Composting Our Food Waste

Maybe it’s nesting for baby #2 over here, but I’m like feeling this urge to turn our house into like a self contained oasis where we can get everything we need from our home sweet home – food, love, little bit of this, little bit of that. I feel like there’s some type of symbolic mama bear thing going on – maybe the world seems a bit different of foreign to me, and I think my way of dealing with the chaos around me is trying to create knowns here at home. And y’all – for so, SO, long, I’ve wanted to have a yard that produces food for us. I mean – I’m realistic, I get that I’ll still go to the grocery store and buy tyson chicken more than I should, but I want to start pushing us toward as healthy a lifestyle as possible, and I think knowing precisely where you’re food is coming from (and what it took to get it there) is a good step in that direction.

So some of y’all that follow me on insta and facebook probably saw my initial inspired rant about the steps we’d be taking to get this rodeo happening. This book was a super fun read for me (it’s like 99% pictures, and explanatory text) and it had a few nuggets of info that inspired me to get started on this little self sustaining journey.  Modern_Homesteading_Book_Review

Now it’s a bit of country snobbery IMHO, where they kinda imply that the only way to live sustainably is to like go all out and homestead the heck out of it, and I’m all about finding middle ground guys and empowering people to make small, incremental steps where they’re at. I mean, would it be nice to have a peach tree orchard – sure! But if someone can do something small, and build from that, I’m kinda more on that train.

So our first small step was snagging this compost bin off craigslist for $20.

First_Steps_To_Composting_At_Home

Y’all I love this thing. Like it’s taking the place of the cat in my hierarchy for love for household people/pets in Sell Casa. I feel like wonder woman saving all our food scraps (what, what) and 1) avoiding the landfill and 2) creating some sweet sweet soil for all my crops I be tilling come spring (obvi).

It’s pretty easy concept – just pop open the top and add in your goods. Nothing with dairy or meat can be added, or weeds that go to seed (then you just have compost that’s going to be full of weeds). In fact, I’m so afraid of the whole weeds taking over the compost bin thing, that I’ve decided to avoid all types, not just those (like dandelions) that go to seed. (If anyone knows more about this than me, would love to hear insights)

Compost_Bin_In_City

It’s also super fun to see H get pumped about bringing the compost out and I hope it helps him, in small ways, as he grows up, think about wasting less and wanting less and making things stretch further, faster – vs. this very wasteful society we’re currently all marinating in.

It’s also an added bonus that this little nook of the garden used to look like this.

Hose_Storage_Ideas

And I convinved the hubster to drop six dolla billz at our favorite local hardware shop for this new handy dandy house house thing I’ve been eyeing for a few weeks.

Organizing_Yard_Ideas

Better, right? Not perfect, but definitely better! H always wants to swim in his pool, so it’s nice to have the hose more accessible and less likely to get all tangled up like it did before.

The rest of that row along the house currently looks like this (#dontjudgebut I’m hoping my food I plan to grow just grows as quickly as all those weeds 😀

Overgrown_Sidepath

 

Sealing the Deal

As mentioned in this post, energy efficiency is one of our main goals for the new abode. Sure, a swanky looking space is great, but even better is a swanky house that cost you less dollar bills each month. More money to put toward home renovations, as far as I see it! 🙂 We got a steal of a deal on a home energy audit, and through participation in the program we were also able to qualify for some pretty sweet rebates. Looks like we will be moving forward with a new furnace for the home, and although we would have preferred to wait until the current one keels off to replace it, the fact that they are going to double our rebate (taking almost $1,000 off the price!) compelled us to pull the trigger a wee bit sooner to snag a good deal on a really energy efficient unit.

During the audit, the guys came through with a thermal camera, which helped us to see where we have leaks in the house. In the shots below, where it’s purple, that’s bad. Like winter seeping into your house through all your cracks bad. Crack(s) are whack – we all know that.

Infared Camera Images

So, Jay did what any enthused energy efficient loving husband would do. He gleefully ran to his caulk gun and started sealing away! I was like giddy with excitement the entire time. On one hand, you can’t believe that you have had the gaping holes existing for as long as they did, I mean, I was paying to keep the outdoor kitties warm for a bit there. No wonder they hang out around the house so much…

Check out this beast of a gap. Apparently when the last owner installed this side door, they just forgot to seal this baby. So we had a solid inch of a crack that was letting in a hella of a lot of winter. I literally could not believe it when I stood next to the door – so drafty!

Leak in trim around door

And after Jay came through with the trusty caulk gun, this area was looking a lot better! I can’t believe the difference in comfort in our Dining Room already. It even looks better aesthetically!

Caulked Door Trim

Another spot I did not realize (at all) to check for, is under the baseboards. Most of our boards were sealed pretty well, but there were a few that were really gappy, which leads to leaks. Here is a before picture of some of the trim in our living room. As you can see, there is a noticeable amount of air space there. If you put your hand along the bottom, you could definitely feel the cold air pressing through.

Energy Efficiency Caulking Trim
Leaking Baseboard Trim

And here it is after, looking mighty improved!

Caulked Trim

So if you’re reading this and saying – hot damn! – I need to seal up my old house, too! I would start with the following steps

  1. Anywhere your windows/door/trim meet the big bad outside world, take your hand along the seam and see if you feel any cold air coming through
  2. If you do, grab a caulk gun a get a going! Caulk generally costs around $5, and you can get a lot of space done with (1) caulk gun. Last time I checked, my utility bills were considerably more than $5, so I consider it money well spent. Plus your house feels so. much. better (sitting in the previously drafty dining room right now typing)
  3. Another space to check for are external wall light outlets. Air can actually seep through there as well.
  4. Our basement joists also had some air seeping out. Our contractor suggested this kit (for $329), which will set us back considerably less than the price quoted to have this professionally done ($2,000+)
  5. AND – If you want to shell out $100-$250, start with a comprehensive energy audit. Ours was only $100, which we got back to apply toward the purchase of anything recommended in the audit. This investment was SO worth it to us, because we really wanted to see everything that needs to be done long term to make this house as energy efficient as possible. One major perk to doing this route is that they will come through and do a blower door test, where all of the air gaps in your house are amplified for them to really discern the areas that need to be tackled. During the blower door test, they ran around with the infrared camera, which is where the thermal images came from.

We are feeling more energy efficient already. And a bit richer, cause ya know, it’s always best to spend your hard earned dollar bills heating your house, and not your neighbors ambient air. I feel like my Dad right now – shut the front door! I’m not paying to heat the outside! Well – now I can say with a bit more confidence, that we are indeed not paying to heat the outside. Winning!

This is How We Do It

Winter bike commuting, it’s not for the faint of heart. Then again, with the winter we had last year {warmest on record, ya know}, it’s not all that bad, either. 😉 With this week, being an extremely notable exception with the weather. Holy Mother of Christmas – it’s COLD OUT THERE.

Last year, Jay and I both worked right around 4 miles from our work locations respectively, so we both biked pretty much every day. I would bus every once and a while, and since Jay is not on the bus line, he would also drive if the roads were too slick to accommodate his trusty set of bicycle wheels. BUT – I think he drove like twice last winter because it never snowed. In Michigan. Go figure.

This year has started out with a bit more snow – but – overall it’s been manageable enough for Jay to cycle in pretty consistently. The key to pulling it off is to dress in layers. Lot’s of them actually! 😉 In all seriousness, as long as you have a few pieces of vital gear. You are good. to. go!

For reference here is Jay’s bike. It’s the Trek 7.2 .I’ve got the same one. but the ladies version 😉

Trek 7.2
Trek 7.2

First and foremost – is warmth. Since the mornings here in the mitten are often hovering around 20 digits, you want to make sure your phalanges are sufficiently covered. I opt for my trusty mittens, as my ride is short enough that I really don’t have a chunk of time to warm up as much as Jay does. He theory is usually to start out a wee bit cold {wakes ya up ;)}, and by the time he hits mile 1 or 2, he is feeling just about right. That being said, for your hands and feet, there really isn’t much extra blood pumping through em’ after a few miles, and if anything they get colder as your trip goes on. So…. for Christmas Jay asked for a pair of military issue trigger mittens. These things are embarrassingly ugly, in my humble opinion. But he loves them. I mean he puts these on his paws with pride and big old foolish smile on his face. So ya know – if they keep his hands warm – live and let live, ya know. 😉

Trigger Mittens
Trigger Mittens

Equally important is your safety. It’s always important to wear extremely bright clothing when riding a bike into work, but in the winter, the days are pretty short so a light is really crucial. We recently got this light for Jay and it’s hella bright. Helps me rest a little easier to know all those drivers can see my hubby chugging along on the road. He also was gifted a great Sugoi bike jacket for Christmas from his family. It helps complete the legit, bike commuter look. 🙂 Plus it has reflective piping all over it, another added safety feature.

Sugio Bike Jacket
Sugoi Bike Jacket

As a comparison, I usually choose to bike commute 9-10 months out of 12, and I like walk the coldest days {1.5 miles, 20 mins}, or if it’s rainy/crappy out, I take the bus {6 min. ride to downtown}. Jay likes to bike 12 months out of the year, and he only drives if the roads are too icy to bike, or if it’s raining. He is hard core. I mean, look at his lobster gloves. For schlepping all his work clothes and lunch, Jay uses this Topeak bag, which has great side pockets to store lots of extra stuff.

Topeak Bag
Topeak Bag

Biking to work, and to all of our life activities, has truly been one of the BEST changes Jay and I have ever made. Since we got hitched, Jay has probably lost 30 lbs {I would say due to my cooking, but he is the cook! ;)} – and we are both so much healthier. When we were house hunting, one of the most important things to us was our location – which has paid off dividends. Our commutes take 20 mins, but they are also our exercise  so it’s a total win-win. We love it!

EV Nation

This morning walking to work, I noticed we now have 2 Chevy Volts on our block, along with a Nissan Leaf one street over. I was reading this news article this evening about how Nissan is planning to drop the price on their entry level Leaf to $18,800 (after the tax credit). Now for a car that uses -zero- gas, that is pretty gosh darn cheap! Sure, we would have to get a Level II charger for our garage, which would set us back $800-$1,200, but then again we would see some pretty stellar cost savings.

If we were considering not being a one-car family – I would snag this Leaf stat!! I’m almost considering it even BEING a 1-car family. Is that crazy? Well, let me tell you my thought process on it.

PROS:

  1. Probably 90% of our driving is done right in town, I mean – 10 miles or less. 
  2. Electricity is WAY cheaper than gas and much more importantly – we could opt to install solar panels on our garage to juice it up carbon free
  3. Jay’s work has an EV charger and our city and region are well equipped with infrastructure
  4. Assuming we continue our average amount of driving at 500 miles monthly, 6,000 miles annually, we would pay $244.80/year (assuming .10 per kwh to charge) vs. $429.60 annually for the Prius (assumptions here).
  5. Maintenance costs also decrease quite a bit on a pure EV

CONS:

  1. Although we do a ton of our driving locally – we do travel outside of the state periodically. Outside of planes, trains, and rental cars – this could become a wee bit tricky with a pure EV. BUT, Nissan also offers a complimentary rental program where you can utilize a fleet vehicle  – at no cost – when you need to go out of town. So this starts to negate this point a bit for me.
  2. Until we did have solar panels installed – the decrease in carbon emissions would be negligible
  3. Possible decrease in battery capacity over time (although we have not seen this at all on our Prius, which is a 2007 – a little different given this is a hybrid vs. a pure battery electric vehicle)
  4. And most importantly, our current car is PAID off
Nissan Leaf

So overall – I’m thinking that when our Prius dies, or when we decide to sell it, we should consider a Leaf. Until then, I think it makes sense economically to stick to our trusty fleets of 3 vehicles. 2 bikes, and a car 🙂

One thing for sure – this article got me thinking about how affordable EV’s are becoming, and really started a discussion here at home about the feasibility of this car as a next vehicle for us. What do you guys think? Would you buy an EV? Would you buy one if you were a one car family? Tell us your thoughts!