Build the Ultimate Sustainable Kitchen

Build the Ultimate Sustainable Kitchen

My article Build the Ultimate Sustainable Kitchen recently appeared on CustomMade. Click on the infographic below for tips on how to build a kitchen designed for sustainable living, including some on how to green any kitchen.

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Build the Ultimate Sustainable Kitchen

Build the Ultimate Sustainable Kitchen
Infographic by CustomMade

Sipping Sustainably

Sipping Sustainably: Green Breweries and Wineries

My article Sipping Sustainably: Green Breweries and Wineries recently appeared at CustomMade. Click on the infographic below to find out what forward-thinking wineries and breweries are doing on the sustainability front and to get tips on how to sip sustainably.

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Sipping Sustainably: Green Breweries and Wineries

Sipping Sustainably: Green Breweries and Wineries
Infographic by CustomMade

Keeping Your Harvest All Year Round

I’ll be sharing some of my recently published articles with you this week. They’re all accompanied by really useful, shareable infographs. I hope you enjoy them!

First, my article Keeping Your Harvest All Year Round: Winter Storage Dos and Don’ts appeared on Fix. Click on the image below to click over to it and discover lots of tips for keeping produce fresh without a root cellar.


Source: Fix.com

 

Living Big in a Tiny House

 

Photo by Tammy Strobel.

Photo by Tammy Strobel.

I haven’t been writing much here, but I’ve been busy! I have lots of articles coming, which I’ll share. I’m also determined to carve out more time to write here.

I reviewed Dee Williams’ The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir for Cities Are Now, the Winter 2015 issue of YES! Magazine.

72 Cities Cover

At 41, Dee Williams was a “nor­mal, middle-class, middle-of-the-road woman with a mortgage and a job and friends.” She worked as a state hazardous waste inspector and owned a 1927 Portland, Ore., fixer-upper that she shared with a rotation of roommates. She “went running and climbing and paddling, racing in a thousand different direc­tions at a thousand miles per hour.”

Then one day she woke up in an intensive care unit tethered to a urine bag, IV pole, and heart monitor, and the doctors diagnosed her with a potentially fatal heart condition. “It felt like death, or my mortality, or something bigger still, was leaning into my bed with the moonlight, clat­tering when I moved hangers in the closet, buzzing behind the sound of the shower running or my car idling in traffic,” she writes in The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir.

Soon after her diagnosis, Williams discovered an article about an Iowa City man who built and moved into a house the size of a shed. The idea of building such a little house—the process itself and the paring down it would require to move in—enticed Williams. “Somehow, it would shrink my life into a manageable mouthful,” she writes. Before long, Williams was drafting blueprints for her own tiny house.

Designing a house, even a very small one, involved some “outright panic” for Williams. She planned to live in the backyard of a house belong­ing to friends more than a hundred miles away in Olympia, Wash. Thus the house would need to fit on a trailer and be under 13.5 feet tall per Depart­ment of Transportation requirements. It would also need to withstand the rough shaking that transporting a house on the highway can present.

Excerpt from the book:

I thought I’d find something in all of this, and I got more than I bargained for. I discovered a new way of looking at the sky, the winter rain, the neighbors, and myself; and a different way of spending my time. Most important, I stumbled into a new sort of “happiness,” one that didn’t hinge on always getting what I want, but rather, on wanting what I have. It’s the kind of happiness that isn’t tied so tightly to being comfortable (or having money and property), but instead is linked to a deeper sense of satisfaction—to a sense of humility and gratitude, and a better understanding of who I am in my heart.

I now this sounds cheesy, and in fact, it sounds fairly similar to the gobbledygook that friends have thrown at me just after having their first baby. But the facts are the facts: I found a certain bigness in my little house—a sense of largeness, freedom, and happiness that comes when you see there’s no place you’d rather be.

As she built, Williams experienced sore muscles, bumps, bruises, smashed fingers—and lost her ponytail after she accidentally glued it to her house. She also had a lot of fun. “Risking life and limb every day” distracted her from her potentially debilitating disease. And she erected an undeniably attractive 84-square-foot cedar-and-knotty-pine house that man­ages to look open and airy in photos despite its minuscule size.

In a society drowning in commer­cials, books, and schemes promising to deliver us from hardship, it might have been tempting for Williams to oversell downsizing. She resisted that temptation—The Big Tiny abounds with refreshing honesty, humor, and endearing quirkiness.

Williams admits that getting rid of her three-bedroom house full of stuff was more agonizing than she expected, and living in less than a hundred square feet isn’t always comfortable. She has no refrigerator or plumb­ing. She cooks on a single burner and sleeps with her propane heater off, because she’s afraid her house will catch fire. She estimates she’s happy about 85 percent of the time, about the same amount of time she was happy in her big house.

When she escaped the “mindless rotisserie of work and projects” that guided her in her old house, Williams discovered a satisfaction that came from getting to know herself. “Let­ting go of ‘stuff,’” she writes, “allowed the world to collapse behind me as I moved, so I became nothing more or less than who I simply was: Me.”

The house and its large skylight helped her connect with nature in a new way. “I like the excitement of the windstorms and the rain pound­ing down a thousand different ways, inches from my head,” she writes. She also has more time for drinking tea on her porch and chatting with friends, because she no longer has to juggle bills and worry about constant home repairs.

What Williams celebrates most is that her new lifestyle requires her to depend on others. She lives “in com­munity” with her friends Hugh and Annie, their two sons, and Hugh’s elderly aunt Rita because she’s located in their backyard and needs their run­ning water. Williams happily takes on the role of Rita’s caretaker in exchange for using Rita’s shower and occasion­ally her oven. “If more people under­stood how nice it is to have a sense of home that extends past our locked doors, past our neighbors’ padlocks…we’d live in a very different place,” she insists.

Williams’ enthusiasm for small living and her charming hand-built house have already helped launch a tiny house movement. The Big Tiny will encourage many more people to assess whether bigger and more means happier—proof that making something tiny can ignite something very big.

7 Reasons to Join the Urban Homesteading Revolution

7 Reasons to Join the Urban Homesteading Revolution

Check out my post about urban homesteading on the CustomMade blog this week, accompanied by some beautiful graphics. (I’ll have several more articles to share soon!)

Here’s a brief excerpt:

What is urban homesteading? In short, it looks different for every family. For mine, it means we live in a regular, ranch-style house in the city. In our backyard, we have a small flock of three chickens and a large vegetable garden that provides us with peas, greens, tomatoes, corn, squash, beans, and herbs. We compost. We cook nearly all of our meals from scratch, including bread, tortillas, and pizza crust, and we brew beer. We chop wood to heat our house, and we hang our laundry on a clothesline. We make most of our own household cleaners and personal care products out of simple ingredients, like baking soda and vinegar. Biking is our main form of transit. And we try to be intentional about the things we buy. For other families, urban homesteading includes keeping bees, raising rabbits, making clothes, or preserving food.

More than anything, urban homesteading is a mindset. It turns us from consumers who are disconnected from where our food and belongings come from into producers who use our hands to make some of what we need to live. Most of us have little desire to be as self-sufficient as the original homesteaders had to be and the back-to-the-landers strived to be. In my family’s case, we’re thrilled to take advantage of all of the wonderful elements of urban life, including farmer’s markets and grocery stores as well as chocolate, coffee, and cultural events.

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7 Reasons to Join the Urban Homesteading Revolution

7 Reasons to Join the Urban Homesteading Revolution
Infographic by CustomMade

It’s release day!

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It’s been a busy two months, and I can’t wait to fill you in on our May and June adventures and more importantly on the happenings in my garden. But I just popped in to let you know The Garden of Dead Dreams is officially available! After many years of working on this book, this day is a little surreal. Both the eBook and print edition are available at a growing list of retailers, including Amazon. I’ll keep an updated list on my website. And I’m selling autographed print copies there, if you’d like one.

I’m also hosting a Goodreads giveaway for three autographed print copies. Feel free to sign up and spread the word!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Garden of Dead Dreams by Abby Quillen

The Garden of Dead Dreams

by Abby Quillen

Giveaway ends June 30, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I’ll be back to more regular posting soon! Thanks so much for your patience.

Announcing . . . The Garden of Dead Dreams

I’m thrilled to reveal the cover of my first novel, which will be released in June!

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I’m also unveiling my all new website design at http://abbyquillen.com. Come on over! You can learn more about the book there, and I’d love to hear what you think of the new design.

As if there isn’t enough to be excited about over here, we’re celebrating that my dad’s anthology is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award in the creative nonfiction category! I know he’d be thrilled for the recognition.

I’ll be busy, busy, busy for awhile with house guests coming to stay with us, my sister graduating from law school (!), our usual end-of-school-year pandemonium, and of course, I’ll be preparing for the big book release while squeezing in as much time as I can in the garden.

Phew.

So you won’t see as much of me as usual, although I’ll stop in if I can. (Hopefully I’ll have time for a book review, because I have some fabulous books to tell you about.) Until then, I hope you’re enjoying spring!

Oh, and you can sign up for my brand new newsletter below for occasional updates about my upcoming books, articles, interviews, events, and giveaways. (Don’t worry, I won’t flood your inbox, and I’m as allergic to spam as you are.)

Hello sunshine!

We’re making the most of a stretch of sparkling spring days with tea parties, egg hunts, and fun-packed afternoons with friends. I’m sure the rain will send us inside soon. See you then….

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Hopeful Weekend Links

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Blood Moon Will Be a Sight to Behold During Total Lunar Eclipse – Ben Brumfield, CNN

Parking Lots Demolished as Driving Wanes – Romy Varghese, Business Week

bring your own cookies – Karen Maezen Miller, cheerio road

10 Things Creative People Know - Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphie, YES! Magazine

20 Things Every Parent Should Hear – Beth Woolsey, Five Kids is a Lot of Kids

The Best Time of the Day for Creativity – Kevan Lee, Lifehacker

March Seeds Bring April Greens

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It’s gardening time again! It feels like it was the shortest winter in history (although I perhaps would not have said that mid-January). I planted a few of our beds a couple of weeks ago. It’s our seventh gardening season in our backyard, and I actually sort of know what I’m doing now. It helps that I have two eager little helpers. Ezra and Ira love the garden! Their faces light up at the very mention of planting.

Once we’re in the garden, our activities usually go like this: Ezra and I till a bed. Ira finds a “wormy.” Ezra and I spread fertilizer on a bed. Ira plays with the wormy. Ezra and I plant some seeds. Ira finds another wormy. Ira is enthusiastic about invertebrates.

We’re excitedly watching starts grow and seeds sprout, and we’re already harvesting a bit of lettuce and kale that self-started, perennial herbs, and lots of dandelion greens. Have I mentioned it’s prime dandelion harvesting season?

Wild foods tend to be much more nutritious than the produce in our supermarkets or even farmer’s markets. Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side, explains that when we bred the bitterness out of our produce, we also lost nutrition. “The more palatable our fruits and vegetables became … the less advantageous they were for our health.”

Fortunately, despite many efforts to eradicate it, most of us have a wild edible green growing in abundance all around us, and it’s a nutritional powerhouse. A half pound of dandelion greens provides:

  • 649% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin K,
  • 338% of your vitamin A,
  • 58% of your vitamin C,
  • 39% of your iron,
  • 20% of your Riboflavin,
  • 19% of your calcium,
  • 19% of your vitamin B-6, and
  • 9% of your dietary fiber

Don’t let all those nutrients go to waste! Check out this post for more information about this humble super food and links to recipes. This year I can’t wait to try Rachel Turiel’s dandelion pesto.

We’ll likely be seeing many more April showers, but you’ll hopefully find us sloshing around the garden playing with wormies or armed with a colander eying our neighbors’ weeds. Wishing you some similar spring time revelry.

Is it gardening season where you live? If so, what’s coming up in your garden? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.