Jennifer Paulson

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since Nov 13, 2016
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foraging food preservation ungarbage
I love getting my hands dirty, breaking a sweat and "earning" my next meal. I am transitioning from an urban/apartment environment to slightly less urban acreage. My new home will be my forever home and I have many years ahead to work the land. As I've been preparing for this giant life change, I have been skill building to better equip myself for the life I want to live. Recently I've spent a summer propagating for an organic farm, helped to build two strawbale homes, started plant guilds along the lines of baby food forests, apprenticed for a couple years learning local plant medicine, have been canning and doing other methods of preserving, vermiculture, sewing, seed saving, huglekultur, helping other raise chickens & basically whatever random thing I can manage to get involved in.
Paul's Kickstarter for the 2017 PDC was my gateway into the Permies community. I've been quietly getting to know my way around and will hopefully feel confident to make worthy posts soon.
I'm looking forward to meeting more of you.
Pacific Northwest, West of the Cascades. United States
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Recent posts by Jennifer Paulson

Jennie Little wrote:What did you do that changed how much you discarded? What was the most effective change?

Well, I feel like a phony, which will be evident by the end of this, but here goes!
When we were ready to "up our game," so to speak, my husband and I decided to weigh our garbage (destined for the landfill) for the entire year of 2018. We already had a lower than average amout of waste, which I expect is the case for most frequenting this site, so our goal at the end of the year was to have generated 12lbs or less of waste, 1 pound of each month.

Each time I took the trash out, I would weigh the bin and also keep track of the year to date running total. Just the thought of adding up this total curbed so many potentially bad purchasing decisions! I would also dump it all out on the floor and do a trash audit. You think you know what your trash looks like, but when it's all out in front of you, you are able to see things you wouldn't have before (at least that was my experience).

Our 2018 year end total was just over 13 pounds. We didn't make our lofty goal, but we did really well compared to undocumented years prior. We were really starting to get into the groove with this, so we decided we were ready to increase the challenge. The goal for 2019 was to half our 2018 total, so about 6.5lbs.

I dug around Instagram to try to find some photo evidence of our journey.

<b>June 27, 2018 - picture of over flowing garbage bins -</b>
Garbage pick up is in the morning. Four apartments and nine people share these bins. Trash and recycling are picked up every week, compost every other. It's a good thing my partner and I don't have anything to contribute this week because there is no room!

Garbage is hauled away out of sight but it is not out of mind for me. There is no "away." All the plastic ever created is still with us. It wasn't until 1934 that the Supreme Court banned municipal waste from being dumped in the ocean, which was the preferred method at the time. The amount of packaging produced and disposed of increased 67% after WWll and there has been no looking back since.

We try to live "towards zero waste" and reduce, reuse, go without, compost and recycle but felt we could be doing better, so on my partners suggestion I began weighing our garbage.
Our year to date that has gone to the landfill is 6lbs 7.5oz. I know we can do better and already the thought of adding to that number has changed our buying patterns and curbed some impulses, but we're doing pretty well compared to the average American. That is a pretty low bar to compare ones self to though... I'm just glad to be on this journey - besides, there is no room in the bin even if we did have garbage to contribute!

<b> April 5, 2019 picture of an espresso drink in an upcycled container</b>
I have this personal thing that I can't get a coffee while out unless I have the time to sit and drink it out of mug or I bring a travel mug. My idea to pack an 8oz jelly jar (on a recent trip) was foiled when no one would severe me coffee in glass "because it will explode!" Enter my local co-op. I found a 4oz supplement container in the bin and the Batista was happy to make me a cappuccino! It's good to be home.  

<b>May 10, 2019 picture of my trash can</b>
Year to date: 15.5 ounces of garbage to the landfill. On our way to our goal of halving 2018s total of just over 13 pounds.

<b>July 19, 2019 Trash Audit</b>
Trash audit! I took out the trash for the third time this year, so I guess I can't complain much about that chore. Last year around this time we had 7lbs 8.4oz for a year to date. Our goal was to half our end of year total. Right now our year to date is 1lb 6.8 oz so we are right on track to meet our goal - allowing for some heavy misc like water filters and one offs like Christmas.
What did I learn? We got LAZY! Lots of failed dinners. Annie's Mac and cheese? Ice cream sandwiches?Really? I also am super bummed about a few teas that ended up having foil lining. Please print that on that outside, gah! I also dislike all the produce twist-ties 🤦🏽‍♀️
Then there are the decisions I tried so hard on and still failed, like the tortilla bag I thought was paper but was lined with plastic : (

[side note: a take away I noticed from looking at these picture again - after doing this trash audit I noticed those several mylar bags that had crackers in them. I learned how to make sourdough crackers soon after, and am still making them today!]

By the end of 2019 I had taken out the trash a mere five times and our year-to-date weight was just 2lb 11.7oz (our goal had been 6.5lbs)! Feeling like it would be difficult to improve much upon that, we decided to try anyway but no longer document it, instead we would weigh our recycling and get that better under control. One thing we noticed was film plastic bags of english muffins, so my husband figured out how to make them. How am I a phony? Well... the pandemic happened. Walking to the food co-op with reusable and refillable containers stopped, asking and giving the most random used items within my Buy Nothing Project community stopped, and online ordering started. We bought a house with acreage (yay permies dream!) AND combined households. I know we are still doing better than the average American (but isn't that too low of a bar to compare yourself to?), by choice we do not have garbage or recycling pick up at our new place. However, there have been trips to the dump with over 500lbs of nasty carpet and 50+ year old carpet padding and linoleum we found under some of said nasty carpet. There are new tools to be purchased and so.much. unnecessary styrofoam!  Then we got a dog, and Amazon Prime, the waste just keeps increasing. Meanwhile I'm making twine from sewing scraps like it's making a difference [Wahhh! Booo! Sob..]

[ending on a positive note] At least we have a decent foundation, and something to strive to get back to. AND we have our own soil to improve with our own compost, rather than having to tote much of it away. Hooray!
3 months ago

Peter Chan wrote:

WOW!  thanks for sharing those beautiful photos!  Your property is gorgeous.  Could you share more detail on the process?  what method do you use them to roughly chop them?  also, do you feel that they need to be further ground in a food processor to work well?  have you tried simply chopping them to see if that works just as well?

when you say you made enough for two loads of laundry for a year, do you mean 2 loads per week?  thank you.

Hi Peter, yes - that's right, I calculated it to be enough for two loads a week for 52 weeks.  I stepped on the horse chestnuts and popped them out of the husk with my shoe. Then I cut them in fourths with a big chef's knife. You can use them fresh, I've heard, just like that, but I opted to process them for long term storage. I did use a food processor next. It got it into the coarse meal texture I was looking for pretty quickly. I hope you'll give it a try!
4 months ago
Thanks for planting the seed a few years ago, Shaz (see what I did there?)! Last fall I collected 12lbs of Horse Chestnuts and dehydrated for soap. I've been very happy with it! I made enough for two loads of laundry for a year, but I had other homemade laundry soap to use up so have not been using it weekly. Recently I experimented with more soiled loads. Up to that point I was only washing sheets, bath towels etc. I decided to test out the Horse Chestnut soap on my used-to-be-white-until-we-got-a-black-dog-who-loves-the-mud duvet cover. It worked beautifully, came out white! I've since moved on to my forever property and am very pleased that there is a mature horse chestnut tree offering shade over the backyard and the promise of a life time's worth of laundry soap. I've been giving saplings away to neighbors so they can have the same : )

After roughly chopping the nuts, I had good success grinding them to a meal using the food processor.
6 months ago
I think I talked the walk before taking a step. I've deleted my comment to rescind my interest. Best of luck finding a good home!
9 months ago
I moved on to several acres last fall. One of the challenges this first growing season will be keeping the blackberry bramble at bay. I've been working with loppers to liberate trees by hand. The land has been neglected for several years so the first step is to remove the old growth blackberry bramble that makes up the scaffolding for the new growth. I'm a fan of chop and drop methods, but I'd like to get a dog soon too and keep imagining what a chuck of blackberry vine would do to their foot pads (and mine!). I had the idea of shredding the bramble with an electric shredder/chipper so I've been making separate piles for dried and green canes. I'm caught up in the research stage and can't seem to make any headway. I would love feed back from your own experience. What has or hasn't worked for you? Is there an electric shredder you would recommend?
10 months ago
Hi Zurcian, the Pacific Northwest is a great place to land for the winter, I hope you enjoy your time here. I really enjoy dandelion dandelion root; it's abundant, easy to identify and it's the perfect time to harvest as it's higher in inulin. I like to chop, and dry or roast it. Roasted, I drink it by itself but unroasted I tend to add other ingredients.

1 year ago

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
If I were going to try to use a reel mower, I would definitely ask them to mow before they leave. In my experience, reel mowers have a romantically cool ambiance about them, but they are useless as an actual tool in real-life.

Thanks Joseph, that's another good point. They are pretty useless on wildly over grown grass. I've pushed though it before at a hilly rental I lived at.  The three room mates and I all had to take turns (clearly there was too much lawn). The lawn I plan to use the reel mower on are flat and can be tamed first with a scythe if needed. We'll see if my plan works in actuality!
1 year ago

Kc Simmons wrote:First, big congrats on the new home/property!
A lot will depend on the type of grass and the climate.
Personally, I would probably have it mowed... Just because it's not going to do a ton of damage to the grass/soil lifesince it's already been mowed consistently by the previous owner (so damage has already been done).
Having it short will allow you to observe the actual ground so you can more easily see the high/low points of the land and plan around that, for future projects, as you observe. You'll also be able to explore without worrying about suddenly stepping in a lower spot and falling or spraining an ankle.
You will be getting a source of organic matter to start a compost with, use as mulch, etc. It will come in handy to already have it when you are running around doing other things and don't have time to go out and find stuff on the property.
It won't take long for the grass to grow back so, even if you regret having it mowed, it's not permanent.

These are just some things I thought of. Looking forward to hearing more about your new adventure!

Thank you KC, we're so excited. I really don't know my northern lawn grasses so I guess I'll just need to wait and see, which I have a feeling will be a pretty big theme for the next 12 months! The hay (wild grasses and things) field is hilly and uneven but I haven't had too much trouble traversing it. My mother, who is in her late 60s, has had a much more difficult time, so you raised a good point there. It was hayed this past summer but not cut since. It's a bit rough. The Seller let us go out there at the end of August to harvest fruit and berries and then had us over once again for a personalized tour. The actually lawn areas were all even/flat as far as I noticed.

All the short lawn clippings from the summer are in piles around the shop area. Likely ash at the center of the piles from getting too hot.  I figured while it was still dry, I could sprinkle it around to feed the soil but I don't know much about mulching or composting with it. I remember it being too hot, clumping and going anaerobic. I'd love to know how you use it. I would have much preferred the grass clippings remain on the lawn rather than being bagged up but I've been reserved in not showing my true permaculture colors in fear that they'd change their mind and not want to sell to us! We've been on the property search for too long to screw it all up in the final days hahah.
1 year ago

Skandi Rogers wrote:Here we have to mow the grass as late as possible because it will grow slowly all winter if we have a warm one. It will also start growing in the spring long before the weather dries out enough to mow it, not mowing it in Autumn will leave us with foot long grass that the mower cannot handle in May.
If one doesn't mow for a year say the dead grass becomes a tough mat and not much can grow through it, it basically smothers itself.

Remember the above points are only true to my climate and my grasses, yours may be different. We get winters where the average temperature from December through til March is just below freezing but with little to no snow and lots of rain and wind.

Hi Skandi, It sounds like our winters are similar, although ours may tend to be a few degrees warmer on average with occasional snow fall. It's supposed to be an extra wet winter this year. My fingers are crossed it will fill the pond a bit.

You made some good points and I appreciate your quick response.  We've been in a hurry up and wait cycle and now it's RUSH RUSH RUSH! Since they offered, and after reading your comment, I went ahead and accepted a mow this week. In our climate, the last possible time to mow would probably be the end of October. We likely won't be able to do that this year, however. I bet the scythe will come in handy for an early season mow of tall grass and if that fails, maybe we can get it hayed with the rest of the property!

I see an opportunity perhaps in the future of using year old neglected grass to smother out places I no longer want grass (in combination with adding even more cut hay as mulch), like the former garden spot (and circular lawn in the front). I might be able to leave that area alone for the next year and plan to plant in it again in two years.  The property got away from the older gentleman who is selling it. His family tried, but not living there the garden got over grown. They tilled it and again let it go, so now it's just a hay patch with a water spigot. I can relate. For the past few years I've been driving 35-40 minutes each way to my garden spot twice a week. It's just not enough time to keep up with everything. I can't wait to walk out the door and be in my own yard/garden!

1 year ago
I am just about to close on my first (and last) home. I am so excited to have acreage and put to use all the information I've been observing while lurking in The Forums! The Seller just loves to mow,so we've been told. It's like a hobby. They love a tidy property. Enter Me (bawahahah). The property is 6 acres, much of which is hay field with some more maintained grass for lawn in the immediate front and backyards as well as over the drain field. The nephew has been keeping things mowed over the last couple months as we have worked to close on the property and have offered to mow one last time for us this week before taking their riding lawn mower with them and leaving us to our own devices. Probably needless to say, but here it is anyway, we have a drastically different vision for the property than it's previous use and owners. While it's been nice that they kept things mowed through the end of summer (we thought we'd move-in in September and be possibly overwhelmed with grass), it seems strange to me to cut it so short going into winter here in Coastal Washington State.
Can you help me learn what the pros/cons of this practice would be from a permaculture/soil health standpoint? I really don't mind if it topples over and looks sad. Wouldn't it die and become mulch for the spring regrowth?  I have never owned a home before. I'm coming from an apartment and am well aware I will be over my head in just a few short days. That said, I have a reel mower that mows high as well as a haying scythe that I thought I would use for the lawn areas until I get a plan in place, and use the scythe to harvest mulch and cut pathways to where ever we want to access - perhaps having the field professionally hayed as well.

Would it be wise to have them mow it, since they offered, and have one less thing on our plate? It will definitely take some time to figure out what we want to do. I'm looking forward to all the observation and dreaming I get to do this winter!

Pictured shows the manicured lawns around the house outlined in pink. I thought the front circular lawn would be fun to do with the scythe, the other two with the reel mower.  Outlined in blue is the drain field. I thought I might be able to scythe that too but that might take some extra practice (which I should have plenty of by the the beginning of next summer hahaha)

*Edited to fix typos because I do my best proof reading after I hit submit.
1 year ago