Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Earthship"

Look at these amazing, beautiful, sustainable Earthships! Who would have thought that dwellings such as these could be constructed from old, discarded tires.

Perhaps the "new" suburbs will consist of many of these grouped together in thriving communities instead of the unsustainable sprawl that we have now.

I can always dream!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dinner

This is what I ended up making for dinner, along with a big salad, and the leftovers of takeout chinese food from the weekend. I stuck with this and the salad, and feel a little less bloated up with MSG as a result!


I cooked up some onions and garlic in olive oil, added cooked new potatoes, zucchini, salt and pepper, and threw in a big bunch of lovely spinach from the farmers market downtown, and cooked it until heated through and wilted.

For the salad I made a dressing with tahini, water, lemon juice, yet more garlic, and chopped dill. I mixed it to a runny consistency so that it could be poured over the salad. All quite simple but yummy nonetheless!

Green Stuff!

I am all done with school for a couple of weeks and it feels so good! We had another busy weekend going down to Tucson and visiting the Desert Museum which was lovely. I took lots of pics and will post them when I get a chance. A very interesting, and heartening place.

I got The Green Book and now have a chance to read it from cover the cover. It seems from what I have read so far to be a more popculture-ish guide to reducing carbon emissions. Some of the other books on this subject can be a bit heavy, but this book seems to be reaching out to those who may not normally think of themselves as environmentalists by featuring celebrities and such. I have to say I am always a little sceptical of celebrities who claim to be environmentalists. I mean it is easy for them to go out and buy a hybrid, or to spend money in some "environmental" way, shape, or form which does nothing for the environment really at all, but probably gets them more publicity. I guess though that it does spread the word, and ultimately that is the only way. I probably need to suspend full judgement until I read the book.

I happily, and gratefully got the day off work on Saturday to go to the Green Living Conference and I am very excited about that! R has been lovely saying he will watch the girls all day so I can go. There will be some great speakers including the author of Gaia's Garden which is on my wish list of books to read. (I wonder just how many books I can read in the next couple of weeks before I start school again?)

The Desert Botanical Garden has some great classes coming up this summer. There are some for desert tree maintenence that look good. I probably need to go to at least one of these. If you could see my poor trees you would understand why! There is also one for summer veggie planting that looks useful. Might need to save up, and work on negotiating some more time with R for these!

It will be a warm week I think, and I have MUCH to do, not least finishing off painting our patio table and benches that are still not done. I also have several HUGE loads of washing, and desperately need to buy groceries because the cupboards are bare. We have all been eating HORRIBLY over the weekend, mainly because we have family staying, and have been out and about a lot. I feel bloated up with all the salt I have consumed, and I am severely in need of some lovely green veggies to detox myself. Hmm, what can we have for dinner?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Water Water Everywhere................

Can you tell that I am trying to get out of studying for my test? I have been finding any number of things to distract me, it hasn't been hard at all!

The back yard keeps luring me with all it's color and smells. My Chocolate Flowers smell so chocolatey in the mornings that it is almost unbelievable. Of course you wouldn't know that from the picture but they are very pretty too!


The biggest pepper we have is growing by the day as well, and so are the tomatoes!



I'm not sure how to tell when a pepper is as big as it is meant to be on the plant. I am sure that they don't get as big as those huge store bought ones. Does anyone know? Don't want to leave it for too long.

My little Desert Willow Tree has lovely flowers on it. It needs a good prune but it can wait for a while longer. I LOVE these trees, and would have put more in had I known about them when we put most of the trees in.


We have a very badly dripping, (or rather gushing), faucet, (otherwise known as a tap for any English readers). It has been leaking since Monday, and the odd job man we use can't get here to repair it until next Monday.

I HATE seeing water wasted, in fact, water conservation is something of an obsession of mine, just ask R, he will tell you! Obviously we live in a desert, and the thought of gallons of water pouring down the drain makes me lose sleep, literally. So, instead of letting it go to waste, I have been saving it in the bath and using it in the backyard, as well as storing it in my water barrels for later use. Does that make me sound like a truly crazy, tree hugging person? Ah well because I really am, and there are much worse things to be I am sure. I even caught R, who is definitely NOT a truly crazy, tree hugging person using some of the water from the bath to refill the dogs water bowl!! We are using well over a bathtub of water a day that would otherwise have been wasted, and that makes me happy. I have to admit the plants in the backyard have been getting rather more than they need, but the trees have had a good soak that they wont need later on so it is all good.

OK, I have to get back to the books I am afraid. Just can't put it off any longer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

Polar Bear

Today is Earth Day! What will you be doing?

I think for me the most disturbing image I have in my mind of global warming is that of the polar bears drowning as the ice around them melts away. So when I saw K cuddling her favorite polar bear the other day, it made me feel so sad.

I truly hope that we can get some serious legislation passed very soon so that real changes can be made to reduce the effects of carbon emissions. That is the only way anything can really be done to slow global warming. If this doesn't happen soon, we may not be talking about polar pears with our grandchildren in the present tense. Overly dramatic? Maybe, but the truth nonetheless.

Visit here now and see what you can do to help stop global warming today.


Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Would You believe It?

Today I decided to go to the new Wholefoods Market that has recently opened up. I have not been to that one before, and I don't go to ours often because although they are nice stores, the prices are outrageous. Also when I do go I tend to get rather overwhelmed by the extreme organic expensive-ness of it all, wander around for twenty minutes, and then leave without buying anything.

I was having a similar experience today, even more so because this Wholefoods is HUGE, much bigger than our local one. I had picked up a couple of cans of organic kidney beans which was just about all I could cope with, and had decided to call it a day, when I glanced over at the checkout. There was a news channel filming a story about reuseable shopping bags, and how Wholefoods are banning all plastic bags in their stores from tomorrow onwards. (Tomorrow is Earth Day). As I was studiously packing my kidney beans into my reuseable Trader Joe's shopping bags, the news lady walked over to me and asked, "are you reusing those bags?" "Yes," I replied! She then asked "do you often reuse bags?" "Yes I replied, all the time!" She then proceeded to ask me whether I would mind answering a few questions. I said I wouldn't, and so she interviewed me! I immediately, and ridiculously got nervous, blabbed on and on about nothing of course, uttered the complete untruth that Ireland had banned all plastic bags, when I know for a fact that they have just placed a tax on them, (??!!), and generally made a complete fool of myself. Typical of me to totally screw up what was probably my one and only chance at 15 minutes of fame!

I had to laugh though because it was kind of ironic that I was there, with my Trader Joe's reuseable shopping bags this morning of all morning's, when I have never been before, and will probably not go again for a long time. All I can hope is that they have enough sense not to air it!

**Update** The following words were the sum total of my 15 minutes, (or rather three seconds), of fame. "Yeah I think it's great, it's a good idea!" Thank GOODNESS all the rest of it was cut! HILARIOUS!!!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Busy

Wow, it has been a busy weekend. Last night we went over to some friends and had a lovely evening sitting in their backyard which is backed onto a mountain preserve, listening to the coyotes, watching the birds, and enjoying the glorious weather. It made me realize more and more that I have to be near nature to feel really good. I sometimes forget that living deep within the suburbs, as I get caught up with day to day busy-ness.

I managed to pick up a couple of plants on sale. I don't normally do that because sale plants are usually on sale because they are on their way out, but these looked pretty good, and were a steal at half price. I got a Cassia Phyllodenia, and an Agave Americana. I have planted the Agave, but have not yet managed to get the Cassia in the earth. This is what the Agave looks like now


And this is what I hope it will look like soon


I also half painted the concrete table and benches on the patio that have been here since before we moved in.


They would definitely not be my first choice for patio furniture, and ideally I would like to get rid of them, but for several reasons we can't right now. (How would we even get them out of the back yard?) I hope I have done the right thing, I am a little iffy about the color I have chosen. Ah well, that is the good thing about paint, it can be painted over! I will post pics when complete.

I worked this weekend, and that along with the obligatory friends birthday party for girls, and everything else made it one busy weekend! This week will also be a busy one. I have a final for a class I am taking at the weekend, we have family coming into town this evening, and K is off school, so we have big plans to make the most of this lovely weather. Every time I look outside I see stuff to do, lots of stuff, stuff I would like to be doing right now, but it will have to wait for a while I am afraid.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Planning

We have an area on the west side of the house. It is where my (beautiful!) washing line is, and where one of the AC units is, and where everything else gets dumped. It is the last area that needs planting. I have put in two Shoestring Acia trees already, but nothing else. This area only really gets sun in the afternoon and is very hot in summer. I want this area to be very low maintainence without much, if any irrigation so that it can pretty much look after itself.

This is the view looking north. (Not very pretty!) You can see the wellworn path along the wall that the dogs have made running up and down. It would be nearly impossible to plant stuff there without it being trampled underfoot.


This is the view looking south. It is narrow here and dark!


My idea right now is to plant a variety of completely native plants,(except for the Acacia's already there), mostly from seed, plants like Globemallow, Triangle Bursage, Brittlebush, and Desert Marigold . I also plan to buy a couple of Creosote plants because they are difficult to germinate from seed, and a few Baja Fairydusters, which aren't native but do well here.

There is a company called Plants of the Southwest that I have ordered seeds from before, and they have a good range of native seed. Another company is The Native Seed Company, based in Tucson. I can't find a web site for them, but I have bought seed mixes from stores blended by them.

Does anyone else have any other ideas for this spot? It is the most difficult part of the backyard so of course got left until last! It doesn't need to be amazing, I would really just like a wilder, uncultivated look to enjoy as I hang out my undies!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Desert Botanical Garden

I can not get enough of the Desert Botanical Garden any time of the year, but in the springtime it is completely amazing. These are pics of the wildflower garden taken on a recent visit.





Isn't it lovely?

Morning Sunlight

National Hanging Out Day


"National Hanging Out Day", a day when everyone is encouraged to hang laundry outside within public view, is this Saturday, April 19th.

It will help to publicize the ridiculous restrictions placed on washing lines by many home owners association's around the country, as well as the obvious facts that hanging laundry is better for the environment, and the pocket book.

Check out Project Laundry List for more details, and don't forget to hang all that lovely clean washing in public view on Saturday!

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Fond Farewell

My dear friend A is moving out of state with her family soon. I don't think it has completely sunk in yet quite how much I will miss her. We do lots of stuff together, the two of us and our girls, and it will be hard for us all to say goodbye. However, I am happy for her because I know it is what she wants, and what is right for her family.


Dear A, I hope that the move goes very smoothly, and I feel sure that you will be happy in your new home! I will miss having your friendship so close by, working with you, going on all those trips to the Desert Botanical Garden, and the Zoo, grabbing guilty phone calls with screaming kids in the background, (that might not change so much), and all the other stuff. I know that our friendship will always be there, even across the miles. Thank you for everything, I will miss you!!

World Food Crisis

The areas of the world that are going to be the most devastated by global warming are very often the least developed regions that already struggle on a day to day basis to provide even the most basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter. It therefore makes me so sad to see that poorly researched, prematurely developed "solutions" to global warming such as biofuels are further contributing to the suffering of those who already have so little.

A world food crisis is rapidly developing as prices soar. This is in part attributable to the huge increase in grain prices seen as the demand for biofuels increases. Read here for more discussion of this issue.

Surely we can figure all this stuff out without creating yet more damage!! Can't we??

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Day Out At The Farmers Market

So yesterday we finally made it down to the farmers market downtown. It was a long awaited trip, and one that didn't disappoint!


I haven't been to any farmers markets here in Arizona, and although it isn't big by typical standards, it was fab! It had that arty, earthy feel to it that made me feel right at home. Everyone was friendly, and chatty, and the produce was amazing. There were also lots of artists selling their stuff, and had I not had a strict budget, I could have gone a bit mad. My favorite of all was this lady who is an artist and horticulturalist. She had an amazing portfolio of the gardens she has designed. Didn't get any pics of her stall unfortunately as the natives were getting restless, but I got lots more of others.






We didn't stay long, but this is what we came away with. I am planning a big dinner later to use some of this lovely stuff.


We also bought two zucchini plants,a cucumber plant, and a little basil plant so that we can have a bit more of a veggie patch than originally planned this summer. I am looking forward to planting them later!

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Bit of Success


I am very excited because I finally managed to make some bread that tastes good, is light and airy, and actually looks like bread as well! (R thinks it looks like muffins, but that is only because I baked it in a muffin pan). I figured out what I have been doing wrong after reading the instructions for my machine over again. (Probably should have read them properly to begin with!) I have been scooping the flour with the measuring cup out of the flour bin, instead of adding flour to the cup. This increases the amount of flour considerably, and thus the bread is heavy. I also added some white flour to the wholewheat flour as suggested by Leaner. This is the result. My family is very happy, and so am I!

I also planted a few Texas Sage plants as planned, and here is one for you to see. Rather small right now but I am sure it will grow.


We have a tiny pepper on our pepper plant which is exciting. We have some tomatoes as well but I didn't get a good picture of those.


R cut the grass down really low, and we have turned the irrigation back on for the summer lawn. I have really mixed feelings about having grass here in such a water scarce area. We actually only have grass in the summer, we let it die back for the winter, and we irrigate it as little as possible to keep it alive. However, I know it still takes a lot of water. For now though it is our indulgence I am afraid. I am going to keep careful records from now of how much water we are using each month and see where we can reduce our useage more. Here is our "dead" grass now pre irrigation.


And finally, I just had to post this picture of a lovely Ocotillo I saw today. Not ours sadly, but so lovely in the spring when it flowers as this one is, and after rain when it sprouts green leaves. They are great accent plants, but alas don't mix too well with small children and dogs because they are very spikey indeed. Also a good picture of the oh so blue Arizona sky!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Secret Garden

Have you ever read "The secret Garden"? I read it as a child and loved it. It was the thought of all the leafy greeness hiding something lovely that did it for me.


I have always wanted to have a secret garden of my own, and so the way the garden is growing right now is making me quite happy. Our veggie patch is getting rather hidden behind greenery. Just the way I like. It only needs to grow a bit more now before it will be almost completely secret, well in my dreams at least.

Green Living Conference

This looks so interesting! Unfortunately I am working that day so will have to miss out, unless I can swap with someone. There will be such great speakers, it seems too good to miss!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Baking Day

I usually bake, (or attempt to), on Fridays. I recently decided not to buy any store bought sweet stuff anymore, (not that we bought much anyway), with the goal of saving packaging, money, and learning new recipes. I also remember my Mum baking a lot when I was little. It brings back nice memories and I would like for my own girls to have some of those as well.

I didn't bake last Friday and we have been running very low on sweet edibles in our house. So today my girls and I baked some Chocolate Brownies. I have never made these before, but was feeling quite brave, so away we went.

I used a recipe from Nigella Lawson's "How to Be a Domestic Goddess". It did require rather a lot of butter and chocolate, so not cheap, but I think it turned out rather well even though I do say so myself. Everyone here seems to approve wholeheartedly. Here are some pics of the process, and the end result.





YUM! Tomorrow if I am still feeling brave, I will try again to make some bread with that not so fool proof piece of machinery, (for me at least), the bread machine. Fingers crossed everyone!

Grey Skies

It is rather overcast here in the valley of the sun this morning. I have to say that I do enjoy the occasional grey days that we have, and even better, the rainy days that we get once in a blue moon. Don't get me wrong, I am loving the weather we have right now, but I do like the contrast of variable weather. I think it must be from my English roots. I always loved the cold winter days at home, warm inside with a big log fire. It can get pretty cold here in the desert in the winter, and of course very cold up north, not even two hours away.


I have a week off work, and big plans. I am going to successfully make some bread that looks pretty, AND tastes good! I also want to dig out another bed in the veggie garden, and start planning what to plant for the fall, because I am a too late getting organised for summer veggies at this point. I am used to the usual seasons for veggie growing, so it is taking me a while to get used to it here.

I also want to go to the nursery to buy a few plants to fill in a some bare spots in the back yard. I am thinking about getting some Texas Sage which is very drought resistant, and does well in hot, dry areas. I also want to get some Brittlebush which is native here in our Sonoran desert, and is also amazingly drought resistant and hardy. I tried planting some Brittlebush seeds earlier in the spring but they didn't grow, so I will cheat and buy a little plant. It self seeds very well once established making for many more lovely plants. I usually go to Summerwinds Nursery because they have a great selection of native, and drought resistant plants though are a little more pricey than some of the bigger chains. They also take back the black plastic pots for recycling which is great!

I have been reading some of the gardening blogs around. Some of the blogs, and gardens are absolutely beautiful like The Hummingbird Garden, and Sweet Home and Garden Chicago. For these bloggers spring is coming to the midwest, and bringing with it daffodils, and crocus', both of which are faves of mine. It is strange, as the midwest emerges from winter and looks forward to spring and summer, we enjoy our beautiful spring, and try not to think about our summer and the intense heat it will bring. For now though I will just enjoy the lovely coolness we are having.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tex the Dog!



We have four dogs. Tex, AKA "Tex the dog", is one of them.

Tex was a stray puppy we found at a gas station on the way to San Diego almost six years ago. He had been dumped days before apparently, and was a pitiful little thing. We,(well it was more me actually, R wasn't too delighted to have such a smelly addition), scooped him up, put him in the car where he promptly fell fast asleep, and drove on to San Diego where we all had a fun weekend in a nice hotel. (My long suffering husband patiently stopped off at Petsmart with Tex on the way into town to get shampoo and worming tablets, while we all went off to the race expo! Rather nice of him considering he wasn't initially over the moon at the thought of carting round our new fuzzy companion for the weekend).

The puppy scrubbed up pretty good, and for ever after has been named "Tex" which was our good friend N's idea. (It WAS a "Texaco" gas station).

I love Tex a lot, but I have to admit that he and I have our differences, especially since I started trying to plant the backyard. Tex likes to dig, and when he is not digging he is searching for lizards underneath rocks, and stomping all over my plants. This can be rather annoying at times, especially after I have just planted stuff. But ah well, what can you expect with a house full of dogs, right?

So without further ado, here is Tex in all his glory, as he happily roots through my backyard just looking for trouble. We love you Tex!


Friday, April 4, 2008

It's not easy being green!

........when everyone in the house is sick, or injured, the washing pile is overflowing, everything is in complete disarray, and I am so very behind with my school work. I have a confession to make, I used the dryer this afternoon to dry a load or two. I know, I am a horrible example of green living, but I just needed to clear a bit of space, and quickly. So now here I am feeling guilty, especially after I swore I would line dry all week after the spa day. I need some kind of green confessional, somewhere where I can absolve myself of my failings. Does this count?

As if this weren't enough, R isn't even a little bit on board with the whole CSA idea. He reminded me, (as if I needed reminding), that the last time we did it most of those lovely, fresh, organic, locally grown veggies sat in the bottom of our refrigerator for a week until they were wilted enough to get dumped on the compost heap. I know, awful, and I do feel bad, but you really have to understand I was a brand new Mama. Definitely not the best time to take on the world. I was barely managing to get through each day in my shell shocked, and sleep deprived state, and was most certainly not in the right mind set to be thinking up creative ways to stuff a cabbage leaf.


So, with all that in mind, it is a little more easy to understand why R may think signing up again would be a waste of veggies, and money. I'll just have to start working on him and see what happens. Maybe if I can be really creative with our usual store bought stuff the next few weeks, he will be inspired!!??

We never made it to the farmers market on Wednesday either as that was the day sickness hit our house. There is always another day for that though, it will still be there, just waiting in all it's glory.

And so, it's really not easy being green somedays, and now I must get back to tending the sick, injured, and needy.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

From lean.......to green

This is what our back yard looked like about four years ago, complete with Mollee, Tex, and some muddy footprints. I think this is what it looked like when you were here last Dad?

This is what it looked like last summer, a slightly different view, but you get the general idea

And here are some pics from today