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Meet Charlotte Photo by Cassie

Meet Charlotte Photo by Cassie

As near as I can tell this is a Eriophora transmarina from Australia. It was sitting in a covered glass on the counter top when I came home from work last night.  A note on the top read.

Beware

Beware

“Jessica saved your life. Beward! Spider! Real One!” I picked up the glass and shook it to get a better look at what was inside. It stayed still and curled up. I thought that saving my life meant the spider got dead. I looked at its markings. I was not keen on having poisonous spiders laying about and this one did come with a warning.

Just a couple of days earlier I had noticed all kinds of spider webs popping up in the garden with beautiful big webs. I looked up orb spider because I remember Samson talking about orb spiders in the garden one day. Well, sure enough it was an orb weaver. And it is holding true that spiders that make pretty webs are pretty harmless. This orb weaver is harmless but will bite  if provoked. This is just saying she is not looking for a fight but will defend herself if she has to. The bite is not terrible but you might want to avoid provoking her.

I stopped shaking the glass now so as not to piss her off.  Here is a great site with some very interesting facts about this spider that looks like Charlotte  from Charlotte’s web.  She has the cute little bangs in the front and eyes all a glow.  Amazing web making ability. How about alternating sticky line with non-sticky line. Silk web strong enough to net some birds.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orb-weaver_spider.

Once I got a little movement out of her I turned her loose in the honeysuckle vine right outside the front door.  She didn’t go very far either. Next morning there she was right above the front door, tucked under the eaves.

Setting up housekeeping

Setting up housekeeping

Not that the web isn’t  interesting enough but I will be reading between the lines and looking for a message from my dear Charlotte. Is that a ‘p’ I see just on the left there?

Here are some more great pictures and info on Orb weaver spiders.  http://tinyurl.com/4m3w26

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Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow

350.org is conducting a world wide event on October 24 to bring attention to the critical what-we-need-to-sustain-life-on-earth carbon number 350. We are at 387 and rising.

Every year since 1992, the United Nations hosts a two-week long conference for world leaders to meet and discuss what to do to about the global threat of climate change.

In December of 2009, this meeting will be in Copenhagen, Denmark. There, delegates, non-governmental organizations, and businesses from every nation will meet to finalize a new global climate change agreement.

350.org has launched a massive, first-of-its-kind campaign that spans the entire globe scheduled for October 24. Why? To let those people in Copenhagen know that everybody in the world knows about this carbon thing and to let them know they better do something about it for real. There are events taking place in 158 countries around the world.  This. Will. Be. HUGE. The events from around the world are being televised on the screen at Time Square. On the Monday after October 24th, the 350.org crew will be visiting UN headquarters in NYC to hand-deliver the photos to diplomats and delegates from around the world to make sure they know how much you want a global climate deal that meets the science.

I am going to give you the link for happenings here in SLO. Then you better check out the 350.org site. This is going to be something you are going to tell your kids about. You were there. You were part of it.

Here’s SLO stuff. DO IT. http://tinyurl.com/yzg5g2e

Go here to find out what you can do right now to get on this bandwagon http://www.350.org/9

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow

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One for the Money

One for the Money

To most people Bamboo is a nuisance at best, a scourge at its worst. Horror stories of running bamboo taking over yards or neighborhoods is a long-standing urban myth. Unlike the Kudzu, http://www.herbreference.com/kudzu.html

Now this could be a nightmare

Now,this could be a nightmare

that has taken over entire southern states bamboo enjoys limited exposure as a ‘Lucky’ plant grown in an 8oz container, or the main food source for the cute and cuddly panda in zoos, or safely observed from afar in bonsai exhibits at garden shows.

In China and Japan bamboo is a mainstay. Japan says its country is held together by bamboo and china builds bridges with it. Bamboo shoots are a food source, a feedstock, and of course timber bamboo has the tensile strength of steel, hence bridges and houses that last hundreds of years. I would not be surprised if author David Blume,  “Alcohol Can Be a Gas” could not brew up a batch of alcohol fuel from this sweet grass.    http://www.permaculture.com/

The running bamboo gallops in zones 4-10, hence the term running as opposed to clumping.  And if we were not so intent on killing or confining it, that running factor alone is a real asset.

How it gets up and goes

How it gets up and goes

Like crab grass it sends underground shoots in all directions and comes up with a new shoot the first chance it gets. This new shoot is a new plant that will send out more runners with more shoots to make more plants and on and on and on.

Crab grass is not a food source at least not to humans, nor can you build houses, flooring,

Pretty smooth stuff

Pretty smooth stuff

and tiles, make paper, clothes, musical instruments like flutes and reeds, window shades or bridges with it. You can’t reroute rivers or keep a denuded mountainside intact.  So, I can see the reasoning behind discouraging crab grass from running wild but, I do not understand why one would discourage, no, try to obliterate and eradicate a plant with the potential to reverse the current downward economics and raising CO2 trends. Growing bamboo for timber has all the earmarks of an industry that lends itself very nicely to the triple bottom line philosophy.  A win-win-win business philosophy that puts corporate greed in its place by practicing in unison the 3 P’s, planet, people, profit, thus the triple bottom line. “Building a Green Economy, by Kevin Danaber.” http://tinyurl.com/yauw8he

As a renewable, sustainable, pure green, job creating, out-and-out cash crop, bamboo is unbeatable.  It is a gift from Good Old Mother Nature like gold, sliver, diamonds, oil, air and water. The big plus side of Bamboo is that you don’t have to wait a million and half years to harvest this bounty.  Unlike Mom’s buried treasures that require deveining Her arteries, beheading Her mountaintops

or denuding Her ancient mantle for the treasured nonrenewables, bamboo is right there in your face, ready, willing and able to grow and multiply.  It screams, “Here I am. Come and get me.” Not using Bamboo as a natural resource is about as stupid as not using Hemp with all its natural renewable resources. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy.  http://www.hemp.org/

Lets look at some hard cold facts about Bamboo as a Big green, sustainable, life producing manufacturing plant.  This plant can create wealth right here and right now. “Bamboos are the fastest growing woody plants in the world. Their growth rate (up to 60 centimeters (24 in.)/day) is due to a unique rhizome-dependent system, but is highly dependent on local soil and climate conditions.  Timber bamboo grows in zones 4-10.  Here is a zone map http://tinyurl.com/yep5hf3.  San Luis Obispo is Zone 9.

They are of economic and high cultural significance in East Asia and South East Asia where they are used extensively in gardens, as a building material, and as a food source.” We know it works and is sustainable.

Why not?

Grows .00002 mph

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo

Compare This: Timber bamboo takes 5-7 years to grow to the point it can be harvested.

With a 10-30% annual increase in biomass versus 2-5% for trees, bamboo creates greater yields of raw material for use. One clump can produce 200 poles in the five years it takes one tree to reach maturity.

In Costa Rica, 1000 homes are built every year with all of the building material coming from the same 150-acre plantation.

Bamboo homes can withstand 173 mph hurricane winds and 7.3 earthquakes.

Not to shabby

Not to shabby

Bamboo grows anywhere, from the equator to the Himalayas. There is Bamboo as a ground cover that you can mow once a year, or some timber Bamboo that grows to 100 feet in the first year.  It eats carbon dioxide. http://tinyurl.com/yemx3w8

One hundred and fifty acres of timber bamboo can produce 1250 board feet of timber in one year’s time compared to using native species, which takes  30-50 years to produce the same amount.  We get most of our Bamboo products from China and Japan. China and Japan get most of their lumber from our old forest. That does not seem like a fair trade. Bamboo grows anywhere. All you need is some dirt and sunshine.

As a commercial enterprise, the processing and impact on the environment in terms of chemicals, waste, toxic byproduct used is minimal compared to processing lumber for paper or pulp,  if it is done right.

Fun to watch

Fun to watch

For backyard gardens I grow bamboo in pots for fun and profit. I grow Black bamboo for the sheer beauty and grace. Green and yellow bamboo again for its beauty and it makes great all natural, no BHA, straws because there is at least 12” between nodes.  I also use the variegated variety for stakes in the garden or make fencing and criss crossing traps to keep critters out of the garden.  I keep cutting it and it keeps growing.

I am lucky.  I live in a town that is looking for a growth industry that is user and planet friendly.  We have the land, the climate, and the will to live a sustainable lifestyle.  There are two independent lumber yards that might be interested in a grow-your-own-economy that bamboo could provide.  Bamboo is amazing.  Working with Bamboo is working with  Mother Nature at the Grassroots.  Here are a few sites to get  you started http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ecoph39.htm .  There is a lot of information here.    http://www.bamboos.com/timber%20bamboo.html Also, locally we have Bamboo Batu.  This is a  local business with more facts and bamboo products.  Check it out.  http://www.bambu-batu.com/24-0-factoids.html. We get no kickbacks from any of these sites.  We are doing it for the love.

The Big Picture

The Big Picture

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Here are some links for more info on buying, making or using a solar oven and even some full blown 3 course meals, cakes, cookies casseroles,  recipes  solarovens.org sunovens.org solarovens.net This next site provides plans for constructing solar ovens http://www.solarcooking.org/plans/.  You may even come up with some cool new ways and materials.  Some will work and some won’t, either way you can’t help but learn something.  I can promise that every solar cooker you see is  the result of someone thinking of a better way to do it. Who knows you may have an idea that no one has thought of yet. If you do come up with something better — Hey I would love to hear about it.  For questions or to schedule a demonstration for your group here in the Central Valley contact: Marcia Alter 805-458-1241 or email address malter1101@alocom.  And, of course you can see our attempt at making and cooking with a solar oven at holeinthefence.net Episode 6 Something Old, Something New and Something Entirely Different.

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ROOSTER
A carbon footprint is a way of measuring how much energy, Carbon Dioxide, CO2, we use to sustain ourselves. Average American household uses 53 tons of carbon each year. Average World use, 11 tons per household. I took the carbon test and our (2 people) carbon count was 15 tons. 15 tons of gas seems like a lot for 2 people. However, carbon is a naturally occurring substance. As a matter of fact it is a necessary element for life. Without it we would die for sure. So the trick here is balance. That is what Nature is all about. Balance. That is Mother Nature’s sole purpose in Life is to maintain balance and there is no stopping Her.

Things get out of whack and she reacts almost instantly to set things right. Less fruit on the trees in dry years, more fruit in wet years, more baby animals are born when things are good and food is abundant, less when things are lean and mean you know the drill. She does whatever she has to do to keep things balanced.

Before man started burning oil, coal, and gas roughly around the time of the Industrial Revolution in the 1700’s, everything was pretty much in sync. Oh, there was the occasional Krakatoa, ice age, melting of the ice caps, meteors crashing into the earth, forest fires from lighting strikes, but nothing as devastating as the sustained and constant abuse from the newest addition to the food chain, human beings. Naturally billions of tons of atmospheric CO2 are removed from the atmosphere by oceans and growing plants, and are emitted back into the atmosphere annually through this natural processes. When in balance the total carbon emissions and removals from the entire carbon cycle are roughly balanced. Before the Mechanical/Electrical/Transportation Age the demand on nonrenewable resources, the coal, oil and gases from the dead plants and dinosaurs buried in the earth, was pretty sustainable for everyone and everything.

One day Krakatoa erupted.

kraktoa

www.washingtonpost.com/…/index_krakatoa.html

It put tons of extra stuff into the atmosphere. And then it stopped. For the next 5 or 10 years Nature worked it’s little hoofies to the quick getting everything cleaned up and back in sync. Humans on the other hand are an on-going-never-ending Krakatoa. We do not stop erupting. We do not allow for down time to regroup and replenish our resources. We are like the energizer bunny. We just keep using that nonrenewable energy like there was no tomorrow.

Unlike Mother Nature, who only uses what she needs and recycles everything, we humans just gobble up the resources without thinking about where our next meal is coming from. This is not going over real big with Mother Dearest. We use way more energy than we produce and that causes the balance of things to get all screwed up.  Things have to be balanced in order for them to work properly. And the worst part is that upsetting the balance just pisses Mom off. A pissed off Mom is never a good thing. She WILL get even and that is not always a pleasant thing.

In the past She pretty much looked to the 4 and 2 legged inhabitants as the source of her frustration with the imbalance. Remember that dinosaur thing? Then on the other hand plants, trees, vegetation in general seem to get it. They know what it means to be fair and equal. It is what they do. So She doesn’t pick on them so much and perhaps for good reason. They don’t piss her off nearly as much as humans who are always taking more than they need and giving back less than is required to maintain a balanced cycle. She does have a way of weeding out the gross polluters and currently all indicators of a malfunction in Her perfect world is pointing to us.

So, if I want to stay on Mother Nature’s good side my carbon footprint better start looking like  broccoli

broccoli

or a sweet pea or, oh yes, a chicken. Chickens are great little eco factories. Food in food out. Pretty ‘eco’ nomical.  My 15 is going to come up on Her radar screen sooner or later. I could do a couple of things to get the number down. One thing, and not my first choice, is die. That pretty much forces me to stop using carbon and to start giving it back (decomposing is a great equalizer). Another way, and my favorite, is plant some plants. This would help offset at least some of the nonrenewable energy resources with some renewables. Planting a tree, preferably a female one, or anything green kicks the recycling thing into gear. This would explain why deforestation is such a big problem. The Rain forest is disappearing at the rate of 3,000 acres an hour. Without trees the ocean is working overtime processing the excess carbon we are burning and is just not able to keep up. The ocean can recycle but honestly it can’t do it alone. It takes both the photosynthesis of live plants and water to make things work right.    No wonder Nature gets pissed off.  She gives us all these great gifts air,water, sunshine, trees, plants, animals, (mosquitos and roaches not so great ) for free, and we destroy them without even thinking about it.

If you would like to see what your footprint looks like and what your true color is take the test.   http://www.nature.org/initiatives/climatechange/calculator/. If you come up smelling like a rose, then good for you. Now convince one other person to do the same. However, if you come up smelling like c—p, a stinky, gassy emitter, you may want to make some changes. This is really what being green means. We have to act more like a  tree or bush that creates renewable energy and less like a dead dinosaur that is stinking the place up with a lot of bad gas. Pee you.

I am pretty sure if we don’t do something about this carbon thing Mother Nature will do it for us. She has been very patient with us up until now. But that patience may be wearing thin. We have seen some pretty bizarre weather patterns of late. Could this be a warning of things to come? Whatever is happening all I know for sure is that Mom is at Her best when everything is Balanced. It is all about Balance.

Bill McKibben is on this Carbon thing and is doing his level best to get us back on track. He has an event scheduled in October. It is going to be a biggie. Read all about it. www.350.org

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CalpopsGarzasWash08www.montereybaycnps.org/

Let’s do it.    Get rid of the grass, at least most of it and plant fire resistant, drought tolerant, disease and bug resistant, sexy, wild,  natives.  Native fire resistant plants are a real asset to your yard anywhere in California. Did you know that a watered apple tree or Indian Hawthorne burns better than an unwatered Ceanothus, and with just a little water Salvias (Sages) are harder to light than a watered fruit tree?  Easy fixes for high risk fire areas.  Here is a picture of a garden landscaped with fire retardant plants.garden-tour-2

Plant natives grapes which are fire resistant make a beautiful arbor or barrier and you can eat the grapes.  fire_562s

Plant natives to attract bird, butterfly and hummingbirds.  Milkweed is the only plant the monarch uses and it also attracts swallowtails.  butterflyweedThe natives  are very low maintenance. They can be very showy and spectacular like our California Lilac,  Ceanothus, left, Ceanothus_L.T.Blueor low and inconspicuous like Pacific Mist Arctostaphylos, right.images Pacific Mist loves coastal sandy gardens where it grows one foot high and 6-8 feet across. Then there are the fragrant varieties for your smelly garden. California Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii) center.

a494-1

And so many sages.  This one is called Hot lips and hummingbirds love it. large_salvia

Natives have everything you need for a carefree spectacular garden.   Save money on water, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, save time, mowing, weeding, hedging, spraying, and the energy savings in hard labor are all good reasons to Go Native.

By planting natives and getting them established, which does take a little time in the beginning, you can just let them do what comes naturally and leave all the work to them.  There are perennials which come back every year, annuals that reseed themselves, hardwoods, softwoods, bushes and trees for the layered effect.   There are many varied reports on  deer resistant natives.  You will have to check with your local extension or neighbors on what works best in your area.  I think the general consensus is they love roses and if they are hunger they will eat anything.  So, this one is up to you.

Check out the gardens below.

nativeplantswww.thedigeratilife.com/…/

p_ng_mass_bl2www.cnps-yerbabuena.org/…/local_gardens.html

gardenwphttp://tinyurl.com/ctx8l4

This is a very good site.  Full of fun facts and information.  It is hosted by Randy White.  The site below, Food not lawns, is just a little off subject. I just thought I would put it in here to give you something to think about.  It is well worth a look see.  You can’t help but learn something.

flores_food_not_lawns_1

http://www.foodnotlawns.net/

I have taken you on quite a tour and it is just the tip of the iceberg.   If you just want to get started a good place to start learning about  natives is at  the California Native plant society the local chapter here is  http://www.cnps-slo.org/  They have field trips to local areas and a great list of nurseries that carry native plants.   One nursery on the list is Las Pilitas http://www.laspilitas.com/  It has an online Landscape and  design plan.  You just answer some questions about your planting area and it will tell you what plants to plant and where. Also, a must read on fire prevention.

And now that you are thinking about Going Native you can also start thinking about what you are going to do with all the extra time and money you will have after planting a native garden.  The time you save you could spend oh, I don’t know, sleeping, surfing.  Kowabunga  Dude.  Have Fun.

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First, can someone please tell me why I decided not to get a dryer in the middle of the rainy season? Still, I have managed to hold my laundromat trips to a minimum; two precisely. And that was to dry the thicker towels and blankets. I do believe that in the nearly 2 months I have not had a dryer, that is pretty good, don’t you think?

The clothesline Samson and Jeanne made works wonderfully.

Mostly.

We are still working out a few kinks, but in the end I will have the coolest line on the block! Then everyone will be jealous. Kind of like an episode of “Desperate Housewives,” without all the makeup, drama, or women.

The secret? It is really all about time management.

I put the clothes on the line during the sunniest part of the day; for us that is mid-morning to mid-afternoon, after the fog has burned off and before it rolls back in. I leave around 8am to take Logan to school, so I throw a load in the wash before I go and then by the time I get home the clothes can go on the line to dry.

I also have found that one load a day is the best answer. I have never been a “separator.” All my clothes are washed together in warm/cold with a gentle, environmentally friendly detergent and rinsed with a little bit of white vinegar (LOVE that stuff!), so having one load a day is really no problem. Oh, and as for whites, the sun is amazing for making the whites white.

The only problem is if I am not home to do the one load a day, it backs up on me and I am back to stringing up another clothesline on the back porch. That’s when I miss the dryer. I suppose I could just have Samson stand in the laundry room and breathe hot air over them…LOL!

Now I am off to hang some clothes….no really!

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Okay, so The Moose is Up again! Unbelievably! I actually feel like I know what I’m doing with Final Cut, which is certainly a sign of the end of the world.

In this episode we get out and mingle with other people at a free faire and a bike kitchen. I also update you on the garden and the state of the compost. Oh, and I get to make some insalata caprese! Which is great, because then I also get to eat it.

Let us know what you think of the latest installment. And if you have any ideas for content, leave it in the comments.

Cheers!

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I was asked to contribute to this blog mainly because I think Samson wanted to get me involved in this project in some way.  Don’t get me wrong, I have contributed many ideas that have been implemented into the show—say the garden, for instance.  Back in March of 2008 I innocently told Samson that I wanted to get a little garden going.  I took him to the area that I wanted it and told him my idea about making the garden so that little critters couldn’t get to it.  I wanted a simple summer garden with tomatoes and fresh herbs and maybe some melons and cucumbers….what I got was Hole in the Fence.  My little garden became a behemoth and I just threw up my hands and said, “I am done! You take over and if I get veggies this year I will be very thankful.”

Well I did get my vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, green beans and more cucumbers than I knew what to do with. (If you have any good recipes for cucumbers, I would love to hear them). I also got introduced to  composting, and I really do love composting. I have watched our weekly trash diminish from 2 full bins to maybe one and most of that was recycling. However, I have not yet found an efficient way of collecting it before we take it out to the composting pile. Just a note, DO NOT leave it open on the kitchen counter: not only is it really gross, but it also attracts ants and little fruit flies—not very pleasant.  I need to find a way to collect it that is not only pleasing to my cleanly self, but also bug free…..again suggestions would be appreciated.

Okay so here is the real reason Samson wanted me to blog. I went to Trader Joe’s yesterday and, as an earth conscious person, I take my own bags. I got my first bag ten years ago and my collection is now adequate. However, it has taken me at least a year to remember my bags on a regular basis—and if I remembered them I would leave them in the car (I can not tell you how many times I have bagged my paid for groceries in the parking lot). That being said, I have made it a habit to get my bags now and I have to say they are so convenient and easy.  I can pack my groceries in them nice and heavy and not be afraid of the bags tearing, and I can get a weeks worth of groceries in four to five bags as opposed to the ten to fifteen they try to give me with regular bags.  I also personally bag my own groceries, mostly because I like tetris and it is really challenging to get everything square, but also because I just do it in a way that I understand, for example, one bag for freezer, one for the pantry, one for the fridge, it just streamlines putting away my groceries.

I am done monopolising your time, hope I did not bore you to tears. I am sure I will contribute more as the mood comes.  Again recipes and ideas for countertop compost storing would be so appreciated.

Deni

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We filmed the planting about a three weeks ago for Episode 6. Just after we planted the weather got really cold and it rained a lot. I was afraid we’d have some frozen, drowned plants, but they apparently loved the weather because they’re doing great. Despite my influence, even. I’m liking this whole winter garden thing because I don’t even have to worry about watering—very much.

Today, after spending the majority of Christmas doing as little as possible (and what a wonderful day it was!), I decided to venture outside to take a few photos for everyone to see.

We’ve planted some head lettuce, some…well, just listen to the audio I recorded. And listen to Logan’s call-to-action at the end. He’s our #1 marketer!

The kids in the garden (Update 2: The link is working now!)

And here are some photos to go with the audio. Gives you a sense of place, and kids, and coldness…

Quiz: What did Logan get for Christmas? (It hasn’t left his side yet).

Is anyone else tending a winter garden? Have you done it in the past? Do you have suggestions for us? Sound off in the comments!

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