Live Lightly Meets Cage Free

Yes, yes…we are still alive! We have been B-U-S-Y with the remodel of the new RV…and my blogging is the first thing to go when we get busy. Hang with us…I’ll be posting more regularly again very soon. In the meantime…here is some fun stuff for you.

This week, I just happened to check the Cage Free Family’s website and realized that they were only an hour away from us in northern Minnesota (Jeff and Aimee were the featured family in the New York Times article that I linked to awhile back). I emailed Aimee and extended an invitation for them to swing by just in case they had time. They took us up on the offer and we spent one night as neighbors…laughing, talking about life on the road, painting, playing in the dirt, sitting around the campfire, eating watermelon, swimming in the lake…and more. Our visit was much too short, but we were happy to be with them anyway! Bella and Quinn had so much fun playing together…of course, that was after Bella loudly declared (immediately upon meeting them) that she wanted a “SHE” to play with and not a “HE. She forgot that right away as soon as she realized that she had a new biking buddy.

They were also dropping a friend off at the airport in Minneapolis. Their friend was Mark, a 17 year old from Austria. Mark was spending just one month in the U.S. and he was flying back on August 4. It was fun to meet him as well and discuss the differences between Austria and the U.S. Such as the price of organic apples. Don’t get me started. :)

Here are some photos of our time together…I’m sure our paths will cross again in the future! Happy trails Cage Free!

The Lakes of Minnesota


When Matt drove across the border into Minnesota on July 22 around 6:00 a.m., I was sound asleep with Bella on the bed in the back of the RV. It had been a long road getting there! We left Bozeman at 6:00 a.m. the previous morning, and had traveled off and on throughout the day. We stopped in Miles City to look for grease, but the rendering services must have just cleaned everyone out. There was none to be found! So we headed East and stopped in the little town of Terry, MT. After scoping out the town of about 500 people, we stopped at the Dizzy Diner. As Matt approached the grease barrels to check them out, the owner came out to chat. It turns out that they are only open seasonally, and they had two 55 gallon drums sitting there FULL of oil. One of them had been sitting for an entire year! This is really good for us, because it means that the sediment and gunk had already settled to the bottom, leaving beautiful, clean grease on top. They were happy to get rid of it and we were happy to fill up our entire tank! We had a great time chatting about green living and about the veggie oil system. We bought some root beer floats and chatted some more. The owners’ granddaughter came into the RV to watch a movie with Bella while Matt filled up. It was a fun stop.

The temperatures were over 100 degrees all the way through Montana and we ended up stopping in Glendive, MT to give the RV a much needed cool down. Because the RV was overheating, we couldn’t run the air, which meant we were sweltering! Luckily, we located the public pool in town and promptly changed into our suits. We had a leisurely afternoon at the pool and had a picnic after that. We hit the road again after it had cooled down a bit. We pulled into Bismarck, N.D. around 1:30 a.m…and parked at the Wal-Mart overnight. Matt got up at 4:00 a.m. to hit the road again. And like I said…I stayed in bed!

We spent the next 2 weeks in the Baxter/Brainerd Lakes area. Matt lead worship and helped teach campers how to wakeboard at the three wakeboard camps at Camp Shamineau. It was wonderful to be reunited with old friends! Matt worked at Shamineau for 5 years on their high-ropes course and has fond memories there. Jeremy, the Marketing Director, and his wife are good friends of ours. We had a great time hanging out at the beach and on the boats. Be sure to check out the photo albums for some amazing wakeboard shots! There were some really talented riders there teaching…including Bart Copeland, pro trainer (and brother) of Emily Copeland (she has won tons of awards, including the title of Pro Women’s Wakeboard Champion). We met Bart and his wife Brooke when we worked for SportReach Ministries. They have a 4 year old and a 2 year old…and along with Jeremy and Melissa’s 2 year old and 1 year old, there was an abundance of fun. There was even more excitement when one of the campers broke his femur while wakeboarding…and had to be picked up by the Life Flight helicopter. It landed and took off within feet of our campsite…Bella is still talking about that!

While we were at camp, my brother, Dan, came up from Denver, CO (he had some business meetings in Minneapolis) and spent a few days with us (that’s his car in the above photo). He was our first overnight guest in the RV! We hooked him up with a comfy bed and some s’mores and he was happy. He turned our table into his mobile office and was good to go. It was great to see him…the RV was so quiet and lonely when he left! :)

When we weren’t at camp, we were in town spending time with Matt’s parents. They also live on a lake, so we had lots of water and sun time! Matt’s aunt and uncle were there with their 4 children (3 girls and 1 boy) for one of the weekends. They are all around Bella’s age, so endless hours were spent in the playhouse and with the dolls. We also had a seafood boil party with all of our camp friends and another couple, Andy and Jen, that Matt knows from high school. There was an abundance of food…an abundance of children, and noise…and an abundance of good fellowship. It was great catching up!

It was hard for Bella to leave Grandpa and Grandma’s house…she LOVES being there! After Brainerd, we headed down to Minneapolis and stayed with Matt’s aunt and uncle for a couple of days. We were able to see even more of Matt’s cousins the night we arrived and had fun chatting around their pool. It was really nice having poolside accommodations! :) Thanks Dan and Brenda! We also caught up with my sister Laura while we were there and went out for some Thai food and coffee. Yum yum! On our last night there, we had our first official tour of the RV with a blog reader! Leah and her son, Rex came over from St. Paul and we had a great time talking and sitting outside.

We headed for Des Moines on August 8, and have reunited with my family once more. We’ll be staying in Des Moines and working for my Dad to make some extra money before heading out on the “official” tour around Sept. 17.

For photos and explanations of our time in Minnesota, click HERE.

Sustainability Fair: Livingston, MT

The Yurt
Last weekend we attended the Sustainability Fair in gorgeous Livingston, MT. We had initially wanted to display our RV, but the remodeling came down to the wire and we decided to be spectators instead. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed talking to all the interesting people there.

Some highlights:

  • We met a delightful couple who remodeled their Airstream travel trailer to be completely off the grid (even a composting toilet…yay!) …pulled by their biodiesel-fueled truck.
  • We chatted with Paul House of Bozeman Biofuels…who has been spreading the biofuel love in the Gallatin Valley for nearly 3 years now.
  • We laughed at the adorable alpacas.
  • We stood in the yurt. Yurt = Love.
  • We saw Kermit the Pod.
  • I drooled over a really cool Dutch bicycle.
  • I played a little game called “Count the Chacos“. It seems to be the national shoe of the Bozeman area. Don’t get me wrong…you won’t catch me without my trusty Chacos. Best shoes ever. It’s just a fun game.

You can see photos of all of these things and more by clicking here.

Spreading the Love


Explain it to Me

Thanks to the Golden Fuel Systems team…we are officially driving on veggie oil! We had a wonderful time with our new friends in Springfield. We were only there for a week, but we were able to do so much! We went to a renewable energy fair, explored the heart of Ozark Country, ate Thai, drank tea, and checked out the local coffeeshops. All in all we had a glorious time. Thanks again to Chuck and Anna for opening their home and hearts to us while we were in Springfield. See photo set here. After all that fun, it was time to move on. Our system was completed on Sunday and we took off and headed back toward Des Moines. We stopped at the Kansas City/Oak Grove KOA for the night, where we enjoyed free wi-fi and a wonderfully cool pool. See photo set here. It is SO HOT in Missouri! Whew!

In the above photo, you can see Matt explaining how a veggie oil system runs. I had been chatting with one of their wives in the office as I checked in, and as soon as we parked, they drove up in their golf cart. These two men (Ron and Ron) were really excited…and with good reason: they were former Ford Motor employees! It was fun to listen to their questions and enlighten them about the joys of veggie. They seemed genuinely interested about converting their diesel RV’s to veggie oil.

We slept great in our air conditioned bedroom. It’s so quiet and dark in there; I love it! We hit the road in the morning and headed north…but first, we needed to go grease hunting!

Going Veggie

We arrive in Springfield around 11:00 a.m. and we locate Golden Fuel Systems. After parking the RV in the street, we excitedly walk into their offices. Within moments, we are greeted by the president of the company, Charlie Anderson. Charlie is immediately likeable and puts us at ease. We go straight out to the RV and they crawl underneath to get an idea of what they are dealing with.

After that, we all head inside to his office and talk numbers. Originally, we thought that we would need a custom fabricated tank and that was going to be a lot of extra money. Fortunately, it worked out for us to do a “main tank conversion”…which means that they will drop out the existing diesel tank, modify it, and put it back. That tank will now serve as our veggie oil tank (a whopping 90 gallon tank!)…and they will install a smaller, 20 gallon diesel tank to use on start-up and shut-down. We were so excited to hear this…because it also meant that the conversion would take less time than we had originally planned.

We stayed at GFS for most of the afternoon…talking, learning, and getting excited about not buying gas anymore. Charlie and his team are AMAZING. They are super friendly, passionate about what they are doing, and very knowledgeable.

We left around 4:00 p.m. and headed over to Chuck and Anna’s house. Anna is a friend that I met through MySpace and she had come to visit me in Des Moines last summer. They graciously offered to let us stay with them for the entire week we were in Springfield. They have three young boys and Bella loved playing with them and all of their toys. Anna homeschools, is a La Leche League leader, and shares many of the same natural mama tendancies that I do. We had a fabulous time talking and eating and sharing stories.

The next day, Charlie invited us to come out to his farm and hang out with his family. We followed him on winding roads to his home in the middle of Ozark country. On the way there, he makes a stop at Rainbow Trout Ranch. It’s one of Charlie’s “accounts” and he wanted to show us what “oil in the wild” looks like. He did a little educational session with Matt, explaining what good oil and bad oil looked like. We also were able to dip our toes in the spring-fed stream. It was beautiful.

Charlie and his wife have a beautiful acerage with animals and plenty of space to run. Golden Fuel Systems, formerly named Greasel … used to be located at his home. They have since moved into Springfield. He works mostly from home…because it’s a good hour and half drive into town. He showed us his sweet solar power system that runs his entire home. That’s a lot of batteries! He is also refurbishing an old bus and we got a tour of the progress. It’s amazing. I can’t wait to see the finished product. He is currently working on converting a Previa van to run on veggie oil. He drops the gas engine out, imports a diesel engine, replaces it…and off he goes. It burns 40 mpg on diesel and also runs on veggie oil. It seats 7 people and runs like a charm. Why isn’t everyone doing this?!

After that, we all piled into his 2000 Ford Excursion (powered by veggie oil, of course) and headed down to a nice lazy river so the kids (and the adults) could play in the water. It was a hot, hot day and we had fun getting wet. Bella liked jumping off the bridge. She’s quite the adventurer. It was a wonderful day with new friends. We headed back into Springfield and slept REALLY well that night.