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Earth Day: Backyard Garden Adventure

22 Apr

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I adore my house. Ok, so I don’t technically own it, and I can’t take credit for many of it’s charms. I can thank a wonderful facilities team for things like the solar panels on the roof, the tankless water heater, the energy efficient appliances and the many other features that make my house a fantastic planet-friendly crib. Another reason to love my house is for it’s long glorious history, created by the people who lived here before me. It is from these previous occupants that we’ve gotten treasures and traditions like the house journal and the magnetic poetry on the fridge. (Ask Mara if you want to know the story of how Virginia came to live here.)


Unfortunately one house treasure that has been sadly neglected for the past few years is the garden. When I moved into the house, the backyard was occupied by an orderly little veggie patch. I started to hear little snippets of the garden’s history. How one occupant spent an entire weekend working a huge load of compost into the soil, how another turned the garden into a kale factory, and how the random set of mattress springs came to live here. Unfortunately though, I was never around during the summer, so I took very little interest in maintaining the veggie patch, and it slowly grew from neat rows of perfect beds into a backyard jungle of rocks and miscellaneous junk. The only thing that thrived in our backyard was a surly patch of mint, knee high grass, and a few plucky little poppies.


Until now.

I’ll be spending this summer here in Yosemite. (I’m secretly terrified that I’m going to melt in the heat but that’s another issue entirely.) I can finally, finally garden in the backyard.


Step One: Figure out how to garden.


P.S. That thing is called a shovel right? Oh, I am going to be so good at this!

P.P.S. Sorry this entry is a bit late. I’m going to try shirking at least some of the blame to April since I spent most of today prepping for her wedding.

Earth Day: Go Celebrate!

19 Apr

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Since Earth Day falls on a Tuesday this year, lots of events are happening this weekend.  Tonight I’ll be rocking the part of the Lorax for Yosemite’s Earth Day Family Night. If Yosemite’s Earth Day Events are too long of a commute for you, April made a list of ways to celebrate last year. I’m sure a google search for “Earth Day events” with your location will turn up more opportunities.  Go do something awesome  and be on the lookout for greenwashing.

M Mead Quote 2_2_2


Earth Day: Foraged Food

18 Apr

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I’m going to start this post with the disclaimer that I approach wild edibles with a very healthy dose of caution. There are a number of plants that look like edibles that are, in fact, highly toxic. For example, in the Marin Headlands fennel grows like a weed. It has a lovely scent and a licorice like flavor, but it looks remarkably similar to hemlock that also grows everywhere and has the slightly problematic property of being used to kill uppity Greek philosophers. Know what you are doing, use a guide that teaches you how to recognize a poisonous look alike, and do not go all Into the Wild on me.


With that out of the way, foraging for food among the weeds growing around your house is a fun, if slightly challenging way, to go green. Eating hyper-local reduces your carbon footprint by cutting the miles and packaging between farm and plate, and it’s a fun way to get outside and become familiar with your natural surroundings.


I’m fortunate to have a patch of miner’s lettuce growing only a few feet from my front door. Miner’s lettuce is remarkably similar to spinach in both texture and flavor. Around here the miner’s lettuce grows a little on the small side. I’ve seen it grow three times larger in the Sierra Foothills. Even with my patch’s lilliputian size it took me only a few minutes to harvest enough for a salad, and there was still tons left in the ground. I load my salads with toppings so I tossed on some sliced tomato, sunflower seeds, crumbled goat cheese, olives, and a splash of balsamic vinegar.


Miner’s lettuce supposedly got it’s name during the California gold rush, when miner’s would eat it for it’s high vitamin C content. The added bonus of eating this foraged food? I am so not gonna get scurvy.


Earth Day: Buying in Bulk

15 Apr

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I have a confession to make: It took me a long time to understand the appeal of buying in bulk. Buying in bulk conjured up memories of shopping with my family at whole sale stores as a child, where the food was highly processed, poor in quality, and didn’t necessarily scale down the packaging. Plus, I usually got sick of eating the food long before we made a dent in our supply of it. Even when I saw more appealing food being sold in bulk I still didn’t get it. If I was still pouring my bulk items into a bag to take home, I wasn’t reducing the amount of plastic packaging in the world, so why bother?

I’m too embarrassed to reveal exactly how long it was before I had this simple revelation that changed my whole outlook. What I finally realized was this: You can bring your own container to the store to buy bulk products. It’s glaringly obvious, but I admit that I felt a bit like Archimedes springing from the bathtub shouting “Eureka!” when I finally got it.


Now I buy a lot of stuff in bulk. I show up at the store armed with a variety of bags and reusable containers. The only hassle of buying in bulk is that you have to go to the register first to have them tare your containers. They weigh the containers, and when you pay they subtract that weight so you only pay for the actual weight of what you are buying.


I’m lucky to have a fantastic store near me that carries a lot of bulk items including soap, shampoos, and conditioners. You can also find a number of bulk items at Whole Foods. A simple google search for “bulk grocery” and your location will likely turn up a few options. And of course there’s an app for that.

I like buying in bulk simply because it reduces the amount of plastic packaging floating around in the world, but it can sometimes (not always) be a money saver as well.

Happy shopping!


Earth Day: Weekend Images

13 Apr

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If April can post pictures on the weekends then so can I!


Especially because this is what the Merced River Canyon looks like right now. I love you all but I have better things to be doing than sitting inside chained to my computer on a day like this. The orange glow that looks (as my roommate Kelsey so eloquently put it) like Cheeto dust, are poppies in bloom!


Earth Day: T-Shirt Bag

11 Apr

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Several years ago I decided that I wanted to start using reusable grocery bags and bought a bunch of crappy plastic reusable bags at the grocery store. Sadly, it wasn’t until these poorly made bags started falling apart that I realized they were unrecyclable and another piece of plastic that would eventually end up in a landfill. It was then that started understanding the value of cloth grocery bags.

Much later I was given an enormous box of t-shirts and asked to do something useful and creative with them. After a few minutes of puzzling over them I had a flash of genius.


I sewed the shirt together at it’s bottom hem, cut off the collar and sleeves and within a few minutes I had a reusable cloth grocery bag.


I was pretty proud of myself until I showed it to a crafty friend who looked only marginally impressed and said “Oh cool. A t-shirt bag.” Sure enough I googled it and found about a billion tutorials.

So I just wanted y’all to know that me and a bunch of people on the internet are all creative geniuses. If you have any unwearable t-shirts floating around this is a quick and easy way to reuse them.


Earth Day: Upcycled Bread Clip Picture Frame

9 Apr

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When we our Earth Day celebration last year I was determined to start doing more upcylcled crafts. I laid out the challenge of the Destash Bash with that in mind, but I kinda slacked on that part. Actually I’ve been slacking in the crafting department for awhile now. Once again, Earth Day gave me the inspiration to give it another go.

I started by asking my friends to collect these things for me.


Some call them bread tags, others call them bread clips, I call them the bane of my existence. I hate these things. They drive me crazy because I find them on trails in Yosemite all the time. They’re plastic so they aren’t going to decompose during this century, and I have yet to find a place that recycles them. What’s more they seem so stupidly unnecessary. I would prefer to see bread sealed for shipping with a paper based tape. I think we’re all smart enough to figure out how to close our bread bags without a one-time use piece of plastic.

I have come across a few clever ways to reuse them on the internet. Lindsay at Diary of Crafty Lady turned them into a totally adorable Monster Garland. There are a few more ideas here.

I decided to use them to brighten up one of these picture frames I scored off a dumpster.


A portion of my bread clip collection was found on the ground so I swished the whole jar in soapy water to clean them off. To dry them I spread them out on a towel in the sun.


I used my dullest pair of craft scissors to cut them into strips and shapes.


I glued the pieces on mosaic style with School Glue. At first I was a bit worried that the glue wouldn’t hold the plastic, but as long as the pieces were flat they seem to stick to the frame pretty well. I also don’t expect a picture frame to experience a lot of rough handling so I’m not too worried about wear and tear.


I gave it a few extra coats with Mod Podge just to be sure and added a picture of Grace and I rocking the camouflage at Spring Valley. All in all I only used a small handful from the jar of clips. It may not make much of a dent in the truckloads of these things in our landfills but at least it’s something. I was able to complete the project without having to buy new materials. Score!



Earth Day: Recycling Bias

7 Apr

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This Earth Day nugget came from our favorite commenter, Mara.

National Public Radio: How Recycling Bias Affects What You Toss Where

The short version is that Boston University Marketing Professor Remi Trudel found that volunteers were more likely to toss paper into the trash can if it was torn or crumpled up. They also found that cans were more likely to wind up in the garbage if they were dented. He credits the perceived usefulness of the recyclable item as a bias factor when we sort our recycling. Once we become aware of the bias, it takes less than a few seconds to correct the error.

Happy sorting!


Earth Day: Cheat Neutral

5 Apr

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This brilliant video from Cheat Neutral is a clever criticism of carbon offsetting. When I first saw it a few years ago it made me totally rethink the entire concept. Fair Warning: At the very end there is a tiny bit of language that may make this not safe for work (or kids.) April, cover your ears.

Have you ever bought carbon offsets? Did this make you change your mind? What do you think?


Earth Day: Climate Change Art

3 Apr

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I don’t know about you, but Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports do not sound like my idea of an easy read. Fortunately, Greg Johnson, a scientist involved in compiling the Fifth Assessment Report took the 2,000 page document and interpreted it with watercolor and haiku. The 19 picture series contains a powerful message about the realities of a warming climate.

You can find more information about it here.



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