Tuesday, February 16, 2016

65 Sustainable Family Changes that Don't Involve Building an Earthship


While this blog mainly focuses on the building of our earthship home, it is becoming increasingly difficult to compartmentalize aspects of our lives as things are growing more and more connected with each sustainable move we make as a family.  Our goal as a family is to continue to work every day toward leading a more sustainable life than the day before.

The exciting thing about the world of sustainability is that there is always more we can do and more we can learn!  The following are all the changes we've made in our household within the past 4 years.  We estimate that these changes have saved us about $10,000 a year!  This list is extensive, I know, but I wanted to have a one-stop blog post for every sustainable, thrifty, healthy change we've made to help anyone else interested in making similar choices.  Be warned though... sustainable choices are ADDICTIVE!  You will soon find yourself talking everyone's ear off about what homemade thing you most recently created all by yourself!

Note: I did my best to keep this list organized and included links as often as possible to recipes and products that we have used and liked.  We do purchase many things off of Amazon and know that this isn't the most sustainable option we could make.  However, doing so makes all of the changes below more achievable with two kids in tow and while building a home!  Please include any changes you've made in your family in the comment section.  I'm always looking for something new to try!

***After having received feedback from someone, I figured I'd include my response to them as I'm sure others are thinking similar thoughts.  Perhaps this will explain where our family is coming from in sharing the information outlined in this post:


 "We're actively taking steps toward that [growing and/or trading for all of our resources]. [However] It is impossible to go from the typical, Western 'American Dream' to off-the-grid living overnight. Because I wrote the post and am living the life you're speaking of, I can tell you that we have very little waste in this household. We fill just a small grocery-sized bag a week with garbage and the rest is composted or reused in some way. There must be a bridge from one lifestyle to another in order for the off-the-grid lifestyle to be attainable. The ways I have listed in our blog post are ways we have made it attainable for our family. Yes, I'm well aware (please refer to disclaimer at the beginning of the post) that purchasing many of our bulk items through Amazon isn't the most sustainable solution. However, as an incredibly busy mother of two who makes everything in my house from scratch and whose husband is quite literally building our home with his own two hands all while working a 40-hour/week job, this is a concession we're making for the time being. We need to start supporting one another instead of nay-saying. We can all do more for the health of our family and environment and need to support any effort toward that ends."

CLEANING
  • Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner
    • Use for cleaning floors, counters, bathrooms, appliances... basically anything and everything!  To make, mix equal parts of the following plus essential oils of your choosing:
      • Distilled white vinegar
      • Water
      • 12-24 drops of your favorite essential oils
  • Concentrated Cleaner
  • Baking Soda (bought in bulk)
    • Great for tough stain fighting on countertops, toilets, sinks, showers, etc.
  • Laundry Detergent
    • I made a bulk amount and put in an old 5 gallon kitty litter container last year.  I use it for all of our laundry (including diaper laundry) and have only gone through half of it.  This will last our family of four (with diaper laundry!) for 2 YEARS!  It cost around $30 to make and took minutes to stir the ingredients together.  
      • 3 boxes Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (55 oz. each)
      • 2 boxes Borax (76 oz. each)
      • 1 large tub of OxiClean Free (96 oz)
        • I use approximately 1-2 tbsp. depending on the size and soil level of laundry for a non HE top-loader.  For diaper laundry, I use about 2 tbsp. per medium load.
        • If you like your laundry to have a fresh scent, you could squirt a couple of pumps of your favorite Dr. Bronner's Soap (diluted).
  • Soap Nuts
    • Another laundry detergent option are (stay with me here...) Soap Nuts.  We have a bag of these too and they utilize NO chemicals whatsoever!  They are the product of the Sappindus Mukorossi tree found wild in North India.  You place 5-6 nuts in a small, cloth bag and keep in your washer.  These nuts can be re-used 7-10 times!  Once we run out of our homemade detergent, we'll work our way through the large bag we bought online.
  • Homemade Dishwashing Detergent Recipe- use 2 tbsp. with each load
    • 2 parts Borax
    • 2 parts Washing Soda
    • 1 part Citric Acid
    • 1 part Kosher salt
    • Essential oils should you desire a scent
  • Soap
    • Hand soap/ dish soap (when doing dishes by hand)/ pet soap/ wash-anything-soap- Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap 
      • Fair trade
      • Organic
      • Lasts our family a year and we use it for everything; diluting it at different percentages based upon what it is being used for.  However, we now dilute it according to the directions below for everything in our home (including our bodies!)
      • You can really get your money's worth by using a foaming dispenser and filling it 1/5th of the way with Dr. Bronner's and the rest with water.  
        • Use this for everything you would use soap or shampoo for!
KITCHEN
  • Homemade Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
    • Instead of buying whole bags of apples to make homemade apple cider vinegar, you can save the cores of the apples you eat (we cut our apples instead of eating them right off the core) in a gallon bag in the freezer.  Once you have a whole bag full, you can make 2 gallons of apple cider vinegar!  We buy a 3 pound bag of apples each week, so it ends up taking us about a month or two to fill a gallon bag.  Because we use raw apple cider vinegar for so many things, this ends up saving us about $30 every couple of months!
    • To save even more money, we purchase our gallon glass containers at the thrift store at about $1.99 a piece.  Glass lemonade dispensers with the spigot are a dime a dozen and work great for these purposes.
  • Homemade Kombucha
    • Several friends of ours turned us on to Kombucha and so instead of buying it at the store for $4 for a tiny bottle, we obtained a scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast... yum!  Seriously though.  So good!) from a friend and started brewing it for ourselves!  We don't drink soda anymore and this replaces it nicely.  You can get the same fizzy goodness for mere pennies not to mention the potential health benefits!  We purchased our glass, swing-top bottles at Aldi for $1.99 a piece (I think...) as they sell many of their drinks in these Kombucha ready containers for less than you can buy them online.  We wash them between batches so you only need to stock up once and you're all set!  
    • There are systems out there you can buy so like anything else, you can spend as much money as you'd like.  We opt for the glass gallon lemonade dispensers that are always at thrift stores as they're inexpensive and perfect for the job.  We have three gallons brewing at any given time as it gives us 750 ml to drink as a family each day!
    • You can buy your scoby online, but you know someone who brews, ask them for an extra as a new one forms with each batch!  (I can provide you one if you live in the Dayton area!)
  • Buying Food in Bulk
    • Thanks to friends of ours who have access to a Frankferd Farms Food Co-Op in the Findlay, OH area, we order our bulk foods through them.  We only began doing this in January 2016 but we're anticipating this saving us about 50% in food costs each year!  We spend a great deal on food as we believe food is medicine.  However, with building our home, we needed to scale back financially.  This food co-op has prices that couldn't be matched by local food co-ops (in the Dayton area).  If you have access to this one, check it out!  When things slow down for us, we'd like to try to get one up and running around us if at all possible.
    • Bulk Organic Tea- Davidson's Organic Teas
      • Buying bulk tea means getting delicious, loose tea for mere pennies a cup!  You get approximately 200-300 cups of tea per pound bag!  A pound of Davidson's tea costs anywhere from $11-15 depending upon the type you prefer.  This is where we purchase our organic breakfast tea to make Kombucha.
    • Bulk Organic, Fair-Trade Coffee
      • We buy our coffee 5 pounds at a time through a local roaster and coffee shop (in Cedarville, OH) by the name of Stoney Creek Roaster's.  They grind if for you if need be and you can purchase online; getting free shipping if you spend over $75!  Prices are anywhere from approximately $40-50 for a 5 pound bag of organic, fair trade coffee.  We've been told that nearly all the coffee they sell is actually organic but that not all of the suppliers could afford the certification.  They are wonderful people to boot!
        • We keep ours in the freezer to keep it fresh until we need it.
  • Homemade Sourdough Bread
    • I learned how to make sourdough with help both from a friend as well as from a video and blog entry in the blog Stone Soup.  This blogger makes approaching the world of homemade sourdough doable and I've had great success with her tips!
    • You can get a FREE sourdough start through Friend's of Carl.  This is where I got mine and it has been vigorous from the start (yay for puns!).  This sourdough start originated in 1847 on the Oregon Trail!  
  • Homemade Sprouted Grain Bread
    • We were spending about $5 a week on organic, sprouted grain bread from the store and in trying to scale back, I looked into our options.  I remembered we had purchased a bread machine at a thrift store years ago and dusted the giant machine off; putting it to good use once more!  It took some experimenting, but I found a recipe that makes soft, sandwich ready sprouted grain bread for about $2 a loaf instead (that's $156 a year!!!).  Recipe follows:
      • 3 C. sprouted grain flour (we use One Degree Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour- 5 pounds for $16.49)
      • 2 T. milk (we use homemade rice milk)
      • 2 T. honey
      • 1 T. organic coconut oil
      • 1 T. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil [EVOO] (we buy the largest container possible at the grocery store as it drops the price significantly!)
      • 1 c. warm water with 2 1/4 tsp. yeast dissolved into it (we buy the glass jar as it costs significantly less than buying individual yeast packets)
      • 1.5 tsp. salt
        • Mix milk, honey, coconut oil and EVOO in bread machine.  Top with flour and salt.  Make a well in the center and add the warm water/ yeast mixture.  
        • Set bread machine for a "RAPID" "MEDIUM" loaf and press "START"
  • Homemade Bread Crumbs- We make veggie burgers each week and go through our fair share of bread crumbs as a result.  We find that we always end up with a couple slices of bread that have gotten too hard at the end of each week and we store all these in the freezer to be ground up as needed. 
    • We purchased a re-furbished Blendtec blender this past year and it does the job with ease.  This machine or one like it comes in handy for the thrifty family as it helps us do everything from grind flour to make soups with ease!  
  • Homemade Rice Milk
    • Using the organic white rice we buy in bulk, we make a gallon of rice milk a week (used for cooking and baking mostly) for about 80 cents!  A gallon of rice milk from the store would cost us about $6 so this comes out to a savings of about $270 a year!
    • A friend mentioned the high levels of arsenic found in rice and so I looked into it.  This applies mostly to the rice grown in the U.S.  The rice we buy in bulk is indeed U.S. grown and so we take extra care to be on the safe side.  We rinse the rice very well before cooking it and cook it "pasta style" with extra water.  Since it simply gets blended up in the end, it doesn't matter to us if it is soggy so this process works well for us!
  • Homemade Vegetable Broth
    • We make a big batch of soup once a week to have on hand for a quick lunch throughout the week.  Thus, buying organic vegetable broth gets expensive!  A cook book I love (Thug Kitchen:  Eat Like You Give a F*ckrecommended saving all onion, carrot, celery and garlic scraps in a gallon freezer bag.  Once full, place in a large stock pot, cover with water, add 1 tsp. salt, a bay leaf or two and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, take off the lid and reduce to a simmer for about an hour.  Strain out the food scraps and compost and use the broth for whatever your heart desires or freeze if you'd like!
  • Cooking Dry Beans
    • We no longer buy canned beans as we buy our beans in bulk and cook them as needed.  A friend recently mentioned that cooked beans can be frozen and so I tried it out and loved the results!  She recommended freezing them in two cup portions (approximately the size of a 15 oz. can) and thawing as needed.  
  • Leftover Storage Containers
    • We now save all glass containers (big and small) with their lids for leftover storage.  We've been working to rid our kitchen of plastic and this has been a huge help.  They make great storage for cooked beans, leftover soups, sauces, etc.  We've also found the small ones (especially baby food containers) to be helpful to store homemade toothpaste, lip balm, creams, etc. in. 
  • Composting
    • Being vegetarian and eating a low dairy diet as well, we find that everything we eat can be composted on some level.  We have three different places to deposit food scraps and they're listed below:
      • Outdoor composting bin- A 5 gallon bucket with lid sits below our sink where we store food scraps and junk paper mail to be placed outdoors when full.  Because we place whole paper into it, I make sure to add lots of liquid to fully soak them before they end up in our pile to help them break down easier.  This is a great way to make use of annoying junk mail and old bills!  We throw away the glossy print paper, however.
      • Vermicomposting-  What's this, you ask?  In short, it is composting with worms that you house in a worm bin of sorts.  You deposit food scraps in their bin once a week or so, cover them with shredded paper, pour some water on top and close it up to allow the worms to eat the contents.  When the bin is full of worm castings (poop that is simply dirt in reality), you can harvest it for use in your garden or on your indoor plants!
        • We bought two pounds of worms for around $40 through Uncle Jim's Worm Farm and they've multiplied to the point where we now have four vigorous bins full of worms working day and night to turn our food scraps into black gold for our garden.  If I had been more vigilant, we'd likely have at least double that but I neglected them for many months last year and so they didn't multiply as quickly as they could have.
        • This makes a great composting option for people who reside in apartments or don't have yard space for outdoor composting.
        • We originally bought plastic storage bins from the store to house our worms, but now rely on thrift store finds to make new homes for our wigglers.  I've found a couple plastic produce bins with holes on the bottom for $2 that make the perfect worm home and require no extra work to get going.  However, like anything else, you can spend as much or as little as you'd like.  They sell intense worm farming systems for hundreds of dollars or you can spend a couple bucks for something that works fabulous as well but isn't as pretty.
      • CHICKENS!  We do eat eggs from our flock as we know they were produced in a healthy, ethical manner and that our chickens are happy and well cared for.  
        • Anything we know our chickens love, we save for them and they LOVE us for it.  This cuts down on feed costs and provides us all with entertainment.  We harvest their manure for use in our garden.
        • We're planning on creating a rotational paddock system for our chickens this upcoming year (once we're under roof, that is) to drastically reduce our feed costs and have our chickens foraging as much of their own food as possible as this is what nature intended.  The following article has tons of great ways to reduce food costs for chickens: 19 Ways to Avoid Pre-Mixed Commercial Feed
  • Homemade Salad Dressing (Best ever!)
  • Homemade BBQ Sauce
  • Homemade Vegan Gravy- Before you judge, try it!!!  Great with the "Chicken" Fried Steak Recipe below.
  • Homemade Seitan- It took many recipes to finally find the perfect "wheat meat" but here it is!
  • Homemade Vegan Protein Bars
    • We were buying protein bars at the store but didn't like the fact that they had like 50 ingredients.  We usually double this recipe and keep in the freezer for a quick snack or breakfast.
  • Homemade Pizza Dough (Our toddler LOVES to help with this one!)
  • Homemade Radish Leaf Pesto (Great on pizza dough above ^)
    • We buy a bunch of radishes each week to slice up for our salad and were pumped to find a way to use the radish leaves.  We usually use whatever nuts we have on hand (almonds and sunflower seeds are our favorite).  We store it in a leftover glass salsa jar in the freezer until needed.  
  • Homemade Beer
    • We are big fans of nice, craft beers but didn't like how expensive it can be!  We started out by buying the supplies (Monster Brew Homebrewing Supplies) and an ingredient kit (Brewer's Best Milk Stout) online and were pleased with the 50% savings making our own provided.  We had a load of empty beer bottles (helps to be building an earthship home) and simply sterilized them for use and purchased caps to cap them.
      • Since brewing our first batch with friends, Zac has gotten more creative and bold and has experimented with tweaking new recipes.  He has come up with a "house beer" (Spiced Stotch Ale) that only costs about 50 cents a beer!
  • Paper Goods
    • Ditch the paper!  We stopped buying paper towels and napkins and just bought more all-purpose, cotton kitchen towels to be used for anything and everything kitchen-related.
  • Gardening- Save on food costs and put those worm castings and regular compost to good use by starting a garden this Spring!  
    • We obtain our heirloom seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds  
      • We built 8 raised beds last year and followed the Square Foot Gardening method to get back in the swing of gardening again.  I would recommend it to get your feet "wet" in the gardening world though the spacing was certainly off for tomatoes and peppers.  Both types of plants need far more space than the book recommends.  All in all though, great way to start your first garden
  • Honey
    • Most cities have beekeeping groups that you can become a part of.  Our local beekeeping group (Greene County Beekeepers Association) offers a 6-week beginning beekeeper course ($40 for residents, $50 for non-residents) that ends with a group order of bees and supplies.  This was a great way for Zac and a close friend of ours to get our shared 2 hives up and running this past Spring!  We haven't harvested any yet, but hope to this upcoming year.
COSMETICS

Disclaimer: I tossed all my makeup shortly after having our first son over three years ago after finding out about the horrific ingredients added to cosmetics.  Given that our skin absorbs EVERYTHING we put on it, I didn't feel it was worth it.  I took it as a self-growth challenge to learn to truly be happy with who I was at a basic level.  I was surprised and saddened with how attached I had been to makeup (especially throughout high school and college years).  The one bit of makeup I still do like every now and then is eye liner and the one I use is listed below.
  • Eye-liner- Biotique Bio Kaajal Nourishing & Conditioning Eye Liner with Almond Oil- $5.95
    • Lasts forever
    • Truly all-natural
    • Deeply pigmented and smudges easily but I don't mind as it lasts forever and takes very little each time I choose to wear it.
  • Nail Polish- Doesn't contain toluene, formaldehyde, and DBP's- Priti Brand
    • This nail polish is expensive (at about $12 a bottle) but that just means it is reserved for special occasions
    • I only linked the products I've used myself and this was given as a gift last year.  I'm sure there are even more cost effective options now as competition is beefing up!
  • Nail Polish Remover
    • Costs about $11 for a 4 oz. bottle and smells divine!
  • Homemade Facial Mask
    • Mix the following ingredients and cover your face in about 1/4 inch of the mixture; leaving it on until dry (approximately 10 minutes or so).  Wash off with warm water.  Leave on less time if you have sensitive skin.
      • 1 part Calcium Bentonine Clay ($16.84 for 2 pounds!  Also used to make toothpaste)
      • 1 part raw apple cider vinegar (see food section to learn how to make your own!)
  • Homemade Lip Balm
    • Takes 5 minutes to make and costs pocket change to make!  I doubled the recipe and put the finished product in the small, glass baby food jars I'd saved.  This should last us about a year as a family!
HAIR CARE
  • "Shampoo"- I (Lauren) have been going the "no-poo (shampoo)" route for the last year and a half and have been loving it!  The idea is that in using shampoo, we are stripping the hair of vital oils that protect it and then have to condition it to add new (often artificial and harmful) conditioning agents back in.  With that said, however, I have dry, curly hair that lends itself well to this "treatment."  I'm not sure how other hair fares with the "no-poo" route.
    • While Zac uses the diluted Dr. Bronner option below for shampoo, I (Lauren) simply use baking soda.  As I said, we buy it in bulk (you can buy 13.5 pounds on Amazon for $16.99!).  I just fill a pint-sized jar with it and end up using about an 1/8 cup to a 1/4 cup mixed with water into a paste to wash my hair.  I've heard that apple cider vinegar can be used in conjunction with baking soda to wash hair but haven't tried it out yet!
    • Diluted Dr. Bronner's Magic Castile Soap (1 part water to 1 part Dr. Bronner's Soap or to your liking)
      • Tip- We buy this soap by the gallon as we use it for everything!  Peppermint is especially invigorating to shower with but we've tried and loved lavender as well.  The gallon costs about $57 and one lasts us about a year.  Read on to learn other ways we use it around the house
  • Conditioner
    • I certainly don't lack moisture in my hair since I have been going without shampoo, but if you have extra dry hair, the following can be used as natural conditioners (if you're one for recipes, I'm sure you could find a plethora on pinterest or similar site):
      • Extra-virgin, organic coconut oil
      • Extra-virgin organic olive oil
      • Eggs
      • Avocados
  • Homemade Flaxseed Hairgel
    • Takes about 45 minutes to make (though 40 minutes are letting it simmer on the stove) and costs about 50 cents to make!  
    • I saved an old hair gel container and 1 batch lasts me about a month!
  • Haircuts
    • I bought some hair cutting scissors used the clippers we had on-hand already and have begun giving my guys their haircuts!  I found THIS video helpful.
    • I still pay to have my hair cut but only do so once a year.  
TEETH
  • Homemade Toothpaste
    • I omitted the Stevia drops cause I'm sweet enough already (okay... that was lame, I know)
    • This takes literally 5 minutes or less to make and costs about around 50 cents!  One batch lasts our family (with three people brushing daily) about three months. 
  • Natural Teeth Whitener- Activated Charcoal
    • Simply dip wet toothbrush into charcoal powder and brush for two minutes.  THIS site has a good explanation.
  • Baking Soda 
    • Fellow coffee drinkers!  Next to our french press, I keep a small jar of baking soda and swish my mouth out with about 1/4 tsp and some water to help prevent tooth discoloration.
SKIN
  • Lotion
    • This may sound gross to some, but we have little need for lotion as we just bathe less frequently (see recipe for deodorant below...).  Our bodies' natural oils nearly entirely eliminate the need for lotion when we allow this to take place.  However, when needed (especially in the winter), we use straight up extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil.  I have some stored in an old honey container mixed with a few drops of lavender essential oils in the bathroom when needed.
  • Sunscreen 
    • I haven't had a chance to make the recipe linked above but plan on doing so soon to prepare for the building season that lies ahead!
ODOR BLOCKERS
  • Deodorant- I subbed in lavender and vanilla essential oils in place of the ones used in the recipe as these were ones we had on-hand.
    • One stick takes about 5 minutes to make and costs about 50 cents!  I made two sticks this past September and still have about 6 months left till we're out meaning a $1 batch will last us 1 year.  Oh, and this recipe actually works!!!  
    • Don't throw out the entire deodorant stick!  Rather, toss the toxic contents and save the plastic dispenser itself to use for your homemade, healthy version.  
    • The high levels of aluminum and unrecognizable, lab-formulated ingredients in deodorant were reason enough to ditch our old store-bought deodorant in favor of the recipe linked above
  • Perfume
    • Homemade Perfume
      • I modified the above linked recipe based on what I had on-hand.  I love the combination of lavender and vanilla and since I also had roman chamomile on-hand, I added it in as well.  I purchased a couple of pretty, cobalt blue roll-ons and filled two with this fragrance (one for my purse, one for my bathroom).
    • Concentrated, essential oil perfume- DoTerra's Whisper Perfume
      • Costs $26.40 but smells AMAZING!  I have two friends who wear it and I'm absolutely in love with the scent.
FEMININE HYGIENE
  • No need to buy pads or tampons again!  Check out the DivaCup instead.
FIRST-AID & WELLNESS
  • Homemade Healing Salve (Like Neosporin)
    • Like all other homemade recipes on this post, costs pocket change to make and takes very little time of actual work to make.  We made a double batch a year ago and won't need to make any in the foreseeable future!
  • Homemade Cough Syrup (this is the one I make)
  • Extra-Virgin Organic Coconut Oil- Can be used as an anti-fungal, for healing wounds and we actually take it by mouth frequently as many say it fights cognitive impairments associated with aging.  
  • Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (with the "mother")- When we feel a cold or illness coming on, Zac and I start doing shots of apple cider vinegar throughout the day.  For preventative reasons, we actually add a tablespoon or two to a glass of water every day to help ward off illness.  The acidity of the apple cider vinegar makes for an undesirable "home" for harmful bacteria and viruses.
    • NOTE:  If you would like to make your own for literally nothing, read how in the "Kitchen" section.
  • Whole Foods
    • We use real, whole foods as natural prevention to illness.  We always have leafy greens, garlic, ginger, lemon, and many other fruits and veggies on hand and will make a potent juice with our juicer to ward off illness if we feel it coming on.  This is also a handy way to get your kids vital nutrients from fruits and vegetables.  We bought the Breville BJE200XL Juicer three years back and love it.  Interested in learning more about juicing? We found the documentary, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead incredibly inspiring!  
  • Essential Oils
    • We find the following essential oils helpful for a variety of "first-aid" uses and love the QUOOZ Lull Diffuser when choosing to diffuse the oils:
      • NOTE:  In looking into essential oils, I was suspicious of the ridiculous high prices of companies such as DoTerra and Young Living.  I'm suspicious of marketing in general and decided to delve deeper before committing to purchase an essential oil kit that would quite literally break the bank for our family.  I don't believe that natural wellness should cost so much and I found that my assumption was correct.  I found this blog post from The Hippy Homemaker incredibly helpful.  Please check it out before dropping loads of money on oils.
      • Tea Tree- we've used this essential oil for congestion, colds, and for cleaning but it has literally hundreds of uses and is one of the best essential oils to have on hand 
      • Lavender- good for relaxation, cleaning cuts, bruises and skin irritations
      • Peppermint- good for headaches, pain and stomachaches/ digestive issues
      • Frankincense- we use it for pain in general.  I used a combination of frankincense and peppermint while in labor and it literally stopped back labor in its tracks.  If natural labor isn't a good test of what works, I don't know what is!
      • Eucalyptus- great for sinus pain and inflammation, coughing and respiratory infections
      • Roman Chamomile- good for stress reduction and calming a fussy baby
    • We have lots of other oils on hand but the ones above are ones we use the most 
BABY REMEDIES & BABY CARE
  • Bathtime
  • Colic, Gas, Bloating- Boiron Cocyntal Colic Relief 
  • Teething- Boiron Camilia Teething Relief
  • Diaper Rash
    • Extra-Virgin Organic Coconut Oil used as diaper rash cream- spread on a thin layer as it acts as an antibacterial, anti-fungal and creates an oily barrier on the skin to protect from further moisture damage
    • Distilled White Vinegar- We mixed white vinegar with water in our baby bath and let our guys soak for about 10-15 minutes while we played with them and this worked like a charm every time.  Most times, it would go away within a couple days of this treatment.  We would use about an 1/8 cup in a baby sized bath.
    • Good 'ole Nakey Time- Another thing that worked like a charm was just letting our guys run around naked as long as we could stand cleaning up after them as the air dried out their rash.
  • Thrush
    • Our thrush cleared up after about a week of the following:
      • Probiotics as prevention and treatment- Our pediatrician recommends probiotics for infants and children and we use the Kyo-dophilus brand as it is shelf-stable.  Our guys take one capsule daily.  Our toddler likes to chew it up (yuck!) and we open up the capsule and mix it with a small amount of water or breastmilk for our littlest guy.
      • White vinegar- After nursing, our pediatrician recommended rubbing white vinegar on the nipple as well as on the inside of the little guy's mouth.  
      • Avoiding "yeasty" foods such as starches and sugars
  • Cloth Diapering
    • We've spent about $250 total in cloth diapers from birth to potty training for both our guys combined.  We purchased most diapers and pre-folds used and bought our nighttime, super absorbent ones off of Etsy.
    • We use cloth wipes which could be as simple as cutting up some old cotton t-shirts and using them with water or a combination of water and organic, extra-virgin olive oil to wipe baby clean
    • Recently, we were told by our pediatrician that there is actually no need to use wipes on a pee-only diaper.  She explained that urine is sterile and can actually be moisturizing.  I admit, I was a bit squeamish at first but she hasn't led us astray yet, so I tried it and haven't looked back since.  Our littlest guy hasn't had a case of diaper rash since and it simplifies the process even more!
GENERAL HOUSEHOLD
  • Candles & Ambiance
    • Traditional candles at stores like Yankee Candle and Bath & Body Works contain ingredients that are potentially harmful and toxic for your family.  And so, we tossed all of our candles and opted for the following two ways of making our home smell delicious!
  • Television
    • Three years ago, we had finally had enough of spending over $100 for cable and got rid of it for good!  We shared a Netflix subscription with family but now use AmazonPrime exclusively.  We bought a subscription last year as we buy many of our household items through them.  This subscription allows you to have free 2-day shipping and many other perks such as free streaming movies and shows!  They have a better selection (we think) and this service only cost us about $90 for the whole year.  This is a savings of at least $1100 for a year in cable costs not to mention the amount of money we save on shipping costs for all the items we buy online.
  • Clothing
    • We buy all of our clothing at thrift stores which means for our growing family, we may only spend $200 a year on clothing for all four of us!  This makes us happy because not only are we saving A TON of money each year, but we're making use of clothing that has already been produced and aren't supporting the unethical mass-production of cheap clothing that exploits impoverished individuals.
  • Household Goods
    • We buy everything we can used either off of Craigslist, at garage sales or at thrift stores.  What we like about this (aside from the fact that it saves us lots of money), is that everything we own has a story and feels like a prize!  It may sound silly, but when we are in need of something and find the perfect used item to fit our needs, we get giddy with delight.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What to Expect When You're Expecting an Earthship

If we weren’t so good at making ourselves laugh, we’d have drowned in our tears by now.

I hope for this blog post to be a general guide for those who plan on building their home (earthship or otherwise) with their own two hands.  The premise is to provide others with a "heads up" so that you know what to expect along the way.

What to Expect When Expecting an Earthship

First Trimester: The Planning Stages

Welcome to the first trimester of your sustainable home build!  You're likely feeling giddy with excitement and cannot wait to meet your future home.  You may be feeling a bit nauseous from all the anticipation but rest assured it will subside by the second trimester (the building phase) and be replaced by a burst of energy along with some newfound aches and pains.

Months 1-4:  You don't know it yet, but a seed has been planted that will forever change the course of your life.  Throughout the years, you've picked up information along the way about the way the world works and you're not about that life.  You intuitively know better.  You know that you don't have to conform and that there must be another way.  You go to your “nine-to-five” job every day, spend little time with family, mow your lawn, buy preservative-filled, pre-packaged foods, and you're exhausted and uninspired.  You're at the end of your rope but you don't fully know why or what could possibly change.  Soon, these gut instincts will come to fruition and the wheels will be set in motion.

Month 5:  By now, you are likely feeling so fed up that you've decided you must do something about it.  You begin to open up to your family about a desire for another life.  A simpler life where you generate your own resources instead of paying a third party to keep you and your family afloat.  You're longing for real connection in your life and are sick of superficial conversations and friendly acquaintances.  You want to feel a part of something and yearn to be interdependent with your fellow man.  You're feeling frustrated though because you don't have a solution.  You simply know something must change.  Perhaps you'll leave the country.  After all, Sweden is a great place to call home!  You could take up a life with a different culture altogether and start fresh somewhere.  Hmmm... What to do, what to do?  You simultaneously think "well, my life isn't bad.  I mean I'm not starving, I'm in relatively good health.  I have shelter.  What more could I want?  Maybe I just need a shift of perspective."

Month 6:  Nope.  Nuh-uh.  Hell to the no!  Can't do it.  Won't do it.  Must do something different stat!  Your family is beginning to give you the stink eye for being a bit stranger than they thought you were.  They nod their heads in approval when you talk about your discontent but give you blank stares all around.  They think, "There’s nothing wrong with the American dream!  We've made so much progress!  What's not to love?"  You pick up on their feelings and so, you begin talking to those like-minded, "peculiar" friends you have instead and you begin scouring the internet for ideas of an alternate life.

Month 7:  By George, you've got it!  You'll build an earthship home!  It makes perfect sense and your future seems bright for the first time.  The grass is the greenest of greens.  The sky is the deepest of blues.  The world is your oyster and dammit, you're going to make the most of your time on this earth.  You are going to be a proud owner of an earthship home!  You can hardly stand it and begin spending every waking moment thinking about it.  You find it hard to sleep though because your worldview is expanding.  You're seeing everything in a new light. Nothing can stop you now!

Month 8:  By now, your earthship is growing more and more with each passing day.  Your sleep is disturbed as you can't stop thinking about how you're going to make this all happen.  How much money will I need to begin?  Can I really build it myself?  Will I be a good earthship owner?  What phone calls do I need to make so that I can begin setting things in motion?  Nausea usually begins to set in at this point in your earthship pregnancy as you are starting to grasp how many stones lay unturned in your endeavor and how many to-do's you must now find a way of packing into your daily life along with working your ho-hum job, taking care of your family and keeping up the appearance of your home [that you now couldn't despise more for being a time-suck].

Month 9:  You begin obsessively watching YouTube videos about earthship building in your spare time and while on-the-job.  You secretively steal away to your office/ cubicle/ bathroom to watch whatever you can about alternative, sustainable building techniques.  Your appetite is ravenous for knowledge about this life you have chosen to lead and so when you get home, you ignore the appearance of your house and binge on Netflix documentaries like Garbage Warrior, Food Inc., Tapped, More Than Honey, and begin connecting the dots that were once gut instincts.  This increases your nausea though because you're even more totally disgusted with the American Dream than ever before.  You're finding it difficult to hold superficial conversations with co-workers, family and friends and spend the majority of your time in your off-the-grid fantasy life.

Month 10:  You've become vegetarian if not vegan at this point, especially after viewing all those documentaries and are eating better than ever before.  Your mind and body are sharp but nausea still persists as you are still stuck in this old life!  On the agenda for this week is to call a Realtor to begin looking at land for sale.  Also, look into obtaining a loan if need be and getting your finances in order.  Earthships may be made of junk and dirt, but they still cost money my friend!  This week, your family will likely sit you down and share their concern for your mental health and overall well-being.  They “love you” they say, and are hoping that you are making the right decision for your family.  With a wild grin, you share far too much information about your dream home and watch them glaze over.  They are more concerned now than ever.

Month 11:  This month, you look for land with your Realtor; searching for your perfect patch of heaven.  The nausea is beginning to subside as you begin visualizing yourself in your home and allow yourself to truly get pumped up for the ride that lie ahead!  On the agenda this month is to find a free-thinking architect who knows what an earthship is and is up for the good fight that lie ahead.  This path isn't one for the faint of heart, Dear One.

Month 12:  This month marks a turning point for your earthship fetus.  You've found your perfect land!  You've put in an offer and it has been accepted.  You begin doodling incessantly at work; trying to figure out the perfect layout for your home.  You are speaking to your architect more than your mother at this point and all the garbage you used to pay attention to has gone by the wayside.  Your lawn is atrocious and you're getting nasty looks from neighbors.  Your friends and family think you've died or run off and joined a cult.  You are blowing up Facebook with all things Earthship/ off-the-grid life.

Month 13:  You've received a rough draft of your earthship home drawings from your architect.  You get the phone call from him/her and plow through everyone and everything in your path to the nearest computer where you bring up the drawings for the first time.  You have heard your earthship's heartbeat and you breathe a sigh of relief. This. Is. Really. Happening. You open up another tab in your internet browser and "share" "the news" with all your social networking followers.  You've "come out" to everyone in your virtual world!  It's on like Donkey Kong, Ladies and Gents.

Second Trimester- The Building Phase

Month 14:  Since you've finally "come out" to those in your world, "raised your freak flag high," and begun embracing everything that is your earthship future, your first trimester earthship pregnancy symptoms are easing up.  Everyone in your life has been introduced to your authentic self and you are on fire!  To do's this month include firming up your earthship drawings with your eccentric, awesomely progressive architect and learning all there is to know about your county's residential building requirements.  If you're lucky enough to live in a "no-man's land" where regulations are lax if not absent altogether, consider yourself a seriously lucky person.  If you live in a more populated, highly regulated county, pick up a chainmail suit next time you hit up the renaissance supply house because you'll need it for the battle ahead.  While bed rest may be necessary for sanity's sake, you won't have that opportunity.  Earthships are the most demanding type of child you could ever be pregnant with and you will simply have to push even harder when the going gets tough.

Month 15:  Your drawings are ready and you've hopefully begun sourcing used tires from local tire dealers.  Uh-oh!  You still have to obtain your Beneficial Use of Tires Permit from the good 'ole Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as your building permit in order to start construction in month 18 so you'd better get a move on, my friend!  Now that friends and family have a general understanding of what you're hoping to do, they're starting to ask some of the more logistical questions.  “So, are you going to be pooping in a bucket now?”  “Will you have electricity?”  “Is your floor going to be made of dirt?”  “What will you do in the winter when it gets cold?”  You politely inform them that you aren't opting for a third-world residence and will have all the same amenities as they do.  Your home will generate them, however, and you will have freedom to live life as you see fit instead of going to a nine-to-fiver to pay corporate overlords the toll to simply stay afloat.  Sadly, they still don't truly understand and picture you living more like Mick Dodge; running around the forest with unkempt, wild hair with only animal hides and furs to protect your skin.  You can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when they “get it” as they tour your gorgeous home for the first time!

Month 16:  This month, you’ll see your sweet lil’ earthship home in black and white on the final drawings you’ll be submitting to your county for approval (or not if you’re one of the Lucky Ones).  You’ll head to Kinko’s, print them out and immediately rush to the county with that stupid, wild grin you’ve had on your face since this whole earthship thing started taking form.  As you slide the drawings across the counter, you imagine confetti raining down from the heavens, a roar of applause from a crowd of county employees who quickly hoist you upon their shoulders; parading you about the building department with pride and admiration all the while with Earth, Wind, and Fire’s Celebrate playing in the background.  Instead, you get that familiar stink eye from the front desk employee as she dares you to speak one more word, let alone continue grinning like the Cheshire cat.  You stop yourself from going into lengthy details about your sublime Earthship baby-on-board and cowardly look away and put your head down to dodge the mind-bullets she’s been shooting at you since you walked in.

 In addition to submitting your home drawings, it is also time to submit your “Beneficial Use of Tires” application to the EPA so you can save tires from a landfill.  Now, if you were building a rifle range backstop out of tires (built almost in the same fashion as an earthship), you wouldn’t be required to submit anything more than a “heads up” to the EPA.  Perhaps this is because they deem the stereotypical “gun-wielder” as more responsible than the hair-brained hippy you appear to be.  They imagine you’ll give up halfway through and that your land will look like an illegal dump site that ends up yet another piece of paper on their desk to deal with.  Little do they know, you’ve got the wherewithal of a cockroach and can withstand anything life throws at you!

Month 17:  This month, you begin to put together your earthship nursery by prepping the build site.  You make sure that your earthship’s “bed” is perfectly level and stable so that it has the foundation for a fruitful, prosperous life.  You have started the first of many Facebook and social networking “shout-outs” for volunteers and you get tons of positive feedback from people in your circle.  Your siblings, parents, and some select friends say they’ll be there the first weekend of tire pounding and you feel abounding love and support. Perhaps they’re starting to “get it” after all!  Maybe they’ve seen the light and understand what you’re all about!

Month 18:  Your earthship child will begin to take shape before your very eyes this month.  Its skeletal system is taking form and is truly a labor of love.  Your very own blood, sweat and tears are going into its formation and as a result, you’re eating more than ever this month.  After all, it takes a lot out of you to create such a masterpiece!  The community is likely rallying around you at this point and you have many people out to help that very first weekend.  You’re full of energy this month as you’re invigorated by the troops rallying your progress!  Everyone says they will be back time and time again and you feel as though you’ll be taking up residence in your earthship home in no time.  Your county has begrudgingly approved your building plans as you have an architect’s stamp but they secretly assume it will look just like the pile of junk it is being made out of.  They are very curious about your build and hope it will work out but again assume that because you are a peace-loving, plant-eating, hippy-dippy-do-da that you don’t have the elbow grease to make it a reality.

Month 19:  You have around 1,000 tires to pound to complete the tire foundation portion of your earthship skeleton and have only pounded 100.  You are completely overwhelmed now as you are beginning to grasp what it will truly take to bring your earthship baby into this world.  You wonder if you have what it takes to make it to through the delivery alive.  At this rate, you won’t have the tires completed for another nine months and winter is set to begin in six.  You begin to think, “What have I gotten myself into?”  This is going to take a LOT longer than anticipated!  The family, friends and community supporters who were helping out have already ceased almost entirely as only crazy people would pound dirt into tires in their spare time.  You find yourself crying at the drop of a hat and feel a lack of motivation as muscle fatigue sets in.

Month 20:  You have chosen to move your target move-in date back another year or so already and are now simply pushing to have the tires completed by the first snow-fly.  You are feeling a burst of energy as you feel this goal is much more feasible.  You begin aggressively recruiting fellow odd-balls and gluttons for punishment who find enjoyment in ramming dirt into tires and have some regular help at the build site.  Your family is beginning to ignore your Facebook invites for another “fun-filled weekend” with tires and dirt and you begin almost exclusively associating yourself with your architect, the three people who show up to your earthship’s nursery to help out and the EPA employee who has been assigned to watch you like a hawk.

Month 21:  You only have two layers (of nine total) completed in your earthship home and depression and lethargy begin to take over.  Due to increased stress, you are likely to develop a serious illness during this month and your cars, tractor, refrigerator and air conditioner will all break down on your at the same time.  Your house will become overrun by flies because you aren’t able to do any dishes and food is rotting away at a steady pace.  It is possible, flames will engulf your current residence because that’s the s*** that happens when you choose to build an earthship yourself.  Oh yeah, and you will also have to put down your beloved family pet.  You feel like death and everything is caving in on you.

Month 22:  Things are looking up this month as a new volunteer comes straight from the gates of heaven; peeing rainbows and pooping sunshine.  They remind you why you are doing what you’re doing and ensure that you are on the right path.  This person will be your Earthship Doula; assisting you throughout the latter months of your earthship pregnancy and throughout the delivery process.  They are just as crazy as you (if not entirely off the deep end) and are just what you needed.

Month 23:  Due to the support from your Doula, you now have three total layers of your earthship’s skeletal system formed and are more than halfway through your fourth.  You haven’t spoken to family for months now and many of your more conventionally-minded, conservative friends have abandoned you entirely; considering you too much of a social liability.  After all, you can no longer speak superficially and delve right into topics that make people uncomfortable: politics, money, and religion.  You have lost all ability to socialize in a politically correct fashion and are beginning to see mainstream Americans as the crazy ones; all the while appearing more and more lost to those people.

Month 24:  It is likely that equipment integral to continuing to form your earthship fetus has broken down yet again but be patient Dear One as you’ll get there… one day.  The leaves are beginning to change and holiday decorations are out in stores.  It’s bittersweet to know that your earthship fetus will go into hibernation for the winter months now and you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that you won’t be getting into your earthship home anytime soon.

Months 25-28: Just as you enter into the third trimester of your earthship pregnancy, your earthship fetus’ growth has been halted almost entirely.  Did you know that it takes more energy to create an earthship baby than it does a human fetus?  So be sure to take this time to rest up and begin to build up connections with long-lost family and friends to ensure you still have humans in your life when your earthship is complete.  It may seem that other humans will be null-in-void when you have your earthship home taking care of your every basic need but rest assured, other humans, especially those who are like-minded, are necessary to a well-rounded existence!

Third Trimester:  The Roadkill Stage

Month 29:  The ground is thawing, and so you revisit your earthship's nursery to spruce things up a bit before its growth continues.  You’ve spent the last several months resting your mind, body and spirit to prepare for the pregnancy phases that lie ahead.  You’ve rounded up a gaggle of like-minded, dirt-sledging folk to help kick off the growth of the last half of your earthship skeleton and so progress is fierce and steady this month.  You complete two more layers of your fetus’ skeletal system this month and are showing no signs of stopping!  THIS. IS. THE. YEAR.  You will be in your dream home by the end of this year as you have last year’s knowledge and experiences under your belt and no one can stop you!

Month 30:  It’s raining, it’s pouring, your earthship fetus is drowning…  Nothing can prepare you for an entire month of rain and there you sit inside, separated from your earthship baby-to-be drowning in your own tears while your baby drowns in the rainwater you’d like to be harvesting from your COMPLETED earthship home.  Never in earth’s existence has there ever been so much rain in one month!  A new record has been established.  Bravo, Mother Nature, bravo.

Month 31:  The rain has finally stopped, my friend.  You’re full speed ahead once more and new earthship support people arrive just in time for the final push in completing the skeletal system.  At this point, your hunger and thirst for “earthship porn” has been fully quenched and you avoid any pictures, stories, videos of completed earthship homes like the plague.  In fact, you throw up in your mouth a little anytime anyone shares anything earthship-related with you on social networking sites.  You are likely feeling as though you’re never going to actually birth this earthship fetus and that it will forever constipate the fruitful, free life you had imagined for yourself.  Despite the disgust, you somehow pull strength from the depths of your tired soul to continue charging ahead and complete the skeletal system this month.

Month 32:  Now that the skeletal system is finally complete, you can focus on forming the organs of your earthship home.  This month, you will install and bury the cisterns and lay all the necessary framework so that the slab can be poured next month.  At this point, everything is moving quickly and your faith is restored that you will be under-roof in time for winter!  Since the tires are complete, all that’s left is fairly traditional building techniques and how hard can that be?!

Month 33:  Growth is steady but you’re beginning to feel the third trimester fatigue and are beginning to waddle from the damage done to your body throughout this pregnancy.  You look in the mirror this month and notice more gray hairs on your head and more wrinkles on your face.  You have more callouses on your hands and feet than your primate cousins.  You have the appearance and odor of roadkill.  Your hair is wild, your eyes even wilder but your biceps.  Yes, your biceps have never been plumper, firmer and stronger.  You might give off the impression of a horse needing to be put down, but dammit, you are one strong, vital, decrepit, smelly, Trojan horse!  Strangers begin to avoid you from this period in your pregnancy on mainly due to your appearance and stench.  The same goes for family.  The only people by your side are those like-minded, wild-eyed, hairy, smelly, peace-loving, hippy-dippy-do-da friends that will become your makeshift family when some blood relatives decide to denounce you once and for all for your far-out views, beliefs, opinions and overall way of life.

Month 34:  You’re over it.  So over it.  People keep telling you you’re “oh so close” to being under-roof and delivering this baby but you don’t believe it.  You can’t.  At this time, you likely suffer from a real, clinical condition called Post Traumatic Earthship Disorder [PTED].  You find it difficult to sleep due to nightmares about your demise.  You’re constantly looking over your shoulder waiting for your tractor to break down, for serious illness to overtake you, for the EPA to find fault with something you’re doing, for your neighbors to report you for something.  You find it difficult to trust anyone who affiliates themselves with “mainstream” America.  Anytime you see a missed call or receive a piece of mail from a county or government agency, you assume your earthship build will come to a grinding halt.  But there is help, Plagued One.  FINISH. THE. DAMN. HOME.

Months 35-40+:  Because your Earthship Doula is such a positive influence, he/she is able to guide you through the rest of your earthship’s bodily formation.  He/she keeps you smiling when you’re losing it, knows just when to crack inappropriate jokes, and when to tell you to take a hike and take time away.  Fortunately for you, the nesting phase begins nearing month 37 and you find it within yourself, with frozen snot stuck to your already disheveled face, to finish the shell of the Damn Home and give birth.  The delivery is anything but swift and your earthship baby is in the breech position.  Forceps are needed to pull it from your sweat and blood soaked body, but you look into its windows and fall absolutely, unequivocally in love.  You’ve felt nothing like this before and are overcome with gratitude to all the people who have assisted you throughout this process.  You sing the praises of your earthship Doula and know you couldn’t have done it without him/her.

Family and friends whom you’ve lost contact with phone you to come and see your earthship baby.  While initially, you couldn’t wait to show it off to the world, you now become possessive and protective.  You want your sweet earthship baby all to yourself.  No one else could possibly know what it took to bring this home to fruition and so, with the wildest of eyes, you shut the door to the world and enjoy the beauty that is your earthship home.  Where you were once speaking maniacally about your earthship baby-to-be, speaking itself has come to a grinding halt.  You communicate via guttural noises and swift, jerky movements.  You look like a hermit at this point after all and so you spend several weeks filling those shoes with ease.  You may be a mere shell of who you once were, but you have the shell of an earthship to show for it.

Congratulations earthship parent!  You should be beaming with pride!  Now, go shower, ‘kay?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mushy Bananas: Earthship Problems

Fact:  I LOVE the spotty, slightly mushy bananas that no one else seems to have a penchant for.  I feel this says a lot about me.  I haven't always had a taste for them though.  Rather, it was acquired as I cannot seem to eat bananas fast enough.  I could be like many others and toss them when they start to turn, but I can't fathom the thought of wasting them so down my gullet they go.  If they have turned nearly completely brown, then I make banana bread out of them or if I'm feeling lazy, I'll toss them to our chickens.  All of the above options make me happy and all of the above options I can live with.

Our earthship build has thrown one spotty, mushy banana after another at us since we began in April 2014 and I'm proud to say we've eaten them all and have acquired a taste for whatever life has decided to toss our direction.  You can peruse past posts to see what heartaches I'm talking about but to be clear: THERE WERE A LOT! 

Last week, another was thrown at us when we were informed that several residents of our town felt our home-in-progress was an eyesore.  Someone actually thought we had stopped working on the home altogether because they didn't feel we were moving quickly enough.  Now, this isn't the whole story, but we don't feel the internet a place to fully air out our laundry and so I shall cut to the point.  We were essentially given a bit of a shove to get under-roof as quickly as possible or our present life would have to change drastically.

Part of the dream behind building our earthship home was doing every single bit of it ourselves.  Zac is one of the handiest, most determined, clever people I know and so after hearing this news, we were both quite devastated because we knew that "our dream" as we had imagined it was about to slip from our grasp.  We knew that if we hoped to be under-roof in time for winter and if we wanted to appease the individuals who weren't pleased with our progress, that we needed to kick it into high gear and be done with the shell of our home once and for all.  The first step in this direction was explaining our earthship dream home and the process that goes along with building such a home to all of our nearest neighbors in the hopes of winning them over.

And so, after sobbing together for literally a couple of minutes and allowing a small pity party to take place, Zac and I packed the family in the car and knocked on neighbors' doors sharing with them how our home-to-be is different from the typical stick frame homes being tossed up in suburbs everywhere.  We had to show them the family whose lives were being affected by complaints and explain how hard we had actually been working on our house despite the fact that progress from their point of view wasn't apparent.  We weren't trying to conduct a witch hunt and weren't concerned too much with exactly who had complained and we wanted to ensure that came across.  More than anything, we felt we must not have done a good enough job sharing our process and progress with our neighbors.  Fortunately, everyone appeared to respond positively and were comfortable with allowing us to proceed how we had been and so came the next step: Figuring out how we were to work more quickly than we had been.

Interestingly enough, when we received this news, Zac was only just beginning his first day of his month-long hiatus from work.  We had decided in the spring that he would take off one month to hyper-focus on our home and so this news put a bit of a damper on our spirits as I'm sure you can imagine.  After winning over our nearest neighbors (or seemingly so), we spoke at more length with our families about the matter and were given the option of borrowing money to help us work more quickly.  We had turned this down in the past as we wanted to do each bit ourselves, but with mounting pressure from the powers that be, we decided to take the loan and begin contracting some of the steps out to ensure we were under-roof by winter.

The last two days of this past work week were consumed with phone call after phone call attempting to work out the details on various aspects of our home.  We made tremendous progress this past weekend in getting the trench dug out for our cisterns, placing and plumbing the cisterns and laying out and grading all of the gravel before the plumbing was put in (to occur this week).  The next steps will be pouring the foundation, bond beam and footer, framing the home, installing windows and roofing the home.  We're still trying to iron out some key issues but feel confident they will be worked out in time for us to move into our home and spend the winter months working on the interior.

Adding a layer of sand as an even base for the cisterns to be lowered in

Laying and grading the gravel in preparation for plumbing and concrete

Zac raking out the gravel

2 of 3 1,700 gallon cisterns in their final resting place.  To be buried into the berm in the back of our home.

Finished!!!





If we had received this news a year ago, I feel we would have been paralyzed with sadness, uncertainty and fear.  We may not have known how to proceed.  This year, we allowed ourselves to be ruled by the negative emotions for only a few literal minutes before jumping into action mode while at the same time determining the worst case scenario and how we could make that work if necessary.  Now I'm not trying to pat ourselves on the back but I truly have never been prouder of our family.  Okay, so I guess I'm kind of patting ourselves on the back.  We chose to channel our collective energy as a family in a positive direction and with our immediate action, we were notified that we could proceed as we had been as long as serious progress was underway.

And now, not even a week later, I'm pleased to say that we are now happier than we have ever been as a family and feel reinvigorated by the negativity we received.  We know that while the next steps won't be completed in the manner we would have liked, we will be under-roof even faster than originally planned and are surrendering ourselves to the process.  In fact, with each hurdle we've come across, as long as we continued to keep pushing forward, we've found that we've become immensely stronger.  There's just something powerfully fantastic about continuing to overcome barriers despite the naysayers.  Are we stressed?  Sure.  But we really have never felt more alive or more connected as a family than we do today.

Building an earthship is a tremendous journey but certainly not one for the fainthearted.  Expect the worst but keep your head up.  If you're interested in building one, this may burst your bubble a bit, but I think you must develop the makeup of a cockroach to withstand all the rotten bananas thrown at you when you choose this path.  Five years ago, we would have likely thrown in the towel after the first major hurdle.  This year, we gladly eat all the mushy bananas.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tire Foundation of our Earthship Home Complete! Onto French Drain and Adobe Pack-Out

It's been quite some time since I've provided an update on our home, so I will recap the past 2 months of our earthship build.  We were dumped on by the rain gods for several weeks in June which halted our progress on the home.  Instead, we took it as a sign that we needed to spend time together as a family and also work to make some overall improvements around the ole' homestead.  Zac and Elliot dug out a pond on our land in a matter of one weekend in order to gain more dirt for our build and the lovely pond is shown below.  It is even equipped with a private, exclusive "Duck Island" for Tanisha and Dewey, our Pekin ducks.  Now if only they'd stop identifying as chickens (we raised them all together) and begin taking advantage of their new digs...



The inside of our home was quite flooded due to the rain so we chose to invest in a water pump so that we could keep the build site dry to prevent erosion.


Our earthship has been providing us with a sense of community with like-minded individuals who come out to volunteer and end up becoming family.


All of the tires finally in place on July 17, 2015 and the celebratory spirit was palpable!


Is it weird that I've developed a serious love of photographing tires throughout this process?  They really are stunning!


Zac putting his squirrely Father's Day present to good use in pounding the LAST tire of our earthship build.  Just in case choosing to build an earthship wasn't a big enough signal that we had lost our minds...


Anthony, our good friend, hand-packing the last tire of our earthship build.  He stopped by last July due to an interest in earthship construction and has been a member of our earthship family ever since.  We are so very grateful for his friendship and the unrelenting positivity he surrounds us with.


The family minus Eivin working on the last tire of our home.  That kid needs to step it up a notch.  He may only be 3 months old, but he needs to start pulling his weight!


American Gothic earthship style.  Getting ready to begin the next phase of our earthship build: The French Drain!  Due to the high water table of our land, we will be installing a french drain around the inside of the perimeter of our home to ensure that water won't dampen our earthship lifestyle.


Anthony, Kate and Zac ensuring the correct placement of the french drain before breaking ground.  We invested in a transit this year and it has made our build go much more smoothly.  We wish we had purchased one at the start.  It was costly but absolutely worth it to ensure that everything was constructed up to snuff.


Our architect, Matthew Stanfield from FiELD9: architecture in Mansfield, OH came out with his family to help us in mid- July.  We are incredibly fortunate to have found him and we would highly recommend his services if you are in the market for building a home with sustainability in mind.


I was seriously beginning to question my sanity near the end of July as taking care of a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old who were both in high-needs stages was wearing on an already frayed and weathered mind.  My mother-in-law offered to watch our older guy so that I could get some things done.  Instead of tackling my personal to-do's, I got outside and worked on digging the french drain trench with Zac.  Is it sad that we had the GREATEST time ever digging a trench together?  Seriously.  An expensive night out has nothing on the joy we felt working together and actually talking for the first time in months.  Throughout building our earthship home, we have ended each night talking about our respective days and what tasks needed completed that week.  Usually, we'd get some brief moments within those conversations that were centered on how lucky we felt to be pursuing our dreams but these would always be short-lived due to a crying child or simply because our bodies were crying out for sleep.  While digging, we took note that this year of our earthship build just felt different than the last.  We felt more optimistic and more energetic and truly believe that 2015 will be the year that we're under-roof!  


This past weekend (August 1st and 2nd) marked another next phase of our earthship build: The Adobe Pack-Out Stage.  The interior walls of earthship homes don't have exposed tires because of off-gassing and flammability issues.  Thus, the voids between the tires are first packed with a layer of adobe (1 part sand, 1 part fine dry dirt, a handful of straw and some water to achieve the right consistency).  The adobe should be thick and moist and have the ability to stick to the tire wall with ease.  Aluminum cans are crushed into the adobe to take up some space which reduces the amount of adobe needed to fill the voids.  Once that has dried, another thick layer of adobe is added to bring the tires more level with one another.  It isn't imperative to achieve anything close to perfection in this stage of building out the wall. This stage simply helps finishing the walls later on go more smoothly.


Everyone had their own techniques for applying the adobe.  Interestingly enough however, many people eventually found it was most advantageous to adopt the bowling approach.


Another version of the bowling approach as demonstrated gracefully by Wyatt.  You were a swan in a past life, my friend.


The day couldn't have been more gorgeous.




Taking a break.


Elliot fetching some sand with Kate.


Wyatt, Elliot and Zac applying the second layer of adobe to our tire wall.



Elliot was all about the adobe pack-out portion of our earthship build.  Fortunately for him, the process will continue this upcoming weekend (August 8th and 9th).  If you're interested in coming out to learn the skills to build an earthship home, we'd love to have you out!  Not only do you get to learn sustainable building skills for free, but we will provide food for FREE to boot!  Oh, and entertainment comes with the territory so be prepared to get your weekly dose of weird.  If you'd like to come out, send us an email so that we can plan to have food for you.  We begin working both Saturdays and Sundays at 9:00 AM and finish off each day around 5:00 or 6:00 PM.  The address is 2687 S. River Rd., Cedarville, OH 45314.