Monthly Archives: August 2012

The re-usable shipping suitcase


When I was in high school, a friend of mine had to move away with her family. She and I wrote letters back and forth for about a year or so, until we finally lost touch. I’m not sure who sent the last letter…but my guess is that life just put a pause on the touch-keeping for each of us. The exteriors of our letters were super creative. We drew little doodles on the front of the envelope. We attached random stickers to the front and back. I once used 1 cent stamps to cover the entire front of the envelope to pay postage. It was legal to do this…and I got away with it and never forgot it. This little interaction among creative friends helped to fuel the idea of the reusable shipping suitcase almost twelve years later.

I own a few online stores in which I find junk and re-sell it. One such piece of junk was a suitcase that I purchased from a thrift store for $3. I sold it online on my Facebook group page for $10. It cost about $10 to ship it. While I was figuring out how to ship this thing to the buyer, I thought of how ironic it was that I was shipping an item designed to transport and ship items. I wasn’t sure what the post office would accept as “correct” shipping procedure, so I decided that I would wrap the suitcase in a black trash bag and tape it over as a cover.
When I arrived at the post office, and the postal employee asked if there was any thing fragile, liquid or potentially hazardous inside, I told her it was a suitcase and giggled about it. I then asked her if one could just ship a suitcase without wrapping it in anything.

Her response was: you can ship a suitcase without it being wrapped in any paper or plastic cover packaging—as long as the clasps where the suitcase opens are taped down or locked with an airport lock & key (designed to lock suitcases during travel).  I’m assuming this is their policy so that it won’t pop open in transport. I envision a small/miniature lock with a combination…but that costs money and I don’t have money OR a lock. So, for now, I will probably just tape it down until I can invest in the lock.

The idea that washed over me was one of shipping the suitcase back and forth between friends or family as a re-useable package!!! Less waste will be accumulated by not using cardboard boxes, tape (after the lock is purchased) and other general packaging supplies. If you find a lightweight suitcase, that is a bonus move. Shipping a reusable package suitcase like this one will be a much cheaper shipment every time! You won’t have to find that roll of packaging tape when it is ready to be mailed.

Our Goal? Find one BAD ASS old suitcase and mail it to Grandma Cindy as a portal for all mailing treasures. She lives across the country in California, so we tend to send and receive many packages from her.
How to create your re-usable suitcase:

Step 1: Obtain a plastic report cover (the kind with the little plastic slider that holds the pages together along one long end)

report cover

Remove the slider tab {Can be seen on the left hand side (white) in the image above}

Step 2: Measure the length of one short side of the report cover and cut the same length in self adhesive velcro. An easy way to measure both at once is to adhere stick the velcro (the grabby side toward the soft side) together, then cut.

Step 3: Place the velcro, with the backing peeled off into the edge of the report cover plastic. Be careful! This stuff is VERY STICKY. Make sure it is where you want it inside the report cover before you allow it to touch the plastic or it WILL stick.

Step 4: Tape down or sew both long ends and one of the short ends, leaving one short side open. This will create a flap opening. When you get to the end where the velcro is attached, make sure you sew over the velcro if your machine will allow.

sew the report cover

Step 5: Write out both addresses onto one 8.5 x 11 letter sized paper. One address on top, one on the bottom: both on the same side of the paper. Fold the letter sized paper in half between the text of each shipping address. Fold so that each address is visible when the letter is flipped. Place the address sandwich into a laminating sleeve and laminate. Trim the edges of the laminate sleeve so that it will fit inside of the laminate pocket from the fourth step.

Step 6: Attach the plastic sleeve onto the suitcase. Tape the pocket down on three sides, leaving the velcro opening free of tape. If you wish, you may use some spray adhesive, hot glue or double sided tape to adhere the underside of the packet to the suitcase.


You now have a re-usable way to mail the suitcase or package.

Now, get creative with the process. Ask the person you are mailing back and forth with to attach a sticker, design or other artwork onto the suitcase each time they receive it. Make sure someone adds something new to the suitcase package before it ships each time. This way, when your treasure arrives in the mail…it will have a new addition of creativity and design. How exciting to get such a thing in the mail!

Our reusable shipping suitcase

Here is the suitcase package we created for Grandma Cindy. I purchased the suitcase from a flea market for 14 cents. It is very small and lightweight. Also, as you can see, the pocket has been adapted with a zipper opening instead of Velcro. Mix it up! Add your own flair!  Save some money.  Use less materials.  Surprise the postal worker with a little unexpected package 🙂


McCarty Fermented Heirloom Hot Sauce


This Cayenne/Jalapeno cross hot sauce batch was produced from a second generation Pepper. Meaning, this was the first year Aaron grew the seed from what he had saved from a previous plant. The seeds planted this year were labeled as “2010 Jalapeno”…So they (the plant’s parents) were originally grown in Rock Hill, SC.

A Pepper’s Journey:
The Jalapeno Pepper plant {2010} was crossed with the Cayenne Pepper Plant (purchased the same year online) in our Rock Hill garden. The peppers were close enough so that the bees could land on a Cayenne Pepper and then buzz on over to pollinate a Jalapeno Pepper. The plants were cross pollinated (thanks to plant sex and bee lovin’) into a unique blend of pepper power.

The children of this sex circle are a Jalapeno/Cayenne blend. This is the seed that was planted this year.~

The creation of hot sauce is always an important event in the McCarty history of gardening. It is an event in the history of our minds, because of our love for hot sauce. Seriously…Aaron covers 80% of his food with Cayenne Pepper or hot sauce (or both, or some combination of both). He finally got me interested. I have slowly been able to build up a tolerance to it. Now, I can handle Texas Pete and Sriracha. {Hard core, right?}

Tonight, we made another 2 gallons of hot sauce to fill our needs. We still have a predicted estimate that we will end up with 6 gallons of hot sauce. Yesterday, I gathered about 4 Gallons ( 20 lb.) of Peppers. Today, Aaron cut the stems off of all of them and counted them as he went along in operation. He counted 1,082 peppers. We harvested these peppers off of eight plants. There are two Cayenne plants left, ready for harvest. {Insert kool-aid “OH YEAH”} If we were children living in the 80’s…(as we once were), we would be equally as excited about some powdered sugar drink as we are about the thought of having this much hot sauce on hand.

This hot sauce is also money for us. We plan to sell this stuff locally. We will walk into an open bar down the street and bring in a little pint of hot sauce and say “ Hey man, we make this. Keep it, it’s yours”—we suspect he will want more. We suspect we will profit off of our love of gardening. We envision that we will be able to make a living off of our love, our bliss. We plan to keep it simple. Local. Undercover. Gypsy Style.

Before I list the ingredients, I might also add just how BAD ASS our pepper plants were from this year. We moved here in February to a little town called “Boiling Springs, SC.” This town has some freaky weather. Freaky is the best adjective I could come up with here. We are about 1 mile from Lake Blalock. We are situated on a hill. The predominant weather pattern, which follows Hwy 85 is to one side of us, and to the other side of us is Lake Blalock. So, we get the basic weather from Hwy 85, and a sort of microclimate mix from the lake. Short answer? We get some STORMS. Some regular storms that dump 60 mph. winds and pea sized to quarter sized hail. They are angry storms that cause insurance premiums to go up.

This particular year’s weather pattern has taught our jalapeno and cayenne pepper plants to be resillient as a motha-fucka {Aaron’s words}. They have been knocked down, dragged out, hung out to dry….and they liked it. They are bad ass. These plants have branches on them that lay across the ground and curve out and up. They are like little cacti reaching for the sun. Only, they have some pretty intense fruit.

So..we are going to list our ingredients for our 2012 heirloom crop of goodness…but don’t expect your plants to have that bad ass attitude about them. This batch is unique. So Godspeed, my friends. Grow those peppers and we hope they will be as tolerant as our little gems of nature. {yes…I’m aware that I’m bragging.}

Disclaimer of the Ego: As bad ass as these plants are…we can’t plan on entering them into the hottest hot sauce of all hot-sauced-ness contesta-thon. They are actually a pretty mild blend. We suspect that the bees might have been getting’ it on with their green bell pepper baby daddy greatest lover the world has ever known too. However, luckily I will be able to enjoy this blend due to my obviously mild tolerence for “hot” sauce. I’m still in my infancy stage of experience with the capsaicin oil and don’t plan on getting this excited over something that I can’t even sniff without coughing.

Otherwise: Aaron could not actually sniff this mash of sauce without coughing, so ye be the judge of this hotness ego fiasco’

The finale’ (for those who don’t want to read the rambling and explanations):

The following are the ingredients in our FIRST GALLON of 2012 hot sauce.
We blended up the peppers in our Ostercizer— chrome plated with pearl numbers on that bitch!!!— (GOTCHA! More rambling! Surprise! )

– To be ostercised, is to be an inerloper who is made fun of and can’t be reconsidered. I’ve been considerin’ reconsidering myself)

…combined our ingredients and fermented the sauce in a gallon size “Earthfare Organic Apple Juice” 1 Gallon (3.78 L) GLASS container/jug. {Glass is important in our book. You don’t want your hockity-pockity wockity pockity plastica explosica funneleca esplosion de sillicone bath and Body Works aa-ca-creation to taste like plastic, do you?}
1,082 / 1/1,000 per jar-athucus-as-knownicus

Well. Not Everything. I admit. I didn’t know how much plastica to expect. But as you can see, I figured out the exact spot.

Merlinian disclaimer equation- termed here, folks. If you agree to it, buy our hot sauce.

Ingredients: {not in quantity, just in intuition}

First Batch: ( produced August 16, 2012)
Cayenne/Jalapeno Pepper Fruits
White Vinegar
Eden Sea Salt (hand harvested French Celtic)
Whole Pulp Lime (fruit, cutlerized minus peelacus con seedicus not from concentrate)
Water (from our “Pur” filtered sink: Activated Charcoal technology)
TO SEAL: 1 TSP. of salt on top of the Hot Sauce Mixture, covered with grape seed oil at the top of the neck {A Salt/Oil Seal}

Second batch: {August 16, 2012}
All things equal with the previous batch

¾ mash to a ¼ water
Local Honey{Charlotte, NC} {approximately 10 oz.}
White Vinegar {an additional approximation of 10 oz. = Difference from the first batch}
Sealed with the same Salt/Oil Seal.
{A tablespoon-ish {soup spoon full} of Sea Salt AND a pour to the top of the jug, just under the twist for the lid, of Earthfare Grapeseed oil.}

Goat Weeding with Epiphany Now


Today was amazing.  I’ve already posted one blog about just how wonderful it felt to finally be homesteading with my family.  I know, I know…I can’t say that I’m an actual “Homesteader” after one day’s worth of work (simple harvesting, at that)…but I’m ready to be associated with it so bad, I’m already deeming myself to be a part of it.

Today, I feel I was able to let go and “be” to a level that I’ve never felt before. I had already finished what little bit of work obligations I had today…I didn’t need to be anywhere.  I wasn’t planning on being anywhere.  I had no obligations to any one or any thing…except for those pepper plants that I spoke with and promised I would harvest.

I kept my promise for two hours today.  If you’re wondering if I talk to plants…hell yeah, I do!  They need to hear why I’m there harvesting their fruit.  I feel so connected to them, I feel I must explain a few things about why I am taking the larger (elder) peppers before the smaller (younger).  Today I spoke to the peppers themselves as I was harvesting them with my little clippers.  I said things like, “It’s okay, young uns’…I’m only taking the elders with me today.  It is their time.  One day, it will be your time.’

and, “Elders, relax…I’m not taking your young.”

I did think of what ‘one’ might think while hearing.  I was sitting on a thermarest from our backpacking gear.  Aaron thought to bring it out for me to make me comfortable.  (he’s good at being considerate to his wife). 

Anyhow, I’ve been programmed to think that you’re crazy if you talk to plants.  “CRAZY PLANT LADY!!!” I imagine they’d say if they heard me.  Add in that I was wearing a straw hat with my hair up…and had my sweaty tank top rolled up…and you might get ‘their’ picture.

Luckily…that moment of thought did not last long.  I’m realizing each day that the more I am experiencing the truth and beauty that is original living…I care less and less about what people think of me.  This is a good thing.  I fear that in my past I have thought a bit too much about what people think about me.  I liked to think that it didn’t affect me, but it did.  I know this, can accept it…and am growing in that I can cope with it and move on.  This is exciting news!

Soooo…..I had this wonderful day of harvesting in our garden, talking to plants and taking pictures of our bounty.

Aaron and I worked together to produce images to help tell a story to our friends and the interweb audience who might be interested to see.  The more we talked, the more it became clear that we needed to share the same blog.

Aaron’s blog “Epiphany Now” has been considered his blog for about two years.  In his blog, he wrote of his struggle in realizing that Peak Oil is true.  He told stories about his career and how fucked up his job as an EMT could be (Emergency Medical Technician).  He wrote about how he wanted to protect his mind and his family from what he knows is coming.

After years of writing this blog, he finally felt as if he had said all that he needed to say, had shared all he needed to share…and slowly he began writing less and less as time went on.  He recently posted a blockbuster hit about how we are almost certain that he has Asperger’s Syndrome.

As we were photographing tomatoes and rain barrels and Jalapeno-Cayenne, we decided that it was time for our blogs, our thoughts, to merge.  He will be sending anyone who is interested in following him in his journey over to this blog.

We plan to tell photo-journal style stories of the process of being a new couple who has chosen to lead a free, organic lifetstyle.  We will soon be able to call ourselves homesteaders without doubt or uncertainty. We will tell tales of our Gypsy ways.  We will both take photos.  We will probably not edit them.  I will talk about clotheslines and blanket gardening, and he will share news of permaculture, ferments and other recipes. 

I think that this merge will be brilliant.

So…from this point on, this blog will be a’changin’.

Lots of changes have been going on around here, believe me.

It’s part of knowing what is true
accepting it

Pulling in the good and pushing away the bad.

This butter has begun to churn.

From here on…I (Wendy) may be posting or writing.  I may be scribing for Aaron (he likes to utilize this talent/love of mine) or he may be writing on his own. Soon, I feel, our writing will merge until you may not be able to tell who is writing what 😉  Looking forward to this union.

You and me alone. True simplicity.


Kings of Convenience “Know How”

Today while Aaron and I were out gardening…this song spoke to me.

We were finally living the dream of homesteading.  Napping baby, caring elder…husband and wife in the garden together.  Talking, laughing, singing, dreaming.

I feel as if this song sounds like my love for Aaron feels ❤
Love you, baby.

~*The Blog Shift*~


This blog has gotten a bit personal for me…
If you are subscriber, you may have gotten a message about a new blog post, that suddenly disappeared. Since I am in control of my blog, I made a ‘day after’ delete of that particular blog post.

At the time it was rambled, I was in a state of truthful consciousness, and wanted to share the greatness of truth that was revealed in that post with the world.
Then, the next day…I didn’t feel good about it, so I deleted it.

I imagine that blog floating out somewhere on the interweb in a “Did you mean to delete this?” folder that writers store for other writers.

The night the blog was written, in my truthful state, I wrote into a word processing program on my laptop for the first time. I typically put pen to paper, in one of my many, many…distributed notebooks around the house.
This particular night, I was somewhat “Unleashed” through consciousness…and all that was unleashed as my thoughts, and my joy of scribing my husband’s thoughts and phrases, was sitting there, in digital format, just waiting to be shared.
Won’t do that again.
If you were quick enough to read it, what did you think?  I dream that perhaps anyone who was offended or put off by it stopped reading after that little internet trauma.  I feel as if I kinda inserted a little straight pin into the web and inserted some prose.  Prose that may offend, may scare, may inspire, may steal.
Steal–that was another aspect of why I chose to delete the post.  I was pretty damned proud of some of the ideas that had come out of my head, and the head of my husband…and I wanted to claim them as my own by posting them to the blog, but I just really ended up fearing that those ideas would be stolen.  I guess I thought I could make money off of them?  Probably.
Anyhow, the lat post is gone.  Some of you may have seen it, some of you may have read it and know more about me than someone who didn’t. It was truly “OUT THERE” for all to read.  Deep thoughts and discussions.  Memories.  Hurt feelings and emotions.
It was a very cleansing blog.

but…now I’m finished with the ‘personal’ aspect of the blog…and I have come to the conclusion that instead of spreading my misery through words and depressing others, I will write about what happens when you follow your bliss.  A few things that I will continue to write about concerning my own bliss, and the bliss of my husband, may come out as little lessons that I’ve discovered while homesteading.

For instance, today I harvested about 4 lbs. of jalapeno and cayenne peppers from the back garden.  Before today, we’ve called it “Aaron’s Garden”…but now, I’d like to lay a little claim to it because I bonded with it for a bit today.  I used a blanket to gather the jalapenos for two hours while my son took a nap with Aunt Brenda looking after him.

Shortly after I came inside, it started raining.

{I just took a little writing break to disarm the butter thief toddler at the kitchen table.  We just ate beans with corn and onion and homeade peach cobbler.  He tried to eat a finger full of butter for desert.  He is now safe and butterless, sitting in a recliner watching “RANGO”.  He also just asked for “Rango” for the first time by name.  {If you haven’t seen this movie, check it out.  FOR REAL.  You won’t regret it.  It has such a great message for us.  Child and adult.  AND Johnny Depp is the voice of the main character (I lust him).}

I had the idea that I would write this little instructional tutorial about just what I mean by “blanket gardening”.  If anyone would like to put in a request for a full explanation, I’ll accept it as a “Help” mission.  I like to help people to this sort of extreme extent.  I go out of my way to make others happy, the majority of the time. This has begun to shift a bit, in my adulthood…now that I am aware of this character trait of mine, I have learned how to protect it from those trying to take advantage of my kindness.

So, treat me right and I’ll be a forever loyal friend/daughter/sister/wife.  Sounds like a Scorpio horoscope, huh?  There may be some truth to that horoscope stuff…

Anyhow, the momentum that I felt outside while harvesting the 4 lb. Lowe’s bucket full of peppers has now left me, but I’ll bring back the mechanics of how I was able to harvest about 600 peppers with a blanket, in two hours if anyone is interested.  I like to help 🙂