Monday, June 21, 2010

My favorite gardening sites

I have found some really wonderful gardening sites that I want to share.

I just came across this great blog, Cheap Vegetable Gardener and particularly found this post helpful about cheap organic fertilizer. But I really enjoy the whole site. I'm definitely gardening on a budget and this offers some really helpful ideas.

This sounds so obvious, but even though I subscribe to the magazine, I never thought to look at their website - the Better Homes and Garden plant dictionary is excellent. I'm constantly trying to identify plants.

This is a really fun site. I could spend all day here, just soaking up info: Dave's Garden.

Another site similar to Dave's is Doug Green's Simple Gifts Farm. It's amazing how generous gardeners are with information.

I've sort of been anti-annuals and pro-perennials, I guess because I want the most bang for my buck. But this article made me realize that annuals just give a different kind of bang - maybe not in longevity, but in beauty and color all summer. I went out the next day and bought some fun annuals.

We just became members at Bristol, RI's Blithewold Mansion, Garden and Arboretum. The head gardener there writes a fascinating blog that is worth checking out, no matter where you live.

And this is a really intriguing idea - The Plant Exchange - where people swap plants. I did a local plant swap this spring and got some great stuff. But this expands it way beyond your hometown.

That's it for now. I'll add more interesting links as I come across them. Please feel free to share your own internet finds.

Gardening is Great!

The title of this blog has taken on a whole new meaning, as I've become intensely passionate about gardening this spring.

It makes me feel connected to my grandfather, as he was quite a gardener. I did this painting as part of a project for my 2D Design class last semester. My strongest memories of Grampy's garden are tomatoes and snapdragons.

I love that there is so much to learn - it's like a whole new world has been opened up to me, which is very exciting. I love going to local nurseries and perusing their wonderful selections of interesting plants.

I love going online and finding interesting and useful websites full of info for people like me who don't know a thing about plants.

I love that my good friend Eileen is also a new gardener and we can talk endlessly about our endeavor.

And I love that it's something I'll be working on for years to come - that I can plan, make notes, daydream about it. That's really the best part, even if all my plans don't come to fruition (no pun intended).

Friday, May 14, 2010


I'm afraid I've been a bit absent lately. I haven't been able to quite get back to normal after my grandfather's death.

But, while I haven't been posting, I have been reading. Reduce Footprints had a challenge last month about taking fewer showers. When I read it, I had to laugh.

Pre-kids, I was someone who had to take a shower every day. Now, I'm lucky if I get one every other day. Most of the time, it's every two days. It's not a conscious decision to save water, though that's something I try to do in other ways constantly. It's simply the result of being a full-time mom to two little kids who never want me out of their sight.

I certainly cherish my showers now. That blessed alone time under soothingly hot water. Finally washing off the dirt from the backyard, the Crayola marker my youngest has drawn all over my arm, the chocolate milk kiss I received on the back of my neck as I was bent over changing the other one's diaper.

I have to admit to a 10- to 15-minute shower. I know that's quite bad for an eco-conscious person. But I can't give them up. I just can't. I don't take baths; I reuse the kiddie pool water for my plants; I practice the "if it's yellow, let it mellow..." philosophy with the toilet; and I bottle the cold water that I have to wait through to get to the hot. I hope that makes up for my thrice-weekly indulgence.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ashes to Ashes?

Last week my dear, dear grandfather passed away. I was with him for his last hours and saw him take his final breath. What an experience.

Later that day I accompanied my parents and aunt to the funeral home to make the decisions on his service and burial. I've never been party to this kind of conversation before and it was stunning.

The funeral director took us down to the casket viewing room, really just corners of caskets that give you an idea of what they look like, as well as miniature versions of the liners into which the caskets are placed.

I was shocked to realize that these pricey coffin liners were mostly made of non-corrosive materials. If they ever broke down at all, it would take thousands of years. Why on earth would we want that?

I always thought the purpose of being put in the ground was to complete the circle of life. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, as they say.

I'm glad I spoke up and we ended up purchasing the concrete liner (required by law apparently) that will take only a hundred years to break down instead of thousands, as well as a wooden coffin - no metal of any sort. I don't like the thought at all of my wonderful Grampy spending so many years encased in metal, alone. Better that he should become part of the earth and the grass that grows above him.

This whole concept is new to me and I need to do some research on it. But my father's wishes for his future burial seem much "greener" to me - there's a cemetery in NH where your body is simply laid to rest - no coffin and certainly no liner. I like that idea.

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this whole thing. And also a little advice, as morbid as it may seem: start planning your own burial now. The funeral home had pamphlets on how to do it and I wish I'd taken one. That way your loved ones, who are in shock, will not be talked into buying the $12,000 coffin. You will have already selected the coffin and paid for it (or most of it). The cost of dying is ridiculous. We paid $500 for the hearse to drive one mile from the funeral home to the cemetery.

Take care of yourselves and your families!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Water on my mind

Water is definitely on my mind these days, from our massive leak that is now fixed, to the record rainfall we've had here in RI (and our many neighbors with flooded homes), to just how much of it we personally go through in an average day.

If you don't have it already, I highly recommend going to your local library to take a look at the April issue of National Geographic (the photo above is from that issue). It's all about water and it's absolutely fascinating. And educational. Just the photos of the fresh water scarce areas of the world are stunning. It's nearly impossible to truly imagine what it's like to trek hours to get fresh water and then to have to turn around and carry heavy bottles and jugs all the way back home.

My two young sons are pretty much constantly dirty. If we've been playing outside, they are brown from head to foot. When my oldest comes home from preschool and we take off his sneakers, we pour a small mountain of sand from his shoes. So, baths are a pretty regular occurrence in this house. After the latest bath, I stood there looking at this tub of water, dreading the thought of pulling the plug and letting it all swirl down the drain.

So, I did some research and found instructions on how to make a bathtub siphon. A company in the UK sells them, but they use PVC, so this site describes an alternative method. I'm pretty excited about this and dh has signed on to build it for me!

And my idea of saving the water normally wasted while waiting for it to heat up is working great. I already have nearly a dozen gallons sitting outside, waiting to go on my garden once it's planted. And once it stops raining here.

Next up is a rain barrel. I'm doing research on the best ones. If you have one you love, please let me know about it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Play-doh Containers Are Recyclable!

My kids are crazy for Hasbro's Play-doh, but my problem with it has always been that the containers don't appear to be recyclable. I was thinking about this the other day and decided to write to Hasbro about it. I've pasted my conversation with them below.

While I'm relieved to find out they are, in fact, recyclable, I am frustrated by their apparent resistance to mark them as such.

Of course, this could all be avoided by simply making our own play-doh. There are ton of recipes online.

The bolding is my own.

ME: 03/15/2010 02:29 PM I am writing to request that you please use recyclable packaging for your Play-doh products. It kills me every time we have to toss one of those little jars into the trash rather than the recycle bin. And we buy a lot of Play-doh. We recently received a gift of the animal activity bucket and I was dismayed to find that even that bucket was non-recyclable. Having just read the President & CEO's message on the website about social responsibility, it's hard to take it seriously when you don't use recyclable (and recycled!) plastic for what is probably your most popular item. I hope someone will read this who will actually take this into consideration. I'm going to start looking for a different brand of dough that uses recyclable packaging. Thank you for your time.

HASBRO: 03/18/2010 03:34 PM Hi Kira, Thank you for contacting Hasbro, Inc. We are pleased to be able to respond. In response to your inquiry, our Play-Doh cans can be recycled, however, there are no numbers on the cans. You must recycle according to your area. We want to assure you that we are dedicated to maintaining quality products and service. We hope you and your family will continue to enjoy our products for many years to come. Again, thank you for contacting us.

ME: 03/18/2010 04:30 PM Traditionally, if there's no number on the bottom of a plastic container, it is considered un-recyclable. I urge you, then, to put the number on there. Additionally, recycling must be sorted for pick up. If there's no number, how do you sort it? Can you tell me what number plastic it is? Thank you.

HASBRO: 03/19/2010 09:29 AM Hi Kira, Thank you for your response. We have not experienced any problems with consumers recycling our Play-Doh cans. As Play-Doh is loved by consumers around the world and all the manufacturing comes from the same place, and because there are different recycling requirements by country, it would be next to impossible to control the markings without causing confusion. Our Play-Doh cans use 3 different kinds of resin. The can itself is PP (Polypropolene), or number 5, and the lids are EITHER a blend of LDPE (Low density Polyethylene), which is #4, and HDPE (High Density Polyethylene), which is #2, OR just HDPE (2). We appreciate having the opportunity to assist you.

ME: 03/19/2010 12:56 PM Thanks again for your response. I have to disagree with you, however, as the now-classic recycling symbol with the three chasing arrows is universal - meaning international. I understand not using the numbers, but there's no reason not to use the symbol. A quick survey of my friends confirmed my belief that when there is no recycling symbol on a plastic container, it is considered non-recyclable and ends up in a landfill. So, I think Hasbro is making a big & incorrect assumption about its consumers - particularly since so many are resistant to going out of their way to recycle. They aren't going to research whether a container is recyclable. They need to see the symbol. Maybe that's why Hasbro knows of no problems with their consumers recycling their unmarked containers. I sincerely hope Hasbro will reconsider their practice of not marking recyclable containers as such. Is there someone higher up I should try to contact about this or will you pass it on? And thank you for letting me know the resin numbers - I will post them on my blog so that others will also know to recycle their Play-doh containers.

HASBRO: 03/19/2010 04:23 PM Hi Kira, Thank you for your email. Please be assured we have forwarded your comments to our management team so that they are also aware of your views. We want to assure you that we are dedicated to maintaining quality products and service. We hope you and your family will continue to enjoy our products for many years to come. Again, thank you for contacting us, and for your comments.

Monday, March 22, 2010


It's fixed! Let's celebrate!

I can hardly believe my previously inexperienced-at-plumbing dh actually fixed our leaking pipe problem. He was very clever. Rather than ripping up the floors to find the leak, he simply rerouted the pipes and shut off the leaking one. It took him about a day to do it. Next is insulating all the pipes, but we're not stressing about that yet, as the chance of freezing temperatures here seems to be gone.

If you're curious about what he used, here's the video on youtube that showed him the right pipes & fixtures to use. Apparently they were extremely user friendly and required no soldering at all.

He even reduced the water pressure, which makes it much easier to avoid going at full blast whenever I turn on the faucet. Thanks honey!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Water Trauma

This week's challenge on Reduce Footprints is based on a post I did the other day on water. RF asks us to reduce the water flow at the faucet to a trickle whenever possible, something I constantly try to do.

So, it's rather ironic that last week the water guy who came to change our meter gave us the horrifying news that we have a leak somewhere under our slab foundation that is losing 5 GALLONS AN HOUR!! I'm so horrified, it's hard to write that sentence.

We've had a plumber out who couldn't locate the leak anywhere and told us we'd have to rip up all the floors to find it. -gulp-

Considering our budget, that simply isn't possible, so my dear husband has another plan. He and a friend are going to reroute with new pipes and essentially shut off the leaking pipe, wherever it may be.

If he could manage to take some time off work, he'd have already started, but we must wait till Saturday. Please wish us luck in this endeavor, as my husband has zero plumbing experience.

I'll let you know how it goes. (fingers crossed for success!)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Support Local Small Businesses

I just came across this post on Earth Promise. The idea is to pick 3 local businesses whose existence is important to you, then commit to spending $50 a month among those 3.

They make excellent points about shopping locally on EP that I'm sure I knew but somehow didn't really comprehend how far reaching the effects are. Here's a quote from Reclaim Democracy:

“It’s time to consider the real costs to a community that loses its local business base. Independent local businesses employ a wide array of supporting services. They hire architects, designers, cabinet shops, sign makers and contractors for construction. Opportunities grow for local accountants, insurance brokers, computer consultants, attorneys, advertising agencies and others to help run it. Local retailers and distributors also carry a higher percentage of locally-made goods than the chains, creating more jobs for local producers.”

I'm going to do my best to participate in this project. With money being super tight for us right now, it might not always be $50, but it'll be something. Will you join me?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Beautiful Day

Today is one of those days that I absolutely love. It's about 64 degrees and sunny. If you're from New England, you know what a wonderful thing that is in early March!

We had good friends over this morning and we played outside for two hours with them. We blew bubbles, played in dirt, swung on the swings...and I hung my laundry on the line for the first time this season.

Oh, how I've missed that this winter! I only started doing it last summer and it was entirely new to me then. I was trying to reduce our electricity bill, but it turned into so much more. It's almost like a form of meditation for me.

To stand with the sun on my back and the birds chirping all around me, to feel the breeze on my skin and to know that what I'm doing is good for the environment makes me feel incredibly at peace.

My other contribution to the environment this week is that I'm now using the Enviro Friendly Laundry Ball. I bought it on to replace laundry detergent. I've been using it for a week and really love it. I also love knowing I'm not contributing to the pollution of our water every time I do a wash.

It's hard to believe a plastic ball full of mineral pellets can get your laundry clean, but it truly does!

By the way, I found that laundry image at this cool website: Eco Bites - Your Daily Portion of Tips for Sustainable Living. I can't wait to read more of it.

And also by the way: Reusable Bags is changing their name to Click on the photo of the laundry ball to be taken to the product page.

I hope you enjoyed your Monday too!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Change the World Wednesday (on Thursday)

One of my favorite sites is Reduce Footprints because of their weekly Wednesday challenge to change our world for the better.

This week's challenge is purchase used items rather than new.

This is something I started doing as soon as we had kids. When I was pregnant with my first son, I was given several large garbage bags of used clothes from friends. It was amazing and immediately apparent that there was little point in buying new clothes that would be worn for such a short period of time.

After one trip to the local thrift store (Savers), I was hooked on buying used everything.

I've purchased tea pots, a tea kettle, countless items of clothing, toys, books, movies, craft supplies, frames, silverware, Halloween costumes, furniture. I not only like that buying used means something new doesn't have to be made to replace an item I just took off the shelf, but also that the item has some history to it. I like that other people have owned it and likely loved it.

I also use craigslist a lot, not just to purchase but to sell/give away my own used stuff. Ebay is good for that as well, though I like the local-ness of craigslist and not having to ship anything.

I use Paperbackswap and Bookmooch constantly, though mostly PBS because I feel their selection and the organization of their site is better. And I am a bit of an Amazon addict. I'm not saying I buy constantly, but I just love going on there and looking around. I have several wishlists filled with books I'd like to receive used. They have a great used book selection.

And much to my husband's chagrin, I do occasionally pick things up on the side of the road that other people are throwing away. My great finds: a perfectly perfect train table that my boys use every single day, a gorgeous, solidly built wood school/child's desk that just needs a new paint job, and a small round, low-to-the-ground trampoline that will fill my boys' summer with lots of jumping.

I also want to say that donating my own used items is very important to me. As much as I purchase at Savers, I donate just as much, if not more. In my quest to live a simpler life, I bring trash bags full of our used clothing, toys, household items to Savers at least once a month. I also post on the "Free" section of craigslist, esp. for larger baby items, like a portacrib or exersaucer. I really like knowing our stuff is finding a new home rather than sitting in a landfill.

My motto is: Used Is Good!


This week I focused on my water usage.

I find that I turn the water on full blast for just about everything. I do keep the water off when brushing my teeth and washing the dishes, turning it on only to rinse. But now the task is to remember to keep it at a slower flow.

Also, it takes 30-60 seconds to get hot water in this house, which is a tremendous waste of water, so I've been washing out our plastic milk gallons and letting the cold water fill it till it turns hot. I will then use this water for plants or keep a gallon in the fridge so we have nice cold water whenever we want it.

I read in The Green Book that I should plug the drain in the tub before turning on the water when the boys take their bath at night. I traditionally have let the water go down the drain while I wait for it to get to the right temp. Now I'm plugging it immediately and just letting the warm water run longer before putting the boys in so the cold water has mellowed out for them.

My next plan is to place a plastic bottle filled with water into our toilet tank. According to It's Easy Being Green, with the displaced water, we could save thousands of gallons of water a year.

And The Green Book says if you flush just one less time per day, you'll save 4.5 gallons of water - as much as the average person in Africa uses for a whole day of drinking, cooking, bathing & cleaning! Can you believe that? My goodness, how we take water for granted in this country.

If you have tips for saving water, I'd love to hear them.

Oh, and I just wanted to mention that I got both of the above books at I love that site!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Trying for Green

Over the course of the past year, "going green" went from a trickle to a steady drip in my life. I'd like to get to a good, strong stream.

I'm not going to be flip and say that going green is easy. For most of us, it requires making changes. And change is hard. Learning new habits, unlearning old ones...all hard.

And it can be overwhelming. I'm big on reading everything I can find on a topic and of course there's an endless amount of information on greening your life. And I have to say that as excited as I may start out with a book or website, by the end, I often feel completely inadequate and like what I can do wouldn't possibly make a dent in our world's environmental concerns.

That's when I need to stop, take a breath and remember that I'm making these changes because of how they make me feel. I feel intensely satisfied by making environmentally and healthy choices for me, for my family and for my community.

And community is huge. There's nothing like surrounding yourself with people who share your passions. That's why I've created this blog. To connect with others who feel the way I do. Who are doing their best and trying for green.