March 19, 2013 § 7 Comments
Recently one of Dave’s coworkers came by the farmhouse. He was walking out the back door, when he noticed the compost bin (now conveniently located next to the garage, after it blew all over the back pasture, and I had to go retrieve it in my pajamas).
Dave’s Friend: What is THAT?
Dave: Compost bin.
Dave’s Friend: That’s a COMPOST bin? It looks like a spaceship.
Dave’s Friend: What’s in there, anyway?
What followed was a tutorial, whereby Dave removed the lid, and showed his friend our discarded kitchen trash and our resident worm farm, and then Dave ACTED LIKE IT HAD BEEN HIS IDEA ALL ALONG to install a compost bin at the farmhouse. The last I heard was:
Dave: Oh yes, a compost bin is so practical. It’s SUCH a good idea.
Dave’s Friend: But does it work?
Dave: Absolutely. We compost all sorts of stuff…junk mail, broccoli stems, potato peelings. We even composted one of my old shirts in there once. I have to watch Libby, because she’ll compost anything.
Note from me…I’ve actually composted his old shirts in there more than once, and old pleated pants from the 1990′s also compost pretty well (just be sure to cut off the plastic button and the metal zipper first).
August 16, 2012 § 6 Comments
Dave: Stop looking in the compost pile all the time.
Libby: I can’t help it. Have you LOOKED in there?
Libby: There are thousands of worms, and it makes a humming sound…it’s its own eco-system.
Dave: Just stop looking in there all the time. Ok? It’s weird.
Libby: I put a pair of your shorts in there last week, and now they’re gone. The compost worms ate them.
Dave: Do you know how disgusting that is?
Libby: I bet you could put a whole dead coyote in there, or a cow…even a person. How long do you think it would take to compost a person?
Dave: STOP it. Please, just stop it.
Libby: I’m just wondering.
Dave: STOP wondering. You’re trying to give me nightmares.
June 29, 2012 § 6 Comments
I tried sleeping outside on the hammock again. After my previous attempt (when mosquitos had a buffet on my head), I was a little afraid that I would again be inundated by insects. This time though, it was very nice. There were very few mosquitos, and I was able to relax in the hammock and enjoy the solitude. Early in the morning, coyotes wandering across the property disturbed me, and I decided to come back inside.
Meanwhile, someone gave me a William Sonoma gift certificate, and I ended up buying a counter-top compost bucket. It’s a stainless steel version of the free plastic coffee can that we’ve been keeping in the sink to store the compost. It’s not bad-looking, but now it sits on the counter, as opposed to taking up no room at all inside of the kitchen sink. This brings total compost pile investment to about $150…I wonder if spending $150 on GARBAGE is practical.
The road workers are just about finished with the road in front of our house, and now we can reinstall the fence around our yard. We’re looking at putting our split rail fence back up, with some sort of fast-growing non-toxic foliage between the fence and our house. While we like the wide open look of our house from the road, we do want a bit of noise protection. We’d also like to be able to let the dogs out without having to worry about leashes…poor beasts have had very little freedom since the road work started last fall. If you have any ideas for a fast-growing foliage we can plant, we’d love to hear them!
Dave’s 1964 356 Porsche arrived in a pink truck. Now, the fun begins. After he and the driver installed the beautiful car in our barn, Dave led me on an inspection tour. Dave was practically rubbing his hands together with glee…”the engine is in terrible shape,” he said, “and look at this horrible upholstery.” He was in Man Heaven.
Dave stepped on Slim Jim the Water Snake this week while working near the pond…For a few moments, it appeared that Slim Jim would not recover…not to mention Dave’s near heart attack from stepping on a snake. However after both Dave and Slim Jim got over the surprise from the encounter, both were undamaged. Hopefully this will be a lesson to Slim Jim, and he will henceforth refrain from lounging about on paths in the pasture.
I grew tired of not being able to find thank you notes and birthday cards, and finally organized them in this little box that we now store in one of our bookshelves. The box was on clearance from IKEA. Of course, while I was there, I bought a bunch of other things that weren’t on clearance, making my trip there not much of a savings at all. Isn’t that always the way it is with IKEA?
June 14, 2012 § 15 Comments
Because I work in high-tech, some people assume I’m a use-all-the-energy-you-want-conservative. I frankly consider myself middle of the road, and have conservative and liberal friends. My conservative friends call me a tree-hugger, and some of my liberal friends laugh at me when I say I’m fiscally-conservative.
The fact is that politics have become so partisan these days, it’s hard to be responsible and green without offending someone…so, Dave and I just do what’s right for us (and we try not to worry too much about making people mad). We live as green as we can, make our best effort not to be wasteful, give back more than we take, and think about our purchases (for the most part, even though antique Porsche sportscars do tempt a certain someone).
So, I’ve been thinking about all the things we can do to make a difference. Some of these things are really big, and some are fairly small. Some of these things you might not be able to do, for one reason or another. The important thing is that you do as many of them as you can.
- Buy used, when you can. When you buy a used book, household furniture, or other items, instead of buying it new, you’re saving it from a landfill, and also reducing wastes associated with manufacturing.
- Switch to e-books. You can read them on your smartphone, laptop, or e-reader.
- Use the library. Why buy, when you can use your community’s local library?
- Ask your bank, energy providers, and other entities to bill you electronically.
- Use your bank’s electronic bill-paying service to reduce paper waste.
- Stop thinking of soda as something you need to drink every day. Coca Cola was invented as a medicine…why not use it as such? Keep a few Cokes around for when you have a headache or stomachache, and otherwise stay away from the stuff.
- Compost. Make a bin outside where you can compost your kitchen waste, mail (yes, you can compost your junk mail), catalogs, phonebooks, coffee grounds, and lawn clippings. If you live in the city, you may be part of a community that accepts compost (check with your community to see).
- Recycle what you can. This means taking cans, glass, plastic, and paper to the recycling station in your community. If you’re fortunate enough to have a curbside pickup service, what are you waiting for?
- Dress classically. This means buying non-trendy clothing that may cost more but sticks around style-wise for a lot longer. Think Katherine Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, with their cashmere twinsets, Hermes scarves, leather ballet flats, pearl necklaces, and trench coats. These things never go out of style. Dress classically, and you’ll forget about having to throw out-of-style items into the trash. And no, I’m not suggesting that you dress like some sad little 1980′s person, wearing yucky old polyester jackets and pleated pants. I recently wore my aunt’s 1940′s green brocade cocktail dress to a party, and received endless compliments. That cocktail dress is still current because it is classically designed.
- Give to Goodwill and other thrift stores. Give unwanted clothing, furniture, and household items to charity. Not only do you get to keep the tax deduction, but you’re preventing your things from ending up in some landfill.
- Stop eating pre-packaged foods. Sure, they’re easy, but you can do so much better on your own…really you can. You do not need to buy pre-made frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for your kids. Save your money, and save some landfill from all of the packaging.
- Stop using fabric softener. Half a cup of vinegar in every load works just as well, and there are no chemicals.
- Refrain from using products that use dyes and fragrances.
- Stop or limit the use of products that contain phosphates.
- Grow vegetable plants at home. Whether it’s 1-2 plants on your balcony or an entire garden in your backyard, either way, you’re living greener than you would be if you were buying everything from the grocery store.
- Plant herbs in small pots on your inside windowsill.
- Buy local. Buying locally-produced meats and vegetables saves on shipping costs.
- If your car is very old (and gets horrible gas mileage), consider taking it out of the system entirely and bringing it to the junkyard.
- Work from home. Even one to two days per week (or month) saves on energy costs.
- Take the bus or ride your bicycle to the office.
- When you buy a new car, consider low emission diesel cars, which are getting low (or better) mileage than the hybrids, without having to worry about batteries.
- Plan your errands such that you waste a minimal amount of energy.
- Install programmable thermostats and eco vent fans.
- Make your own bread.
- Eat at restaurants less often.
- Eat at least one meat-free meal per week.
- Join a co-op, where you can collaborate with others to purchase items in bulk (where economical), either from a farmer’s market or from a bulk distributer.
- Start a neighborhood co-op.
- Consider a gray water/blackwater system if you are building a new home (if allowed by your community).
- Use a water reclaiming system to water your lawn (i.e a rain barrel). Some communities do not allow this, so please carefully consider before installation.
- If you must use candles, consider soy-based candles, which are less toxic.
- Make your own dog treats. Why spend $5 – $15 at the store when you can make your own?
- When replacing your HVAC system in your home, consider spending more money to get a more efficient system, if you can afford it. The pay-off may take awhile, but in the long-run, you may come out ahead.
- Install 1-2 solar panels on your roof.
- Buy dishware at thrift stores. If you stick with all white or a neutral color scheme, then your purchases will all work. Dave and I have some very nice antique Fostoria crystal that we’ve purchased in this manner, and no one (until now) knows that we bought it for a few cents for each piece).
- Turn off your air conditioning if you’re not at home. If you live in a colder climate, then turn down the thermostat when you leave.
- Don’t smoke.
- Bring your own bags to the grocery store.
- Cancel your gym membership, and just walk or ride your bicycle a few times a week. You’ll still get plenty of exercise.
- Brew your own coffee (Starbucks is great, but you don’t need to go there every day).
- If you have a Keurig coffee-maker, use the home-brew cannister to make your own K-cup.
- When building a new home, consider spray polyurethane foam (SPF). It seals and insulates.
- Consider the impact of switching to compact fluorescents (which produce mercury waste), against incandescents, which produce heat waste.
- Rotate your tires every 7,500 – 10,000 miles. Check your tire pressure once per month.
- Cook extra food so you’ll have leftovers for lunch the next day.
- If you’re going to use the oven, cook several things at once to optimize energy.
- Filter your own water, and put it into portable containers.
- Consider the packaging sizes when purchasing bottled drinks. Do you really need individual-sized packages?
- Buy boxed wine. It uses less packaging, tastes fine, and lasts longer opened in the refrigerator.
April 24, 2012 § 11 Comments
I’ve only had a compost bin for six days, but already I’m an expert. You may not believe this, but I actually checked out a book at the library about compost. I read it cover-to-cover, and can’t believe that:
A) Someone actually got paid to write a book that is essentially about garbage; and
B) People are waiting in line to check out a garbage-themed book from my local library.
The book is “Compost: The natural way to make food for your garden,” by Ken Thompson. It’s a great book, but if you buy it, you’ll have to hide it under your bed when people come over, because otherwise they’ll be saying things like, “You actually bought a book about garbage?” And then you’ll get all defensive, and find yourself defending your purchase of a book that talks about how to recycle your own hair and toenail clippings, when you never considered recycling your hair or toenail clippings at all; but now that you think of it…Hmmm…maybe you could start clipping your toenails over the compost bin.
Since I’m a big compost expert, here are my lessons learned. And before you start thinking that I have NO EXPERIENCE WHATSOEVER on the very important topic of composting, I’ll remind you that I did indeed read Ken Thompson’s book, and I also visited Dave’s mom many times, and she had a compost pile for many years, and I willingly went outside to throw garbage into her compost pile, and I also flipped it around a few times with a pitchfork. So, I’m an expert.
Here’s what I know:
Compost piles need just enough water…not too much, and not too little. Shrubbery clippings have too little water, and kitchen waste has too much. If your compost pile is mostly kitchen scraps. then you need to add a few shrubbery clippings, shredded paper, or torn-up cardboard to soak up the liquid.
An old plastic coffee can with a lid makes a terrific interim garbage pail. Keep it in your kitchen sink (lid on), and dump any compostable materials into it as you work. Once a day, walk it out to the compost bin, and toss the contents into the bin. On your way back into the house, you can rinse the coffee can out with water.
You don’t need a fancy bin from Walmart. Materials will compost perfectly well without a store-bought bin. A mass-produced bin is merely tidier.
Don’t compost animal products. To do so attracts vermin. Animal bedding, such as cedar shavings are fine, however.
It takes about 12 months, give or take a few, to break down discarded materials into compost. If you turn the compost often, the time will be much shorter. If you never turn the pile ever (that’s probably me), then the time will be much longer. Dave says his mom’s compost pile took at least a year to break down stubborn things like old newspapers.
A compost pile doesn’t need to be in a fancy enclosed container. Although it doesn’t look very attractive, you can just lay the material on the ground if you lack a better solution. Alternatively, you can build a simple wooden enclosure in your back yard, and place your material in there. When the enclosure gets full, just build another one next to it, and begin filling it.
Some sort of cover for your compost helps the material retain heat and prevents the surface from drying out. Ken Thompson suggests using a few boards, or a piece of old carpet as a lid.
You can add activators to add nitrogen and increase the speed your materials will compost. Activators include ammonium sulfate, lime, and chicken manure. Ken Thompson says human urine also works, but I think I’ll avoid that route even though Dave has DARED me to pee on the compost pile.
Paper is a terrific compost item. Such things as used tissues, shredded bank statements, toilet paper tubes, and cardboard egg cartons are easily composted.
Three parts soft green waste, partnered with one part woody waste makes the ideal compost.
April 19, 2012 § 8 Comments
Just in case you are wondering…no, Dave did not give me a compost bin for our anniversary. I bought a bin myself. At Walmart, where they were on sale. Dave, evidently tainted from years of a compost pile as a kid, most certainly did not endorse the purchase of my compost bin. In fact, I had to sneak-buy it.
Yesterday I bought the darned thing on my lunch break. After work, with a glass of wine and Doodle and Otis’s assistance, I assembled it on the patio. Thankfully, Dave was working late, and so he was spared having to view the box, with its extravagant price tag. By the time Dave arrived home, it was assembled, and sitting daintily next to the Bay Tree, in the breezeway.
Dave: What IS THAT? Did you WASTE MONEY on that ball of crap?
Me: No. Of course not. That ball of crap was ON SALE.
Dave: Do you realize how IMPRACTICAL that stupid ball is? I could have made you something out of those old boards in the back yard. Geez.
Me: But those boards are rotten. They will last, like, 3 weeks, and then they will disintegrate into nothingness.
Dave: That ball of crap is a COLOSSAL waste of money.
Me: Just you wait. Pretty soon that ball of crap will be making homemade dirt, and you’ll be thanking me for all the money we’re saving, not having to buy dirt at the store.
Dave: We have plenty of dirt already. You don’t have to buy dirt at the STORE. Do what you want, but that stupid ball’s going to roll all over the yard and disappear forever.
Making your own compost pile: Some helpful tips
You do not need to buy a fancy compost ball at Walmart. You can make a compost pile yourself with a few old boards or a discarded plastic bin. Just because I was wasteful, buying a stupid compost ball from Walmart, doesn’t mean you have to do the same.
In spite of what the experts say, a compost pile can be a little stinky. Don’t put it right up next to the place where your husband parks his car, because it will just piss him off.
Situate the compost bin close enough to the house where you can easily walk outside in your pajamas to throw away the leftover kitchen waste, without worrying that some coyote or possum will attack you while you’re out there. Use your best judgment. If you can, try to trick your husband to go outside and throw away the kitchen trash into the compost bin.
Keep a lidded waste container indoors, where you can discard any vegetable matter for eventual displacement into the compost bin.
Throw your vegetable waste, and nothing else into the compost pile.
Do not throw meat-products into the bin. This attracts carnivores and other pests, which you do not want near the house.
Do not use your compost bin for yard waste, such as lawn clippings or hedge trimmings. These are better left either on your lawn, or in a compost bin of their own.
Waste that is ideally suited for your compost bin includes: coffee grounds and filters, bread, citrus peels, apple peels, egg shells, fruit, stale bread, tea bags, raw or cooked vegetables, shredded paper (not glossy).
Waste not suited for your compost bin includes: meat, dairy products, fish, fat, lawn clippings, shrubbery trimmings, garden waste, your husband’s old high school football jersey (why, oh why is he still wearing that stupid thing?).
April 18, 2012 § 5 Comments
Dave: What do you want for an anniversary present?
Me: A compost pile.
Dave: No one wants a compost pile. Are you crazy?
Me: Can’t you build me a compost pile?
Me: How about a little one…we can make it out of those old boards over there.
Dave: Those boards are ROTTEN. They will last, like, 3 weeks, and then they will disintegrate into nothingness.
Me: Ok. Let’s make a compost bin like your mom’s then, you know, with those clever little planks of wood that stack up.
Dave: I’m not doing that. Plus, are you even CONSIDERING that a compost bin will attract humonguous rats that will come and eat at it like it’s a buffet? Do you want rats hanging around? I think you do. I think you’d actually LIKE rats hanging around the house. You’d probably be like “hi,” and you’d be giving them treats.
Dave: NO compost bin. So, let’s go to that new restaurant on the bay for our anniversary. Ok?
Me: Sure. Ok.