Zero Offset Vacation Days

Zero Offset Your Carbon-Heavy Vacation Travel with Days Spent at Sustainable Organic Farms. Photo © Liesl Clark

Let’s face it: Flying to Florida from Seattle isn’t the most carbon-free activity. But if we want to see Grammy, we have to go to her. She simply doesn’t fly.

Once we arrived in Florida, we dreamed up a few activities to help offset the jet fuel burn our family of 4 incurred. Hitting the beach, only 100 yards away, was easy — just throw a towel around your shoulders. But be sure to bring a bag for collecting plastics.

Plastics Retrieved En Route to the Beach. It's Easy To Do. Photo © Liesl Clark

Before reaching the beach, we filled our bag with lots of straws and straw sleeves found in juice boxes. Interestingly, we didn’t find too many plastics on the beach as I discovered, a day later, that 2 men drive along the beaches in a little golf cart with a trash picker and retrieve all the debris. I wondered why they couldn’t simply walk?

Here's one they missed. Sunglasses part on the beach. Photo © Liesl Clark

Every day, we filled a bag with plastics while walking along the sidewalks or shore. For our children, the incentive was finding something odd and different. A tiny working flashlight in the shape of an alien was the first day’s reward, then a cute plastic fish the next, and all types of plastic beach toys were recovered, too. We needed a shovel and it didn’t take long to find one. No lack of entertainment when you decide to do a bit of daily good and pick up the world’s plastics. And the Earth always gives back to our little scavengers in interesting ways. Plastic “swords” used in tropical drinks to hold fruit together washed ashore daily to the delight of my son, who started collecting them for his Lego characters.

McWashed Ashore. Sliced apples in a bag? Photo © Liesl Clark

The contents of a bag of McDonald’s apple slices found tucked in the dune vegetation became food for eager sea gulls.

Apple snacks. Courtesy of sea-borne McDonald's fare. Photo © Liesl Clark

In between hours of play amidst the waves and digging in the sand with our newly-found beach toys, it didn’t take much effort during our “plastics recovery” walks to fill a bag a day. If we all did this, just bent down and picked up the straws and plastic caps under foot, we’d feel like we did a form of good, helping to extract the plastics from our shorelines before they head back out to sea.

This leaf wasn't plastic, and it's a pleasure to see a stretch of sand that was plastic-free. Photo © Liesl Clark

But the greatest fun we had was visiting a local organic fruit grove. I spent a little time online and discovered a list of pick your own-type farms in our region and many are organic farms. We hopped in the car and drove inland about 16 miles to find an organic orange grove.

Get to know the places you vacation in a little better by picking local organic produce there. Valencia oranges are in season in February in Western Florida. Photo © Liesl Clark

The kids had never picked oranges and this experience is surely one they won’t forget. In the direct sun, the temperatures were in the 90s and we had to watch the ground for fire ants. With some long fruit picker poles in our hands, we ambled several rows of valencia orange trees into the grove and were overwhelmed by the sweet smell of orange blossoms.

Fruit Picking in Manatee County, FL. Photo © Liesl Clark

These fruit-laden trees grew in what loooked like pure sand, but they’re obviously getting the nutrients and water they need because the oranges are delicious and juicy. It took us 15 minutes in the hot sun to fill a 10-gallon bucket. And with the price of $10/bucket we walked away feeling we got the better end of the deal.

Bucket Full of Valencia Oranges. Photo © Liesl Clark

The children needed an ice cream cone to cool off, so we discovered another U-pick organic farm down the road. This one grew hydroponic strawberries — and we picked our fill of delicious sun-sweetened fruit.

Picking Strawberries at O'Brien Family Farm. Photo © Liesl Clark

And the ice cream cones, of course, were the perfect plastic-free end of day snack, a just reward for our zero offset vacation day efforts.

Ice cream cones are the original plastic-free treat. Photo © Liesl Clark

Fabric Scrap Tiny Tents For Little Hands

Our daughter has been sewing avidly since she was 6. She loves to design and sew her own doll clothes and to make little spaces for her toy animals out of fabric scraps. Here’s a great project for small hands and a fun sewing project for 2, using up fabric scraps and old trousers, too!

Step 1: Trace a perfect circle onto a stiff fabric like felt, fleece, or corduroy (we used some old corduroy pants of mine). The circle will determine how tall your tent will be. We cut ours about 6″ wide.

Step 2: Cut that circle in half and then trace it onto a pretty fabric of your choice which will be the outer fabric of your tent.

Step 3: Cut the half circle out of your pretty fabric.

Step 4: Pin the rounded edges of the half circles together, stiff fabric facing in on one side and nice fabric facing in on other.

Step 5: Sew the pinned rounded edge of the 2 half circles together.

Step 6: Turn the half circle right-side-out so the sewn edge is hidden. Fold it in half and then sew the remaining straight edges together as shown in the photo.

Step 7: Turn this right side out and you have a cute closed tipi/tent for little animals or people to live in (or a pointed hat for a doll!)

Step 8: A variation on this tent/tipi is to add a door: Simply leave a couple of inches of “flap” left open on the last straight edge and sew the flaps back about 2-3 cm so you have a tipi opening opening.

Looking for more ideas to use up your fabric scraps? Please visit our Trash Backwards app that has reuses for everything in your home!

Click Through for Fabric Scrap Reuses at Trash Backwards.

 

DIY Stone Pillars & Planters

We simply have too many rocks in our soil. When we harvest potatoes, there are many false alarms on harvest day as perfect potato-shaped rocks are  procured from the soil rather than spuds. So when we cleared a new spot to add planting space to our veggie garden this summer, we had a pile of waste as a result — rocks. What to do with the rock pile? I thought about giving them away in our local Buy Nothing group (yes, I’ve seen people post that they want rocks on our neighborhood Buy Nothing group), but then the hoarder in me took over and we chose to make stone pillars instead. It’s quite easy, but there are a few tricks you’ll need to know about to pull this artistic gardenscaping off well.

First, you’ll need chicken wire. Make sure your chicken wire holes are not too wide for the size of your rocks.

1) You’ll need to cut a rectangle of chicken wire out, about 2.5 to 3 feet high (depending on how high you want your pillars to be) by 4 to 5 feet wide. Wrap the wire around, into a cylindrical shape and hook it together with the wire ends you’ve created in your wire-cutting process. Make sure you leave no wire ends poking out anywhere as those could be a hazard for passers-by. You now have a cylinder cage for your rocks.

2) Then, start filling your chicken wire cylinder with rocks! The trick is to place your largest spuds, I mean stones, on the outside of the wire so they block the smaller ones from falling through the mesh. My son and daughter love filling the pillars up with the stones they bring in on their wheelbarrows.

3) Fill until your cylinder is full, brimming with stones to give a pretty fieldstone pillar affect to your favorite spaces.

Now, Make Stone Pillar Planters!

We love our pillars around the pond so much, and found we had plenty more rocks to deal with, so we created 2 more pillars with the added feature of a planter inside. Here’s how:

Fill your stones only 1/3 of the way up your chicken wire cylinder. Then, add a gallon or half gallon plastic or clay pot inside so the pot’s rim is flush with the top of the chicken wire cylinder.

Fill in around the outside edges of the pot with stones and completely cover up the pot from the outside, all the way to the rim of the pillar.

Then, plant your favorite flower in the pot as you would any planter!

10 Toxic-Free Home-Made Easter Egg Ideas

Home-spun toxic free Easter dyes are beautiful. Photo © Liesl Clark

1) Toxic-Free Magic Marker Dye: I’ll start with my favorite because it’s so easy and does 2 things in 1. It dyes your eggs but also revives your tired out Crayola or other toxic-free magic markers. Do visit our article about it to read the full instructions, but all you need is some warm water in a glass with a splash of distilled white vinegar. Put your markers head down into the glasses, grouping them by color (we have tons of magic markers because we collect those that our school throws out and simply revive them.) That’s it! Let the eggs soak in there for as long as you wish. The longer the darker the color. If you start by making polka dots or designs on the eggs with white crayons, you’ll get a lovely design on your eggs where the wax won’t allow the dye to do it’s magic. When you’re done, pull the markers out, cap ’em and they’ll work again for you for quite some time!

2) Natural Dye: The above dyes aren’t all that natural and you wouldn’t want your child eating the ink from a magic marker, but since they’re labeled non-toxic we figure using them to dye our eggs is probably still better than using chemical food coloring. But, by far, the best option is to make your own natural dyes. There are lots of articles available on the subject. We tried it one year and liked some of the colors, but not all.

3) Kombucha Natural Dye: This recipe is similar to that above except you’re using kombucha vinegar.

4) The Ultra-Natural Easter Egg: These colorful eggs are laid as Easter eggs directly from the hens! Find yourself a dozen eggs from heritage breed hens and you’ll see that Easter egg colors can come naturally. And, Rebecca is right, brown eggs can be colored for Easter, too.

5) Sienna Easter Eggs: This beautiful technique requires onion skins and some natural items from outdoors like ferns and grasses. It leaves a beautiful sienna or sepia color on your eggs with the imprint of your fern, flower or grasses. Gorgeous.

6) Silk Tie Tie Dyed Eggs: Reuse a silk tie and tie dye your eggs.

7) No-Dye Decorating: Creative egg decorating is another great non-toxic alternative. Non toxic glue and some cute art supplies are all you need.

8) Use an Egg-Bot! This totally frivolous machine (a robot actually), if you use it with a non-toxic pen, might just wow your neighbors when you hide those eggs on the fenceline.

9) Put a ribbon on it: Wrap a ribbon around your egg and glue it down with non-toxic glue or wrap your egg in yarn with glue. These eggs look beautiful.

10) Modpodge: I’ve modpodged eggs in the past with pretty tissue paper and a light solution of sugar water that dries overnight.

Do you have any ideas to add?

Non-Toxic Magic Marker Easter Egg Dye

How did our little hackers dye their eggs for Easter the last few years without producing waste or buying new? With dried out colorful markers! We thought they were at the end of their life, so we threw them upside down into glasses of water, added a splash of vinegar, and….presto! Easter egg dye.

After soaking the eggs in the watery dye for 20-30 minutes, they came out beautifully. And an unexpected added bonus? The markers work perfectly again! All they needed was a few minutes at the spa for a soak. Caps are back on  and they’re back in the marker bag with their friends.

Happy Trash-Hacky Easter.

Vacations And The Allure Of The Simple Life

BT0C0601

Vacations are an opportunity to try new places, new lifestyles on for size, to see how they feel.

BT0C0424

We like to dream of living our everyday lives in the places we visit, and interestingly most places we spend time in, when vacationing, are deeper into the wilderness.

BT0C0631

These trips into the outback bring us closer together as a family.

BT0C0301

The children get to try new outdoor sports, like alpine touring on mountaineering skis and equipment, carrying their own backpacks filled with their chosen clothes for a few days.

BT0C0434

It teaches them a little about self-reliance and reliance upon us as their teachers.

BT0C0487

Our time in the wilderness is special for us, where we face the gambit of all emotions, together, while pushing ourselves to go harder and further than we thought we could.

BT0C0355

And we have time for silence together in the depth of the woods.

BT0C0461

The children learn how precious our time is spent together, the value of setting goals, simple ones, like getting to where we’re sleeping for the night.

BT0C0782

Just when you think that goal is not attainable: 6 and a half hours uphill to 10,450 feet and your own feet ache…

BT0C0889

You arrive.

BT0C0809

Hot cocoa comes quickly, along with a warm fire where snow is melting for water.

BT0C0881

Days are spent telling stories, far from the allure of social media and electronics.

BT0C0816

We create a magic together, a joy of simplicity.

BT0C0899

And slow way down, just enough to commune with the pinyon jays.

BT0C1046BT0C1063

We have family council out in the snow on the snow chairs the children make for us.

BT0C0928

The frosty air feels good for the soul.

BT0C0966

Thank you, 10th Mountain Division, for sharing the beauty of your mountain huts with us.

BT0C0979

We can’t wait to come back again soon.

BT0C1084

What simple pleasures do you share together as a family?

Fabric Scrap Doll Tutu

Easy Fabric Scrap Tutu For a Child to Make, Photo © Liesl Clark

Visiting grandma means we get to dive into her boxes of fabric scraps. For 40 years, no fabrics have been wasted in her house. Just last month, she passed on several boxes to a local quilt-making organization, but luckily we found a few more up in her attic.

Grandma's Fabric Scraps, Photo © Liesl Clark

We looked in the Trash Backwards app for some good fabric scrap reuse ideas for small hands and landed upon a fun tutu tutorial for a little girl. My daughter decided she wanted to make it for her stuffed panda. So, we took our lead from the tutorial at Home Sweet Home and made a mini version for a doll or stuffed animal.

Strips of Fabric Scraps, Photo © Liesl Clark

1) First, cut your fabrics into 1/2 inch to 1 inch wide strips. We made ours approximately 6-8 inches long.

2) Find an elastic waistband, about 8-12 inches-worth and sew 2 ends together so you have it in a loop.

Sew Your Waistband Into a Loop, Photo © Liesl Clark

3) Fold your strips in half length-wise and place them underneath the waistband with the loop sticking out of the top and thread the ends of the fabric scrap through your loop, tying half of a square knot. This is how you tie on your skirt scrap pieces.

Adding Fabric Scraps to The Waistband, Photo © Liesl Clark

4) Tie your scraps on one after the other and gather them together tightly.

Tying One On, Photo © Liesl Clark

5) We wanted to be sure that the waistband was sewn together well, so grandma reinforced it with some hand-sewing.

Reinforce Your Waistband Ends, Photo © Liesl Clark

You’re Done! Spread around your strips so they even-out your skirt and you can add on more strips of color wherever they’re needed.

A Tutu For a Doll or Stuffed Friend, Photo © Liesl Clark

Panda Loves Her Tutu, Photo © Liesl Clark

Dancing With Her Tutu, Photo © Liesl Clark

 

Fabric Scrap Tutu, Photo © Liesl Clark