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Welcome to

Practical Skills

taking better care of our families and the world around us

INTRODUCTION

I define a “sustainable lifestyle” as one that's regenerative for ourselves as individuals, for our families and communities, and for our ecosystems. Everything is connected; the health of any of these effects the health of all of them.

And since you're here on this page, we're probably in agreement that the way we humans have been doing things is not regenerative.

We're outsourcing our needs to extractive/exploitative industries that are depleting our atmosphere, soils, water, ecosystems, biodiversity, and communities.

Profit-focused corporations and government-funded institutions are keeping us hooked and helpless so that we'll keep propping up a failed economic system.  

We're living in a house of cards. The apparent affluence on the supermarket shelves is part of an illusion.

Obviously, something needs to change.

Exactly what needs to change, how it should change, and who should do the work, are topics that continue to be flogged to death in discussions at every level, but discussion is much more valuable and productive if we also take action. 

Small actions are best, that we can learn from, that we can build on. Action at a level that we can sustain.

"Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up." ~ David Orr

Its up to us, in our own kitchens, gardens, and communities. Here and now. To get on with providing for ourselves and living in ways that regenerate, rather than depleting, the web of life we rely on.

Note that some posts appear in more than one Collection.

RECENT and FEATURED Posts

RECENT

Welcome toPractical Skillstaking better care of our families and the world around us CONTENTS INTRODUCTIONRECENT and FEATURED PostsSIMPLE HOME-BASED HEALTH-CAREHOME GROWNREAL FOODANIMALS INTRODUCTIONI define a “sustainable lifestyle” as one that’s regenerative for ourselves as individuals, for our families and communities, and for our ecosystems. Everything is connected; the health of any of these effects the

Welcome to Practical Skills

SIMPLE HOME-BASED HEALTH-CARE

In the bathroom aisle you spend hard earned money on mostly unnecessary products, full of toxins, that leave a trail of pollution and destruction in their wake. 

There are safer, cleaner, more ethical alternatives, and they can be economical, simple, and quick to make.

HOME GROWN

These posts are full of ideas for:

  • what to grow and how to grow it, 

and sometimes also:

  • why to grow it,
  • how to use it, and
  • how it relates to other things you might be growing. 

At our place, we grow lots of food plants including edible and medicinal herbs (some of which are often called weeds). We also grow plants for animal fodder, mulch production and soil building, shade and shelter, and to encourage biodiversity. 

We're particularly interested in low-maintenance multi-functional plants that meet more than one need, and in perennials and self-seeders that don't have to be re-planted every year.

We're inspired by Permaculture, Syntropics, and all  Regenerative Agriculture philosophies and techniques; our intent is to build soil, capture carbon, care for ecology and water systems, and increase biodiversity in the process of growing things we can eat and use. 

We’re in a tropical environment with hot-season storms, frequent cool-season rain, and dry periods - so we can grow a very wide range of plants.

one-small-serve-kate-martignier

Learn about 7 easy, nutritious food plants that you can harvest from for years without replanting

Growing and processing your own food is a huge task. In One Small Serve, I show you a smaller, simpler approach to fit into a busy life. Establish a "one-serve-at-a-time" home-grown food habit you can maintain.

REAL FOOD

Food was once something that people shared, locally. For people fed by industrial agriculture, food is now a commoditysold to the highest bidder, traded globally and anonymously. 

Commoditized food erodes our health when we eat it, and its production erodes the health of the families, communities and ecosystems that produce it.

I define
"Real Food" as food that repairs these broken connections and rebuilds health on all these levels. To me, real food is not just healthy for the eater. It's also healthy for the farmer and community that grow it and for the ecosystem it grows in. 

Real Food, for our family, includes "Happy Meat."

And this post collection also includes some posts with tips for getting the most nutrition possible from your food, along with profiles of super-nutritious plants (which will also appear in the Plant Profiles collection, above).

ANIMALS

We raise chickens for eggs, meat, and compost making. We raise a few pigs at a time for meat. And we keep a couple of house cows for fresh milk and for the calves, which we raise with their mothers and then on pasture, for meat. 

Immediately below you'll find posts on "Raising Chickens," and in the sections under that you'll find "Raising Pigs"  and "Cattle & Home Dairying."

Raising Chickens

If we had to downsize and choose only one type of livestock to keep, it would be chickens. These posts explore various aspects of chicken-keeping, as well as the many talents of a backyard flock as egg and meat producers, garden assistants and soil builders, and entertainers.

Beyond Eggs - a Series

Anybody can stick a flock of chickens in the backyard. The result will be fresh eggs, plenty of entertainment, and a progressive and terminal de-greening of the backyard.

To move backyard chicken-keeping away from barren, bare ground and towards the model of a healthy ecosystem, we need to consider how to manage the flock so that all of its functions—the chickens' behaviors and their manure—are put to use in service of the surrounding ecosystem.

This Series of posts is about mobile vs stationary chicken runs, deep litter bedding, and keeping chickens happy in confinement.   Read the posts here, or download the Series as a free pdf.

Backyard Chickens - a Series

This is not a “how to take care of chickens” Series. It contains stories about the unique differences in the ways individual hens mother their chicks, how the chicks mature toward independence, and the fascinating ways that roosters care for their hens (it goes well beyond sharing food with them and protecting them from danger).

In his book, “The Small-Scale Poultry Flock,” Harvey Ussery states that eating is “an intensely moral act," and that the happiness of his birds "defines good husbandry." The stories here are about chickens that are as happy as we can arrange for them to be, and that, in my opinion, makes for happy eggs and happy meat


You may enjoy these posts if you like chickens for their own sake, if you like eating food that comes from happy sources, and/or if you care deeply about our living world but sometimes feel powerless to make a difference in caring for it.

Raising Pigs

Pigs, for us, have turned out to be very rewarding animals to keep and also very challenging animals to keep. Rewarding because they're charismatic, intelligent, sociable, and also because pork, ham and bacon are meats we refuse to buy -- so we're very fortunate to be able to raise them ourselves.

And challenging, because pigs have big needs for space, play, clean soil to dig in, and a diverse diet -- and providing those while keeping their environment alive and vibrant is a big challenge. We're far from feeling like we've got it sorted; these posts share what we're learning as we work toward it. 

Cattle & Home Dairying

There are just a small handful of posts here, mostly farm updates that include pics and mentions of our home dairying adventures. 

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