Category: Eco friendly


This Is A Crows World

Part of going away to Evergreen for school means that I have to read a simple book they sent me in the mail. It’s called Crow Planet, and its pretty boring. At just over 220 pages long, you think it would be an easy read. I found it to be a little dry, and not anywhere near as motivational as the cover had me thinking it would be. It’s a short, semi-biographical piece about a woman (the author, obviously) who becomes depressed after she realizes her life isn’t what she would’ve hoped, and finds herself feeling disconnected from the earth after she moves into the city to support her husbands career. I hope you forgive the lengthy sentences. I’ve just finished reading this book and it was full of sentences half a page long. While rather lacking a significant motivational component (at least for me anyway), the book did have a section near the end that did a good job of stirring up my thoughts. It covered the death of crows, and also the reminder that crows represent to humans. To be honest, I never really notice crows. I know they’re one of the more intelligent creatures we’ve come across, but they never piqued my interest the way they do some other people. My mother certainly loves them, and would keep one as a companion if she could. Anyway, this little paragraph, only a few pages from the end of the book, made me think about death. The death of crows, to begin with, but, as was the goal of the author, about my own death as well.

I will be the first to admit that I regularly get so caught up in my own simple life that I regularly forget to live it. I spent this summer so completely entrenched in work that I never had any time for fun. And what did all of those hours of work really earn me? Am I any better off having completed them? I for all the hundreds of hours I worked this weekend, I earned only a few thousand dollars. Not enough to live off of, and certainly not enough to pay off the college loans I have yet to take out. And how often did I enjoy myself during this time? Was I ever really happy? My time at starbucks was fun, once I got the hang of things, but the amount of waste was still something that weighed on me every day. I certainly didn’t feel any sense of accomplishment at the end of every day. The only thing that seems to have kept me going was my sense of duty. Both of my parents work incessantly, so that’s kind of the only model I’ve got to go off of. Crow Planet seems to have awakened in me the fact that working incessantly isn’t the only way of living ones life.

It also made me realize what a fantastic opportunity I have by going away to school. I won’t have a single acquaintance in the city when I go to school. My closest friends will be 2 hours away, and I’ll be entirely alone. A year ago this idea would’ve probably scared me, and it does scare me a little, to be honest. But for the moment this truth gives me a kind of hope. I have a great opportunity to change my life. I can meet new people who will help me do whatever it is I want to do in life. I can actually decide if I want to know what I want to do in life. I can make good impressions, work (not so hard) in school and earn the respect of my teachers. I’m hoping that the resulting culture shock will also help get rid of some of my meaner tendencies. I do try very hard to be nice sometimes, but things invariably come out mean. Just last week I was talking with a coworker about a show that is based off of a comic book series in Japan, and the tone of my voice slipped into a tone of derision while I asked him a question without my meaning to. I sounded like I was calling him stupid in a way that didn’t even make sense, just because my tone was wrong. Social blunders like these seem to happen a lot to me. I’ve actually started reading a book for personal reasons, titled something like “the 5 languages of love”. The book explains that there are 5 languages with which people communicate their feelings of love, and teaches you how to better communicate utilizing the knowledge of how all 5 work. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but it seems very interesting. I’m hoping it will help me better communicate with people in general, and increase my threshold for compassion. 

For now though I need to go to sleep. I just got very tired all of the sudden and I have to work (surprise) tomorrow. I can’t believe its already September!

I’ve almost finished my rain garden! Tuesday and Wednesday were days I had off, so I spent all of Tuesday hauling compost. I brought in 3 pickup trucks full that day (I borrowed my uncles truck), which means a total of 4 have been brought into my garden. Everyone assures me that there’s no way the pickup truck is a full yard, but I had the office woman at the compost facility come out and look at it and she assured me it was. Anyway! Here are some pictures of the rain garden so far!

I really really like it! And it’s actually been really cheap so far. Here’s a little list to give an idea of what this project involved.

Plants: $5. I only bought one plant for this garden specifically, almost everything else was relocated from around my garden. Some plants (a couple of red flowering currants, a sedge and a bunching grass, some sea holly, and a plant called serasiformis) were collected from/donated by the garden where I intern. 

Compost: 3 yards. Cost: $90.

Rocks: Large rocks were donated by my grandpa and transported by my cousins. All small rocks were collected from the excavation site.

Decorative branches: donated by my aunt

Use of uncles truck: $73 in gas (I didn’t use that much gas to haul compost, but that’s what it cost to fill his tank since it was almost empty when I got it). $5 carwash.

Time: honestly I haven’t been keeping track of the hours very much simply because I was working on this every spare minute that I had. I would guess that I spent probably 100 hours on this so far. Digging up the lawn took several days, and getting the dirt out took a couple of weeks. I spent all of tuesday working on it, and several hours on wednesday.

Total cost? $173. 100 hours of work.

All that I have left to do is cover the raised edges with wood chips and fill in the shallow area with the pebbles I collected from the excavation. I was reading through my rain garden book and it said that rain garden soil has sand in it, so I might mix in a little bit of the old dirt that I have still. It’ll help get rid of it and improve drainage. I think I missed that page on my first read through, haha.

Oh, and here’s a list of the plants I used, incase you’re interested.

Mock orange, lady fern, red osier dogwood, red flowering currant, several varieties of sedges, a bunching variety of grass I don’t know the name of, oregon iris, costal strawberries, common camas, salal, hardy fuscia, sea holly, and a small flowering bulb I believe is called morning star.

The majority of these plants are native and will provide food and shelter for dozens of species of birds and insects. I’m hoping the increased shady “wetland” will also encourage frogs. I don’t really expect to see those until I get a pond set up, but that’s a different project that might have to wait for a year or two. 

I’ll post more pictures once the project is completely finished!

Oh and here’s a picture of Buttercup impatiently waiting for me to finish my breakfast this morning.

That picture also shows our newly refurbished couch! The darker purple on the arm is the real color of the couch, with the lighter stuff just being some sheets we through on it to protect it while we get a real slip cover. My mom really likes the color purple. We currently have a purple house, a purple couch, purple drapes, and purple asparagus, purple brussels sprouts, and several variety of purple flowers growing in the garden. My mom also has purple nails at the moment, haha,

 

A Rain Garden!

After years of talking about it, I finally have started installing a rain garden! When it rains for any period of time at my house the water from the down spouts runs into my lawn and pools there for an hour or two. The dogs get muddy and the lawn erodes. Its gone down about an inch a year since we’ve moved in, and there’s almost no grass in certain spots because my dogs are constantly running on it. This rain garden is designed to help capture anywhere from 80-95% of the rain water coming off of my patio cover (1/3 of the rain water that’s been going into my lawn) and filter it/ slow it down so that it goes back into the earth instead of running out into the street. Rain gardens take native, water loving plants, and utilize their ability to grow in wet conditions to help reduce water run off and erosion. They tend to be around 100 sq feet, but can be larger or smaller depending on the area you’re working with. Generally the larger they are the better they’ll filter the water out.
Here are some pictures of what I did on the 4th of July yesterday!

I did most of the digging a week or two in advance, but the compost was hauled in yesterday because yesterday was the only day I had off/time to do it. I’ve only hauled in about 3/4 of a yard, but I’ll need another yard and a half before I’m finished. The trench that you see in the middle of the dirt is where water will pool/flow, and the raised edges allow the water level to raise up about 4 inches before it overflows into the lawn. There will be a larger ponding area in the wide side of the garden, and I’ll be hauling a 6 ft mock orange tree over from the other side of the yard. It will provide shade and its larger roots will help filter the water as it soaks deeper into the ground.
Other plants in the garden include several species of fern, iris, strawberries, sedges, bleeding hearts, common camas, lily of the valley, and either an oregon grape or a nine bark.
If you’re interested in learning more about rain gardens I highly advise you look into them! Here’s a link to a local project to increase the number of rain gardens in my watershed!
http://www.12000raingardens.org

The summer has been going really well so far. I love interning at the garden. Sid and I have become good friends, and I love getting to talk to all sorts of new people on a daily basis. My social anxiety doesn’t seem to effect me very much when I’m working, which is a blessing. Saturdays I’m in the garden from 8-2, and I talk to well over a hundred people during that time. Falaah, the garden coordinator (and the only person paid to be there), lets me bring my beekeeping stuff on saturdays and have my own table to talk to people. I explain the inner workings of the hive to anyone who’s interested, and try to encourage people to plant more flowers for pollinators. I showed off for some kids once and pet a bumblebee, since their mom told me that their dad has been teaching the kids that all insects are bad, and sprays them with pesticide while they’re on his plants regularly. They liked the bumblebee demonstration a lot, and apparently have asked to come and see me specifically more than once.

Right now we’re doing a summer camp for kids ages 3-5 on Wednesday mornings. I’m in charge of the “Nature Play” area, and have the kids play in a teepee we made using bamboo sticks and tarp. They get to play with pine cones and dig in the dirt to find millepedes, ants and worms. Yesterday we also had a group of 25 kids ages 5-10 after the summer camp. It was fun but exhausting. Sid and I stayed for the normal 5-8 volunteer session as well, so he and I worked 11 hours yesterday. It was draining but fun. During the normal work party time he and I collected branches from the woods behind the barn and all but finished the hugelkultur we’re trying to make. Its basically wood that’s half buried under the ground, and then greens and compost are mounded on top of that to make a raised bed about 5 feet tall. See here for a full explanation of a hugelkultur: http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

I’m currently exhausted from yesterday’s long hours, so I’m spending today on my back patio enjoying the bees. We have a patch of succulents that has been covered in bumblebees for the last week. There’s more of them this year than there’s ever been I think, which I’m excited about. I’ve taken some borage from Pickering Barn, which is a big pollinator attractor. Hopefully next year we’ll have lots of it, because with this many bees around I feel responsible feeding them. My mom and I have already argued about the clover in the front lawn at least a dozen times this year, haha.

I woke up this morning feeling a little worried about my math final. I had meant to get up early and study a little bit, but that didn’t really happen. When I did wake up, I found this wonderful message on my phone.

photo

I haven’t spoken to him in… 9 months now? I don’t know why he felt the need to text me this. It really didn’t bother me at all, but I did ask my mom if she had any idea where this was coming from, which took up a bit of my morning. I ended up not having any time to study at home, but got to class a little early a reviewed my notes. I just checked my final grades online and I got a B for my Math class, so I think I did ok on the final!

Once I got out of class I checked my phone, and I had a message from my aunt H, who really isn’t all that affectionate to anyone ever even though she’s a total mom. She said “Hey. I hope you know you’re a good kid. There are people out there in the world who love and believe in you. Keep it going’!” Things like this don’t happen in my family at all, and certainly not to me or from her, so it really hit me kind of hard. I ended up crying in my car for a good 15 minutes before I could drive home, haha. I’ve been feeling really crumby again, in kind of a new way, in that I’m not completely suicidal, but I still think about suicide often and really hate myself. I’m a little bit more upbeat now or something though…?? I don’t know how to explain it. Anyway, it meant a lot to get that message from my aunt. Its something I don’t feel like I’ve ever really gotten to experience before; having family members make an effort to reach out and help you, even if its something as simple as a text like this. I don’t really have anyone in my family I can talk to about things because we’re all so different. And I’m the most different from everyone haha, so relating isn’t always easy.

As for my dad’s text, I’m more upset by the fact that this genuinely made me laugh and didn’t make me upset at all. Like, this is a really hurtful text and instead of being offended by it I think it’s funny. That’s how messed up my life has been, because of him even, that this vicious attack towards me did nothing more than tickle me. I walked around my house for a while just kind of laughing to myself because I thought this text was so ridiculous. I wasn’t sad at all, and that made me sad, until my aunt said anything to me, lol. And even then, I was crying because she had been nice to me, not because my dad had been horrible.

Anyway, school’s done and once Monday roles around I can have a day to myself to just sit and think. My Botany final was on Wednesday. It was beyond ridiculous. We had to spend three hours in a lab looking at samples of  100 plants in test tubes and beakers. We had to list the Family, Genus, Species, and Common name for each, for a total of 400 points. It was a bit intense, haha. My brain was fried for the rest of the day. Thankfully my internship that day consisted of a walk through Issaquah and hearing about the history of the town. I love its location, but from what I heard about its start-up and the population stats I looked at online, it sounds a bit close-minded to me. Which is a shame, because I love my internship and Issaquah is probably my favorite city in Washington. It’s so pretty, and is surrounded by lush evergreen hills that form a valley which ends with a view of Mt Rainier.

Let’s see… oh! My mom had friends over for dinner on Saturday. They got drunk and relived the glory days of their drug filled youths. It was rather dull. Somehow they got on the discussion of rabies though, and I quoted a fact about how squirrels (for the most part) don’t actually get rabies themselves, they just carry it. At this point my mother proceeded to say I was autistic, and she wasn’t drunk at all. It was great fun. I went to bed at midnight because I had been interning from 8-4 that day. I spent most of it talking about beekeeping. I bring in a couple of empty hive boxes and my suit and tools, and set up a little table and talk about bees to whoever seems interested. I also bring the package the bees came in this year, and pieces of wax with eggs in them and a couple queen cells from last years hive. One woman came back especially to hear about my bees, since her husband sprays everything in their yard and she’s trying to teach her kids why that’s bad. I told her to bring him to the garden, which she didn’t sound too confident about, lol. After interning I went with the rest of the garden “staff” to a hindu (????) temple where we had installed a ‘food digester’. This time we got to go in and have some fresh rice pudding, and go upstairs to the… worship hall? Alter? I don’t know anything about religion. It was the prayer room and had 7 statues of the deities of the temple, as well as a guru who brought their specific beliefs over from India in the 60’s. It was really elaborate a beautiful. And very calming.

Who knows what I’ll do tomorrow. We’re supposed to spend most of the day handing out tote bags to promote Issaquah’s new ban on plastic bags. It should be fun!

Becoming A Vegetarian

I have fallen completely in love with my Bite Me 2.0 course. Everyday its like I spend 3 hours with my great aunt and uncle, who share very similar believes and talk in much the same way as my teachers. The books, Food Politics, The Ethics of What we eat (my favorites of the course), have been highly educational and have really changed my perspective of the political food system. We watched several movies, including: Dirt, Fresh, Killer at Large, Botany of Desire, and Power of Community. All are very educational. I think Power of Community is my favorite though. It really makes me want to live on a commune, lol.

Last week I made an effort to reduce my meat consumption, and ate only the meat still available in the house. Starting on the 17th, I fully ‘converted’ to being a vegetarian. If the ethics behind eating meat aren’t enough to get you to change your eating habits, the health benefits certainly are. I feel twice as energized as I used to, and even with only 6 hours of sleep I wake up feeling extremely well rested (which used to be a really rare thing) and falling back to sleep after my alarm goes off now takes a big effort. My Bite Me course currently is having us do a nutrition project, in which we have to track our daily meals (using fitday.com) and then print off the results after a week. I decided to start this project on Monday (the day I changed my diet completely) and according to the website I have well over 100% of my essential vitamins and minerals every day. I’ve made a creamy carrot and sweet potato soup, and pizza so far, as well as having cereal and our traditional olive oil and vinegar salad.

Just as importantly as becoming a vegetarian, I have tried to be an organic one. There’s no reason that everyone shouldn’t be eating organically. We went grocery shopping monday, bought a weeks worth of groceries (for 2 people, with enough for my sister to have some as well usually) and spent less than we would on a weeks worth of normal groceries. I spent most of monday making soup and organic apple sauce, waiting until tuesday to make banana bread.

Oh, and for you french fry eaters out there, the first day I switched I went to Red Robin and ate 3 baskets full of fries on my own. I barely reached my recommended daily allowance for calories that day, and had more than enough vitamins and minerals. So, giving up meat means more deep fried goodness for me!

I also feel a lot happier than I have in months. Maybe its just the increase in light because of the time of year, or the fact that my sister was gone for three days; I dunno. All I know is I’m actually able to get out of bed in the mornings, where as two weeks ago the thought of moving was often almost more than I could bear.