If you've been following me for awhile, you know that I didn't get into gardening and permaculture just for the delicious and nutritious food, though that's certainly a big bonus. My passion for growing food and living sustainably comes from a place of deep concern and love for our planet, for the wildness and beauty of our only home, and a belief that we can all contribute in a meaningful way to positive social change.
That's why I'm excited to share this video with you today. In it, I talk with our very own local 'zero waste expert', Julie Fathy, about her ten tips to go zero waste in your home. Julie has been on a zero waste and sustainability journey for over a decade and I love her approach.
With a garden, compost pile, and little focus on buying 'stuff', I would consider that our household does pretty well in terms of generating minimal waste, but Julie takes it to a whole new level. She has inspired me to go that extra step in considering all aspects of my home.
If you've been feeling either overwhelmed or paralyzed by what actions you can specifically take to make a difference, you'll want to watch this video. The tips that Julie shares are concrete ways in which you can be part of the solution. For every plastic bag that you don't use, for every piece of junk mail that doesn't arrive in your mailbox, for every item you can buy in bulk rather than with packaging, you feel lighter, more empowered and hopeful about the future. And then, you find yourself sharing these ideas with one friend, who shares it with another, and so the process of change expands and multiplies.
As Julie would say, it's not important that we are perfect at a zero waste life, it's important that all of us do this imperfectly in some way. So whether you adopt one or all ten of the tips that she shares, I hope this galvanizes you into action.
So check out the video below to learn ten tips to go zero waste in your home. Then, if you have any questions for Julie, feel free to drop them in the comments below! Also check out Julie's recipes below this video!
Zero Waste Recipes by Julie Fathy
A homemade salve is the only product I use to moisturize my skin. The salve is made quickly with two ingredients, olive oil and beeswax. I buy the olive oil in bulk and the beeswax package-free from a local beekeeper, eliminating a tremendous amount of waste. Although not necessary, it’s lovely to infuse olive oil with medicinal herbs, flowers and plants. I infuse my oil with whatever is in season or what’s been previously dried.
1 c olive oil, infused if you prefer
1 oz beeswax
Heat oil and wax in a glass or metal container set over simmering water. When wax is melted, gently stir and pour into jars. Let cool on counter. Store extra jars in a cool place. Adjust olive oil or wax to get the consistency you like. I usually use a smidge over a cup of oil to 1 oz of wax for the perfect consistency.
Simple Tooth Powder
A simple tooth powder can be made from two ingredients in your pantry, sea salt and baking soda. If you’re easing someone into the change from toothpaste to powder, xylitol can be added for sweetness and additional medicinal properties. Please check with your dentist to make sure this is a good choice for you and your family.
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp xylitol, or to taste (optional)
Put ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Recipe can be scaled up to meet your needs. Spoon tooth powder onto wet toothbrush and brush as you normally do.
Natural Household Cleaners
I clean my house with three ingredients: baking soda, vinegar and castile soap. I don’t generally follow recipes, but I do make an all-purpose spray and glass cleaner, which can also be used as a disinfectant cleaner on non-stone surfaces.
I make this spray by the gallon and pour into a spray bottle as needed. I mix it in an empty white distilled vinegar gallon jug. This recipe is safe on natural stone and concrete surfaces. I learned the hard way, that vinegar will damage stone surfaces. To make the herb tea, I steep mint or lemongrass from my garden in hot water. I think steeping pine and fir needles would be lovely too. Be careful to choose plants that won’t add too much color and stain a surface.
1 tablespoon of castile soap
¼ cup of strong herbal tea
water, to fill jug
In an empty gallon jug mix all ingredients. Dispense into a spray bottle.
Glass and Disinfectant Cleaner
1 part white vinegar
1 part water
1-2 drops castile soap
In a spray bottle fill half full with vinegar, top with water and add a drop or two of castile soap. Recap spray bottle and gently shake.
We know that food, especially grown in our backyard gardens, is medicine. Eating fresh vegetables and fruit every day is fundamental to a healthy body and mind.
Yet there are, of course, additional plants that have medicinal values beyond just being super nutritious. They help boost our immunity, soothe our throats, calm a fever, heal our skin, aid with insomnia and much more. Just as growing our own food allows us to become more self-reliant, growing our own medicine gives us that same sense of agency.
If you’ve ever wanted to grow and make your own medicine, then my video today is for you. I’m very excited because this is the first video that I’ve made where I bring on a special guest! This past June, I had the pleasure of teaching a permaculture workshop at the Green Path Herb School in Missoula, Montana. While I was there, the co-director of the school, Elaine Sheff, kindly agreed to be interviewed.
As I explain in the video, Elaine is an herbalist extraordinaire, with thirty years of experience in the field. Needless to say, I knew she was the one to ask about the top five medicinal plants to grow in cold climates. Not only does Elaine share and explain the uses of these plants, if you stick around for the entire video, you’ll also learn about 4 additional ‘weeds’ that have so many beneficial properties. These are weeds that are most likely already growing in your yard.
I do have to apologize in advance for the audio in this video. Unfortunately, it’s not the greatest quality as we were having some issues. It was also related to the fact that Elaine’s beehives were buzzing like crazy! But I promise that if you stick with it, you'll learn a ton!
Then, I’d love to hear from you. What medicinal plants are you growing in your garden and which ones will you plant next growing season? Please share those in the comments below!
This past fall, I was honored to be part of Samantha Bates student film thesis project on composting. In addition to a quick tour of my backyard composting operation, Samantha gives you a look into several fantastic initiatives that are happening in Bozeman. From the folks at YES Compost to Happy Trash Can to the Spring Creek Communal Garden, I'm honored to be included in this informative and inspiring short film.
As a gardener, you may already compost, but I would encourage you to spread the word to those within your community who may not already. With curbside composting available in Bozeman, it's such a great way to cut down on waste, while contributing to soil health.
Check out the video below!
Needless to say, these cold temperatures haven't exactly been the most inspiring in terms of getting out in the garden this spring!
It's at times like these, when I'm still slipping on long underwear in the morning and donning my down jacket for the 8th month in a row that I so very much appreciate having a greenhouse. Even if just a little bit of light penetrates through the clouds, the temperatures in the greenhouse are going to be at least 10 to 20 degrees warmer than outside.
Especially in our cold climate, the ability to extend our season and enjoy early and late season greens while giving our warm season crops a little more protection is really needed. Right now, I have an abundance of lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale, pea shoots, cilantro and dill in the greenhouse. Meanwhile, my cool season crops outside are fighting against the wind and the rain and planting tomatoes in my outdoor garden still seems like a pipe dream.
So check out my video below to learn some of the tips and tricks that I use in my greenhouse to maximize the space, minimize energy use, and mitigate pests and disease.
Then, I would love to hear from you. What season extension techniques and/or greenhouse tips and tricks do you use? Please share them in the comments below!
The promise of spring is in the air! I have tiny arugula, spinach, and lettuce seedlings coming up in the greenhouse and the snow is slowly melting off my annual garden beds. We've been pruning our trees in the food forest and I'll be tackling the berry bushes by the end of the week. I love this renewed sense of hope and possibility as we emerge from a long and cold winter.
If you watched my Planting Calendar video a few weeks ago then you'll know that now is the time to start planting seeds indoors. In cold climates, we need to get a jumpstart on the season. We do this by starting some of our crops indoors so that they get to be big enough before moving them to our gardens outside.
Starting seeds indoors can save you a lot of money in the long run as one packet of seeds can yield dozens of seedlings. Plus, you get to grow the varieties that you would like, rather than choosing from what the nursery has to offer. It's also rather nourishing to nurture and care for these beautiful green seedlings while it's still brown and snowy outside.
If you're excited about the prospect of a little indoor gardening then you'll want to check out my video today. In it, I go through the materials you'll need to start seeds indoors as well as the process that I use. So click on the video below to learn more!
As I write this, there's about 4 feet of snow piled against the south side of the greenhouse, the pond is almost completely obscured and the chickens are getting a little stir-crazy having been cooped up in their house. The thermometer reads 10 degrees F, which seems balmy compared to the subzero temperatures that we've been experiencing over the past couple of weeks.
But, believe it or not, it really is time to start planning for the growing season ahead.
In my video today, I wanted to share one of the most useful resources I have in my vegetable gardening toolkit - the Planting Calendar. In gardening, especially in cold climates, timing is everything. This Planting Calendar will give you a good guideline for what to plant when as we move into spring. It will also give you an idea of when to start your seeds indoors. Click on the video to learn more and then download my calendar below!
Click here to download my Planting Calendar. Remember, use this as a guide but be sure to check with your gardening neighbors and friends about dates that may be more specific to your site.
Have questions? Please ask them in the comments below!
There’s a philosophical and a practical side to gardening, “the why” we do it and then “the how.”
In most of my videos, I cover “the how” of gardening, giving you advice and recommendations on everything from ripening tomatoes, to composting, to establishing a food forest. And in the case of my video today, the Top 5 Seed Companies that I would recommend.
However, before you dive into watching, I wanted to spend a little bit of time talking about seeds, delving more into the philosophical, before you get to the practical.
In the chaos of early spring, I often take seeds for granted. I’m so focused on the “doing” aspect of gardening i.e. prep the soil, plant the seed, water, repeat, that I don’t spend too much time in contemplation mode.
When I allow myself to get quiet, to really consider the meaning and potential of seeds, it sort of blows me away. Every season, each tiny seed that I have in my hand holds the potential for generations of food. GENERATIONS.
Because if I continued to save the seed from those plants year after year, to cultivate varieties that do well in our cold climate, to share those seeds with my friends and neighbors and to have them do the same with different plants, then we start to move towards a truly local and resilient food system.
Of course, that’s how it used to be. In an age where we can walk into a grocery store and get whatever we crave on demand, we often forget how our ancestors were inextricably tied to their food and to their land. Only since the advent of industrial agriculture has this connection been severed, taken from the realm of the commons and put under the control of the corporations.
Fundamentally, this is why I have a garden. Yes, the fresh tomatoes are delicious but for me, it’s about reclaiming our food from the monocultures, the pesticides, and the chemical fertilizers that impoverish our soil, our health, and our communities.
Our food system has a long way to go in terms of seed banks in local communities across the country, each adapted to that particular region. In the meantime, My Top 5 Seed Company Recommendations are good go-to places to get your seed. The first two companies are regional sources for seeds and the next two are companies who are at the forefront of seed diversity, seed saving, and reintroducing heirloom varieties.
As we retrain ourselves as agricultural workers, as we rediscover truths that used to be so much a part of the fabric of what it was to be a human being, we start to appreciate the ‘little things’, like seeds, that are actually quite significant. They are what connect us to the earth, to our food, to our bodies, and to our spirit.
So though I may talk about the practical in this video, I encourage you to come back to the philosophical, to the heart of gardening, and to the potential of the seed this gardening season.
Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed... Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders. – Henry David Thoreau
I'm not sure about you but for me, composting in the winter time is a bit of a challenge. Though it's possible to insulate an outdoor pile and add high nitrogen materials to keep the pile cooking, in my opinion, it's not really worth the time and energy.
After I've thrown the kitchen scraps that I can to my chickens, I do two things with the remaining material:
This video is actually from the Building Healthy Soil Module of my Online Edible Backyards Series (which is available at a 25% discount here).
In having a few options for composting, I am following the permaculture principle of 'each function is supported by multiple elements'. In other words, I want to compost and cut down on my waste. How do I do that? I have three different ways: feeding scraps to my chickens, an outdoor compost pile, and an indoor worm bin. Make sense? So when one option, like the outdoor pile, is unavailable, then I have a few other options to fulfill this function of zero waste. Building redundancy in your system increases your resilience.
If worms kind of make you squirm and/or you don't want to don your parka and trudge through the snow to your compost pile, then I also want to let you know about the business, Happy Trash Can. Happy Trash Can offers a residential curbside composting service. Even if you don't need this service yourself, I'd love it if you passed along this information to your neighbors and friends. Learn more about them here.
Whether you have an outdoor compost pile, an indoor worm bin, or have someone picking up your kitchen scraps, let's all work together to divert as much food waste from our landfill as possible!
Enjoy the video,
Happy New Year!
I hope you had a wonderful holiday season filled with meaningful connection, delicious food, and some down time.
Though I always like to enter a new year with hope, energy, and positivity, I have to say that listening to the news every day often counters those feelings. The top news headlines today include the US government shutdown, the opioid crisis, glaciers retreating in Central Asia, and the attack on US troops in Syria. Not exactly uplifting stories.
I have often wondered what this world would look like and how different we would all feel, if the morning news included reports of land restoration, of building community, of job creation in a green economy, of local farmers growing organic food. I know these stories are happening, they just aren’t reported nearly as often.
That’s why I wanted to share the three inspiring books that I'm reading this winter. When the good news doesn’t come to us, we have to seek it out.
1. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
This is an incredible book and will make you want to wander in the woods or dig in your garden. As a botanist but also a Potawatomi woman, Kimmerer weaves science together with indigenous teachings to show us how the natural world brings us so many gifts and lessons.
From the gift of strawberries, to harvesting maple syrup, to the three sisters garden and picking sweetgrass, the storytelling is exquisite. It’s a true reminder of our connection to the natural world, the reciprocal relationship that we need to rediscover, and an inspiration to continue the work of restoration, for the land and for ourselves.
2. Fertile Edges: Regenerating land, culture and hope by Maddy Harland
Maddy Harland is the editor of the Permaculture Magazine International, an incredible resource for anyone wanting to learn more about permaculture. Fertile Edges is a compilation of her editorial articles over the past 25 years of the magazine’s publication, chronicling the rise of permaculture and the positive developments of this global movement, amidst the backdrop of the environmental crises facing us.
This book embodies the whole impulse of permaculture, to be aware of the challenges ahead but to stay firmly grounded in and to act on the myriad solutions that are available to us. As Harland describes in the book, this is the essence of permaculture: applied positive vision.
3. Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken
This book should be required reading in every high school across the planet. I think we would cultivate a different future for ourselves if every young person were aware of the solutions presented in this book. Compiled by a 120-person Advisory Board of prominent geologists, engineers, agronomists, biologists, economists, climatologists, and botanists, Drawdown outlines 100 solutions to reverse global warming. These are solutions that are currently in practice worldwide. The book ranks each solution’s impact based on CO2 reduction, its net cost, and its lifetime savings. There is also a really great website connected to the book.
Wouldn’t you know, 8 out of the top 20 solutions are related to food. From reducing food waste, to eating a plant-rich diet, to regenerative agriculture and managed grazing, there is so much that we can do in our local communities to have a significant impact. It’s the good news we need and a kick in the pants to expand what we are doing.
Not to worry, I also read novels, but these are the books that have me inspired in the new year to continue helping people grow gardens and design self-reliant homesteads.
The prognosis can often seem pretty bleak, but these three books are great reminders that there are so many victories happening in the world that go unnoticed.
We know that if we live from fear, we can be controlled by it. Yet if we have the sense that the majority of humanity is working towards a better future (which it is), then we have agency, we have motivation, and we have hope.
I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey.
Community. Connection. Meaningful Work.
We all want these things, but every day is filled with challenges and compromises, not to mention bad news. Sometimes, it can be hard to envision a hopeful and sustainable future for ourselves and the planet.
But there is a growing movement that focuses on positive concrete solutions, one that helps us become more self-reliant, grow food we can trust, improve our quality of life, and build better relationships. That movement is called permaculture and if you haven't jumped on board, now is the time.
In my video today, I explain five reasons why you should consider taking the Women's Online Permaculture Design Course.
If you've been following me for awhile, you know that I am one of 40 permaculture teachers who comprise the first-ever online permaculture design course taught by all women. For more information about the course, go here.
This is a self-paced online course that is available right now. You could be learning about how best to design your property, grow food, capture water, and build soil within minutes of enrolling!
PLUS, there is currently a Winter Solstice Sale on the course at the lowest price ever! If you sign-up now, you'll get a 20% discount. However, you need to act soon as the discount spots are running out! So click on the video below to learn more about why you should take this ground-breaking course.
Again, if you want more information about the course, click here.
Or, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me via e-mail (email@example.com) or phone (406.600.7881). I am happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have.
Make the decision to transform you land and your life. Join me for the course!