Saturday, March 31, 2012

Systemic Pesticides and Bees

I'm making a very big effort to make my yard bee friendly.  Well, bug friendly in general, but I have a special place in my heart reserved for bees.  Even as a child I would run around the backyard, catching bumblebees and honeybees, placing them in a jar with a flower so that I could view them up close, then releasing them once I was satisfied with my observations.

Well, ok... I'd have my dad release them.  I was afraid I'd get stung if I did it myself.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dig That Driveway!

Since it rained yesterday and I had no other real idea of what to do today, I decided it was finally time to do a better job of fixing the pit of despair in my driveway.  I did an extraordinarily quick fix last month, and as ugly as my conglomeration of sticks, wanuts, rocks, and leaves was, it held quite nicely.

I was getting really tired of staring at that ugly mess, though, so I headed behind the garage to grab a bunch of realtively thin slabs of pavement that had been tossed there at some point in the past.  I took them to the driveway, one at a time.  Those things were heavy!

Black Walnut Limitations

After the horrible realization that I was going to have to re-plan my entire edible landscape, I decided that I needed to find a bit of a pick-me-up.  Black Walnut Toxicity isn't the worst possible discovery that could be made, but it was a definite downer.  I needed to find information that would bring my excitement back.

Researching and sifting through information has been started, and I feel ready to take this challenge on.  Black Walnuts, after all, are native to the area, and there are many native plants that are edible.  That being said, there should be plenty that can coexist with it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Black Walnut Toxicity Dilemma

Houston... we have a problem.

After going to a new garden center today, where I discovered a very knowledgeable owner, I stumbled upon some information that was quite daunting.

Black walnut trees produce a phytotoxin that inhibits growth of most plants.

Sustainable Shade Gardening

Yesterday I discovered that hostas could be easily grown in shade, so naturally, I got out my tools and began hacking at the root bulbs along the side of my house in order to plant them at the base of a tree located on the brown slope of my hill where very little grows.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

DIY Cascarones That Won't Anger Your Neighbors!

Where I come from, cascarones, or confetti-filled eggs, are a tradition.  Children take great joy in breaking them on top of each other's heads and watching the confetti fly all over the place.

I love cascarones.

Unfortunately, not everybody shares this joy.  Even in my old home, where people can walk into Walgreens and buy a dozen, there are plenty of people that turn their nose up at them.  This is mainly because they make a huge mess.  Cleaning confetti out of your lawn isn't exactly the most doable thing, so if some manages to get into a neighbor's yard, they aren't particularly happy.

Hostas to the Rescue!

One thing that has caused me continual frustrations when thinking about my plans for an edible landscape is the large, brown, sloped area.  It's brown because it's in almost total shade during the growing season.  I need to start planning now, but I have no idea what I want to place there.

However, I had been staring at some sprouts along the side of the house for a week. These were clearly bulb plants, but beyond that knowledge I was at a loss.  Not being from this side of the country, I had no idea what those things were!  All I knew was that they looked horribly crowded and they had started popping up everywhere.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Too Much Wind!

We got wind last night.

A lot of wind.

The kind of wind that causes your jaw to drop when you walk outside the next morning.

Rhubarb Surprise!

Since I have no idea what has been planted in my yard in the past I've been hesitant to start planning my edible garden.  This has frustrated me, but sometimes I find something exciting that takes my frustration away.  One of those things just sprouted in the wild area of the yard!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Carrot, and Onion, and... Ambrosia? Oh, My!

Five days ago I mentioned some plants sprouting inside my carrot and onion containers that were very obviously not carrots and onions.  I decided not to pluck them out of the ground, worried that I may disrupt the carrot and onion seeds.

A Downtown Bike Shop!

This weekend I walked downtown to see what I could discover.  My daughter and I both enjoyed ourselves.  The downtown area here has an "old school" feel to it.  Historic limestone and brick buildings from the late 1880s are still in place and vibrant.  Walking through the streets makes you feel as though you've just stepped onto the pages of a history book.  In a word, beautiful.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Birds and the Bees... And Other Wild Stuff

I have a section of the yard that I call the "wild" area.  It's not completely wild, of course, but it had been allowed to grow out of control when the last people that rented this house lived here.  For that matter, it may have been like that for an even longer period of time.  I really have no way of knowing.

At one point, raspberries had obviously been planted.  Raspberries have a tendency to shoot up in surprising new places every year if they're not carefully controlled, however, so the plants growing in this section have taken to re-planting themselves wherever they see fit.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Winter Sown Success!

When I first began this blog, I tried out the concept of winter sowing.  Winter sowing is a great way to get a head start on your spring garden.  You simply take a milk jug, deli container, or other transparent plastic container and do your planting inside, then place it into your garden and let mother nature do the work.

It was very exciting for me, and seemed pretty easy, so I decided to give it a try.  I had been warned that it may not work this year, since the winter had been unsually mild and I was starting late, but I'm originally from the desert southwest.  I figured my knowledge of warmer climates could actually work in my favor.  A friend whose thumb is greener than mine made me realize that, and I couldn't argue against it.  So I began.  Things went well.

Then it rained.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Stain Fight Results, Stage One

I've completed what I'm going to call stage one of my fight against stains on my cloth napkins.  The use of the words 'stage one' gives you insight into the results.  Upon completion, I discovered that I had created...

Drumroll, please!

A Month of Responsibility

Later I'll get back to you with the results of yesterday's crazy stain experiment, but I realized something when I woke up this morning that I need to mention.

Today marks the first full month of tracking my progress on the path toward environmental responsibility!  I've been on this path for longer than a month, obviously, but I had never paid much attention to my progress before now.  That being said, I feel that it's time to look at what I've learned this month.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Fight against Stains, a DIY Project

After writing about cloth napkins, one drawback occurred to me.


I hate them.  I have many cloth napkins that were once a gorgeous white that now look permanently dirty due to stains.  Spaghetti stains, coffee stains, grease stains... you name it, they're lurking on my cloth napkins.  I know that they're clean, but they don't look like it.

Paper or Cloth? The Napkin Dilemma

Paper table napkins aren't exactly the worst environmental pollutants.  They degrade rather quickly, after all, and they're made from organic materials. 

Unfortunately, there's a problem.

First, they can't be recycled after they've been used.  Bacteria buildup is a concern at recycling facilities.  There's also a problem with the fibers within the napkins being rather short.  Short fibers don't go through the recycling process particularly well, and have a tendency to cause a big unmanageable mess.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Sprouting Mystery

Good news!  I found sprouts inside my garden plot!!!

Bad news... none of those sprouts look anything like the onion and carrot seedlings that I've ever seen.  You'll also notice that you can find the exact same type of plant sprouting off to the sides of the plastic containers.  Ugh.

Grow Your own TREE HUGGER, a Book Review

A friend of mine discovered a free nookbook a couple of days ago that she thought might interest me.  She hadn't actually read the book, but the title and the synopsis caught her attention as something I might want to take a look at.

And she was right!

The book is How to grow your own TREE HUGGER: 101 Activities to Teach Your Child How to Live Green, and is written by Wendy Rosenoff. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Insulating the Water Heater Part 2

Well, it's done! 

At last I've managed to wrap an insulating blanket around my water tank.  It's not pretty.  No companies will be knocking down my door and begging to use my image for their product ads (unless they want it for a "what not to do" image).

Insulating the Water Heater

A few days ago I walked down into my basement and discovered that my water heater was warm to the touch.  Time to make more energy saving adjustments!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Grocery Shopping and The Hill

Previously, I talked about how much I long for a cargo bike.  It'll be a while before I'm able to get one, so in the meantime I've been practicing distance walking with my three year old daughter so that we can go grocery shopping sans a car.  She's done very well with it, so I decided it was time to take it to the next level.

Today was grocery shopping day.  I brought out the stroller and we headed off toward the store.

The Digging of the Squirrels

The squirrels are at it again. 

Yesterday I noticed that the squirrels were digging in the porch planter.  This wouldn't have been a big deal, except that I had just finished planting some peppermint and anise seeds.  Naturally, I decided that it was in my best interest to cover the area with my trademark milk jug halves in order to protect the seeds from my furry little friends.  I've come to realize that they have no interest in the actual seeds I plant... they simply want a nice place to hide their goodies.  I placed a halved jug over the peppermint area, and another over the anise area. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Baking Soda As a Deodorant!

You realize that your pits reek like old onions, and it's time to head off to the store. 

Or work. 

Or a date.  The list goes on.  We've all been there at one time or another.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Compost Party Part 2

So, let's get a bit more in depth about composting.  I've explained the basics, but there are some details that could help things run a little more smoothly.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Compost Party

Previously, I mentioned that one of the ways you can use old food waste is through composting.  Composting is actually very easy, although, like with everything, you need to go through a learning process.

Covered Mystery Revealed

Well, I did it.  I opened the covered area and discovered what was inside.  The pallet that covered the area was beginning to rot, so it took quite a while.  One side of the pallet was as fragile as paper.  Furthermore, a board meant to stabilize it fell right off.  Pillbugs and spiders scurried over my hands in a mad frenzy as they attempted to find new shelter. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Mysterious Area

There's a mysterious covered area in the very back of my yard.  I've eyed it for quite some time, but because of snow and ice coupled with my natural tendency toward clumsiness, I hadn't been able to actually peer inside.  So I simply stared at it, letting my imagination run wild.


A while back my sister had given me a box of cereal that she thought my daughter would like because it had a well known cartoon character on the front.  My daughter was very excited about it, so she was correct in that regard, but then it came time to actually eat the stuff.

My daughter proclaimed it inedible.

Well, ok.  What she actually did was make a face, spit it out, then yell "YUCK!" at a loud volume, but I consider that to be pretty much the same thing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Garden Visitor

I went out this morning to check on the garden plot that I had planted yesterday and discovered that I had a visitor.

For Love of Dirt

My plan for yesterday was to head out with my daughter to the gardening center to buy a few more seed packets.  Basically, I was going to use the trip to see how well she could do over an extended period of time, walking to, around, then back from the store.  The full experience minus heavy bags.  I wanted to prepare my daughter for our car-free shopping trip.

Of course, many times what I plan and what actually happens are two entirely different things.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Car-Free Shopping

While I still want to bike to the store for groceries, rather than drive, it's going to take some time to make that a reality, due to the amount of time it'll take me to do my research, as well as saving up the money to do this without putting a hole in my bank account.  Cargo bikes are expensive, as I mentioned, and even buying a second-hand bike and making modifications will be costly.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reuse That... Pork Chop?

Leftovers.  We all have them.  They create clutter in our refrigerator, and in many cases, we forget about them until they grow fuzz, start breathing, and gain what just may be sentience.

Energy Saving Success!

Many of you may remember my Energy Leech entry, in which I was frantically trying to find ways to conserve energy (especially gas) in the pre-1900s home that I'm renting.  I caulked up cracks, I reduced the thermostat levels, and went on a crazed hunt for every energy leak I could possibly find.  I was determined to reduce my gas usage from the 5.2 therms per day that stared up at me from my energy bill.

Well, we got our energy bill today.  I opened the envelope slowly, nervous to see the result.  Did I do any real good here?  Have I made any true impact on our energy usage?  I held my breath and let my eyes fall to the page that would answer my questions.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Biking Toward Environmental Responsibility

After waking up this morning and realizing that I no longer feel sick, I started thinking about just how wonderful it would feel to ride a bike again.  It's been a very long time, mainly because the city I used to live in wasn't very bike friendly.  Indeed, I was afraid that if I started bike riding again, my life expectancy would go down, rather than up like it should, because of the lack of courtesy drivers, in general, show bike riders on the city streets there.

Here, though, things are different.  Minnesota, as a whole, is a bike friendly state, and I'm living in a small city.  It's the perfect place to ride a bike!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sickness, Seeds, and Sunshine

I woke up this morning to sunlight beaming down onto my face.  The day was warm, with the slightest breeze.  Just enough to make the morning air welcoming and beautiful.  The birds were singing, and the neighborhood felt peaceful and bright.  I couldn't have dreamed of a more perfect day to go back to Farmer and Seed to pick the ideal seeds for this year's edible landscape.  There was just one slight problem.

I was sick.  Still am, as a matter of fact.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Super Secret Extra Special Code Word


What is this?  It's a super secret extra special code word.  If you can pronounce it correctly, you'll discover the ultimate meaning of life while retaining your youthful vitality for eons.

Of course, it could also just be a claim code so that Technorati can verify that I own my blog, thereby listing me in their search index.

But what kind of fun would that be?

DIY Lantern Fun! The Results

And the results are in!

The lantern is a success! My phone isn't exactly made for taking pictures in the dark, but you can see that the lantern is radiating light.  Indeed, there's actually quite a bit more light in the kitchen than this photo admits to.

I'm claiming this DIY project as a success. 

It was easy as well as fun, and the end results left me with a yearning to do even more. 

Former Lantern Fun Posts:
DIY Lantern Fun!
DIY Lantern Fun!  The Steps

DIY Lantern Fun! The Steps

After making spaghetti last night I decided to use the jar to make a lantern, in order to save what un-bruised skin I have left from the evil countertops that jump out at me in the dark.  It hasn't gone through testing yet, since the sun is still high, but I think this was a success story!

DIY Lantern Fun!

My husband and I have been trying very hard to conserve electricity in our household.  One of the ways in which we do this is by turning the lights out whenever we leave the room.I've never had a problem with this before, but the light switch placement in our current home makes this rather difficult.

The kitchen light switch, for example, is by the back door.  This shouldn't be a problem, but it means I have to walk back through the dark kitchen to get to whichever room I happen to choose to spend time in.

And I'm clumsy.  Really clumsy.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

DIY driveway Hole Temporary Fix, Part 2

Great news!  It worked!

When my husband got home there was enough resistance within my great amalgamation of materials that the tires didn't sink more than an inch!  There was no sinking, no dragging of muck, and no punctured tires. 

DIY Driveway Hole Temporary Fix

I discovered a problem.  Ok, I actually discovered this problem a while back, but I ignored it. 

The problem is that the driveway of the house we're renting is coming apart.  There are huge areas where no asphalt remains.  I ignored the issue because I didn't realize how serious it was.  We were able to drive over these gaping holes with no problem, so they didn't really bother me.

But yesterday temperatures raised considerably.  The snow and ice completely melted.  Then the rain came.  Still, I thought nothing of it.

Until my husband drove to work.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Homeschooling is Environmentally Responsible

Homeschooling has gotten a bad rap.  Often when homeschooling is mentioned I’ll hear somebody mention that homeschooling is just a way for parents to be able to sleep in and be lazy.  Many people seem to think that all homeschooled children are in some way socially handicapped.

This is all untrue. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An Edible Landscape

Before moving to Minnesota I would take walks around my desert southwest neighborhood with my daughter, and there was one house that always stood out from the rest for me.  The yard was landscaped in a way that set my imagination going.  It was absolutely beautiful without being manicured in the traditional fashion.

The house had an edible landscape.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Footprint Calculator Results are in!

Now that you’ve had time to look into your own ecological footprint size, I’m going to discuss my own, as well as how accurate I consider it.  If you haven’t already read my entry about the Global Footprint Network’s calculator tool, you can do so by clicking this link.  It’ll also give you the link for the tool I’m discussing, so that you can gauge your own ecological footprint.

Crazy Gardening in the Southwest

This morning when I walked into the living room, the television was on and set to the weather channel.  I sighed nostalgically as I noticed that the temperature at my former home in the desert southwest was a gorgeous seventy degrees.  This was glorious compared to the eighteen degrees I had stood in, shoveling snow, just an hour before.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Footprint Calculations in Action

After watching and then reviewing The Ecological Footprint, I went to the Global Footprint Network’s website, which was loaded with valuable information.  There was one tool on the site that I found particularly exciting.

The footprint calculator is by far one of the most beautifully designed tools I’ve come across.  You answer questions about your lifestyle in order to calculate just how large your individual ecological footprint is.  

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Energy loss and... spiders?

It was like a sudden explosion in my head.  It was obvious if I had just taken the time to consider the evidence at hand, but, of course, I hadn't paid the least bit of attention.

The spiders were talking.

No, they weren't using words.  That would be completely crazy.  Their actions, however, spoke volumes.  What were they saying?

The spiders were telling me where large amounts of energy loss were occuring!

So here's the deal.  Spiders, just like people, have this thing about wanting to be warm.  Because of this, they'll squeeze through areas that have warm air coming through them and set up house in the area where energy is being lost.

There worst part?  I didn't discover this on my own.  I heard it mentioned in passing on television.  Naturally, I ran to discover any webs in the house, and I found quite a few.  Closer inspection showed me that, yes indeed, each one of the webs was resting in an area of significant energy loss.

Time to bring out the caulking gun, again.

Plastic Baggage

Today I want to talk about the irrational love our society has for disposable plastic bags.  When we get to the cashier at a grocery store, a convenience store, a drugstore, or any other type of store we buy whatever it is that we came for and cheerfully walk out with a thin, non-durable, ugly plastic bag in hand.


It's convenient.

But is it, really?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Reuse that Old Clothing! Part 4

After wearing my mended jeans for a couple of hours, I discovered a problem: I had neglected to notice that the material on the right knee just below the original tear was thinning.  This means that it was prime territory for a new tear.  I had mended the hole, but I had neglected to see the full extent of the problem.

Naturally, I brought out the scissors, needle, and ribbon, and began to fix this latest problem.

It only took five extra stitches to resolve the issue, but these were extra stitches that had nothing to do with my original design efforts.  I was concerned about how imbalanced the new look would be.

Reuse that old clothing! Part 3: DIY

The renewal of my favorite old pair of jeans is finally finished.  I chose to use only materials that I could find within my own home, in order to maximize the potential for both saving money and having less of an environmental impact.  This meant having to work with what I have, rather than running off to find the perfect materials for the project. This meant I had to be more creative.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Very Exciting Sentence Test Post

This is just a test post.  There is absolutely nothing exciting here.  I'm merely ensuring that I can schedule posts over the weekend so I can ensure a quick daytrip.

If you feel disappointed because of this, the next line will be a very exciting sentence:

A very exciting sentence.

Told you!!!

Reuse That Old Clothing! Part 2

I've managed to close the gaping holes in my jeans, but I'm not quite done with this activity quite yet.  I've decided to improve on the work that I thought would be a very short DIY project, because my jeans are not yet at the level where I would feel confident walking around in public wearing them.  Functionally speaking, I did a great job.  Aesthetically, however...

Tomorrow I'll bring out my "final" work.  Why the quotes?  Because I know myself well.

My final work is never truly final.  There's always something left to do... in my own eyes, that is.

Reuse that old clothing!

I woke up this morning to discover my daughter exploring my dresser drawers.  I groaned, rolled over, and hid my head under the covers. 

A few moments later my eyes shot open. 

I realized that one of the garments she was trying on was a pair of old jeans.  Not just any old jeans, but my favorite pair of old jeans.  I hadn't worn them in a very long time, but I couldn't bear throwing them away, so they hid at the bottom of my drawer like a dirty secret.