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Showing posts from March, 2013

Easter or Eostre? I'll Eat Chocolate Bunnies While You Decide.

Happy Easter!!! Time for another holiday fun fact... just because I really, really love fun facts. "You know... the origins of Easter are pagan ." ::cue gasps, evil laughter, and lightning bolts:: You've all heard that comment, meant to snuff all joy out of this day, as though you'll suddenly stop eating all those chocolate bunnies... just because that one person disapproves. It's a horrible waste of their time, and to be honest, the answer to that comment is rather open-ended, anyway: "Maybe.  Or maybe not." ::cue a single rain cloud above the head of the person that brought up the topic:: We honestly don't know. An obsure deity, Eostre is said to be an old Saxon goddess of the dawn, and of Spring.  She's associated with renewal, and of course, with fertility.  A goddess who is believed by many to have hares as attendants.  The oldest reference to Eostre, the goddess that many people claim Easter celebrates, is a single

Straw Bale Gardens? No Container Necessary? Sweet!

Totally natural container gardening... complete with a natural container? For large plants? And it works ? Is that even possible? Evidently, yes.  It is, and I'm looking forward to trying it as soon as I get my hands on a straw bale or two.  That's right.  Instead of paying $20 for some cheapo thin plastic thing, I'm going to pay $5-6 for something with sturdy edges, and that acts as a growth medium. Dirt?  Heck, I'll make my own dirt!  Well, potting soil, anyway. So here's the thing.  While reading about an entirely different subject on the New York Times site, My eyes caught a headline in my peripheral vision:   Grasping at Straw Huh? Well, it turns out that a guy named Joel Karsten , who has sold stuff like blinky pins and funny looking rubber ducks on e-bay since the 1990s, wrote a book called Straw Bale Gardens . Wait!  Don't run away! My excitement isn't nearly as crazy as you think... this time.  See, Karsten has a B.S. degree in h

Bees, Neonicotinoids, and My Short Circuited Brain

While talking to a friend the other night, she brought up an NPR story that she thought I'd be interested in. "I figured I should point this out to you, but I'm sure you probably already know about it." Is the sky blue?  I thought. She was referring to a story from all things considered , entitled "Are Agriculture's Most Popular Insecticides Killing Our Bees?"  The story talked about clothianidin and thiamethoxam , two systemic pesticides referred to as neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are pesticides that coat seeds to be planted.  As the seed sprouts, it takes the pesticide in through its roots, turning itself into a living bug killer.  That is, the entire plant has pesticides running through it, killing the pests that decide to munch on it. So what's the problem?  I mean, aside from that whole annoying bit about ingesting a plant that was designed to kill... Well, more and more research is coming out that talks about the dangers

A Legend of Maple Syrup's Origin

On Sunday I got to go to River Bend Nature Center to learn about the History of maple syrup making, as well as being able to see just how it's done.  It was awesome. There was one slight problem, however... My daughter didn't find it nearly as awesome as I did.  She ran in circles around me, chanting, "I don't wanna do this!" over, and over, and over again.  I couldn't pay attention to the men that explained the syrup making process because of this, and I know  other people were getting about as annoyed with this situation as I was.  She's normally quite well behaved, so this was a rather unique situation. Fortunately, Zach came to my rescue. Who is Zach?  Why, he's the superhero that told the legend of the origin of maple syrup.  His super status arises from his amazing storytelling ability. Seriously.   The moment he began speaking, my daughter stopped complaining - mid sentence.  Her jaw dropped, and she stared up at him, eyes wide.

An Army of Sprouts Invades the Window Sills

You all know that I've been starting seeds for the past few weeks, but I haven't really said a whole lot about it. Today, that changes. I'm not going to waste your time going over each and every little seed I've planted.  That, after all, would get quite boring.  Especially since I'm starting to run out of window sills to place the sprouts onto... See, I've been planting seeds like crazy.  At present, I have jiffy pellets holding Anaheim Chiles Tomatoes Tomatillos Jalapenos Kale Bok Choy Buttercrunch Lettuce Peas Marigolds ...and I'm about to plant some yellow onions. Unfortunately, in a climate like we have in South Central Minnesota, you really need grow lights.   See, my tomatillo sprouts are stretching out, trying to reach the sun from their window ledge, thereby making themselves very leggy.  Placing a grow light a few inches above the sprouts would produce better growth conditions. The funny thing, though?  I planted

What Has Occupy Done For the Environment?

I woke up this morning with one thought on my mind: What is the Occupy movement doing, right now, in terms of the environment? I know, I know... not exactly your standard first-thought-of-the-morning.  In my defense, however, thought number 2 was a bit more normal: Where's my coffee?! Ahhh... there it is... After answering thought number 2 with a nice mug full of fair trade, dark roast coffee, I went to discover the answer to thought number 1.  I mean, what exactly has the Occupy movement been doing in regard to the environment? It turns out, a lot. According to, roughly one year ago the Occupy movement held an Occupy Earth Day  in order to call attention to the fact that the government only listens to the needs of the largest corporate entities, ignoring the cries from everyone else to reduce pollution and create alternative energy sources. The Occupy movement's call to action began with a call to "Disrupt the business of pollution : A

How Will You Celebrate Earth Hour?

Earth Hour. Can you believe I'm waiting until the day before to mention it?  Talk about procrastination, right? Earth Hour is celebrated on March 23rd.  The idea is to get people within each country to turn off all of their lights for one hour on that night.  That hour begins at 8:30 within your local time zone. Turn out your lights at 8:30 tomorrow! That's one hour in which you won't be using fossil fuels to produce artificial light within your home.  Oil and gas aren't renewable resources, after all.  Reducing how much they're used is essential. Some would argue that Earth Hour is rather silly, since you end up lighting candles to compensate for the light bulbs that aren't in use at that time, thereby producing quite a bit of carbon dioxide, and they do have a point. But!  Earth Hour is celebrated in order to give a firm reminder of what's really important: The earth itself.  When you divorce yourself from technology, even for a shor

Frozen Lake Superior: Deceptively Tranquil

Nothing spectacular, today. That is, I'll say nothing spectacular.  What I'll show you, on the other hand, is pretty awesome. Lake Superior: Frozen. Yep... today is an inspiration day.  Lake Superior, of course, is a great treasure trove of inspiration.  If you spend any decent amount of time on or near its waters, you develop a healthy respect for its mysteries.  A deceptively calm surface, after all, may be hiding a large amount of turbulence below. When the winds are low, the frozen lake actually appears quite tranquil.  There's only the slightest amount of sound as ice cracks and breaks during the movement of the waves beneath. And that brings us to my first ever YouTube video. ::cue cheering and celebratory sounds:: It's a bit shaky, but adding stability would have blurred some of the ice quality, and I wasn't willing to sacrifice that. What you're about to see is Lake Superior, entirely iced over.   If you watch closely, you'll see

Heavy Snowfall and the Strong Snow Fort

I'm sure many of you remember my ill-fated attempt to build an igloo in my backyard. The walls were too thin for the overall building size, and it took way more time to complete than I actually had.  It therefore became... A walled patio. ...Minus the patio. When I went up North to visit my parents, however, I was greeted with a sight that left me green with envy: My dad had built a snow fort.  A good one.  With thick walls. The evening that we drove up that way, there was a heavy snowfall. Like, really heavy.  As in, that-photo-up-above-is-only-the-beginning heavy.  There were a few times I almost demanded that we stop driving for the night due to lack of visibility - one of those times, less than 45 minutes away from our destination. But we made it. The next morning, I walked out and looked at the snow fort my dad built.  He had added some ply wood to the entrance roof, because he didn't have time to finish before more snow fell, and it was a very s

St. Urho's Day: A Bit of Minnesota Fun

Guess what I did?! I spent Saturday enjoying the perfect "me, too" holiday that celebrates the actions of a made-up saint.  Life totally doesn't get any better than this. Sweet!!! What am I talking about? St. Urho's Day , of course! St. Urho's day celebrates a saint by the name of Urho (which means 'brave'), of course... He once chased all of the grasshoppers out of Finland, thereby saving the year's grape crops. The result? Plenty of wine to celebrate this event, of course! The regional holiday, celebrated in a few Finnish communities within the Unites States and Canada, was created in the 1950s.  There are two different people credited with its creation (Evidently, a little too much wine was imbibed during its inception, therefore creating widespread confusion, right?), but both individuals resided somewhere in Minnesota, so we'll just leave it at that. Celebratory colors are green and purple.  The more green and purpl

St. Patrick's Day: Who Were the Leprechauns, Originally?

Happy St. Patrick's Day! My favorite part of St. Patrick's Day has always been the leprechauns.  Sure, we can talk about old St. Patrick himself... but let's be honest.  We care about the fun stuff... not some guy reputed to have driven snakes away from an island that never had them in the first place, right? So let's talk about the good stuff. Legend has it that at one time, the leprechauns were the tallest of the mound dwellers.  That's right... they were huge.   They were also entrusted with the ancient treasures of the Tuatha de Danann.  Leprechauns brought the Stone of Destiny, the Great Spear of Lugh, the Sword of Nuadhu, and the cauldron of the Daghdha to Ireland. Then Christianity arrived at the Emerald Isles.  The importance of the leprechauns decreased, along with their stature. They became known as tiny creatures that rode sheep, goats, or even dogs, while wearing a red hat and jacket.  The solitary being would make sh

Teacher's Easter Egg Tree: Easy, Eco-Friendly Decor

I just wanted to let everyone know that my daughter has an AWESOME TEACHER. Ok, yeah... I've mentioned that before.  She's done something really cool this time, though.  She's created a spectacular Easter decoration that also happens to be environmentally friendly. What is it? It'a an Easter Egg Tree, of course! One old branch,  1 1/2 cups of dry rice,  a handful of Easter grass,  one ribbon,  craft eggs hung with thin ribbon,  and a glass mug. Perfectly easy.   I mean, there's really no need to give you any instructions.  As long as you can see the end product and know what supplies were used, you can figure it out without a need for tutorials.  See? I  told  you she was awesome! Even better, this truly was a grab-what-you-have sort of masterpiece.   The items she used were scavenged from within her home, rather than bought.  Everything was surplus from prior projects.  Even the glass mug base was something that would otherwise sit

Happy Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day, everyone!!! You're probably wondering why in the heck I'm celebrating the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter on an environmental blog. Well, because great awesomeness and joy that ensues when you eat a pie on Pi Day, of course! Sure, it's cheesecake... but that's kind of a pie, right? But even if we ignore that very obvious fact, circles are important when it comes to environmental responsibility. No, they really are . Ok, I get that it sounds like I'm just coming up with an excuse... mainly because I am (I love Pi Day!), but circles really are valuable in terms of energy efficiency. A while back, I mentioned dome structures.  Eco-domes, like the ones in the concept photo (below) by Miguel of biocasasostenibles , are energy efficient in many ways. His design is vaguely reminiscent of Tatooine 's structures, no? Awesomeness! Most obviously, eco-domes tend to be small, and with extraordinarily thick wall

A Mini Greenhouse from Deli Trash! Woooooo!!!!

I've been very diligent about watering my Anaheim chile seeds.   Even so, I was having problems keeping them properly moist.  I'm not sure why, but I've always had this problem with seeds.  What should thrive ends up looking like a dessicated husk, instead. It's quite tragic. Fortunately, I've discovered the answer to seed starting for those of us that end up causing the premature deaths of countless pepper seeds... or whatever your most common victim is. It's called: Deli Trash. No.  Seriously.  It really is. Ok, well... more specifically, it's the plastic packaging for deli and bakery goods.  You know - the transparent, hard packaging that carries salads, sandwiches, cookies, etc.  The good stuff. When I noticed that my Anaheim peppers were in a pretty sorry state due to a lack of moisture, I knew I had to do something fast.  Watering the jiffy pellets every day wasn't enough.  I needed to retain the moisture. I had hopped that the

Weather in Minnesota v. The Desert: Equally Crazy

I'm beginning to think that South Central Minnesota and the Desert Southwest are more similar than I ever realized. No, I'm not crazy. Well, ok.  Maybe I am.  But bear with me for a second. See, my old home in the desert Southwest had this ability to suddenly and inexplicably change weather rather quickly and drastically.  One minute I'd be blowing sand out of my nose, due to a sandstorm that was so intense that I was completely exfoliated and had hair that would make Cousin It jealous, and the next... Totally soaked with rain. Then, not more than five minutes later (because, you know... rain in the desert doesn't last long at all...), the temperatures are back into the 90s, the sun is beaming down, and everything is back to peacefully sweltering norms. Well, it appears that South Central Minnesota is just as crazy.... just in a different way. See, on Saturday temperatures raised, yet again, to the point where everything started melting. This time it

The Dreaded Checklist

It's time for me to do something I absolutely despise. It's time to create that dreaded checklist. See, I can't stand the things.  While I'm perfectly ok with the idea of creating a shopping list, that's about the 'listiest' that I get.  Checklists have this great ability to remind me of just how much I still need to get done.  They feel like a tangible list of my inadequacies. I know, I know... I'm being overly dramatic.  A list doesn't really change how much needs to be done, after all.  My problem simply relates to the fact that I can see it all spelled out, t's crossed and i's dotted. But sometimes it needs to be done.   See?  I told you I was being dramatic! Previously I mentioned my home energy report .  I talked about how much I couldn't change, which is actually quite a bit, but I also mentioned that I have a particularly nasty habit of using too much electricity.  My natural gas usage is actually great, when we

It's International Women's Day!

Today is International Women's Day. It's observed across the world, and in some countries is a national holiday.  Basically, it celebrates women that have made great achievements throughout history. A bit of history : The Socialist Women's Party within the United States (Yep, you read that correctly) declared National Women's Day a holiday in 1909.  The original celebration date was February 28th.  It was celebrated by women until 1913. Now let's rewind back to 1910: The Socialist International, which met in Copenhagen, decided that this whole Women's Day idea was rather a good one, and so they declared it to be an International holiday, though no specific date was set.  It was created to assist women across the world in their fight for suffrage.  All women attending the conference approved of this. In 1911, Germany, Denmark, Austria and Switzerland declared March 19th to be marked as International women's day within their countries. Then, on M

Does a Snow Day Last Forever?

Most people are excited when they have a snow day.   Parents don't have to shuffle their kids off to school, which relieves them of one responsibility, and kids get to sleep in.  After they wake up, they get to play in the snow. All!       Day!             Long!!! I mean, seriously.  It's a win-win situation.  Everyone loves a snow day!!! Except for my daughter and I. Don't get me wrong... we both love snow.  We adore it.  Playing in gigantic, soft hills of white fluff is truly exhilarating. The problem, however, is that my daughter loves school , too... And she only goes 2 days a week.  A snow day on any one of those days means having to wait even longer to see her friends and teacher. A snow day is not a happy-making event. She awoke bright and happy, ready to greet the day. " Mommy, school time! "  She beamed. Oh, dear... "" Sweetie... " I began. " There's something we need to talk about. " Now, maybe it&#