11 Apr

Early April Shitake Mushrooms (and flowers)

A few photos I took tonight (April 11th 2014) to show the first harvest of the season for the shitake mushroom logs we have in the shade garden. I think this marks 1.5 years since inoculation so I am expecting several more pounds this spring…I hope. This harvest was 13.5 ounces, and I left a few small ones on the logs to get bigger, maybe by tomorrow they will be ready.

While I was out there I also took some pictures of the hellebore (which has been blooming for a month now) and the native wildflower – bloodroot (which only blooms a few days each year, so it is a treat to see it. I did notice that I now have 3 bloodroot flowers, they have multiplied because the last 2 years I only had one.

Shitake mushroom log 2014 April - 1.5 years after inoculation

Shitake mushroom log 2014 April – 1.5 years after inoculation

Shitake Mushroom harvest

Shitake Mushroom harvest

Hellebore Spp. www.sprawlstainable.com

Hellebore Spp. www.sprawlstainable.com

Bloodroot Sanquinaria Canadensis L. www.sprawlstainable.com April 2014

Bloodroot Sanquinaria Canadensis L. www.sprawlstainable.com April 2014

05 Apr

The REDUCE “of reduce, reuse, recycle”

One often overlooked way to live in a more eco friendly fashion is to reduce the amount of goods that you use. This isn’t always as simple as it seems, and consumerism can be a hard habit to break. We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us to ‘buy this new product’ or ‘pay more for this eco friendly thing’ Etc. but I wanted to remind you that one of the most efficient ways to be ‘green’ is not to exclusively focus on ‘recycle’ but to not buy it or use it in the first place.

“Reduce” has the largest impact of the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). In my life this means that I have tried to limit our consumer spending.

At the time of year when I work on our personal accounting, I enter several months of credit card statements into the computer at once, and categorize every purchase. Now I don’t have every single item categorized, but I categorize the stores…Whole Foods = groceries, Walgreens = sundries and small household items, Mobil = gas, Etc.

A few years ago I noticed there were some stores coming up more often than I would have guessed…mostly home stores and craft stores. These are places I primarily buy things for decorating, or for fun. I decided that I could save money, and help reduce the unnecessary things that I buy by just not going to those stores any more, at all. Why do I need to go to “insert home store here”? What do they have there that I just can’t live without? (OK, so I needed, yes actually needed and not just wanted, a new knife and new frying pan, and I did go to that store to get it, but I didn’t buy any other things.)

Another trick I started using when I was at a store like Target where I buy a combination of things I want (impulse purchases, pretty things, things that just satisfy some consumer emotion) and things I need is to walk away from my cart (actually I always walk away from my cart and tend to lose it, it is a bad habit of mine, I don’t like pushing carts around…but I digress). So when I find myself away from my cart, I’ll ask myself…what is in my cart right now? I figure, if I can’t remember what I put in my cart only a few minutes after I put it in there, than I probably don’t need it.

Oh, and I always shop from a list now….this saves money, it saves time, and it keeps the landfill clear of the eventual consumer trash I would have bought. Win win.

02 Apr

Jojoba Oil as a Natural Facial Cleanser – Review

Facial cleansing and moisturizing…you don’t need ANY of those expensive products! I have streamlined my facial cleansing and moisturizing routine down to very minimal, natural products and in this post I wanted to talk about Jojoba oil for facial cleansing and moisturizing.

First, let me say that I have problem skin, it is oily, but peels like it is dry, I get blemishes and acne like a teenager even though I am hitting mid life, and I’m prone to redness, itchy patches and an overall dissatisfying complexion. So, I’m probably pretty normal.

When I say facial cleansing, I do mean simply washing your face. So the first Aha moment is that using oil to wash your face is better than using soap! Soap strips your skin of all the natural oils, and causes your skin to produce more oil than it needs to replenish what you just stripped off…it puts your skin into a panic mode and it overcompensates. I didn’t use soap per se, but I used acne face wash…so basically the same thing…maybe harsher. I really thought I needed the acne medicine part of the equation.

Of course for someone who is prone to break outs, the idea of using oil to wash your face sounds ridiculous. But I read article after article explaining how oil is better than soap (I’ll let you do your own search if you want more info) and decided to take the plunge and just see what happened.

My review of using jojoba oil to “wash” my face is nothing but positive. First I just rub the oil on my face to dissolve make up and rinse with water and a wash cloth. Then I put oil on my face again if necessary to get all the make up off (depends on how much make up I wore that day, most days it isn’t much, but on music gig nights it might take a bit more wash, rinse and repeat cycles) Actually, the oil is great at removing eye make up…I realized why when I threw away my eye make up remover and noticed it was basically mineral oil, ha, who knew? So then, if I need to, I’ll put some oil on a facial scrub sponge and exfoliate the dry looking skin. After I’m done I just use the wash cloth to remove the excess oil and volai…my face is clean and not tight feeling like after I wash with soap!

So, what about the break outs? I have to say that I noticed absolutely no difference after switching to the oil in terms of more break outs…not more, not less. What I did notice was less redness, less flaky skin, less tightness, less fine lines and generally, just more comfortable skin and a nicer overall complexion.

So as far as moisturizing goes…I just use the jojoba oil. I don’t need to slather on moisturizer any more because my face doesn’t get dried out by washing it with soap…but when I do need a little, I just use a few drops of the oil.

I got rid of several products that I used to use on my face and replaced them all with one small bottle of jojoba oil. I stopped buying a couple types of moisturizer, a couple types of face wash, and an exfoliating mask…and now use jojoba oil in place of them all. It works better, costs less, and reduces the amount of plastic bottles in the landfill. Less products and bottles and tubes also means less clutter in my bathroom and also makes it more convenient when I travel because I don’t need as many products! Win, Win, Win!

25 Mar

Glyphosate and your Gut

I was watching a lecture on YouTube called “Seeds of Doubt Conference – Part 2 of 6″

This lecture was given by Don Huber PhD. in 2012 and I heard a couple of things that he said that I wanted to share (He starts talking about these two things at about the 13 minute mark).

He was talking very scientifically about the effects of Glyphosate – the active ingredient in Round-up. He was specifically talking about how it chemically affects plants and nutrient absorption; it’s mechanisms of how it works. I found the lecture to be dry, but very informative and chemistry heavy. I thought I would pull out a couple of things that surprised me and tell you about them, because, I doubt many people will listen to an hour long lecture on the chemistry of Glyphosate. And, just to keep in mind, the reason this is important is because all GMO crops, and many (the majority I believe) other food crops, are sprayed with Glyphosate before you eat them.

1st – 80% of the Glyphosate stays in the plant. Which means you EAT it!, or the Cow’s eat it, etc. I didn’t realize that they used Glyphosate on non GMO crops too…basically they spray it on wheat, barley, peas, etc. to desiccate them (kill them and stop them from growing) before they harvest them.

2nd – the Glyphosate in the food goes into your gut and affects the balance of gut bacteria to favor those that harm us and make us sick. He said “in your intestine it (Glyphosate) stimulates clostridium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clostridium_difficile) encourages bio-toxins, stimulates clostridium perfingens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clostridium_perfringens) difficile (or diarrhea), salmonella and e ‘coli. Glyphosate is toxic to many of the beneficial organisms in the soil (and in your gut) which normally control these pathogenic (bad) organisms.” This means that both in your gut, and in the soil, the balance tilts in favor of the negative pathogenic organisms.

Why is your gut bacteria balance important? Mounting evidence shows that it effects more then we ever thought about your health, including Obesity, Heart Disease, your immune system, your brain, and even infant colic (http://www.livescience.com/39444-gut-bacteria-health.html) Some people are even starting to suggest a link to Autism and depression, so research into these connections has started to become more prominent and as we study the relationship of gut bacteria to health, I predict the connection to Glyphosate will not be far behind.

Another great gut bacteria study is currently being undertaken, to catalog and study the variety of gut bacteria in people throughout the world…The Human Microbiome Project (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Microbiome_Project) being conducted by the US National Institute of Health.

Just another reason to eat only organic food! And to keep the laws for organic food labeling very strict!

21 Mar

Our Transition to buying all organic food.

If you are reading a blog about living more sustainably, I’m going to guess that I don’t need to preface this post with an introduction about all the reasons WHY we started thinking about buying more organic food…this is about how we made that transition and encourage you to do the same.

The first items we started buying organic were the ones that, at the time, seemed most important…a commitment to buying organic milk was our first step. It is difficult to swallow the price tag on organic milk when it is sitting right next to non organic milk (and we did this quite a number of years ago, so the impact was even more apparent since the organic milk demand was low and prices very high) But we chose to buy it because we really thought it was a health risk to drink milk with antibiotics and hormones.

So my tip for the first step, pick one thing…like milk…and ALWAYS buy it organic. Just don’t even ever look at the price of the non organic alternative, just act like it isn’t even there. Picking one item helps concentrate your “vote with your dollar” effect because it consistently helps that item have a higher demand. I know it costs more, I’ll get to that in a minute…but for now I’ll say, just do it.

Second, we started buying more organic food…here and there. But the price was an issue every time, so every time I went shopping I had this stress associated with buying almost everything if there was an organic option. I hated this stress.

So I came up with the idea to just start with the alphabet…the letter A. anything that started with A I bought organic…apples, apple sauce, etc. And that quickly spread to about half way through the alphabet. It made it so much less stressful to make each individual choice, but the overall cost was still an issue.

So then there was this turning point…I won’t go into details, but I was privy to a conversation between one of the most well known natural food advocates, and some other people who are deeply involved at a corporate level with one of the most un-natural large agricultural businesses. A lot was said, and they disagreed on everything…except for one thing that both sides agreed on….and it hit me hard and reverberated through my consciousness….They agreed that the large agro businesses would respond to market demand!!!!!

This made me realize, there is no need to fight them on paper, or in the voting booth, or through legislation, fundamentally speaking, if absolutely everyone believed that they will respond to the market demand, then we as consumers hold all the cards. This isn’t a new idea, and I’m sure there is a lot of discussion about this topic, but I decided right there and then, even before leaving that room, that I would buy EVERYTHING organic (as best as I could…I am human) I would vote with my dollar!

So that solved a couple of problems…no more stress over every single item to buy…I realized that the organic food wasn’t “too” expensive, it is the cost that food is supposed to be (this is where I could go off for another two pages quoting the evidence for artificially low prices on non organic food, but ‘ll spare you).

But yes, it is more costly…so what did I do? Since we were in 100% in terms of commitment, it helped because we knew we wouldn’t compromise on the quality of our food, so we found other things to give up that weren’t as important as the food we put onto our bodies…things like hair cuts, clothes, entertainment. We basically increased our food budget by about 10% by cutting back in other areas.

Then we looked at the other side of the equation, how to buy all organic food for only 10% more than our regular food budget. (as a disclosure, our “regular” food budget was not exceptionally tight, but not on the high end either, we cooked more than half the time from scratch, ate out at fast food about 1x or 2x per week and out for dinner about 2x or 3x a month. One thing was easy…most food at restaurants is not organic, fast food definitely isn’t. So we gave up all fast food, and very close to all other dining out, only maybe 1x per month (And if we do dine out we try to choose local family owned restaurants or natural food cafe’s) Oh, and our Starbucks’s visits went from about 1x per week to 1x every other month or less (and when we do go for business meetings, we stick to a cheap house brew).

So now we aren’t eating out…that saves money, but means we eat more at home. How do you cut back on that? After looking at the options, we realized that the most expensive food is convenience foods (we didn’t have to think about it much to come to that conclusion, it is so obvious) So our grocery list switched from what used to be about 35% convenience items (frozen pizza, frozen toasted ravioli, crackers, chips, mac and cheese…etc) to about 95% whole foods…fruit, vegetables, meat, grain. I realized I was cooking and eating a lot more like past generations…chicken soup to get the most out of a whole chicken (no more boneless skinless, tasteless chicken breasts because they cost more per pound), roasted vegetables, bacon and eggs for breakfast instead of cereal, etc. Basically we did most of the typical tips and tricks you see when researching feeding a family on a budget. We bought our grass fed beef all at once, half a cow…and it took about a year for my husband and I to get through it all and we bought whole pasture raised chickens and pork when it was on sale. One thing we do “splurge” on is natural bacon…I love bacon and just bite the bullet, even when it isn’t on sale. (update – we just ordered half a pasture raised pig, so bacon is coming!)

I hear people say “oh I can’t afford it”…and I realize this is absolutely true for some people…some day I may be one of those people…it is a hard place to be in and I hope that If you are one of those people you can cope and get back on your feet soon…I’m sending you some positive energy as I type this, but when I hear that same comment from someone who just came back from a vacation to Florida (I’ve never been) or who is answering their smart phone (I don’t have one), or driving around in a new or newer car (my car is 17 years old and I paid it off years ago) or all three, well that kind of steams me….that isn’t about the cost, that is about choices. With the choices we have made, I estimate we are spending about $600 more per year for organic food for our family of 2 plus being more creative/frugal in the kitchen, how much does your Starbucks and McD cost per year?

We have given things up to eat this way because, voting with your dollar takes commitment, and everyone working together. We are doing it for the very same people who say they can’t afford it when they just choose not to, and for those who actually can’t afford it, because as demand for natural foods, real natural foods, not just green washed pseudo natural foods, rises, the prices will come down, the quality will go up, the benefits to our health and environment will become exponential…That’s why we buy organic food and don’t take expensive vacations, why my kitchen has never been made over and why I encourage you to join us with the same commitment. It has been such a positive change in our lives in ways I didn’t expect…cooking together, feeling better, becoming a better person…who knew?

And last but not least…guess what not eating fast food, not eating Dorito’s, not eating Cheese It’s, not drinking soda or other convenience food has done as a by product? I’ve lost a lot of weight…I never went on a diet to lose weight, I just started eating actual good food, like fruit and vegetables as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted…really never thinking about weight loss in any way…the weight just started coming off. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t lived it…I would have sworn that I didn’t eat “that” much junk food, much less than I saw other people eating, but….the proof is in the apples I guess you can say…because after going organic only…with no additional exercise (and before I made some other dietary changes for health reasons) I lost 25lbs in one year.

So if you made it to the bottom of this long post and you have wiggle room in your budget by making some sacrifice, even if it is a little tight like ours, I hope you will consider just jumping in with both feet and going ALL organic. In so many ways it is a lot easier than just doing it halfway, and it is healthy, and good for the environment, and changes the tide of consumer demand towards better agricultural practices, tastes better (in my opinion) and is the right and ethical and responsible thing to do.

Update – I did our accounting one year after switching to all organic food and we spent LESS on food than we did before going all organic!!!!!!!!!!!!! How? We ate out less and cooked from scratch more, bought more in bulk and ate a lot less junk!!!!

14 Mar

Raw Manuka Honey for Natural Skin Care – Review

My Experience with Manuka Raw Honey as a Health and Beauty Product.
In the quest to use more natural beauty products one of the first products that I had read quite a bit about and wanted to try was Raw Manuka Honey.

Raw honey is honey that has not been heated and pasteurized. Manuka Honey is honey that is made by bees primarily taking nectar from the flowers of the tea tree…which grow wild in New Zealand and Australia. This honey is very specific, and quite expensive, because it is only produced in this small part of the world.

Since it is so expensive, it has become very profitable for those selling it, and in fact, most of the Raw Manuka Honey sold is actually not Manuka Honey at all, but counterfeit. So right off the bat, I have to say, that I am suspicious of spending so much money for something that I can’t even be sure is the real article. Some estimates put the percentage of counterfeit Manuka honey on the market today as high as 80% or more. So in my opinion that is strike one against using this product.

Raw Manuka Honey (as well as Raw Honey made from nectar from other flowers) It is touted as having a lot of therapeutic effects and being very beneficial for your skin. I have read a lot of the research, I believe there are definite benefits of raw honey over pasteurized honey, but I’m not convinced that there is a huge benefit of Manuka Raw Honey over non Manuka Raw Honey to justify the additional cost.

Raw Honey does have therapeutic benefits such as having antibacterial properties. Research indicates that Raw Honey doesn’t work like an antibacterial lotion, killing 99% of germs and leaving the 1% not effected to become “super bacteria”, it in fact, by it’s physical properties kills ALL of the one celled organisms because they can not physically live in the environment of the Honey.

So I tried using it on minor scrapes and cuts, and on other wounds as you might use an antibacterial ointment. I put some Raw Honey on the affected area, and put a bandage over it. The results were very good. It is very good at keeping wounds from getting infected, and they seemed to heal as fast, or faster than similar wounds I have treated using antibacterial ointment. So, indeed, as people have known for Thousands of years, Raw Honey is great for wound care. I give Raw Honey a thumbs up for first aid!

I also used the Raw Honey as a Facial. I tried the raw Honey by itself, as sort of a cleanser. Rubbed it on my face by itself….massaged it in, let it sit on my face for 10 or 15 minutes, and rinsed it off. It smelled good. It tasted good on my lips while I waited to rinse it off. But, did it do anything form my acne or rosacea, or skin in general? Well…no…not really. In fact, I think it made my skin red and somewhat uncomfortable and even a little itchy. I really didn’t like the way the honey made my face feel. I tried this about twice a week for a month. Still I got the same results…I didn’t get the improvements in my complexion that I was hoping for. I also tried adding course sea salt to the Honey and used it as a exfoliator scrub. I tried this concoction at least half a dozen times. I definitely did not like the results of this regimen on my skin. It was much too harsh and made my skin red and inflamed. Now, keep in mind, I do not have great skin…I have sensitive skin, and some mild rosacea and acne, so for my skin type the Raw Honey, both by itself, and with Sea Salt, is just too harsh. I really wanted to like this as a facial product because of how many other Blogs described Raw Manuka Honey as a great beauty skin product, but it failed my tests.

So I’m putting a small amount in my first aid kit, and the rest is going in my evening tea.

11 Mar

Sprawlstainable – New and Improved for 2014

Spawlstainable began as a two year chronicle of Dan and Mary Deweese’s journey to create a more sustainable lifestyle while living in the suburbs. Their 2 year goal was to reduce their energy consumption by 50% (which they did) and to grow 10% of their own food (which they didn’t). After the two years was up they had many followers, and had enjoyed their blogging experience, but new things came along and Sprawlstainable went dormant, without updates, for another couple of years. Now, Mary is resurrecting Sprawlstainable with new categories, a new mobile compatible word press template, and most importantly, a new commitment to adding content, because, even though the blogging had taken a hiatus, the Deweese’s journey towards sustainable living did not, and there is a lot to write about and catch up on…..so welcome to the New and Improved Sprawlstainable Blog….Thanks for Visiting!

Mary Deweese

22 Aug

Recycled Cargo Pants Messenger Bag

Recycled Cargo Pant Messenger Bag Purse

Well this is a small departure from what you are used to seeing on Sprawlstainable, but recently I was inspired to get into a creative crafty mode and came up with this project for making a messenger bag purse out of recycled/reused cargo pants I bought at my local Goodwill, some fabric from an upholstery sample book, and a small piece of new fabric.

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12 Aug

July 2011 Garden Photos

Sunflower planted by Chipmunks

Wow, July was a very dry month for us here in Missouri…although the total amount of rainfall was near normal…that 3 inches all came in the first few days of the month…and then nothing for the rest of the month.  Things have struggled in the drought and heat this month…there were several weeks of very high temperatures…many days in the triple digits.  It has been almost impossible to keep up with weeding chores because of the heat…so things are getting a little overgrown in places…it is always difficult to stay motivated to maintain the garden when it is so hot, and this summer was a record setter!


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24 Jul

June 2011 Garden Photos

Fibrous Begonia Macro orange

Here is a nice collection of Photos from June, although I am a little late getting these posted…Things looked good in June…had regular rain…maybe too much rain…and the vegetable garden was a few weeks behind what it was last year…but most things look healthy and the season in quite underway.  I was on a garden tour this month called the Sustainable Backyard Tour…we had about 50 people come by…and the garden looked really nice.  I got a new wicker bench and chair which I have been wanting for several years for our main patio…and the weeds were mostly under control.  The wildlife has been incredible this month, and it really feels like a garden of Eden out there.


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