Category Archives: Grow Your Own

Plant based diet

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I’m going to talk food for a bit… but not the foraging, home grown food of my dreams. I’m going to talk about plant based diets.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called Food Choices which examines the damage to our health and climate that modern diets are causing. It was really fascinating, I knew that vegetarian and vegan diets were better for the environment but I never knew they were better for our health. It is definitely worth a watch if this is something you are interested in or want to know more about!

I have been vegetarian for most of my life and used to raise two happily vegetarian kids, but guilt won over this last year and I allowed them to eat meat, even started buying and cooking it for them. After watching this documentary I started a conversation with them about healthy eating and we agreed as a family to adopt a more plant based diet.

The hardest shift towards veganism for me is dairy… I love dairy! I have cheese, butter and milk as part of most meals and I love it…. the girls were equally worried! So we agreed to transition slowly, but also accept that we would eat what we wanted at times but only as a treat.

So how are we going to structure this shift to keep us on track and focused but without pushing it too far or too quickly?

Our plan is structured over 4 weeks:

  • Week 1 – Breakfast
  • Week 2 – Breakfast and lunch
  • Week 3 – Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Week 4 – Breakfast, lunch, dinner, pudding and snacks

The aim is to eat predominantly plant based foods, trying to cut out processed foods and sugar and generally eat more healthy. I strongly recommend watching that documentary to see what I mean by this. However I will allow the odd naughty treat once in a while, as eating it rarely is better than always in my opinion and we do love them naughties!

I will post my successes and challenges each week including my old diet and new diet and will welcome any feedback and tips along the way!

 

Our Pond Building Adventure

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On New Years Eve, me and my daughters had a wonderful day embracing and caring for nature. I had been reading up on permaculture principles, mostly in preparation for when we do manage to obtain our own land but also to try and use some in our current rented house.

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My research pointed out to pond building to provide a habitat for wildlife particularly frogs who would also eat garden pests such as slugs and bugs.

The total project cost £30 as I felt that it was better to invest in a good pond liner for this project and I see that as quite a long term investment. I’m not really sure how you would do it for free.

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Me and my kids set to work digging a hole, aiming for about 50cm deep but with sloping edges so frogs can get in and out of the pond easily. Then we removed any sharp objects like stones from the edges, lined the pond with something to prevent punctures. Old carpet is good but we didn’t have any so we used old bed sheets. Then put the pond liner down and anchor it with some stones whilst you fill it with some water. Simply edge it with stones and voila a pond.

WP_20151231_004We are going to try and get some water lillies from a friends pond and added our pet goldfish who enjoyed the freedom from the tank and is loving his new home!

All in all it was a great project and I think I will plan a pond in every future garden from now on! There’s just so many benefits! It’s like a beautiful, natural pesticide that protects rather than destroys wildlife.

Homemade / Natural Deodrant

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So as part of the FreEco Bus journey and my personal journey, it has also been important for me to consider how I will meet my hygiene needs in as eco friendly way as possible whilst still trying to reduce my dependency on money. As part of this I have used a lot of the eco alternatives, both shop bought and homemade.

Here are some eco options to consider and my experiences of them.

crystal-deodorant-travel-salt-of-the-earth-200x2506482Salt Crystals: The ones I used had no scent to them and were used in a similar way to roll on deodorant, except that you need to get you or it wet first. I didn’t notice any bad odor when I used these, but equally didn’t get that nice clean feeling or scent. They left me with damp skin which I didn’t want to dry off in case it rubbed of the salt. They were long lasting though and  they seemed to work ok, not great but ok.  I just found them a bit clumsy and uncomfortable.

Lush Deodrant: I haven’t tried Lush deodorant as I went straight from the above to the homemade alternatives as they are so easy to make, but I have used a lot of Lush products during my transitioning phase with each cosmetic and hygiene product that I use. I use them as they use recycled and/or compostable packaging and they try and reduce the use of chemicals in the products, don’t test on animals… the ethical list goes on. So if you are going to go for shop bought I recommend them!

Homemade Bicarbonate of Soda & Coconut Oil Roll On Deodorant: This is one of my favorites, but I think there are more eco friendly alternatives out there. I like it because it feels like a typical roll on pretty much, you can add scent if you want to but I prefer not too and it is easy to make. The bicarbonate of soda provides the deodorizing effect whilst the coconut oil moisturizes the skin. Simply keep an old roll on tube and when empty wash it out to put the homemade alternative into. Mix enough melted coconut oil (to fill the container when solidified) with 1-2 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda. Then pour into your container and let set.

WP_20151218_004Homemade Natural Deodorizing Spray: This is my favorite for environmental reasons and is the one that I will likely keep, although I may vary it slightly over the years as most people do with homemade recipes. What I did was I kept a pretty old perfume bottle (use pliers to get the spray bit off) to use as a container but any spray bottle will do. Make a herbal infusion (or if you’re a bit lazy like me a tea) with bay leaves and scented herb, I used rosemary to scent. I also didn’t clean my perfume bottle out too much so a bit of that scent comes through. Then when it’s cooled pour the liquid into your perfume bottle and spritz on armpits. Granted it doesn’t last as long as the others and the wetness takes some getting used to, but I like this for the environmental benefits. I have my own bay tree and rosemary plants so I can make this completely from home sourced materials. Therefore it is the most sustainable form of deodorant that I have found so far. I tend to spritz it more often than I would traditional deodorant to make up for how long it lasts. Generally though it seems to work for general day to day use. You might need something stronger if you were doing something more intensive. Generally though I would just wash after those things… but if you can’t then maybe opt for the bicarbonate of soda method above?

I tend to be of the belief that if you eat a healthy diet and maintain good hygiene (i.e. wash regularly) you shouldn’t be too smelly. So something like the natural deodorizing spritz should be enough to give your body a little bit of help. I also oppose the use of antiperspirants as our body has evolved to sweat for a reason! So I really hope this post will give you some ideas to try out some new alternatives, and if one doesn’t work for you keep trying different options.

If you have any other ideas for eco options for deodorant please comment below, ideally homemade with local materials.

Where to start???

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So, I’ve decided to make my dream of creating the FreEco Bus Small Holding a reality… but where on earth do I start???

Honestly… I have no idea!

questionsAt the moment I have a rush of questions filling my head… How on earth do I convert an old double decker bus into a family home? Do I need planning permission to site the FreEco Bus on land? What about power, water, warmth, budget? What do I need to be self-sufficient?

But the most burning question of all is… Where do I start?

There is so much to sort out, so much planning, learning and preparation involved. I really just don’t know where to begin with it.

I’ve opened up a Twitter account in the hope that someone may have some useful suggestions on there and I sent an email to a bloke who played a large part in inspiring me to consider the FreEco Bus a legitimate possibility… I’ll post more on that later… If any of you have any tips then please let me know!

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For now though… here is a list of questions that I am considering:

  1. FreEco Bus Requirements – What do I want? Already converted/blank canvas/partly converted? How old? Driveable or not? Size? Design? Can I get one free? If not, can I get one for less than £2000?
  2. FreEco Bus Design – What living space do I need? How much storage do I need? Floor plan design? Retro/boho style (I know so practical right)?
  3. FreEco Bus Conversion – How do I convert a bus into a home? Electricals? Plumbing? Insulation? Walls? How will I install a bathroom and kitchen? How much time will it take? Can I learn the required skills to do most of this work myself? Do I know anyone who can help? How much would it cost if I need to hire laborers?
  4. Sourcing Materials – What do I need? How likely is it to source the required materials for free? Can I get the majority of things needed second hand? Where will I get them from?
  5. Land – Planning permission? How much land do I need? Where does it need to be? What facilities does it need on site or nearby? Type of land such as woodland / field? Should I buy or rent? How much will it cost? Can I make an arrangement with a local farmer/land owner?
  6. Budget / Time – How much is it all likely to cost in the worst case scenario? Can I afford to start this project? Have I got enough time to offer?
  7. Self-Sufficiency – What do I need to be self-sufficient? What level of sufficiency can I realistically manage? Fully self-sufficient / mostly / partly? What skills will I need? What equipment will I need? What can I grow? Planning a yearly crop? What about the food gap? Do I have the time to maintain the crops? What about livestock? Would I get more chickens? Would I get goats? What about their upkeep and requirements?
  8. Power, energy and water – What will my source of water, energy and power be? Can I get land with a nearby stream? Can I make good use of grey water and rain water? Would I want to be plugged in or collect water? Source of power and energy? What are the limits of solar panels? Storage of power? How much will they cost? What fuel source will I use for cooking and warmth? What are the environmental impacts of all of this and what can I do to improve this?
  9. Skills – Can I do this? How can I learn? Who can help?
  10. Downsizing and impact on family – What will the impact of downsizing our living space have on the children? Would we get on each others nerves? What about rainy and cold days? Will my children benefit and be happy with these changes?

There are probably much more than this scrabbling around my brain right now. But having a list like the above written down has made me feel like I’ve got a bit of a to do list going and I can gradually work my way through each question at a time.

I guess to begin with, the main priority with this project is to create a low cost eco home for my family… so I guess figuring out the land and the bus requirements would be a logical place to start… What do you think?

thinkingI don’t feel like this project should be rushed as I want to enjoy the journey and I think that if I take it slowly my family will adapt to this new way of life gradually rather than being thrown in at the deep end. I think it will also help us to learn and develop the skills needed to maintain this new way of life for us.

So here’s to taking one question at a time!