Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Enviroment’ Category

I am really tired of throwing away good money on cat scratching posts that don’t hold up very long. I have thought about re-covering the old, tattered, worn out ones for way too long….  I finally decided to do something about it.

in need of a makeover

in need of a makeover

The two girls have been really good about using the cat scratching posts over the course of their 13 years, until recently. One of them has decided to use the corner of a chair, so I have four cat scratching posts in that area AND SHE STILL GOES TO THE CHAIR! There is another scratching post in our bedroom that she uses A LOT and that is the one you see in the photo. It is long overdue for a makeover!

I removed most of the original sisal rope

I removed most of the original sisal rope

Why would I want to take the time to re-cover these scratching posts?

  • Frugal
  • It is really easy to do
  • Recycling some of the old (Yes I still had to buy the rope)
  • I am tired of spending money on something that doesn’t last very long anymore. (Scratching posts used to cost $20 or less, now they are closer to $30+

 

making progress

making progress

Supplies I needed:

  • Sisal rope
  • wood glue
  • blue painters tape or masking tape

I started by removing most of the older rope. I unwound the new sisal rope before I started so I wouldn’t be fighting with it as I needed it. Right away I could tell this was going to be a job that would go faster with three hand…. but I only have two. I applied glue to the round tube a little at a time. If I tried to glue a section, I just managed to get glue on my fingers and dripping off the tube, so i just glued enough to wrap the rope around once, hold it in place with my hand, then glue another ring.

When I would get a 6″ section done, I would then take the tape and go over it to help hold the rope in place until the glue dried. I am not sure I needed to tape the entire post, I could have used the tape every 3″ up the post and been fine I think. I will have to try that on the next post (I have a few more to do!)

Done!

Done!

I feel pretty good about how this project turned out. I fell better about being able to re-use most of the original scratching post and keep it out of the landfill. I also feel good about most of the supplies I used. I will take a bit more time to see if I can source some sisal rope made in the USA.

Have you taken on a project lately that has saved you money?

Sincerely, Emily

Read Full Post »

Summer has just been teasing us this year. A couple of flirty days up near 90, a mild stretch in the 80s, and then back to cool, cool and raining, or cool and overcast.

Today is a cool and overcast day, with a threat of rain.

You can’t really rely on the weather reports anymore. Not because they’re inaccurate, but because local stations now have such powerful signals that they’re reaching from southern Wisconsin to central Indiana to Chicago’s far collar counties to the south. So they’ll report severe weather that might be happening 100 miles away on “my” weather report, or announce a high temperature of 90 (halfway to Iowa), when it never got over 72 here by Lake Michigan.

I can’t even remember winter, now. Was it wintry or warm or frigid? I think a “normal” winter is a little bit of snow in the Thanksgiving to Christmas stretch, and then murderous cold in January giving way to a snowy February and March. Rainy spring with fluctuating temps, mild rainy May, gradual warming in June.

“But here a small boy says, it snowed last year!…and I reply that was not the same snow.

Like Dylan Thomas, I don’t know if my memory of the weather is true or idealized.

The plants are confused. I think they remember ideal weather too– where the sun gradually warms them in May and by June they’re partying in the park. They’re loving the rain and the thunderstorms— for the most part the foliage is a lush, deep green. But the lack of sun is making for huge leaves as they try to soak up every elusive ray, and the peppers and eggplants are just sitting there going nuhUH ain gonna grow in this cold. (I feel their pain.)

Last year we were enjoying, if that’s the word, the hottest summer on record, and it had barely begun. We’d already had nearly twenty days over 90, and it was early enough in the drought that people (well, the non-gardeners/farmers anyway) were still happy with the lack of rain.

So, weathermen, I think it’s awesome that your ad revenues went up because the market is so much bigger due to your powerful transmitters. And Kankakee is a great town, and so is Sheboygan, and so is Joliet, and so is Lockport.

But their weather doesn’t have all that much to do with me— can you tell me what’s happening in Chicago?

Read Full Post »

Over the past few months I have helped a some friends start making up liquid laundry soap. Now that they have seen how easy it is they are asking more questions about additional recipes. One that keeps coming is is Dishwasher Detergent.

Dishwashing powder

My journey to the current dishwasher detergent recipe that I use has been a long one. Mainly that of trial and error. And then more trial…

The original basic recipe that I saw over and over was this:

  • 1/4 cup Borax
  • 1/4 cup Washing Soda (not Baking Soda)
  • 1/8 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/8 cup Citric Acid

Use 1 T per load in detergent compartment.
You can see some discussion on this during the Real Clean Roundup over at Not Dabbling in Normal from May 2011. Same recipe as you see listed above

Well, that basic didn’t seem to work for me and there are several variables that seem to make this either; sort-of work, work really well, or not work at all. I have been through all of them.

The Big variable is the water. It is amazing how much difference there is in water. We all know about soft water and hard water, and then there is everything in between. All those “everything’s” are huge variables, apparently, in making your own dishwasher detergent.

In all my trials, what it came down to was the amount of citric acid in my recipe and the amount of homemade detergent that I actually put in my dishwasher each time. Here is the recipe that is working for me.

  • 1/4 cup Borax
  • 1/4 cup Washing Soda (not Baking Soda)
  • 1/8 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 cup Citric Acid

1 T per load in the compartment (no more, no less)

If my silverware and glasses come out cloudy – that usually means I got carried away and added to much detergent mixture. If it happens, I am more careful about measuring it out next time I do the dishes.

For a Rinse Aide:

I use regular white vinegar in the rinse air compartment or a citrus infused vinegar (made by taking the peel (no rind) off any citrus and letting it sit in vinegar for several weeks.

Now that I have been making my own dishwasher powder for a few years, there is still one more things I have struggled with; the mixture getting hard in the the jar.

chipping away at itEvery time I wanted to run the dishwasher I would have to chip away at the jar of dishwasher powder to get some of it out. I am a pretty patient person, so I didn’t get too worked up about having to chip away at it, but the final straw was when I couldn’t get it broken up with a spoon like I normally did and I used a knife.

Not only did I chip away at the dishwasher powder, but I took a big chunk of glass out of the bottom of the canning jar it was in. Opps! This patient person reached her limit. Time for a change.

My quick fix to this problem was just to keep the ingredients separate. Ya, that means opening four jars to just get the ingredients out, but each ingredient isn’t clumping up anymore. No chipping away at it. It is working great.

Now instead of 1T out of a big jar I measure out just shy of 1 teaspoon of each ingredient per load and things are working great. No more clumping. No more chipping away. yes, I have to open four jars, but I still think that I am ahead of the game when it comes to frugal and environmentally safe.

Do you make your own dishwasher detergent?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

Read Full Post »

Wind makes the sand ring
by the gray churning water.
Remnants of the storm

Driftwood at the shore
blown across the lake on
Sandy’s ragged edge

Read Full Post »

Chicago’s motto is Urbs in horto:  City in a garden.

And flowers are nice. I love the gardens that our city has shoe-horned into every nook and cranny. I love that they give away a million tulip bulbs every year after the bloom is done. I love our world-class park system.

But imagine a city that remembers that gardens do not mean flowers alone. Imagine a city that integrates food production within the existing urban fabric. Cafe lined streets on which restaurants grow the food that they serve to patrons. Homes with window boxes filled with Swiss chard and cherry tomatoes instead of petunias and ivy. Office buildings that eschew tulip beds on favor of tomato-filled planters, where employees pick their lunch, instead of picking up their lunch. Imagine city governments that rewrite codes to make it easy for unused land to be used for temporary community gardens. Imagine suburban city councils and home owners associations that see the beauty in an eggplant and let people plant them wherever the sun is, be it front yard or back.

Imagine Urbs in villam. City in a farm.

Today, people in urban areas don’t know how to grow food, but during WW2 Chicagoans started 500 community gardens & 75,000 home gardens. They harvested more than 2,000,000 POUNDS of food and led the nation in the Victory Gardens movement. What if we reached  back into our past to do it again—to make home and community gardening the norm. What if we created an attitude that could lead to edible plantings in every sunny yard, park, store window, work place, and empty lot in the city, private and public.

Urban dwellers in particular, and all Americans–urban, suburban, rural–cannot keep relying on remote, even overseas, sources for our food. It costs too much in personal, economic and planetary health. It divides us from our very DNA, which evolved for us to be farmers and gatherers. Urbs in villam has planters full of tulips down one side of the street, and planters full of tomatoes down the other. By seizing opportunities like the economic crisis that halted construction, leaving lots empty, we can integrate food production into spaces that we already have.

The key is to educate our citizens about how easy it can be to grow our own food, where we live and eat it.

What is your community doing to bring food production home?

Read Full Post »

There are steps to creating a sustainable life.

In our society the realities of sustainability run up against the national character. Rigid self-sufficiency and individualism are the holy grail; in the words of Maxwell Anderson, how you can tell an American is that you cannot tell him what to do, even when it’s in his own best interest. In the current political insanity, any suggestion that we try to save our common heritage–like, for instance, the air–through sensible regulation, is excoriated as “removing choice.”

Enter the idea of the commons–those things that we own together, starting with the air, but also the water, the language, the creative works of humanity.

What I’ve discovered through the creation of the Peterson Garden Project, is that for many sustainable initiatives that revolve around community action, we lack a language. The language of communal action has been removed from the dialog, or vilified as “communist” or “socialist.” But some things, even most things cannot be done alone. The old saying that ‘your right to swing your fist ends at my nose” needs to be understood again to extend to our food and our health.

A new language does exist, in the old language, through the concept of the commons. What we hold together. What we all must use, but also spare, share, and save. Where our right to swing our so-called individual rights ends at the epidemic asthma in the inner cities because of pollutants, or the loss of aquifers because private owners have drained the wetlands that used to belong to all of us. We’ve allowed private bank accounts to be the fist, but haven’t stopped their swing at our collective nose.

Last week was the annual Good Fest Festival in Chicago (formerly the Family Farmed Fest), a really wonderful trade show all about restoring local, sustainable food systems to the urban landscape.  The exhibitors are all local farmers and food makers. It’s where I first learned how to change my diet to nearly 100% local food.

This year my friend LaManda Joy of The Yarden, founder of The Peterson Garden Project, was on the panel “Growing A Good Food Community”, about building urban communities through gardening and creating gardens by building urban communities. The interesting thing was that her fellow panelists were my old high school friend Jay Walljasper and Julie Ristau of On The Commons.

The panel, moderated by Megan Larmer of Slow Food Chicago, was beautifully constructed around the steps we need to take back collective ownership, working in a very American way, through individual action.

It starts, as I say, with the language. Jay talked about first, the need to start thinking again about the commons, and also laid out a basic way to think about the commons again. As important, he talked about how language can lead this new, old way of thinking, focusing right in on the difficulties I have had getting funders in particular to understand that what we’re doing is not a farm with a single owner or board, but collective action for individual benefit.

But it cannot stop with the language; only talking only works for academics. Enter Julie Riskau, founder and former publisher of the Utne Reader and current spokeperson for On The Commons. Julie talked about turning language into policy initiatives of the sort that lead to intelligent municipal ordinances which, for instance, stop creating criminals of people who put their edible gardens in their front yards because that is where the sun is.

But policy is only effective with an army of individuals putting it to work at street level. Which is where LaManda Joy and her Pop-up Victory Gardens come in, as well as the many other community gardening, and community preserving, and farmers markets, local school councils, in fact all of the community-based efforts that will save our cities and towns.

We need to restore the language, so we can affect the law, so we can own the activities that will make our communities livable.

Read Full Post »

Sustainability for a middle class American is an oxymoron. Our entire way of life is premised on unsustainability. We live in houses bigger than we need (even those of us in “small” houses). Americans own more cars than households; in fact, more cars than drivers. We are blessed with constantly fully-stocked shelves at the grocery store or even the farmers’ market, which simply leads to mountains of trash to make way for the new stock coming in. We have instantaneous access to any product we need; if we can’t get it at our local Target, it’s on the website.

We live in caverns of trash that we call our homes–basement, storage shed, attic, closets, full of things we might even use, but don’t really need.

And the strangest manifestation of this is what I’m calling “conspicuous sustainability.”

If you only buy t-shirts made from organic cotton, or hemp, but you have 9 of them, you’re indulging in conspicuous sustainability. Your full CSA share, where you end up discarding half the box because you don’t know what to do with all that kale. Sending your child to Eco Camp, three states away. Buying a Volt, when you have a perfectly functional ’07 Saturn in the garage.

The oddest manifestation of conspicuous sustainability is the seed swap.

The sustainability cred is immaculate–it’s barter, it’s local, it’s communal, it’s green things. It’s gardening.

The first seed swap I went to I got completely wrong. I’d been gardening for decades in isolation and didn’t know about “seed fanatics”–people who love seeds for their own sake. I thought seed swaps were for seeds you couldn’t buy, so I brought carefully packaged seeds that I had saved.

People showed up with huge boxes, systems even, of commercial seeds. They were for the most part bona fide sustainable–organic, small producers, heirloom varieties. No Burpee’s here. But commercially packaged, and people had dozens and dozens of them, far more than they could plant unless they happened to be the head gardener at Blenheim Palace. They would then lament at how they always bought too many, and would proceed to swap with other addicts, as often as not leaving with even more seeds than they’d come with.

I never used to do the seed catalogs much. I’d see what I could find at the garden center, then supplement with a couple of packages from Pinetree or Territorial. I had no idea that there were people who spent fifty or sixty dollars (or more) on seeds Every Single Year no matter what they still had in their stash.

It disturbs me.

It isn’t sustainable just because you’re buying from a sustainable merchant for a sustainable purpose. Part of the point of sustainability is to not consume, or produce, more than you need. Seed swaps bother me. I find them at best inconsistent, and at worst a little stomach turning.

There’s a thing in fiction writing called “internal consistency.” The best fiction creates a universe where people behave believably; a universe without deus ex machina fixes, or the convenient sudden appearances of long-lost cousins (can you tell I’ve been watching Downton?).

Sustainability is not a “lifestyle choice.” It’s not a fashion. It’s a philosophy that requires consideration about decisions and actions and purchases, from the tiniest seed to the hybrid Hummer. Perhaps it’s a little self-righteous of me, but I believe that every life should be internally consistent. If you want to live lightly on the earth, all of your actions should be consistent with that goal, to as great an extent as is possible.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 367 other followers

%d bloggers like this: