Adventures in Greening, Part 1: Water Conservation

Astronomy-Leonid_Meteor_Storm_1833-200x300Whether you live in a house or an apartment, there are simple changes you can make to greatly reduce your ecological footprint, giving Mother Nature a little break. I am excited to share my journey to a greener household in this Adventures in Greening series of posts.

Water connects us all. Whether we are plants, animals, or humans, we all share the common bond of the necessity of water for our survival. When we take time to relax and connect with Nature, it is water that we often find ourselves drawn to. Its healing properties lure us to sit by a stream or waterfall, feeling the cool spray as the tranquil sound of the cascading flow restores us.

In California we are in the midst of a major drought. In the same way that I am drawn to connect with water in Nature, I have found myself drawn to conservation. By actively working to reduce my household’s consumption of water, I feel more connected to the sacredness of our life-giving element. Just as water has provided for us, it is now our turn to give back.

Simple Ways to Save

I have recently made some very simple changes to help reduce the amount of water my household uses. In addition to changes like multi-purposing cooking water to water plants and using bath water to flush the toilet, I have also added low-flow options.

I added a low-flow aerator to our kitchen and bathroom faucets as well as a low-flow showerhead. We went from using about 2.2 gallons per minute (gpm) to 1.25 gpm for the shower, 1.5 for the kitchen sink, and .5 gpm for the bathroom sink.

These changes cost less than $25 total to implement and will hopefully cut our water use in half—saving thousands of gallons of water in the coming years.

After making these changes, we cannot tell the difference in water flow. We have more than enough water pressure to wash dishes, brush our teeth, shower, etc. The added bonus is that hot water doesn’t run out as quickly now that less is being used!

For reference, I have listed the products installed:

Shower Head: http://www.amazon.com/Niagara-Earth-Massage-1-25GPM-showerhead/dp/B003UQ17O4

Low-flow Faucet Aerator for Bathroom: http://www.amazon.com/0-5-Flow-Dual-Thread-Faucet-Aerator/dp/B0034UMZA6/

Low-flow Faucet Aerator for Kitchen Sink: http://www.amazon.com/Neoperl-12-9200-16-Inch-64-Inch-27-1-5-GPM/dp/B00771D2GO

Please share your water-saving tips in the comments!

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Delicious Vegan Lima Bean Sausages

What better way to show your friends and family that you love them than by cooking up a healthy vegan brunch! A vegan brunch is also a great way to let animals know you love them–by not eating them.

Some of my favorite things to do are to have magical late-night tea parties, over the top vegan sushi lunches, and super cozy Sunday brunches with the closest friends. If a brunch is in your near future, try these yummy sausages along with some hashbrowns, tofu scramble, and yummy coffee or teas.

Vegan Lima Bean Sausages

Ingredients

1 cup cooked baby lima beans
1 ½ cup hot vegetable broth
¾ tsp ground dried sage
½ tsp dried thyme leaves (or other dried herbs that you like)
1 ½ cup vegan bread crumbs
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Cornmeal
Extra salt, pepper, and sage to taste

Directions

Using a food processor or blender, blend lima beans to a coarse puree. Mix in vegetable broth and slowly mix in bread crumbs. When mixture has become a thick paste, add in the sage, thyme, pepper and salt. Set mixture aside.

On a large plate, spread out approximately ½ cup of cornmeal and dust with pepper, salt and ground sage. Set aside.

Using wet hands, begin making link shaped logs of the lima bean puree. One at a time, lightly roll on the plate of cornmeal to form a light breading. Set breaded sausages on a clean plate. Repeat until all of the puree has been formed into links. This will make approximately 10 links.

In a heavy skillet, add enough vegetable oil to generously coat the bottom. Using medium high heat, fry the links in batches of about 5 at a time. Watch them and turn them frequently until crispy brown on all sides, this will take about 4-5 min. Monitor constantly to make sure they do not burn. Once browned, remove from skillet and drain on a paper towel.

Let stand 5 min before serving. Enjoy!

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What is a Green Witch?

Perhaps Arin Murphy-Hiscock said it best in her book, The Way of the Green Witch, which I recommend to anyone who is looking to learn more about Green Witchcraft:

 “The way of the green is the path of the naturalist, the herbalist, the wisewoman, and the healer. The gifts of the natural world are many, but those who embrace them are comparatively few in today’s world.”

“Green witchcraft is not Wicca. Wicca currently enjoys great popularity as an earth-wise spiritual path, and as a result many of those who honor nature assume they are Wiccan. Not so. Wicca is a formal, structured religion which sets out certain tenets and moral guidelines and whose followers celebrate certain rituals in certain ways. Green witchcraft is a non-structured, flexible practice that has no set holidays and no compulsory rituals. The green witch is adaptable to her individual strengths and talents and the energies and supplies native to her geographical locale.”

“Like kitchen witchcraft, green witchcraft emphasizes practicality and everyday activity. There are no special words, no unique prayers, no uniforms, no holy texts, no obligatory tools, and no specific holidays…unless you create them for yourself…it recognizes the sacred in everyday life.”

Learn more about and buy this book here.

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Making Your Own Infused Oil

Why pay a lot for premade massage oils or other infused oils when you can create a lovely version at home for just a few bucks? Making your own also gives you the opportunity to set your intention before creating it, thus charging it up with even more than herbs.

All you have to do is add about 8 ounces of extra virgin olive oil and 2 ounces of dried flower petals or herbs (do your research to make sure nothing is toxic!) to your slow cooker and heat on a very low setting. Dried lavender or calendula works well for this. Infused oil must be gently heated, so it is essential that you use a slow cooker that has a very low setting. Warm the oil for about two hours, and then strain it well (I like to use an all natural unbleached cheesecloth) to remove all the herb or flower particles.

Allow it to cool, then use it as a moisturizer or massage oil. Don’t worry if your first batch doesn’t turn out as you planned. You can always use it as a wood furniture polish!

*note of caution, if you use fresh rather than dried, you might have mold in a few days and it will go rancid sooner.

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DIY Laundry Soap

Homemade laundry detergent was always something that was in the back of my mind to learn how to do. Afterall, commercial products contained things like optical brighteners and a ‘laundry list’ of chemicals that I didn’t want near my body or polluting the environment. But I had thought it would be something that would be very labor intensive, time consuming, expensive and not at all something that I could pull off while working full time and going to school.

I was completely wrong on all fronts.

Homemade laundry detergent is about as easy as it gets. I have been following a recipe like the one listed here and using Dr. Bronner’s soap as the bar soap and adding in tea tree oil.

I have also ditched the fabric softener in favor of white vinegar. You just add it as you would a liquid softener into the rinse cycle. I leaves your clothes soft and clean smelling – with no vinegary reside either.

Since January, I have made two batches of this soap. The inital startup cost to purchase all the materals was $11 and I can make at least 4 more batches with the supplies I bought. $11 for a year of laundry soap that is not harmful is lovely, I think.

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Coexisting with Cockroaches

It can be easy to not notice the tiny intricate worlds that are happening around us, especially when we perceive them as negatively impacting our own lives. However, as we go about our day-to-day lives, so do the billions of insects and arachnids who coexist along side of us in suburbia. 

They to have their daily tasks. Ants sometimes  raise caterpillar larvae as their own. Some spiders have been known to weave thick squares of web to use in a tool-like fashion to capture their prey from the rain-forest floor, and mayflies and cicadas shed their skin to emerge from the water and dark underground to start the last and most brief part of their life.

Insects develop complex relationships, care for their young, and work as teams much as we do. When you see a spider or ant running across the floor, it’s likely that they have somewhere important to be in order to complete something that they set out to do that day, just as we run errands and have order in our daily lives. However, often when we see them, we treat their presence as an intrusion, and many people even resort to inhumane methods for dealing with these encounters.

Cockroaches probably bear the brunt of our negative reactions more heavily than most insects. While you certainly don’t want your living space to turn into a cockroach haven, there are humane and affordable methods for discouraging them. Inhumane poisons and traps will do nothing for long-term control and will have you spending more time and money than solving the problem once and for all in an effective and humane manner. With a little time, you can have your environment cockroach-free, and no one has to get hurt. The following is a strategy that I used a couple of years ago, and it worked perfectly.

First and foremost, you must work on prevention. Keep all dishes washed, take trash out frequently, and make sure that unrefrigerated companion animal food is tightly sealed and put away when your animal companion is not eating. Keep countertops wiped down with a vinegar-and-water solution, and sweep, mop, and vacuum regularly. Now for the actual cockroachproofing, you will need the following:

• Non-toxic white glue
• Caulking in either white or clear (available from hardware stores)
• Stoppers for all your drains that do not already have built-in stoppers
• Dried whole bay leaves

Start with one room at a time, and begin with places where you have seen cockroaches. Put stoppers in all your drains—sinks and bathtub―when not in use to prevent roaches from coming in via your drainpipes. Also be sure to repair leaky faucets and pipes, as roaches are attracted to water.

Seal up all gaps between floorboards, under counters, around sink plumbing and windowsills, and near fuse boxes. For larger gaps, use the caulking, and for smaller gaps, use the glue. This will take some time, but if you just work on it for a little while each day, you will have it finished in no time.

Add dried bay leaves to your kitchen drawers and cabinets, too, as they are a great natural repellent and will leave your kitchen smelling wonderful!

Bay has a plethora of magical properties:
Wisdom, Clairvoyance, Protection and Psychic Powers. Bay Leaves can also be used in Healing and Purification.

What does cockroach teach us?
The Cockroach teaches us how to use what we have available to us for survival. To clean out the dead and useless aspects of our lives. When the Cockroach appears as a totem, our sensitivity to subtle changes will be magnified. We will have the power to scurry out of danger. Learn more.

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