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Posts Tagged ‘organic gardening’

We’ve finally managed to get all the boxes (mostly) unpacked and I can tell you it feels VERY nice to be settled. The furnished apartment was pleasant, but it wasn’t home. Now those things that make a home what it is are in their proper places and I feel like I can breathe deeply…

…and get to work on transforming this place into sustainable central. First, the worm bin. We picked one up for free on Craigslist. And I found a red wriggler supplier in Marilyn, the owner of Zippy’s Java Lounge. (I’ve heard she has the best in Everett. It’s good stuff). I plan on stopping by this weekend and picking up a pound or two. Then we’ll start converting our table scraps into brown gold. The worms will love us, especially when we start giving them the leftovers from our gorgeous new stainless steel Juicelady that Denette picked up at Goodwill for $20. Have you ever had fresh carrot juice? It’s the nectar of the gods. Seriously. You have to try it.

Next, the garden…and beyond. I’m going to go a bit more Permaculture up here—create an edible environment throughout the yard. And speaking of yard, I talked with one of the landlords and he said we had creative free rein. He might not have said that if he was aware of my knack for yard transformation. We have a beautiful section of south-facing lawn that—once leveled—will make a perfect spot for some raised beds. No tomatoes, though. I’ve been told by a couple of old salts that it’s just not hot enough for them. Of course, that sounds like a challenge to me, so I’ll have to find a solution. I like my fresh tomatoes too much to give up without a fight!

Speaking of transformation: Denette transformed an empty house with little furniture into a fully-furnished home in three weeks. And virtually for free. We now have a couch, a guest bed, an entertainment center, two chairs, and an end table, all acquired through craigslist/freecycle. Now when I get home from work I can collapse on the nice comfy couch instead of the hard wood floor.

I can’t tell you how nice it is to be four blocks from my place of employ. I walk down in the chill of the morning and arrive with lungs full of fresh air and my heart pumping. People at work think I’m irritatingly chipper at 7:30 AM. I just smile and nod. Even better is the return home, when the kids come racing down the hill on their scooters to meet me. Then we go for a walk. Well, I walk, they ride their scooters or their bikes. I have to take my bike in for repairs (Kaia has grounded me because of my lack of brakes), but once I do I plan to use it as my primary means of transportation to both hospital campuses and around town on the weekends. The city center in Everett is perfect for biking.

Not only am I four blocks from work, the kids are four blocks from the home school facility. I know, it sounds a little oxymoronic, but the home school program up in WA is an extension of the public school system, though they have considerable autonomy. They offer structured classes for those who want them. It’s really kind of like college for primary-age kids. Logan is loving his classes in math, science, social studies, and tae kwon do. He spends an hour a week in class, the rest of the work he does independently. Kaia should be in the program as well, but she just missed the cutoff date for kindergarten, so the goal is to get her tested into 1st grade next year. When one of the teachers at the home school facility saw her reading, she thought Kaia was already in 1st grade.

Final topic for this post: when we moved up here I set a goal of creating a home gym for free. When we were still in Cali, we had canceled our gym membership and I had created a pretty nice setup with cinder blocks, a couple of iron bars, and some free weights. I wanted a bit more up here, but I was determined not to pay for it. I knew of there were lots of people who had bought a treadmill, used it for a week, and then were desperate to get rid of it to assuage their guilt for letting it gather dust. Well, I’m proud to say that we accomplished my goal within the first two weeks! We now have a Nordictrack, an elliptical, a multi-use home gym (pulldown, bench/flye, leg extension/curl, low row, and stair stepper), a flat/incline bench with a preacher curl connector, a barbell, and two dumbbells with about 190 lbs in plates. This incredible haul was due mostly to Denette’s amazing craigslisting/freecycling skills. She would find it, I would call on it, and we would go and pick it up. I’m totally inspired. In fact, I think I’m going to have to get a quick ski in right now.

With that, I raise one well-muscled arm to you in farewell. Until next time!

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Okay, motivated by my mom’s articles and a recent deluge of GMO-related emails from organizations like Organic Consumers Association (OCA), I have taken action and thrown my considerable weight (insert laughter here) behind several petitions and campaigns to oppose the growing use of GMO products—despite the proven negative effects of previously approved products like maize and cotton—and the continued influence of former Monsanto executives on our agricultural philosophy and policy. So, as part of this weight throwing around stuff, I thought I’d lay out a very brief case against GMOs and the poster child of GMO infiltration, Monsanto.

I want to preface the rest of this polemic against Monsanto and its ilk by saying that I’m not against agricultural innovation, or even GMOs (sorry, mom), per se. What I am against is bad science, unethical (and illegal) business practices, and a blatant disregard for health and human rights. Study after study has proven the ineffectiveness of GMO products to date, the real and potential harm they cause to the environment and animals (including humans), and the real costs of additional pesticides, fuel, and labor required to use them—costs with no demonstrated returns.

It’s worth noting (and even emphasizing) that it’s not like there is lack of innovation in other modalities, specifically the field of organics. For instance, the Union of Concerned Scientists conducted a comparative study of crop yields and found that

Organic [my emphasis] and low-external-input methods (which use reduced amounts of fertilizer and pesticides compared to typical industrial crop production) generally produce yields comparable to those of conventional methods for growing corn or soybeans. For example, non-transgenic soybeans in recent low-external-input experiments produced yields 13 percent higher than for GE soybeans…. 1

This puts paid to the idea that we need GMOs to feed the world. What we need to do is utilize the most effective proven methods available. Those methods exclude GMOs. And Monsanto. And therein lies the rub. Monsanto needs to make money on its investment in GMO research, regardless of its efficacy.

It’s also worth noting that the coalition against GMOs cuts across political, cultural, and philosophical backgrounds. Some of the most vocal opponents of Monanto (and often the recipients of their lawsuits and mafioso tactics) are small farmers and seed companies. There are a multitude of examples. Here are a few from such varied sources as Democracy Underground, OCA, and the AP.

I could go on for many more paragraphs. But I’ll save you from the torture. Instead, I encourage you to follow the links below, sign the petitions, and get educated and involved. I can think of few other things as important as protecting one of the Big Three: food, water, shelter

Prevent a Monsanto lobbyist from getting appointed by Obama

Oppose the USDA’s approval of GMO alfalfa

Whew. All right, I’m climbing off my soapbox and walking away from Speaker’s Corner. For my next post I promise an optimistic and lighthearted topic!

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Hey all!

Well, I’ve FINALLY finished this episode. The past few months have been…epic. Lots of things going on in the Blackwell household, the biggest thing being the move to Austin.

But enough about me. This episode has it all: intrigue, humor, excitement, fun, children, and Tom Ogren. Take a look. Leave a comment if you would like to encourage our behavior.

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We have a wonderful, shiny new episode for you! It’s summer garden planting time, and that’s just what we do. We’ve learned a lot from last year’s planting and we use that to make this year’s garden even more prolific.

But wait, there’s more! In this episode we have a lively discussion about sustainability and government with Adam Hill, newly elected county supervisor. He’s also a former English professor of mine from Cal Poly, so the conversation is an easy and a fun one to have.

And if you act now we will even throw in a segment about building a clothesline, complete with all of my struggles, mistakes, and brilliant recovery. In the end, it actually works. And five months on we’re still hanging clothes exclusively. FYI, major money savings! Check out the Project Expense Tracker and our Energy Savings Tracker to see how our savings are adding up.

But you must act now! Hurry, my mom is standing by to hear your opinions of our latest endeavor!

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So far, so good. That’s the word this week. Except for the vole. Yep, my sister actually saw it and tried to catch it. She grabbed it’s tail as it darted down it’s hole and it screamed.

She let go. Instantly. I would have, too.

I’m not so sure that the vole dislikes the blood meal. We’ll see.

I’ve used the blood meal wherever I saw mounds or tunnels, punching holes at regular intervals and dumping a handful of the meal in. Then I cast the meal over the surface of the affected area, soaking it into the ground with a hose. The added benefits are a) it’s a great fertilizer and b) the rabbits hate being around it, too.

We’ll see what next week brings.

How are you doing with the furry little buggers? Any successes?

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The wigglettes!

Hey gang! Here’s a bit more information about the worm bins we created in the last episode. So now you have NO excuse not to start one. 🙂

  • First, make sure you get red wigglers for your bin. They like working in close quarters. Earthworms are just the opposite. They hate being confined and are much better out in the wide open spaces.
  • Next, our dear little babies don’t like light; that is why we painted the drawers black. To keep it dark. Even though they have no eyes they are light sensitive. Too much light exposure paralyzes them and they dry up and die in less than an hour. Then you cry. Then you have a little wake, with music and a nice glass of wine…. Anyway, keep the bin in a shady cool spot with good air circulation.
  • Now, make sure they have enough “bedding”, i.e. wet newspapers. No glossy or fancy paper. Keep it simple. They will eventually digest all the bedding into compost also.
  • Tip: The ratio is 2:1. Two pounds of food for every pound of worms. There are about 1000 worms in a pound. One pound of worms can eat 2 pounds of food in a day. Yes, that’s a LOT of kitchen scraps!
  • Finally, don’t give them any moldy or spoiled food or the bin will start to smell and attract flies. Keep it fresh. And remember no meat, dairy or citrus. They are picky eaters in that respect and will just high tail it out of there.

If you want to make worm tea or wrangle give a holler. We got people and places for you to go to learn more. Tell us how you are doing, too. We’d love to hear how well (or not) it’s going!

I wrangled for the first time about a month ago. Because it’s more precious than gold, I used the worm tea for my favorite plants and I started some tomatoes with the compost. It is, without a doubt, the BEST, MOST COMPLETE compost you can find. And you can grow  your own!

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All right, gang, we’re back with another jam-packed episode!

One of our goals has been to make this into a collaborative effort, and it continues move in that direction. Jeff Jensen, my friend from High School (that place I went to nearly 20 years ago!) sent me some music to include in this episode, and I’m thrilled to add him to our growing collection of great artists. (Now if only I could get Fear Factory. What, not the right tone? Okay, fine.)

It’s also really cool to see the progress we’ve made on both the filming and editing front. We’re actually improving. Although we can only improve so much with me in front of the camera….

This episode sees us doing a little catch-up to get on schedule with the seasons: we pack the summer garden tearout in with the what I call a “winter garden medley”—photos of the garden as it grows over three months. Now our filming schedule will only be a month off instead of six….

We also take a trip to Mt. Olive where I learn a LOT about organic farming, and, inspired by their worm bins (200 tons of compost?! Seriously?!), I set out to build my own.

Join us! And let us know what you think!

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