This blog will not be adding more posts but will remain open for you to access the information that will remain here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Time to say goodbye - the last post

There comes a time when many blogs run their course and close down. Such is the case with the co-op. So after 997 posts and almost 1.7 million visitors, it's time to say goodbye and move on.

I started this blog way back in 2008 when accurate information about sustainable living, written by people who were actually doing it, was not commonly available. I'm happy to say we were one of the leaders in this type of blogging and now there are many fine blogs written by permaculturalists, biodynamic farmers and people living sustainably in their own homes. There is more information now and many more people living this way.

I want to thank the people who kept this co-op going - all the writers we've had over the years, Sharon, who did up a writers' roster and kept us all in line and on track, and you, the readers. Without you there would have been no reason to write. The current group of writers are listed on the side bar with a link to their blogs. I thank them all sincerely for the time and effort they put in here.

One of the writers, Amanda, asked to say her own goodbye:
“My time writing for the co-op blog has only been brief but the experience has been an honour. It has been lovely to meet new readers, write alongside some inspiring voices in the simple living movement and share snippets from my own life. I am saddened that I will no longer be participating here, but I am pleased that the community can continue to use this blog as a wonderful reference for living simply. Thank you dear Rhonda, for inviting me to share in this inspirational space and I wish everyone a wonderful life filled with simple pleasures.”

I wish you the best in your own journey towards a more sustainable future. Even though there will be no more posts here, the blog will remain accessible so you can continue to read here and take as much as possible from the practical and inspiring information here.

Thank you all for your support and for being part of an incredible community.

Rhonda Hetzel.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Upcycling Pillow Slips

by Amanda of Live Life Simply

I made a couple of grocery totes from vintage pillow slips during the week. They were quick to sew up, use an entire pillow slip (no waste), are durable being double layered and roomy enough to fit plenty of farmers market goodies inside!



The pdf pattern for this tote can be found at Spiderwomanknits .It is a free tutorial and is very easy to follow. I did however make a small change to mine and I top stitched the edges of the handles.


I like that these bags are super simple, thrifty and green. I'm making more of these this week!


There are many more ways to upcycle pillow slips. I designed a pre-fold nappy last year from a flannel pillow slip and it is still going strong. I have also cut embroidered pillow slips down into a square shape and made them into simple cushion covers


Here are some more ideas for pillow slip upcycling that I am adding to my list!

Pillow slip into a:

Pretty top
Apron
Little Dress

There are plenty more ideas out there and I would love to hear if you have made something out of a vintage pillow slip too. I have a collection of slips waiting to be transformed into useful things!

Amanda x

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dual Purpose in the Garden


Even though we have a large garden, we still try to apply the permaculture principle of stacking in some of our plant variety selections. Many times it is to save work, and sometimes it saves on space to choose a dual purpose type of plant.  Celeriac or celery root is one, I no longer grow celery, since the celery root is growing all summer anyway, does not require the water that celery does, and a few leaves taken for the kitchen here and there barely make a dent in the crop. Another is hardneck garlic which puts on scapes and gives me a lot of extra garlic for cooking and preserving.

Music garlic scapes
Sometimes we find these gems right under our noses.  What to do with hardneck garlic scapes?  They come on at once and giving them away is about like trying to give away zucchini during August.

garlic scapes for the freezer
My solution to run them through the food processor and freeze them has changed the way I look at my garlic now.  Previously come tomato processing time, I would spend lots of time peeling garlic for roasting for sauce and salsa, and I was always a little worried about using too much of my winter garlic supply.  Now I use the mild scapes for my tomato roasting endeavors.  Chopping would work fine too, but if you have a food processor you can make short work of a lot scapes.  To fully maximize the potential, I freeze the scapes in half pint canning jars.  Initially I froze the scapes in larger quantities and found that once I thawed them out, I needed to use them up fast.  And you know garlic, a little goes a long way.  One cup of chopped scapes seasons a large roasting pan of tomatoes or other vegetables perfectly, and really saves me time too.  No more peeling and chopping, but you do have to remember to thaw out the scapes beforehand. 

What types of stacking have you discovered in your garden or kitchen?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Home Remedies

Posted by Bel

When I feel unwell, the last thing I want to do is make my way to a chemist or health food store to find some magical cure for my ills.  I want to eat, drink, take or do something here at home.  And rest!

I love hearing about other people's home remedies.  I had a cough recently and asked around about what to take to ease it.  I didn't go out for ages, so had to make do with what I had here.  My favourite 'cures' were: homegrown honey (by the teaspoonful and in hot water - with or without lemon and/or fresh ginger), essential oils to breathe more easily, keeping very warm - especially my feet, and lots of rest.  I wanted to make some chicken soup, or a spicy stir fry, but I just didn't have the energy to cook much so went with what the family were having...



And this week I had a headache.  Lavender oil and massage are my favourite headache cures.  And using accupressure on my hands and head always gives relief too!

Accupressure also relieves nausea for me, as does consuming anything containing ginger, and perppermint tea.

These remedies are as easy to have around as a box of pain killers or bottle of cough syrup from the pharmacy, but they are natural, inexpensive and generally without side effects.

When the winter ills and minor ailments strike - what do you reach for, to ease the symptoms?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Frugal Limits

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches























Every now and then I hear about a large family with the same food budget as our more avearage size family, or a family in size similar to ours, with a much more modest food budget and I question why I'm not able to be as frugal. I wonder where I am going wrong and I usually sit down committed to read their blog, or the article and learn something. The goal? To reduce our expenditures. I begin reading feeling like I'm doing something wrong, I finish, feeling like I'm doing something very right. You see, we all have to do what is right for our family and I believe, what is kinder and gentler for the earth and those who are more vulnerable. But reading the nitty gritty about what people are willing to compromise on, I actually leave feeling like it is a compomise too far. I'm personally not willing to:

- Shop once a month: access to fresh fruit and veg is too important
- Purchase ready meals or packaged foods with coupons
- Skimp on fruits and vegetables - one blog which which received much attention for being frugal and healthy posted a menu plan which included only 2 fruit and 1 veg a day (most studies recommend a minimum of 5-6 a day)
- Purchase factory produced animal products
- Build a diet around cheap fillers without much nutritional value. For example, a pasta dish served with bread was recommended as a cheap meal. Whereas e may have pasta, but it would be served with a fresh spinach salad and a veg.
- Shop at unethical major corporations

The more I think about it, the more I realize that while I certainly do budget and work hard to stick to it with food, I do see placing priority on green living, simple healthy meals and supporting others (for example by purchasing fairtrade items) as more imporant to me than slashing my budget another $50 or $100 a month. And for somewhere between $300 and $350 a month we purchase:

- Free range eggs from local farms
- All organic animal products
- Fairtrade: sugar, bananas, tea, coffee, mangos, flour and cocoa
- Green cleaning and laundry supplies
- Pet food & litter
- About 50% of our fruits and veg organic
- Enough fruits and veg for 3 fruits and 3 veg (plus a salad) a day
- A locally sourced produce box
- Seeds for our community garden plot

Yes, I could probably shave at least $50 a month off the budget if I changed to what some frugal bloggers recommend. And that $50 would come in handy. But more than that, I want my children, who have experienced malnourishment prior to joining our family through adoption, to continue to make educational and emotional gains that good food has allowed them. I want my hard earned money to tred softly on this earth and help people. I want to invest in our health now, to safeguard us for the future. And if that takes another $50 - $100 a month, I'm really OK with it.

What about you? What is your line when it comes to compromise? Is it only about money, or like me, something more?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A winter tip...

By Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion
Good morning winter!


OMG, its so cold at the moment! Well, cold for me. I know that many readers of this blog would be used to even colder weather.  Recently, a friend of mine posted this on her Facebook status:


"Expecting frost overnight? Just fill a spray bottle with three parts vinegar to one part water and spray on your car windows at night. In the morning, they should be clear of the icy mess. How does it work? Vinegar contains acetic acid, which raises the melting point of water – preventing water from freezing. What to do if you wake up to an already frozen car? Just spray the mixture on your window and watch it melt."


Its such a good tip. I worked late a few days ago and found my car windows frozen when I came out at work.  With only a small water bottle with me, I trudged back into work to try and find vinegar....lucky I found one (we must use it for salad dressing) and the mixture worked!


I replaced the vinegar the next morning with a note to the owner telling them about the tip.

Do you have any winter tips? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Flax egg replacer


Aurora @ Island Dreaming


Flax is a wonderful plant. It is the plant that gives us linen fibre and flax seeds, which have a multitude of uses. I saw a field of the stuff in flower last year and didn't have my camera, but it was glorious - tall willowy single stemmed plants, packed in tightly together, with beautiful bright blue flowers at the tops. The seeds are highly nutritious, a good source of Omega 3 oils, protein and vitamins, according to the Wikipedia page. 100g of seed contains a whopping 27g of fibre, hence the warnings on flax seed packets to drink extra water when including them in your diet. I have been known to sprinkle the seeds on porridge when I am feeling particularly worthy and we sometimes add them to bread. 


My main interest in it however is as an egg replacement in baking. They are one option if you are catering for vegans or egg allergies and helpful to have in the freezer if you have ever found yourself out of eggs and in need of cake. High temperature baking, I imagine, will destroy many of the good fats in the seed, however the protein, fibre and minerals will remain intact.


I had thought that I would be saving serious money if I bought whole seed to grind at home as ground flax was extortionate when I purchased it a few years ago. A quick Google search suggests that I saved pennies this time around, not pounds, as its super-food status has made it more widely available. I did however save a long walk to the health food shop, I bought these seeds in my local greengrocer.When I opened the pack, I wasn't particularly convinced, having only ever bought them in ground form. They look and smell soapy, bitter and nutty - not nice. Ground they are transformed, they are sweet and nutty. I set to work with the stick blender. It took a little longer than I thought, about 5 minutes of pulsing and stirring. The image above is about two thirds of the way through the grinding process. The finer the resulting powder, the more effective 'eggs' they will make. It is recommended that the ground product is stored in the freezer as it oxidizes quickly.





To make a single flax 'egg', mix 1 rounded tablespoon of flax with three tablespoons of cold water and set aside. If they can be made half an hour in advance and chilled, the consistency will be even thicker and will bind and support the rise of your baking. Flax 'eggs' cannot be substituted into just any recipe, however most recipes can be adapted. Anything that requires over 2-3 eggs will not work, nor will whipped egg sponges. They have a sweet nutty taste and I have substituted them successfully into numerous muffin recipes and cookie recipes without any trouble. They also make quite wholesome tasting pancakes.  I have seen warnings not to put them with chocolate, however I made a chocolate sponge that rose well with no hint of flax taste. The rule seems to be that they can be used in anything as long as they form a small proportion of the overall mix and the mix is richly flavored, or their flavour can be used to advantage in 'healthy' style muffins ad baked goods. Oh - and don't try to make omlettes with them!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How To Start Living Sustainably

written by Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese.

Of late, I have been doing a lot of reflection about why I chose to live more sustainably way back in September 2006.  Not because I want to stop living this lifestyle, but because I have been writing a series of eBooks and needed to remember exactly how and why it started the way it did.

As my personal blog is now quite large, with over 1100 posts, new readers to the blog are finding it difficult to navigate particular subjects.  This is what gave me the idea for the subject of my very first eBook, titled "The Greening of Gavin - My First Year of Living Sustainably".

The research was easy enough.  I read through the first year of my blog, and then wrote the main guts of the book.  However, one thing eluded me, and that was the root cause and the real reason that my green epiphany had such a great impact.  It took me about three days of soul searching to figure out why, and another three days two write the chapter about it, which only ended up being a couple of pages long.  It was very hard work.  That said, I cracked it wide open.

I believe that the impact was so great because leading up to that day of awakening, I was a rampant consumer, stuck in the rat race, getting deeper and deeper into debt, with no end in sight.  I was damaging my self financially, my future, and the future of my planet.  I would buy the next latest and greatest electronic consumer item without real reasons or any thought of the consequences financially and environmentally.

I just had to have it, mainly because I had been programmed that way.  Years of living in the consumer culture had altered the way I behaved, acted, and consumed. Advertising was my master and I was its slave.  All that consumption was playing in the back of my mind, and I had this niggly little feed that something was wrong, but I didn't quite know what.  

I had also become lazy.  Whereby I used to make things like my own beer, a little of my own food, and took pride in construction projects around the home, I had slackened off and just paid for things to be done, because I was too lazy to do it myself.   Due to this consumerism, I knew it would be a very long time before my mortgage on my home would ever be paid off.  I felt very, very lost.

Then I had, what I call my green epiphany, which was a pivotal moment in my life.  I remember it as a true awakening, like I had been shaken from a dream state and slapped silly with a big wet fish.  However, it was only because I was in such an abnormal and sorry state before the documentary, that it was the reason that the experience did have such a transformational effect upon me.  Otherwise, I believe that I would have walked out of the cinema, thought a little, shook off the feeling that I should do something about this climate thingy, and promptly put it in the too hard basket.  Just like everyone else who saw it that day did!

Well, the rest is history.  I did choose to act, and act decisively, albeit not quite in the order that I would green my lifestyle if I had to do it over again.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but when I think about it, I probably wouldn't change a thing.  All of my actions have had a purpose, whether it was a large statement, or made our family feel good that we were actually doing something worthy of our time and effort.

So why the title of this post?  Well, I suppose that I am trying to say is that all it takes is one simple action.  Then another, and another.  It doesn't matter what triggers the initial action, all that does matter is that you start.

All of these actions are small, yet powerful steps towards a larger goal of voluntary simplicity.  You are the one that chooses to live simply, without it being forced upon you.  Kind of like beating the rush that many of us see on the horizon.   

So consuming less or consume ethically, and you find that you will live a more happier life a result. It is certainly the only way I know how to start living sustainably!

How did you start your journey towards voluntary simplicity?  What was your awakening moment?