Planning Your Eco-Friendly Yard and Garden

Now that warmer weather is here, many people find themselves trying to create a more eco-friendly yard and garden. Here are a few ideas for you:

Copyright: Five Seed

Consider replacing grass with eco-friendly alternatives

Though grassy lawns are the suburban standard for landscaping beauty, they aren’t eco-friendly. Lawns require a lot of water and care and the only payoff is that they look pretty (to some). You can still have a beautiful yard without your lawn, however. Have you considered the benefits of an edible front or back yard? Imagine being able to pick veggies or herbs for dinner right from your front porch. Check out this amazing transformation from a grassy front yard, to an edible knot garden.

If you aren’t interested in planting anything, and want to keep some of your lawn, try a decorative rock garden, planted with a few native trees or shrubs, and some flowering plants. Rock gardens are great for the budget, especially in areas were natural rocks are abundant (like here in Central Oregon, where we have tons of volcanic rock!).

Be savvy about irrigation

When it comes to watering your lawn, make sure you know your city’s irrigation regulations. Stick to the rules – repeated violations can lead to fines. These irrigation regulations help cut back on water usage, which helps the community, the environment, and your pocketbook.

To further reduce your water use, try low-pressure drip hoses, which can reduce water usage by up to 70%. If you are able, attach livestock tanks to rain gutter downspouts, to catch rain water. You can also dump the gray water from your house into this tank. Rain and gray water are a cheap and green way to irrigate your lawn and garden.

Compost, compost, compost

Compost fertilizes the soil, and won’t burn your lawn or crops like chemical fertilizers. Best of all, it is made from organic materials, and is non-toxic, so it won’t harm children or pets playing on the lawn or in the garden. It is easy to make your own compost (which reduces your trash output).

Keep pests out the natural way

Instead of using dangerous chemical poisons, try deterring pests the natural way. Save cut hair and spread around your garden, or hang it from trees in muslin bags to keep deer and rabbits away. Marigolds planted between vegetables in the garden will deter many insects while adding decorative value. Click here for more useful tips.

Plant native foliage and crops that thrive in the area

Using native plants is a wonderful way to add visual interest to your garden while keeping your garden eco-friendly. Native plants reduce irrigation, and are low-maintenance, as they are already accustomed to the climate. These plants will keep your water bill down, and will require much less upkeep.

This post was updated from my previously published article over at Examiner.

Five natural, eco-friendly ways to keep pests out of your garden

Chemical pesticides are dangerous poisons. Using these in your garden can contaminate your homegrown produce, and exposure to these chemicals can cause serious health problems for you and your children. If you need to keep the pests out of your garden this year, you can successfully accomplish this task  with a few natural, eco-friendly items.

Copyright: Five Seed


Coffee grounds

Spreading coffee grounds around your garden not only keeps away moles, gnats, snails and slugs, but it is a great fertilizer. (Additionally, you can spread this onto your lawn before watering, which will keep it green and healthy.)


Peppermint essential oil

A few drops of this oil in water sprayed onto your plants will keep ants away. You can also moisten pieces of fabric with peppermint essential oil and place them around the garden to deter rodents, rabbits, and squirrels.


Diatomaceous earth

This product is made from fossilized algae. You can sprinkle it in your garden, and when insects walk over it, it sticks to their exoskeletons, drawing out the lipids. This eventually causes them to dehydrate and die. Diatomaceous earth claims to be safe for humans and pets. Use it sparingly, however, as it will kill the helpful insects, as well, like ladybugs and spiders.


Liquid castile soap

Mix 2 tablespoons of castile soap and 1 quart of water and spray onto your plants. This will keep many different insects away, including moths. Again, use this sparingly, as too much soap will potentially damage your plants.


Spices

Try sprinkling your garden with red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or turmeric. This can deter ants, rabbits, gophers, rats, and a number of other unwanted creatures. Crushed garlic can also help, or water that crushed garlic has been soaking in. Garlic is also a great natural fungicide. Just be careful, as using it too often, or using it on crops that don’t need it can be damaging to your garden.

And just to throw in one more, you can pour beer into shallow cups or jar lids and lay them in the garden beds. They attract and kill slugs.

This post was updated from my previously published article over at Examiner.

A little upcycling for rubber bands

I think it’s safe to say that most of us have rubber bands bursting out of our drawers, mostly acquired from the produce we buy at the market. What on earth to do with all those pesky little guys?

If you don’t want them at all, take them to your local farmer’s market. You will likely find farmers thrilled to take your rubber bands (and berry containers, egg cartons, etc.).

I, myself, have found them to be invaluable for knitting. I like to knit with bulky yarns, which usually means using large needles (size 13 and up). Standard stitch markers usually do not fit onto larger needles. I’ve found that rubber bands make fantastic stitch markers, however, on those larger needles. I also use them to hold my needles together when I’m working on a project and want to be able to travel with it without worrying about it slipping off the needles! Try it – you’ll never curse your rubber band supply again! ;)

Here are a few more tips from green maven, Sophie Uliano:

Do It Gorgeously – Rubber Bands from Gorgeously Green on Vimeo.

Compassionate Eating: A Guest Post

My sister, Jill

I’m excited today to have a guest post written by my sister, Jill McCullough! She and I, along with our two younger brothers, grew up on ranches where we lived very closely with nature and with our animals (goats, ducks, chickens, etc.). While we all loved our animals, I’d have to say that Jill was more involved with them than any of us. She wanted to be a vet for many years, and in her desire to pursue that career, she put herself on the frontline, so to speak, experiencing joys and tragedies that the rest of us shied away from.

In our early twenties, we both read Diet for a New America, which changed our lives. We could not believe what was described in those books, especially having had the experience of raising animals. We couldn’t fathom the inhumane treatment endured by the animals on factory farms. We both became vegans, in protest of these practices. My diet has changed over the years (I’m a vegetarian at this point, but have more to say on this subject in future posts), but Jill has remained a vegan all these years.

She is currently trying to raise money for a great organization called Vegan Outreach. VO focuses on education to make a difference, which I think is awesome – it’s not like some other organizations that use shock tactics or sexualized propaganda to push their agenda. VO simply helps people make informed decisions about what they eat, and stands up for the rights of the animals imprisoned on factory farms. I will talk more about this in future posts – how to make compassionate dietary choices whether you are a vegan or an omnivore. But for now, here’s my awesome sis!

What if I told you that something horrific was happening every day– something terrible that no one talks about?

What if I told you that you could do something to stop it?

Unfortunately, I AM telling you that something horrific is happening every day. It is happening in factory farms and slaughterhouses all over the world. The food that we eat and the demand we have created for such food has given birth to an industry of cruelty and animal commodification that defies our inherent, natural loving impulses. It doesn’t make sense that another sentient being, of any species, should be forcibly removed from their own natural processes and subjected to the torture and abuse that takes place on factory farms every single day– all so that we can have a certain cut of desired meat on our plate.

A snapshot of our goats

There are endless amounts of shocking and disturbing videos, photographs, and statistics all over the Internet detailing the horrors of which I am speaking. If you have yet to educate yourself on this topic, I highly recommend checking out websites for Compassion Over Killing, Mercy For Animals, and Vegan Outreach. [Note from Five Seed: Please be assured that clicking on these links will not take you to disturbing videos/pictures. These are simply the main pages of these organizations that will allow you to navigate through their websites.] It is one thing to hear about an innocent calf being torn from its mother and confined to a tiny crate for the duration of its short life in order to produce veal, and another to actually see it. Laying hens are stuffed in tiny cages and stacked on top of each other for their short, miserable lives. Many often die of asphyxiation because of the cramped quarters and induced immobilization. Farm conditions for these animals (chickens, cows, pigs, and turkeys, for example) are deplorable. When it is time to go to the slaughterhouse, these animals face even more suffering in transit, including extreme temperatures, standing in their own excrement, lack of ventilation, and abuse. According to Vegan Outreach, 200,000 pigs fail to survive the trip and are found dead upon arrival. Some might say these are the lucky ones. Slaughterhouses are places of terror, fear, abuse, and horror. In the name of almighty profit, animals are denied a humane death, as well as a very basic sense of compassion, decency, and mercy.

I know these facts are unpleasant to hear. But our denial doesn’t make them untrue; in fact, it only ensures that the violent atrocities that are occurring on our watch will continue to take place every single day.

When I first read the book “Diet for a New America” by John Robbins, I was indescribably stunned. I didn’t know before I had read that book what a factory farm was or how industrialized farming practices had transformed animal agriculture into a mechanized system of torture and cruelty. I cried while reading the descriptions of the unendurable suffering these animals experience in their brief lives that ultimately culminate in a brutal slaughter that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy.

As a culture, we hide what we don’t want to see and what we don’t want to acknowledge. But awareness and truth are some of the most healing powers in the universe, and as we expose ourselves to the realities of animal suffering, we are empowered to create change and make a difference in the lives of all living beings everywhere. By arming ourselves with information about these issues, we can take direct and powerful action, and create a collective culture that is based on peace, love, and compassion, instead of denial, violence, and cruelty.

We have the power every day to make more compassionate choices and thus perpetuate that energy on the planet. If the idea of giving up meat seems foreign or intimidating to you, start with having one vegetarian meal a week. Continue to educate yourself, learn about new, healthful plant-based foods, and make gradual changes to support long-term growth. Kathy Freston has written two excellent books on this subject that I would highly recommend titled “Quantum Wellness” and “Veganist.”

Another great action that you can take today is to donate money to an organization that is working hard to spread the message of compassion! As mentioned earlier, Vegan Outreach is one such organization that disseminates a lot of wonderful information regarding the destructive nature of animal agriculture and the benefits of a plant-based diet. VO is currently staging a campaign called “Team Vegan” to raise money for continued outreach and education. I am on the team, and I need your help to reach my goal! Your contribution will go directly to Vegan Outreach and can be made anonymously if you so choose. Check out my team profile if you would like to learn more and/ or make a contribution (which you can do directly through my page – please put my name, Jill McCullough in the comment box). I thank you in advance for any and all assistance you send through me. My current goal is to raise $200 by the end of June, but I secretly hope to exceed that goal as much as possible!

We all have so much more power than we even realize. We make so many choices every single day that either enhance or diminish life on this planet for ourselves and all beings. All it takes is a willingness to become more aware, and our positive process of empowerment will begin to unfold before our very eyes. Compassion is a choice that we can make each time we sit down to have a meal. We can contribute to a more peaceful world… one meal at a time!

Thank you so much for reading this. Peace and compassion to all!

50% Dirtier Wrap-Up and Announcing the Winner!

Well, folks, we did it – we survived one dirty month! ;) I’m so grateful to all of you who participated (and I know there were more of you out there who joined in without commenting here, so thank you, too!).

I’ll leave you hanging in suspense for just a few paragraphs before announcing the winner. (I know, I’m terrible!)

Here are a few observations from the emails and comments I received during this challenge:

::”Dirty” hair is not so dirty.

I have found that the knee-jerk reaction to skipping a day when washing one’s hair is often a tendency to feel grossed out or worried that one’s hair will be dirty, smelly and/or greasy. However, I’m happy to say that several people reported to me that skipping a day when washing their hair was actually easy and not as worrisome as it first seemed! Here are some comments from readers:

Chris C said, “First I tried skipping hair washing for a single day, and it wasn’t bad at all, especially since I didn’t do anything vigorous. I went one step further and didn’t use a hair blower to dry my hair, and my hair was actually extra shiny! …I think I’m going to skip days more often.”

Brandy commented, “My hair is still clean and doesn’t feel even slightly greasy so I will be skipping shampoos much more often in the future.”

Celia added, “I have always washed my hair every day….and I use hair products in my hair every day…..so I have to wash it every day…..vicious cycle. So for this challenge I washed my hair…..didn’t use any products……and then skipped washing it for several days. I chose this challenge because I am trying to grow my hair out and I have bought a few Gypsy Wraps from an etsy shop for this very reason……trying to live simply…..with a smaller footprint…..and this is one small step to many more.”

This is actually a subject that I’m really passionate about, though to be honest, it’s more about vanity and health than water conservation. It is just plain good for your hair to wash it less! You will likely find it prettier and shinier if you cut back on washings. And perhaps you will find, like these ladies, that skipping a shampoo is not so bad.

::Social pressure plays a role.

This is a tough one. I have had comments from people who mentioned their worries about others knowing that they don’t shower every day. Kay (who is a water-conserving hero!) said, “…I’ve been following your blog for quite some time regarding ‘getting dirty’ and it sure made me feel better knowing I wasn’t the only one who skipped showering for days at a time. …This is something I don’t advertise. …The norm for me is 3 to 4 days between showers. I’m really gonna hate this being known by one and all but I suppose it is for a good cause so I may as well spill.”

I hear this a lot, and it continues to reinforce my feelings that our culture is way too obsessed with cleanliness. I know people who shower twice a day, every day, who are disgusted by the idea of not regularly washing. I hear people say that sweat is disgusting, that walking in wind makes them feel that their skin is “dirty,” and that not washing hair at least once a day is unthinkable. I have heard many say that a person should smell like soap all the time, except when at the gym. But to me, this is backwards, and is a desire to wash away all our naturalness, all our wildness.

I think the belief is that if you don’t shower every day, you will smell like dirty hair, like body odor, like really old sneakers. I used to be embarrassed to tell people I didn’t shower every day until years ago, when I heard two stylish beauticians at a salon talking about their dirty hair. These were stunningly beautiful 20-something girls (seriously, they could have been models) and one was asking the other if she would help her wash her hair. “I haven’t washed it in over a week and it’s really dirty!” I looked at the other (who was cutting my hair at the time) and said, “You two don’t wash your hair every day?” She replied, “God, no! That is so bad for your hair! You should never wash it every day.” After that, I started to have a different perspective on the cultural obsession with cleanliness. Now, I absolutely LOVE telling people (if the subject comes up) that I haven’t showered in two or three days and hearing them say, in shock, “But you look/smell so good!” That’s because one can still maintain good hygiene without assaulting the body with soap, shampoo and deodorizers at every opportunity. (A damp washcloth is just as effective as a shower for staying fresh!) And it’s so awesome to be able to demonstrate that to others.

::Creative showering is easy.

Many of you found ways to cut back on water usage in creative ways. Some of you, like Brandy and Tiffany, shower with your kids, which is a great way to save water! Martina completely amazed with her story of bush camping – now this woman knows how to make water go the distance! She said, “…when I read your blog I smiled as a 7 minute shower is unthinkable for me…what would I do such a long time there? So yesterday I got into the shower and thought I have a really quick one and see how long that takes. It was 1.5 minutes and I thought it wasn’t really a rush. We travel Outback Australia 3 month of the year and bush camp as much as we can – the only reason why we have to get back into civilization is water – so we are good with using very very little. It is often for days a ‘bucket wash’ as we call it – we both wash us out of the same bucket and the same 1.5 liter of water. You get used to it and you feel and you are pretty clean. I think if it is there it just gets used and nobody things about it.” Pretty amazing, huh?!

::A short shower can be an eye-opener.

Some of you tried the “Jennifer Aniston shower” (3 minutes), and bravo! I did that once – just once, because I really hate short showers. It’s been my experience that some people are just really good at taking a short shower, and others (like me) have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of that magnificent stream of piping hot water. LOL. But I think everyone should try (at least once a year) to accomplish the 3 minute shower. It really puts your shower time and water usage into perspective. Hearing the timer go off while you are just rinsing the shampoo out of your hair gives you something to ponder.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And how much time and water did you save this month? Kelli, my faithful participant who has been getting dirty since the beginning of the month, submitted this amazing report:

Since I started on May 6, I have taken 5 Navy showers [out of 7 showers total] with water running for 5 minutes total out of 15-17 minutes in the shower. Each Navy shower used 19.5-39.5 gallons of water, so I used a total of 97.5-197.5 gallons of water for those 5 showers. If I had left the water on for the whole shower, I would have used a total of 331.5-671.5 gallons of water. That’s a difference of 234-474 gallons of water for the entire challenge! At the rate I’m going, I could have taken an additional 5 Navy showers and used the same amount of water as a regular shower [for me]. For a normal 17 minute shower I would have used 66.3-134.3 gallons. Instead, I used 19.5-39.5! I can’t believe how much water I saved!

Pretty amazing, huh?

As for me, I’ve taken just 7 showers this month (like Kelli). Kelli totally kicked my butt, though, because most of my showers were 15 minutes long. (I’m too obsessed with the hot water to turn it off between rinses.) I spent a total of 96 minutes in the shower this month. Compare that to my old shower routine from two years ago (showering for 15 minutes every other day): 225 minutes. So I saved 129 minutes of shower time! At 2.5 gallons of water per minute, I used 240 gallons of water. Compared to my old routine, I saved 322.5 gallons of water!

So what will you do, now? You may find that even if you did just one of the challenges here for one day, your routine might start to change all on its own. I did not expect to change my showering routine after the 50% Dirtier Challenge I did last fall. But when I started preparing to present it again this spring, I was surprised to find that I had been showering every third day (which was my goal back then) very consistently, without realizing it! It literally just became a habit and I forgot that it had started when I set my goals for the last challenge. Perhaps in six months, you will realize that you have started to wash your hair every other day and forget why or when you started doing that…

I’ll post a bit more on some tips about this in June, but this post is getting long, and I’m sure you want to hear who won the lip balm! So onward!

The random number generator picked…….

Tiffany Norton!!!

Congratulations to Tiffany!! And be sure to check out her awesome post, Keeping Clean on Less Than a Gallon a Day.

Lastly, I want to thank you all so very much for participating in this challenge. I know it isn’t an easy one – showers are a beloved luxury. Believe me, I understand! And I understand what a challenge it can be to step out of the comfort zone of cleanliness. But I sincerely hope that it was both fun and educational, and that perhaps you found it wasn’t as gross as you thought it would be to get a little dirty. Thank you all!!

(Please forgive me if I didn’t use your comments in this post. I ended up with more submissions than I expected, and didn’t have room for them all. But I am very grateful for your comments and feedback!!)