Welcome! And, thanks for stoppin' by...

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Our Urban Chicken Quest: TOUR OUR CHICKEN COOP (Part 2)

After keeping your on the edge of your seat this week, I figured it was about time for the big reveal of our nearly 100% reclaimed material chicken coop and run! You already saw some of the before pictures and how we constructed our coop out of an old Hamm radio equipment storage shed last week.

We did have to spend a bit of money on the construction. We spent just $69 on the coop and run materials, as well as some basic chicken keeping supplies, like:
  • hinges and latches for the nest box and window
  • locks and clasps for the nest box and window
  • corner trim
  • waterer
  • feeder
  • cement blocks for the coop base
  • a piece of plexiglass for a windowwindow
  • wood for the run
  • random nails and screws that we ran out of mid-way through building
Are you ready for the big reveal? Here it is: 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mostly Homemade Mondays - Week 76

Good morning! I had an awesome weekend. Of course, I spent a considerable amount of time tending to my seedlings. You might recall that this is my first year starting my own seeds for my garden. So far, I am having some decent success, but I'm not remaining too optimistic.

Also, I spent some time in the farm store grabbing organic feed, bedding, grit and oyster shell for my chickens. They'll be making their debut in our backyard in a few weeks. If you haven't checked out our coop, read PART 1 of the reveal.

On the blog this week I'll share the final reveal of our 100% repurposed-materials chicken coop, as well as a bunch of photos of another Eastern Iowa chicken coop and run. I also have a book review and giveaway, as well as a product review and giveaway coming later in the week.

With so much happening at The Sustainable Couple, this week is one that you'll want to be tuning in!

Anyway, on to the party:




Mostly Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle. We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that. Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts:

Jess from Scratch Mommy
Joyce from The Skinny Pear

Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. 
  • What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well.
  • Follow our Pinterest board. Remember to check out our Mostly Homemade Mondays Pinterest board where we're pinning some of our favorite posts from the week.
Here was our favorite post from last week: 


A special thanks to Glass Slipper Restorations for linking up her rainwater catch system to Mostly Homemade Mondays! We have a fleet of rain barrels here on our city homestead, and know the value of collecting rain water. Especially when you pay for water in town!

Feel free to grab this "I've Been Featured" button and share the great news with your readers, family, and friends: 

<a href="http://s1333.photobucket.com/user/TheSustainableCouple/media/TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1333.photobucket.com/albums/w637/TheSustainableCouple/TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg" border="0" alt="I Was Featured button for MHM photo TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg"/></a>


AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Family of Six Chronicles "A Year in a Camper", Reinvents the American Dream.

A short while ago, a copy of a text I'd been interested in arrived at my doorstep. The sender? Mama of American Family Now.

That blog probably sounds familiar to you, right? It should, because I've done two guest posts in the last year on American Family Now - one was an introductory post about living in a camper part-time, and the other a post about sustainable, easy urban homesteading practices. For this reason, and many others, I was delighted to receive a copy to review, and give away to one of you!

I can be candid and say that I devoured this book. I have been a follower of American Family Now for quite some time. I was aware of their {"Mama and Papa's"}circumstances and how they came to live in a camper, thanks to being an email subscriber to their blog. Of all the topics they blog about, I especially enjoy getting an inside glimpse of their very normal life in a small space.


John lives in our camper 6+ months out of the year, and I quit my full-time teaching gig so I could travel with him. So far in 2014, I have spent a full month traveling with him, and anticipate another month on the road before May. The posts that "Mama" writes about her family's everyday lives are what resonate with me, because I'm living it, too!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Freshen Your Husband's Nasty Laundry {with Purex Crystals}

Today's post comes at me from an odd angle, and no doubt you're probably wondering why I'm writing about laundry, let alone Purex Crystals. I don't want you to think I am a poser, but I know you realize we're on an all-natural, eco-friendly journey and might find it odd that I am writing a Purex sponsored post. 

I want to share with you how I came upon Purex Crystals, and give you my honest opinion on this "conventional" laundry product. Hopefully you can appreciate the 'happy medium' I'm trying to strike here :)

Several weeks ago - so long, in fact, that I don't recall the month - I applied to test out some all-natural Purex cleaning and laundry supplies. I did so because I figured not all of my readers have the means, the care, or desire to make their own laundry soap or cleaning supplies. I thought recommending a few all-natural Purex products would be helpful to those of you. 

Fast forward to the present, and you'll find me tearing open a box from Purex, but dismayed to see it's not the all-natural products I hoped for. Far from it, in fact. And, not something I would ordinarily buy for myself. I opened a box of Purex Crystals Limited Edition Fabulously Fresh, an in-wash fragrance booster. 

Non-toxic cleaners are my top priority, so you might imagine the conundrum I found myself in. After him-hawing over reviewing this product or donating it to someone, I actually decided to take this random product for a "test-drive" of sorts, and share my feelings with you. 

Not all of you sweet, dear readers care to make your own laundry soap, and choose to purchase fabric softener, dryer sheets, and in-wash fragrance boosters. For those of you that are looking for a unique laundry product that leaves clothes smelling fresh for a considerable length of time, but aren't wholly concerned with laundry additives, this post is for you! Some of you are very opposed to such products, in which case, I will not be offended if you tune out for the remainder of this post. 

Here's how I used Purex Crystals Limited Edition Fabulously Fresh: 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Our Urban Chicken Quest: The Chicken Class.

Thanks for your support, and for following along with John and I as we soon become urban chicken owners. We are so passionate about sustainability, and doing the most we can with our little homestead in the city. Keeping chickens for egg production {and other benefits, like composting!} are a new experience for us in a city setting. Wouldn't it be awesome if our learning experiences were valuable for others? That's pretty much why we're documenting our journey in such detail.

For example, today we are sharing a bit about a chicken keeping class, which is a required part of our city's ordinance. Personally, I don't think taking a basic chicken keeping class is a bad idea. Here are the topics that were covered at our class:
  • History of chickens in an domestic agriculture setting
  • The Sustainability Factor of Keeping Chickens
  • Backyard Chickens vs. Factory Farm Chickens
  • Health Benefits of Eating Free Range Eggs
  • Educational Benefits for Children
  • Debunking Common Concerns with Chickens in the City
  • Feed, Water, and Supplements
  • Chicken Breeds (including those best for city living)
  • Preventative Health Measures & Predator Protection
  • Coop Design
  • Getting to Know the Local Ordinance
We learned that Leghorns and most white egg layers aren't the best for city living. They need a bit more space, tend to be temperamental, and are noisier. Breeds recommended for our area are Easter Eggers, Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds.

Our teacher also told us how to get bedding for our coops (wood chips are fine, but don't use cedar!), and that 4 bales a year is great for most city coops. At $5 per bale, that's very affordable. Our teacher also said she has food available for her birds 24/7 in barrel feeders, and supplements their diet with kitchen and garden scraps. She also allows them to free range in the yard, which is something John and I intend to do as well.

We also got to meet Katie, who belongs to our teacher, Rebecca:


After the class and a Q&A session, my classmates and I got to meet Katie, and hold her:


For some attendees, this was the first time they've held an adult hen, and this reinforces how social chickens are, and how loving they can be. For city dwellers, this is important  since we'll be living in much closer proximity than on a farm or acreage.


Do you have chickens? Do you live in the city? What are some things you wish you knew before you got your birds? 

This is surely a quest that we are on to welcome chickens to our city homestead. In the coming weeks I'll share photos of our chicken coop and run, the feed/supplements/supplies we are using, and our first days with our hens. Stay tuned!


AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Eco Lips review + ORGANIC LIP BALM FLASH GIVEAWAY!

Every so often, I get really jazzed about new products that I am lucky enough to try.

Tonight, people, I am jazzed. Super jazzed.

Jazz hands all up in here.

Have you heard of the organic lip balm company, Eco Lips? If you're an Iowan, chances are you have. Eco Lips is based out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and they are one of the ONLY 100% organic lip balm manufacturers in existence.

When Jen (one of the lovelies from Eco Lips) mailed me SIX of their most popular balms to sample, I was in hog heaven.

HOG HEAVEN! **more jazz hands**

Of the six balms she sent, I sampled two: The Vanilla Honey Mongo Kiss Lip Balm with Mongongo Oil, and their One World Revive Herbal Mint Balm.

First, the Vanilla Honey Mongo Kiss.

This is one bad ass lip balm. For those balm junkies out there, you're going to love this one. It's a big bertha balm in a really fun package.


Not only is the Vanilla Honey Mongo Kiss balm super yummy, but it's also USDA Certified Organic, cruelty free, GMO free, gluten free, and the energy used in creating the packaging and balm is offset with 100% renewable energy. Yep, that was a mouth full, but totally worth it. I also like how I can raise and lower the balm with a 'screw' at the top of the tube, not the bottom like other balms.


It's the little things, I tell ya! Not so little of a concept, however, is the One World line.


First, lets talk packaging: Eco Lip's One World line of balms is packaged in a 100% biodegradable and compostable "eco tube". And, it doesn't twist, like other balms, it has a push up bottom:



This was my favorite balm, and not just because of the packaging. I tried the Revive Hydrating Lip Balm in the Herbal Mint flavor. It also had chia seeds to nourish and protect my lips. But really, I just loved the cool and tingly mint on my smackers.

Hands down, the One World balm in Revive was my favorite, but there are SO MANY other Eco Lips balms to try. In fact, I have FOUR that I am going to split up and give away to TWO of you readers.


The first set of balms includes an organic Vanilla Eco Lips Hemp balm and a Vegan Lemon-Lime Eco Lips Bee Free balm. The second set is an SPF 15 organic Eco Lips Berry lip balm and an organic unflavored Eco Lips Gold lip balm on a clip, so you can carry it on your keychain, backpack, purse, or lanyard.

IF YOU WANT TO WIN EITHER OF THESE TWO SETS OF ECO LIPS BALMS, GO TO OUR FACEBOOK PAGE AND COMMENT ON OUR ECO LIPS STATUS FOR A CHANCE TO WIN. 

You have to comment on that status before 4/11/14 at 8:30 p.m.! Two lucky winners will be selected on Friday evening!


SPONSORED POST DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Rest assured that while this post might be paid, the opinions stated herein are my own.

AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2014 Spring Sustainability Efforts

Each year I update you all on what we're doing to make our little homestead in the city a more sustainable, self-sufficient place. Because we've made quite a bit of headway in late 2013 and early 2014, I thought it would be a good learning experience for other urban homesteaders to see what we've accomplished and where we plan to grow.

First, take a look at what our goals were for 2013 and 2012 {and the progress we've made in RED}:

Our 2013 Sustainability Efforts:
  • Get more rain barrels! We completed this: Check it out.
  • Continue cooking mostly outdoors on our grill or over our fire pit. One thing I would like to try is making my own brick oven. We do cook on our grill a ton, even in the winter. We have not made a brick oven in the backyard. Yet.
  • Continue to cut our electric and natural gas consumption at home. Our electric service is still set to Time-of-Day billing, where we only pay a 40% rate for energy we use during off-peak hours (9 p.m. to 7 a.m.) and on weekends. I need to look up stats for this ASAP! I know we've been conscious of our energy consumption, so I'm sure we've had some major savings. 
  • I continue to carpool three days a week with two co-workers. I no longer work 50 minutes away from my home! I do carpool to blogging events and family functions out of town.
  • Triple the area of our garden. We doubled it last year.
Our summer 2012 Sustainability Efforts
  • Look into blown-in insulation for the walls of our house. It will cost about $700, and might be a priority in 2014.
  • Begin experimenting with making bio-diesel fuel. John still hasn't done this, although he'd love to. He's been traveling a lot.
  • I want to add a compost bin. DONE! I scored a deal on Craigslist and I'm a composting fool!
  • I want to add three more raised beds of the same size. Done in 2013.
Ok. Now that you know what's on the table, and what we strove to accomplish (or put on the back burner) for the past two years, here are some of our new goals:

Our 2014 Sustainability Goals

  • Add expansive edible landscaping in the front yard. Think: small berry bushes, herbs, and container gardening.
  • Landscape an entertainment area in the backyard using repurposed materials we currently have. If possible, add a brick oven to this area.  
  • Landscape around the chicken coop and run in the backyard using repurposed materials. 
  • Put up more garden produce in 2014, including learning to pressure can.
  • Sell surplus garden produce, and possibly eggs. Find a niche in our area.
  • Completely install the cast iron woodstove in John's garage before winter.
  • Find and install an alternative heat source for the house before winter (pellet stove, wood stove, etc.).
What are some of your sustainability, self-sufficiency goals for 2014? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mostly Homemade Mondays - Week 75

Thanks for joining us for another Mostly Homemade Mondays! Remember, we've made a few changes to the link up to better serve YOU. First, we created a Mostly Homemade Mondays Pinterest board where we're pinning some of our favorite posts from the week.

CHECK IT OUT and see if we pinned your post



Also, instead of each of the hosts selecting a favorite post from the week, we're collectively choosing our favorite post and featuring it on ALL of our blogs! That means a lot more exposure for you :)

Anyway, on to the party:



Mostly Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle. We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that. Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts:

Jess from Scratch Mommy
Joyce from The Skinny Pear

Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. 
  • What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well.
Here was our favorite post from last week: 


A special thanks to Whole Food Mom on a Budget for linking up this fabulously refreshing Orange Creamsicle Smoothie recipe to Mostly Homemade Mondays! Feel free to grab this "I've Been Featured" button and share the great news with your readers, family, and friends: 

<a href="http://s1333.photobucket.com/user/TheSustainableCouple/media/TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1333.photobucket.com/albums/w637/TheSustainableCouple/TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg" border="0" alt="I Was Featured button for MHM photo TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg"/></a>





AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.
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