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Here’s to a Healthier 2009 for the Planet

January 3rd, 2009

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, I set goals of things I want to get better at each year. I usually make financial, health and environmental goals each year (and usually my environmental and health ones are the same, what’s good for the planet is also good for me).

Last year my environmental & health goals were:
1. To eat more locally & sustainably.
2. Replace regular items with more environmentally friendly alternatives when they needed replaced.
3. Reduce the amount of toxic products used to cleaning our home.
4. Grow some of my own food.
5. Reduce the amount of garbage we produce.
6. Become more conscious of our water usage and find ways to use less in the home and in the garden.
7. Reduce the amount of electricity that we use and find ways to do without electric items.

I was able to make great steps on all of these goals. We started buying food from the local farmer’s at the farmer’s markets, we started drinking raw organic milk from a local farm, and we purchased our poultry from a local farm as well.
farmers-market1fruit-stand1
turkey-tractor
We also grew a good amount of our own food, which is as local and sustainable as it gets! We probably were able to grow about 10% of our own food this summer.
basket-of-tomatoespeppers
This year started replacing items in the house with environmentally friendly items as they needed replacing and we will continue to do that this year. We were able to reduce the amount of garbage we were producing to 2 bags a month (we’re hoping to get that down to 1 this year). We accomplished this by trying to buy items with less packaging and by recycling and composting much of our waste.
rain-barrels
We also built a rain barrel system to collect rain water for our outdoor water used. We were able to reduce our city water usage in the garden to almost 0 with this system. We also line dried our clothes this summer in our efforts to reduce our energy usage. We were also able to not use our air conditioner as much since it was a cool summer. Overall we were able to reduce our water and electric consumption by about 20% (our natural gas usage was down as well).
line-dried-laundry

This year my goals are very similar:

1. To eat more locally & sustainably, particularly learning to eat more seasonally.
2. Replace regular items with more environmentally friendly alternatives when they needed replacing, paying particular attention to personal care products.
3. Learn to make my own environmentally friendly cleaning products and to find even better green alternatives than the ones I’m using.
4. Grow even more of my own food, hopefully around 20%, use more heirloom plants in the gardens.
5. Reduce the amount of garbage we produce to 1 bag per month.
6. Reduce the amount of water and electricity that we use.

I’m already working on a few of these. I have been reading a few books about green beauty products and I am replacing our personal care items right away (more on that next week). I have been researching making my own cleaning products and I already have used a few (vinegar works even better then my non-toxic toilet bowl cleaner). We are replacing our toilet tissue with Seventh Generation Bathroom Tissue, 2-Ply Sheets, 500-Sheet Rolls (Pack of 48)and we are trying to use more rags and towels instead of paper towels.
seventh-generation-toilet-tissueseventh-generation-toilet-paper-back
This year we’re also hoping to plant a few fruit trees and vines and to build a few more raised beds so we can grow even more of our own food. We’re also going to focus on using more heirloom vegetables and plants in the gardens.
raised-beds
We’re also going to keep trying to reduce the amount of garbage we produce by continuing to buy things with less packaging, buying second hand, or not buying things at all. We are going to switch to World’s Best Cat Litter because it’s compostable (you can compost the litter itself and the cat urine, all other goodies go in the garbage). This will not only reduce the amount of garbage we produce but it is a much more environmentally friendly product than the cat litter we currently use.

So what about you? Do you make resolutions or goals for the coming year? (notice the new poll today)

Fall & Winter Watering

October 24th, 2008

We had a long hot dry summer here in Ohio, as did much of the country. I watered and watered all summer long. This fall we have still been a little low on rain so I’ve been watering to make sure all my plants go into winter as healthy as possible. Many people don’t realize that watering is still important in fall and winter. Dry air, low precipitation, little soil moisture, and fluctuating temperatures are characteristics of fall and winter in many areas of the country. There often can be little or no snow cover to provide soil moisture, particularly from October through March. Trees, shrubs, perennials and lawns can be damaged if they do not receive supplemental water.

The result of long, dry periods during fall and winter is injury or death to parts of plant root systems. Affected plants may appear perfectly normal and resume growth in the spring using stored food energy. Plants may be weakened and all or parts may die in late spring or summer when temperatures rise. Weakened plants also may be subject to insect and disease problems.

Guidelines for fall & winter watering:
* Water trees, shrubs, lawns, and perennials during prolonged dry fall and winter periods to prevent root damage that affects the health of the entire plant.
* Water only when air and soil temperatures are above 40 degrees F with no snow cover. Apply water at mid-day so it will have time to soak in before possible freezing at night.
* Established large trees have a root spread equal to or greater than the height of the tree. Apply water to the most critical part of the root zone within the dripline.


It’s a good thing I installed those rain barrels because I have plenty of free water to make sure everything is fully hydrated. Here pretty soon I am going to need to drain my rain barrels for winter, so I need to use up all the water in them. What better way than to make sure everything is watered in for the winter.

Do you water in fall & winter?

Empty Barrels

August 7th, 2008

My rain barrels are empty. We haven’t had any rain here in almost 3 weeks. So how many gallons have I used in the last 3 weeks?

Each one of these hash marks represent 1 fill of my 3 gallon watering can (and there are a few more on there now since I took this photo the other day). There are 117 hash marks x 3 gallons = 351 total gallons of rain water used. I’m sure there were a few times I forgot to notch the board so I could probably add another 20 gallons or so to that number. I’m hoping we get some rain tonight so they fill up again, if not out comes the soaker hoses & the sprinkler.

Thirsty?

July 23rd, 2008

One of the blogs I read is written by a woman in Australia. For a while now she’s been talking about the water shortages, today she didn’t have water when she tried to make her morning tea. You can read the article here.

I am an advocate of not using resources just because you have them. I grew up in South America and we didn’t get water all the time, we built a huge cistern and saved rain water for all of our water usage.

In our part of Ohio, we have plenty of water and have never had problems with shortages. I’m sure sometime in the future it will happen, but for the moment we have plenty. It always amazes me that people consume so thoughtlessly until there is a problem. We Americans probably won’t do much to curtail our water usage until we’re beyond the point of no return. I always cringe when I see sprinklers on in a rainstorm, or water from a sprinkler system running down into the storm drain. Thoughtless consumption is the American way!

What have I done personally to use less water? We just installed a rain barrel system that can hold 400 gallons of water, this will be used for gardening & car washing (more photos and info on this project to come). We also save gray water to use for gardening. I have also planted mostly drought resistant plants that do not need watering, and I let my yard get brown & crispy in the summer when it’s hot & dry.

So what are you doing to save water?

No water was wasted for the photos in this post, the glass of water was finished by yours truly and the bowl of water was used on my zucchini.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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