Here’s your feel good moment for today – a song written and sung by my husband. Video shot and produced by my daughter. This is a song about the neighborbood we want to see – local, global, and spiritual.
Aronia Berries, also known as Choke Cherries, are a native American fruit. They are full of antioxidents and make great juice. So why don’t more people grow them? Well, for one, they taste puckery/mealy if you eat them fresh. The juice stains your skin. They don’t cook down all that well because of the tiny bitter seeds and skin, and they are terrible dried.
So what do you do with them? I enjoy them two ways:
1. I wash the berries, take off the stems, and put berries in the blender with about 1 part berries to 3/4 parts water. Then I strain and keep the juice, composting the remaining seed/skin sludge. After the juice settles I strain it again to get the second smaller wave of sludge off. I do this over the sink wearing an apron so I don’t stain anything (the stains scrub out of the sink and off your hands eventually). I put the juice in bottles in the fridge and Continue reading →
If you like the idea of having fresh eggs straight from the backyard, but aren’t sure if you’re ready to commit, RentTheChicken.com lets you rent some chickens!
Here’s how they pitch their service:
Thought of Raising Backyard Chickens? Every spring, thousands of chickens are sold at local farm supply stores. Often these chickens die before they are ready to start laying eggs (16-30 weeks). Children quickly realize that chickens are not as fun as the Xbox and parents find out that chickens cannot be house broken! The costs quickly start becoming more and more, then chickens are “sent to the farm”. Other people think about chickens but think they don’t have the space, worry about regulations, or just don’t know what they need. Do you build or buy a coop? Do you buy peeps? How do you raise an egg-laying hen if you buy a peep? Did someone tell you about a heat lamp? It can all be overwhelming and we take the guesswork out of all of the questions by offering a portable coop, the food & supplies, and the egg-laying hens!
Today is the first day of senior year for my son. I’m so excited for what this school year holds for him: a computing systems class, helping one teacher by community mentoring Algebra, and helping a second teacher by making photocopies/classroom assistance, plus a college probability and statistics class and a government/economics class. He’s got early dismissal to continue his paid job working part time at a local computer store.
At this time he doesn’t plan on going to college, but has a thick IT training manual he’s reading and plans to take the certification test. He also has good job and volunteer references from various paid and unpaid computer and tech places. As an honor student he’s got colleges offering him partial academic scholarships, but he doesn’t want to start his work life with college debt – he wants to make money, and when he has money he can decide if and when it would be advantageous to gain more education.
My son is flying in the face of societal norms.
He’s got a clear idea of what he wants and how he plans on reaching his goals. He wants to be a software engineer, and he’s got buddies he’s been creating computer games with for several years. He’s taken classes for fun in C++ programming, taken online computer badge courses, volunteered at Free Geek, has built computers from scratch, and taken business and marketing classes. He’d like to someday start his own company and sell downloads of his games. But he knows that to get where he wants to be, he needs to work hard and learn programming, learn coding, mentor at businesses, be helpful, be open, and enjoy the life he has while creating the life he wants.
My son is unique. He is smart. He is wise. He is kind. It’s amazing watching his mind work to sort things out with his thoughtful, practical demeanor. He’s like a combination tech guy/philosopher.
This idea was the thesis project of Syracuse University Industrial Design graduate Amanda Savitsky. Measuring cups and bowls that are numbered, different colors, and different shapes, so those with autism spectrum disorders (and those just who like artsy cool measuring tools) can more easily follow recipe instructions. The Match Prep Cooking System design teaches linear left to right layout and employs workstations that create structure and routine, two powerful ways to encourage learning for people with autism. There’s even an iPad app that takes cooking preparation tasks and breaks them down into small steps – basically an online cookbook to complement these measuring tools. It doesn’t look like this idea has been manufactured yet, but this video shows the concept in use.
The Chinese name for Schisandra is wu-wei-zi, which means “five taste-fruits” or “five flavor herb” because the fruits contain all five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. Sucking on a dry fruit is an interesting experience because of its many flavors. Chomping into a fresh one you don’t quite get the ending sweet note, so are left with a funny look on your face due to the mouth gymnastics. But the after effect is a zing of energy, at least for me. Maybe it’s just because my taste buds get a good work out.
Since I’m working towards an edible landscape, and this is a berry/vine that grows in the shade, I’ve got it growing next the north side of the house in full shade on a wooden trellis. It’s an easy-care vine, and likes well-drained soil with Continue reading →
Here’s a tarp that can be set up that provides a hassle-free way to collect pure drinking water when camping. The surface can be used not only as a backpacking tarp to add weather protection for your hammock, but it also has a rainwater retention system made up of rain gutters and a suspension system to siphon water out towards the four corners where bottles are attached. When the bottles are full, they pull down the tarp, providing even better protection for the people below. The fabric includes both waterproofing and a heat reflective coating, so if it’s cold and stormy, the tarp can be set up with the reflective side on the bottom, and the dark rain retention side on the top to collect water. If it’s warm and sunny, the tarp can be set up with the reflective side out to help shed some of the heat from the sun. The total system is now available through Kammok.
This urban farm in LA shows how one couple is growing their own fresh vegetables and fruit trees, raising chickens, and composting. They also have a solar food dryer, show how to make your own outdoor emergency toilet using a milk crate, and how to make a stove. Since they live in earthquake territory, these items have been used in the past when the city systems have been down. Many of these ideas can also be used when camping.
There’s a new way to approach the healing of trauma. Collective trauma happens to groups of people through war, disease, terrorist attack, natural disasters, mass shootings, and attempted genocide. Transgenerational trauma takes place in groups historically over generations – such as those whose relatives suffered during the holocaust. Effects are specific: fear, rage, depression, survivor guilt, and physical responses in the brain and body that can lead to illness and a sense of disconnection or detachment. Collective trauma can be transmitted down generations and throughout communities in such possible ways as poverty, alcoholism, depression, sexual abuse, etc.
Our family has worked the reduce/reuse/recycle mantra and gone from weekly to bi monthly garbage collection, and we were feeling pretty good about that. When a neighbor friend of mine said that she has been able to whittle down her family’s garbage collection to only once a month, I was impressed. But thanks to Yes Magazine, this story tells how a family was able to pare down their yearly solid household trash to fit into one quart size jar, plus gives 10 tips to a zero waste household.
Ever wanted to see what a Free Gift Swap or Free Stuff Swap looks like in action? Here’s a video my daughter, then 16 years old, created to show how a Free Gift Swap works:
My daughter Aubrey is now a junior at university majoring in Environmental Science. Yeah, I’m pretty proud of her:) She’s always been very concerned about helping people and the environment (she is a big supporter and helper at the free swaps she’s able to attend), and her university experience has given her a new and exciting window on the world. If you want to help support Aubrey’s education, check out her photography prints for sale here. For more about Free Swaps, and how you can start one in your area, click here.
Why have brown grass when you can be feeding people? This gentleman planted a food forest in the parking strip in front of his house. Neighbors come by to walk the paths. What a great community builder, sharing food, peace, and care. Here’s Ron Finley talking about the Food Forest in his yard:
When our kids were upper grade school they squirreled all over the place – including climbing up the doorway frames and doing flips onto the couch. My sister suggested these were gymnastic moves. So we signed the kids up for a gymnastics class and the rest was history: both kids LOVED it. The kids had dabbled in the usual kids sports, but neither of them liked the competition/stress felt in traditional sports. The gymnastics classes were held in a place called The Children’s Gym, and focused on learning, not competition. Both kids developed self-confidence, body awareness, and no fear when having their head below their body (such as Continue reading →
On a walk through our neighborhood yesterday, I saw a cute wooden box, and inside it was a little free library of books! If you like little things, and you like to read, you might like the idea of installing a little free library near your house for the neighbors to enjoy.
The mission of the Little Free Library:
To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.
To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations
To build more than 2,510 libraries around the world – more than Andrew Carnegie–and then more.
Last mid-week I visited my sister in a small rural town for a few days. We enjoyed visiting with her women friends at her house for a potluck dinner. My sister and I walked through a local forest munching a snack of woodland sorrel and the first ripe salmon berries as we smelled the fresh ferns, and viewed the straggly moss hanging off the vibrant green trees and crumbling nurse logs. We took her small perky dog to a field and my sister combed out copious amounts of the dogs winter undercoat to take off the weight/warmth for spring, allowing the fur to blow through the field to be picked up by birds for their nests. We went to a local teashop for sandwiches, tea and brainstorming. When my sister was at work I journaled, read, and took a hot bath in the quiet privacy of her home. It was bliss. One thing I didn’t do was go online, as my sister’s home has no Continue reading →
Wouldn’t it be great if shovels were easier to use for short people? If you’re a short gardener, you know exactly what I mean – you’re out there with this long handle trying to weld the shovel and you can’t get a good angle or grip. Well, one very innovative company thought to design shovels by a height so they are easier to use. Gardeners Supply HERS™ Shovels are ergonomically designed to maximize women’s strengths and minimize strain, based on research into how women use tools differently than men. The extra-deep step has a non-slip tread to prevent slipping, letting you use your body weight and lower body strength to dig. The shaft and blade angle let you dig and carry soil efficiently. The large D-shaped handle lets you use multiple hand positions and grip the shovel easily with both hands Shovels come in size small for those under 5′ 2″, medium for those between 5′ 2″ to 5′ 7″, and large if you are over 5′ 7″ tall. What a great way to garden and not get as sore from all the shovel work. Plus, it might make it easier for other short people (like kids?) to help a bit more in the garden. For more information, click here.
This 9-year-old boy, known online through his Kid President videos, is a hero in so many ways by encouraging adults and kids alike. Here’s the back-story about this amazing kid, his family, and why his focus is on playing and having fun:
Voice Talent and co-owner of the Hughes/Taylor audio production company.
Encouraging thought leaders (those with innovative and sometimes odd, simple, practical ideas) through Better Ideas Now.
Creating Free fashion, frugal fun through Swap Positive.