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Showing posts from April, 2013

Window Socket. One Sweet Charger!

This. Is. Awesome.  Completely. Awesome. What am I talking about?  Only the single most awesome modern day invention.  The best, most useful little gadget ever ! It's a solar charger. But! It's not just any solar charger.  I mean, solar chargers have been done.  There's nothing spectacular about that, except that it's a green form of energy that can save you oodles of money in the long run.  No big deal. This one's different, though. It's called the Window Socket , and it's... well... a window socket.  Ok, maybe not the most creative name, but it fits, so we'll go with it.  It's a small charger that you stick to your window.  The solar panels on the charger suck energy from the sun through your window, and then the charger converts that energy into electricity. Plug in your device of choice, and... Zing!   Power. Now, before you get too excited, I should probably point out that this is just a concept model with some techni

Death By Neonicotinoid: A Study for the Birds

On Friday I promised you a look at how the neonicotinoids involved in colony collapse disorder are not only killing off a staggeringly large proportion of honeybees, but also related to the deaths other animals. The poisoning of one food source can easily cause a chain reaction that ensures the loss or decrease of its harvester   Disease in prey can produce disease in its predator, and cause devastating results in anything that depends on their relationship.  What kills one animal has the potential to kill another. You get the point: A danger to the one is a danger to the many . What does this have to do with colony collapse disorder? It has to do with the danger of neonicotinoids, those chemicals at the heart of colony collapse disorder. Those chemicals that are 'perfectly safe' because they don't harm mammals . Those chemicals that are used in farmlands across the globe. "What's wrong with them, then?"  you ask. It's a good question,

Staggering Increase in Global Bee deaths by CCD

I've talked about Colony Collapse Disorder (ccd) several times in the past, and now that spring is starting to actually, possibly, maybe happen, it's time for me to talk about it again. I was first made aware of the issue after coming across the documentary Vanishing of the Bees on Netflix.  The movie focused on colony collapse disorder, the effect of ccd on the environment as a whole, as well as on the bees, and the causes of ccd. Here's the trailer for those that want a quick look-see. A beekeeper by the name of David Hackenberg has been at the forefront of the fight against ccd.  In Vanishing of the Bees, Hackenberg explains that the main cause of this wave of destruction that's decimating entire honeybee populations is the use of neonicotinoids in our agricultural fields. Indeed, this year's losses are staggering.   Colony losses are higher than ever before, averaging at around 40-50%.  Every year it gets worse.  Just three hours away from me, in

Homemade Watercolors?! Bring it!!!

The other day I saw a suggested post on Facebook that mentioned making your own watercolors for your children. "That rocks!" I thought. I raced to click on the link. NOT. Ok, see, I have this thing about suggested posts on Facebook - I hate them .  I see them as a bunch of spam that's especially well catered to an individual and placed onto their wall at the expense of posts by friends or pages that they actually want to see.  This means that even if I like the topic of a suggested post, I won't click the link. Perhaps that's elitist.   Maybe it's passive aggression.  I look at it as a passive protest. Anyway, the concept of homemade watercolors was really exciting.  It was a project that I could seriously get behind. And so I searched for it online, and found the Happy Hooligans. Happy Hooligans is a site dedicated to DIY projects specifically designed for people with kids.  Need to make paint?  A child sized apron?  A

Earth Day Snow: My Dog's Perspective

No tree-planting for me, yesterday!   Granted, that's what you're supposed to do on Arbor Day, rather than Earth Day, but spending time outside would have been rather nice. Unfortunately, it was a rather ugly day.   And then it snowed. A lot. This morning I woke up to snow accumulation so heavy that I had fallen tree branches throughout the yard. One of the trees was weighed down so much that the top bent to the ground. Not wanting to miss a rare opportunity, my dog ran to it with glee, and marked his territory.  While I said " eeew " internally, I couldn't really blame him.  I mean, how often do you get a chance to pee on top of a tree? It's all a matter of perspective. So today the post is short.  We got quite a bit of snow last night, and schools are closed due to the weather.  There's really only one thing to do when things are this crazy. I'm going to go outside to have fun with my daughter!

Happy Earth Day!

I love Earth Day.  It's that one day that people really make an effort to do what's best for the Earth. Sure, we should do that every day.  Many people make that complaint every year, whining that many people only go green on this one specific day. I get it.  I really do. It's easy to become angry when we work hard toward accomplishing something that many people only strive for on one specific day out of the year. But that anger isn't healthy. It's a judgmental anger.  It's the anger that fanatics of various religions hold.  It's the venom that sprays from the mouths of political extremists, formed from powerlessness. We've all seen it. None of us want to be a part of it. Are you one of the people that gets frustrated by the fact that many people will celebrate Earth Day, then turn around and go back to a high polluting, wasteful lifestyle?  If so, try to concentrate on one thing: Earth Day is the one day that people who normally d

Algae Powered Heaven

A few days ago, I discovered something really awesome. Grist, a humorous environmental news site, posted a piece about green power.  Not just any green power, though... Algae Power! Well, ok... not that kind of power.  They were actually talking about energy production. See, according to the Grist piece that I read, written by John Upton, there's an apartment building powered by algae standing in the middle of Hamburg, Germany. How cool is that?!  The company that designed it is Arup , whose 'About' page states that they are "... an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists offering a broad range of professional services. Through our work, we make a positive difference in the world. We shape a better world." I find it hard to disagree, after learning about this building. It's like they create little pieces of eco-friendly heaven.   Ever since I first learned about the concept of algae as

Snow Weather... Again. Disbelief Erased.

The past few times we've received reports that heavy snowfall would occur this month after everything on the ground has finally melted, I've laughed.  I didn't take it seriously. And so I always ended up with tons of snow, and a very bad mood to go along with it. So this time... I'm prepared. ::cue suspenseful music:: The weather was yucky when I took my daughter to school yesterday.  It was dark, wet, and dreary.  When I got home, I turned on my computer to find my weather gadget filled with red, bold-faced words. Weather Alert. I clicked on it and discovered this: 4-6 inches of snow over the next 36 hours... What?! My response was this: Very different from my normal laughter.  I've finally learned my lesson. I took it seriously.   So here's the way my thought process went: Statement of Problem It's going to snow. Overstatement of Problem There will be a few feet of snow on my roof. Massive Overstatement of

Why Complaints About Fluorescent Bulbs in Landfills Are Useless

I'm constantly amazed by just how many people don't understand why fluorescent bulbs always end up in the landfills. People like to say it's due to laziness: "Those things are toxic!  There's no reason not to dispose of them properly!   They can even be recycled!" That's brilliant, Sherlock.  You're  probably also on a first name basis with everyone at the recycling company, aren't you?  There's a very simple reason for why this judgmental explanation doesn't work for many people.  Actually, a couple of reasons. 1.  Lack of information. Unlike door-to-door recycling, fluorescent bulb recycling and disposal information isn't clearly pointed out in all communities.  You have to search for it.  The standard person doesn't immediately run to the computer to search for places that take care of these bulbs when they go out.  They set it aside, replace it, then go on with life. Eventually, they to move away.  The light tha

My Precious Gardening Treasure

It came to my attention yesterday that I was keeping some vital information from you. It wasn't that I was lying to you.  I wasn't even hiding anything from you.  Rather, I was keeping a gem of the web all to myself. Selfishly. I mentioned this treasure to you - bit by bit, piece by piece - yet I never really took the time to put this gem into focus for you.  To really put it in the spotlight.  I kept it to myself, guarding this secret. Jealously. Indeed, this is a blog that I frequent all the time, visiting it at least three times a week... and sometimes more.  Just about anything I need can be found there. And so my lack of a blog post about it is rather self-centered.  I should be mentioning it to everyone, and yet I keep this treasure to myself.  The page that has saved me from huge mistakes.  The page that has picked me up and guided me through the mistakes I've already made.  My favorite.  My joy... My Precious... I suppose this means I need to stop t

A Cheap DIY Planter That Looks Awesome!

When it comes to gardening, one of the easiest ways to spend way too much money is to buy a pretty planter.  There's the cloth planter, the hanging planter, the terra cotta planter with intricately designed edges. The list goes on. And seriously... do you really need that? Let's face it.  All of that prettiness goes away the second you start planting.  The edging designs get chipped or covered with leaves so that they can't be seen.  The hanging planter loses the vibrant color it originally displayed, and the cloth planter is soaked and covered with mud. You should have just made your own. I finally learned that lesson this year, and created my own small planter in an attempt to garden on the cheap .  It sure took long enough, right? The best part is that it only cost me one dollar, and was extraordinarily simple. As a special bonus, it hasn't leaked at all since I created it, while still allowing for the possibility if I over-water and need drain

Adventures in DIY Dishwasher Detergent: Liquid

It's time for part 2 of my experimentation with DIY dishwasher detergents! Last time, I discussed the dry powder recipe I had found on Organic Authority, which was written by Elizah Leigh.  It was fabulous.  I truly may never buy dishwasher detergent again.  Why bother when two common household ingredients can produce better results? Well, today I'm discussing the second detergent recipe she had listed in that article :  Liquid detergent. ::commence oooing and ahhhing:: Elizah Leigh listed the following ingredients: 1/2 c of white vinegar 2 c of castile soap 1 tsp of lemon juice 1/2 c of water 3 drops of essential oil First, I sliced the recipe in half.  I mean, there's no point in trying out a full recipe, right?  What if it suddenly starts bubbling and oozing, then growing until at last it's rolling down the streets, absorbing people in its way in a real life re-enactment of The Blob? The neighbors would probably be a bit annoyed. So I halved

For Love of... Lard

Oh, my dearest lard, I've become so lovestruck That I think I'm a bard, Though my poetry sucks.  Hard. Yep.  That's how much I love lard.   Just be glad I didn't record myself singing that atrocious rhyme! I even had a brief conversation about it on facebook with a reader who wasn't sure why lard was a staple ingredient in my household.  Subliminally, I knew I should have mentioned why it plays such an integral role in my home, but I ignored instinct, and mentioned nothing in the post we were refering to. I should have known better. Why? Well, because I used to think lard was bad for you.  I used to happily use vegetable shortening in recipes, thinking it was a healthy choice.  It's not. But if I thought these things at one point, it stands to reason that I'm not alone... So, let's talk about lard. I consider it to be absolutely indispensable.  Lard... can be used in place of oil. You can greas

Snow in April?! Oh, Minnesota...

I heard about it in the middle of last week.   I was outside talking to my neighbor, when he mentioned we'd be getting snow this week.  I thought about how my daughter and I had spent that afternoon in the park... in sweatshirts... ...and reacted in much the same manner that I did the last time I heard that it would snow . That being said, most of you have probably heard about the crazy winter storm that's blowing through Minnesota as we speak, complete with the National Guard being called into southern Minnesota. I'm really lucky I live in an area that hasn't seen that extreme weather... so far. I woke up to a large blanket of snow on the ground. And snow lining all the tree branches. And snow is still falling, at various levels of intensity. I should also mention that the evening before this, we got what is referred to as ' thundersnow '.  That's where you get thunder, lightning and snow at the same time... although, in

Urban Garden Research, Hope, and a Swoon

T he more I think about how I'll be moving soon, and probably into a home that has a much smaller yard, if any yard at all, I start to panic. There's some good news, though.   Even if I move to an apartment, I'll be alright.  You can garden in windows, as we saw in yesterday's post. You can also garden on a balcony.  Sure, you may not be able to get the yields you want, but you'll get something.  Basically, you have to research which plants work well in shade conditions. That research took me to Mike Lieberman, the Urban Organic Gardener . Ok, he's obviously not the only urban organic gardener.  I mean, there are a few more out there.  A lot actually.  But Mike is special. He can knock a girl off of her feet with his sweet words of wisdom.  My heart skips a beat just thinking about some of those intoxicating things he's said.  Things that have actually helped , such as,  "Since most of you are living in areas where you are restricted b

Vegetable Gardening on Window Sills? Yikes!!!

I mentioned how easy it is to garden on the cheap , yesterday, but I feel the need to show you how easy it is. Well... I also just want to show off. I bought all of this year's seeds with the knowledge that they may end up as container plants, since our lease runs out at the end of May.  The reality is that I may end up with no more than a balcony for my vegetables... or worse, a few window sills. Yikes! This means I have to think in terms of a small area and a large harvest. Double Yikes! We'll see what happens at that point, but in the meantime, I have an explosion of plants, and I love it. The thing is this: as long as you have plastic deli or produce containers , a drive to grow your own vegetables, and enough dirt to do it, you can very easily start seeds on a window sill... even in South Central Minnesota ...where many days are cloudy and you can still find snow n shady spots in April. No, really!   You've seen my wheat grass and the straw

How NOT to Convince a Low Income Friend to Eat Organic: The Solution

Yesterday, I explained the ridiculousness of the following statement: "Eat organic!  In the long run it's cheaper!" It's a statement that's made with all the best intentions, and it's true, but when placed in a real-world environment it falls short, gets ignored, and serves no purpose.  Or worse, it annoys the person you're trying to advise, blocking any communication that will be beneficial. So don't say it.  Just don't. There is, however, one cheap way to go organic, and that's gardening.  Most people think that gardening is expensive, and really, it can be.  Indeed, in many cases it is expensive. Ridiculously so. But that's because most people don't dive into it as a way to conserve their money. Most people want gardening to be pretty. There's nothing wrong with that, of course.  Aesthetics are important, and if you have the money for it, why not do it?  For those of us without the extra cash, however

How NOT to Convince a Low Income Friend to Eat Organic: Part 1

My life has gone through quite a bit of ups and downs.   Rather than complaining about this, I feel fortunate.  Having those ups and downs has enabled me to expand my knowledge base.  You learn to see several different points of view. The financially stable times in life taught me how to think globally.   It taught me how to donate where donations are needed.  It taught me how to recycle, rather than waste.  The ups in life have given me the knowledge of just how useless money is when it comes to happiness. The rough times, on the other hand, have taught me how to weather the storms.   They taught me budgeting and belt tightening.  They've also taught me just how ridiculous those of us that have money to spend on frivolous pleasures or on global sustainability can be. Below is one thing that you should never say in an attempt to convince someone to go green.  One thing that will cause anything else you may say to fall on deaf ears, largely because if you're using