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Showing posts from 2013

Why Has this Blog Been So Quiet?

So why have I been so quiet, lately?  Don't worry... nothing horrible has happened. That is... Unless you consider taking time off to publish a short story just in time for Christmas to be horrible! Doing the happy dance! That's right.  I took a break from writing the blog, but not from writing as a whole.  Santa's Letter is currently on sale at Amazon's kindle store , as well as from Smashwords . Don't worry this still kind of relates to this blog.   In a strange, reaching for straws kind of way...  I mean, sure, it's fiction... and sure, it seems like a far cry from Eco-friendly living... but in my defense, Santeclaus is a caretaker on a wildlife preserve... it's just a magical wildlife preserve. And he's fighting to save creatures from extinction. That's green.  Right? Right?! Ok, yeah... this is a shameless plug. I admit it. But is it working?

Walk Your Dog in Natural Surroundings!

I elected to start taking my golden retriever mix on walks along the Gitchi Gami bike trail, which runs along the highway beside my grandmother's house.  He's awfully cramped up inside the room that we stay in, which is horribly unfair to him, and as you can imagine, the living situation has caused him to try to relieve his anxiety by chewing on... Well, pretty much everything. He's stressed, and that needs to stop.  So I started taking him for walks.  This, after all, is much more environmentally friendly than, say, collars that smell like lavender or coats that hug a dog's body in an attempt to calm them. Yep, those things really do exist. Walking on the bike trail, surrounded by nature, is much preferable.  Aside from being more environmentally friendly, it's also healthier for both you and your pet.  I mean, obviously, it's good exercise, but the benefits go beyond that: Emotional Health - Spending time outside in a natural environment relieves st

Blueberry Picking Madness!

Thursday I had a choice: A) I could stay home and write my blog post, or B) I could head off on a berry picking adventure. As you can see, I chose B.   See, first thing in the morning, as I was just finishing up my breakfast cereal, my cousin walked into the house and invited me off to go picking blueberries in some prime blueberry territory.  Naturally, I raced off to grab my daughter so that we could go! It was a very long drive.   We headed even farther up North, up to the Tofte area, which is where Superior National Forest is located.  The soil is particularly acidic, so blueberry plants grow in abundance. Evidently, the best indicator of proper acidity levels is pine tree growth, which means that we had to go off to an area loaded with pines... but not too loaded with them.  Blueberry plants also have a preference for full sun.  We therefore needed fields surrounded by pines. So we drove for miles upon miles on the highway, until we went off the paved road a

Blueberry Picking Joy!

Sorry about the lack of a post yesterday... I got the chance to head off to pick blueberries at a prime location and didn't want to miss my chance!!! Unfortunately, the post I sent to let everybody know about this didn't get posted... I'll tell you all about the experience tomorrow, though. (Don't worry. I was not the one driving. This photo was taken in safety from the passenger seat!)

Raspberry Delight!!!

It has been about a week since I last saw a wild strawberry. ::insert sympathetic noises here:: There's a bit of good news, however.  It turns out that strawberries aren't the only edible fruits that grow wild around here.  At some point in the past, raspberries elected to start taking root in wild areas, and they can now be found in abundance.  I found plenty just beginning to ripen along the Gitchi-Gami bike trail. Some, like the one above, were perfect specimens of what a raspberry should look like.  Others, however, had as little as three or four perfectly ripened red seeds (seed pods?  I have no idea what those little juice bubbles that surround each seed are called.), with immature bits alongside them. The one above, for example, only has two seed pods that have ripened on the entire berry. The initial response, of course, is sadness.  You think it's terrible that the berry will never reach its full yumminess potential, right? Well, interest

Addicted to Junk, Rehabilitated By Water

Having just read an article entitled, Food Is the New Tobacco in E Magazine, I figure that now is probably a really good time to talk about junk food. I know, I know... this is an environmental blog, not a food blog. I get it.  But the two can sometimes be merged, and now is one of those times.  You see, Jeffrey Hollender wrote about the New York Times article that appeared back in February, entitled The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food .  This article focused on the science behind the food industry's success.  It mentioned bliss thresholds that needed to be met, and it focused on the three pillars of the food industry: Salt, Sugar, and Fat. So, how exactly does this fit into the environment? Well, we, as a nation, are addicted to processed foods.  We've gotten away from local foods, from fresh foods in general, in an effort to eat things that hit our bliss threshold.  We're doing exactly what those food companies want us to, and we're doing it wi

Homemade Mosquito Bite Relief Methods

Which method actually works??? That's the question I wanted answered.  There are several different mosquito bite relief methods, but I knew very well that not all of them worked.  In all reality, I'd be happy to find just one that would stop me from tearing apart my skin in a futile attempt to stop that itching. "Scratching Doesn't work.  Don't ever scratch." We've all heard that, but let's be serious... who actually listens?  Not me, that's for sure, and I'm betting you don't, either.  I mean, I'm sure you try to listen to what is so obviously good sense, but eventually... you give up.  In a great burst of adrenaline, you scratch that #%$$@@ mosquito bite with every last bit of strength you have.  You get into a sort of scratching rhythm that may even closely resemble the beat of your favorite song.  The more you scratch, the more scratching you're compelled to accomplish.  You decide that you'd rather grind the entire

The Perfect Agate: A Life Lesson

Sometimes, life sees fit to throw uncertainties your way.   These uncertainties can cause you to be unable to follow through with something at a set time. In my case, that uncertainty was weather that caused the satellite here to lose signal, thereby causing a lack of internet at the house.  This caused a very interesting cascade of events ranging from lost post writings to wolf poop on the bottom of my favorite pair of Teva sandals. Don't ask. There are some things that don't need explaining. The point is that eventually I gave up, grabbed my daughter, and headed off to the beach.  While there, I laid myself down on my stomach and stared at the rocks that rolled in with each wave. And I found agates.  Some nice, some not so much so. For those of you that don't know what they are, agates are brightly colored pieces of chalcedony that are known for their beautiful and complex banding. Translation:  Pretty rocks with lines I know that doesn't seem too e

Moral Uncertainties and Synthetic Beef

Every now and then you come across something that you find yourself incapable of forming a solid response to.  You both love and hate it.  Maybe you want whatever it is, while at the same time fearing what would happen if you actually got it.  Emotional responses can be pretty complex.  But then, synthetic beef is pretty complex, as well. Yep.  That's what has placed my emotional responses on overload.  See, a friend alerted me to an article about synthetic beef, and as is expected, I read the whole thing, completely transfixed.  I then put it aside, because I couldn't seem to form a coherent response it it.  I had a positive/negative reaction: I loved the idea from the standpoint of a person that knows full well that if I could only eat what I collected with my own two hands, I'd be a vegetarian... or perhaps an occasional pescatarian.  Basically, the very idea of killing something (except, of course, mosquitoes) is hard for me to deal with.  The knowledge of meat

The Latest From the House "Science" Committee

Politicians have found another way to strip our privacy from us. This time the House Science Committee is the group at the forefront of this.  It appears that republicans on the committee feel that they need to go through the private medical information of thousands upon thousands of Americans... ...just so that they can attempt to refute data that says that pollution is bad for you . Seriously.  That's no joke.  I can honestly come up with no other reason for their actions. So, what are the actions, you ask?  Well, republicans within the committee drafted a subpoena demanding that the EPA turn over  "...the research data that supports the health benefit claims that justify virtually every Clean Air Act regulation proposed and finalized by the Obama Administration."  That quote came from the very first sentence of the subpoena, and is quite civil compared to other portions of the document, which is overtly hostile in its totality.  Indeed, on the surface that

Writer's block? Or Necessary Break Time?

I had a bad case of writer's block.   It was one of those days in which ideas just wouldn't surface.  I read several different articles, and thoroughly enjoyed them, yet couldn't come up with a plan to bring them to others via this blog.  I was stuck. Ugh. Then it hit me:  I was trying too hard. The problem, I discovered, was that I was trying to do everything within a very short period.  I woke up and began to skim environmental articles.  I got up to make breakfast and continued to skim while walking from spot to spot with my netbook in hand.  I ate, and, you guessed it - I read some more.  I was determined to continue.   I'd find something.  I'd write something!  I'd just post later than usual.  That's just the way it is sometimes, right?  I continued this obsessive train of thought until I finally became so stressed out that I took a gigantic gulp of way too hot coffee, and nearly propelled a spray of the steaming liquid onto my netbook.

There's *Another* Chemical Type Involved in CCD?!

I've talked about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) a few times in the past, and I honestly thought I'd be giving it a rest for a while. I mean, there are only so many times that I can talk about it before it becomes repetitive and dull, after all.  People need breaks. But then I caught an article on   Jaymi Heimbuch brought up something vastly different from what I had heard before.  The article was entitled, Scientists discover another cause of bee deaths, and its really bad news . In this article, Heimbuch discussed a study that was recently published in PLOS One that pointed to fungicides as a major contributor to massive bee deaths.  In this study, it was found that bees exposed to high loads of two different fungicides, esfenvalerate and phosmet, were more susceptible to Nosema infection. Nosema is a digestive infection that causes high die-offs of adult bees, mostly away from the hive, with only a few found near the hive entrance.  When the spore

Technology and Nature CAN Coexist in Harmony

I ran across an article on Resurgence & Ecologist that I really feel needs to be shared.   This piece, entitled Latent Healing , discusses technology not only as an addiction (as most of us view it), but also as a special part of humans as a species .  Don't let the title turn you away.  I'm not a crystal-toting New Age devotee.  This isn't filled with a bunch of spiritual chants or meditations.  It is filled with one highly unusual, often ignored device, though: Common sense.  Tons of it. The author, Charles Eisenstein, begins in the manner that we're used to seeing.  He examines our love of technology, our dependence on it, as an addiction.  Not just any addiction, though.  An addiction based on our need to control things. "As the word ‘fix’ implies, the logic of technology has very often been the logic of addiction. Feel bad? Have a drink. Feel even worse the next morning? Get drunk again. Depressed because you’ve now lost your job, your marri

The Trail of Wild Strawberries

A while back I talked about the patches of wild strawberries growing in my grandmother's yard.  They're everywhere.  And I haven't gotten any fruit from any of them. The thing is, lawn mowers happen.  The strawberry plants get cut down right as they're about to start delivering their glorious, succulent fruit.  The fruit that makes your mouth water when you simply think about it.  The juicy, red - Ok, you get the point.  It's amazing. And none of that awesomeness was occurring in the yard. There's good news, though.  See, there's this bike trail that runs along the highway. Sometimes the trail is straight, and sometimes it meanders away from the highway for a stretch before heading back.  It goes over bridges and hills. It's a scenic bike trail, and well worth using... even if all you're doing is walking on it.   Especially if all you're doing is walking on it! You see, when you walk the bike trail, you see things that bikers t

What we're NOT hearing about Climate Change

A friend introduced me to a Bill Moyers interview with Marty Kaplan that had me thinking, "Oh, crap... yeah."  I'm not a fan of Bill Moyers.  Not because I don't like him, but rather, because I don't know him. I kind of live under a rock.  Intentionally.  I couldn't point out Kim Kardashian on a magazine cover.  Kanye West?  I know a friend of mine thinks he's smoking hot, but I know nothing beyond that.  I couldn't name any of the actors in Big Bang Theory. This doesn't mean I'm completely clueless, of course, but it does mean that I know very little about popular culture.  On the flip side, though, I would argue that popular culture knows very little about the news. The real news, that is. And that's what this piece was referring to.  Kaplan talks about how unemployment is skyrocketing, the divide between rich and poor is increasing, and we're worried about what Kanye West's baby is named. Well, ok, that wasn't e

About Those (Not So) Flushable Wipes

Let's talk about sewer systems!  Woooo!!! Wait... don't run...  Please? That really is what I want to talk about, today, but not the system itself.  Rather, I want to talk about what's placed in the sewer systems across this country... and shouldn't be. "Flushable" wipes. The things are great.  I'll be the first to admit it.  As a woman with a young child that very occasionally has accidents that need to be taken care of, those wipes are a godsend.  It's either that, or locating a washcloth... which is never anywhere near where it needs to be.  And let me tell you: toilet paper does not do the job in those cases. So I like them.  But!!! Flushing the flushable wipes is a big no-no.  It's common sense, really.  I mean, have you ever accidentally torn one of them with your fingertip?  Nope.  But I bet it has happened with toilet paper, now, hasn't it?  Admit it. The point is, they don't come apart in the sewer system.   Septi

The Little Farmer Market: A Community Joy

At long last, I've finally made it to another farmers market! This one is held every Tuesday morning of the season, from 9:30 to 12:00.  And this one is far different from the others I've been to in the past.   The Little Farmer Market is held at the local school in Silver Bay, MN. I know what you're thinking.  You're saying, "What's so special about that?"  Well, the reason this farmers market is so different is that the produce that is sold there is actually grown at the school.  In a garden.  In a huge garden. This is just a segment! I got there late... as in we're-about-to-start-packing-up late, so there was very little remaining.  Some lettuce, spinach, basil, kohlrabi, and strawberries were all that was left on the tables that had been so thoroughly picked clean. The garden was first created in 2011, according to a story about the William Kelley School Garden that I found on  They had received a $6000 grant f

Heading Out Into Nature... To Use Technology?!

Yep.  You read that title correctly. Who ever thought I'd say that, right?  We know me.  I'm the type that spends her time in nature listening to wind, feeling like I'm a part of everything around me. So why in the world, then, was I heading off into nature to use technology? The answer isn't nearly as wacky as you may think, and it's something that most people don't consider about rural places: There isn't cell phone signal everywhere. True story. Where I'm currently at, no cell phone carrier can reach me.  The towers just can't reach here.  Oh, there's internet, but my cell is, for the most part, just a very expensive decoration here. And that gets kind of lonely.  I've never been someone that's attached to their phone via some sort of invisible umbilical cord, but I like having the ability to talk to a friend every once in a while.  Humans are social creatures, after all. So, I drove a few miles in order to get to Goose

Fukushima is Still Leaking, but at Least Farmed Fish are Cozy.

Today I discovered an article in the Seattle Times that caught my attention.  It was an article written by Mari Yamaguchi, entitled:  Japan: Radioactive water likely leaking to Pacific . Ouch. The Fukushima power plant, which is still using jury-rigged cooling systems, is stated to still be leaking contaminants such as cesium into the waters around Japan. We've all suspected this for some time, of course.   There's a reason, after all, that fish along the coast of Japan are barred from being exported to other countries, and fish further out are heavily tested. You don't have to be an expert to consider this is likely.  What is interesting, however, is that it's finally gotten the attention of the Nuclear Radiation Authority. To quote Yamaguchi's piece, "TEPCO has said it has detected "no significant impact" on the environment. It says cesium tends to be absorbed in the soil, and denies water contaminated with that element reached the se

The Effects of Coal on Lifespan in Northern China

China's at the top of environmental news again, this morning, and just as always seems to be the case... That's not a good thing. So what's the problem this time?  Coal.  Specifically, the reduction of lifespan due to coal that's burned in Northern China.  To quote the Environmental News Network, "The study, which involved researchers from MIT, China, and Israel, estimated the impacts of particulate matter from coal-powered heating on life expectancy. In the process, the authors developed a rule-of-thumb for the effects of air pollution: "every additional 100 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter in the atmosphere lowers life expectancy at birth by three years," according to a statement from MIT." ( source ) Ouch! Again, this is only in Northern China.  Everyone that lives South of the Huai River is doing just fine.  What's the reason for that, then, right? It's simple.   Northern China gets its coal boilers from

MIT's Itsy Bitsy Solar Brilliance

Is it just me, or am I rather crazy about MIT? I mean, not only have I spoken about various MIT projects off and on, but I also have an entire post written about MIT's Open Courseware Project. (I have to admit to slacking off on the whole Biology class taking thing, by the way...) Anyway, as you may have guessed by now, I'm talking about MIT.  Again. This time I blame it all on an article about solar cells that I found on Treehugger.  It's therefore not my fault that I'm raving about MIT again.  Really.  It's not. Ok, maybe it is... The thing is, MIT has gone and done it again.  They've gone and found yet another way to impress me. Darn it. So what am I so excited about? Itsy bitsy, teeny weeny extra tiny solar cells.  Stackable.  Gorgeous. :: cue loud cheering :: Not interesting enough?  That's ok.  I'll take it a step further: A group of three MIT researchers have come up with an idea for a solar panel that's only 1 nanom

Economy, Children, and the Great Outdoors... Say What?!

One of the challenges I've encountered while in a rural area is the lack of internet reliability. This has both benefits and drawbacks. Here's a great example I encountered that's still extraordinarily fresh: Drawback:   I was unable to read my normal online news, which would alerted me to the fact that last week was GO Week. Benefit:  Now that I do know that it was GO Week, I don't have to worry about being distracted and lured away from outside activities... next year. Now that I've said this, you're probably asking yourself, "What the heck is this GO Week she's referring to?" Valid question.  I'd be asking the same.   GO stands for Great Outdoors.  Great Outdoors week, as you've probably already guessed, is a week devoted to... well... going out and having fun in the great outdoors.  It also focuses on a central topic. GO Week 2013 centered around "Conservation and the Outdoor Economy." "Built on the co

The Joy of Raised Garden Beds

And I'm gardening, again! Ok, we all know I've been container gardening... I've mentioned that a few times.  But now I'm doing some in-ground gardening, as well. Don't worry.  My containers are here with me, and my tomatillos are covered with brilliant yellow blooms. But now I've been able to help my mother begin her garden patio.  Her patio will consist of four raised beds along the corners of a square area.  I believe she'll be using paving stones to create the platform. So far, this is all that's been done. There will be three more like it.  Indeed, a little birdie (named Mom) told me that I'll be out there helping to get a second bed done this afternoon. Dimensions?  The raised bed here consists of one 3x3 square, and one 6x3 rectangle.  They're set approximately 1 foot high.  The result? Lots of room for vegetables and herbs!  Yummers!!! I bet you think that garden bed was filled using store bought soil... or maybe c