Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Make Your Garden Water Wise

There are few things more enjoyable than getting your hands dirty. Studies have shown the health and de-stressing benefits of having a garden. Fresh veggies and herbs are of course a very nice perk as well! But a large yard and garden can strain your water bill and the local aquifers.

Around the world there is a crisis of fresh water.
780 million people lack access to an improved water source; approximately one in nine people.
3.41 million people die each year from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes each year. An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day. The most critical issue facing the American West right now is a lack of water for human activities and irrigation. The Colorado river drains the south-west half of the U.S., it no longer flows into the ocean during the dry season because there is so much water diverted.
1.) Choose plants that are low water needs, or create shade in much of your yard. Xeriscaping makes use of succulents and stone landscaping to create beautiful yards with very low water requirements. If that's a bit extreme try picking out drought resistant varieties that will thrive in summer water restrictions. Plant water sensitive plants in shady spots.
2.) Mulch around plants to slow evaporation and discourage weeds. I personally prefer grass clipping and last year's leaves to make a tight dense mulch. Wood chip mulch is a good option for trees, but using it in your garden will lead to years of wood chunks mixed into your soil. Acid and alkaline loving plants may do well with pine needles or peat moss respectively.
3.) Use drip water systems, or hand water. Overhead water leads to loss by evaporation, and puts the water where the plant cannot use it. Where practical try to give water just to the roots of the plant, sprinkling a small area at the base. Drip water systems are the most practical way to water permanent landscaping like shrubs and perennial flowers.

4.) Water at night, infrequently and deeply. Plants actually use the most water at night. After collection solar energy all day, plants grow at night consuming water in the process. There is also less water loss to evaporation. Water deeply, but don't water every evening, give the soil a chance to dry out so that the plants are encouraged to grow large root systems searching for water.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day!

As I did my daily blog reading yesterday, and skimmed an entry on The Wild Hunt, I mumbled something about Earth Day. The Boyfriend looked up
"Oh! When is Earth Day anyway...?"
"It's today." I replied nonchalantly
"Ooooh... are we doing anything special?"
"All the hippy-dippy stuff we do everyday."
This is the crux of Earth Day really, it isn't a single day to look at the world around us that sustains us. It's a single day to learn more, to become personally involved in the care of the planet. What good is one day a year of tree planting and organic foods, if the rest of the year is spent consuming mindlessly? It's like "those" religious people who are good one day of the week when at church/temple/mosque/circle etc. and a total lying asshole the other six. Weekend environmentalism made smaller.

The tradition of Earth Day as an educational time has been lost, but we can reclaim it. Don't think of it as a single event, it's the New Year's Day of sustainability. Make a slew of resolutions - turn off more lights, use less water, buy local, recycle more, get outside - and stick to them year round. The biggest impacts in creating a sustainable future do not come from governments and corporations. They come from individuals changing their lifestyles. From entire cultures changing their lifestyles. Companies sell us what we demand, so demand local sustainable goods, efficient appliances and vehicles, and soundly raised foods. The government must bend to the will of the people, make your voice heard to protect wild lands and agrarian systems, support small businesses, and improve water and air protections.

I will continue to post about environmental issues from time to time, all year! Because April 22nd isn't the only time you can buy CFL bulbs or fix a leaky faucet. What are your Earth Day resolutions!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Community Supported Agriculture

Perhaps you've got a friend who has one, a family member who is gushing about their's, you've maybe been offered one? I'm talking CSAs. That's Community Supported Agriculture for those who aren't up on the hip lingo. It's not a new idea, but it's grown beyond the hippies and whole earthers of the old days.Say you are a farmer who wants to produce veggies and fruits for local fresh sale. Prep your fields in the spring, buy seeds and manure, watering systems and labor. That's a big investment! Did you have the savings? Do you have to borrow money? What happens if there's a crop fail? What about a bumper crop, with no money to hire extra harvest workers?

A CSA solves many of those problems. To participate, one buys a "share" at the start of the season. The money goes upfront to cover the cost of getting started! Now every week for the rest of the season, you go pick up a box of fresh produce. If the beans went crazy this year, you get lots of beans. If the tomatoes got destroyed by hail, you get none. No guarantees about the quantities, but it will definitely be fresh! Food like this cannot be bought in the store, at any price.I've decided to join one this season. Least year a good friend signed up for one, and she loved it! But living alone she had far too much food and I was getting weekly gifts of fresh local goodies. A great incentive to cook good healthy food at home. An opportunity to stock up for the winter. What could be better?
There are farms offering CSA programs all over the world. Some offer discounts for doing farm work. Some offer year-round produce. Grant Family Farms offers collaborations with other local growers for fruit, eggs, mushrooms, cheese, fresh bread and other yummies.

Look for local options to get fresh sustainable foods around you. The Farmer's Market is only the beginning!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Summer Shawl

At the beginning of March I started a Knit-a-long at the Local Yarn Shop, the Pear Drop Shawl from Ysolda. The first part of the shawl was the lace edging, it seemed to take forever! It was nice to have the group knitting it tho, it made me feel competitive and I was knitting very determinedly. That's Malabrigo lace yarn in case you're wondering.
After 26 repeats, you pick up stitches along the edge and knit in. It goes faster and faster as you get towords the center of course, and one gets very eager to finish it up! Then I washed and blocked it. (I know, I never block stuff! But this is lace, it needs it) This is me pulling the little lace points out just as far as they will go. Yes, I am blocking it on my couch, it worked wonderfully... until the cats came and started pulling pins out.
And then, you put it on and enjoy a brisk spring day! It came out very small, I guess I knit tightly. I was making the large size and it came out in the small size. It makes a nice hipster scarf tho, or a little cover for your shoulders. Just perfect for summer! I also barely used the second ball of yarn I bought, so I have enough left over for another small project. I think little fingerless gloves...
Knit it the sunshine, enjoy knits in the sunshine. I don't retire my needles just because it's warm outside! What's your latest finished project?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Finds - Earth Spirits

As the Season turns, and we mark Earth Day and Earth Week and Earth Month (what about all year for the mother?) Here's some lovely finds from the Pagan Team and others on Etsy marking the Earth Spirits we find all around us. Inspiring art work from ChristinamCallister.

The lovely roots of this cedar box encourage you to look deep into the world and draw out what you need! Lovely laser made wood work from AlaskaLaserMaid.

The spirit of the Earth Mother can help you calm and center to embrace the fertility of spring! Charged herb blend from SandiEnchantedGarden.

Invite some wildkin over for tea! This simple teapot would be at home in a dainty parlor or a woodland picnic. A marvelous creation from AntB.

A delicate bloom of colors with sparkle and shine. Hand-dyed bracelet from AnjaliCreations evoking the spirits of the world.

The welcoming sight of a full moon rising into a evening sky, the tree of life casting it's shadow. This Pendant from CircleintheWood has the fire and spark of the Earth Spirit.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Take a Hike!

It seems a little early, but it's mountain time already! We had such a dry winter that the hill sides are mostly free of drifts, but rain over the last week or two has giving some needed moisture to growing plants and the underbrush is springing to life!
We took a short hike in the Pike Forest, three hours of Ponderosa forest, scrub oak, wildflowers and a light breeze. If there is a better place for a lunch break I can't find it! This area is very prone to fires, and many small communities and homesites dot the valleys. There is a lot of fire mitigation going on in these woods, selective thinning of trees and firewood harvesting. Just last week a prescribed burn shot back to life on a dry windy day and ravaged many acres nearby here. After so many years of dry fire suppression and dry summers the Pike continues to be a dangerous fire zone.
The return to the mountains on foot (instead of skis) marks the start of another backpack season! Hopefully I'll explore many new corners of the Colorado Rockies. Are you getting back into the wilds?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Climate and Peaches

See this? It's a Colorado Peach. It's juicy, sweet, and delicate. It travels about 75 miles to get to my house, so when I eat one it is tree-ripened and fresh. No other can compare, I do not buy peaches out of season shipped from South America. There is nothing quite like a Colorado Peach, accept no substitutions.

You have a local favorite, a fruit or veggie that is special to the region, best enjoyed right off the farmer's truck. Rocky Ford Cantaloupes. Wild picked raspberries. Fresh crisp arugula. Every place has a food which is best enjoyed close to the source and fresh as you can.

So What?

In 2003 a paper appeared in Science detailing a compilation of 180 years worth of layman's records. Bird watching observations, fish catches, an English manor which recorded the first sounds of frogs every year. The results? Species were moving, towords the poles (northward in North America and Europe) and to higher elevations. Furthermore, events that marked the dawn of spring - the songs of frogs and insects, the blooming of flowers and appearance of shoots - were coming earlier and earlier. An average move of 2.3 days per decade.

So What?

This spring we had lots of warm weather early on. The tulips appeared startlingly soon. The fruit trees in my yard burst into bloom alarmingly early. Here in Colorado, a late snowstorm is likely to freeze and ruin a crop that gets rolling too early. Luckly we had only a mild snowstorm. Unluckly, it was mild and dropped very little water on a parched state.
Our agricultural system is very cycle driven. Major food crops were developed for different climates, on the assumption that the yearly weather patterns would not deviate much. Early blooms can suffer from too much water, not enough, wrong temperature, lack of pollinators, susceptibility to disease, and other problems. Climate change is not just melting ice caps.

Consider the fragility of our food systems. It may not seem that way, we have long used chemicals, technology, and the care of thoughtful farmers to provide for us despite the challenges of shifting weather. But continued warming may lead to failures in the Orchards of the Western Slope, and a season without peaches.
Think about that every time you get into your car. When you switch on the lights, or the heat. Remember the cost of fossil fuels is not just in your pockets, it's also in your pantry.

What's you favorite local food? Have you had sparse years of it due to droughts, freezes, or flooding?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Treasuries - Bird Brains

Seems like spring fever has hit Etsy as well. One of my favorite Bird Bags was featured in two treasuries in the same day! Go give the artisans some love and graze the wonderful offerings. Chirp Chirp!

Bird Brain (Birds on the Brain) by Gabrielle

Pretty Little Yellow Birds by Isabelle
I like the spring themed treasuries, with bright colors, plants, birds and bugs. I need to make some new treasuries!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Wheel Doesn't Always Turn One Way...

After a few weeks of very warm weather and a weekend of 80+ F degrees, it spent the last two days snowing. This is actually fairly normal for Colorado, skip Spring and go straight to Summer, then come back around to a little bit of Winter.
I know better than to trust an early season, so all the seeds I've planted are frost hardy. There's a reason we call them "Snow Peas" and Radishes hate warm weather. Of course the tulips didn't miss a beat. In fact the moisture was a huge boon to them! My table will have a fresh bouquet on it for at least two weeks from now.
I finally started on the fourth and final stage of my Wheel of the Year project. Spring will be a light colored tree with small buds and pink flowers. I'm looking forward to bringing the whole circle together, and already plotting a project for the coming trip around the sun. Nothing like crafting to make us enjoy every single season!
What does spring look like for you? I feel it's the season that people are most in touch with, we've kept so many of the old traditions celebrating fertility and rebirth (like spring cleaning, Easter, Earth Day and May Day) that even in modern society we all recognize the return of life. Be sure to get outside and watch some flowers blooming!