Saturday Round Up #9 – Health & Wellness

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. We’ve been off to a pretty rocky start with the Round Up as I’ve been getting used to a new linky setup and struggling with some very serious health issues at home. If there’s a problem and you can’t link up, let me know. The more we promote the Saturday Round Up, the more exposure other bloggers can get for their great content and the more interesting reading material we all have. Remember – I will pin and promote all posts that are ON TOPIC! 🙂 Come and share your links each week with

Saturday Round Up #8 – Farm to Table

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. Those of you who have been around here for a while will recognize that the Saturday Round Up has been revived and reworked for 2017. It’s a new year and a fresh start. Come and share your links each week with us. The focus of the week will change, although the schedule is very simple. I will gray out all except the current week, so you can see the focus and plan for later. This week’s focus is on FOOD! Now food starts with the garden and the barnyard and ends on the table,

Planning Your Potager – A practical and productive kitchen garden

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Let’s put together a potager this year! Practical and beautiful, a well-planned kitchen garden is a time-honoured way to add more fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your diet.

A well-planned potager, or kitchen garden, can be a beautiful and enticing way to incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your diet. The following tips will help you plan a productive and practical potager.

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Tip #1: Pick the Perfect Spot

In my introduction to the potager, I mentioned that it is, first and foremost, convenient. When choosing a location for your kitchen garden, try to find a spot as close to your kitchen as possible. This is your personal culinary garden, intended to be used daily throughout the growing season. When you need an herb or a handful of baby green beans for the meal you’re making, they must be ready right now, not after a long stroll down to the other end of the property.

Take into consideration the plants that you are growing. Unless you are growing all shade plants, you will want a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. In really hot climates, you might want it positioned so the plants are shaded in the afternoon.

And finally, locate your kitchen garden close to water. Garden vegetables are very thirsty and you don’t want to drag a heavy garden house or buckets of water in order to keep your plants healthy.

Tip #2: Pick Your Plants

The easiest way to decide what you want to grow in your potager is to think about what you like to cook.

For example, if you use a lot of fresh herbs, you’ll want a big pot of your favourites, or perhaps several small pots nicely arranged. Husband can’t get enough of your homemade salsa? Plan to have a steady supply of fresh cilantro and juicy tomatoes nearby.

In other words, stock your kitchen garden with the fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers you use in your day-to-day cooking. These are the items you will want to have convenient access to throughout the growing season.

For the most part, the same plants will have a home in both your potager and your main garden, but what matters is the type and maturity of the plants. Here’s what I mean.

Pickling cucumbers go to the main garden, but seedless table cucumbers stay in the kitchen garden. Also – if you plan to grow tiny little immature cucumbers to make small batch gherkin pickles, you’ll want those plants handy.

Roma tomatoes for sauce are in the main garden, while cherry tomatoes remain close enough for nibbling.

Beans – both pole and bush – are fabulous in your potager. Any plants that you plan to leave into autumn for dried beans, though, stay in your main garden.

Even carrots can have a spot in your potager. Plant them thickly in a large container and harvest the sweet, tiny carrots throughout the growing season. Your keeping carrots, of course, go in your large main garden.

While most squash need to stay in a large garden, plant one or two climbing, or compact bush-style, zucchini in your potager.

Anything that needs to be tended or harvested daily needs to be in your potager.

Any of the foods that you plan to freeze, can, dehydrate or put into the cold cellar are best grown in your regular vegetable garden. Generally, you don’t need to check on potatoes, sweet potatoes, keeping carrots or storage onions constantly. They grow with minimal attention and are harvested at the end of the season.

Tip #3: Make the Most of the Space You Have

Because your potager is close to the house, it is probably confined to a relatively small space. If that’s the case, though, don’t be discouraged. In fact, look up! We’ll be discussing this in greater detail in future posts.

Using vertical growing space can maximize your growing area. Baskets of herbs can be hung on shepherd hooks. Many tomatoes grow well in upside-down hanging baskets, while others can be supported along a trellis. Pole beans and cucumbers also grow very well on a trellis or fence.

Don’t forget to keep hanging plants well-watered since they will dry out faster.

Take advantage of as much vertical space as possible to maximize your growing area. Consider growing juicy yellow pear tomatoes surrounded by creeping thyme in a vertical container or use hanging baskets suspended on shepherd hooks for your favorite herbs. Just make sure you keep them well watered as hanging baskets tend to dry out more quickly.

If you have a fence or a wooden wall with good sun exposure, eavestroughing can be fastened to it in order to make a vertical garden for plants with short roots, like herbs and lettuce. You could also add a ladder-like series of shelves to house a lot more plants than you could fit into the ground you have available. The Garden Tower operates on that space-saving concept, allowing you to grow 50 plants in a very small space. Plus, it composts in the same space, so it’s ideal for a potager.

Tip #4: Make It Beautiful

Although some may argue that beauty for its own sake is neither productive nor practical, I disagree. Your kitchen garden is an extension of your home and will likely be visible to your family and guests. So, making the area as attractive as possible just makes good sense.

Good garden design requires balance, symmetry and repetition.

To incorporate balance and symmetry into your potager, try adding two matching brightly colored containers filled with herbs and place them on each side of the entrance.

For repetition, add multiples of the same plants throughout the garden. For example, a group of 3 cherry tomato plants in attractive containers will have a stronger visual impact than a single plant. You can also create a sense of order by planting lovely borders of edible flowers or fragrant herbs along walkways.

Let’s face it – we like spending time in beautiful places.

One great thing about incorporating ornamental aspects into your potager is you may find you want to spend more time in an area that nourishes both your body and soul.

One book that I strongly recommend, if you are trying to design a kitchen garden – a potager – that is both beautiful and practical, is Gardening Like a Ninja. The author, Angela, is a friend of mine, and she has put together an amazing book about slipping edible plants into your landscape. The book is full colour and packed with gorgeous photographs and helpful charts. No matter how small the space or how much you need to make your garden look like landscaping, Angela will give you what you need.

 

Is Your Energy Bill Eating Too Much of Your Money

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Is your power bill out of control?

How do you get a lower energy bill when it is out of control?

It doesn’t matter where you live. I have a friend in South Africa who worries about her power bill, too. As we are moving from an off-grid cabin in the woods to an on-grid house that has never been renovated for energy efficiency, the thought of money trickling away through the power line is at the front of my mind! Where we live, there is no time-of-day billing, and we pay a base rate (somewhere around $10/month, I think) plus $0.148 per kilowatt hour, which gives us the second-highest electricity rates in Canada.

If you’re in Ontario, congratulations, you’re #1.

It’s no surprise that you’re trying to figure out ways to cut expenditures. The logical place to look is your living costs, and a major cost of living is your energy bill.

Most of us don’t receive our power bill and immediately think “Oh, well, that’s not too bad!” (Unless you’re totally on alternative energy like solar)  If you’re looking for some very actionable tips on a variety of utility bills, head over here. If your energy bill is much larger than it needs to be, you might be running it up in ways you don’t even notice.

Now who am I to tell you how to get your power bill down? Well, for three years we lived in an off-grid cabin in the woods and we learned how to make the most of our limited electricity. At the height of the summer, we had about 2kwh of electricity per day. Since moving our family of six to a 2800 square foot, 4 bedroom house on grid, we’ve gone to an extravagant 16 kwh daily. (We’re still getting used to living in this big house – that will go down!)

When you do things that waste energy, you’re also throwing away your money.

Decide you’re going to fervently find and address all the ways you’re leaking energy and money at home. The enjoyable result of your diligence will be some relief from those large electric bills!

Check out these hidden energy drains that eat up your funds (and I know you do at least one of them!)

Leaving your cell phone and electronic tablet chargers plugged in all the time

This might come as a shock but did you know that even if you don’t have your cell phone or tablet plugged in at the other end, these chargers are using energy?

Speaking of chargers, if you leave your cell phone charging after it reaches 100%, it continues to waste valuable energy. So, avoid plugging your cell phone in at night before you go to bed. If you do, it will be draining wasted electricity all night.

Not changing air filters often enough

Have you vowed to change your air conditioner/furnace filter monthly but then don’t do it? Your blower is trying to get precious warm or cool air to you through the vents. But the air can’t get through to be sent through your house if your filter is all clogged up with dust bunnies, pet hair, and dirt.

However you set reminders – your planner, your cell phone or Google emails – make sure that you’re reminded to change your filters on the first of every month.

If appliances don’t have to work hard to heat and cool, you’ll save dollars.

Using appliances that aren’t Energy Star

As you probably know, the Energy Star rating signifies reduced energy utilization to run the appliance, which is a good thing that saves you money.

Even though it probably isn’t economically feasible to run right out and replace all your major appliances with Energy Star appliances, it does make sense to replace old, worn-out appliances with Energy Star products. Insist on Energy Star products when you’re shopping for new appliances.

The seller of our new house included all of her appliances. They’re not old, but they’re not Energy Star. We’ll be keeping our eye out for sales!

Having standard incandescent light bulbs

Do you avoid compact fluorescent bulbs? If you were to replace the 3 most used lights in your home with LED or compact fluorescent bulbs, you would be pleasantly surprised with the results on your electric bill.

Here in Nova Scotia, if you qualify as low income (less than $30K annual income for a family of four, I believe), Efficiency Nova Scotia will replace all incandescent lights with LED without charge. Check to see if your local government has a similar program.

Appliances, gadgets, lamps, televisions, and more that stay plugged in all the time

Although it might be a hassle to unplug and plug in things frequently, the electric companies stress you can save some money if you only plug in items when you’re actually using them.

It might be a bit more exercise to plug and unplug things, like the coffeepot, toaster, lamps, televisions and the like. But you stand to save considerable energy and dollars if you do.

Water heaters set at too high a temperature

Sure, you like to take a hot shower, but does it have to be that hot? Think about the fact that if you set your water heater for 130 or 140F, then it is constantly trying to keep all of the water it holds at that temperature, not knowing when you’ll need the water. You can see how that would waste energy and cost you money.  And there is a increased chance of children or the elderly accidentally burning themselves.

Instead, reduce the temperature setting to 120 degrees. You’ll save quite a bit.

Of course, this only works if you have a gas or electric hot water heater. If you are heating your home with hot water (as is the case in my new house), the water is automatically heated by the furnace and arrives at your tap piping hot and anti-scald devices must be added to all taps and showerheads. In that case, lowering the temperature would reduce the effectiveness of your heat.

In fact, we will be looking into installing a small electric hot water tank to use during the summer – that way we can turn the furnace off entirely in the summer and keep the hot water tank at 120F instead of 160F+.

When it comes to saving costs to run your home, consider doing something about the above drains on your electricity and wallet. You’ll feel great when you do what you can to reduce your energy and budget expenditures every single day.

A lower energy bill makes everyone feel better.

Saturday Round Up #7 – Faith and Family theme

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. Those of you who have been around here for a while will recognize that the Saturday Round Up has been revived and reworked for 2017. It’s a new year and a fresh start. I’m going to be hard to reach this week, because I’m focusing on learning and growing as a writer and blogger. Nose to the grindstone, baby!  But I’ll be back online soon and I’ll be happy to pin and share whatever (on topic!) post you link up. Come and share your links each week with us. The focus of the week

Saturday Round Up #6 – Home & Finance

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. Those of you who have been around here for a while will recognize that the Saturday Round Up has been revived and reworked for 2017. It’s a new year and a fresh start.   Come and share your links each week with us. The focus of the week will change, although the schedule is very simple. I will gray out all except the current week, so you can see the focus and plan for later. Faith and Family — Share blog posts focusing on Christian faith (yes, this is where you can post those devotions,

Getting Kids to Eat Broccoli (and Like It!)

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How do I get my child to eat healthy food? If you ever feel as though you’re alone as a parent, just start searching for answers on that and related issues. Children are known to be fussy and refuse to eat most of the foods we know are healthy. Most of them live on a diet of breaded chicken and fries and they really hate vegetables like broccoli. Right? Well, maybe. My mom will tell you that I was one of those fussy children, and I’m not a whole lot different today. I dislike strong tastes and there are certain

Saturday Round Up #5 – Health & Wellness

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. We’ve been off to a pretty rocky start with the Round Up as I’ve been getting used to a new linky setup and struggling with some very serious health issues at home. If there’s a problem and you can’t link up, let me know. The more we promote the Saturday Round Up, the more exposure other bloggers can get for their great content and the more interesting reading material we all have. Remember – I will pin and promote all posts that are ON TOPIC! 🙂 Have you noticed my very awesome background? It’s

Finding Peace in Challenging Times

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Choosing the path of peace can be a challenging task on a good day. On a bad day, it can feel downright impossible. The constant ups and downs in life are a given. They’re largely uncontrollable. But you can control your response to them. You can learn to feel peaceful in challenging times.

How to Manage Your Time with Mary Poppins

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Of the movies in my favourites list, Mary Poppins is certainly in the top ten. And, while it’s not very true to the books, the delightful Mary Poppins movie can teach us a lot about managing time. We’ve learned how to take our medicine and so much more from her – it’s time to find out how to manage time with Mary Poppins. After all, Mary set the gold standard for efficiency long before nannies began starring in reality TV shows. She was strict, punctual and perfectly organized. Unlike the books (in which she’s rather vain and nasty at times,

Two Questions That Will Put Everything In Perspective

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It’s easy to get bogged down with all the information telling you to do this or that or something else entirely. You want a better life for your family – a sustainable, self-reliant life – but there is so much information out there telling you how to get there. How do you cut through the …. well, let’s say the baloney … and figure out what really matters?

Saturday Round Up #4 – Farm to Table

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. Those of you who have been around here for a while will recognize that the Saturday Round Up has been revived and reworked for 2017. It’s a new year and a fresh start. Come and share your links each week with us. The focus of the week will change, although the schedule is very simple. I will gray out all except the current week, so you can see the focus and plan for later. This week’s focus is on FOOD! Now food starts with the garden and the barnyard and ends on the table,

How to Slow Down and Learn to Enjoy Simplicity

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Entire books have been written on how to slow down, enjoy simple pleasures, and lead a simple lifestyle. These books exist because people often long for simplicity, but don’t know how to get out of the rat race long enough to learn it. The good news is, you can start small by implementing some simple tips and suggestions. Here are some ideas. Ten Minutes Ten minutes is a doable time increment for even the busiest person, so it’s a good place to start. Your ten minutes can be at any point during the day – before breakfast, partway through the

Yes, You Can Butcher Homegrown Chickens

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Have you ever considering butchering homegrown chickens? Chickens are a very convenient source of meat.  Whether you’re living on a large property in the country or a small suburban block, you can usually find room for a few chickens, they are cheap to feed and they are relatively small and easy to butcher.  However, I have talked to (and read blog about) many people who find the idea of killing a chicken very difficult.   Hi, I’m Liz, and I’m joining Marie here today to share with you about getting ready to butcher homegrown chickens. I live on eight acres in south

Saturday Round Up #3 – Faith and Family theme

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. Those of you who have been around here for a while will recognize that the Saturday Round Up has been revived and reworked for 2017. It’s a new year and a fresh start. It’s funny how, even though I strongly advocate for a sustainable lifestyle, I often begin projects which are not sustainable for me. A hand-picked weekly list of great sites, while enjoyable when I could do it, was not sustainable since I have a small army of little children at home. Therefore, after a break to decide what I would do, I

Coffee and Sin: Living Life with a Focus on God

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Are you living your life with a focus on God? Or are you always, in a hundred little ways, focusing on sin in your life and that of others? It’s an important question. It’s so important that I believe it affects every aspect of your spiritual life. In fact, your focus will determine whether you struggle daily with sin or whether you almost consider it a non-issue. Crazy, thought, I realize, if you absolutely know that all Christians must struggle daily with sin. Let’s imagine, if you will, that this cup of coffee represents sin. Any sin. All sin. Whatever

Taking the Time to Count Your Blessings

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Our world makes it so easy to get caught up in its busy-ness and to forget to count our blessings. But the truth is, you actually have plenty of things to be grateful for, regardless of the circumstances in which you may find yourself. For a moment, turn your thoughts from the fences that need repairing before spring, or the bills that are piling up or … we all have something that puts us into a fretting, negative mindset. But just as we all have problems, every one has their own unique list of things that bring simple pleasure, feelings of pure

Creating Goals for Your Best Garden Ever

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The first step to creating your best garden ever is knowing what you want and setting goals to get there. Too often we make goals for things like finances and education, but we don’t realize that we can use goal-setting to improve many aspects of our lives. Have you ever actually stopped to think about your vegetable gardening goals? Let’s take a quick look at some of the common motivations for gardening first, because that’s the basis of your goals. Getting outside Digging in the dirt is a wonderful way to get outside, get some fresh air and gentle exercise,

Start New Year with a New Family Budget

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Do you need a family budget that works for you this year? I can see you squirming. You’re not the only one. For singles, creating a budget is relatively easy. They tend to have a good handle on how much money they have coming in, and when tracking expenses, they only have their own to think about. Of course singles can overspend, too, but it’s at least a bit simpler to see where the income and outgo are. But creating a family budget is a whole new ball game. Most families have multiple sources of income, so it’s not as

Dealing with Holiday Tension When the Family Gets Together

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Families. They can be a wonderful blessing, and they help make us who we are. But oh, can’t they be a major pain in the neck during the holidays. In fact, they can be both a wonderful blessing and a pain in the neck at the same time. Most of us are under a lot of stress during the Christmas season. With a long school holiday, storm days if you’re in a cold region, and lots of social gatherings, we usually see a lot more of each other at this time than during the rest of the year. Stress and

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Sometimes Christmas Just Sucks

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Life comes in seasons. Some years are wonderful, with laughter, few worries and plenty of good. Other years, though, it seems that the tears never stop. In the good years, the entire holiday season can be joyful and fun. When life takes a turn for the worse, though, we might just wish Christmas would go away. And that’s okay. Yesterday I wrote about enjoying Christmas even if it’s not perfect. Don’t hold back your Christmas joy just because the ornaments are made of paper and the turkey was donated. Laugh and smile and enjoy what you have even if you

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Are You Coveting a Magazine Perfect Christmas

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Covet? No, not me. Never. It’s that Christmas has to be … well, it’s not really, really Christmas until we … I mean, we wouldn’t want the disaster that happened that year I let my husband do the planning … Take a deep breath and face it. You are coveting the perfect magazine Christmas and it’s completely wrecking your joy. Coveting is bad. Joy is good. Just in case you’re wondering. It doesn’t have to be a magazine, of course. Depending on your age, we could call it a Pinterest perfect Christmas, a magazine Christmas or a TV show Christmas. Maybe

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Christian Pacifism – Turn The Other Cheek

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Recently, my youngest son punched another boy in the playground. I was absolutely mortified. But it was worse when I was told “I’m sure your boys settle their problems with fists at home, but it’s just not done here.” It’s not done here, either! While we certainly never claim to any sort of perfection, I am very much a Christian pacifist. This week I want to look at Christian pacifism. Plain people are pacifists. It’s kind of in the definition, if you want to be honest. Amish, Mennonite, Quaker, Hutterite, Brethren or other, those who commit to following a Plain

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Be At Peace With All – The Power of Asking Forgiveness

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My friends among the Old Order Mennonites have a practice that is profound in its simplicity and yet incredible in its effect upon the members and their relationships. For those who may not know, Christians are admonished to “inasmuch as it is possible, be at peace with all” (and many of us really rely on that notwithstanding clause “inasmuch as it is possible”…) Instead of having communion weekly or monthly the way many churches do, they have it only twice a year and treat it with an incredible importance. My Old Order Mennonite friends were shocked when they learned how

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