Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Archive for August, 2012

Back to Eden, Sustainable Gardening Film

One of our goals is to get folks to create their own sustainable gardens, and produce some or all of their own food. It’s boosts your security, as well as your health, and has social interaction benefits as well. One site we enjoy is the Back to Eden website, with their film on sustainable food production. We hope you will enjoy this film.

BACK TO EDEN shares the story of one man’s lifelong journey, walking with God and learning how to get back to the simple, productive methods of sustainable provision that were given to man in the garden of Eden. The organic growing system that has resulted from Paul Gautschi’s incredible experiences has garnered the interest of visitors from around the world. However, never until now have Paul’s methods been documented and shared like this!


Indoor Gardening with a Window Farm

The folks at have a great DIY solution for the apartment dweller or other indoor gardener. It’s a vertical hydroponics system, that can work with our aquaponics concept very easily. These “pop” bottle vertical growers install in a window and use a airlift pump to lift the nutrient solution to the top set of bottles, where gravity takes over from there.


Habitat for Humanity Eco Community

The mission of Habitat for Humanity has always been to break the cycle of poverty and make homes affordable for all families. A new development that’s just broke ground in River Falls, though, aims to make homeownership more affordable – and more environmentally friendly.

Through a partnership with the City of River Falls, the University of Wisconsin, River Falls and a broad community of sponsors and contributors, Eco Village is planned to be an 18 Unit, LEED-Platinum certified neighborhood with a net-zero design direction. Planners aim to prove that it’s possible to build sustainably, creating homes that are affordable now and well into the future.

The seven-acre parcel, donated by the City of River Falls, will connect with existing neighborhoods, parks, and community using pedestrian paths. A community building will also be built on the campus, adjacent to a neighborhood park to encourage a stronger sense of place among the existing neighborhoods.

When construction is completed by the end of 2014, Eco Village will be one of the first Habitat communities to incorporate on-site renewable energy options many associate with more expensive communities. This includes features like photovoltaic arrays, super-insulated walls, and state-of-the-art window technology using 400 Series windows from Andersen Windows –, which is donating manpower, $100,000 in cash and also the windows for all 18 homes. These features will significantly reduce the year-over-year costs of homeownership, supporting Habitat’s other objective to make the cost of owning a home more affordable by requiring less energy to run each home.

In addition to energy-saving measures, other community features also promote a more affordable and ecologically-friendly lifestyle, such as community gardens that can lower a grocery budget, or an electric car recharging station at the community building that will power shared zero-emissions, electric cars to meet local transportation needs, and relieve residents of the high costs of vehicle ownership. Pervious materials for interior roads, drives and paths to prevent runoff and support ground moisture for greenery, requiring less watering by homeowners.

St. Croix Habitat for Humanity will measure the success of the Eco-Village design concept using the following goals:

  • Reduce potable water use by 50% through rain/storm water harvest application (barrels/cisterns) in landscaping/gardening
  • Achieve carbon negative, net-zero energy use for homes; follow “Passive Haus” standards; zero-emissions for community transportation.
  • Divert at least 90% of the construction waste from landfills; locally source at least 25% of building materials.
  • Build each homes to be storm/tornado resistant and use fire sprinkler systems.
  • Increasing the efficiency of these homes and harnessing renewable energy, Eco Village homeowners will slash the high utility bills and other expenses that so often trap them in a cycle of debt and poverty. While designed with affordability and economy in mind, Eco Village also demonstrates best design and management practices that can be transferred to other projects – regardless of financial need.


    Building Soil Health for Nutritious Food

    We have learned over the years that the quality of the soil greatly affects the quality of the food being grown. Intensive vegetable gardening requires intensive soil work, to maintain nutrients & tilth. Carbon / Nitrogen ratios, pH level, and ratios of nitrogen. Phosphorus, potassium, calcium and trace minerals are all very important, and vary between climates (dry to wet), and soil types, even within a single state. Different crops need different things to ensure nutrition. We have learned how to make quality compost, and use it sparingly, with regular additions of organic fertilizer including seed meal, dolomite lime, kelp meal and bone meal. However, you don’t know what to add, or how much to add, without a quality soil sample (yearly at the minimum, depending on climate and crop rotation), and the understanding of how to interpret the findings of that report.

    One of the first to understand the relationships between soil nutrients and food nutrients was William Albrecht. Through comprehensive testing, he developed a number of theories that have held true for decades, indicating the better we do at providing quality food for our plants, the batter they can provide quality food for us. Just eating “organic” isn’t good enough.

    “William A. Albrecht (1888–1974) PhD, Chairman of the Department of Soils at the University of Missouri, was the foremost authority on the relation of soil fertility to human health and earned four degrees from the University of Illinois. As emeritus Professor of Soils at the University of Missouri he saw a direct link between soil quality, food quality and human health. He drew direct connections between poor quality forage crops, and ill health in livestock and from this developed a formula for ideal ratios of cations in the soil, the Base Cation Saturation Ratio. While he did not discover cation exchange in the soil as is sometimes supposed, he may have been the first to associate it with colloidal clay particles.”

    To learn more about these relationships, so you can also grow better quality food, we offer the following resources:

    One of my favorites, and currently free on Kindle, and Kindle Cloud Reader (no Kindle needed, just a PC):

    Organic Gardener’s Composting, by Steve Solomon

    Additional excellent references:

    Soil Fertility & Animal Health (The Albrecht Papers, Vol II )

    Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System

    Biocycle Guide to the Art and Science of Composting

    Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting (Third Edition) (Storey’s Down-To-Earth Guides)

    Composting;: A study of the process and its principles, (A Rodale organic living paperback)

    The Waste Products of Agriculture