Sometimes life is for sharing. Sometimes life is for living. The last few months, we've been caught in a whirlwind of just living life. The arrival of spring brought a long to-do list to get the garden ready for a new season. Since March, we've made many new additions to our space that we are eager to share. It's been a roller coaster of blood, sweat and learning curves.
The season started off with preparing a space for our seedlings. Over the winter, we were using a wooden growing rack that TJ made from scrap wood and recycled bathroom light fixtures on a timer. This worked well, but didn't give us nearly enough space for seedlings. Every time I entered the spare room (you know, that room where you hide everything you own when people come over) I was started to feel like I was entering a jungle.
The solution came to us while trying to solve another problem.
The carport in the driveway has served us well over the last few years. This winter, the canvas was began to tear at the top corners, meaning it was time to replace to shell. Somewhere in the midst of inspecting the frame of the carport, and deciding it would last for several more years, it occurred to us that the frame would make an excellent greenhouse. I think TJ made a joke about it, not anticipating that I would be so on-board. Now he just had to figure out HOW.
Logistically, the most difficult part was adding a way to access our little "greenhouse", and capping off the end where the car usually enters. TJ framed a wall to fit this space, complete with a frame for a door. Using pipe strapping, we fastened this frame to the frame of the carport. To help stabilize everything, we reinforced the opposite end, and added strapping to the roof to improve rain run-off. We salvaged what we could from the old canvas, and covered the remaining sections in a double layer of vapour barrier.
After a few months of use, we consider this project a huge success, and it keeps the heat in better than originally anticipated. Our tomato plants LOVE the heat and the moisture. The pipe strapping used to fasten the end wall to the frame can be dismantled, so that the wall can be moved, and the space can be used as a carport again this coming winter.
As with any project, there are some modifications we've made along the way, including finding a way to vent the greenhouse when it gets too hot. We are currently on the look out for pieces to build a temperature controlled vent to help regulate the temperature and take this DIY retrofit to the next level.
Have you ever done a DIY retrofit? Tell us about your project in the comments!
La Dolce Vita...
An old-fashioned Italian phrase meaning "The Sweet Life" - The idea that we might have our cake and eat it too.
While everyone might have their own version, we find our fullness in simplicity:
Mixing a love for plants with the love for our city to create a large impact with a small footprint.
It would be inevitable that our worlds would collide with The Sweet Life of Being Vegan - a local educational platform, brought to you by the ever joyful Meaghan Marton. As committed vegan for over 4 years, Meaghan engages with animal lovers of all kinds through the creation of educational initiatives like the Compassion Classroom. Meaghan has created a Meatless Mondays support group for transitional vegans, and hosts vegan potlucks for the community regularly. Beyond her ambitions with The Sweet Life, Meaghan serves as a volunteer coordinator with Charlotte's Freedom Farm - a hobby farm in Essex County that serves as a home for over 60 animals from the farm industry.
To Meaghan, the sweet life isn't just about living life to the fullest, it's also about sharing your kindness and compassion with others.
Want to connect with the Sweet Life of Being Vegan?
We were psyched when Meaghan approached us to collaborate in a Thrifting Give-A-Way. Over the years, thrifiting has become one of our favourite hobbies. There can be such a thrill in finding a hidden treasure that the donor did not see. But, when we broke it down to what we LOVE about thrifting, we all took something a little different out of it.
Why Do You LOVE Thrifting?
Your Trash Is Another's Treasure TOO!
Thrifting can be joyful in both giving and receiving. If you have a gently used item that you're aren't using - donate it! Give it to a friend who will get more use out of it, or drop it off at any one of Windsor's second hand boutiques. Make more room in your life for things you will routinely use and enjoy. Create a sense of community around your love for thrifting by encouraging others to join in with you.
From simply turning on the lights or faucet, to our public transportation and roadways, the decisions made locally impact our lives daily. These are the decisions that we have the greatest influence on, but often have the least awareness to. Understanding the power we hold as citizens is key for an outcome truly reflective of the values we have as a residents.
This week, I was honoured to be a guest on Rose City Politics - an hour-long podcast focusing on the movers-and-shakers affecting the political scene with an emphasis on municipal issues. We sat down together to review the new goals put forward by the city for the 20 year strategic plan, and a had a fun lightening round about hot items affecting decisions here in Windsor.
Some of the topics we highlight in our discussion include:
✔️ Why a 20 year strategic plan shouldn't include items that are considered basic care for residents.
✔️ How strategically improving green space, by considering permeability could help combat affects of climate change in Windsor.
✔️ How we can improve poverty by considering economic development within the region in a calculated way.
You can download the episode anywhere you get your podcasts - including Itunes and Spreaker.
Follow Rose City Politics on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on important happenings in the region.
So how can you become more aware of what's happening in your municipality?
Increase Your Understanding - Verify information by considering it’s source, and cross check with other sources. Don’t rely on stories with a single viewpoint. Follow verified accounts for sources like CTV Windsor, CBC Windsor, or the Windsor Star on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated daily.
Interact with Your Community - Venture out in your neighbourhood. What do you like about your neighbourhood, and what could make it a better? What would make Windsor a better place to live? Get to know your neighbours, and consider what would be important to them too.
Participate in the Conversation - Join a neighbourhood group or come out to a community event. Get to know your City Councillor. How are they working to improve your community? Advocate for issues you feel will have an impact on your life in the city.
BONUS Sneak Peak!
Next week, we will announce our collaboration in a give-a-way with a pretty incredible voice in the community.
Stay tuned for details!
In our research for off grid systems to improve tiny living in the RV, one word kept resurfacing: Permaculture.
The umbrella of permaculture includes a long list of unique systems being pioneered around the world: food forests, rocket mass heaters, and rainwater collection and irrigation, to name a few.
These projects peeked our interest enough to send us on a deep dives of videos and forums. Somewhere in the rabbit hole of online information, TJ found Matt Power’s Advanced Permaculture Student Online, a program that took our journey from a lifestyle crush to a real attainable goal. In this blog, we're going to touch the surface on the foundations of permaculture, and break down how to apply it in simple terms.
If you've been following along, you must be dying to know: What the heck IS permaculture?
The tendrils of permaculture reach far into the way we live, eat, travel, and work. Permaculture observes what nature does best and uses this lens to form systems around its environment, asking us to consider a more sustainable way to achieve our goals. Sustainability is the destination, but working with nature is the road map for our actions to become regenerative.
To help us tap into the possibilities, the teachings of Permaculture had 3 moral cornerstones put in place by its founding fathers - Bill Mollison and David Holmgren:
The Border City Hippies Movement
The permaculture community transforms these ethics to form practical systems on whatever scale of land is available. This summer, we are interested in testing out some new systems for our little homestead.
We will break these down more for these projects as they come closer to fruition. If you would like to learn more, or want to get your hands dirty on any of these projects or others, send us a message. We would love to connect with you!
1/20/2019 1 Comment
In this post, we will tell you a little bit more about:
A Bit About Our Home
When we began to hunt for property, we were already settled in the RV. One night, while driving through potential neighbourhoods, we spotted half a dozen deer grazing in a yard. TJ pulled over, and we watched them in silence for almost 10 minutes. We both knew THIS is what we wanted.
One week later, a listing for a house nearby found its way to us through TJ’s mom. It was off on a connecting road, called Spring Garden that we hadn't gone down. While it needed a bit of updating, it checked all the boxes on our (very tiny) wishlist:
Renovating a house is not for the faint of heart. Common advice is to buy the worst house on the best block, but you need to make sure you’re ready to commit the time and work to overcome each unique challenge, including navigating through building codes and bylaws. In our situation, we have had to deal with a few bigger problems, such as, old wiring, a leaky roof, a tiny kitchen. Most of our work has been to address a myriad of less crucial cosmetic issues: gnarly-looking carpet, vinyl tile, gray painted wood paneling in almost every room, and pink paint all over the bathroom wall tiles. Pink painted tile? Yes - Someone actually let this happen.
Logistical issues are inevitable, especially when working with reclaimed materials. It can be like trying to make a square fit a circle hole. You might have a certain idea in mind, but be prepared to go with the flow. The design of our home has been tweaked hundreds of times over the last two years. If you can’t source specific materials or if you discover they are out of budget, don’t give up! Change the design of your project, or add an additional step to round the corners off that square.
The truth is, having gone through all of the trouble we have, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our personalities are reflected in every inch of our home. Without putting this experience on a pedestal, it has given us an intimate connection with our space, and helped us hone our skills. When something breaks, we better understand how it can be fixed. We are far from finished, but each project that gets completed makes it feel more of our own.
Final Note: DIY doesn't mean Do-It-All-Yourself.
Our key takeaway is that you actually can’t do it ALL yourself. Sometimes, a helping hand is necessary for sanity, and sometimes for safety. We opted to hire someone to replace our roof, and had a licensed electrician do all of our electrical work. By delegating these tasks, we've allowed ourselves more time to focus on the projects that were important to us. Plus, it has been fun to include our friends in family in our projects -- Thanks Tim and Will!
If the amount of work, time, and random stress associated with DIY Renovations hasn’t scared you away yet, you might just be the kind of person that would have fun doing it. If not, just enjoy a few of our favourite then/now photos from 2016 to 2019.
My name is Jess - the resident writer behind Border City Hippies. That handsome pup in the picture is our rescue girl Coba. Following my path has transformed me into a jack of all trades, but I’ve found my passion in working with small businesses in hospitality and tourism in the Windsor/Detroit area.
Along this journey, I came across this handsome fellow - TJ, my partner-in-crime and our Creative Director.
The pursuit of happiness can translate differently for everyone. For TJ and I, this has always been about living SIMPLY to have the freedom to simply LIVE.
We began in 2015 by renovating a 120 sq ft RV into a mobile tiny home, where we lived snuggly for a year (along with Coba). This allowed us the financial stability to purchase our first property on the edge of the city. Since then, we have been working to renovate the derelict house into a cozy cottage. We made the conscious decision to live on the edge of the city, a short distance from the Ojibway Prairies, frequented by the company of deer and wild turkey. Yet, we work and play in the heart of the city, commuting to Windsor’s downtown on a daily basis, and reaping the benefits of being close to our sister city of Detroit, whenever possible.
If you’re interested in learning more about what our border city is like - check out this episode of The Life Sized City with Mikael Colville-Andersen.
As we work to transform our property into a low maintenance food forest, our main goal in the last two years has been to observe - studying the tools that nature uses to create in this space as a wild thriving ecosystems. Last year, TJ completed the Advanced Permaculture Student Course with Matt Powers, learning about soil as a living contributing ecosystem and how they support the plants above in a mutual relationship. The course also helped refine knowledge on key insects from precious pollinators to predatory wasps. All this, in an effort to further our observations, and respond to the land around our home, as we explore food security through urban agriculture.
“Simple” isn’t actually so simple.
Pursuing this dream has been anything but simple. Yet as our awareness grows, so does the fire in our souls to help build up our community, and we want to inspire others to do the same. We can’t transform you all into hippies overnight, but by following along with our journey, you will undoubtedly increase your own awareness, where I can only hope the fire catches within you too.
- A bit about our homestead, including the next steps for our food forest in 2019. We will introduce you to some of the techniques we’re testing out, and some of the plants we will be growing.
- Some of our secrets to getting around, and having fun in the Windsor/Detroit area
- Introductions to some of the people who have inspired us in both the local and online community, and why you should pay attention to what they’re up to.
- A guide to interacting with your city in a fulfilling way, including how, why, and when to advocate for urban issues within your own community.
Jess Mac-Bondy & T.J. Bondy
Two urban hippies on the path to develop a food forest at home in the YQG. Jess and TJ are lovers of native herbology and a healthy soil ecology, mixing permaculture ideals with an urban lifestyle. Beginning in 2015 by renovating an RV into a mobile tiny home, they purchased their first property on the edge of the city and renovated the derelict house into a cozy cottage. Living on the edge of the city, a short distance from the Ojibway Prairies, frequented by the company of deer and wild turkey; Working and playing in the heart of the city daily, reaping the benefits of being close proximity to Detroit. Follow our journey as we build a food forest on the fringes of Windsor and Detroit. Explore urban agriculture and sustainable living.