Saturday, May 31, 2008

Eco Challenge Throwdown results...

1. No plastic: I joined a CSA and it seems like half the stuff they send me is in plastic bags! Pretty much the only trash I throw in the garbage can this day consists of plastic bags and non-recyclable plastic bits (and cat poop in compostable bags). I did avoid buying things packaged in plastic but have yet to figure out a way around putting bulk flour in plastic bags (pillow cases? what do y'all use for bulk produce?)

2. No paper products: I won't give up TP - I don't go through it very fast. I am very proud to announce that I got people to use cloth napkins and towels at my party - that was about 40 people and they either wiped their hands on their own clothes (drummers) or used cloth napkins/towels (Yes, I have a lot of them). Nary a paper towel or napkin was used at my party.

3. No driving: I think I did pretty well - I only fired up the car once a week to my best recollection. I ought to go fill it up before gas goes up even more than the current $4.30/gal.

4. Local food only: Aside from what was already in my cabinet (mmmmmaple sugar frosting), I bought mostly local food. I confess to buying some spring water (yes, plastic and not local) but did join a CSA. Some friends brought me a big bunch of collards as a table arrangement at my party (I finally ate them last night).

5. No garbage output: Very small - like I noted above, just non-recyclable plastic and the stray plastic bags that now find their way into my home.

6. No excessive water use: I take short showers. I put in a garden and have to water it - but this time am watering directly on each plant instead of running the soaker hose. I might have to get a drip system but that's a TON of plastic and not cheap (thoughts?).

7. No electricity: I did pull out my solar lantern and used that for light a few times. It's light until after 8pm now - I make sure to shut off appliances and computers when I leave the house so my usage is still pretty low. I don't use the electric dryer (ugh) but do use the washing machine - I don't have the time to wash all my clothes by hand.

Overall, this was a good challenge for me because I did think a lot more about what I could do to minimize use and impact in a variety of ways. It's rubbing off on others...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

China troubles...

Lonely kitten in earthquake rubble in China.

China has a terrible record for human rights and pollution - among other things. They're doing their best to clean things up before the Olympics, including fostering ideas about cats as carriers of human disease and killing hundreds of thousands of cats. This has gotten so out of hand that even school teachers on playgrounds feel compelled to beat stray cats to death with sticks to keep their charges safe.

On a slightly lighter note - they are also trying to ban any horror films that feature "wronged spirits and violent ghosts, monsters, demons, and other inhuman portrayals, strange and supernatural storytelling for the sole purpose of seeking terror and horror."

Americans are showing a stronger aversion to the "Made in China" label. While it's clearly more green to buy local -- it's quite difficult to avoid products made in China is widely documented.

When I lost my stainless steel insulated mug, I found that they all seem to be made in China. I settled for a second-hand mug that was abandoned in the kitchen at my office last fall after a round of layoffs. I definitely spend more on shoes to get vegetarian shoes (from and which are made in England and other places that are Not China.

How do you do it? What have you given up or substituted?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Garden Update

I'd like to welcome three people to Distributed Gardening project -- my friend Eric (genius chef behind Millennium), neighbor Beth (writer of Fake Plastic Fish), and coworker Jay (storyteller behind the GreenGorilla).

They all have different gardening areas -- Eric has a terraced area behind his apartment building, Beth has a small, bare front yard surrounded by big buhes that looks great for the 'maters (and maybe some arugula, mint and strawbs if she wants to cover the bare dirt), and Jay has raised beds and more limited space.

Chef Eric witnessed the release of some pretty active ladybugs -- there are still a lot of them on the plum tree and they are still all over the tomato plants. Dobson and George helped.


This morning, after I dropped off the tomato seedlings, I got to meet Beth's charming lovelies, Soots & Arya:

As promised, here are some photos of the garden:


The plum tree is casting more shade than I expected over that part of the garden. I still have quite a few seedlings left to distribute to some friends in San Francisco and some "TBD" recipients.


The basil seedlings are doing pretty well - and the pepper sprouts are moving right along. I just have to figure out where I'm going to put all this stuff!


First CSA Box!

Today I recieved my first CSA delivery from Farm Fresh to You in Capay Valley.

First CSA delivery!

It had lots of good stuff:
Baby Lettuce (8 oz)
Baby Fennel (1 small)
Strawberries (1 pint)
Carrots (1 bunch)
Cilantro (1 bunch)
Napa Cabbage (1 head)
Broccoli (1 bunch)
Haas Avocadoes (4)
Rhubarb (.5 lb or 2 sticks)
Italian Parsley (1 bunch)
Onions (2)
Minneola Oranges (2 lb or 6)

The newsletter was great -- it talks about our new best friend: Aphids. They've been a problem all over the place, apparently. I learned that Aphids especially like chard. My chard are barely germinating so hopefully the ladybugs will get the aphids under control before they start developing more.

Today I came across a blog review of different CSAs -- it makes me think that perhaps I need to give this one a trial and check out some others. For $29, I admit I did expect a bit more produce though they do deliver it right to my door.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hot Times in the Garden

The Bay Area is currently having a bit of a heat wave -- fortunately, James and I got both of our gardens planted on Saturday. They're looking pretty good.

I mowed the front and back lawn but the lawnmower is a mulching mower -- it doesn't leave more than a handful of grass clippings. The front yard is all foxtails -- I don't want that on my garden. I have to find someone who has actual lawn so I can go get some mulch -- I don't want to go with bark.

Anyone need to get rid of some grass clippings?

Meanwhile... aphids are overtaking the yard. They love this hot weather. The plum tree is covered with little aphids and white flies, the ants seem to especially like the corner of the garden where my chard seeds are starting to come up. And, of course, the aphids have dripped off the plum tree onto my remaining tomato seedlings and strawberry plant.

Today I bought a mantis egg pouch and some more ladybugs, they'll go out tonight.

James reports that his lettuces and other seedlings are drooping in the heat but his tomatoes are fine.

My cats are drooping in the heat. Little furballs were battling and insisted on going outside today - I opened both doors and the hot wind from the east blew through my back door and raised the temp inside my home from 70 degrees to 80 degrees. The cats are all melted and keep moving around to different areas on the floor after their body heat makes it intolerably warm. ha!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Computers & Recycling

Back in 1992 or 1991, I remember when a friend, who worked for Arthur Andersen at the time - walked me through the specifics of my first computer purchase. I was replacing a Sanyo MBC 1550 with two 5.25" floppy drives (all ROM memory) with a laptop. "80 Mb is all you'll need -- do you know how much typing you'll have to do to fill that up?"

That computer got me through the end of my senior year as an undergrad and through grad school. It was a black-and-white plasma screen (oooh!) and had Windows 3.1. I used Word Perfect 5.1 and PFS WindowWorks -- later acquired by Microsoft and turned into Excel and the basis for MS Office.

I now have a desktop machine with two external 400 Gb drives, two internal 400 Gb drives set up as a RAID array, an 80 Gb drive and a 200 Gb drive. That puts me at just over a Tb on my machine plus 800 Gb in the external drives... just like 1.88 Tb??

The 80 Gb drive was the original drive on this machine -- I put it together with my friend Bigox when I lived in SOMA in 2002... might be about time to replace my motherboard. I've been replacing fans with great frequency, it seems.

Fortunately, there's Green Citizen -- I can take all my computer junk to them and they'll recycle it. They take apart components that can be re-used and build new computers for school kids, and then break down the other stuff. There are a lot of items they'll take for free -- but you may have to pay a nominal fee (like fifty cents per pound) for other stuff.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

This is what a REAL vegan's freezer contains...

...not like the back page of Veg News -- those people have the most packaged food I've seen outside the Midwest. Click through to Flickr to read notes about what's in those ziploc bags.

This is what a *real* vegan freezer looks like.

My friend who most often housesits for me once complained, "You don't have any FOOD in your house, just ingredients for food..."

Here are some pictures from last summer of my refrigerator, freezer and freezer door just to prove I'mnot bullshitting you folks on the whole packaged food thing. Actually, this is a good way to inventory so I can get rid of those year-old bottles of sauces... and here's a nice photo of all the chanterelles I put up earlier this year.

Garden Update

Garden Update: We finished up turning the earth in my garden, adding 5 cu' of manure and 4 cu' of sand to my garden. We put in 3 cu' of manure, 2 cu' of sand and 10 cu' of "Local Hero" soil with chicken manure into James' garden. His garden is still turning up all sorts of bricks, cement chunks, rock, ash, broken glass and even whole bottles. We suspect that there used to be a building behind his house, and that people burned their trash back there for years.

Ladybugs: We scattered some lady bugs in James' garden -- I scattered two pint containers of lady bugs in my garden -- they seem to be hanging out on the tomato seedlings and also on the peppermint (had little white specks on it).

Garden photos are now up for you to view!

Last night I plotted out the space requirements for all the plants -- I'll have 16 pepper plants and 32 tomato plants in the ground, and hope to have 4 tomato plants in containers. I planted sugar snap peas, regular peas (grow to 16" high), chard and parsley this morning. I'll put dill and one of my rosemary plants along the fence, in view of my kitchen window. Tonight I'll get the lines measured out with James' help and we'll get my tomato plants into the soil.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Extreme Eco Throwdown

Crunchy Chicken has proposed an extreme eco challenge -- I'm thinking about setting up some goals to participate in this one though it's already well into the first week. I think the idea is, for the most part, to give folks who have never lived in a rural area without water or electricity, the chance to see that it can be done. Other parts of the challenge are really eco-friendly changes. Here's what I'm planning to do:

1. No plastic - I avoid plastic as much as possible, but there are some exceptions -- buying from the bulk bins at the grocery store. Also, chips are always in plastic -- so, no chips for May. No tortillas, either, since those come in plastic. That doesn't seem right. I will continue to use things that are in plastic containers at home. Cat food and cat litter are in plastic bags -- can't get around that (World's Best and Feline Pine are both in plastic; bentonite clay is in cardboard).

2. No paper products - I'm not giving up toilet paper. Too late to cancel magazine subscriptions for May. Not giving up tampons (those are cotton, anyway, right?).

3. No driving - I don't drive very much these days. My goal is to leave my car parked in front of my house and I have been finding myself feeling very territorial about that space, and get upset when someone else parks in MY spot.

I keep a car book -- I record every the date, quantity and cost of every gas purchase along with trip odometer and odometer readings. I also throw in oil change dates, brake pad and other work. I've done this for almost all my cars. I've had this car since January 2004 -- this year, I have bought gas once each month, compared to twice a month last year and about once a week the previous two years. I'm probably doing 25% less driving than last year, and easily 50% less than 3-4 years ago. Last month I had a goal to not drive or use my car for three weeks. I ended up driving once or twice.

I might drive one day a week to collect big heavy things and transport things to the boyfriend's house (5 miles away) or going into San Francisco late at night when public transportation is not feasible. The rest of the time I carpool, bus, train, run and walk. I will get on my bike more this month though - I'm getting fat, so more bike is good.

4. Local food only - I currently focus on buying local produce -- at least local to California when it comes to things like avocados and other fruit. As a vegan, I try to buy things produced locally, but sweeteners, tofu, nuts -- those aren't always available within a 50 or 100 mile radius as local produce. Going locavore is enough of a challenge for vegans!

5. No garbage output - I already have a very minimal garbage output. It consists of cat poop in bio bags, and any non-recyclable plastic from cat food, litter or other acquisitions (like 20 glass and metal spice jars which all had plastic shaker inserts that I had to toss).

6. No excessive water usage - having grown up in Napa County during a very bad (like 10 years bad) drought, I'm already a very conscious water user. I will go back to filling a pot of hot water for washing dishes instead of washing them under running water (lazy!). I'm a pretty short showerer -- and I swim 3x/week so it's hard to give up showering at the pool or manage that kind of water. I could easily carry two 5-gallon buckets of water 1 mile. A mile is a very short distance. I've carried four bags of groceries weiging 40 pounds back to the office from Whole Foods before. It's the advantage of my size, I suppose.

7. No electricity - again, with the drought and the fuel shortage in the late 70s, I was strongly imprinted with "shut off the light." I lived in a house for many of my formative years that had no electricity -- we used a generator and we used battery powered and kerosene lamps. I am very conscious of electricity consumption. My job depends on my access to the internet, so I'm not going to give up electricity for the computer. I do shut it off during the day, and shut off the power strips when I am not home. When I am not heating my apartment, my electric bill is $25/month (I wish my landlord would install legal heat!). I'd say that's pretty good. I'll pull out my solar powered camp lantern and use it at night to light my reading and general movements at night, along with candles. I will continue to blow dry my hair at the pool and at home because if I don't, I end up with ear infections (it's mostly a way to get water out of my ears after swimming).

Friday, May 02, 2008


I'm looking at CSA options -- I want to go half-sies with James on one and am trying to find options in my area. So far, I've got:

1. Full Belly Farm Guinda, CA - $25 per week, pick up from a spot in the neighborhood.

2. Farm Fresh to You Capay, CA - $29 per week, delivered. I met these folks at Green Festival last fall, they seem really nice and looks like the best option so far.

3. Terra Firma Farm Winters, CA - $25 per week, pick up.

I know there must be others but I can't find them easily... thoughts?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Eric's Perfect Pizza

Eric's Perfect Pizza
Originally uploaded by jennconspiracy
A night of chanterelles cooking for an article on golden chanterelles that Eric put together for Spooning Magazine, along with some of my photos!