Category Archives: Garden

No Impact Experiment: Consumption

Bug is enjoying his first summer vacation with a work-at-home-mom, which involves far more “summer school” than he anticipated. It’s really not so bad. For the most part, I just drill him on his times tables and make him write an occasional journal entry. But sometimes I insist on a more involved project, and that’s how we found ourselves participating in the No Impact Experiment, a guided one-week carbon cleanse.

The first challenge involves consumption. We were asked to make a list of everything we intended to purchase during the week, and then think about ways to limit our consumption of new “stuff:” can it be purchased used, can we make it ourselves, can we simply make do without it? Here’s our list:

  1. Sippy cups
  2. Noise generator
  3. Baby gates
  4. Jammies for Jupiter
  5. Baby food – vegetables
  6. Groceries
We’re generally not gratuitous shoppers, so our list is already on the slim slide. We can hold off on items 1 and 2 for now, though we’re currently using a humidifier for a noise generator (to help Baby Jupiter sleep at night) which is not the best solution.
The baby gates (item 3) are a must. We need two to completely block off the kitchen, and since Jupiter is now obsessed with things like climbing inside the oven’s warming drawer, digging in the garbage, and attempting to turn on burners, the gates are needed STAT. Because we have larger than standard doorways into the kitchen, I’m having a terrible time finding gates that will fit properly. I’m simply not willing to wait until a properly sized gate becomes available on the used market, so we’ll be going new with this one.
I don’t think Jupiter has a single pair of weather-appropriate jammies that fit him. This should be remedied soon, but we will go used on these as we do with all his clothing.
Baby food is also a must: Jupiter is all out of vegetables. We always make our own baby food anyway, so no big shift here.
Item six (groceries) is where we’ll focus most of our attention for this challenge. Obviously, we can’t simply go without! But there are several ways to reduce our impact. Here’s what we did for today’s trip to the grocer:
  1. Shopped our own pantry, fridge, and garden  first. A quick scan revealed that I already had goodly amounts of staples, including lentils, black beans, wheat germ, and corn meal, plus some leftover tomato, lettuce, and onion, and garlic threatening to move past their prime. I decided on black bean and lentil “burgers” for dinner, which would only require the purchase of a few additional items.
  2. Made a list. I’m terrible at remembering what I need once I get to the store, and I almost always forget something important and instead buy something that we already have plenty of (which explains the multiple cans of tomato paste in the pantry).
  3. Bought organic and local. I missed this week’s farmers’ market, but my favored grocer labels all their produce with location, so it’s  easy to select local goods.
  4. Bought whole foods (in this case, baking potatoes) instead of processed (frozen french fries), and cooked from scratch. (I did not, however, bake my own hamburger buns – but I did opt for buns baked at a local bakery with only “real” ingredients.)
All in all, I’d say challenge #1 was mostly a success. Tomorrow’s challenge has something to do with trash, and I’m enough of an eco-nerd to think that’s neat!


Filed under Environment, food, Garden, Kids, No Impact Experiment

Potential Upcycle: Forgotten Doors

Nearly a decade ago I purchased five old (period appropriate) solid-core 5-panel doors with the intent of painting them and hanging them in place of the new (cheap and tacky) hollow-core 4-panel doors that lined my hallway. Thinking I would tackle the project in the next few months, I stored the doors in my basement where, as it turns out, projects and inspiration and motivation go to die. The doors are still there leaning against the far wall where I originally placed them, glaring bitterly at me whenever I pass.

I’ve been cleaning out the basement over the past few months, which has led me to spend considerable time contemplating their fates. It seems clear that my original plan is not to materialize, so now what? I’ve thought about numerous ways to repurpose them, but none have really felt quite right. (Or, more accurately, all my ideas have felt like yet another project that will never get started.)

And then last week I was wandering around the back yard, sighing heavily at all the unfinished (unstarted) projects outside, when I leaned on a section of rotted fence. And then I had an idea.

I did a little google image search, and found these:

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That last one’s my favorite. Isn’t is fantastic? I kind of love it. What do you think?

He built his fences out of doors and made the trespassers into guests.”
~Patrick Edwards-Daugherty~


Filed under Garden, Home, Upcycling

Garden disaster: pests!

Mr. Legume has been eking out as much time as possible on the weekends for our various yard projects, which, of course, includes the garden. I continue to be of no help in this area. It’s not that I’m being lazy, I swear. While he’s been busy digging in the dirt, I’ve been busy digging in the dirty dishes. I’m contributing to the household, just mostly indoors. It’s called “sharing the load.”

(Also, sometimes it’s rainy and I don’t want to be outside in it.)

Having lived here longer than he (both in Seattle and in this particular house), I warned Mr. Legume of some probable garden pests: snails, slugs, squirrels, birds, the usual. Plus cats. This neighborhood has a lot of cats, and garden beds look an awful lot like enormous litter boxes.

So far, it’s really only been the cats that have caused any problems, and Mr. Legume has kept them in check through a combination of garden fabric and strategically placed sticks.

But what we (he) wasn’t entirely prepared for is seedcorn maggots. At least that’s what we (he) thinks they are.

Yuck! They’ve invaded our green beans and Mr. Legume is freshly saddened with every sweet little maggoty seedling he has to pull out.  And me? I’m wondering how I’m supposed to make dilly beans this year without any beans.

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Filed under Garden

Get growin’

I’ve been wanting a backyard vegetable garden for some time. For me, it’s far less about the joy of gardening and far more about really knowing the food I eat. I’m a big fan of knowing where my food comes from, how it’s raised/grown/harvested, how it’s processed, and what’s added to it. I’ve been an organic junkie for a long time, and a label reader for even longer. I love that my local grocery store includes state or country of origin on all its produce. I love farmer’s markets where it’s fairly certain that everything is local and where (often) you can actually talk to a person who helped grow the food you’re about to purchase.

But nothing compares to pulling something out of your own earth knowing that it’s free of pesticides and genetic alterations, and carrying it zero miles to your kitchen at the cost of zero gallons of gasoline.

Or so I’ve heard…

Let it be known: I am not a gardener. Aside from helping tend to a fairly sizable vegetable garden on my dad’s farm when I was but a wee one (8 or 9, maybe), I have zero experience growing anything but my own offspring. My lack of knowledge coupled with my single mother lack of time has meant no vegetable garden for me.

But with the help of my unstoppable boy friend (Mr. Legume), who has both gardening know-how and the magical power to make me much less single, all of that is changing. Behold, the beginning of our garden:

Look! We’ve already sprouted giant sticks!

Mr. Legume worked on it all weekend in the rainy Seattle weather, after weeks of gathering all the necessary supplies and soil amendments. My only contribution was accompanying him on a few of the shopping trips and absent-mindedly locking him out of the house while he was preparing the soil mixture. Even my mom contributed more than I did, donating the wood used for the frame (the leftover remnants of her own now dismantled garden).

There is still work to be done before our little sproutlets can be transferred to their new home. In the meantime, they continue to live in the basement worshiping their grow light.

Currently sprouting are peas, broccoli, kale, lettuce, dill, and parsley. And one black sharpie.

I even helped with this part. I buried tiny little seeds in tiny little peat pellets. I also made labels for the lid (not shown) so we wouldn’t forget what was what. But, again, Mr. Legume did all the important stuff, like remembering to water them.

The bed itself should be completed this weekend, including the trellis that Mr. Legume is making from the limbs of an ugly overgrown shrub (those giant sticks you saw in the first picture). Our sprouts, I’m told by a fretting Mr. Legume, need to get into real ground and drink from the real sun. And, of course, there are the next round of seeds to get started.

And so the gardening adventure begins…

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Filed under food, Garden