Seeds

I got my Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog this week.  I have to admit I’m pretty excited to look at it.  It sort of reminds me of looking at the JcPenny catalog around Christmastime as a child.  The anticipation is pretty fun.  You circle a bunch of things you wouldn’t mind having, but you’re not sure what you’ll get.  (Of course, I do the choosing these days, but I usually order closer to the spring.)

Last year I had Chris build me a couple salad tables.  Unfortunately, I failed miserably with them.  The tables were great - built exactly to specs - but I had a hard time remembering to water them.  They require about a gallon per table per day, and I’m awful when it comes to watering my plants.  I try to water in the morning or the evening, and that’s a pretty busy time when you’ve got a family to manage.  It actually worked out since we ordered a full share CSA and I had planted salad greens in the ground in my traditional garden.  We had more than enough greens in our household!

This year I want to get the salad tables another try.  I’m thinking we’ll just do a half share of the CSA this time.  Chris and I were never big fans of cooking greens (collards, turnip, spinach), but I did figure out a way to cook them that was enjoyable for both of us.  Despite that, we ended up tossing more than I’d like to admit.   Plus, I’ll hopefully figure out a way to schedule in some watering time.  It only takes about a minute to water both tables, but the hardest part is making myself do it.

Do you have a garden? What’s your daily garden maintenance routine? Any tips that you can share with me?

That Was the Point

This morning I noticed that a couple of the broccoli plants in my garden were bolting.  I had completely neglected them while outside, focusing primarily on the peas and hoeing the garden.  Plus we got our first CSA box from Real Food Farms so our household veggies needs had been met.  When I went outside to cut the stalk, I felt overwhelmed.  How was I ever going to cook and serve all these vegetables? But then I remembered, the whole point to growing a garden and subscribing to a CSA was to put away organic, healthy foods for the fall and winter.  I spent the rest of my morning blanching broccoli and flash freezing it in the deep freezer.  After I got back from lunch with the girls, I tossed the frozen broccoli in freezer bags and put it in the deep freezer.  I have the feeling future Kelly will be rather grateful.  Hopefully she doesn’t mind the yellow parts that were a day or so away from blooming.

broccoli

10 Tips on Reducing Water Usage

Categories: green living | 2 Comments

Nashville is under a mandatory water conservation after the floods.  They only have 1 functioning water treatment plant (normally 2), and it can only generate 3/4 of the city’s typical needs when running at maximum power.  I thought I’d pass along a few tips to reducing your water usage.  Some of these we implement every day; some we learned during the whole sewer line fiasco.  And a few our new ones we discovered during this time.

1. Navy showers. Turn the water on to get wet. Turn it off to suds up.  Turn it back on to rinse. You can get away with very little water and still get clean, which is essential if you’ve been helping your friend clean her ruined house.

2. Train your hair to get washed every other day.   Believe it or not, you can teach your scalp to not produce as much oil.  The first week or so, your hair is pretty icky on the non-washing days, but then it gets use to it.  The key is to not get your hair wet in between.

3. Don’t run the shower full blast while you’re waiting for the water to get warm. It might take a little while for the little trickle to warm up, but that water is just fine for brushing teeth or filling water pitchers.

4. Bathe in succession.  I take my shower. Chris takes his shower. Cecilia gets her bath (in minimal water).  That way the water has already been heated up, and we don’t have to waste more waiting for it to heat up again.

5. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.  A commonly loved saying by many conservationists.  For me, it’s a hard one to overcome because my parents would charge me a dime every time they found an unflushed toilet when I was a child.  However, given the mandate, I think it’s okay to defy them.

6. Reuse cooking water.  If you cook noodles for lunch, reuse to water to cook your potatoes for dinner.  Starchy water is starchy water. Or save the water you used to rinse your fruit to water your plants or wash your dishes.

7. Collect rain in a rain barrel for watering plants.

8. Use hand sanitizer instead of washing your hands.  I’m a big advocate of washing hands. Don’t get me wrong.  But when you have a toddler, 3 dogs, and 4 cats around.  There’s lots of hand washing.  Sometimes substituting hand sanitizer (with alcohol) is okay.

9. Run very full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine.  I line dry my clothes so I don’t have to worry about overpacking the dryer.

10. Hand wash big pots and pan by filling your sink with little water.  It’s amazing how much space large items can take up in the dishwasher.  I usually stick them in there because I’m lazy, but when I can only run the dishwasher every few days, I’d rather stick three bowls in than one pan.  Especially if hand washing the pan takes very little time and effort.  Make sure you save up the big items and wash them all at once though.  Don’t wash them individually, and fill that basin.  It’s surprising how much water is wasted by doing it one at a time.

Scrub A Dub Dub

Oh man. I hate letting things go to waste, especially stuff that holds so much potential.  I’m usually pretty good about throwing leftovers into the freezer before they go bad, but there’s some stuff that gets ignored, such as baking supplies.  If found a use for stale whole wheat flour - Canine Crack Cookies.  Luckily Lucy doesn’t mind stale flour as long as it’s baked with chicken broth.  But a couple weeks ago, I realized my rolled and quick oatmeal was stale.  Thankfully I had just read an article in a magazine on making homemade body scrub with stuff found around the house.

Coffee Oatmeal Body Scrub

  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 1/4-1/2 cup coffee grounds
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • fresh grated ginger
  • 2-4 tbsp honey
  • olive oil (not extra virgin)

Make sure to chop the oatmeal in a food processor (so it won’t clog your drain).  Add honey & oil to desired consistency.  Some people like it oily.  Personally I like it a bit thicker.  It will get watered down in the shower, and I don’t want too much oil on the bottom of my tub!  After mixing it up, I store the batch in a Ball jar in the fridge and put a little in a Tupperware container in the shower.

Just a warning, you might smell a little like coffee.  In my opinion, that’s a good thing! Also, you’ll probably have coffee granules around your shower.  Happy Scrubbing!
body scrub

Composting

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When trying to come up with a post topic, someone suggested a “green” post.  I’m more than happy to oblige because my blog seems to be going more and more towards a mommy blog.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love being a mom, especially Cecilia’s mom, but it feels like everything has become mommy related.  One of my goals as a mom is to maintain a sense of self.  I think this is good for me and good for Cecilia.  But enough of that.  This is supposed to be about the environment.

For several years, I have dreamed of having a compost pile.  Unfortunately, apartment living isn’t exactly suitable for rotting plants and decomposing egg shells.  Just a few weeks after we moved into our house, I started researching composting and planning my pile.A pile should be in a well drained location.  (You don’t want standing water. Yuck.)   Ideally, it shouldn’t be in direct sunlight or exposed to wind.  The idea is to let the bacteria and enzymes regulate their own temperature.  Also, most folks like to have it away from their house or play area.  Technically, it shouldn’t smell (or smell like dirt), but why risk it?  Just make sure that it’s not so far away that it’s inconvenient.

I chose to enclose my pile.  It doesn’t have to be done, but I wanted to keep it limited to a specific space and didn’t want unwanted pests dragging food scraps around my yard.  There are several containers on the market, or you can make your own.  One day while driving around, Chris and I stumbled on some abandoned old pallets behind his office building.  I had him grab a few on his way home one day.  With some long screws and a couple brackets, he rigged up an enclosure for me.  I know it’s not the most beautiful container, but it works.  Plus we recycled the pallets!

Compost pile

There are two kinds of composting - active and passive.  Active composting requires more work, as the name implies, and requires maintaining the right balance of browns and greens (or carbons and nitrogens, whatever you prefer to call it).  (Here’s a list of what is considered brown, green, or an activator.) You have to frequently turn your pile, monitor your temperature, and sometimes add activators (like manure).  When I started composting, I had high aspirations of an active pile.  I had the right combination of brown to green (basically 1.5:1).  I turned my pile weekly and watched the moisture levels.  But then I got knocked up.  (It always comes back to that, huh?) Then winter came (literally, not metaphorically) and traipsing out to the backyard got to be a real chore.  (I told you a convenient location was important, and it is in a convenient location.)  My compost pile quickly became a passive pile.

In The Beginning

But wait, that’s okay. For me, the point was to reduce waste in our sewer system and landfills.  Active piles produce more (free) gardening compost, but if it’s so overwhelming that I abandon ship, it’s not helping my garden or the environment.  Nowadays, it gets all my kitchen scraps as long as they contain no animal products. Compost bins are vegan after all.  (Chris gave me this awesome kitchen compost pail and biodegradable bags for Mother’s day.  I guess he was tired of staring at the scraps sitting a colander in the sink.) When I dump the pail, I try to sweep up any dead clumps of grass that are laying in the yard from the last mow and put those in there too.  It’s not maintaining the perfect ratio of browns and greens, but it’s not bad.  If I really wanted to, I could attach the grass catcher to the mower, dry out the grass for a day, and then place it in the bin.  I keep telling myself that I’m going to do it, but when it’s time to mow, I get lazy.

grass clumps

Early this spring, I was happy to discover a nice supply of sweet, wormy, free compost under the decomposing top layer.  I spread it around my tomato and pepper plants.  Admittedly, I was a little worried that it might kill them, but weeks later, they’re still thriving.  I think it’s safe to say, my passive pile is a success!

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ANTS!

Categories: home , green living | 3 Comments

I know I’m always preaching going green and using earth-friendly methods.  However, I do believe that there is a time and place for conventional ways.  For example, last spring I battled a small army of black ants that were trying to invade my home.  In addition to the usual storing and covering of food, I drew chalk lines, dusted my window sills with pepper, and sprayed my counters with vinegar.  We still had a few ants, but I managed to keep them at bay.  This spring, when the ants returned, I tried the same methods, but they didn’t have the same results. I even tried tracking them to their nest in order to pour boiling water on it, but it didn’t work.  Ants seemed to be sneaking their way into every room of the house.  When I found ants crawling across Cecilia’s changing table several days in a row, I knew it was time to take action.  You can mess with my raisins, but you better not mess with my baby.

I invested in several anti-ant remedies - stakes, sprays, traps.  I even mixed borax with pancake syrup.  The repellents worked, but they seemed to pick up and move somewhere else nearby.  Frustrated, I started to track their path again when I noticed that they were flocking towards the grill cover yesterday.  I thought they had found a source of food, and I thought that would be a good place to spray.  Little did I know that grill cover had become their new home.

Despite suffering from a miserable case of hay fever, fiery hatred for the ants started to bubble inside of me as I grabbed a bottle of bug killer.  I sprayed and sprayed, but every time I unfolded more of the cover, I found more ants.  When the first bottle ran out, I grabbed a second bottle.  When that was empty, I grabbed a can of Raid for hornets that was originally purchased to kill a nest of carpenter bees in our carport.  (They’re still there, but I weighed the risk.  Outdoor bees with no stingers vs. ants that bite and enter my house.)  After all was said and done, my arm was sore from holding down the triggers on the bottles, and there was carnage all around.  It was like a Arthropod Hiroshima.

I won’t lie; it felt good.  I won the battle.  Though there were a few survivors, I killed thousands upon thousands of them.  I made no exceptions.  All ants were fair game.  All that the remaining ants could do was run away.  That is until I pulled out an old bottle of Windex with ammonia.

Warning - These pictures give me the heebee-geebees, and I was there.  

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Give Me Your Tired and Weary (glass bottles)

Categories: green living | 1 Comment

When I was a kid, my Aunt Berryl had this cool bottle with a stopper in her kitchen for dish soap.  I’m not sure what I specifically liked about it (a cool color, maybe?), but I’ve wanted to recreate it ever since.  When my plastic Method dish soap bottle poo-poo’ed out on me with plenty of liquid still inside, I seized the opportunity! What a fun way to spice up your kitchen and recycle glass at the same time.  All you need is a pour spout!

I used one of Chris’s old whiskey bottles.  It’s heavy and thick so I don’t have worry about it breaking when the garbage disposal vibrates the entire counter.  Also, I was hoping it would inspire Chris to do the dishes without me asking.  Surprisingly, I think it’s working!

whiskey-soap

A tip - You may want to add a little water to your dish liquid to get the desired viscosity.  If it’s thick as molasses, you’re going to curse it (and me) every time you wash the dishes, like more than usual dish washing curses.

Blame It on the Rain

Categories: green living | 1 Comment

It’s Earth Day, and I have a confession.  I waste water.  I waste a lot of water.  Every night I take a long, hot shower.  It’s one of the few places that I can be completely alone.  No baby.  No dog.  No husband.  It’s where I get my daily “me time”, and I’m not keen on cutting it short.  I realize that shorter showers are better for the environment.  I acknowledge that they would reduce my utility bill.  I even know that they would be better for my skin. I just can’t do it.  I need that time for my sanity.

In order to compensate for my long shower addiction, I’ve taken a couple steps to conserve in other ways.  First, I installed the low-flow shower head.  Second, I don’t water my lawn.  This really isn’t an effort to save as much as it is apathy.  The yard is mostly weeds with a few small patches of grass anyway.  Third, I bought a rain barrel.  Technically, Chris bought me the rain barrel.  He brought it home one day as a surprise.  He definitely knows how to get me all hot and bothered!

A rain barrel is exactly what it sounds like - it catches rain. We attached ours, like most folks, to one of our gutters. After a good rain, it fills up to the brim, and the “caught” rain water can be used to water the plants in the yard or used to rinse off muddy gardening tools. Many commercially purchased rain barrels are often recycled food storage barrels. (Yea for recycling!) Ours emanates a jalapeno pepper smell.

I realize that I’m not conserving as much water in my barrel as I’m using in my long showers, but it’s a good place to start.

Rain Barrel

Eco-Friendly Shopping

Categories: green living | 1 Comment

I wrote last week that I was going to control my shopping addiction by making only earth friendly purchases.  So far it’s been a success.  I’ve managed to go to Target and Whole Foods without buying unnecessary items.  Of course, Whole Foods has a plethora of organic and natural goods, but their high price point kept me from impulse shopping.  I did place one item in my cart, a reusable bag.  I take them every where I go, and I’m a sucker for a real cute one.  And for only $1.99, I just had to take it home with me.

reuseable-bag

Employee of the Month

Categories: green living | 4 Comments

marigolds

I’ve never been a big fan of marigolds.  I think they smell kind of funny, and I don’t really care for the color yellow.  However, marigolds will always have a place in my garden.  These amazing little flowers repel a  slew of bugs that can harm your vegetable and fruit crops, such as aphids, root nematodes, and squash beetles.  They also attract several varieties of insects that are helpful to gardens.  Since pest control is one the hardest aspects of organic gardening, I truly appreciate all the hard work that the marigolds do, and for that, they are a beautiful addition to my vegetable patch, despite their yellow hue.

For a list of additional plants that help your garden thrive, visit this site.