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Food Waste Is the Pits!

The amount of food waste in America is nothing short of a sin. Have you ever given careful consideration to where your food comes from? Yes, veggies come from a farm, for example, but unless you went and picked them yourself, those veggies passed through a lot of hands to get to your plate. A crop was planted by one person, harvested by another, loaded onto a truck driven by someone else and transported to a grocer where it passes through a few more hands before it lands in your cart. That’s a whole lot of people working hard for your veggies! Now, imagine how many more people take part in the production of processed foods, from growing the ingredients, to processing and packaging. I feel that when we choose to be thoughtful about where our food came from, we come to appreciate it’s true value.

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There are so many things we toss in the trash that are perfectly useable. So, what are some ways we can reduce food waste?

  • Aquafaba: What is aquafaba? It’s the brine from canned chickpeas/garbanzo beans which can be used for things like meringue and mayo. We use dry beans as opposed to cans, but its pretty amazing. Visit here for recipes.
  • Coffee grinds: I say to rub them on your face, but here are some other cool ideas.
  • Juice pulp: If you own a juicer and throw away the pulp after juicing you’re missing out on tons of fiber and nutrients. The uses range from baking to skin care! Veg Times has some great ideas here.
  • Regrow veggies in water: You know the root part of the green onions you’ve been throwing away? Yeah, you can regrow them on your counter by simply putting them in a glass of water! The same applies to leeks, romaine lettuce, and fennel. Free food!
  • Stale bread: If your bread is a little hard and dry but otherwise good, make a batch of homemade croutons, stuffing, or bread pudding.

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  • Veggie tops: I make a pesto out of carrot tops that far surpasses any plain old basil pesto in flavor! Other common greens that should be treated as equals of kale and the like are turnip greens, beet greens, and radish tops. Think twice before tossing those tops!

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  • Veggie broth: Now that you’re thinking about eating more of those veggies, let’s discuss the inedible parts. The garlic and onion skins, peels, ends, you name it, it goes in the broth! Homemade veggie broth packs a nutrient punch that you will never get in a store bought broth. You will see by the color alone that there is no comparison. We don’t follow a recipe (rebels!) but should you prefer a little direction, here is a good one.

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If you have an abundant garden or fruit trees, check out Falling Fruit and share your bounty.

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Meal planning is another great way to reduce waste. Plan your meals for the week and make a list (and stick to it!). Choose ingredients that can be used in more than one dish. For instance, make a large pot of quinoa and use it as a base for a number of different meals throughout the week.

When you sit down to your next meal, stop and take a good look at your plate. Acknowledge the work of others that went into each ingredient of your meal and remember to savor each bite in appreciation.

Nom, nom nom!

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Living Large In Small Spaces + Giveaway

People are often shocked to hear that we live (well) in less than 200 square feet but living in a small space doesn’t mean sacrificing conveniences or simple luxuries. At the same time, we don’t want tax the environment in our quest to save time.

Some of the simplest changes can greatly reduce the amount of trash you produce. The kitchen is a great place to start if you’re looking to reduce your environmental footprint. Here are a few of our favorite things.

Tall-Food-Scrap-Bag-2-RGBWe do our dishes with dish rags instead of disposable sponges and find it to be way more sanitary, as well as greener.

We also use cloth napkins, and paper towels do not exist on the Goodship. For spills and cleaning, we use terrycloth rags. Not only does it reduce paper consumption, which is staggering in the U.S. (some numbers here) but they are sturdy and do a better job.

The small amount of trash we do produce goes into BioBags biodegradable trash bags.

small-whiskey-rocks-set-of-12For the drinkers out there, stainless steel straws and whiskey rocks are awesome! No more watered down drinks on those sunny days. If you prefer ice, silicone ice cube trays don’t crack like the plastic ones that you wind up replacing every year.

We recently realized that our recycling bin looked like a club soda graveyard so we bought a Purefizz soda maker. It’s way smaller than the Soda Stream and no more plastic bottles!

6b5d0a8f3e0caa37eff0e0ce211c8abd4d28d5eb942afc86e7ae1752f6ed8ecfMy favorite space saver in the kitchen are our stackable stainless steel pots and pans. They fit easily in the storage ottoman with our pressure canner. Yes, we have a 16-quart pressure canner in an RV.

We make use batches of veggie broth and plan to start canning all kinds of yummy food! See? It’s all about priorities in a small space and for us, quality homemade food is at the top of the list.

shoppingBy far the most-used appliance in our kitchen is the food processor, albeit, a small one. This Ninja does surprisingly good job on hummus and cashew cheese and it’s pretty much my best friend…and we’ll be giving one away!

**Head over to our Facebook page for a chance to win your own Ninja Express Professional Chopper. Like our page and comment on the giveaway post with a pic of your RV in your favorite parking spot to win. *U.S. only.

We also love to make homemade chips in addition to the pounds of veggies we prep with our mandoline slicer. It stores flat and is a must-have for anyone who loves to cook.

Living on wheels doesn’t have to mean eating off paper plates and cooking with one pot. It’s all about making the most of the space you have.

If you want to remember any of the things I listed, download Wunderlist! It’s an awesome app that lets you share grocery and ToDo lists with others, eliminating paper lists and notes.

Have a beautiful day, friends!

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The Goodship Garden Begins

DSC_0025We have never had a proper garden before. Just a few mediocre attempts in pots on our old balcony, some basil, tomatoes, a few successful pea-pods. In the back of my mind, I’ve always planned on becoming a farmer. Perhaps not on any large scale. But to have land someday and grow all the food we need to live. You know: the typical self-sufficiency dream that urbanites like us start contemplating with the first homegrown cherry tomato. “We could just GROW our own food!” As if it were a novel idea. But why not? Most small-scale farming is done the traditional way: growing one crop, all in rows, on a tilled field by itself. Monoculture. It’s the way humans have grown food for millennia. A farmer can cover acres in one particular crop, keep some and sell the rest in order to get other crops from other farmers – since you can’t just live on one crop, right? Which doesn’t seem very self-sufficient. What if you grow everything you might need (as a vegan, of course😉 together in one small area? A food forest, where fruit trees shade vegetables, made with the intention of eventually becoming an entire ecosystem of various edible plants. That’s what Permaculture is all about, an attempt to emulate natural systems. Instead of battling with insects, animals and weeds in your garden – you allow nature to do its thing. When there are varieties of plants together, they develop symbiotic beneficial relationships that make each plant stronger. In typical agriculture or monoculture, plants are far more prone to attacks by “pests”.

15600_1632577153643311_4358514898396981367_nIn Permaculture, “pests” can be seen as part of a vibrant ecology, since most insects are actually beneficial, most all plants require them to pollinate. To keep the insects in control, however – it’s a good idea to invite some birds into the garden with a feeder, they will gladly munch on some caterpillars for you. And the caterpillars that survive soon become the beautiful butterflies that pollinate your food. But I’m getting way ahead of myself. The Goodship Garden is no where close to being a food forest, nor are we planning to make it one. We currently rent our space short-term. We got very lucky that our landlord is fine with us digging up a bit of his yard for this experiment.

I have been reading about Permaculture for awhile, about Permaculturalists like Sepp Holzer, Paul Wheaton, and Geoff Lawton. One permaculture technique that struck me as pure genius is called Hugelkultur (the Austrian Sepp Holzer is the originator). Garden beds are created using mounds of logs in trenches. The wood slowly rots under the soil, holding moisture like a sponge and encouraging fungal growth which feed nutrients to the roots of your plants. Geoff Lawton has created oases of green in the desert of Jordan using this technique. So the drought-stricken dirt yard we live on in the San Fernando Valley shouldn’t be that difficult in comparison. I built four small Hugelkultur mounds for the Goodship Garden. I found some logs and odd pieces of wood from a cut tree at the side of the road and bought some organic soil from the garden store.

IMG_2411First I dug trenches a foot-deep and lined them with cardboard. Cardboard initially helps the mounds to retain water. I piled up the logs with random twigs, leaves and branches – anything I could find around the property. Then I covered the piles with the poor quality dirt I had dug out of the trenches, topping them off with good store-bought organic soil. I also left a small space at the beginning of the garden for a compost pile. I probably bought 8 bags of soil, but hopefully I won’t have to buy anymore as my compost pile matures and gives us some homemade soil.

IMG_4649Everyone’s first question here in drought-stricken California, is “how much water are you using?” And this question lets me brag about the coolest part of the garden…it is being irrigated 100% by our own recycled grey-water. The convenient thing about living in the Goodship is that we already have tanks in place for retaining our grey-water (shower and sink water). So all of our water gets double use. As long as we use natural soaps and detergents (such as Dr. Bronner’s) the plants in the garden will thrive. In fact, our grime and food scraps is exactly what the plants love.

IMG_3039 So now the experiment has begun. We’ve sown corn, squash, spinach, arugula, chard, cauliflower, sunflowers, marigolds, tomatoes, a few kinds of kale, jade beans, green beans, other greens and herbs. We shall see what happens and we’ll post harvests here. There will always be more plants to plant and different things to try.

IMG_2973Early on, we planted a head of organic butter lettuce from the supermarket, the kind that come with the roots still attached. It soon began to flower and the bees went nuts. We’d never seen a lettuce bloom before. Little yellow flowers came out in tree-like formation. In no time most of the flowers were pollinated, they turned to seeds much like dandelion seeds, with wispy hairs to carry them on the wind. But we took them, dug up the old lettuce and planted it’s next generation in the same area. Now we’ve got a bunch of the next generation growing. And so it begins, custom Goodship lettuce. By Taylor Flannagan

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The Big Decision: Class A or Fifth-Wheel?

We glazed over our decision to go with a fifth-wheel over a Class A, but it is worthy of its own post since there are so many factors to consider.

The main downfall of a Class A for us was briefly mentioned in the last blog. If there is a major mechanical issue, our home goes into the shop and we have to pack up & find someplace to stay in the meantime. We couldn’t really get comfortable with that possibility so it was the driving force in our decision to tow.

  • Accessibility
    • We won’t be on the road a majority of the year at this point, so if we had a Class A our motor would sit and waste away.
    • We have a small car for city driving already since we are still living the city life…to an extent.
    • We need a truck.
      • Trips for building & gardening supplies.
      • Once we buy land and need to make improvements, we have a beast of a truck to help us out.
      • We want a boat!
      • We might also want a rescue animal trailer…just in case!
  • Cost
    • All of the Class As we saw that were up to our quality standards and had a layout we could make work (and no leather) were $65,000 and up. Ouch!
    • Class As also come with higher maintenance costs. Having a fifth-wheel with no engine and no slides, the likelihood of there being an issue so major we can’t fix it (or have it fixed) where we’re parked is much lower.
    • Knowing that we would still need a truck in addition to the RV, a Class A wasn’t a cost-effective choice for us.

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  • Space
    • One of the primary reasons we decided we didn’t want slides was because it was an unnecessary addition to maintenance costs. Class As with no slides, furnished with standard RV furniture felt very cramped to us.
    • Since we opted for a toy-hauler the interior space was easy to customize so we have a comfortable living space with room to move around. Here is the Goodship empty (the ladder latches to the ceiling):

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While it took us some time to work through the pros and cons, it was definitely worth the time. We couldn’t be happier with our decision and the truck is a huge asset for us on this path to freedom.

We would love to hear what the deciding factors were for other RVers as everyone’s needs are so varied. Happy travels, folks!

By Jessica Caviness

Going Small ~ A Three Part Love Story ~ Part Three

Part Three ~ Movin’ Out! 

Here we are having donated enough items to partially clothe and furnish half of the San Fernando Valley (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) it’s time to get serious about this downsizing plan. Tiny living in a big city is not as easy as one might imagine. Where do we even begin? This…is the guts and glory of the story so stick with me.

Step one for us was deciding what type of RV would be best suited to our lifestyle. Class A RVs can be high-end and beautifully furnished, but they come with a huge downfall…an engine. What happens when there are major mechanical issues? Do you put your “home” in the shop for a week and live in a motel? How would that even work logistically? In addition to that, you have to tow a smaller vehicle to get around in the city to shop and take care of day-to-day activities. When we move off-grid, we will definitely need a truck to get building supplies. A truck and fifth-wheel it is.

Years ago I saw a picture of the Airstream SkyDeck and fell head over heels in love. And then I saw the price tag and came to terms with the fact that this particular rolling home was nothing but a dream. That is until we were perusing Craig’s List and came across the StarDeck! It was absolutely perfect. Not only did it have a rooftop deck but a second bed for when my son comes home. It is a toy hauler so easily customized to fit our needs as opposed to other types of RVs that have all built-in furniture. (More on the Goodship in a future post.)

Although we had already bought it in our minds, we took a drive down the next day to take a look. It was previously a demo model so we got a fabulous deal and purchased it on the spot…having no way to tow it and nowhere to store it. Luckily, the seller was willing to let us store it there until we formulated any sort of a plan. It was everything we needed and just big enough to make me feel confident we would be comfortable. It was too good to pass up. We will call it The Goodship and it will be home.

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We drove away and immediately realized what we were doing. It was happening and it was happening fast. We had to at a very minimum get a truck to tow it….NOW! We had a few things working against us in this search for a truck:

  1. We knew nothing about trucks.
  2. We knew nothing about towing.
  3. It had to be strong enough to tow a minimum of 9,800 pounds. That’s the weight of the Goodship empty.
  4. It could not have leather seats. Good luck!!
  5. It had to be newer than 2004 to be financed.
  6. It had to be under 100,000 miles to be financed.
  7. We were on a tight budget having just purchased the Goodship.

We came across an amazing service called Lemon Squad. You can order an inspection online and have an inspector go out to a dealer or private seller and do a full inspection for you. They arrange the inspection time, enter the report online, and email you detailed results. The inspector went beyond the call of duty and taught us a great deal about towing vehicles. I swear we don’t get a commission for recommending them, but they saved us from making a very big mistake.

On the second vehicle we had inspected we found a winner. A 2007 Dodge 3500 Quad Cab dually with no leather and a suitable hitch! When we ordered the inspection the sellers didn’t show the truck to any other potential buyers because they could tell we were serious. A very kind gesture, indeed. We bought it from the nicest family who like Lemon Squad, went above and beyond to teach us about the truck. It was slightly more than we wanted to pay, but this was a choice involving safety. We will call him Grux and he will carry our home for us.

We mentally offset the guilt of buying a large diesel truck with the fact that moving into the fifth-wheel reduces our consumption far beyond the impact of the truck. The Saturn is the primary vehicle, anyway.

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As soon as we purchased the Goodship we posted an ad on Craig’s List looking for a place near work to park it. It was up for about three months prior to us finding the truck and we got zero responses. Literally two days after finding the truck we got three responses to the ad! If that isn’t the Universe working for you I, don’t know what is. One of those three responses was exactly what we were looking for. It even had RV hook-ups already!

We sent our 30 day notice to our current landlord and started getting ready to move into the Goodship. Our landlord was gracious and understanding and the move went off without a hitch (pun!). We picked up the Goodship and rolled into our new space and with the help of our amazing new landlord, immediately made it home.

By Jessica Caviness

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Going Small ~ A Three Part Love Story ~ Part Two

Part Two ~ Downsizing Our Lives 

Have you ever stopped to take inventory of your possessions? Have you taken the time to thoughtfully look at the things around you and ask yourself if they add joy to or simplify your life in any way? I have always been fascinated by hoarders. Me, being the opposite in that I have no issues reducing clutter, donating things I no longer need or stopping an impulse buy in it’s tracks.  But regardless of all of that, I realized I still had an abundance of stuff. Stuff that added no value to my life. This realization became even more apparent when I entered a relationship with the King of No Stuff. Clothes & books were really all he had and it was kind of refreshing.

As I took inventory I started to really question myself. AM I a hoarder? Why do I have six serving bowls? Do I really need five sheet sets? And as I looked deeper I realized I had feelings attached to all of these things I held on to. I had nice dishes, and everyday dishes…because I’m a grown-up now and I need fancy dishes in case I have a holiday meal at my house or even a dinner party. What would people think if I served them on my everyday dishes? After a lot of soul-searching, I came to the answer. People are concerned with the company (and likely the food), not what dishes I serve them on. Seems simple enough a concept, that people are there to spend time with you and not your dishes but even people who are not generally materialistic do things “for show” without even thinking twice about it.

The first big sweep came when I went vegan.  Out went the leather, the silk, the wool. The number of shoes and purses was obscene. I looked at the pile of things I once loved and all I saw was death. I know that may sound dramatic to some, but it’s true. How many animals lost their lives so that I could decorate myself? I felt sick. Rather than those lives being taken in vain by me tossing the death-wear in the trash, I donated it all.  Off it went and it felt good. Actually, it felt great! Not only do I now have a compassionate closet but also a deeper sense of accountability for my choices than I had before.

After the first closet sweep and my son moving out unexpectedly, everything in my life started to feel excessive. I continued to rid my closet of an additional six lawn bags (yes, the huge black ones) of apparel. Housewares came next. I donated more and more until we had only enough to live comfortably. Nothing more, nothing less. For the first time, our dream of moving into an RV and having the freedom to roll our lives anywhere we wanted seemed possible. It’s truly amazing how stuff creates an emotional weight that you don’t even realize you carry. It’s paralyzing in its own way. For us, shedding stuff translates to fewer chores, lower bills, and more freedom.

Off we go!

(Cue theme song)

By Jessica Caviness New Camera 039

Going Small ~ A Three Part Love Story ~ Part One

Part One ~ The Awakening

It’s not the most comforting feeling to wake up one day and realize that everything you have been working towards is light years away from where your true joy lies. But it happens. And it happened to me about seven years ago. I wanted a second child. I wanted to purchase another home. I wanted to climb the ladder. I wanted all of the things that I had been told would make me “successful”. And I was getting them! But the more those goals were realized, the less fulfilled I felt.

I started to do the math. An average house in Los Angeles is over $400,000. With a 30 year loan that is $2,000+ a month on the mortgage alone. That’s not including insurance, property taxes, and all of the other lovely expenses that come with being a homeowner.

And then there is upkeep. Not only would I have a huge pile of bills chipping away at my bank account and more importantly, my entertainment fund, but who will take care of the house? Surely with a $2,000+ mortgage I won’t have much left over for a housekeeper or gardener. Then who? Ding, ding, ding! Me, that’s who!

In comes that sinking feeling in my stomach when I imagine of having all those bills and working for pretty much the rest of my life to pay them. So, let me get this straight…I’m supposed to bust my ass 40+ hours a week working to pay for a home that I will likely be paying off the rest of my life and spending all of my free time cleaning and gardening? Where is the real benefit over renting if I won’t own the house outright until I’m over 60? Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? Where does the joy of retirement come in? Social Security is certainly not going to cover bills of this magnitude.

This image of my future not only didn’t appeal to me but quite frankly scared the crap out of me. It all felt SO WRONG. Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll pass on your “success”. So, now what?

By Jessica Caviness

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