Thursday, September 29, 2011

Minivan Mama

Check out my post at The Green Phone Booth in which I dish about the good, bad and ugly in trading a minivan for a mini hybrid.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monsanto + National Parks = BFF

We visited Yosemite National Park last weekend and I was surprised to see this:

The blackberries were sprayed with RoundUp Pro Max right on the valley floor.  This helpful signed warned, in all caps, DO NOT EAT BERRIES.  I'm sure the park's animals can read that sign and heed the warning as well.

Is nothing sacred?  I understand that maybe, for some reason, the park does not want the berries there.  Perhaps they are worried about them attracting bears to heavily trafficked areas.  We were told that volunteers pick apples off the apple trees planted there for that reason.  But volunteers cannot dig out the blackberries?  Perhaps the blackberries edge out other important plant species.  But seriously, can't we do something more than squirt them with pesticide and hope for the best?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Free Money!

No joke and no gimmick!  I guarantee you that if you do the following, you too will end up with free money.  Here's how I did it:

Two summers ago, in a jumble of national park vacations and preparation for a new school year, we moved into a new home.  Untouched boxes went from the old garage into the new garage.  The kitchen was unpacked willy nilly.  Glasses seemed like they should go here, my waffle maker here and, um, the food, I guess over there.  The bathroom had no medicine cabinet so everything was just stuffed under the sink.  Good enough.

Until now.  The garden is winding down.  The holidays have not ramped up.  And the kids are back at school.  That means it is time to declutter and organize.

I've been slowly working my way through the house starting with the garage.  At this point, I've only completed the garage, the family room, tackled a third of the kitchen and jumped ahead to a bathroom.  In doing so, I've uncovered three very cool vintage rings I bought as a student abroad 20 years ago, 3 bottles of shampoo, two bags of cat treats, more dried beans than we could eat all year (though we'll now give it a go!), mixes for my SodaStream and a ton of other awesomeness.

So now you get it about the free money.  It's not that I found money.  Well, actually I found an old emergency bag with a little cash in it, but I'm also saving bundles.  After uncovering those three bottles of shampoo, I won't be buying any for half a year.  Those rings will keep me off of Etsy but provide the same thrill.  Canisters and a trendy monogrammed tote (yes, with my initials) will keep me organized.  And we'll be swimming in bean soup and stew all winter.

I've saved money, natural resources, donated 8 bags to the thrift store and Freecycled other things.  I feel lighter, happier, less stressed and have a sense of accomplishment.  All without spending a dime.

Here are my favorite "free money" tips:

1) Just because it is cute or "green" doesn't mean you should keep it.  If you've not used it in the last year to two, ask yourself if you really need it cluttering up your home - even if you technically have room.  Some things that hold special memories may get a pass here.

2) As you organize and declutter, take stock of what you have and use it up.  I uncovered a box of Borax and a box of washing soda when I used to mix my own dishwasher detergent.  My husband hated the smell so I switched to 7th Generation. I just ran out of laundry detergent, though, so a mixture of the two will see me through the next month or so and, eventually, clear some room on a shelf.  And let's just say that if you have any good recipes for dried beans, send 'em over.

3) Keep donation, recycle and trash bags or boxes with you as you work.  Otherwise, it is tempting to toss everything into the trash.

4) Never get rid of a basket, bin or canister!!  I keep a laundry basket in the garage where I put empty containers until needed.  When I go on an organizing binge, they are waiting to cradle toy cars, oatmeal toppings or reusable sandwich bags.

5) Speaking of containers, not only should you not get rid of them but you should keep an eye out for attractive ones at thrift stores, garage sales and so on.

6) Work with what you've got.  Accept that some shelves cannot be moved, some containers aren't as pretty as others or just won't fit.  Put on your thinking cap and you'll still come out way ahead.

7) Donate and reuse as much as possible.  So little is landfill worthy these days.  "Goody bag" toys and such can be rounded up and given to doctors, therapists and dentists for their "treasure boxes."  Even if a thrift store won't take it, odds are that someone will if you post on Freecycle or the free section of Craigslist or put it on the street with a FREE sign.

8) Stay organized about organizing.  On Pinterest, I came across a monthly schedule for deep cleaning.  It suggested cleaning baseboards one month, windows another, and so on.  It is not such a bad idea, instead, to tackle one room a month for organizing, decluttering and cleaning.  Pinterest also has lots of great ideas on repurposing for the purpose of organizing.  Things like using a magazine holder to stack cans or aluminum foil boxes.

9) Take lots of breaks but don't let it fall of our your radar.  Some weeks, I conquer only one shelf or cabinet but I am plodding along and leaving a wake of organization in my path.

10) Think of how you will use up all the treasures you've uncovered and enjoy.

** Linking to Thrifty Thursday at Thrifty and Fabuless, Seasonal Celebration Sunday, and

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Joining the Dark Side

Alas, 'tis true.  I've turned - from focusing on the sun-baked bowl of my back yard to the dappled, partial shade zone that is the side yard.  Previously drenched in ivy, we've removed that - leaving behind some camellias and wild blackberries.  One area - big enough for two trees - is fairly sunny.  Not hot mind you, but a steady-ish stream of sun.  The hydrangeas that used to occupy this zone were often sunburnt and wilting. The rest is partial shade.

What is an edible gardening, wildlife attracting jedi to do?

I plan to put in a couple of fruit trees in the sunnier spot.  One persimmon, which I've read are shade tolerant and one what?  According to this month's Urban Farm, pears and apples can produce in a half day of sun but I've already got two of each up on the sunny back 40.  What about a plum?  Urban Farm says maybe.

For shrubs, I intend to put in some currants and maybe an elderberry.  I'll also cultivate the berries that remain and might put in a few oakleaf hydrangeas - just because I love them! But it would be nice to have something busy, something that the birds can hang out in and something pretty as our family room and living room windows look out on this planting strip.

Ground level might have some strawberries, yarrow, and what?!?

I'm looking for perennials mostly, stuff with not a lot of upkeep but that is useful for either wildlife habitat, attractive or productive in an edible sense.  I'm live in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Any ideas for this newly-minted shade trooper?

* I am linking to Garden Tuesdays  and Homestead Barn Hop for this post.

* For more galactic adventures, like me on Facebook.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall Is Not a Four Letter Word

Okay, maybe it is technically a four letter word, but you know what I mean.  Fall comes just in time every year.

Just when you start to get a bit tired of preserving this and that, when tomatoes and summer squash start to be a little too much, when stone fruit no longer holds its allure, when the garden begins to look cluttered and the bobbing flowers a bit garish - then it is gone.

Clearing away the dead squash plants, tugging out cosmos and poppies feels liberating.  The dying tomato and calendula plants are just as pretty as they were when they burst from the moist dirt in spring.

The fall garden is beginning to stretch its legs. Just a little something to nibble on but not enough to prevent holiday planning and knitting sessions.

Welcome fall!! My favorite season of all!

* I am linking to the Homestead Barn Hop and Garden Tuesday for this post.

** Please join my Facebook Page for non-four letter words in between posts!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who You Calling Garbage?

I remember a day when old tires and bottle caps were trash.  Those days are long gone as repurposing has hit the mainstream.  Check out these fun repurpose ideas:

Tire Flower Pots:

Bottle Cap Table (laid in concrete):

Clothespin Memo Board on Old Metal Washboard: 

Teapot and Teaspoon Robot Clock:

What a fun way to reduce one's footprint in style!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Second to None

The garden is winding down.  Notice I said winding down - not done.  I'm still eeking a few squash from the mildewed plants and still harvest dozens - though not buckets - of tomatoes every day.  The apples are done and the Asian pear throws off a fruit or two a week.  We've moved from frantically preserving to thoroughly enjoying.

Still, as I spend less time in the garden, I cannot help but turn inward.  Not in a philosophical sense but in a decorative sense!  I hit the Alameda Antique Faire two weekends ago with one thing in mind - cozying up the family room.  I didn't find what I was looking for but I came home with a mostly full wallet, a crowded camera memory card and a few fun things for the munchkins - including a light up human body model.  Try finding that at your big box toy store!

I also saw lots of things I wanted or would never want but was happy that someone would want so that they didn't end up as landfill paddings.

 So sweet! 

These made me smile.

How cute would this be to store shoes in the entry way or blankets in the family room?

This is the most fun seat I've ever seen but I think it might clash with my decor!

Do you antique?  Visit local swap meets or antique fairs?  Do you love owning something with a past?


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Light At the End of the Tunnel

All spring and summer, I've reveled in the garden.  I've poked seeds into the grown.  Flitted between the flowers, dead-heading here and there.  Harvested a random tomato, crookneck squash or Asian pear.  Propped up a heavy branch.  15 minutes here and there of work.  Hours of relaxation.

Then August hit - like a sledgehammer.  Everything was ready at once.  Tomatoes.  Apples.  Summer squash.  Pears.  Peppers.

As we ease into summer, the garden is beginning to wind down.  The smiling yellow faces of sunflowers have faded, seeds popping through and beckoning squirrels from all over the neighborhood.  I've chopped them down bit by bit, to dry out unmolested in the garage, and become chicken feed this winter.

One of my tomato plants bit the dust and the other five have begun to slow down, leaves drying out.  In California, some of my tomatoes will continue to produce bit by bit through November.  But they begin spitting out the tomatoes a couple at a time rather than unleashing them in a red avalanche.

Powdery mildew spots the leaves of my dutiful crookneck squash.  The hardy yellow offerings shrink in size and taper off.

My pollinator garden was once a wave of color, teeming with bees and finches.  Now, dried plants loll about amongst the late summer favorites - black eyed susans and orange cosmos.  Nasturtium seeds are ripe for the plucking and calendula has given up the ghost to powdery mildew.

Even as I am sad to see the summer - with its endless bounty - wane, I am grateful for quieter days.  For cover crop and for sheet mulch.  For fewer flies around the chicken coop and for time to sketch out the plan for next summer's garden.  For knitting and decorating for holidays.  And I am grateful for the light at the end of the preservation tunnel.

I'm linking this post to Tuesday Garden Party and Harvest Mondays


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