One principle of permaculture design is to cultivate a balanced ecosystem - including as an approach to pest control.  As permaculture founder Bill Mollison said, "You haven't got an excess of slugs, you've got a duck deficiency." 
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via SpiralSeed's 'Permaculture, a Beginner's Guide'
Now, my windowsill arugula is a far cry from a permaculture design, but I did use natural predators to control the aphid infestation.  I didn't have an excess of aphids, I had a ladybug deficiency! 

For the last few months I've continually relocated 'ladybugs' (actually, West Asian Beetles) from our south-facing windows onto my arugula, and happily watched them get fat on the little green buggers.  Lately, though, a couple of the ladybugs mated and left these eggs on an arugula leaf!

 
  1. Make what you need.  If you run out of lip balm, make your next tube.  If you love yogurt, make some more.  You can make most of the things you would buy. 
  2. Learn to want less.  We need food, water, air, shelter, exercise, meaning, and love.  We want comfort, beauty, entertainment, sensuality, and so much more.  Control your desire to consume and learn that you can live on much less.
  3. Choose your projects based on need and interest.  Do you love eating tempeh?  Make some.  Always wanted to learn to garden indoors?  Do it.  A note on pretty DIY projects:  Yes, we all crave beauty.  Craft a home that reflects the beauty of your spirit, of your dreams and imagination.  Don't just start a project because you're bored and the tutorial online looks pretty.
  4. Use what you have.  Upcycle and re-use, don't buy new materials.  Be resourceful.
  5. Source materials that are used, free (gifted, traded, found, dumpstered), local, and recycled.  If you really need something you don't have, do what you can to avoid buying new and imported.
  6. Choose function and frugality over appearance.  Don't buy fancy fleur-de-lis contact paper to decorate your new plastic wall-hung organizers, no matter how well it matches the curtains.  That's just wasteful.
  7. Learn skills as you go.  Don't let inexperience stop you.  Read, plan, read some more, learn from others, and give it a shot!
  8. Ask others for help.  Other people are so smart!  Ask questions, work together, and build community.
  9. Teach others what you know.  Trade your skills.  Network, barter, organize skillshares - the more everyone knows, the better.
  10. Consume less, produce more.  Radical DIY returns the power of production to your hands; it doesn't lead you to consume more.  

 
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My roommates are comedians.
Yogurt is incredibly easy to make.  There's really no reason to buy yogurt in those plastic cartons - especially when you have a source of free milk! 

I know most folks aren't as lucky as I am in the free-milk arena, but free milk happens

First, Morgan worked at a local community organization which had a surplus of free food - much of this food came to me, including gallons of milk! 

Lately, my roommates have been in and out of town, leaving me with soon-to-expire milk. 

My thoughts on this?  1.  Excellent.  2.  Yogurt!  3.  Most excellent.

And the best part is, you can make yogurt too!


 
I drink chocolate almond milk with my coffee every morning.  It's delicious!

Today, I ran out of almond milk - voila!  I made my own.  And you can too.  Making your own almond milk cuts down on packaging (are those Tetrapak cartons really recyclable?), plus you can make it exactly to your tastes!
You will need:
~ 1 cup almonds
~ 1.5 cup water
~ 2.5 tbsp cocoa powder
~ 1 tbsp agave nectar/honey/sugar
~ blender
~ strainer/cheesecloth
~ half an hour

 
Ever since my multiple failures at cold-frame temperature control (read: crispy fried kale plants, and not in the good, tasty way), I've been sprouting my own greens.

Instead of beating my brown-thumb against the wall when my outdoor crops failed (for the 2nd time), I re-evaluated my purpose in nurturing cold-frame greens: having greens throughout the winter. 

Now, my winter CSA provides leeks and cabbage, but that's about it as far as green veggies go.  So, in the interest of year-round veggies, I've begun sprouting my own micro-greens at home.

 
Earlier this month I made a set of cloth menstrual pads, but I didn't know how well they would perform.  Well, the trial period (no pun intended) is over!  And yes, yes, cloth pads work!

Pros
~ No leakage whatsoever
~ The night pad design worked beautifully, even on a heavy flow
~ Much more comfortable than commercial pads, and feel drier
~ No irritation from crinkly plastic & synthetic materials
~ Totally re-usable & eco-friendly
~ The 'period tea' (water for soaking used pads) is awesome for plants!

Cons
~ You have to soak and wash them
~ They will stain anyway

... I can't think of any other cons!

So yes, 5 stars - cloth pads work just as well as commercial pads, plus they're much more comfortable & earth-loving.  Hooray!

Do you have any questions about cloth pads?  Anything I didn't cover that makes you go 'hmmm' or 'yuck'?  Let me know, we'll talk it out!
_
PSKXS78G4ANS
 
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Morgan is satisfied!
_If there were a homemade tempeh church, I would join.

I know that sounds strange, but it really tastes that good!

As a vegetarian-minded/flexitarian-type eater, I've bought my fair share of commercial tempeh.  It's okay.  It's kind of boring, though, so I rely heavily on marinades like soy sauce and honey to spice it up.  Plus, tempeh costs around $4 for an 8 oz. package - $8/lb. is do-able, but not for something that's merely 'okay'.

One day, my partner Morgan and I were leafing through our copy of Wild Fermentation, and saw the section on bean ferments.  She offhandedly commented, "I'd be into making tempeh." 

Two days later, I bought 20 pounds of dried soybeans for $10 on Craigslist, and soon after, bought a packet of Rhyzopus oligosporus (the tempeh spore) from G.E.M. Cultures.

I was committed.


 
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Wild Grape & Mint Kombucha
_I was never a big kombucha drinker -  between its weird floaty slime and the price tag, the hype over its health benefits utterly failed to draw me in.

Then the day came... a dear friend brought me a bottle of home brewed kombucha.

Wow.  It was deliciously sweet and made with love.  Plus, it came in this ultra-cool blue glass bottle (I have a thing for colored glass)!  I used the spore juice left at the bottom to make my own batch, and I've been hooked ever since. 

Kombucha - or 'Booch', as I like to call it - is really easy to make.  Plus, you can make a liter of it (a little more than two 16-oz. bottles) for approximately $1 and half an hour of your time. 

When you make your own kombucha, it's designer - everything, from tea/herb/juice blend and type of sweetener, to the degree of acidity and alcohol content is up to you.

I'm not going to list off its health benefits, because I don't know and I don't really care.  All I know is that live cultures are good for you and it tastes awesome.

So!  Ready to learn?  Good.


 
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_Cloth pads have been on my to-do list for a while now.  I'm easily caught up in small, daily projects, like sprouting and making yogurt cheese - it was time to take more of a high-impact action.

Disposable pads, like disposable diapers, are a consistent source of waste - for me, it's 12-16 pads a month, or about 170 pads to the landfill each year.  That amount of consistent waste, as a lifestyle, is not okay with me. 

By crafting my own re-usable pads out of thrifted materials, I'm able to reduce my waste by about 3.5 pounds of cotton, plastic, and cardboard a year, thus saving trees & other precious resources, and re-purpose materials already in the consumer cycle.  Oh, and it's cheaper than buying pads!  So, thanks to instructions in Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knudsen, I made myself a set of re-usable cloth pads. 


 
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photo via: Food.com - my process wasn't quite that pretty
_My first homemaking project was pickling - dilly beans, or pickled green beans. 

I had a summer CSA share and got pounds of green beans at a time.  I don't particularly like green beans fresh, but I found that pickling transformed the excess into a tasty snack.  This was back in September, but I still have a jar left (talk about self-restraint!)

I used a recipe from Back to Basics, and took over half my communal kitchen for the pickling/canning process.  My roommates weren't too happy (I picked a potluck night for my experiment), but it was worth it.

The process seemed complicated at first, but it's actually pretty simple, and you can do this with any kind of veggie you like.

Short Version, for the simply curious
  1. Wash beans & jar. 
  2. Pack beans and spices in the jar.
  3. Boil a vinegar/water mix with salt.  
  4. Pour hot vinegar mix over beans, and close the jar.
  5. Submerge jar under water and boil for a while. 
  6. Remove jar from water bath & wait for it to cool.
  7. Note the satisfactory lid suction when it's fully cooled, and then store it away!
* steps 5-7 aren't really necessary if you're going to eat the beans right away (i.e. within a month)

So, it's slightly more detail-specific than that, so here's the real recipe, for those who want to do it themselves.



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