sustainable living

How to Make Sauerkraut with A $5 Fermentation Station

How to Make Sauerkraut with A $5 Fermentation Station

This week, Matt and I got 3 big heads of red cabbage in our CSA share. So naturally, we were excited to make a batch of fresh Sauerkraut.

Making sauerkraut in the summer is great because the warm weather allows the kraut to ferment faster. It usually only takes a few days in this warm weather.

We've been making our own sauerkraut for years, ever since we saw this video:

Guest Post: My Story with Stuff by Andrea Mortensen

Guest Post: My Story with Stuff by Andrea Mortensen

Hello wonderful readers! I'm extremely excited to be hosting a guest post by Andrea Mortensen today on the blog. Andrea is a current member of the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course (registration is currently open for the next session!) and has offered to share her story with us. I think you'll love reading about her journey as much as I've loved hearing about it! Andrea blogs about her simple life and downsizing efforts on her blog, The Newborn Minimalist. Make sure to go check her out there too to read more about her ongoing journey toward tinier living! Thanks for sharing with us Andrea!

My Story of Stuff

Guest Post by Andrea Mortensen

We lived in Italy and Austria during the 6th and 7th year of our marriage. We moved halfway across the world and before then, we lived in a house that was 450 square feet, plus a garage. We had deliberately kept our life simple because we wanted to travel, and also, we got married to spend time together.

So we worked part time, we volunteered, and went on lots of backpacking trips and traveled all over the world. It was pretty awesome. So picking up to move from San Francisco to Sicily was exciting, but getting rid of stuff wasn’t a problem. We didn’t have anything, so we gave away the few things we had, sold our car, and packed our clothing and stereo and that was pretty much it. The movers that came to ship our furniture were pretty shocked at how little the company that moved us was going to have to pay to ship our things overseas.

Recycling Greywater + Biodegradable Soaps

Recycling Greywater + Biodegradable Soaps

If you’re thinking about recycling your greywater, either in your tiny house or other home on wheels, you need to pay attention to what’s going down the drain. Recycling greywater (which is the used water from showers, the sink, and the washer machine) requires us to be conscientious of what we put down our drains, since those products will end up in our gardens, yards, and in the ground. A welcome side effect of being careful about which products end up in our drains is that we know more about which soaps, cleaners and detergents we are using in our homes and on our bodies. Using all-natural cleaners and body products is better for your health and the environment.

    So If you’re designing your tiny home or other trailer to be off-grid, or at least want to recycle greywater, these are the things I recommend which I use in the COMET. If you’re living in a trailer/ camper like me, another great by-product of recycling greywater is that you don’t have to dump greywater tanks out at dump stations or RV parks, which is gross. I specifically designed the COMET to not have any grey or black water tanks, because I am recycling and composting all “wastes” (which become something much nicer than waste because I’m reusing them!). By being careful and conscientious about what we put on our bodies and down our drains, we can keep water of of the sewers and put it safely back into the land. I’ve gotten a few questions about this topic recently, so I hope this clarifies it for you!

Where Do I Fit In?

Where have I been?It's a good question! I've been really busy the past two months, but haven't made a ton of progress on the COMET. Other vintage camper people out there, have you ever tried polishing the pitted, foggy aluminum back up to a mirror finish? It takes forever! It also requires a large angle grinder, which I'm embarrassed to say I can't really lift up in the first place (so it becomes Matt's job). We've been working on it little by little, but it takes many hours and is a crappy job. It's the one thing standing in between me and a beautiful exterior paint job (also Matt's forte because he used to do fancy pin striping and decals on cars).

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION ALERT: www.planetqueenvintage.etsy.com The reason I have been so busy is because I really need money to complete the COMET and I had to put a lot of time and energy into my Etsy shop, where I sell awesome vintage clothing. My shop is called Planet Queen Vintage (based on the T Rex song but also referencing awesome ladies that do cool stuff to positively impact the planet) and I would be so grateful if you guys took a minute to check out all the new stuff and hard work I've been putting into the shop the past few months. I added 100+ new items, took better photographs, and increased the overall awesomeness content. Bet you guys didn't know I run a business on the side in addition to the COMET?!

A New Year, and a Winter Small Space Experiment

Now that it's January, winter has officially arrived in Massachusetts. There's a  few feet of snow on the ground, and it's not going anywhere for a while. Confession time: I really wanted to live in the COMET over the winter this year, but I couldn't get her weatherproofed in time. The hole in the wall where the fridge will end up going has a large vent, and without the fridge installed it was like sleeping outside! It ended up getting too chilly, and until I seal up the cracks and insulate the vents and install the fridge (and find an acceptable heat source) sadly I will not be sleeping in the COMET this winter. However, I took this opportunity to try on another tiny space living situation for fun and to see what I can learn from it.

While I'm not living in the COMET, I'll be living in a tiny closet under the stairs in a collective house. The "room" is about the size of a twin bed, but the previous dweller made such good use of the space that it feels cozy, not cramped. There's a bed on a platform so I can store things underneath. There are two drawers installed directly into the wall as built-ins at the foot of the bed. There is a desk that nests in the wall and unfolds when you need it, and the bed becomes your desk seat. She even installed a nifty bookcase tower. There's also a tiny window on an exterior wall, so you can see outside and get some fresh air. I will have to post some pictures!

Fermenting Foods

For me, sustainable living and self-sufficiency are very closely linked. Self sufficiency usually means growing at least a portion of your own food, which sometimes means preserving your harvest! From another perspective, buying real sauerkraut can be real expensive (and sometimes the sauerkraut from the store isn't even actually fermented, it's just cooked in vinegar). $8 for a pint of kraut is too much to spend on my habit. And since you know I wholeheartedly believe in DIY for a million reasons, I wanted to point out a cool DIY tool I found a while ago that I want to try out. It's a sauerkraut/pickle making jar system. It's called the "Picklemeister".

The Picklemeister comes in 1/2 gallon and 1 gallon sizes. It's basically a big glass jar with a seal and an airlock. You cut up your cabbage (for sauerkraut), add salt, a plastic bag of brine, and let the jar sit for 3 days. Then you have a gallon of sauerkraut!

Here's a video that I love about making sauerkraut (with a really tasty recipe at the end!) with Mark Frauenfelder. Check it out here. He swears by the Picklemeister.

Natural deodorants, ancient drinks, and home-made toothpaste!

As promised, I spent some time with a few of the new books I got in the mail the other day. Actually, I ended up pouring over them for many hours because they were both better than I had expected! I always LOVE DIY books, and how-to's, and make-your-own, but sometimes the DIY is too time intensive or asks for ingredients I've never heard of, which can be a turn-off. Both Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, and Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills are straightforward and made for real people, not just DIY gurus. I was so excited too find really useful, practical recipes and DIY how-to's in both books. Every page I read I felt like I could do the project easy, no problem, with re-used stuff I already have lying around my house. Both of these books are wonderful. Also as promised, I picked out a few things to try out form each book. Both of these books suggest picking one project, starting small, and expanding from there. I think that's a good idea.