Sunday, March 15, 2009

Off To England!

Yes, it's true. We leave tomorrow for a two week, excessive carbon dioxide emitting trip home to England.

I am not sure whether England is officially home for me these days because I have lived here in the States for almost ten years, but it still feels that way, sometimes.

We are almost ready to go after doing what has felt like almost continual washing, cleaning, and packing for the past few days. We aren't completely ready to go yet, but we are getting there.

The girls are so excited, and so am I. We will get to see many people we love while we are there, and I hope enjoy some of my favorite English delicacies such as Twiglets, fish and chips, and Marmite, although I confess to having a secret stash of the latter here anyway. I am also looking forward to eating a great curry or two!

When I booked our flights I had the opportunity to pay extra to offset the carbon emissions that will be released during our flights across the Atlantic. I wanted to so much, but it was not of course an insignificant amount, and I felt that I simply couldn't justify it knowing how many extra hours Robert has put in to pay for these flights. (Plus Robert would not have been happy!) Maybe next time?!

Looking forward to seeing you in two weeks! My Dad will be coming back with me. I haven't seen him in almost five years. Yipeeeeeee.............

P.S And don't forget about Earth Hour on March 28th!

March in our garden, and on our patio.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I have been working pretty hard in the garden over the past week or so. I have planted out all the pepper, tomato, and tomatillo seedlings, and sown basil, cucumber, watermelon, and cantaloupe seeds. I have also sown a row of sunflowers all down the middle of my little plot. When they grow tall they will shade the veggies to their east and protect them from the hot afternoon sun that will be here before very long.

I still want to plant more cantaloupe, and also summer and winter squash, but until some of the other crops have finished I don't have enough room. They can all be planted over the next few months as long as they are protected from the sun, so that should be fine. I desperately want more space but for now will have to make do with what I have.

I had an almost completely full compost bin which had been cooking for about six months. It provided enough compost for a really good thick layer for the seedlings and seeds to be planted into which was great.

We are still getting masses of spinach and swiss chard every few days or so, and I am also finally picking snow peas. There are only a few each day right now but there will be more. I also still have cilantro, dill, nasturtiums, parsley, radish, and lettuces. I have been happily sharing with our neighbours because we have way more than we can eat. I got some fresh and lovely pink grapefruits in exchange from one neighbour which was an unexpected, but welcome treat.

My little leeks, and beets are almost ready, and I am also getting a few little ichiban eggplants each week or so. I also have some green cabbage and tomato plants plants that are growing well. There are no red cabbages of course, but at least nothing else has been eaten.

Recently though I have to admit to feeling rather anxious over the amount of water I am using to maintain my veggie garden. I am not using nearly as much as I would be if we still had grass instead of bare earth, but it still doesn't feel quite right. Of course my paltry three rainwater collection barrels don't even come close to supplying the water I need, and I imagine I would need to have literally hundreds to really have enough water to grow all the veggies I want to grow here.

I feel like Barbara Kingsolver in "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" when she wrote "Living in Arizona on borrowed water made me nervous." I know exactly how she feels. It just doesn't seem right somehow, even if I am growing actual food.

Is it better for me to be doing as I am, and using such a precious resource here in our desert, or is it better for me to rely on produce that may have been transported thousands of miles to get here with all of the environmental implications that has?

I know seasonal eating is supposed to be better for the environment but how does that really apply to us here in the desert where we don't have the traditional growing seasons of other states with the corresponding seasonal precipitation.

These are questions I have been mulling over a lot recently, and I still don't have any easy answers I am afraid.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Seven Years

Seven Years ago today, I married the most wonderful man.

It was a very beautiful day, filled with many happy memories, and I wouldn't change anything about that day, or the seven years since.

Happy anniversary sweetie! Thank you for all that you do to make our family so special. I love you.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Please Support Your Local Library

I absolutely adore libraries and always have. We went to our local library every week as children, and I always cherished the chance to choose a new pile of books that I would devour well before the next weeks trip.

We have a lovely library here, and we try to go as often as we can, although I have to admit to not going every week. The girls love it, and so do I. All those stacks of books, and the hushed tones. It takes me right back to my childhood.

Libraries are the perfect sustainable reading option as well. What could be better, all those books read over and over again by a host of different people. I only wish that our library was a little closer so that we could walk, or cycle there too. One day perhaps.

I have heard that due to the economic down turn, libraries have seen a big increase in patronage which is great. Not so great are the recent cut backs in hours that our libraries here in Phoenix are dealing with due to our budget crisis. I am sure there are many people that will be affected, quite apart from the staff who have had to take a cut in their hours.

So, if you haven't been for a while, now would be the perfect time to pay a visit to your local library. Just so that they know how much they are valued by us all.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A (not very), scientific experiment.

This is our shower door!

I am not at all proud of its filthy, and dingy state, but because I have banished all cleaning products from our home that have the slightest possibility of being toxic, I have to confess that it generally stays this way.

In a recent attempt to expand my repertoire of natural cleaning products beyond just baking soda, and white vinegar, I have been reading Green Up Your Cleanup, by Jill Potvin Schoff. It offers a multitude of green cleaning solutions for any number of filthy situations, including dingy shower doors just like mine.

As per the instructions in the book for "Baking Soda Scrub", I mixed castille soap with baking soda until it became a pasty consistency. You can use the non petroleum based dish soap instead if you don't have any castille soap.

This is what it looked like after mixing.

I then spread it over the test area of the shower door like this,

The instructions said to leave it on for longer that 15 minutes for "Heavy duty jobs" which this most certainly was.

Well over half an hour later, after Emily had thrown the biggest tantrum of her life and I had forgotten all about it, I returned, sprayed off the paste with white vinegar, and rinsed with water per the instructions.

This is the final result.

I am seriously impressed! It is obviously not perfectly clean, but it's pretty darn clean, cleaner than it's been since well before the chemical ban at least.

Now I just need to go and clean the rest of it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Love This!

I don't generally endorse products on my blog, apart perhaps from sink plungers. However I love these particular products so much that I simply have to recommend them to all of you out there.

These razors, and toothbrushes are from Preserve which is the company that recycles number 5 plastics, and uses them to make all of their products. You may remember them from my recent Let's Recycle Number 5's post.

Preserve make personal products such as razors and toothbrushes. They also make great, colorful kitchenware such as food containers, colanders, and measuring cups, as well as tableware. Much of it is made from recycled yogurt pots.

The razor handles can be used again and again with replacement blades, and when you have finally used your razor until you can use it no more, you can mail it back to Preserve in a postage paid envelope so that it can be recycled again. Hopefully very soon many Wholefood stores will have drop off points where Preserve products, and other number 5 plastics can be left.

I love the toothbrushes which can be recycled in a similar way. The ones pictured here are for children. Preserve has partnered with The National Wildlife Federation to illustrate an endangered species on each brush and package so that you can educate your children while they brush.

All Preserve products are manufactured in the USA with recycled content, as is all their packaging. They are also BPA free, and no testing is done on animals during the manufacturing process.

Preserve products can be ordered online, although you have to factor in postage and packing if you shop this way. Increasingly I find that my local stores are stocking them, and have recently found Preserve products at my local Fry's supermarket, and at Trader Joes. Often though they don't stock the full range, so call first if you have a specific product that you wish to purchase.

Really, if you are serious about reducing your overall waste, and supporting a company that truly stands for the environmental slogan "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", Preserve products are a great option.

Oh and I promise I am not getting a single cent to say so!