Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eco Fest... Good Bad & the Ugly

High Expectations for the annual
2009 Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Festival.
I totally envisioned a jam packed event that would send me home begging for more. With stands of practical info, hands on demos of gardening, solar, and wind uses. Lets just say I was slightly disappointed, granted I went home with loads of info but the experience itself left me dry and empty.
(photo of Jocelyn drinking her Capri sun that I recycle sitting under the wind turbine that I wanted to steal!)
First off you would think with vendors spending over $300 for a spot not to mention the $1 parking and $12 entrance fee, you'd be inundated with cool demos and products. Quite the opposite, the majority of tables were strewn with pamphlet after pamphlet of info I could of stayed home and found on my computer. Okay so maybe helpful for the computer illiterate. Mind you most of the folks behind those tables were more than eager to point out how their product was far superior to the next gentleman's across the row. Yes, please tell me how you $40,000 solar home system is better than the exact same one I just saw 5 minutes ago. Or how about those windows that every company across America produces. What's so darn special about yours? So you want to come to my house and do a energy audit just so you can tell me what I already hundred year old home is drafty and far from efficient. Now you can sell me that ridiculously expensive product that will make it all better! How about this take that product and put it where the sun don't shine and allow me to show you how I can conserve energy for just pennies. (If you really want me to tell you wait for another blog post!) Okay so maybe I'm being a little harsh but seriously the average American can only dream of having these wonderful products. We have children to feed, bills to pay, homes and vehicles to repair. Last thing we need is another loan to cover the cost of the gadget that won't even pay for itself until 2050. Yes government grants..blah...blah...blah, um? Your going to depend on Uncle Sam, have you learned NOTHING! (We're not going to talk politics because you know I'll just argue with you and tell you how stupid you are for voting for you know who soooo...) Okay so back the the festival.....
I did crack up when I took the girls to the bathroom to discover they overlooked a green low flow toilets or water saving faucets. Just funny.
One vendor in particular stood out for me. She was displaying a liquid vitamin that she insisted I should sample..."Here have a taste, it's the best thing you'll ever do." Um...hello? Sure I'll just drink some of your poisoned mystery beverage and drop dead together with everyone else. I don't know whats in that stuff! Not to mention fruits and veggies hold all their vitamins when they are fresh....process and bottle them with is that green? Seriously whoever was in charge of picking these vendors doesn't have a clue about the "green" factor.
Have you heard of the group who believes the only thing we can do to better our environment is "genocide". Yes you read it right, they are convinced that in order to cleanse and better our planet we need to wipe out the human race and start over! These people are going to extremes that I'm not even willing to post here. God have mercy on us all!
On a positive note there were a few pretty awesome stands (I'll include a list of my favorites at the end) like the recycled toothbrushes, hemp goods, bamboo clothing, Rodale books (I LOVE! but prefer to buy them used online), local farmers with honey, goats milk and cheese, herbs and indigenous plants. Experimental vehicles run on various biofuels and homemade mystery fuels.
The food stands which we passed up due to their high festival prices were providing a small variety of foods that you wouldn't find at your average fest. Wheat pizza, organic snacks, local free range meats, and of course plenty of vegan dishes. Apparently the extremists think my chickens I'm raising for eggs is a strike against my "Eco" standing.
Everyones view on "eco" or "green" is different and by all means you have the God given right to believe whatever you want. Personally I believe living simply, being self sufficient, using sustainable products, living along with nature not against it, being thrifty with what you given, teaching and sharing with those around us, fair trade, renewable clean energy, blah...blah...blah... I could go on but ...LOL!
We need to look at life as the "whole" picture. It's not just us right now. It's not just what you're doing this second. It's how it's going to affect others, where it's going, will it harm anything? I've noticed that a large portion of the older generation and the uneducated feel there's no point in doing our little part to save the environment. To them I say, If you care about your children and grandchildrens future you'd do something. It's up to us right now to secure their futures with clean air and clean water, to teach them how to provide for themselves and how to share with others. If we don't teach them someone else will and you may not like who they become. May we each do our part in securing our childrens future..... recycle something, lend a hand to your neighbor, replace one cleaning product with a safer eco-friendly product, walk or car pool to run your errands. DOING SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING! Green party of the US Green party of PA check out their Shumei Natural Garden line dry and save our sky! check out what this soap is made from! Support African artisans beautiful sustainable utensils super yummy goods from hemp
Check out these cool sites for green energy, buying local, even green political stands!
(PLEASE pardon any grammer errors along the way....when I get going I don't look back!)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Life and more time!

Fall is fast approaching and time seems to be slipping through my hands. My list of "To Do's" just keeps getting longer with no end in sight. There is just so much I want to do and things I want the babies to experience. Tomorrow is a day out with just me and the two little ones. Errands... the only thing that drags me out of the house when I have too much to do already. Sunday I'm taking the wee ones and hopefully James cousin to the PA renewable energy and sustainable living festival in Kempton PA. Was kinda a last minute thing but I'm so excited. Mingling with some like minded folks who are just as excited about "free sustainable living" as I am.

I've been putting my "career" on hold for a while now and just picking up a client here or there. But I decided it was time to stretch out a bit, so I just accepted a job with a local organic spa as an independant contractor providing Massage Therapy. Only picking a few evenings a week for right now since I don't want to stretch myself too thin.

Now it's off to do some research on a few projects...... seeding the hillside with a cover crop, rigging my rain barrel, finishing my green roof chicken coop, building the cold frame for some winter veggies, how to finish an attic, a dozen remodel projects, and how to get rid of those darn bees!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Although the sun refused to shine today it turned out to be one of the best days I've ever had with my hubby! So ya it's been 5 years since I walked down that aisle and publicly agreed to love and cherish one man for the rest of my God given days. 5 YEARS! Okay so that may not seem like a big deal to you but in recent years with divorce rates on the rise and young couples barely surviving the honeymoon I say we're on a roll!

Tradition has it we watch our wedding video, go out to eat at Olive Garden, maybe see a movie, and retire early for bed. Not this year, we decided it was a year to really celebrate how far we've come, how much we've changed, and how much we love each other. So being that James is on the river every single weekend as a river guide in his kayak (that was his early birthday present!) I decided I wanted him to take me kayaking for our anniversary.

Can we just say so awesome! I loved it! A little anxious at times not knowing totally what I was in for but all in all it was great. James says I did a really great job although I think he's just being nice. I did freeze up for a second going through some rapids, I just stopped paddling for a second until I heard James scream "PADDLE!!!" Blink back to reality I was looking five feet in front of me and the only this I saw was a rock and a wave about to take me under. I survived and squealed and laughed all the way through it!

It was by far the best day I've spent with him. The quiet moments of nearly still water just taking in the panoramic views. A few King Fishers and plenty of ducks, and lets not forget the tourist taking pics of us from the banks of Jim Thorpe, that was kinda weird. I have a new respect for James on the river in his kayak. It certainly takes skill and an eye for the river.

Here's to many more years to celebrate and a love that just keeps getting stronger! (and here's one to those who said it'd never last! Now who's laughing!)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Educating our babies! NEI HO!

(Jocelyn planting trees in the spring)

Tonight I was reminded of the woman I strive to be but seem to fall short of, in my opinion. You know her...the Proverbs 31 woman. She's so freakin' perfect! I sat and read it to Ariana tonight in hopes that in reminding myself of who I wish to be maybe my baby girl will find it a worthy goal of her own someday.
That got me on a whole new chapter to think about, education. One of the greatest gifts we as parents can give our children is the gift of knowledge. If you step back and really try to grasp that whole concept it's a bit overwhelming. It's my responsibility to provide my baby girls with all the know how and skills they need to carry on through life. What if I forget something? What if it's not good enough? Will they survive the constantly changing environment? The questions just go on and on.

(Jocelyn planting her flowers)

My girls will be or should I say ARE second generation home educated kids, what an exciting challenge! From the day each of them came into our lives, the lessons began. Starting with simply seeing and hearing the world around them and learning cause and effect. "If I cry, people respond and provide for me" What an amazing thing, their already figuring out how the world interacts. Jocelyn is well on her way of learning all sorts of new and interesting skills. We're learning our letters, colors, numbers, emotions and reactions, cause and effect, size relations, etc. Everything is a learning experience.

She gets excited about recycling ("wecycling" in her words) even. We started by sorting the trash and she carries the recyclables to their designated bin. She watched the recycling truck arrive and pick up the very items she had placed in the bins and then after a wave and a thank you we took the opportunity to recycle some items of our own into new things. She sat intently watching as I took some Capri Sun pouches and turned them into a purse just for her. Boy was she excited! Now she helps wash them and prepare them for items to sell. What a big girl! Getting her excited about the environment and contributing and doing her part makes me very happy! Shes planted trees and flowers and even picks weeds in the garden!

(Helping Mommy wash) "I'm washin' mommy"
It's those little things in life that make you smile!
Those moments that make you stop and remember why you do what you do.

I'm still doing extensive research on what methods I want to use for their education. Of course how they respond to certain methods will have a bearing on what I choose to do. I have established so far that in some way I want to incorporate a very well rounded ethnic program. I feel in our current and changing world it's extremely important for them to have a complete understanding and respect for people and lifestyles around the world. Our simple start in that direction, Jocelyn learned how to say Hi in Mandarin nei ho(pronounced ni hao). I want to instill in the girls that all people are created equal. Learning the history, skills and languages from other counties I think will be a good start. Emphasising not just what is learned, but how it is learned.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Buzzing BEES

Yikes....been crazy busy and too hot to sit in the corner and update this blog but it must be done! What do I hear everyday in the kitchen? Buzz Buzz... well the sound of busy buzzing lil' honey bees, of course! Recently there was some construction going on up the road from us on an abandoned home. Within 24 hours of construction there was suddenly a swarm of bees outside the kitchen window looking for a place to call home. They managed to find a small hole in the siding that apparently was left from some old wiring or something. After totally freaking out not being sure they were honey bees, I killed one to get a better look. Sure enough they're good old honey bees! We tracked down a "Bee man" named Joe who was able to come over a few days later and survey the situation. Turns out he knew a guy that had built this really cool contraption that acts as a vacuum and sucks the bees "gently" into an enclosed portable hive. After locating a gap between the wall and the ceiling that they had managed to find and use as access to the kitchen, he went to work cleaning out as many as he could. With the hopes of getting the queen as well. Mind you, during the main event I shuffled the girls out of the house and hung out at hubby's cousins until the coast was clear.

Now weeks later after sealing up what we thought was any and all entrances, the remaining guests seemed to have found another tiny way in. So back to sealing up tiny places. It's a shame to loose the queen and the remaining workers but without totally dismantling the wall we can't possible save them. We did save hundreds of them with the vacuum contraption and those have been introduced into a young hive that needed some more workers. It breaks my heart to kill the rest but we're in no position right now to start a kitchen remodel! Bees are becoming scarce in our region and it was surprising to find these. I welcomed the little guys since my garden benefited from the pollinating of the bees. But since they've arrived Jocelyn and Cleo have been stung and we can't go anywhere near that side of the house when the bees are active. I did learn a thing or two about the bees like how they only sting when threatened or they feel their queen is in despair. They one sting once and only use it as a last resort since it is a suicide mission. Once they sting they die. Unlike yellow jackets who will sting continuously and won't die unless you beat them with your shoe!

That blob you see on the side of the house is the large swarm of bees! YIKES!!!

It's been quite the experience, certainly a reminder to seal up those tiny little holes because you never know who might wish to make a home of it!
This one is Jocelyn's first close up look of bees in the portable hive.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Six little Chickies!

"By the end of the summer I'm gonna get some chickens! You watch!" Yes those were my determined words I repeated for the past few months. My family had 4 chickens when I was a teenager and I had some back in the day down south about 20 birds of everything from a ridiculous sized leghorn to tiny black bantams that looked like fluffy balls. My favorite being a "classic" rooster who was despite a handicap incurred from cock fights (he was rescued) had earned the name "Manhore" for as the name states loved all the hens. That rooster wasn't scared of anything! But it has been a good 7 years or so since I've had the pleasure of my own flock to fuss over. So despite the cards being stacked against me in a way, I have been on a mission to have my bitty egg layers. Searching craigslist everyday for weeks I'd watch and reply to anyone who posted ads with chickens. Just over a week ago my persistence paid off. A couple was looking for a home for 6 "soon too lay" chickens. I replied and to my disappointment it was a no go, someone else had first dibs. Not too long later I received a call, the birds were mine! My "always there when ya need her" Mom was there to assist in the retrieval. They only cost me $10 for all six. Yes I know a total steal, I kinda feel like I rescued the lil' gals. Their living conditions left a bit to be desired. Although it's taken me time to get them totally settled, their new home is on it's way to being quite cozy. No names yet as I can't tell them apart very well. They're this years birds, in other words for the chicken illiterate, "teenagers". With a proper diet they should have no trouble at all laying by fall. I'm fairly certain they're Rhode Island Reds although part of me suspects they may be Red Stars since they have specks of white but that could also be because their young. Either way great layers and brown eggs! The gals are fairly calm and always looking for a hand out! No problem picking them up although they love pecking jewelry! They are in a pen actually a dog kennel. I'm building the coop this week. Until then it's kind of a makeshift roost. We can't have free range for obvious reasons so we'll have a bit more work making sure they get plenty of greens everyday. So now the wait begins for that first egg! I can't forget to mention the neighbors have a free range rooster that greets us every morning when he thinks the suns coming up!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Look Blueberries Mommy!

Jocelyn was in blueberry heaven yesterday! We as in James, Jocelyn, Ariana, Mer Mer (my cousin), and I went to a local pesticide free blueberry farm. see it here! Talk about an excited little girl! She loves them so much they made her sick a few weeks back because she ate so many. But that didn't stop her, "More blueberries mommy?" We were only there for an hour and a half because we had other pressing responsibilities but it was plenty of time to pick a good amount. I intend to go back again without Jocelyn so I can pick faster and stock up for winter and hopefully again this weekend with her so she can enjoy them again. Our favorite thing to do with them is freeze them and eat them as a snack. Of course in our pancakes, too.
My gardening obsession kicked in and now I want a dozen bushes of my own. I can't help it! Unfortunately our property needs a lot of work before it would be fertile enough for that. So in the mean time maybe a few potted ones?
As we were leaving I spotted this luna moth hanging out on the side of the

check out the farm here! 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Smiling Wind

Have you ever just stopped to watch the wind? Not just listen but watch. Earlier today I was sitting in the yard with Ariana and noticed she was intently watching a leaf skipping across the yard. Funny how she was so intrigued at only three months old. You really should try it sometime...sit outside and use all you senses...feel it, smell it, hear it, taste it, let it move you. Come to think of it, I think that's some therapy thing. It's true that just being outdoors changes you. Lifts your spirits, calms you and acts as a perfect harmony. Try it at night and it's even more exciting, then your senses really heighten.

The clothes on the line swinging in the breeze just takes you back to when life was simpler. Not to mention the energy saved! I'm still using my make shift clothesline but it serves it's purpose. Only problem is I can only get one load on at a time. Really need to get the proper lines up. (Hint Hint Hubby!) LOL! Guess I'll be going to borrow a post hole digger tomorrow. Yea ME!

Hanging the clothes out is like therapy to me, don't know why. I just feel good doing everything the "Simple" way. Not the simple way your thinking...throw 'em in the dryer. Yes physically that's simple but it's not simple in terms of environmental impact. Ya know...back to nature! There is no better way than utilizing the heat and bleaching power of the sun and the slightest stir of wind to dry your clothes. Don't want stiff laundry coming off the line? Pour some Vinegar in the rinse cycle and they wont get "crunchy". A nice constant breeze helps too. Ta ta for now!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Socks & Festivals

Who doesn't love a fun hobby or craft to keep them busy? I've been doing craft shows and festivals for quite a few years now. Nearly every weekend somewhere we'd load up early in the morning, coffee in hand and set up for a eventful weekend. If I wasn't by myself I was with my mum-in-law. Little church and firehouse shows to the "ya don't get in unless you're good" to the strictly judge and handmade to my favorite...3 day long Palmerton Festival that I only got my own spot because the "jelly" lady passed away! Bless her soul. This past year I had to cut back since the lil' ones have me much too busy to craft 24/7. So I dropped out of all the shows but Palmerton Festival, of which I will never give up until I reach the same end as our blessed jelly lady. There's just something about that festival that makes you giddy. Ya talk about it all year, meet people ya didn't know lived down the street, and of course the profits make it well worth the exhausting 3 days of no sleep. You could sleep, although you probably go home each night trying to fill custom orders and restock. Maybe it's just me (and the mum-in-law) but it's the one time during the year I look forward to as much as Christmas. Why? It's so fun! A mass of crafters selling everything from "granny" doilies, nuts & bolts jewelry, stained glass, quilted everything, and of course "funky sock monkeys"! The smell of every food vendor in the area along with local church ladies yummy treats. Small town bands, silly rides, and socializing with young and old. Mind you I am one of the youngest crafters there with the exception of the "head crafters" daughter who makes beautiful jewelry. It's a family event that really ends the summer with a bang!
I've always loved creating things, it's rewarding and satisfying. Tinkering with this and that... "can I make something out of this?" Last year I expanded my usual hemp jewelry and displayed a few other handcrafted goodies. I appeal to the younger crowd since the majority of the other crafters are much older and their goods appeal to well frankly the "old folks". Why would I want five different toilet paper covers? (Okay be nice!)

Sock monkeys make everyone smile! Come on their adorable! I made some sock horses too but I had come up with those at the last minute so only made a few. I think I've perfected them this year at least to my taste. I sold out of them last year so fast my table looked horrible by Saturday at noon.
My hemp jewelry is just that hemp jewelry. Little of this a little of that. All cool! The soda tab jewelry rocked...bracelets were the best bet....chokers did okay. I'm a bit of a green freak so recycled stuff is right up my alley! My sling rings were inspired by a local mom I chased down in the park a couple years ago and begged her to tell me where she go it. She had made it. So hey why not, I mastered a pattern all my own and there ya go. A lady even bought one to carry her little dog in...funny. My AIO (all-in-one) cloth diapers are a hit with eco-conscience moms and I picked up a few orders.

So this year, who knows, I have a few new ideas to change things up but for the most part I want to keep it simple. That's my thing...practical, recycled, fun, and unique. So less than two months to get stocked and ready for that early morning! I've got a great spot that I don't intend to give up and some great memories to make.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tires & Potatoes

Any one up for potatoes? So I though this year I'd try my hand at potato gardening. It's really quite simple but as far as how well it works I've yet to find out. After doing my homework and doing lots of research online, I'm giving it my best shot. A used tire potato garden....

First off you need ...
  • Potato sets
  • Soil & Manure

  • Straw

  • Used tires

That's basically it. The basic concept is to plant your potatoes in the base tire and as it grows cover it with straw and continue to stack tires.

I started off with two pounds of potato sets. The morning before planting I cut them into pieces with a sprout or two on each piece and set them out to dry a bit.

After I had prepared the area by pulling grass and setting the first layer of tire, then I partially filled three of the tires with the soil and manure. The other two I left empty wanting to try growing the potatoes with no dirt at all. I set the potato pieces in the first three tires down in the soil and covered them lightly then placed a layer of clean dry straw over them. The other two tires I filled half way with straw, placed the potatoes and covered with more straw. Then after a good soaking with the garden hose all that was left to do was wait.

About a week or so later BAM....those little guys in the first three tires were up and growing. The others were slow going but a few days later all five tires were filled with beautiful little potato plants. The key is not to expose the root or spuds to light by keeping them covered with straw. Similar to the old row planting method and building up the sides of the rows with straw as the plant grew. The extra perk with the tires is they act as a hot bed, extend your growing season, grow vertically and make harvesting super easy. Just knock the pile over and pick nice clean potatoes!

Now as they've grown I've been stacking tires and filling them with only straw, watering when it doesn't rain and watching for critters. So far so good. Will we be successful and have tons of home grown red potatoes?

I'll keep y'all updated with our progress. Not really sure how long this takes but that's why it's an experiment. Of all the stuff I've read on it, no one really showed the end product. You can get your tires free most places considering they usually charge to dispose of them so your saving the tire guys money. Sounds like a win win situation!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rambling Strawberries

Well here we are... becoming one of those crazy bloggers. Not that I wasn't one before in way, just my personal ramblings in a notebook. So I've decided to share some with the world. I figured way back when that I'd take all my ramblings and put together a book. Someday I hope to pass it on to my kids, since by then I'll probably forgotten most of what I want them to know! LOL! Can't say I'll get to this everyday but hopefully with a little inspiration I can at least get to it once a week.

Gardening is my true passion, well along with a half a dozen other things but it's really the one thing I can spend all day doing and never tire of. It's so satisfying and you always discover something new and unusual. So on Mothers Day my only request was to go to Lowes. I came home with some gardening hardware and a $10 strawberry plant that was already in full bloom. Jocelyn helped me plant it in a large pot along with a $1 rescue that was headed for an untimely trip to the compost. A good mix of horse manure, rotted hay, and soil had our new garden addition quite happy. Now a month or so later it's gotten so big and has multiplied with tons of baby plants I had to start a bed for them. I consulted with a friend of ours that has plenty of experience with a large organic farm. So today I built a raised bed with the never ending supply of boulders and rock around the property, filled it with the same combination I used for the momma plant. Jocelyn helped fill the bed while I snipped off the baby plants and prepared them for planting.

Jocelyn is certainly learning well. Apparently my green thumb is growing on her and my obsessive "tree hugging". She even says "bye bye trees" when we leave the great outdoors for lunch!

So it's ta ta for now.... I'll be posting the progress of our tire grown potatoes this week sometime hopefully.