Green Weekend

We had a fantastically green weekend. Saturday morning, Alex and I went to the local Farmer's Market and bought some fresh fruits and veggies. I have already had one of the mouth-watering peaches. We also picked up bell peppers for stuffed bell peppers for dinner one night, a cucumber for my lunch, and red potatoes for fresh, cool potato salad. Find a local Farmers Market by clicking here.

Also, we finished our rain barrels. The pictures to the left show the one in the front yard (our sycamore tree must be watered every other day this first summer) and the one in the back yard, which we'll mostly use for watering my herbs. Rain barrels are a great way to catch rainwater and reuse it for your own purposes before it goes back into the earth.

You can buy rain barrels from somewhere like Home Depot or on the Internet, or you can make your own. Alex made these for us. We bought the barrels from Lebanon Chemical Company for only $15 each. They used to hold bleach, so we rinsed them out really well before using them. If you buy a pre-made rain barrel, it will cost more, but it will be easier to set up. Alex had to cut several holes in these—one for a spigot, one for the water to pour in and one for overflow. Also, a pre-made rain barrel would probably blend in a little better than the bright blue one we have.

I wanted to give you an update on our herb garden. The mint on the right has gone crazy. We knew it would. I have made mint lemonade, and it was delicious. We plan to make mojitos for our Fourth of July party—yum! We're also enjoying our oregano (middle) and chives (left). Next year, we're already planning a much bigger herb garden with cilantro, and whatever else we can think of. If you have had success with some herbs that are particularly useful in the kitchen, let me know. I'd also like to put a tomato plant in there. "Dad" will have to give me some pointers!

Here is a picture of me beside the tree we planted back in April. It's a sycamore, and it is growing very nicely. The rain barrels should cut down on our water bill since the tree needs watering every other day.

This weekend we also finally got our clothesline up! I've already put a few loads up there to dry, mostly towels and bathing suits. I bought a retractable clothesline at Lowe's for less than $15.

So, overall, I'm very pleased with the green steps we've taken this weekend. Let me know what you're doing to go green!


Certifiably Green

I want to send a big CONGRATULATIONS to my friend Debbie.

She has provided the essential elements for a healthy and sustainable wildlife habitat in her own backyard, earning the
National Wildlife Federation's Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program.

The following is a 37-second, super-cute video Debbie took of a little visitor playing around in her backyard habitat.

here to certify your yard. The five requirements include:
  • Food Sources—For example: Native plants, seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, nectar
  • Water Sources—For example: Birdbath, pond, water garden, stream
  • Places for Cover—For example: Thicket, rockpile, birdhouse
  • Places to Raise Young—For example: Dense shrubs, vegetation, nesting box, pond
  • Sustainable Gardening—For example: Mulch, compost, rain garden, chemical-free fertilizer

The picture to the right is Debbie beside the 6-by-11-foot, 18-inch-deep fish pond that she and her husband built in their backyard last year.

The couple put a lot of work into the pond, digging about two tons of dirt from what would be the fish pond with just a shovel a some elbow grease. Then, they bought about three tons of river rock and handwashed each stone so the pond water wouldn’t be dirty. They lined the hole with a rubber liner and stacked the rocks one-by-one.

Now the pond is home to 10 koi, three fantail goldfish and a wide variety of plant life, including carnivorous pitcher plant, creeping jenny, yellow lily, lotus, red canna and water hyacinth.

Great job, Debbie!


Soles 4 Souls

The 50,000 Pairs in 50 Days Challenge

Soles4Souls is on a mission to donate 50,000 pairs of shoes in 50 days — between June 1 and July 20. With 43 days to go, nearly 1,000 pairs have been donated.

The shoes go to people who need them in America and around the world. A $5 donation provides two pair of shoes. And for $25 you can sponsor a whole family and provide 10 pair!

My Sunday School class is going to organize a community-wide shoe drive for Soles4Souls next month. There are things you can do too! All summer long, Finish Line stores will give you $5 off a new pair of shoes if you bring in gently worn shoes to donate. Also, if you're a member of an organization, you can hold a fundraiser that helps your organization raise money and provides shoes for people in poverty at the same time!

Last year alone, Americans discarded more than 300 million pairs of shoes. When these shoes break down in our landfills, the toxic glue that holds the shoes together can leak into our water supply and atmosphere. Take a few minutes today to consider ways to join Soles4Souls in their mission to "Change the world, one pair at a time." The gift of shoes is a simple yet profound way to benefit people in need while helping the environment at the same time.


Just Hangin' Out

In the United States, 6 to 10 percent of residential energy use goes toward running clothes dryers, according to Project Laundry List, a non-profit organization dedicated to making air-drying laundry acceptable and desirable as a simple and effective way to save energy.

The Boston Globe has reported that 91 percent of detached single-family homes in the U.S. have a clothes dryer, and a single electric model can spew some 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.

What can we do? With summer kicking into gear, I am going to start hanging my clothes out to dry on nice days. I have picked out a retractable clothesline that I can install outside (rather, I'll get Alex to install it!), and it'll be out of the way when it's not in use.

Several reasons to use a clothesline:
  • The moisture remaining in clothes, sheets, towels, etc., after washing pulls the wrinkles out, as it drains through the material under the influence of gravity. Neatly fold the clothes as you take them off the clothesline and in most cases you’ll find yourself (and your electricity bill) freed from the dreaded chore of ironing. Dryers on the other hand are notorious for shrinking their contents, twisting them, inducing wrinkles and adding static electricity.
  • Sunshine is a brilliant steriliser, so your clothes will smell great.
  • According to Project Laundry List, you’ll be safer as a result. They reckon that clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually in the U.S.

To get started, check out these laundry tips, which include the best places to set up a clothesline and hang certain garments to avoid wrinking and bunching.

If you can't go all-out right now, think about placing a collapsible drying rack on your balcony or patio, or simply near an open window.