With the dumping of snow over the Northeast (and ONLY the Northeast US, if you only listened to the national media) you may have by chance come to the conclusion that growing plants at this time of year is practically impossible. Well, I would laugh
When you look at the calendar (or out the window...from under your cozy blanket) you can see that it's only February. The snow is piling high and we're seeing how low the thermometer can go. In central MN, you may reason this is no time to start plan
I was going through my blog readings today and this puzzling video (soda) popped up on my screen. Apparently, Coke has had enough of people blaming their drinks as the reason for obesity's skyrocketing numbers. If you watch the video, they go over
This month, we're focusing on the most identifiable action of "going green." It's not Kermit T. Frog (however, that little amphibian has got lots to say about being green.) It's not the Green Monster at Fenway. Nor is it the horrible (but oh so delicious) Shamrock Shake. Of course, I'm going to be talking about recycling.
But, while we're on the subject, (and I know this is a blog about environmental sustainability, and I will get to the good stuff next paragraph), I wonder if McDonalds has any idea how much money they would make if they made their little green shake available year-round. The profits alone from my wallet would probably make it worth their time. I'm sure there was a marketing guy who thought up the term "engineered demand" and threw the idea to his bosses and they ran with it, leaving us poor suckers waiting for the magical time of year when we can punish our bodies. (And don't get me started on the McRib!)
Where was I? Recycling?! Yes, that sounds more like the purview of this blog. Recycling: taking something you have and don't need anymore and turning it into something else...hopefully again and again. It is the foundation of the green movement. It's what we've been hearing for decades, and the necessity of recycling is finally being taken seriously. We can see this by how simple it is to do in our society.
Look at any recycling tote. You can get a little plastic tote and fill it with mixed recyclables willy-nilly. Papers, bottles and cans (just clap your hands) can be picked up every week from your curb. No hassle. No sorting. They do that for you at the center. All you have to do is make sure you put your recyclables in that tote and bring it to the curb. Here's a quick FAQ if you're looking for a list of curbside recyclables. Recycling is easy. It's so mainstream. Some might even say too easy and too mainstream.
Well, I've got some ideas that will help you go to the next level.
Ok, you've done the curbside recycling. You want to know what the next step is; what other more challenging ways to recycle are out there. Have you thought about actually going to the landfill? Oh, man. They'll recycle anything there! Have an old mattress? They've got you covered. Did you just get a new electrically efficient refrigerator? Recycling centers will take that old broken thing off your hands.
Or! If you have rechargeable batteries, old ink cartridges, or old cell phones, you can drive out to Best Buy, Staples, Office Max, or many other big box stores and drop them off. Curbside recycling doesn't usually accept these items, so it's great that these companies have stepped up and will recycle them for you. (Just remember to shop locally, when you can!)
The next level of recycling would be, naturally, to recycle your own urine.
This guy is asking his entire family to "donate" for his compost pile.
Okay, you're saying. I'm pretty hardcore. I've been recycling my urine for years, now. There's got to be a way for me to recycle to the maximum! There is. Have you considered recycling...yourself?
Think about it. There is nothing more extreme than offering up your body. When you die, you have many options on how your body will be...ahem...thrown away. But, the bottom line is, your body will be recycled no matter what you decide to do with it. Burned, buried or BBQ'd, your body will decompose and transfer its nutrients to the environment, offering a perfect opportunity for you to reach that most extreme recycling level.
When looking at sources for water, it's often easy to overlook exactly how much water falls on our heads, especially in our region. Collecting rainwater is one of the easiest ways to turn a liability into an asset.
Watering your flower garden, landscape trees (NOT recommended for vegetable gardens), or houseplants
Washing your car, driveway, sidewalk, or deck
Flushing your toilet.
There is a debate on whether rooftop collected rainwater is potable or not, so use your best judgement. If you are using "composite" (or tar, fiberglass, asphalt) for your rooftop, then it's really not all that safe. If your shingles are made of these materials, there is too much petroleum residue for it to be considered "potable." Run a comparison to your tap if you want to be sure. There's a local water testing facility in Brainerd that will run the same tests that municipalities are required to request.
Things to consider when planning your rain catchment system:
Permits or permission as needed (from your landlord, local government, or neighbors)
Infrastructure like gutters and downspouts as necessary
World Water Day is March 22. This is a day where we take a closer look at our water consumption habits and see what we can do to increase reduction (that makes sense, right?) However, looking at my driveway currently covered under a foot of snow and ice, I can make a general statement that we are nowhere near using up our allotment of earthly freshwater (less than 1% of all water, btw). Therefore, I declare that we must drink and use up as much water as we can.
In fact, since there is an abundance of water (an...overflow, if you will) I decided to see in what ways I could increase my family's water consumption. Drinking more water equals less water (snow up here) that will fall on my driveway. Here's a couple ideas that could help. Feel free to use them, too!
1) Right now, my teenage daughters are limited to ten minute showers. I could increase that usage to 30 minutes. We definitely want to stay away from those low-flow shower heads that average only 1.5 gallons per minute. The average shower head runs at 2.5 gallons per minute, so that would equal about 70 gallons each shower.
Now, that's a good start but I think we can do better.
2) Looking at the low cost of tap water, I figure we need to start drinking from bottles exclusively. I stumbled on the answer to the question: How can I get my family to drink more water more expensively. There is a company that offers up a "bottled water of the month" where you can buy by the case.
Since I have eight people in my family, and each person will drink 1.9 liters per day, I'm thinking that to fill our needs for drinking and cooking, we'd need 38 cases for the month (and, of course, we'd prefer sparkling!) The monthly rate is $30 per case per month which totals approx. $1,140 a month before shipping. That's a huge difference when considering the miniscule costs of using mere tap water. At a rate of $.0025 per gallon, we'd spend a measly thirty cents a month if we drank only tap water.
So! Not only can we drink bottled water from the Scottish highlands (shipped to us across the ocean), but we also get to pay much more than regular old tap water.
This is a fantastic opportunity for me, I realize. But, I think there's more I can do to increase my water usage.
3) I know! I've heard of people suggesting to harvest rain water to water their lawns and flowerbeds. That's rubbish. I've got my very own sprinklers and water hoses that can do the trick. I bet if I left my sprinkler on all night (and all day and all night, etc.) I'd have the most lush, the most soft, and the most walkable lawn in south Brainerd.
Never mind that collecting rain water through rain barrels and high berms on your property will essentially negate the need for extra water for your lawn and garden. We've got water to use up, remember!
With these methods in place, I think we can clean off my driveway. All it will take is a concerted effort by everyone. So, please ignore the pleas from those leftist hippies who argue that there is only so much drinkable water on the planet. Ignore the gripping pictures of those children that must lug filthy unfiltered water for hours instead of going to school.Now, just remember that if we all do our part, there will be clean driveways for everyone. No more will we have to suffer through a winter (and snow!), even this far north.
Elliot Coleman has been an advocate for organic agriculture since before it was cool. A long time market gardener, author, and speaker, Coleman is a student of agricultural history, and references many agricultural resources prior to the 1940's. Not that he advocates we should revert to the way our ancestors farmed, but that we not loose the intuitive knowledge gleaned through countless generations of farmers when we apply modern techniques and tools. Coleman's books are largely scalable, providing valuable information to home and market gardeners alike.
Coleman's first book, The New Organic Gardener was first copyrighted in 1989 and revised and expanded in 1995. In the forward Paul Hawken states, "Simply stated, I know of no other person... who can produce better results on the land with an economy of effort and means. He has transformed gardening from a task to a craft..." From land analysis and observation to soil fertility and crop rotation, Coleman walks one through the gardening process with practical skills and knowledge that are applicable at almost any production level. The chapter of Farm Generated Fertility explores methods to increase productivity and self reliance. For those who want to take gardening to the next level, chapters like The Movable Feast, The Winter Garden, and Marketing Strategy provide valuable information on season extension and adding value to your product. This should be the Bible of any gardener who wants to sustainable grow their own food or food for the local community.
This is Eliot Coleman's second book and focuses on all aspects of season extension, from cold frames and high tunnels to the "underground garden", the root cellar. This book is also full of practical knowledge and one I would recommend if you only plan on reading one of Coleman's books. He covers much of what is covered in The New Organic Gardener, but with a focus on feeding yourself year around.
I would recommend this book to market gardeners or serious growers that want to expand their growing season and marketing possibilities. Expanded techniques on movable greenhouses and related crop rotations explore techniques to extend the growing season and realize maximum profit by growing crops outside of the typical season. The last chapter, Deep Organic Farming and the Small Farm, delves into the psychology behind true organic agriculture. He describes how, in 1965 when he began to farm, the sides stacked up with the defenders of chemical agriculture " claiming that organic farming was foolish and impossible, were the USDA with it's scientists and enormous budget, all of the land grant universities and smaller schools of agriculture, the extension service, every feed and seed store in the country, and of course the enormous money and power of the massive agrochemical industry. On our side... were a few old-time large scale farmers who had never bought into chemicals in the first place and a bunch of idealistic young newcomers who wanted to farm and who found the concepts of organic agriculture in line with their thinking". He goes on to explain the growth of the organic industry, despite the opposition. Finally he explains why organic production cannot be canned into a set of "standards", and that "real food comes from local small farms run by deep-organic farmers" and why we need to ask the right questions when it comes to organic food production.
At the end of January, we hosted our 7th Annual Back to Basics event at the Pine River-Backus High School. One of the vendors was Abbie Schramm, owner of B&B Goat Goods of Pine River, MN. She was gracious enough to spend some of her busy day with me to answer a few questions.
She covered the workshops she presented and offered the inspirational advice of what to do when you're ready to move towards a more sustainable life.
Here's a short clip of the interview:
If you want to take a look at Abbie's store, just go to http://www.bbgoatgoods.com/