Monday, December 7, 2009

Why local art is a green choice for xmas

Thanks to a series of random but fortuitous events, I ended up at Cyclelogik's 2nd Annual Christmas Art Show on Sat. night. What a great night. The walls were covered with art from 20 local artists (all of which was for sale). Plus there was amazing food by Essence catering and some great beats courtesy of Mr//Greg.

But let's get to the point of this post - because it's not just about what I did on a Saturday night (although woo hoo - I was out on a sat night!). It's about how local art can be part of a green gift giving strategy.

Now don't get me wrong, I think homemade gifts made with re purposed materials, or second hand items make the greenest gifts. But I think local art comes a close third.

Buying local art is a green choice because it eliminates the massive amount of carbon emissions generated from transporting goods around the world, and it's also a green choice from an adapting to a peak oil world point of view. Transitioning to a world where oil is less plentiful means supporting local economies. And the post peak oil corner of the world that I want to live in is one with a thriving art community.

Plus when you buy local art, you might just find art that is made with repurposed materials thus combining options 1 and 3, like this little beauty that come January will be gracing my walls (its currently still on the wall at Cyclelogik):
by abi lyon wicke

Want to buy some local art before Christmas? A lot of the sales have finished for the season(including the giant Tarts and Crafts event). However there is at least one more... on Dec. 12 between 11am - 5pm, check out 'A Crafty Christmas' at 408 Leighton Terrace (613-722-7922) featuring the work of abi lyon wicke and Andrea Stokes. A portion of the sales will be donated to the Ottawa Food Bank.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Glass Dharma straws

I got a lovely surprise in the mail the other day.

For participating in Fake Plastic Fish's Show Your Plastic Challenge (the one where I collect and weigh all the plastic garbage I create), I was entered in a draw to win a set of Glass Dharma straws.

Amazingly, I won! :)

I'm so excited to use them although truth be told I might not use them for a few months. We're expecting snow tonight so I'm more in the mood for tea and hot chocolate than tall cold drinks. But I will start to carry one of them in my handy utensil case for those I NEED a cocktail days.

I wasn't surprised to see that Beth (Fake Plastic Fish) sent the straws to me without using any plastic. But I was certainly intrigued as I'd only seen bubble pack envelopes before (the bubble part being plastic) for this sort of thing. As you can see, not only are there no plastic bubbles but there is also no plastic tape. I dropped Beth a line to thank her for the straws and to ask what products she used to mail them to me. This is what she wrote back:

"I believe the envelope was a Jiffy padded mailer and the tape is just ordinary paper tape. It is water activated, but I don't use a machine to apply. I just run it under the sink. You could also run a wet sponge over it. I like the fact that it's not coated with plastic, as some paper tapes are."

I followed the link for the jiffy mailers and found out that they are made with 90% recycled content and 50% of that is post consumer. Nice. And I can definitely attest that the padding is effective given that I have 4 gorgeous unbroken straws in my dining room right now.

When I run out of the bubble pack envelopes I currently have (none are new - I reuse ones that are sent to me), I'll def. be buying some jiffy mailers. I will of course reuse this one from Beth first. :)

I'd also like to get some of that paper tape. Which has got me thinking about how I might wrap up Christmas presents this year without using plastic tape. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Our new desk

A few posts ago, I briefly mentioned our office renovation project.

Our office badly needed a reno as we've never had a proper office. What we had instead was a small room with a bunch of random furniture including a desk I'd had since I was about 14.

Here is a glimpse of the mess that was our old desk (for some reason hubby didn't want me posting a pic of our entire office - whhhhyyyyyy?)

Bad right?

Before starting the reno we had to decide on some rules. We landed on the following:
*Repurpose whatever we can,
*only buy new items if there is absolutely no alternative
*second hand purchases and gifts are allowed! :-)

When my folks heard about our project they jumped in to help by offering a number of items from their house including this not so pretty 100+ year old piece of wood:

Which my wonderful hubby planed and sanded and treated until it became this:

Isn't it gorgeous? If you look closely you can see the holes where the square nails used to be.

Hubby finished the wood with Eco-House Hardwood Oil Finish. You can buy it in Ottawa at Healthiest Home. He sanded the wood, oiled it, sanded it, oiled it and sanded it again. You can't tell from the photo but the wood feels like butter. So soft.

We did have to buy two new things. After searching for ages for second hand brackets we ended up buying two sturdy brackets from Lee Valley.

What happened to the old desk? Hubby took it apart as it was solid wood and we've stored it for now before we turn it into something else.

Wondering about the creepy doll? That's a damned dolly. They are packaged plastic free in a tiny cardboard coffin. What? Awesome. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some good news stories

This week someone tweeted a totally awesome article about how the largest contributor to climate change was the manufacture of goods. The article had a wicked pie chart which showed that buying less stuff would reduce our global climate footprint more than any other measure (e.g. if we all bought energy efficient appliances).

It was such a great article. But I forgot to favourite it and now it is lost in the Twitter abyss. Unless anyone smarter than me favourited it and could send it to me? :)

In any case, what I really want to talk about are some very cool initiatives here in the Ottawa area that are helping people buy less stuff. They are both part of a great 'keep stuff out of the trash by resuing it' model. It's a model that works and that could and should be used more in Ottawa (both these initiatives are in communities just outside Ottawa - would be great to have something in the city centre).

First there is the re-use centre in MacDonald's Corners (800 10th Con Dalhousie) which collects perfectly functioning stuff in a 'store-like' centre that anyone can visit and take stuff away for free! It's similar to the Freecyle/Full Circles concept except this is a store that you can browse around and doesn't require having access to the interweb. It's open 3 days a week (Thursday, Saturday and Sunday).

Second there is the Wakefield Dish Lending Library. This library opened only last weekend and is currently collecting gently used, uncracked, unchipped, non-aluminum (and of course, non-plastic) dishes, cutlery and glassware. These items will then be made available to community residents to borrow for events so as to avoid using disposable items. It looks like the library is being run by the Wakefield Fair Trade Committee so I think they are the folks to contact for more info.

What I also like about both of these initiatives is that they seem to foster a sense of community. They are run by volunteers, and provide a service to a community, but they also provide a space for community to grow, and gather.

I have this card on my cork board that lists ways to 'build community'. Some of them are:
-leave your house
-know your neighbours
-greet people
-use your library
-share what you have

Check. Check. Check.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Video you should watch

I was one of the many who retweeted this video on Twitter today. Thought it was important enough to post here as well.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I am SO lucky!

Check this out!

Isn't it awesome?!

Best buddy @resultsjunkie gave this to me yesterday. It's hand sewn using materials she bought when we went to the annual fabric flea market to benefit the Cambridge Street Community School.

I'm so excited to have somewhere to put all my needles and sewing bits and pieces. Thanks @resultsjunkie!!!

She's miles ahead of me. All the material that I bought is still sitting in a pile on a chair in my office (the books are ones I got at a second hand charity sale at work - $1 per book!).

I have too many projects on the go at the moment! But I'm hoping that green and gold silk sari is going to become the new lining for my winter coat - current lining is full of holes. And that super awesome vintage orange and white print will be pillows for the chairs in the office. Not sure about the rest yet. Yay for sewing projects!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A new deodorant

We've talked about my deodorant challenges before. Last time I brought it up I'd recently switched to using baking soda on my pits.

Well it's confession time. After about 6 months of working like a freakin' miracle, the soda stopped doin' it for me. Just flat out quit.

So since then I've been back to the addidas deo. Not because I love it but because it's the only product I can find without aluminum that works.

But I have a problem.

I'm doing the plastic challenge over at Fake Plastic Fish (week 3 plastic garbage pic is on that blog here). And it was tough this week to include in that pic not one but two heavy, plastic, non-recyclable deo containers.

So this weekend I purchased this:

Its a locally made deo by my fave - Urban Forest. All natural ingredients. No palm oil (I got your back orangutans). Plus it's completely plastic free.

Tried it out today and it gets a mixed review so far (but it was ridiculously hot in the office today - has been for the last week), so I'm going to do a proper 2 week test drive.

Cross your fingers that it works. I don't want deo packaging to be in any more of my weekly plastic garbage pics!

Friday, October 23, 2009

International Day of Climate Action is Saturday Oct. 24

This is big folks. Tck, Tck Tck says it is the world's most widespread political event in history.

Actions have already started. Check out the website to get updates.

If you are in Ottawa, join me and 000's of others for the Fill the Hill event. It starts at 12 and ends around 3pm. If you can't make it for the whole thing, the key time to be there will be from 2pm on.

If you aren't in Ottawa, check out this list for actions happening in your area.

The timing of this event is critically important. The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) is happening in Copenhagen in December - we need to show our leaders that we are ready for them to sign a global climate deal that is ambitious, fair and binding. Time is running out.

Here are some of the pics already coming in from around the world.

And this is what everyone at Fill the Hill will be doing together tomorrow afternoon:

Be a part of it!

If you liked the version of Midnight Oil's Beds are burning in the above video, check out this full length version. Loving the can con - Hawksley Workman and Ed Robertson. :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Plastic challenge - week 2

Recyclable Items
  1. Plasticized milk carton (part of the curbside program but unsure how it's recycled)

Non-recyclable Items
  1. plastic lined can (can is recyclable but the plastic lining isn't)

  2. plastic wrap from local cheese

  3. bag choc chips

  4. 1 piece saran wrap(was used to cover pie brought home from M&D's)

  5. remains of a scrubber (used to wash dishes)

  6. two labels from local beauty products (came in glass jars)

  7. plastic top from sour cream

  8. sticker removed from brother's guitar case (which I've adopted)

  9. top and security seal from vitamin bottle (glass)

  10. two cereal bags

  11. wrap from eye drop box and 4 eye droppers

  12. vitamin powder package

  13. top of cheese curd package

  14. misc plastic wrap (not sure what this is from)

  15. 3 plastic grocery bags (for garbage)

Total number of items = 25
Total weight of plastic stash = 4.75oz
Tally analysis

  • What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
    *milk (could buy in glass)
    *choc chips (could buy in bulk)
    *saran wrap from pie (could have brought a container to M&Ds)

  • What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist?
    *cereal (I could make my own granola)

  • How many of these items are from “convenience” foods that could be made from scratch with less packaging but might take more time to prepare?
    *sour cream?

  • What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
    *eye droppers. I hated using them but it was a bit of a necessity this week

  • What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
    *make an effort to buy more food in bulk and maintain a good stockpile of food essentials to prevent last minute trips to our neighbourhood grocery store (which doesn't have any bulk food). E.g. choc chips

  • What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
    *non-bulk chocolate chips

  • What did I do this week to avoid plastic?
    *Make cookies from scratch
    *Buy soap wrapped in paper
    *Brought my lunch to work most days and on days I didn't bought lunch from the deli that sells sandwich wrapped in paper.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Watermelon rind pickle

Well it may have been Thanksgiving Monday here in Canada yesterday but it smelled like Christmas at chez green grrl.

That's because I was busy whipping up a batch of watermelon rind pickle. I had thought my canning was finished for 2009 but when I cut into the local, organic watermelon I got at the farmers market and saw the thick white rind, I just couldn't let that rind go to waste.

I know what you are, green grrl, it's the RED part you want to be eating!

And you are right. But let me tell ya, there is some deliciousness in that rind. And you KNOW I love turning something that would go into the compost into a food item.

Plus, 'pickle' is a bit of a misnomer. I'd be more tempted to call it candied watermelon rind because it ends up as sweet as, and with the texture of, candied ginger. In fact, you could probably make some local candied *ginger* using watermelon rind and substituting ginger for the cinnamon and cloves.

Anyway, doesn't it just look delicious?!?!

Here's the recipe (yes, there is a rather shocking amount of sugar):


1/4 cup sea salt

1 8-10lb watermelon, rinsed and quartered

5 cups sugar

4 cups white vinegar

2 cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp whole cloves

1. Cut off red watermelon flesh from white-green watermelon rind and save for another use. Trim off and discard thin green skin, leaving white and pale green part of rind intact, then cut into 1inch pieces (about 7 cups). Add pieces of rind to a large bowl, cover with water and add salt, cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. The following day, boil sugar and vinegar together in a medium non-reactive pot over high heat, stirring often, until sugar dissolves, 4-5 mins. Add cinnamon and cloves, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until reduced by one-third, 25-30 mins. Meanwhile, drain rind, then put i8nto a large pot, cover with water, and boil until translucent, about 15 mins.
3. Drain rinds and add to pot with vinegar syrup. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until syrup has reduced again by one-third, about 2 hours. Discard cinnamon and cloves.
4. Fill 5-6 hot sterilized pint canning jars with hot pickle and syrup to ¼ inch from the top. Screw on hot sterilized lids and process a water bath for 20 mins. Remove jars from pot and set aside to cool completely. Refrigerate after opening.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Plastic Challenge - week 1

Here's the week 1 pic. As Beth (aka Fake Plastic Fish) suggested I didn't change any habits this week. This will be our baseline.

As per the challenge rules, I need to answer some questions....
Week #:1
Name: Green grrl
Recyclable Items
  1. 2 jugs (local apple cider) - recycling #2 - this is included in our curbside recycling

Non-recyclable Items
  1. 1 potato chip bag

  2. 1 package - organic sausages

  3. 1 bag tortilla chips - bag looked to be paper but is fully plastic on the inside

  4. 2 pieces saran wrap *

  5. 1 plastic window from a bag of bread

  6. 1 bag local cheese curds

  7. 2 stickers from a box of choc

  8. plastic security seal from eye drops

  9. label from a glass bottle of juice

  10. cough drop wrappers

  11. 2 cookie wrappers*

  12. 1 bag salad greens - opened badly so hard to reuse

  13. conference name tag (printed on hard plastic like a credit card - grrrr)

  14. conference name tag holder

  15. styrofoam container - went to a restaurant that only served in styrofoam!

  16. small plastic pot and lid

  17. 4 plastic grocery bags (not depicted)

*items with a star are from my lunches at a conference I attended last week - I was going to bring my own but figured since they were making a lunch for me and the plastic would be going into the garbage anyway, I may as well get the lunch. Good decision?

Total number of items = 32
Total weight of plastic stash = 7oz
Tally analysis

  • What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
    *sausages - bought from a butcher in butcher paper
    *choc box stickers - easy to get choc in non plastic packaging

  • What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist?
    *potato chips
    *tortilla chips
    *any food served only in styrofoam at restaurants

  • How many of these items are from “convenience” foods that could be made from scratch with less packaging but might take more time to prepare?
    *cheese curds?
    *perogies (was what was in the styrofoam)

  • What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
    *local apple cider (I know not really essential but so good and only available for a short period. Will keep looking for glass though)

  • What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
    *less junk food

  • What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?

  • What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
    *I'm actually surprised there wasn't more plastic. I'm annoyed at the conference pass thing. Am going to write to the organizers to see if they can do it with less plastic next year (is an annual conference).

Personal description
  • location = Ottawa, ON, Canada

  • gender = female

  • relationship status = married no kids

  • work=in an office

**I totally encourage anyone else who is interested to also sign up for this challenge.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Can I just go on the record

And say I do not like auto flush toilets?

Go in the stall with a coat and a bag and the dang thing flushes while you are hanging everything up.

And if you don't stand perfectly still while doing the hover over the seat routine it will flush a few more times on you. Literally.

AND if you don't get out of that stall lightning fast (e.g. don't dilly dally grabbing your coat and bag) it will flush another few times for good measure.

THAT is one big waste of water.

Can I just go back to flushing with my foot please? No germs and no superfluous flushing!

This dude seems to agree about the auto flush:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Plastic on my mind

I've been a regular follower of Fake Plastic Fish for ages. If you haven't been to her blog, you should. On her blog, Beth itemizes and photographs the plastic garbage that she creates on a weekly basis. She has been doing this for over 2 years now, and for as long as I have been reading her blog I have been inspired by her dedication, and advocacy for plastic free living.

Recently Beth tweeted that folks might want to follow @midwayjourney. So as an obedient reader, I did. The short version is that Midway Journey involved a group of artists (including the amazing Chris Jordan) traveling to the midway atoll to spend two weeks documenting the plastic that is washing up on these islands in the middle of nowhere. Plastic that is killing animals in huge numbers. The team left Midway last week, and before leaving, Victoria Sloan Jordan wrote that she is going home a changed person. Indeed as a lowly observer it is hard not to feel changed looking at the images of this beautiful place that is part military ghost town, part tropical paradise, and part canary in the plastics coalmine.

A week or so later Beth posted a reminder that she is hosting a Plastic Challenge where she is asking participants to upload pics and details of their weekly plastic garbage.

And finally something clicked for me. I've been feeling a bit stagnant lately with my footprint reduction effort. I needed something to get fired up and excited about. After seeing the pics and video from midway, I'm definitely fired up.

So, I've signed up for the challenge. And I'm feeling a bit nervous as I suspect that plastic garbage is going to prove to be one of those things that I think I am doing well with but in fact, am not. But I'm sure Beth would say that, THAT is what the challenge is all about. Being aware of our impact.

I'm in!

Here are some videos from the Midway team.

The first one will hit you in the gut. The second will give hope.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The crisp days of fall

I love these days. The ones where the sun is shining, but you need a sweater to go outside. Maybe some fingerless gloves too. The air is fresh, and the colours are vivid.

The garden is slowing down. Has been such a funny year. Up until yesterday we were still harvesting pole beans and zucchini. Good thing really because the zucchini didn't start producing until about a month ago. I don't think we'll get any more though. If the forecasters were right, we got a good frost last night. Soon I'll go down to the garden to see how everything survived. I covered up all the tomatoes with tarps and sheets. Cross your fingers. As much as I love the fall, I'm not ready to admit that the growing season is over for this urban homestead.

With things slowing down and the weather getting cooler, I have begun hauling out the things that have been for the most part growing dust over the summer. Like my trusty second hand sewing machine. Actually trusty is a crappy way to describe her. She's kind of a pain in the ass. On a bad day, she'll jam, sew wonky and just generally be temperamental. But I still like her.

And as you've gathered from the last post, I'm getting back into knitting and crocheting. Well I will be once I deal with that gd mess of yarn. Worked on it all night last night and I'm still not done. I think I really have learned my lesson this time!

Once I get the yarn sorted I'll be using it to make a scarf with this pattern. I'm a beginner knitter so I wanted something simple but also something that looked nice from both sides and was a bit different.

I'm also hoping to make some of these things. Melanie Falick Books are giving away 20 knitting and sewing patterns for FREE from a number of their books. Some really cute stuff in there. Can you say "Christmas presents" anyone?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

When will I learn...

That even if I am just knitting or crocheting a swatch I MUST ball up a skein before using it.

Because if I don't, I'll end up with this....

I got the yarn from a small company in Stittsville that recycles yarn from old sweaters. They were called Fine Fibre Finds. Sadly I can't find them online anymore so I hope they are still around.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How is it possible that it is fall already?

I'm sorry you guys! I can't believe that it has been so long since I last posted anything. Especially because I have so much to tell! Like how we are renovating our office using all re-purposed and second hand materials, and how I found the perfect way to use up cherry tomatoes (roasted in the oven with garlic and turned into soup), and how I've had the dehydrator in over-drive (plums, pears, apples, peaches, tomatoes, bananas, grape fruit roll ups), and how the discovery of the recipe of plum amaretto jam lead to the most delicious jam I have ever made, and how we took the train to PEI this summer and discovered the most fantastic farms and a composting program that made me even more excited about the soon to be implemented Green Bin Program here in ottawa, and that's not even all!

But perhaps I'll talk about something else...potatoes.

We harvested our potatoes over the weekend and did ok but got no where near the yield we originally thought we might.
Since we have a small urban garden, we decided to try the 'tower' method this year. This method promised up to 100lbs of potatoes per tower. In a fit of potato madness, we planted 4 towers. We figured we'd worry about what we'd actually do with 400lbs of potatoes later.

Good thing.

Our total yield= 15lbs.

Couple of things we did wrong:
1. didn't put anything under the towers to prevent roots growing up into the towers from other plants. We had two towers that were totally choked out with roots. The tower that did the best was right on the patio stones so had nothing else growing into it.
2. Two towers did not get enough sun. It's not worth putting up towers unless they are in a spot that gets a decent amount of sun
3. Protect them from squirrels. We have a major squirrel problem and their digging broke the growing tips off a number of the plants in two of the towers. Fewer plants = fewer potatoes.

But even if we'd adjusted for all of those things, I don't think we would have come anywhere near 100lbs per tower. The potatoes just didn't grow up the plant. If we set up the towers next year we'll only make them three levels tall instead of 6 (will make sense if you see the diagram on the lifehacker site). Although I have been reading that you need the right type of potato to grow vertically. Perhaps I just had the wrong one?

In any case, we have a decent crop of potatoes that have now finished drying and are ready for storage. We are going to try storing them in the basement in a container filled with dry dirt. Not that we really need to worry about it. I don't think it will take us long to get through 15lbs of potatoes.

Mmmmmm, potatoes. :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The last of the 2008 salsa

Last year was the first year I attempted to can tomatoes. As I ordered approx. 60lbs of tomatoes, I was able to make all sorts of canned tomato goodies including: chopped tomatoes, tomato ketchup and the most amazing salsa.

I used this recipe from Ferdzy over at Seasonal Ontario Food. If you are even thinking of canning salsa this year, please give this recipe I try. It's the closest to fresh salsa I've ever tasted in a canned salsa. I think it's the lime and the cilantro. Yum-my.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Remembering what I've learnt

A number of years ago, having just graduated university, I decided to take a course in something 'I actually found interesting'. Of course with the distance of time, I recognize that I actually enjoyed a lot of the courses I took for my degree. But at the time, university had worn me out. And I wanted to learn something fun.

So I took a course in Aromatology at Algonquin College (which sadly is no longer offered).

During each class we got to refine our sense of smell by blind smelling and attempting to identify the new essential oils we were learning in that class. We learned the therapeutic properties and applications of each oil and learned how to create blends of oils containing top note, middle note and base note oils. I loved that first class and went on to take the next three semesters to finish the program. It certainly was not the easy learning experience I was planning on - the hardest part was anatomy and physiology. To this day I am still using photocopied diagrams of the body with space to label in all the muscles as scrap paper.

When I finished the course I knew I wasn't going to make a career of aromatology at that point in my life. So I made blends and treatments for myself for a while but gradually did less and less until I had pretty much forgotten I'd even taken aromatology.

But then about a year ago as I was fully immersed in carbon footprint reduction and rethinking everything, I stopped using lotion, switched to olive oil, busted out my essential oils and started blending again.

Unfortunately most essential oils come from far away (although last summer I found some amazing lavender essential oil in Prince Edward County). I'm not ready to buy my own still yet (and don't have the land to grow enough product to turn into oil). So instead (inspired by Unstuffed - as always), I've decided to create my own infused oils.

The first one I tried is olive oil infused with lavender. I tried to pick the lavender at it's peak (approx. week 5 with some of the flowers open), but then got totally over excited and forgot to wilt the flowers to get rid of the moisture before filling the jar with oil. Unstuffed - help - am I going to end up with moldy oil?

Luckily there is still more lavender in the garden so I can make another batch if this one doesn't work out.

Oh and my favourite blend at the moment that I'm using in my olive oil? I've gone back to basics using three oils I learned in that first semester of aromatology. And I'm being a purist and only using one top, one middle and one base note oil.

Here's the blend (in 60ml of olive oil):
Basil (top note) - 8 drops
Lavender (middle note) - 4 drops
Vetiver (base note) - 7 drops

If you want to switch to using olive oil (or any oil) as a moisturizer, apply it when you skin is slightly damp (e.g. right after a shower). The oil will sink right in and won't leave your skin feeling greasy. Do use good quality oil (I use organic extra virgin olive oil).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

More fun with t-shirts

I put out a request to my work colleagues for old t-shirts and got bags and bags of them. I was going to use them all to make another t-shirt rug but after seeing this tutorial on Instructables for t-shirt necklaces I had to make one of them as well.

It was so easy! Took all of 10 mins. I really like it. Think I need to make a few more in different colours.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The first raspberries of the season

Not sure why but one of my 2 sets of raspberry canes (they are in different areas of the garden) is already fruiting. No complaints here though. :)

Hello breakfast!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bean bags are fun!

Unsure what to bring as a present to a one year old's b'day party, when not buying anything new, I decided on a bag of mini bean bags. I was able to make the bean bags from scraps of fabric so didn't have to buy anything except for the lentils to fill them with. Which is the other benefit aside from fun - if there is ever a food shortage (ahem, peak oil), the bean bags are full of food!

Hubby and I had fun testing them to make sure they were securely sewn and wouldn't leak lentils at the hands of a one year old.

Our very scientific test involved throwing them at each other as fast as we could to see how many each of us could catch. I think I caught more but to be fair, hubby is way more accurate with fast throwing. Instead of throwing the bean bags at hubby I seemed to throw them all over the room - over his head, way too far to the left and the right. And a couple of times, right at his head! :-o

Luckily the bags passed our tests so made it to the b'day party in a little drawstring bag I made out of one of the larger fabric scraps.

To make bean bags for little ones, all you need are:

2 squares of fabric 4"x4". Put right sides together and sew a 1/2" seam almost all the way around leaving a 1.5"-2" gap on one side. Sew an additional seam on the outside of the first seam leaving the same gap (this seam is to ensure the beans stay in the bag). Turn the bean bag right side out. Fill 3/4 full with lentils. Hand sew the gap.

Keep going until you have enough for a good pile for squishing, grabbing and throwing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cranberry ginger scones

I can't believe how easy these scones are to make. They were perfect for a lazy Sunday morning breakfast. I wasn't sure if the stone ground kamut flour would work as I've only ever eaten scones made with white flour before. But it totally did. In fact I think I prefer them to the ones made with white flour.

Here's the recipe:

3 cups flour (I used local kamut flour from Little Stream bakery)
1/3 cups sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup organic butter (cubed)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (chopped) - I used ones from Upper Canada Cranberry
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp diced candied ginger
1/2 cup organic milk
1/2 cup organic yogurt (I used Pinehedge yogurt)

-Set oven at 400 degrees.
-Line a baking tray with parchment paper
-Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt
-Put flour mixture in a food processor, add butter and process
-Add the 1tbsp candied ginger
-Mix yogurt and milk together
-Gradually add yogurt/milk mixture to the processor
-Turn dough out onto a floured surface
-Knead in cranberries and remaining ginger until just mixed (dough should be quite sticky)
-Form dough into a round about 1" thick and cut into 10-12 (triangles, squares, whatever shape you like!)
-Bake for 20-25 mins (until the tops are brown)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

If I'm going to be riding to and from work in the rain

I'm going to have to get some rain gear. Because biking for 45 mins in the rain in rolled up jeans is not practical!

Although I have to admit there is something about riding in the rain and getting soaked that made me feel like big kid. I'm pretty sure I was smiling the whole way home. :-)

And that's basically all I have to say about that so Mum and Mom in law, you can stop reading now.

Ok, now that they have stopped reading, I have got to get my brakes fixed. The back brake didn't work at all and the front brake was only just with a lot of squeaking and juddering. What's the deal with that? Brakes should work in the rain yes?

Ok, so moms, you probably did read that. kidding! I totally would never ride my bike if the brakes didn't work!! Who would do that? Not me that's for sure!

(seriously though peeps - what could the problem be - cable? pads?)


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ahhhhhh yeah

Home-made honey vanilla chocolate chunk gelato. Made with the hand crank ice cream maker I got at the Salvation Army 2 weeks ago. Also with local honey and egg, and relatively local organic milk and cream (non-local vanilla and fair trade choc).

Enjoyed with best friends.

Does it get any better?

Friday, June 12, 2009

What's growing in my garden this year

Thought I'd make a quick list of what we have growing this year in our small 33'x 20' urban backyard (part of which is patio). It doesn't get any more local than this!

  • Raspberries

  • Gooseberries (although they are in even worse shape than they were here)

  • Blackberries (new this year so won't fruit until next year)

  • Potatoes - yukon gold (using the tower method)

  • Beans - hopi black, scarlet runner, royal burgundy, thibodeau du comte beauce, ozark

  • Peas - spanish skyscraper, sugar snap

  • Broccoli

  • Eggplants (planting this weekend)

  • Green peppers

  • Broad beans

  • Tomatoes - italian plum, orange cherry (not sure of the proper name), brandywine, plus some other seedlings of various types that got a bit frosted but I'm still going to try to squeeze in somewhere)

  • Spearmint

  • Peppermint

  • Thyme

  • Anise hyssop

  • Lemon balm

  • Sage (not sure what kind)

  • Oregano

  • Parsley (curly)

(yes I also appear to be growing pests!)
  • Caterpillars (on gooseberries - picked off my hand - ineffective)

  • Black fly /aphids (on broad beans - going to try spraying with soapy water but am open to suggestions!)

  • Mystery pest (on raspberries but seems to be under control)

  • Earwigs (on everything - don't seem to be doing too much damage so am not worried)

  • Flea beetle (on the beans - going to plant some sacrificial sorrel this weekend)

  • Squirrels - the bane of my existence

What's growing in your garden?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How to make a rug out of old t-shirts

Got a bunch of old t-shirts kicking around? Perhaps you bought them at concerts years ago, or perhaps you were given them for participating in a sporting event. Either way, we both know you aren't going to wear them. The most action they are going to get is being slept in. If they are lucky.

Meanwhile they take up room in your drawers making it hard to find the shirts you DO want to wear.

What's the solution?

Turn them into a rug!

It's super easy. First you have to turn the t-shirts into yarn. Here is a really easy tutorial for how to do that. The tutorial is for plastic bags but the concept is the same. Basically you cut strips from the bottom of the t-shirt and arms so that you have a pile of loops. Then you connect the loops like in the video and voila!

T-shirt yarn.

Then all you have to do is crochet it into a rug.

That's my rug at the top. The colours probably aren't ones I necessarily would have chosen but it was what I had on hand. Plus I was able to repurpose my most favourite but worn out plaid pajama pants (sexy!).

I used an 8.0mm hook, made a foundation chain of 30, and did 15 rows of single crochet. The end result is a small rug 3' x 1.5'.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Meet the Ice Pet

Is this not the most gorgeous piece of retro awesomeness you have ever seen?

First of all... the colours? Perfect.

Second of all, its an appliance whose sole purpose is to shave ice. Ah shaved ice.

Third - it doesn't require any electricity to run.

Fourth - I got it for $3.99 at the Salvation Army. (so I don't have to count it in my total spending for the month in the consumer goods category of the Riot for Austerity)

Hubby and I gave the ice pet a test drive last night (is it me or does that sound rude? ;-)). The pet comes with 3 cylindrical containers to make the ice that you transfer to the pet (in the space you see between the hand crank and the blade). It worked perfectly! We made a grown up take on a snow cone and instead of flavoured syrup, we used the sweet, delicious damson plum vodka that I made last summer. Even though the weather wasn't perfect (the weather in ottawa lately has me wishing for long johns and hot tea as opposed to iced drinks), that was one great drink.

I can't wait for our niece and nephew to come over next so I can make them snow cones. Non alcoholic ones of course. Suggestions for delicious natural kid friendly snow cone toppings?

And for further retro awesomeness, check out the instruction manual....

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Delicious vegan food

Some of you might be thinking that delicious and vegan are mutually exclusive. You'd be so wrong!

I've been doing lots of vegan cooking lately thanks to inspiration from two totally amazing vegan sites. You have to check them out. If for no other reason than the pictures will make you drool. The sites are Vegan Yum Yum and Vegan Dad. Over the last 2 days I've made the following and all were delicious.

From Vegan Dad:
Sweet Potato and Kale Quesedillas
Crispy Cajun Chickpea Cakes
Indian Style Potatoes and Spinach (I used kale)

From Vegan Yum Yum:
Chili Almond Asparagus

I'm using these sites and other veg/vegan sites to help me reduce the amount of meat I eat. After being vegetarian for about 8 years, a few years ago I started eating some local and organic meat. I am now eating meat more than I would like to admit and given the huge environmental impact meat eating has, I'm trying to bring my meat eating down considerably.

Anyone have any great veg/vegan recipes to share?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

How to turn an army surplus backpack into a messenger bag

This is a really easy project done entirely by hand - no sewing machine required!

Originally I had intended to make a camera bag and not a messenger bag. I was inspired to do this by this awesome post on the Wired - How To Wiki. But the bag I got wasn't quite right to make that work. Plus I didn't want to buy that dense foam stuff. So I made a messenger bag instead and hubby is using it as his gym bag.

Here's the finished bag:

Instructions for how I did it are below...

And while we are on the subject of making cool stuff, you HAVE to wander over to Dude Craft. Dudes. This dude is awesome. Plus he aggregates cool stuff made by other dudes (and dudettes). Check it out!

What you'll need to make the messenger bag:
1. An army surplus backpack (or any canvas backpack)
2. A strong needle (or two - I bent one). I used short quilting needles
3. A thimble. Seriously. Think it is the first project I've completed where a thimble was an absolute requirement for the survival of my fingers
4. Some strong thread (I used quilting)
5. Scissors

What I did (sorry these aren't v. precise, and I didn't take pics along the way like I normally do)

  1. Remove the backpack straps (set them aside - you'll need them later)

  2. Unpick and remove the top flap of the back pack (set aside)

  3. Fold the top edge of the back pack down (on the inside) by about 3.5-4 inches (this makes the bag look short and long like a messenger bag instead of tall like a backpack).

  4. Pin and then sew the folded down top edge (I did all the sewing by hand. You could use a sewing machine but test it first to make sure it can handle the thick fabric)

  5. Grab the top flap of the backpack that you removed, and reposition it further down the back of the bag (halfway between the bottom of the bag and the new top edge) and sew the bottom edge of the flap to the backside of the bag

At this point the bag is done. Now you have to worry about the straps.
  1. Grab the two straps and sew them together (this is where you will def. need the thimble) so that you have one long strap

  2. Determine where you will need to cut the slits at each side of the bag for the straps to go through so that the bag hangs correctly. (this is a key step, not doing this will mean having to sew up a slit that you cut in the wrong spot. Trust me.)

  3. Cut a slit on each side of the bag in the predetermined spots that is slightly wider than the width of the strap

  4. Test to make sure the strap will go through the slit

  5. Sew around the edges of the slit to prevent fraying (like a button hole). I used the blanket stitch

  6. Put the strap through the slits on each side and use the buckles from the original strap to hold in place

Done! :)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Final thoughts - OECD ICT conference

Well I've certainly learned a lot over the last 2 days. Including that I can attend a conference taking place in Denmark virtually (kudos to the OECD folks for such a fantastic video connection - superb quality).

Today's afternoon sessions focused on summarizing key messages and recommendations. I'm including them below in their preliminary state (the comments from participants have not yet been integrated).

8 key messages

  1. The current crisis is an opportunity for change towards knowledge-driven growth; ICT is the key ingredient.

  2. The ICT sector can take leadership in a low-carbon economy and drive socio-economic change.

  3. ICT does not save the climate automatically, Business as usual may lead to disaster.

  4. Beyond energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy is important (e.g. for data centers).

  5. A sustainable society is more than a low-carbon economy. There are issues beyond climate change: resources, recycling, working conditions, human rights. We should maximize both "quality of life per bit“ and "bits per nature“.

  6. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a key methodology to measure ICT impacts (first and second order).

  7. In order to stimulate behavioural change, Green IT solutions must be simple and seamless, but should not exculpate users from responsiblity.

  8. Extending the service life of ICT end-user devices is key to reduce the life cycle impact per time.

8 Recommendations

  1. ICT policies and information society strategies must be integrated into climate and environmental policies and strategies.

  2. Green ICT policies must rely on a life cycle perspective (not only consider the use phase)

  3. Support the exchange, standardization and integration of Life Cycle Inventory data.

  4. Develop standardized metrics for net CO2 emission reductions by ICT applications (including 2nd- and 3rd-order effects) and other environmental impacts.

  5. Public procurement should consistently demand for "green“ improvements (e.g. thin client solutions).

  6. To promote Green IT, rely on flagship projects and disseminate best practices.

  7. Governments should lead by example (by using Green ICT solutions in public administration, including instruments such as Green ICT scorecards and reducing the energy consumption of public buildings)

  8. Fiscal tools should be used to stimulate investments in energy efficient technology and to set up the system environment for positive third-order effects.

These are of course, recommendations at the governmental/industry level.

At the individual level, my take away is that these policies and plans require all employees of governments and industry to take this green (ICT and otherwise) message to heart. This is the new way of working and we need to be engaged and help our governments and industries meet their targets.

I know I'm buzzing with ideas for possible green ICT campaigns at my office.

This is where the rubber hits the road.

Governments paving the way - OECD ICT conference

In the keynote speeches yesterday we heard about the aggressive greening targets that have been set by the Korean government in their recovery package.

Perhaps key in this plan is the development of an ultra green, 1 Gbps wired (10 Mbps wireless), 2-way, broadband network. This network will allow Korea to reach the goal of having 20% of public institution employees teleworking by 2013, and will make possible the development of sophisticated tele-education and telemedicine. It will also improve the speed of transmission of environmental information and will be used along with other ICTs towards, among other things, the intelligent management of rivers to measure and respond to pollution.

There are even plans for smart work centres which will allow for CO2-free commutes by locating the centres in such a way that cycling and walking to work is facilitated.

In these ways it is clear that Korea is taking to heart the need to address the 2%* and the 98%** that have been regularly mentioned throughout the conference.

All of this is very exciting.

And while it is true that Korea is really leading the way, they are far from being the only country making strong targets in regards to emissions reductions, and the use of ICTs in that effort.

The EU has made a commitment to have a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020 (from 1990 levels), also known as the 20/20/20 Plan. Many governments plan to go even further - Norway for example is targeting a 30% reduction.

Germany has developed a very strong green ICT plan as has Denmark. Both of which I am hoping to obtain a copy of.

The UK government has developed a Green ICT Scorecard which contains 18 actions that the UK govt CIOs must deliver on. These actions will be measured against 10 mandatory targets. The results of this scorecard will be released on July 22, 2009. The UK government is also taking a strong stance on the need to include the full lifecycle of energy consumption of ICTs when accounting for carbon emissions of ICTs. I was pleased to hear specific mention of the need to increase the lifecycle of ICTs to their natural demise and of reducing the number of ICTs in use (one device to one employee).

While I didn't get the answers I was hoping for in terms of how to get over the implementation barriers to start making change at the front lines (e.g. in our offices, our homes etc), that wasn't really the point of this session.

The point, and what was made clear, is that these governments are serious about reducing their CO2 emissions in regards to the use and enabling of ICTs.

It was very clear that this is not just lip service. These are real goals and commitments and all countries (OECD and others) should take note.

As Minister Sander mentioned in his opening address:
"The OECD countries are the richest and most advanced economies in the world. This status comes with great opportunities and great responsibilities.
We must lead. If we do not, no one will follow."

Hear! hear! :)

*2% of the global carbon emissions come from the usage of ICTs
*98% is the area of opportunity where ICTs can be used to reduce the emissions of other sectors (outside the ICT sector)

Lots of information at OECD ICT this morning!

So much in fact that I want to share a number of links:

There has been a lot of discussion about the importance of improving data centre efficiency. The EU has developed a code of conduct on this subject that appears at first glance to be quite comprehensive.

As expected the 2% figure that accounts for the contribution to global emissions from the ICT sector has been frequently mentioned. But there was another figure noted that was new to me. That is that the ICT sector could enable emissions reductions of 15% (or 7.8 Gt CO2e) by 2020. The figure comes from a report called Smart 2020. This report makes a key note that the ICT sector "must keep its own growing footprint in check and overcome a number of hurdles if it expects to deliver on this potential".

Google highlighted the efforts that they are undertaking to green their operations. And also noted a number of green ICT initiatives they are involved with such as Climate Savers - smart computing and Power Down for the Planet.

For anyone who is not attending the conference but is interested in the discussions, all the presentations are available on the OECD ict site (cilck on room1 and then click on the presentations tab). They may not be available once the conference is over though.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rules for addressing a crisis and mottainai - OECD ICT conference

This morning, former Prime Minister Esko Aho outlined his 7 plus 1 rules that he used to address the serious economic situation Finland was facing in 1991.

These rules really resonated with me. Especially as it was noted that they would be equally useful in addressing the climate crisis. They are:

1. Work with the worst case scenario - take facts seriously
2. A strategy is required to move forward
3. Gov't interventions in the finance sector should be brief and should promote structural changes
4. A crisis is an opportunity that allows for radical reforms
5. Don't eat (or reduce funding for) "seed potatoes" such as education and R&D
6. Take advantage of the mobility issues that come from a crisis (not just physical but also mental mobility)
7. Be patient - don't expect changes overnight

and the plus 1 - Politicians - don't think about the next election.

Also during the opening addresses (although this time during Botaro Hirosaki's speech), I learned of the Japanese term 'mottainai'. Mottainai is a feeling of regret about waste when the intrinsic value of an object or resource is not properly utilized. It was quite something to discover there is a single word that sums up my motivation for embarking on my carbon footprint reduction project.

After such a thought provoking first day, I'm looking forward to tomorrow's sessions. I'm hoping that during the 'gov'ts paving the way' session we will learn how the barriers to implementing green ICT solutions can be lifted. For indeed there must be barriers as these existing solutions have not been implemented throughout the majority of the world.

Innovation and behaviour change at the OECD ICT conference

Photo care of: Photo Mojo

The factors that contribute to behaviour change have long been an interest of mine. While I try to never preach when discussing my personal carbon footprint reduction efforts, that does not mean that I am uninterested in affecting change on a large scale.

In the afternoon session of today's OECD ICT conference, the behaviour change that was discussed centred around green ICT and innovation.

Green ICTs are often discussed in terms of first, second and third order. A desciption of these effects is below (courtesy of D. MacLean):
  1. first order or direct effects – e.g., the use of ICTs as a tool for monitoring and measuring climate change, assessing its effects, and controlling interactions with the environment

  2. second order or indirect effects – e.g., the use of ICTs as a medium for increasing awareness and facilitating dialogue about the effects of climate change

  3. third order or systemic effects – e.g., the use of ICTs as an enabler for “networked governance”

It was this 3rd order that Heather Creech from the International Institute for Sustainable Development focused on. Heather explained that we need to open up the decision making process at the industry and gov't level so that individuals can participate. She specifically mentioned Anne Marie Slaughter's concept of networked governance, that would allow connections to be made to solve shared problems. Heather noted however that this cannot happen without the help of ICTs.

Heather also highlighted Thomas Homer-Dixon's research on 'open architecture democracy', noting that cooperation on behalf of governments will be required to break down silos, and that to accomplish this we need a new generation of broadband.

The most useful take-away I gained was when Heather noted that behaviour change will come when we take green ICT solutions to the individual. But that for it to work, end user training is required AND the solutions have to be simple to use and integrate. Heather cited the example that the shift towards support of anti-smoking did not come from an information campaign. It came instead with the release of the nicotine patch. Green ICT solutions such as smart grids and homes need to be as simple as that.

Other presentations included Klaus Fichter with a business case for thin client and server based computing, which provided a lot of persuasive statistics and a lively discussion. I will perhaps write more about the possibilities for thin client later. Suffice to say that in certain applications and environments there appear to be significant savings. While it may not be right for every application (graphic design work was noted as a poor application for the implementation of thin client), there is still a lot of possibility for using this technology to reduce emissions. Details of Klaus' research can be found here.

The last presentation of the day came from Martin Curley from Intel.
Martin spoke about ICT Innovation for future environmental applications and provided a green IT maturity model that is being developed by the Innovation Value Institute which will assist in collectively identifying the greenest practices in green ICT. I look forward to following the development of this model.

An inspirational start to the OECD ICT conference

As I sat in front of my computer this morning at 3am, all I could think of was how lucky I am to have the opportunity to attend this conference!

How often does one get to hear a former prime minister, and prominent members of industry and government from around the world, speak about greening. Not only greening but greening of, and using, IT. A subject near and dear to my heart.

The key messages from the keynote presentations were:

1. the ICT sector has a key role to play in the climate and economic crisis
2. innovation and international collaboration is required
3. a results based measurement framework is needed to evaluate and ensure emissions reductions.

But the talk was not solely of concepts and frameworks. Japan and Korea shared elements of their plans which will produce substantial carbon emissions reductions. Korea's stimulus package was highlighted as being the most green of all the OECD countries. Indeed it was stated that their package is "all about green". These countries are really leading the way.

My favourite quote from this morning comes from Esko Aho, Executive Vice President, Nokia; Former Prime Minister of Finland.

"we are poised to transform years of rhetoric into action - we need to change the way we work...the way we live"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Green IT and the OECD

I don't talk a lot about the work that I do from 9-5. The short version is that I work in IT for the Canadian gov't.

Lately I have been extremely lucky to be able to combine my passion for greening with the work that I do in IT. For the past 4 months I have been co-leading a task team responsible for planning and implementing a green IT vision for my department.

Along these lines I'm planning a number of blogs next week on what we have implemented so far and our hopes for further greening. Some of the things are really easy - things that anyone who uses a computer and is interested in greening and/or reducing costs would want to do. So stay tuned - it's going to be good. :)

In the meantime I'm excited to announce that I've been invited to be the conference blogger for an OECD conference - ICTs, the Environment and Climate Change. Besides being honoured, I'm just really excited to attend the conference. For those who are interested, the program of events is here. I'll be attending the following sessions (in addition to the keynotes and roundtables):

  • Reducing environmental impacts during the ICT life cycle

  • Innovation and behavioural change

  • The ICT sector in focus

  • Governments paving the way

I've been doing a bit of background reading and I'm happy to learn that the framework that we have built for greening IT at my work is in line with what is being discussed on an international scale. That is, green IT is about not only greening the IT that is used (it is estimated that 2% of the worlds energy use is for IT), but also about using IT to enable green practices (esp in infrastructure, and urban development).

I'll be doing the blogging here and I've told the organizers that I'll do 3 blog posts a day so I'll do my best to ensure that I don't get too technical. I'm hoping to learn a lot and I'm looking forward to sharing.

If you aren't sold yet, here is a tweet from @OECDtweet "What have Google and Greenpeace got in common? Find out at OECD mtg in Denmark, 27-28 May: (live webcast)"

Aren't you intrigued? Don't worry, I'm attending that session. :)

And yeah, did you notice? The conference is in Denmark. Yes the Denmark that is 6 hours ahead of Ottawa. I'll be attending virtually so that means a 3am start time for me.

Cross your fingers I'm coherent!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

When the cooler is full,

and you buy too much stuff at the farmers' market, you have to improvise!

This is a great way to keep greens fresh without refrigeration. Works for herbs too. On the left is arugula and on the right is swiss chard. Both bought yesterday from the Organic Farmers' Market. The swiss chard is starting to wilt so I'll be cooking that up tonight. But the arugula is going strong.

Hopefully soon I'll have some greens growing in the garden so I will just be able to go out and pick what I want when I want it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Garden update

Thanks to everyone for the help on the raspberries! I went with a multi-pronged approach and have been pulling off leaves that are in bad shape AND making sure they are getting enough water. The leaf situation has not gotten worse. I still don't know what's doing it but it seems to be under control.

Sadly, the gooseberries are another story. I wasn't so worried about them at first - I knew they were getting eaten but I knew what was doing it. Chubby green caterpillars. I figured I could see them, so I can pull them off.

Easily 400 squished caterpillars later and I am about to admit defeat. There are just so dang many of them. The plants are pretty decimated. Is a real bummer because they are covered in tiny gooseberries which I'm assuming won't turn into anything without the leaves. Here's an example of the damage. About 60% of the plants look like this. Just sticks. :-(

Ah well. You win some you lose some.

In other garden news the broad beans I planted in the ground a few weeks ago are pushing up through the soil (and I've covered the area with sticks to try to prevent the squirrels from digging them all up).

I've also planted 5 types of heirloom beans (3 bush and 2 pole): Scarlet runner, Ozark, Hopi black, royal burgundy and Thibodeau du Compte Beauce. And two types of peas - regular shelling pea (I forget the offical name) and Spanish Skyscraper (I'm hoping to increase the garden yeild by making better use of vertical space. These peas are supposed to grow to 7 feet).

This weekend I'm hoping to pick up some tomato seedlings at the farmers market and I've got 54 seed potatoes sitting beside me sprouting away. Soon they'll be planted in some awesome potato towers built by hubby. Actually they will probably be in all manner of containers because 54 is a crap load of seed potatoes!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My new favourite method of transportation

This is my bike. I love this bike. I love it because it has a basket in the back I can put my purse in. I love it because nothing is quick release so I don't have to worry about wheels, the seat etc being stolen. I love it because my best buddy (@resultsjunkie) bought it for me for my birthday from a second hand bike shop.

And now I love it because for the last 2 weeks, this baby has been getting me to work and back. No more 1hr, 2 bus commute. Now I have a 45 min ride. 10km each way (yes, I'm slow but it only has 6 gears and my legs are laz-y!). Half of it along Ottawa's fabulous bike paths. So instead of listening to teenagers on the bus...

"you know, I like, really love the number 33"
"totally, that's like, one of my favourite numbers. Actually, that IS my favourite number!"

Now I get to see a Dad and daughter sitting on a bench reading books. And baby canada geese. And flowers.

I put this off for such a long time because I was scared of riding through downtown traffic. Even after mapping out a really great route, it still took me a year to take that first ride.

I can't believe I let my fear get in the way for as long as I did. Carbon free transportation, that is faster and more fun. Love it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

What's eating my raspberries?

I've been closely monitoring my raspberries this year because every year I get fairly major leaf damage. This year I am determined to beat whatever is eating them. I had assumed that the problem was spider mites. So I dutifully mulched and made sure they got lots of water (not hard since we've had a good amount of rain so far this spring).

But that hasn't seemed to have helped. I went out to check on them tonight and this is an example of what I found:

You can't quite tell from the picture but the damage is 'lace like'. For the most part there are no big chomps out of the leaves like caterpillar damage (which I'm used to - I had to squash countless caterpillars on my gooseberry bushes this weekend). I looked under a lot of the leaves and found some strange fly things that looked like baby mosquitoes. I also found one small brown beetle-like bug that the size of a large pin head.

Any suggestions on what it is or what I can do about it? It hasn't seemed to affect the plants much (they are spreading like crazy), but I think it is affecting my yield.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A volunteer!

Was digging over the main vegetable patch last night (was mixing in some compost to give the soil a boost), and almost dug up this little guy!

Never had a pea volunteer before.

I let him be and planted some broad beans next to him. First planting of the season. :-)

Next on the list of things to tackle - thinning the raspberries that are starting to take over.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Foraging in my backyard

If you haven't done so already, I strongly recommend wandering over to Unstuffed to read all about the wild foraging course she is attending.

In her first class this week, she learned about fiddleheads (among other things). Apparently you can tell the edible ones (the Ostrich ferns) from the others by the deep groove they have in the stems.

I have always wondered if the ferns I have in my backyard were edible. So I had a look and, yep, deep groove in the stems. Woot!

Unfortunately most of them were too far gone:

However I found this one hidden under the fence (some of them were too small to pick but some were perfect). And I found a few others that were just right in bundles of ones that were too far gone.

I found enough in fact to make a small snack. Here's the end result after boiling and tossing in butter and some chopped chives (also from the garden).

They were delicious!

Thanks Unstuffed. Looking forward to learning more. :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New clothes!

I bought some clothes last weekend. This was very exciting because:
  1. I hadn't intended to (don't you always find the best clothes when you aren't really looking?) and

  2. Because I actually can't remember the last time I bought clothes. I bought those shoes last November but clothes? Dang, I think it's been at least a year and a half.
To be fair, I have recieved some second hand clothes as gifts during that time, but it's been a long time, since I went shopping, tried some stuff on and actually came home with clothes!

Look at the totally cute stuff I got:

I got these dresses:

The black and white one is for the weddings that I get to go to this summer (needs taking in a bit but otherwise looks great). The other one is just for fun.

Then I got these two tops:

Cute huh? The mauve coloured one is cuter on than it is on the hanger.

So I bet you are all wondering if I totally blew my consumer goods allowance right? (If I'm sticking to the Riot for Austerity, I should only be spending $104.16 a month on consumer goods).

Well the answer is not even close! I got all these gorgeous clothes for only $35. That's right. The total cost for all those (plus some super cute fabric and a long tunic) was only $35. Folks, the Salvation Army is where it is at! You can't believe the great stuff they have there!

Since we are talking about consumer goods, I thought it might be a good time to do a bit of a tally of where we are at. So here goes.

As of Feb. 21, we had spent $111.78. Since then we have spent:

1. Soap - $6
2. Toothpaste x2 - $12
3. Mascara - $30 (I lost all my makeup over the Christmas holidays in transit. Was hoping it would turn up but it hasn't. So I treated myself to some Dr. Hauschka mascara)
4. Dish soap and TP - $8 (Nature Clean dish soap in bulk and tp from Cascades wrapped in paper, no plastic. Both from Arbour Environmental Shoppe)
5. Clothes - $35
6. Rona - $71.18 (misc house stuff bought by hubby)

That comes to a grand total of: $162.18. But according to the Riot rules, I don't have to count the salvation army clothes, so that means the total is more like: $127.18

Add this to the total from last time (111.78) and that give a grand total of $238.96! That's for almost 4 months! Woot! So we are still hovering at 6% of the Canadian average. You'll notice we haven't bought our water filter yet. But we are still going to so that will affect the next numbers.

If you are in the Ottawa area, there are so many great thrift shops worth checking out.

Here is a short list:
What's your favourite thrift store?