Ripples Small Droplets. Big Waves. Sun, 04 Oct 2015 01:26:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Podcast: Why I Started Doing Ripples Work Sun, 04 Oct 2015 01:26:08 +0000 This is an impromptu podcast attempt, just for fun and to learn about voice recording. Hear Amanda explain why she started doing Ripples work in this 5-minute segment, the first time we’ve ever recorded anything like a “thesis statement” on Ripples. A few readers asked us about doing podcasts or a radio show, so this is partly in response to that. (Apologies, we don’t know how to edit out long pauses and Solo, our cat, added his own “playing with a paper bag” soundtrack in the final seconds!)


Amanda“Recording this was REALLY hard for me because I am so shy, even though I’m friendly, it’s hard for me to get a message across in spoken word (writing is much easier). But it was important for me to not only overcome that challenge but to speak – from my soul – to our audience about why I do this work.” -Amanda

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Ripples Little Free Library, BookCrossing, and PostCrossing Programs Wed, 30 Sep 2015 19:02:48 +0000 Hi everyone!

We’re really busy planning for the groundbreaking on our off-grid earthbag cottage. With Grey Treefrogs in the mailbox, my life is now complete. :) But it gets even better because there are some really fun programs we haven’t told you about yet! I’m so excited to start participating in some great writing and reading-based programs that are fun, educational, and connect us to our global interdependence. You may have already heard of them, but if not, I’m happy to be the first one to tell you!

If you like receiving postcards from faraway places, PostCrossing is something we all can get started doing today! Send a postcard to anywhere in the world, receive a postcard from anywhere in the world: simple as that. I’ve signed up to share our adventures at Ripples, offering some educational tidbits on interesting animals, plants, and sustainable living techniques or fair trade products. In exchange, someone somewhere will be sending us postcards which we will make available for Ripples visitors to browse.  PostCrossing is free to participate, besides the cost of stamps.

Mason Klepp. Portland, OR. Mason is an 8th grader was inspired to make a Little Free Library on his spring break. After a trip to the local rebuilding center he worked with his parents to create a 100% recycled library. Source: Pinterest

Mason Klepp. Portland, OR. Mason is an 8th grader was inspired to make a Little Free Library on his spring break. After a trip to the local rebuilding center he worked with his parents to create a 100% recycled library. Source: Pinterest

Someday, Ripples will have a Little Free Library installed! Ours will have a rotating selection of books on making a difference, especially naturalist topics and field guides that visitors can use during Ripples workshops. We’ll also have pamphlets from awesome organizations doing cool stuff. In the years to come, I hope to offer free copies of books (including children’s books I’m currently working on) that we write or illustrate. A steward’s packet for registering our library and all the signage we need costs about $40, but we’ll have to build the little library ourselves and plan to do so – I hope you’ll join us when we put it together and paint it!

Part of this teenie library will be the BookCrossing program, which is basically a world-sized version of free libraries. Our creatively designed book labels will be made at Ripples and promote our online educational center resources, so that whoever finds our books will also find tools and stories to help them make a difference in a variety of ways that might appeal to them. You may want to release your own books into the wild or go hunting for one! I love doing that.

I hope to see you all soon either in the wilds of the internet or at our new location at the historic Johnson Pear Farm!

-Amanda (or Panda, as some call me)

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Improved Cottage Plans Tue, 15 Sep 2015 23:06:46 +0000 Honey, we’ve shrunk the house!

During the final stages of building planning, we decided to shrink our cottage (figuratively speaking) because of a variety of social, economical, and environmental reasons. Most things remain unchanged: it’s still a very sustainable home in the shape of cheerios, cupcakes, donuts, and all delights which are round.

Pencil sketch of new floor plan, with little furniture cutouts that Ryan measured "to scale" based on our house size.

Pencil sketch of new floor plan, with little furniture cutouts that Ryan measured “to scale” based on our house size. This isn’t exact.

Why the change? Some of our friends have mobility issues, and a house without stairs is accessible to everyone regardless of age or ability. Our eco footprint will be smaller the less resources we use, and we won’t have to pay as much money for a one-story house because it’ll take fewer materials. Reviewing our building process and learning details from the architect revealed that, for our volunteer work crews, a one-story cottage would be safer and easier for everyone to build together.

As you can see from Amanda’s drawing, this new design looks a little like a yurt, with every room on the ground in a circle. The bathroom is the only room with walls, and we’ve also just completed plans for our solar shower which will have bamboo walls and be located outdoors. It’ll cost about $70 for the bamboo fencing, and $30 for the 5 gallon solar hot water bag with shower nozzle.

Our cottage will still be off-grid, using solar panels to generate electricity and rainwater catchment for all our water needs. Nothing has changed in terms of our original plans for it to be as sustainable as possible, and we’re still keeping in mind fair trade and/or local products as a priority.

Curious about what kind of composting toilet or natural cork flooring we’ll be installing? These questions and more are answered on our FAQ page. Let us know if we didn’t answer your question:

Trivia on our new design:

  • External diameter:  32 feet
  • Internal diameter:  29 feet
  • Square footage of base floor:  660
  • Height of walls: 8 feet to 10 feet (probably not taller)
  • Height of roof peak:  15 to 17 feet (it could be taller since our house will be wider than originally planned)
  • Estimated number of bag rows needed:  16 – 20
  • Estimated number of bags:  1,100 – 1,300

What do you think about the new design? And what should we call this cottage? :)

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Announcing Our Location: Historic Johnson Pear Farm! Thu, 27 Aug 2015 19:44:10 +0000 Many thanks go out to all of you!

It’s kept us going to know that so many of you have followed our story for years now. Thanks!

Amanda picking peonies at the historic Johnson Pear Farm where Ripples earthbag cabin will be built.

Amanda picking peonies at the historic Johnson Pear Farm where Ripples earthbag cabin will be built.

We will be building our off-grid earthbag cabin (designed by architect Owen Geiger, Natural Building Blog) at the historic Johnson Pear Farm, just south of the Fayetteville city limits on Mt. Kessler in Arkansas. This is about a 15 minute drive from downtown Fayetteville on good roads. We’re partnering with Anne Prichard and the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust to protect 167 acres with a conservation easement. This area is within the Beaver Lake watershed, and is host to various native plant and animal species. We’re happy to begin contributing to the already fantastic work being done by other private land owners and organizations on Mt. Kessler! It has immense historical and ecological value for our community.

Free weekend workshops on earthbag building will be offered in a family-friendly setting beginning in October 2015 – come on out and join us! Visit our new FAQ page for detailed answers to your questions, or contact us:

New here? Sign our Guest Book and say hello!

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The Best of Making Ripples Columns Mon, 20 Jul 2015 22:50:16 +0000 As we prepare to upload new resources, here’s a look back at some of our favorite columns:

Turtle in our backyard, peeking out at me.

Turtle in our backyard, peeking out at me.

Is there a topic we haven’t covered yet that would help you make a difference or create a more justice-driven, sustainable world? Let us know and we’ll research it! Email with your topic suggestion. Scheduled topics include DIY squirrel feeders, green cemeteries, beneficial invasive species, traveling goats that eat your yard enemies, and recipes for the All American Sun Oven! :)


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Love from Ripples Fri, 13 Feb 2015 22:59:32 +0000 An update on the earthbag house, land, and our lives.

Hi everyone! Sorry we haven’t posted an update for awhile. We’ve both been busy acquiring skills (photography, naturalist studies, technology, business, art) to help us bring Ripples to life on the ground. Speaking of ground, we may not have land or an earthbag house yet, but we’re not giving up! As you may have noticed, we’ve been at this lifestyle transition for years and have no intention of quitting.

In order to dedicate our lives to doing Ripples work, it’s helpful to have many different sources of income and to be able to work from home as much as possible. Working onsite at our future earthbag house will let us tend to the land and home as needed, limit our emissions from commuting, and allow us to welcome visitors for occasional tours. Since much of what Ripples “is” will continue to be online (the educational center), the website maintenance will require having a home office to upload new DIY videos, posts, photos, and more. This is a long transition and takes a lot of planning, but so far it’s going well!

We not only think about “the money” but also “the method” – how are we earning it and what are the effects of those endeavors?

From Amanda:

"A Cupful of Bunnies" Pencil and ink. 2015 Now available with matching envelope sticker seals!

“A Cupful of Bunnies” Pencil and ink. 2015 Now available with matching envelope sticker seal!

My greeting card business began last October, as a way to raise money for Ripples through my art. Printed on sustainably sourced paper, I’m now working on a wildlife conservation educational card line. In just four months, we sold 456 cards accounting for $856 in sales for a total profit of $182 towards Ripples, after our initial investment of $673 on the first printings of cards. This is only the beginning, and because of our stock, we hope 2015 will raise a lot more money for Ripples. Ripples cards are available online through me, or for sale in Fayetteville at Ozark Natural Foods, Nightbird Books, Himalayan Mountain Shop, Center St. Mercantile, or the Curious Bookshoppe on Block – all of these partnerships were set up in these first months, and our educational center will (someday) house resources for how to approach businesses. We’re sharing this because seeing the process and not just the end result may prove useful to you if you want to work from home as an artist or craftsperson and focus your time on making a difference in an area you care about. So when I learn something, I try to make it available for others’ benefit. Now that I have experience doing this, I’d like to create a guide on seeking out and attending craft shows and holiday festivals, or selling at your local Farmer’s Market, to help people who are just starting out on their green job journeys.

Besides art, my writing through the Making Ripples column is a dream come true job for me, with over 125 columns written to date. The archive for these columns is free to access and includes information on natural building, ethical eating, DIY ideas for crafts, gardening, recycling, water conservation, and a lot more. I hope you find them useful and I’m thrilled to be able to do this to help people transition to a sustainable, justice-filled lifestyle that hopefully brings them joy and health.

Red-shouldered Hawk in our backyard 2014.

Red-shouldered Hawk in our backyard 2014.

Most of the fall semester (2014) was spent learning digital photography. I used part of my scholarship from my service in AmeriCorps*VISTA (celebrating their 50th Anniversary this February 25th!) to take a great class at Northwest Arkansas Community College. Why? Because an online educational center absolutely needs good photos, video, and digital media to illustrate our message. With these skills, I can more capably show you the habitat we’ll be revitalizing, post pictures of those baby animals emerging in the spring, post videos of our earthbag house being built, etc. My apologies for not updating Ripples blog recently – I had my focus on the camera. :)

From Ryan:

I spend a lot more time behind the scenes, slowly mastering the tools that will enable us to pull off the lofty, but we hope doable, goals Amanda described above.  Our “backend” areas of focus currently include:

  • Planning a wholesale website upgrade, which will involve a new look/experience, an online store for selling Amanda’s greeting cards and other artwork she may choose to market, and a format more capable of presenting the Educational Center (or “Making a Difference Demonstration site;” we’re still playing with what to call it).
  • Crafting a budget that hopefully will grant us comprehensive insight into this project, whose complexity and extensiveness has so thoroughly humbled, and excited, us.
  • Finding Land!  What a journey this has been so far.  Good land near good people situated in a critical conservation area where we fit in is (probably not surprisingly) difficult to track down.  But we shall persevere!  We don’t have much in the way of financial resources, but hopefully things will start falling into place once the inevitable cascade of craziness (find, survey, frequently visit land; accumulate stuff to put on it; bring people out to help build; source materials; etc.) picks up in earnest.

Besides those things, I work with local non-profits to help them stabilize and strengthen their web presence, and spend my working days at Ozark Natural Foods being the best Network Admin I know how to be (a journey offering daily opportunities and insights).  I’m also highly intrigued by the photography training Amanda has had, and will no doubt lend a hand with the actual taking of photos, though I already do much of the computer-oriented photographic work.

Thanks for reading and following our journey!

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Ripples Greeting Cards Now Available! Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:20:39 +0000 Update: Ripples’ Halloween, Thanksgiving, and other greeting cards are now available locally at Ozark Natural Foods, Himalayan Mountain Shop, and the Curious Book Shoppe on Block St. They’re $4/card unless you buy directly from Amanda, $3/card or a pack of variety or single design (your choice) $13/5 cards.

Please support our work and share with friends!

To raise money for Ripples, we are now selling greeting cards!  There are many ways to purchase a card or a pack of cards.  You could buy them directly from Amanda through our Facebook page, or by calling us at (931) 532-0639 or through email: AmandaBancroft (at) Gmail (dot) com.  Or you can buy them locally at various locations to be announced. View the designs you’d like, select your order, and arrange a delivery or meeting place to receive your cards and pay with cash or check.  She can meet you in downtown Fayetteville, the library, or the farmer’s market and other locations.  Amanda can also mail them to you if you’re not in Fayetteville (packs of cards only, please).

Price is $4 / card or $3 / card in a pack of 5 cards (variety packs are totally do-able, with multiple designs per pack!) Shipping is $5 within the contiguous 48 states.






Blowing some love your way

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Happy Autumn! Update from Ripples Fri, 26 Sep 2014 20:00:12 +0000 Happy First Day of Autumn!

A quick update:

We’re still looking for land to build our earthbag home in the Ozarks, and planning the house and educational center to be off-grid according to our definitions.  Know of land for sale?  Please tell us in the comments or email!  We’ve been vetting locations in the past couple of months and haven’t found anything that feels right yet.  But we’re not giving up!

Instead, we’ve been focusing on skill acquisition.  Ryan has gotten great at repairing things around the house, something he inherited from his dad.  He just fixed the door to my art studio, which works perfectly now.  I’m getting better with a hammer, too!  Wait you didn’t know I had an art studio?  Yep!  I have been happily producing greeting cards which will be for sale online and locally at Ozark Natural Foods, Himalayan Mountain Shop and other vendors. Check our Ripples Facebook page to see the new designs when they’re released for sale!  Here’s a sneak peak at a drawing from last spring when it was “a work in progress” –




This semester, I’m studying digital photography in a class at Northwest Arkansas Community College so I can get familiar with my Nikon DSLR DS7100 camera and learn how to capture what we’re doing for Ripples educational center.  Eventually, we’ll be documenting native species on our land and any workshops we do, using video and other media to convey the information.  For now, I’m learning where the buttons are located…

“Being a naturalist is like being Edge Habitat, a conglomeration of science, art, spirituality, philosophy, and love, never just one place but stepping into many at once.” (from my first naturalist blog post)

Ripples touches upon several topics, from sustainable living to social justice and making a difference.  We mostly focus on how Ryan & I (Amanda) are changing our lifestyle as completely as possible using the Ripples method, trying to make intentional choices that improve our health and the planet as a whole.  Recently, we’ve been posting about nature because I just graduated from the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalist program in the spring.  It’s important for us to know as much as we can about native plants and animals because we live alongside them and wish to protect native habitat.  Some of you have been following my naturalist summer blog series on water, mammals, birds, insects and fish.  Apologies for only completing 5 of the 10 promised posts thus far; perhaps time and motivation will encourage me to finish them.  But I think even posting them next summer would be cool – Ripples educational center is going to take a long time in development, and there will be plenty more opportunities to post on topics like these.  Even better will be a more organized system of finding information, so you can see all our references to birds rather than just one post during one summer.


Since my last blog post, we’ve celebrated the 100th Making Ripples column in The Free Weekly!

You can read it and the previous 99 columns in our archives.  It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to be able to write over 100 columns in my career.  I’m not sure how to describe the experience, actually.  Being a columnist is an underrated position of power and potential to change the world for the better.  It’s a bit like downplaying the significance of daily jogging until one realizes that they have avoided terrible health conditions that could have befallen them had they remained sedentary.  Those little chunks of 500 words keep me writing and thinking.  Not only that, they get others thinking, too – and being able to get hundreds of people thinking about making ripples in the world is quite awesome.  For that, I’m very grateful.

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Summer Naturalist Series 5: Birds Fri, 01 Aug 2014 21:21:09 +0000 Join in the flutter of wings.

Bluebirds of happiness, migrating Canadian geese, the ugly duckling, mythology surrounding the phoenix…it’s no surprise that our avian friends play a central role in many cultures and mark the seasons of our lives.  Flying dreams take me above the treetops to rescue people like superman or evade predators with the carefree ease of a bubble floating into the air on a summer’s day.  Even as an adult, my imagination tempts me to consider every knee-high rock a launching pad for a springy step into the air.  On road trips I pretend that the highway is a combination ice rink and air field, allowing my mind to envision elegant dances in mid-air around the telephone poles, feet just barely tickling the tall roadside grass and wildflowers that our birds and other wildlife depend on for food.

There are many great websites that make an interest in birds even more fun…

“What happens when a jazz composer challenges a vocal virtuoso to match the voices of some of her favorite birds? Serious fun! Join Grammy-recognized artists Maria Schneider and Theo Bleckmann in their musical experiment to help us tune in to nature’s music—from the melodious to the downright weird. You’ll never think of a sparrow or a toilet plunger in the same way again.” Visit Birds Got Swing: A Musical Experiment

“Train your brain to recognize over 50 bird songs with the Bird Song Hero matching game. Listen closely to featured songs and match each with the correct spectrogram visualization. You’ll be harnessing the power of the visual brain to help you identify the unique qualities of each song and commit sound patterns to memory.”

Learn about the features of a great birdhouse, pick the right box for the right species of bird, and learn how to install a nest box camera (ooooh!) at NestWatch.

Bird Trivia

(Answers Below)

  1. What’s the difference between precocial and altricial chicks?
  2. True or false: Great Blue Herons can seriously injure a human being.
  3. True or false: Hummingbirds can be as big as your hand.
  4. Birds are amniotes. What does this mean?
  5. When do two Bald Eagles lock their talons in a free-fall?

Organizations for the Birds

American Bird Conservancy

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds

Audubon Society

Hummingbirds at Home is a fun way to gather data and track hummingbirds.

Lend a Wing: Helping Birds

There are almost as many ways to help birds as there are flying fantasies.  Pick from a myriad of options like the Great Backyard Bird Count, or eBird Counts year-round, and boost the end of your summer into the beginning of lifelong friendships with the feathered variety of sacred beings:

  1. Build a variety of bird feeders like platform feeders, finch feeders, suet feeders and more.
  2. Build a variety of bird houses or nest boxes for songbirds, doves, and owls.
  3. Create a backyard full of seasonal food sources for wildlife and birds.
  4. Put window decals on any windows that may confuse birds into colliding with them.
  5. Keep house cats indoors to prevent songbird killings.  Cat predation is a major reason for songbird decline (2014).  I have pet cats and love them, but my emotional love for cats is no reason to ignore the science involving cat numbers and bird numbers.  My love would be better spent increasing the cats’ indoor quality of life than denying science exists.  And no, just because cats are predators does not make them natural local predators or make their excess predation sustainable for ecosystems. Habitat loss and predation from other animals does kill birds, too, but it doesn’t cancel out cat-on-bird predation. “It was sort of like arguing that because there are wars going on out there, my little murders shouldn’t count.” -Richard Conniff, author. Fact Sheet on cats and wildlife.

Answers to Trivia Questions

Precocial means that chicks are hatched in an advanced state and able to feed themselves almost immediately, Altricial chicks require longer care from their parents because they hatch in a less developed state; True; True; Amniotes are organisms who reproduce with eggs that contain amniotic fluid and are adapted to lay eggs on land instead of in water; Bald Eagles lock talons in a free-fall during courtship.

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Summer Naturalist Series 4: Fish Thu, 24 Jul 2014 19:57:17 +0000 Fish are Friends


Watching fish at the grotto near Dickson St.

Watching fish at the grotto near Dickson

Fish freak me out.  The bulging eyes, that fishy smell, the scales and slime…and fortunately for the fish, I think they taste terrible!  One of my biggest fears in life is deep water where large fish dwell, waiting to chomp on things which move (like my kicking legs) while they glide through a murky abyss.  And yet, water without fish would be like trees without birds.  I could spend hours (and have soaked up many a moment of free time) watching fish of all sizes.  Their swimming movements are hypnotizing and meditative, reminding me a little of the arm movements of hula dancers in Hawaii.  I wonder if the fish are telling their own oral tradition through their fishy dances, just like Hawaiian hula?

According to the Save Our Seas Foundation, there are 5 major threats to our oceans:

  1. Overfishing depletes stocks of fish beyond their ability to recover.  This disrupts the ecosystem and eliminates a valuable source of food and income.
  2. Predator loss releases prey populations from both the pressure and risk of predation.  Their removal can cause a potentially irreversible cascade of complex knock-on effects, destabilising marine ecosystems to their – and our – severe detriment.
  3. Climate change is warming the oceans and making them more acidic.  This will create vast dead zones as plankton and corals – the primary producers for nearly all marine life – struggle to survive under increasingly inhospitable conditions.
  4. Pollution can poison marine life and decimate entire marine environments.  Vast quantities of solid and chemical waste from human activities are continually dumped and leach into the oceans, including plastics, sewage, oil and toxins that accumulate in food webs.
  5. Habitat destruction physically limits the suitable living space available to marine life.  Coastal development, trawling, and aquaculture all destroy important marine habitats vital for supporting ocean health, such estuaries and mangrove systems that function as nurseries. Visit Save Our Seas
Play National Geographic's Animal Jam to learn about sea creatures! Click to visit website.

Play National Geographic’s Animal Jam to learn about sea creatures! Click to visit website.

Fish Trivia

(Answers Below)

  1. Name 3 kinds of movement that a fish’s body can be adapted for.
  2. How many species of fish are there in Arkansas?
  3. True or False: sharks have no bones.
  4. What is the function of a fish’s “lateral lines”?
  5. True or False: some fish have a highly developed sense of smell.

Organizations Protecting Fish

Wild Oceans (formerly the National Coalition for Marine Conservation)

Save Our Seas

Seafood Watch

Plastic-Free Seas

Play National Geographic’s Animal Jam to take your explorer’s journal into the deep and seek to find all the species to win a prize for each page you fill!

Lend a Flipper: Help Some Fish

One way to help is to switch to using soap and products which don’t harm aquatic life.  These brands include Burt’s Bees, Dr. Bronner’s, and other brands which exclude micro plastic particles or harsh chemicals.  According to CNN in June 2014, another way to help (if you’re not vegetarian or vegan) would be to eat this fish and do the planet a favor.  For more ideas from National Geographic, see their list of 10 Things You Can Do to Save the Ocean.  For reference, these are:

  1. Reduce Energy Consumption
  2. Make Safe, Sustainable Seafood Choices
  3. Use Fewer Plastic Products
  4. Help Care for the Beach
  5. Don’t Purchase Items that Exploit Marine Life
  6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner
  7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean
  8. Influence Change in Your Community
  9. Travel on Waterways Responsibly
  10. Educate Yourself on Marine Life

Answers to Trivia Questions:

Accelerating, Cruising, or Maneuvering; 215 species of fish; True; lateral lines detect turbulence in the water helping a fish feel where something is moving; True

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