focused on, but it’s important to enjoy the steps along the path, or else you’ll never feel like what you’ve achieved is worthwhile. The changes we have made already and are in the process of making have taken a long time — years in some cases. So they’ve required some patience, but they’ve been worth it and have given us the encouragement we need to keep going. 

Listen to the podcast with Colleen

Moving to a Tiny House

We have chi roosterckens. Many, many chickens. And among them wander quite a few roosters. Some are magnificent and really are looking out for their girls – others are loud little punks and rather annoying.

For one, they are loud. Like four a clock in the morning loud. That is when the competition starts: Who can “cock-a-doodle-doo” the best. By the way, German roosters “kikeriki”, but they are just as loud as their American brothers.

For two, as they get older, some of those boys decide that the humans, big and small, are an obvious threat and must be dealt with. Roosters are dirty fighters. Often, they run up from behind, jump and grab a leg (or any other body part they can reach) and pound both of their legs really hard. That hurts. If the bird is big enough to have grown spurs, it not only hurts, but blood becomes part of that equation.

Spurs of a rooster

A rooster who has become aggressive is quickly retired to freezer camp in our house. Or he goes directly to the soup pot. We have little people, also know as grandsons, visiting on a regular basis and roosters can be dangerous and inflict real damage. Think little eyes at pecking level – not a good thing.

Big rooster

So, yes, getting a rooster from running in the yard to swimming in the soup pot requires what we, in our genteel city farmer’s way, call “harvesting”. That doesn’t make me feel like a killer at all. It makes me feel like a responsible chicken owner who has allowed a grown lady chicken to fulfill her natural instinct of sitting on a nest and hatching out adorable little chicks. Usually, half of all eggs being incubated, be it by mommy hen or a brooder of sorts, end up being boys. The egg and chicken industrial complex deals with those little boys swiftly and in a not very human way (I don’t want to get into right now). Let it be sufficient to say that they are not getting to be 2 days old.

baby chick

One day old chick

In our urban farm, we allow mommy to raise those chicks. We help of course, but for the first 6 weeks, mama hen does most of the heavy lifting of baby care. At the 6 week point, things change rapidly, but that is another story. Did I mention that we allow mommy to brood and raise her chicks? What I really meant is that in the past, a couple of hens decided to hide from us to reappear after 3 weeks with their babies in tow.

One of those hens is Rocky. She is either amazing or crazy, or, like so many, a little bit of both. In Spring of 2016, she had disappeared for the first time and I finally found her with 17 baby chicks. When a hen is broody, she barely eats and drinks. She sits on that nest to keep those eggs warm. Usually, the hen will get off the nest only once a day for a short time to seek some water and food and to eliminate. As you can imagine, that 3 week fast is hard on the hen’s body.

Broody hen

Broody hen sitting on nest inside a geranium bush

Rocky is one of our chickens we can’t keep in the enclosed chicken area, no matter what we do. And some of her babies took on that trait. Now, we have the majority of the flock living in a fairly big enclosure, with trees, deep mulching,and compost piles to play in; and we have a few which roam the yard. Some go back and forth. To our dismay, they usually come out of their chicken yard to seek a hidden spot to lay their eggs. Yup, we have egg hunts on a regular basis. Usually, we find their nests, pick up the eggs and leave one behind to encourage them to come back to the same spot – easier for us.

That works well for the most part, but in July, Rocky hid out again and showed up with 8 little chicks. This time, she was much more willing to let me help and the 8 turned out quite tame and are now the first flock of a friend of mine. In the meantime, the gang of 17 has grown up and some of the girls stepped into their moms bad habit of laying their eggs in the yard instead of their nice nesting boxes. I have been finding clutches of sometimes up to 20 cute little eggs.

Hen with 8 chicks

Rocky and her second family of 8

Lately, we have had regular visits of two kind of hawks which made everybody scatter and hide under bushes and trees. So, I didn’t think much about not seeing that many chickens running around. Until I noticed Rocky showing up in the afternoon displaying all the broody hen behaviors. Did I mention that she must be crazy? This is the third time this year! When I see her, I run to give her some extra special treats like meal worms or a cooked egg. I also make sure that fresh water is available and other food for her to fill up on. She is sneaky and I am busy, so I couldn’t watch her to find her nest.

chicken being fed an egg

Special treats for broody Rocky

A couple of days ago, my husband was home and we went on nest hunt together. Rocky was out eating and we found a clutch of 25, yes, 25 eggs under a particularly nasty black berry bush. We were sure we had found her nest and were very surprised when we saw Rocky wander off into a different direction. Anyways, I was happy that she had led us to her nest so I can stop by and offer her at least water on the very hot days we are having.

Back to the 25 eggs. We apparently just stumbled upon one of the laying places of those renegade hens. The egg picker came in handy to retrieve them without getting ripped up by horrible Blackberry thorns. It is really a trash removing tool, but works very well to retrieve eggs from hard to get to areas – which, of course, are the favorite egg laying spaces.

eggs

A clutch of eggs in hiding

When I find random eggs, I always put them in the fridge and then crack them one at a time – preferably outside. The term “rotten egg” in our lingo to describe something/body highly undesirable is not a coincidence. If you ever have smelled a rotten egg, you know why I am cracking them outside.

One egg was marked and left in the nest to entice the hen(s) to come back to a nest we know the location off. Sure enough, my husband saw one of the gang of 17 go back in that spot that evening.

In the middle of the night, I woke up with a start and suddenly felt almost sure that that little girl my husband saw had also been broody and we had just robbed her of all her babies. First thing in the morning, I broke open one of the eggs. Sure enough, there was a little chicken embryo. I had just ended 25 potential little chicken lives. And that did make me feel like a killer.

If you like to find out more about the going ons at Marianne and Jenise’s homesteads, you might enjoy listening to the fall update podcast