Posts Tagged ‘Green Living’

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My Weight in Carbon

December 23, 2010

Well, that didn’t take long – I have saved my weight in carbon – actually more than my weight – I’ve saved over 150 lbs of carbon by generating electricity with the solar panels. 

Next goal, the weight of my family – I estimate about 500 lbs. 

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I’m Back to the Blog and My Green Ways

December 12, 2010

Did you miss me?  Were you less inspired to do green things without my constant push in the ecofriendly direction?  You know what?  I found myself slacking without the blog as a background motivator, without that little voice saying “You could post about this” or “You’ll have to fess up that you didn’t bring a bag to the grocery store.”  But I wasn’t a total slacker and it was interesting to see what types of behaviors have become second nature.

The quick take is we recycle. DSCF8656We take our lunches to work and school in reusable containers. We have greatly reduced our use of plastic bags. We drive cars that get respectable gas mileage, try to buy fresh, local, organic, and/or fair trade whenever possible.  We put effort into trying to conserve energy. And we eat our own,or our own bees’, honey.

Where do I slack?  The reusable bags seem to be in the kitchen more than in the car (but we do reuse the grocery store bags) and the house generally has more lights on than necessary.  I bought non-recycled wrapping paper for Christmas (I just couldn’t afford the recycled stuff, nor have time to make fabric gift bags) and not only did I accidentally buy a set of 3 little lit trees with non-LED lights (the horror!) – they are in the back yard, lit (and look cute, actually).  I figure this is probably offset a little bit by

THE SOLAR PANELS!

It took a year and a 1/2, but we have them and they are turned on (just in time for the darkest days of winter).  We have saved about 33lbs of carbon from the atmosphere (the readout on the inverters also tells how many kilowatt hours the panels have made that day and cumulatively – but lbs. of carbon is less abstract for me – I wonder how long before we’ve saved my body weight in carbon – or a ton? (my body weight does not equal a ton)…. you know you’ll read it here).

It’s nice to be back to the blog. 

 

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Holidays

November 8, 2009

christmas tour sign

I love the holidays – from November 1 until January 2 I am in serious Holiday Mode.  So I wanted to post about the holidays, but I can’t quite decide which aspect to focus on – there are so many directions I can go – so this will be the preview post with others to follow.

I want to tell you about Thanksgiving and how we try to add a bit of greenness where we can.  [With an acknowledgement that overall we fail miserably at it.]

I want to tell you about my decorating plans and accomplishments.  My efforts to reduce energy consumption and rein in my desire to buy every cute snowman I see.

And I want to tell you about the gifts I’m planning – except that post will probably have to wait until after the gifts are given so as not to ruin any surprises.  Oh, and wrapping those gifts.  Don’t get excited, I’m not talking about anything terribly creative here (besides – what do you do with a bunch of cute handmade gift bags after the gifts are out of them?).

The overall theme for my holiday season this year seems to be heading toward quality over quantity – meaningful over money – and resource conservative over resource demanding.  I’ll try to expand on those themes – and in the process it may help me stay focused on them and less likely to revert to my less-green consumptive habits.

Oh and baking.  Holiday baking and sweet treat making – the kids and I hit the kitchen.  Can we do it in a relatively healthful manner? You be the judge.

Meanwhile, Retro Housewife Goes Green is devoting her posts to greening up the holidays – so take a peek over there.

So the holiday season has begun!  Let’s enjoy it.

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What’s been put up?

October 31, 2009

 

picklings

My friend over at Fessenden Farmstead had a piece on preserving fruits and vegetables, which made me think I hadn’t talked about what has been put up at our house.  I’ve been derelict on that because I’m not the putter-upper – my husband is (and I am ever so grateful). 

I suppose that isn’t totally true (it’s true that I’m grateful, not true that I’m not a putter-upper).  I am the runner of the dehydrator – and in fact, I intend to dry parsley today.  I am also the freezer of fruit.  This year it was only blackberries (wild) – it is also often peaches, but apparently peaches are biannual and this is their off year I guess (plus a frost came and killed the blossoms last spring… that couldn’t have helped). 

Peaches look fine frozen, but as soon as they thaw they start turning brown.  Last year I “solved” that problem with camouflage – I froze spiced peaches – the spices (heavy on the cinnamon – but I can’t remember what else) already colored the peaches brown so the discoloration wasn’t as off-putting this year when I used them (great in my oatmeal).  Next year I’m also intending to freeze in single serving sizes.  That should do the trick.

Berries are easy – wash, dry, freeze on a cookie sheet, dump in a container or bag.

I dry tomatoes – and have been enjoying them in many things already.  Salads and sautéed with onion and polenta being my two favorites.

My husband is the tomato freezer.  We stopped canning and went to freezing, primarily because I didn’t like the lemony taste of the tomatoes when they were canned.  I’m sure we could have adjusted his approach, but freezing is so darn easy (we won’t discuss the power usage of the freezer – although a full freezer is more efficient than a 1/2 empty one – and the tomatoes really help keep ours full).

My husband pickles also – and they are soo good.  Pickled green beans are to die for!  And pickled asparagus, and pickled banana peppers – – and pickled cucumbers too.  He most recently made green tomato relish – I haven’t had a chance to dip into that yet.  I made green tomato relish once in my single years – and my face got blotchy and puffy – the doctor said it was probably the steam off the green tomatoes causing an allergic reaction.  I now avoid the kitchen on green tomato cooking day.

So the pantry is well stocked with the fruits (and veggies) of the garden.  All set for the Dark Days Challenge.  That’s the once a week meal made of SOLE food – sustainable, organic, local, and ethical. For more information you can click the badge in the side bar.  Sign up too!

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Busy as a bee

September 29, 2009

I have been crazy busy – as last weekend approached my husband and I realized we really needed a 5 day weekend – one for the cross-country meet and garage-cleaning we had planned for Saturday, one for the Art’s Fair on Sunday, one to clean the house and do laundry, one for catching up on work such as grading and preparing classes, and one just to vegetate.  Unfortunately, we only had the two days.

All in all in was a fine weekend though. Friday was the high school carnival.  It is their big fundraiser for the year and involves games for the young kids, various foods in the cafeteria served at food booths built by each high school class, a Chinese auction (you put tickets in the cans of items you want and the drawn ticket wins the item) and a live auction followed by lip sync skits by each class.  I tried to win a print done by a good friend that included my father’s handwriting – but someone else (a very good person herself) won it.  I’m told I’ll be getting a copy as an early Christmas/Birthday present anyway – – yeah!

This year’s theme for carnival was Delavan CSI – What was Carnival like from the 50’s – 80’s.  Each class had a decade.  I was asked to be a lip sync judge.  They like to have a school board member, but it has to be someone without a high school student – this was my last chance for the next 8 years.  It was fun, and the seniors won – all told though I think the skits had a record number of young men dressed in drag.

On Saturday my son ran well at his race as did much of the team and my husband and I did get the garage back into shape.  Everything had been pulled away from the walls back in May when it was rehabbed and had never been fully put back together.  We needed to get it in shape so we can put the cars in when the frost hits – which really could be any time now.

On Sunday my husband and I got to go to an Art Fair – alone!  The kids didn’t want to come and they are old enough and responsible enough to stay home alone.  It was wonderful.  We spent too much money, but we got some Christmas presents for each other and family (and for at least one item we don’t even know who will get it).  We bought some art for the house. DSCF7136 Here’s one by Lou Zale.   We have  3 more of his pieces from previous years – photographs (film, not digital and not altered) with an often whimsical quality.

We also bought a glass globe for the garden and some blown glass drinking glasses for very special occasions.  For ourselves we bought pewter wine goblets – light and pretty and just waiting for a chardonnay or maybe a merlot – actually, I don’t think they are picky and any wine will taste especially yummy served in these.

DSCF7138

Yesterday was full from dawn until late.  I got to work to find a message from the elementary school; my daughter was ill.  A consultation with my husband and we decided he was in a better position to cancel his classes than I was.  So I was able to put in a full day of work.  Then I went to a friends to see her house rehab, but more importantly the babies (the recipients of the baby blankets), but more importantly than that, to take the mom out to dinner – her fourth outing sans babies in 8 weeks.

But I wasn’t done yet.  Then it was get home, kiss everyone hello and goodbye and head to a school board meeting.  It was a very long meeting.  Not at all tedious though – we had a number of important issues to hear about and deal with, so it did not feel like a waste of my time in the least, but I’m just not used to getting home at 11:00 at night.

Up this morning at 6 a.m. and off to work by 7.  My husband dropped my daughter at my office at 8:30 (she was still feeling a bit low).  I had class until 10:30 then we came home.  Frankly, I needed the break.

I was able to get some work done, and I had a chance to say hello to the bees. No honey to harvest, but the bees seem to be doing fine, as far as I can tell.  Here’s a frame of comb they made: a frame of their own design

And here’s my helper today:

beehive portrait cropped 

Speaking of honey, last week I helped my friend Bill harvest some honey.  He borrowed a hand cranked extractor (it spins the frames and the honey is pulled from the cells by centrifugal force) and I had a 5 gallon honey bucket with a filter.  It took us about 2 hours [used to say 6 – – it only took 2 hours] to extract about 6 frames of honey and bottled about 1.5 gallons.  I left with a 2 pint jar for my efforts.  Next year I hope to be able to harvest my own.

Oh, and the garden.  Our latest crop has been the sweet DSCF7137potatoes.  We grilled some with white potatoes and carrots the other day.  Good eatin’.  We still have carrots in the ground but are short on storage space.  I prefer to store them in the fridge – we haven’t had luck keeping them in the basement.  We have juiced some, and that is tasty.  Perhaps I’ll grate some for carrot cake this weekend.

Still to come are sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) and pears.  The pears seem to be ready to come in – they won’t ripen until they are off the tree.  Someone was out there recently knocking them down – a raccoon perhaps.  Still, there are enough to share.  The sunchoke crop doesn’t seem as large as past years, but I think it will suffice.

All said and done, how green has my life been of late?  The commute to work is never very green except that I drive a Ford Focus and get about 29 mpg – even with 194,000 miles.  I did break down and turn on the heat in the house this afternoon since my daughter was sick and it was 60 degrees inside and only 59 out.  It took the chill off, but now the heat is off again for as long as we can stand it.  We’re eating from the garden quite a bit, supporting the local grocery store too, so that’s good, green, and socially appropriate.  But, we’re driving to cross-country meets all over the tri-county area – all the driving is probably our worst offense.

We can’t do it all, but we do what we can.

 

 

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School Year Begins and Blogging Slows

August 21, 2009

Summer vacation is over.  My husband and I are officially  preparing for classes that begin next week, and Friday was the first day of school for both of my kids.  Does that mean our green advances are over?

No, but I do think that everyday life and the day job will interfere more with my documentation efforts.  There are just too few hours in the day or even the week to keep up with all my responsibilities on a daily  basis.  I’m afraid first priority goes to mothering, then “wife-ing” (my husband will be surprised he rates this high), then the day job (college teaching) followed closely  by school board member and president of the school’s education foundation.  Blogging and writing my column for the local paper comes after maintaining friendships, but probably before cleaning the house.  And that doesn’t even deal with maintaining the yard and garden or petting the cats.  And don’t forget the bees and llamas (although frankly I pay much more attention to the bees than the llamas, primary responsibility for which has migrated to my husband.)

For me not only is the summer is over, but so is my sabbatical.  One of the perks of a career in academia is that every 7 years you can apply for time off from university responsibilities (including teaching) to conduct a project of value to your professional development.  I spent the Spring semester learning about Environmental Psychology.  Environmental Psychology started as the intersection of Psychology and Architecture, but has now evolved to include the environment broadly defined – that is both the built (man-made) and natural environment.  I developed a course on Environmental Psych to be taught at my university as well as an area of research that I can do with the help of students.

I am looking forward to getting back into the classroom, but I will miss my days at home too.  I was remarkably busy, but my hours were my own.  Now my time is increasingly being scheduled by other people.  What does it mean for the blog?  Probably fewer and shorter posts; but I do plan to keep posting about moving my family greener and greener.

And today? I picked tomatoes and carrots and potatoes.  I was wondering how much money we save by growing a garden?  Do we break even? Save money?  We spend about $100 or less on seeds and such – do we save that much?  I suspect so – we have a heck of a lot of tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots already and we’ve barely dented the number we’ll end up with.  And they’re organic.  Someday I’ll crunch the numbers, but for today I think I’ll just enjoy my roasted potatoes and carrots (prepared by my dear husband as I type).

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No Go on the Wind Turbine

August 17, 2009

Well, we made the decision to definitely not get a wind turbine – unless a tornado takes out our trees, then we’ll reconsider.

The official word from the boss at Bauer Power is that the trees on our property would a) require a taller tower than Bauer Power typically uses, which would be more expensive, and b) cause turbulence that would be hard on the turbine and thus increase maintenance.

It wasn’t the initial cost of the turbine and tower ($25,000 – $50,000 depending upon height) that ultimately caused us to blink.  It was the maintenance – he estimates, given the wear the turbulence would cause, maintenance would be $1,000 per year.  Ouch.  That is a lot of electricity that would need to be generated, and again, given the trees, who knows if it could generate enough.  So, no wind turbine. sigh.  On the other hand, this company  up front and boldly said “skip the turbine, stick with the PV” when it would have been money in their pocket if we had gone with the hybrid system. To me, that’s a sign of their integrity.

So, the official decision this morning is to go with the PV system – the solar system, as I like to call it.  My goal for this week is to submit the application for refinancing the house. 

We hadn’t quite gotten around to refinancing yet even though mortgage rates are considerably lower than what we’ve been paying.  Turns out to be a good thing perhaps.  After refinancing, even with the additional funds added for the solar system our monthly cost will be less than it is now.  On top of that we are likely to see a $10,000 state rebate (Bauer is optimistic, I’m less so) and the 30% federal tax credit come spring.

The financing is going to be the time drag on the system.  Bauer will install in 100 days after we sign on the dotted line – but the bank has a 4 month backlog.  So it may be awhile before you see pictures of installation – but I’ll post them, don’t you worry!