Green, frugal, sustainable, simple, healthy, happy... No matter what we each call it, we come together here to support and learn from each other.

We are preserving our planet with our lifestyles. We are creating sustainable communities for our children. We are living the lives we want to live. Please join us!


All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

Join Us Here, Too

Buy Sustainably

Join us in saving our family budgets and helping our local communities thrive.

10,000 Steps

With numerous environmental, physical and emotional benefits, what are you waiting for? Let's start walking!

Green Your Insides

For your family and our planet, start greening your own home.

Great Reading

What Fertilizer Do You Use for Tomatoes and Peppers?

Kevin’s Question…

Hi Melinda,

I appreciate the information you provided on your website about how to pollinate tomatoes and peppers.  Thank you.

Currently I am using Miracle Grow as a fertilizer… (I know…BOOOO!  HIIISSS!)…but I am hoping to move away from that once I feel more comfortable with my abilities as a gardener.

What is a more natural substitute and does this subsititute provide similar results to Miracle Grow?

I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.  Thank you.  :)

Take care,

I just received this email this morning, and thought I could throw it out to all of us to answer:  As you’re planning your gardens for Spring in the Northern Hemisphere (or putting them to bed in the Southern Hemisphere)…

What Do YOU Use to Feed Tomatoes and Peppers??


What Is The Hardest Part About Living Sustainably, Frugaly, or Green?

A long while back many of us shared the most difficult things to change in our lives – on our paths toward sustainability.  We have so many new people joining us, and life has changed quite a lot since then.  So let’s do it again!

Once we share them here, we can help one another to make those changes over time.  Shall we?

For me, the hardest things have been:

  1. Making the time to cook.  Particularly at lunch,  I eat (organic) frozen food.  Ack – it’s true!
  2. Making the time to help other people make lifestyle changes.  Particularly lately, I haven’t made time to help others by way of the blog (sorry guys!), speaking, and other ways.
  3. Being a real part of my new community.  I don’t spend enough time at local events, I don’t volunteer locally (there are lots of local organizations that could use my help), and I don’t feel like I participate in my new neighborhood.

What Change Is The Hardest For You?

Think a bit, and then please share!  What do you wish you were doing, but you just can’t make yourself do?  What do you feel guilty about doing?

I will tell you it feels good to write them down.  Now that they’re there, on paper, I see what I need to work on.

Try it!

Q and A: Strawberry Attacking Raccoons, Bratty Winter Ants, Hydroponic Tea, Soaking Lemons, and More!

Please feel free to email me with questions you have about sustainable living.  I receive an awful lot of ads and press releases, of which about 99.9% of them I ignore (there are no ads on this site!) – so don’t send ads unless it really pertains to what we discuss here.  Questions and resources, however, are very much welcome!

And please, please, please answer any of the following questions in the comments – you all know more about some of this than I do!!


How Do You Get Rid of An Ant Problem?

From Viki:

I live in a centennial farm house. The kitchen floor is actually not on a traditional foundation rather it is apx. 2 foot off dirt with actual bolders of sort holding up the joists with a reinforced (over the years) stone foundation. These dirty little ‘pisants’ mostly show themselves come dead of winter-I live in MI. I have done traps. I kill when found. I swear they are the goffiest to kill as you can actually squeze them into nothing and away they go again.TINY brats. Do you have any recommedations for this problem. What is their normal habitat?  Are they living in the 100+ year old floor boards? I am at wits end.  Thanks for any info you have or have heard of. Viki

Viki, I’ve had that experience as well – the ants seem to like to come in when it gets cold or rainy.  I would trace the ants to wherever they’re coming in, and then spray where they’re coming in.

At the same time, you have to be very diligent of taking away all the food they might find.  I had a severe ant infestation once, in Los Angeles, and ended up buying a lot of air tight containers to put up dog food, flour, crackers, pastas, everything they might find.  I had to keep the counters free of all crumbs.  And I even had to make the bathroom clean because they liked eating soap!  But once I was diligent about that for about a month, the ants stopped looking in my home.

Lastly, if you have a yard, they might be coming from somewhere out there.  Check around your yard and see if you can find the hill.  There were also some great comments in this post that might help.

Good luck!   -Melinda

Why Do You Soak Lemons Overnight To Make Marmalade?

From Robert:

I thought  Meyer was Myer, boy was I wrong.

I am starting your recipe this afternoon and need a point of clarification, please.

You have us add the water to the lemons and “let stand overnight”, is the o/v nite necessary?  Otherwise I’d have this canned by supper. {fresh rockfish w/ a lite sause, orzo w/ a bit of the sauce and a green salad.}

Likely I won’t hear back by then so I will follow the instructions but I would like an answer to the why when you can spare the time.

Thanks a bunch

Hi Robert,

Letting it stand overnight allows the pith (white interior part of the skin) to soak.  The pith is what makes marmalade gel – it’s the reason you don’t need to add gelatin to marmalade, but you do need to add it to berry jam for example.

I have not tried to make it without soaking overnight.  It’s possible it would work but would take longer to gel… but it is also possible that you will not be able to get it to gel at all.  So if you want some tonight for fish, and you don’t really care if it gels much, try a small batch and see what happens!  (And do let me know if you try it – I’m interested to hear!)  But for longer term storage, I highly recommend the overnight soaking.

With all my best,

How Do you Grow Tea Hydroponically?

From Monica:

I think your [Camelia Sinensis] article is great and was wondering whether you know anything about growing this plant hydroponically?

Thanks in advance.

Hi Linda, unfortunately I’m not a hydroponic grower so I can’t help you – does anyone know???

How Do I Discourage A Raccoon From The Garden?

From swift:

there is a raccoon attacking my strawberry patch, how do i get rid of it?

Hi there, I wrote an article a while back about how to deter bunnies – there may be some things there that could help.  But I’ve never had to deal with them myself, except as innocent onlookers.  Anyone have any good advice for deterring raccoons?

How Do I Email Your Post?

From Nanette:

there’s an ant infestation in my daughter’s condo.  i would like to send her [your article]… because right now she is using RAID!  how do i copy this and send it to her?

Hi Nanette,

Down at the bottom of each article, there is a program called “ShareThis”.  (It’s located right under the “Similar Posts” section.)  If you click on “ShareThis”, the very first option that appears is “Email”.  Just click “Email”, and it will send the article!

Here’s the link to the Organic Ant Control article, in case you’ve lost it!

Hope that helps!  Let me know if I can help further.

Have a lovely day,


Seed Saver’s Exchange

From Corrin:

[Removed due to an unverifiable source.]


Please help answer the questions above!  Leave a comment below, or if you’d rather, send me an email.  If  you enjoy these posts and find them useful, please let me know.

Thanks, everyone!

Who Are You Out There In The Shadows?

Butterfly On Our Old Meyer Lemon Tree


It has been a long time since I’ve taken math at school, but I do know that there are about 1,000 subscribers and another 1,500-2,000 people visiting here each day.  Which means only about 5% of you all have left a comment here….

And that is totally ok, but I would love for you to come out for a peek, and tell me a bit about you.

Would You Take a Moment to Introduce Yourself?

Simple comments are fine – just take the plunge and write a few words!

I would love to know:  Where do you live?  What do you do for a living?  And how did you come to begin living a sustainable life?

Pretty Please?

Q and A: White Tea, Seeds in Long Island, Joining the Growing Challenge, Chickens On A Rampage, and More!

I love the new email system I found for the blog, and apparently you all do as well, because I’m receiving some fabulous emails!  I thought I’d periodically share reader questions, and throw them out to our community for answers.  If this works, maybe we could make it a regular Sunday occurrence.

Please feel free to email me with questions you have about sustainable living.  I receive an awful lot of ads and press releases, of which about 99.9% of them I ignore (there are no ads on this site!) – so don’t send ads unless it really pertains to what we discuss here.  Questions and resources, however, are very much welcome!

And please, please, please answer any of the following questions in the comments – you all know more about some of this than I do!!


Where Can I Find Seeds and Seed-starting Information for Long Island?

From Nadya:

I am starting a modest garden, would love to make it a four season one, but need some advice. First of all about seeds sources, and starting plants before spring planting season.
Any suggestions?

Nadya, I’ve created a page dedicated to Organic Gardening 101.  Included on the list of articles there are How To Grow A Four-Season Garden – Part 1, How To Grow A Four-Season Garden – Part 2, Seed Starting For Beginners, How & Where To Order Organic Vegetable Seeds, and My Ten Favorite Seed Catalogs.  Hope that helps!  Does anyone in the northeast have a good seed resource for Nadya? -Melinda

How Do You Grow White Tea?

From Gerry:

Dear Melinda,
I’m interested in growing white tea which is not being grown here in Kenya where I live.  Have you any advice to offer?  Growing conditions & times? How to source seeds/saplings to plant as an experiment.  Thank you & regards.

Gerry, I’ve written about how to grow tea here:  How To Grow Tea (Camellia Sinensis).  Unfortunately that post includes the extent of my knowledge – does someone else here have more experience growing tea? -Melinda

How Do I Join The Growing Challenge?

From Marlene:

I am starting my FIRST vegetable garden. And I stumbled across your web-site.  I would like to join the Growing Challenge but could not figure out how to do so.

Marlene, congratulations on starting your first garden!  Leave a comment in the post here:  The Growing Challenge.  In your comment, include your name, where you’re gardening, and your hardiness zone.  (There are directions in that post for finding your hardiness zone if you don’t know what your zone is.)  That’s it! -Melinda

Why Are My Chickens Killing Each Other??!

From Monica:

I have 150 leghorn chickens who lay brown eggs and seem to have problems with them packing each other to death.  I have had chickens for four years now and have never seen this before.  Can you tell me why this would be happening?

Hi Monica, A while back Shawna wrote asking a very similar question.  While I didn’t know the answer, several experienced readers did – please check out this post as well as the great comments from readers below the post:  Where Do You Turn For Chicken-Raising Advice? -Melinda

Where Can I Find Scrub Oak Seedlings?

From Arline:

I want to start a scrub oak project at my school.  Do you know where I can get seeds or seedlings for free or for a very small price? Thank you, Arline  I am in central florida

Arline, Great idea!!  I mentioned Forest Farm in my list of favorite seed catalogs the other day – I would try there, though it is not free by any means.  You might ask them if they can give you a discount, donation, or a suggestion for a free resource, given the great project you’re working on.

In Seattle, there is a local program where you can volunteer to transplant native plants for a day and receive any left over plants you like for free.  Maybe try one of the local environmental organizations and see if they know of such a program in your area.

Anyone have a good resource for Arline? -Melinda


Buying Locally Database

From Megan:

I read your recent post “Sustainability Begins at Home” and decided to stay and look around the website.  I found the “Buy Sustainably Challenge” and noticed that number 2 on the list is “Buy Locally”.  What’s great about your text that follows is the last 6 words, “…has a local source for them.”  My husband and I created and run a website,, which is a national database of vendors searchable by state and category – Bath & Body, Food, Restaurants, Pet, etc.  Specifically, we only list vendors that have a “local compenent” to their finished product.  For example, a restaurant that uses local produce/meat in their dishes or a weaver that uses local wool to make scarves both qualify to be listed on our site.  We created the website to help consumers/distributors support local vendors and their suppliers as well. It is good to see other people acknowledge the supplier part of buying locally.  Thanks.

Steel Baby Bottles

From Ann:

Note that this is pretty close to an ad, but I thought some of you would find this useful.  If you’re interested in trying one out, let me know – they’ve offered to send me a sample, and I’m happy to give one or two away!

For the first  time, there is a stainless steel baby bottle! I thought you might have interest in a  first look at this great green find…  This electro-polished stainless steel bottle is BPA  free, hygienic, lightweight, durable and will not leach anything into a  child’s drink.  The bottles are available in an array of colors including spring green, racing red, pretty pink., aqua blue and tangerine…. The feeding system grows with a child – turning  from a bottle with slow-flow silicone nipple to a medium-flow bottle and  then ultimately a sippy bottle with sip  spout!


Please help answer the questions above!  Leave a comment below, or if you’d rather, send me an email.  If  you enjoy these posts and find them useful, please let me know.

Thanks, everyone!