“Just Buy a New One”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “just buy a new one”, “if you want it just buy it”, or “you have the money, just buy a new one”. Yes, we are fortunate that we are in the position to afford to buy things when we want or need them, but I believe a big part of that is because we often refrain from doing so. And it’s not just the money. I try to save things from going to the landfill so soon if they can be repaired, and oftentimes the effort I put in to making things new again is so rewarding. Here’s a look at my most recent project. Hopefully it will inspire you to freshen up or repair something around the house and save yourself a trip to the store (and save you from filling up your garbage can this week). 

Baby Sleeper Repair

Our little one has been crawling around like crazy and he likes to use his big toes to push off. I love that he finds so much joy in speeding across our floors, however he has been wearing holes in all the feet of his sleepers. 

The foot on the right side of this picture has already been repaired, but you can see the nice big toe hole on the left


I tried just repairing the home itself on a previous sleeper, but as these years are more like runs you aren’t left with much material or a very nice look at the end. This time I decided to replace the “toe plate” entirely, and used some scrap denim. There’s no way he’s digging a hole again!

I turned the sleeper inside out and unstitched the entire piece that was torn, using the piece I removed as a template. 

Unstitch toe piece of sleeper foot with the tear

Pin unstitched piece to denim and cut out shape

New denim piece ready to add to sleeper foot

 

I then turned the sleeper right side out and figured out how I needed to pin my new piece. Pinning it lightly in place I turned the sleeper back inside out and pinned the piece properly in place. 

Use the unstitched piece to figure out how to attach the new piece


Using a tight zig zag stitch attach new toe piece


Using a zigzag stitch (I use width 5 and length 1) stitch new piece onto sleeper. Once attached turn sleeper back right side out and enjoy it good as new!


What kind of projects have you taken on to freshen up an old item and save yourself from buying a new one? What a great Buy Nothing/Zero Waste project to finish off this month’s challenge!

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Indoor Gardening

Every year for the past seven years we’ve been starting seeds indoors and transplanting them to our gardens once the weather warms. Our season is pretty short here in Ottawa, Ontario, and so getting a head start is always key. Every year we make a few changes based on successes and failures, and this year I’m much happier with our set up and progress. 

We started some tomatoes and peppers the first weekend in March, and although some are “leggy” most are coming along nicely. Everything that was started in those pre-fab seed pods did very well, and our makeshift seed pods made out of seed mix and egg cartons didn’t fare so well. I still haven’t figured out whether it was the mix or the seed that was the problem (red pepper saved from last season). They’ve all now been repotted into bigger pots (4 weeks after start date once the second leaves had arrived) and are doing quite well. 

March-started plants in far corner (#1-5) in black pots and Tims cups and April-started plants in closest corner coir pots (#7-8)


 There is also a mix of plants started the first weekend in April, and as the March plants don’t seem to be too far ahead of the April ones I may wait until April next year to start everything. We only have one small grow light (desk lamp) with our set up right now, and with a west-facing house the plants don’t get enough light to make much of a difference in starting early I don’t think. 

April-started tomatoes (#8-10)


I also started some more plants this weekend, including broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, a variety of fun peppers for the deck (oooh, aurora pepper!), and some ground cherries and garden huckleberry. 

Gotta love our upcycled roast chicken container greenhouses


I’m also hoping to get some peas into the soil next to the garlic that has sprouted (half of it on the warm side of the garden, anyways) and start some kale in the cold frame. 

Summary of plants started to date (or survived thus far):

  1. Tiny Tim Cherry Tomato (3$
  2. Whippersnapper Cherry Tomato (1)
  3. BRANDYWINE Tomato (3)
  4. California Pepper (3)
  5. Banana Pepper (2)
  6. Red pepper (0)
  7. Yellow Tomato (2)
  8. Indigo Rose Cherry Tomato (3)
  9. Chocolate Cherry Tomato (3…2 look dodgy)
  10. Roma Tomato (3)
  11. Broccoli (2)
  12. Brussel Sprouts (2)
  13. Early Copenhagen Cabbage (2)
  14. Little Fingers Eggplant (1)
  15. Aurora Pepper (1)
  16. Red Bell Pepper (2)
  17. Tomatillo (1)
  18. Bulgarian Carrot Pepper (1)
  19. Red Cherry Bomb Peppers (1)
  20. Nil
  21. Garden Huckleberry (1)
  22. Ground cherry (1)

A few more weeks and we’ll be outside!

Earth Day A-ha!

How has your Earth Month beeen going? We’ve had a pretty successful one, trying to be more cognizant of our waste, repurposing or reusing more, and connecting with our neighbours in a gift economy. We’ve also been able to organize and declutter which is always refreshing in the spring. 

Yesterday was Earth Day, and to celebrate I participated in The Great Diaper Change, an international event wherein as many people as possible change the cloth diaper on their little ones all at the same time. It was a nice day to connect with other cloth-minded mamas and to scope out a used diaper sale!! (I was good and didn’t buy anything, although I did win a diaper!)

I also had a big Aha! moment yesterday in regards to our garbage and composting situation. As part of thr Buy Nothing – Zero Waste Challenge we are producing much less garbage every week. This means that, because of our current set-up I have to stoop to fill our compost bin under the sink all the time, and I’m rarely opening our kitchen garbage which is much more accessible. 

White kitchen garbage on the left, blue recycling bag, and small brown compost bin


My big realization yesterday was to reverse the garbage and compost, so now we can add compost to a paper bag in the “kitchen garbage can”, and I only have to stoop to tuck garbage into the small brown bin occasionally when we have stuff that can’t be composted or recycled. 


I’m also hoping that this set up will encourage us to produce even less garbage as the space to put it is so much smaller, and it’s inconvenient to use (probably a big reason why many people don’t compost as much as they can). 

There are only a few more days left in the month but I’m looking forward to many more earth friendly activities now that the weather is nice, such as cycling, gardening, and minor house repairs. 

Veggie Scraps

Often times when you are cooking you find yourself with many ends of vegetables that you would not consider eating. These scraps often end up in the compost, or at worst, the garbage. Instead of tossing these onion tops, celery leaves, carrots peels, and red pepper scraps into the trash, save them in a bin in your freezer. Gradually add in these scraps until you have time toss them into a pot, cover with water and make yourself a vegetable stock. You can use this stock to make soups, to flavour your rice or quinoa, or to add to other dishes. You can also do this with saved bones if you eat meat. 
Directions

Pour a small amount of oil in a large stock pot. Add the veggies and/or bones (caution if these are still frozen as the water frozen in the products can cause the oil to splatter) and brown for 5-10 minutes. Add water to cover the veggies or bones and bring to a boil. Let simmer 30 minutes. Cool and strain out the solids. Either use the stock immediately to make a soup, or save to use in different recipes to replace stock. I often divide it up in 1-2 cup portions and freeze for a later date. 

 Coffee Face Scrub

I use this scrub whenever I feel my face needs a little deep cleaning, whether I have a buildup of dry skin or a sudden onset of acne. 

Ingredients

4 tbsp used coffee grounds

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp sugar

Directions

Mix ingredients together in a sealable container. To use, wet a washcloth under hot water and then hold to your face to gently open up your pores, soften the skin, and soothe. Using your hands, scoop out a small amount and gently scrub onto face. Re-wet washcloth in hot water and gently remove scrub. You may wish to wash your face afterwards with a gentle cleanser. Store in fridge. Use within 1 month. 

Tap Your Tree

We haven’t tapped a tree for a couple years now, but had great success in the past with a silver maple at our old house. This year we decided to tap the big silver maple out front and are looking forward to a tasty treat in a few weeks. This year has been a rough year for sap flow as far as I can tell with a late start because it was so cold so late, and impending budding very soon. So far we have about 5L of sap and hope we get a good few more days before the trees bud and the flavour goes south. 

I’ll post the initial steps up to collecting and storing your sap here, and hopefully write a later post about boiling down and bottling our syrup if we get enough of a yield this year. This “tutorial” is for the small homeowner operation of a tree or two. 

Maple Syrup Making: Part 1

Supplies:

Tree

Spigot

Bucket with lid

Sterilized/clean containers for sap storage and fridge for storage prior to boiling. 

Sterilized/clean containers for syrup storage (for part 2)

Directions:

You can technically tap any tree, but the most common trees to tap are maples, followed distantly by others like birch and walnut in our region. Sugar maple is the fan favourite with the highest sugar content on their sap, but silver maple is a close second. We only have silver maples on our property, so that’s what we use. 

When deciding to tap your tree please consider the age and health of your tree. Also, check the diameter of your tree and look up the recommended dimensions for your tree species to determine the number of taps you should place, if any. Check out Tapmytrees.com for more information. 

Once you have selected an appropriate tree for tapping, you’ll need to wait for the right time. This is generally sometime between mid-March and early-April in our area when the temperature at night is less than 0 Celsius, and the daytime temperature above 0 Celsius. I’d recommend check out the commercial operations in your area to see what their timing is. 

You’ll then need to drill a hole for the spigot. You’ll want to choose a location ideally on the south side of your tree at an easily accessible height. 

Using a drill bit sized for your spigot drill a hole 2 inches deep at a slight incline so the sap can drop down into your bucket. 

Hammer spigot into the hole you just made and attach the bucket. 

Wait. 

Every day go check your bucket. As it fills you will want to empty it into a storage container until you’re ready to boil it down. I like to use a 4L water bottle that’s been sterilized amd, using a funnel, pour my collected sap into the bottle at the tree side. I can then immediately reattach my bucket to the tree so I don’t miss any precious sap, and carry my capped bottle back to the house. I store my bottles in the fridge until I’m ready to boil which I usually after about a week of collection as I only tap one tree. 

Stay tuned for part deux where I show how we get the super watery sap down to delicious syrup. 

Homemade whole wheat crackers

We have been trying to reduce the amount of garbage we put out each week at our house and one big way we’ve done this is by making a lot of things from scratch. Over the years we have been able to significantly reduce the trash we bring to the curb (for biweekly pickup where we live) by recycling and composting, but one area I found we were failing was in plastic bag use. 

We use reusable bags for buying groceries but so much of what we buy comes in plastic bags, including bread, produce, meat, cheese, milk (yes, milk comes in bags in Canada), cereal, crackers, as well as other snacks and treats. We reuse most of these bags to carry our sandwiches to work or store foods in the fridge to keep fresh, but that only extends the plastic bag use a little bit. I want a to eliminate it altogether. (I am happy to note that we do not buy plastic or ziplock bags and simply reuse their bags that come into our home). 

One way to limit our plastic bag use is through making things like cereal, bread, and crackers from scratch. Check out my earlier post on making a nice sandwich bread from scratch at home with a few simple ingredients and just a little time and effort. 

This recipe makes a very hearty cracker that is both filling and satisfying. It pairs well with peanut butter, cheese, or even a little honey. 

Now, onto the recipe. 


Ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup uncooked millet or other crunchy grain

1/3 cup flax or chia seeds

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup water

Seasoning of choice (salt and pepper, rosemary, child powder)

Directions 

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mix together everything except olive oil and water. Slowly add olive oil, fluffing with a fork. Then slowly add water and begin to mix with hands until the dough comes together. Knead for 2 minutes. Roll dough out on floured surface to desired thickness (1/8″). Bake 20 minutes. Store for a week or so in your cupboard or freeze to extend storage. 

Save Your Bacon

Save your bacon! Okay, so I don’t often buy bacon, but every so often it ends up on sale and we enjoy it as a treat. Since it’s just the two of us it’s hard to get all that bacon consumed before it goes bad without suffering some serious consequences (e.g. tummy aches, chest pains, and backside expansion!). We save our bacon by rolling up individual slices and freezing it on a tray before tossing it into a freezer bag or plastic container. The frozen bacon keeps very well and I can take out the individual slices when needed. 

When cooking bacon, we like to bake it on a rack with an aluminum foil-covered baking tray underneath to catch the grease. It takes about 20 minutes at 250 degrees, turning once, and the bacon is a little less greasy then when made in the frying pan. It’s also quite delicious.

I also like to save the fat in a mason jar in the fridge to use as a fat alternative in my cooking. I pour the grease from my cooking into a glass jar I store in the fridge, avoiding any little bits and pieces so it’s just the clean grease. You can also filter it through a coffee filter to keep i extra clean. It’s a nice treat when frying up perogies or potatoes 🙂

Earth Month Day 5

I feel I’m doing pretty well so far with this challenge. In the past few days I’ve decluttered and given quite a few things away, I’ve significantly reduced my garbage (hoping to put out only a chip bag worth of garbage for the past two weeks – and looking to reduce even further from there!), and I’ve also eliminated our use of plastic and resources, and I’ve tried to connect with neighbours more often. Check out some of my successes so far this month:

  1. Made bread at home = one less trip to the store and 1 less plastic bag
  2. Made crackers at home = no box or bag to put in the trash/recycling
  3. Made yogurt at home = saved $$ and no plastic tub to put to the curb
  4. Made all our meals at home
  5. Made baby food from scratch instead of purchasing prepackaged pouches or jars 
  6. Made coffee at home and brought a coffee and muffin with me both days so far this week so I didn’t buy one while out = saving the container waste and $$
  7. Breastfed my baby for the past 9 months (whatever you choose to do is best and no hate coming from me, but I had to add it to my Earth Month win because of the reduced waste and savings)
  8. Started some more veggies from seed to grow this year, received from someone on my Buy Nothing group. 
  9. Made plant markers out of pop cans and old hangers I received from my Buy Nothing Facebook group
  10. Eliminated or significantly reduced the need for paper products in my home (eg paper towel, sanitary products, note pads…)
  11. Collected plastic bags to drop off at our local TAKE IT BACK program for recycling 
  12. Organized and collected cloth diapers and supplies to donate to a local charity to help other families ditch disposables
  13. Cloth diapered my baby for the past 9 months 
  14. Pottied my 9 month old, saving on diapers and reducing my cloth diaper laundry to 2 loads a week (stay tuned for my post on elimination communication)
  15. Did laundry after 7pm to stay off-peak, reducing the burden on our system and saving $$
  16. Turned the heat down every time I went out, saving energy and $$
  17. Kept the lights off when I didn’t need them as the days are finally getting longer
  18. Planned my outings so that as little driving as possible was done

I believe we were able to reduce our utilities bill by $20 last month, so I’m excited to see what we can do this month 🙂 

How have you done so far this month? Any ideas on what to tackle next? 

Homemade Body Wash

We love a little DIY around here, and if you’ve been following along with my blog posts so far you also have figured out we like saving money, decreasing our waste production and plastic use, and try to limit our exposure to various chemicals. Thankfully we’re able to do all of the above when making our own body wash, and not only is it super simple to make it is luxurious to use! 

Ingredients

1/4 cup honey (I like to microwave it for 30 seconds to get it a little runny and easier to mix)

2/3 cup liquid castile soap

2 tsp olive oil

35 drops lavender essential oil

15 drops tea tree oil 

Directions

Add all ingredients in a 2 cup or larger measuring cup and whisk to combine. Pour into desired container (I use an old pump container). You can add 1/4 or so of distilled water to thin it out a bit and make it last a little longer. To use, pump a small amount onto a poof or similar and scrub away!