Saturday, April 28, 2012

Remington, Ribbons, and Water Purifiers

Remington typewriter
This week I made a rare day trip out of town. To help pay off the student loan I've made a serious effort to limit my wandering to local stops and I do my best to consolidate my errands. At times this is hard for me. I was raised on cheap gas and my family loved to jump in the car and take a weekend trip. Even when gas prices climbed I'd still pick a spot on the map and go there or take an hour and head down a road I hadn't traveled before. But I have made a choice to do otherwise, so I wait for those unavoidable trips and make the best of them when they occur.

One of those unavoidable trips came up last week. On the way I stopped at a large flea market I used to frequent. Fact: Flea markets flourish when times get financially tougher and people remember that second-hand sometimes saves a lot of money. And, if you have eclectic tastes (some say bizarre) like mine, you can't expect to be sufficiently entertained by a somethingMart. There just isn't enough variety of taste there.

Christmas decorations
Here's a little $40 Remington typewriter cozied up next to some nightstands and baby swings. It is an elegant and sturdy little machine and the tag reassured me that it “Works!”. Of course there is the matter of ribbons. I don't dabble in typewriters but I have a friend who does, I will have to ask her (Elegant Astronaut blog) if you can still find ribbons for these.

Coincidentally this week, I intercepted four boxes of things headed to the dumpster. Two were boxes of vintagesque Christmas decorations and the others were boxes of typewriter ribbons. The ribbons were for Selectrics and other electric type typewriters that have been replaced by word processing and email. If anyone needs/wants these ribbons, get in touch please. They are MIB (mint in box).
Olivetti, Panasonic, Swintec, Cannon

Technology obsoletes many things, like knowledge and equipment. Many products have a really short life span, especially in comparison to the materials, labor, and disposal costs. So should we make things that last longer or things that cost less and are easier to recycle? Good question.

Speaking of questions, I got a question last week about whole house water purifiers. I found out a few things in my research. First, you need to figure out why you want/need a purifier. Is it visible contamination (you will probably need a whole house type). Is it dangerous contaminants you know are in your community system ( you may want to ask them about contaminant spikes)? Did someone scare you into thinking the only way to be safe and healthy is to buy one. The way to answer these questions is to get a report on your water quality. A public utility must report every year on the water quality, start there. You should be able to get a copy from the water company or at your public library. If you think it is something in your house system, have your water analyzed (maybe start with the local health department). Based on these results you should be able to choose between a whole house type and a point of use type filter. You need to match the filter to the problem and to do this effectively you will need to know exactly what you want to filter out.

Put prayers here
Also remember there is upkeep involved in any filtration system. Check on difficulty, cost, and schedules when choosing between systems. Pelican Water Systems is a LEED registered system so there is at least one out there. Some  systems are probably massive overkill and expense. Don't let someone scare you into buying something you don't need. Do some research first, you'll be glad in the long run.

While I was in that flea market I saw this prayer collection tin. Maybe my theology doesn't exactly match up with this person's but I do admire their effort to integrate their spirituality with their work and interests. I also admire their faith and willingness to show concern for others. We need lots of prayer collection these days.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Patchwork, Aquaponic, Pragmatic Delight

Tomatoes in Earth-boxes
This week has been all-out gardening weather around here. The weather is warm and fine and things are growing fast. At work I have been clearing out the greenhouse getting ready for hot weather. It is already hot in the greenhouse. When I remembered to check it was about 87 degrees F. I only have a box fan for an exhaust fan so I try to empty out the house as much as possible because it will soon be too hot for most things in there (including me). I put as many things as possible out in my shaded shrub yard and I try to get everything planted out that I can.

After that the race will be on for watering. At work, I water thoroughly 3x a week. Right now I can slide a little if it is cool, or if it rains, But in a couple of weeks, it will be water or else. I would like to install a constant drip system but that will have to wait a little while. I am still finishing beds and reconstructing shrubs that have been improperly pruned for several years.

Peppers in homemade boxes from storage bins
I took a few minutes to swing by a family-friend, fellow gardener's homestead. He has been telling me about his Earth-boxes and how much he likes them. He even copied the idea and made some up using other materials. He said he will let us know if they do as well. He hinted that it might not be that much cheaper to make your own if you had to buy most of the materials new.

One of my co-gardeners heard about a plastic tub clean out that a landscaper friend's mom was conducting. He swung by and scored a huge pile of storage bins and tubs. He will probably convert some of these to planters. Unfortunately he missed out on the large plastic pool that he was wanting to incorporate into his aquaponic plan.
The last garden shot is of the other co-gardener's square-foot design. It is turning into a delightful patchwork effect garden. He has had excellent germination of seed. It is fun and educational to be able to compare the different gardening approaches and attitudes.

Square-foot bed (Larry Gray blog)
I am pretty pragmatic about gardening, food production first and experimentation second. But I always try to incorporate some new things and some beautiful things. I think a lot about the results and I watch other's efforts closely. Wait... that sounds like a sound approach for daily living- pragmatism about the basics, learn as you can, include something new and something beautiful, pay attention to what is going on around you. Yeah, not bad, not bad at all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Graffiti and God

On my way to work this morning I drove past this train car. It took me a few moments to realize “Hey, that was really cool, what was that?”. I had to drive another quarter mile before I could turn around. I turned and headed back. The car had moved. I pulled off the side and thought I could see it way down the tracks. I found a place to park, hopped out and pushed my HDR camera app on the phone.  Suddenly, it was backing up...and it stopped right in front of me. I got the photo, and off it rolled, right on cue.

Now the strange thing was that while zoning out on my way to work I had been thinking all kinds of prayer and God things. I was asking Him about what I should do about certain things. And there it is...on the side of the train, “Do It”. Pretty direct if you ask me.

Let me be clear, I am always talking about being wise and using our good sense and things like that. But there is room in my world for God to just speak up, any way He wants to.

I've always liked train graffiti. Some of my first digital photos were pictures of graffiti on train cars. I really like the style and colors. I like trying to figure out what they say and wonder about who did it, and where it is from. If you Google it there are some amazing pictures. I only searched about ten pages, but I didn't see any that looked like they were by the same artist.

Anyway, I liked it. I'm still trying to figure it out, but the colors and the style were super and the use of space was tremendous. So thanks and congrats to you, the Unknown Artist. And as for me, I think God was sending me a message through your design. I am not even going to get into any ethical questions about this please and thank you very much!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Farmer's Markets, Sustainability, Location, and Mayors

Fresh Local Honey from Drewry's
 This was finally a Saturday morning that I was able to get up and get to the local Farmer's Market. Even so, it was really late before I drank enough coffee to get me out the door. But it was amazing!

Even though I slept late and the vendors were closing up by the time I arrived, I was stunned. One of the first things to meet my eyes were pots of a new variety of fig. Next to them were perennial hibiscus (big red flowers I'm told). The next vendor had French Tarragon plants and Lemon Guava (sturdy young vines for $4, see if you can match that over the Internet!) Another vendor had a beautiful Coffee Tree! Talk about exotic. I bought one coffee tree, one fig tree, one perennial hibiscus, two guavas and two tarragons, all soundly potted (not bare-root) for less than $60, no shipping (I was going to town anyway), no tax. Local shopping can be an adventure so don't underestimate the creative and entrepreneurial souls who are out there waiting for you.
Ellen Crane's Guava & Tarragon

All of this happened in the Westside Church of Christ's parking lot. Now if you are talking about heroic, these folks deserve the medal and the kudos IMHO. After our local Farmer's Market was forced to relocate from their “prestigious” downtown location, they were invited to use the Church's parking lot. This has served as their new location. Let me say that I greatly respect and applaud the Westside Church for allowing the Market to use their facilities for something as community benefiting as this. On behalf of our community “Thank You”! We benefit from an easily accessible location with plenty of convenient parking. I appreciate the organizations, churches, and politicians who are truly looking out for the interests of the regular person, not just the business owner or the high profile trend-setter in town.

Rose Jelly and Coffee Tree
And also, speaking of politicians and interest in the issues of the average citizen, I remember that Earth Day two years ago was when I listened to the remarks of the then mayoral candidate, now mayor. He was publicly commenting on the Earth Day Sustainability Panel that I had participated in. When he expressed his hope that all of our town's citizens could have the chance to engage with the sustainability issues we discussed I thought “There speaks a man I would like to support”. Politics is a tricky game as we all know, here is hoping that issues like “sustainability” have a larger place at the table alongside profit and business interests. Blessings, prayers, and Good Luck Mr. Mayor!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Green Planters, Green Building and Bamboo

Chrysanthemum planter

My planters at work are pretty much finished. I have finally stuck in caladiums and begonias, the plants that can't take the cold but add lots of color and excitement. My goal is to find perennials that will work well in containers. This saves tons of labor for me and also saves on materials and greenhouse energy costs. My latest fascination is texture and shape. I enjoy the green on green look with a little extra thrown in to grab attention.

This is a planter that I have converted from mostly begonias (which I dearly love) to chrysanthemum, verbenna, and creeping jenny (from tallest to lowest). These are tough, tough plants and only the verbena is the least bit touchy.
Four ivy planter

Here is another tried and true that I love. These four kinds of ivy couldn't be easier now that they are established and look awesome (IMHO).

Yes, I am focused, I want THAT look, but I want it easy and I want it GREEN. And speaking of green, I have been looking at some green building stuff on-line. A reader asked my opinion about bamboo flooring she was considering after I wrote about barter and goods made in China (See Pickle Tasting and Barter blog post). This is a helpful question for me since we are planning on building in the next year or two (God willing).

So here is some of what I found. Bamboo is not a US harvested product that I could tell so it won't be sourced in the USA. It is considered very sustainable since the bamboo plant is really sort of a giant grass and grows in three to five years instead of 30 to 100 years like an oak tree. LEED gives points for bamboo flooring since it is sustainable. However, there are some negative production issues (VOC's I think) associated with the binders that hold the fibers together. Also, you can be pretty sure that, like coffee fair trade issues, if it is pretty cheap, someone isn't getting paid a very fair price for land, labor, or material. There is an added issue, some of the bamboo farming practices are pretty devastating to the environment, part of that turning a quick buck thing. There is at least one flooring company, Teragren, that says they are committed to fair trade for bamboo workers/growers.

In summary, here is a link explaining the issues associated with bamboo flooring and the different factors to consider when choosing “Green”. You have to decide what is most important to consider and “always let your conscience be your guide” (singing along with Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio in my head). And just to stir the pot a little more, here is a cool product to look at and compare to other options just to get an idea of the kinds of options out there- Marmoleum. Also if you are considering building or remodeling, the LEED certification guidelines are an awesome educational starting point for Green-architecture and building (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Thanks for the question Gloria!

Some parts of Green are easy- (hanging clothes on my solar dryer). Some parts aren't so easy- deciding if killing more deer would help prevent tick borne diseases or picking out the “best flooring”, or understanding all the LEED guidelines. But being aware, asking questions and intentionally choosing instead of blindly following is a great start. We live on an amazing planet we should do what we can!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pickle Tasting and Barter

Pickle tasting pane
Finally got around to opening “Grandma's Pickles” (see previous flea market posts). This was craft night so it was a good time to have some impartial tasting. The results were not particularly scientific, but were useful for tasting purposes. The general consensus was a good to okay pickle. Not amazing but good for the price. In my opinion, they were more like a sour pickle than a typical “Claussen” type dill. The garlic wasn't extremely pronounced. You can still find sour pickles in the store, but they are pretty uncommon, mostly there are just variations of the regular dill pickle. Thank you to the tasting panel for their feedback.

Supper tonight was taco salad, cheese dip and chips, and fruit for dessert. I made too much salad, trying to use up some of my lettuce. There will have to be a salad eating frenzy in the next couple of days.

I am looking forward to not buying lettuce. The greens in the garden are almost ready to start thinning and using. I have Grand Rapids lettuce, cos (romaine), and some heading type, a gift from another gardener friend. The arugula is already up and plotting the overthrow of the existing garden authorities (see previous arugula post).

Wood chips for mulching should be at the garden when I get some free time to work there on Wednesday. I have bartered some ivy and monkey grass for a load or two of wood chips from a local tree trimming service. The chips will be used in the garden and the newly planted orchard (blackberries and three new plums). Wouldn't it be great to be able to trade locally for things we needed. No tax, no shipping costs, less gas, less packaging, etc. Locally produced is good and good for us. Do we really need all those things made and shipped from China. I don't have anything against them, but I would rather invest in my local economy than their economy. I would rather trade the plants I propagated and grew for the byproduct of a local tree trimming service to help grow the food I want.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Further Flea Market Fun

Often on weekends I fill in for a few hours at the flea market, it helps cover my rent. That helps if it is a slow month and the sales are down. If things are slow, which usually isn't the case, I get to check out everyone else's stuff. You never know what you will find. This week there were two sets of golf clubs and bags, two sets of speakers, two queen comforters and many, many other things.

Last week I bought a Schrade “Old Timer”(muskrat w/brown bone) pocket knife. I have been wanting one to keep in the F150. There are always times when I need a pocket knife, and I get tired of borrowing someone else's. The Husband generously gave me his Gerber Knife (fancy multi-function gadget with a pair of pliers among other blades) when he upgraded to a new Leatherman. I keep the Gerber Tool in the greenhouse at work. I still have my Dad's Boy Scout knife with eating utensils and everything else, but I don't use it much.

My paternal grandmother gave me my first pocket knife. It was a smallish knife, just two blades, but I was ready to take on any project with that knife. I felt like a cowboy, army man, explorer, Tarzan, and pioneer woman, all rolled into one. It was a knife of great power!

There were plenty of fun things at the flea market too, like this little camera.  I doubt that it works, but it would make a fun display piece. The glider reminds me of fun times in the past too. My dad would put them together and we would fly them until the tail parts broke or someone stepped on it, whichever came first. The polka dot hat just looked fun to wear. I would put the top down on the Miata and wear one but I know it would blow off.

I finally purchased a jar of “Pickles like Grandma's” (see previous flea market blog post) but haven't opened them yet, but will report on them as soon as I do. The stock was getting low and someone came in and bought several jars and human nature being what it is, it made me decide I had better get mine before they ran out. My other great find was several packages of luffa sponges with little packets of luffa gourd seeds included. There is no telling how old the seed is or if it will grow, but they were extremely cheap and the sponges will be useful.

I bought three packages of dishcloths, a jar of pickles, several pair of the scissors I like (they were reduced to fifty-cents a pair, can't beat that), my luffas and a Rival stick blender for $4. A spending spree, I hope I can get myself under control! My real splurge this week was from Lowe's, three lovely plum trees marked down. Two of the trees were regularly $30 each and the other tree was regularly $20. They were marked for clearance at $15, $15, and $10. The young man checking me out had a lot of trouble with the clearance prices. I told him four different times what the correct prices were and in the end he still charged me just $10 each. His manager was there and he was apologizing profusely for the slowness and I just didn't have the heart to say “Hey you got it wrong” in front of his manager. Call me weak, I did try to get it right, but I decided to just enjoy the savings and let Lowe's get on with their evening. Ethical dilemmas..they are everywhere. I decided to err on the side of kindness toward the individual instead of concern for the institution or my faultless reputation. Ha!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spiderman....He's Baaaaack!

Spider re-visit

Spider capture gear
After sleeping in latish this morning due to an early thundershower, I rose to find my arachnoid guest back in the shower. Looks like the very same spider. I don't think that is possible, but if I find it in the tub again I am going to paint a stripe on it or something to check. Its temperament was very different, the other spider was calm and cooperative, this one was much more active and anxious (perhaps I am projecting???). Of course the spider anxiety could be accounted for if it WAS the same spider and it did not want to get launched off the deck again. Not sure.

In case you run into a similar situation, here is my spider containment gear. The calm spider just moved away from the spatula and into the peppermint tub. The anxious spider needed a little flip, like turning over a small pancake (about his size actually) to get it into the tub. I did not linger on my way to the deck to see if it could make it over the sides, it tried a couple of times but slipped back.

Plant stand at flea mkt
In other more appealing news. I have a blackberry coming up from a small root cutting. I will try to show it when it is a little larger. And all of my tomatoes have sold at my plant stand at the flea market. I have more that I have moved up into larger pots (see “Moving Up Tomatoes” previous blog post) and will get them out on Friday for the weekend gardeners after the plants finish settling in.

Plants and spiders have their natural rhythms and destinies. We all have.  There are unseen futures that we are moving toward. People and situations come into our lives that can aid our movement or cause us to get tossed off the deck. Wisdom says pick those situations that will help you move toward the best present and future. Life progress is a series of those choices. Find people who will help you discover and choose the best. Avoid showing up where you shouldn't be, you could end up in a plastic tub.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Carpe Beauty

Large spider in tub

Two great pictures today. Actually one isn't so great, but I did the best I could. The subject was perfectly still! When I made it to the shower this morning, there was something else in there. This bar-of-soap sized spider was hanging out. How does something that large get to our bathroom and into the shower without anyone seeing it!!? Adds a little sinister air of mystery to everyday life.

I try to practice catch and release but wasn't sure how it would go if the spider freaked. I put a small plastic tub down on its side close to the spider and herded it gently toward it with a spatula. The spider obligingly crawled right up into the container. The spider was so large you could hear its legs hitting on the plastic as it was climbing in. I did not hear it drop into the leaves when I tipped it over the deck rail, for which I am glad, enough creepiness thank you!
Catalpa tree in bloom

The other sight was a catalpa tree (Catalpa bignonioides) in full bloom. Catalpa trees and I go back to my little girlhood but that will have to wait for another blog post. This one was next to my drugstore, in the old part of town. There is also one by my other office (see Office Park blog post). They are one of my favorite blooming trees. It is worth the opportunity to see one, they are in bloom right now and it won't last long so keep your eyes open. Carpe diem and all that. You can't really store beauty, although you can recall it. So redeem the time, no one is ever guaranteed extra beauty or time.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring Thanksgiving

Butterfly on lavender
The possum (Jethro) has been on the deck in search of cat food. The potatoes are growing. New butterflies are appearing on the lavender and the deer are nibbling on the blackberries. Life continues and is beautiful.

This has been a week of intense beauty. The weather, the flowers, the countryside, it has been stirring, lovely, and moving. Everything isn't perfect. There are things that need to be fixed, apologies that need to be said, forgiveness needed, and yet there are still so many lovely things around. There are blue skies and sunshine, babies and birds, flowers and new leaves and it it so special and breathtaking. Sometimes I know we are moving through a cloud that comes from our own minds and it obscures all the lovely things around us.

So here is an Easter thanksgiving, or a spring thought if you prefer. Thank you God for all that is lovely. Thank you for all that is new. Thank you for all that is unblemished. Thank you for new life and freedom and forgiveness and all that is good. Strengthen me to face what is not good, in me and in others. Give me patience to wait for the new life that comes from you. Accept my trust, even when I am unsure or confused. Please receive my love, appreciation, and faithfulness. I treasure my relationship with you even though it is completely unmerited on my part. Thank you for the wonderful Creation you share with us, thank you for the record of your faithfulness in your words to us, thank you for the relationship we are able to have with you. Thank you!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Back on the Blog Waves

"Nelly Moser" clematis
This week has been a series of beautiful days interrupted by typical spring storms and rain. We seem to have returned to more typical temperatures, 70's (days) and 50's (nights) rather than 80's and 60's. The warm weather has brought lots of things out.

This clematis is at bloom at home in my flower bed. There is also a pale pink “Nelly Moser” clematis nearby clambering over my winter honeysuckle. At work I have two pale purple clematis, untagged and unnamed, that came from the Lowe's clearance table. They are doing great. Clematis are really hardy and with a little attention at planting you can have a spectacular vine for years to come.

Speckled King Snake
This Speckled King Snake (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki) came out to enjoy the warmth too. It is a little hard to tell from the picture but it was about four feet in length. While reading up on king snakes (Wiki again I think) I found that they are called “king” because they frequently feed on other snakes. That is why a King Cobra is called “king” as well, because they prey on other snakes. Anyway, was glad to see such a large and healthy looking one. Hope it stays away from the roads and mowers. I did not attempt to relocate this one.

Another item that popped up is bamboo, 
Bamboo shoots

in the corner of the garden. And it is true what they say, that it grows several inches a day. In the picture it is barely taller than the mint, a week later and it is taller than my head. This plant has been the source of much dispute with one of my co-gardeners. He is determined to have it and I am opposed. It is considered an invasive species and I have yet to meet anyone who said they were able to eradicate it after it was established. He planted it anyway. We will see what happens.  It has been a good opportunity for me to practice my communication skills and my community tolerance. You've got to try to practice what you preach. As long as I'm not the one who has to dig it up!