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Archive for February, 2009

(This is going to be a play by play of me attempting to be a more seasonal and living in-the-world (rather than bending it to my will) human being.

Step one: Figure out when the nearest farmer’s market is open.

The only one I could reasonably get to* is open from June 10th to September 23rd, 3:30-7pm on Tuesdays. I should double check that sometime in May.

Step two: Research what can be grown here (kinda more a gardening slant but meh). What, exactly, is local and in season?

Links:

http://www.calhort.org/gardening/community.aspx – general site

http://www.theweathernetwork.com/gardening/caab0049 – weather with gardening info

I’ve also checked out a couple of gardening books. I’ll keep notes.

*That I could find on google. If anyone knows any farmer’s markets open in Calgary, year round or more often, which are easily accesible by train, drop me a comment! Or if anyone knows how to get to the big one by transit in less than an hour from the U of C, lemme know that too. It looks kinda close to the second stampede lrt station?

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I got sucked into a vortex of homemaking sites, and noticed some common advice:

Do something imperfectly  or do one small thing really well. Either method helps you to overcome procrastination.

They wrote about housework and the like, but it can be applied to “greenifying” your life too.

I find myself overwhelmed quite often. And my tendency to procrastinate has made it onto every list I’ve ever made about my faults.

So, how does one overcome that? In housework the advice is to shine your sink. Or clean out one shelve/cupboard at a time. In becoming more sustainable the advice could become bring your own bags, or to research one area exclusively – for as long as it takes.

So, while I research and work on living more seasonally, here’s a list of simple things to do really well:

Really easy:

~Stop using plastic bags

~Buy a reusable water bottle and coffee mug

~Buy clothing second hand

~Make dinner at home (use oven for more than one meal at a time)

~Turn the heat down/up a couple of degrees

~Shave a minute or two off shower time

~Buy the item with the least new packaging (recycled or minimized)

~Keep the electronic (computers, cell phones, music players, etc.) for one more year. Give them away or recycle them when you’re done.

~Put all your entertainment center into a surge protector/power bar and turn off/unplug that overnight and when you go away on vacation

~Goto bed earlier

~Buy the one produce you eat most frequently either locally or organically

~Compost

Medium:

~Let it mellow

~Spend less time on the computer and/or in front of the TV

~Plant some food

~Buy everything organic/local

~Clean with organic cleaners

~Paperless banking/bill payment

~Canceling the newspaper subscription

~Washing clothes in cold water (for the germaphobic; the rest of you this one counts as an easy)

~Hanging clothes to dry

~Join the compact (for shorter times. Longer times or for shopaholics, this may be a hard)

Hard:

~Make your own

~Sew your own

~Go without electronics completely (no computer and/or no tv and/or no cellphone and/or etc.) (can also be moved to medium with a time limit:  One day a week, or one week a month, or for one month, etc.)

~Clean with baking soda, vinegar, tea tree oil, etc.

~Picking up litter

~Checking what can and cannot be recycled. Recycling what can, avoiding what can’t

~Replace all disposables with reusable items

~Reuse plastic baggies

~Stop using bags for produce and bulk items

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Living Seasonally

There was one more thing I noticed while I was in BC, but didn’t mention in my New Perspectives series (1, 2, 3) : that by the end of five weeks, both of us were very good at predicting the weather.

Now, I’m not saying we knew it’d be 6 degrees with less than a centimeter of snow and cloudy with 5km/hr wind tomorrow, but we did know it’d be warmer (and a warm night because of the cloud cover), might snow and of course it’d be windy… it’s Keremeos!

I guess living in a tent reconnects you to the world around you.

Wait a minute. I’m so disconnected that that reconnects me? Five weeks. Just over a month, and not even fully in the environment (after all, we still had a tent and a bathroom)… not to mention the fact that we’re in different places every (couple of) week(s). That’s like saying I’m such a bad writer that being able to spell half my words right makes me infinitely better.

We need to start living within the world, rather than trying to force it to our will. Seasonally. Think about it: 100 years ago, spring and fall were busy times. Summer was busy too, but slower because of the heat. Winter was a quiet time, often boring and hungry.

People starved in early spring. When  was the last time you felt hunger for longer than the time it took the pizza to get here? Scratch that. When’s the last time you felt hunger and there wasn’t anything edible in the house? And no, not having anything  that you “wanna eat” doesn’t count. But nothing that you can put in your mouth to satisfy your tummy without risking illness. I bet that if you’ve actually experienced this, it wasn’t in early spring!

When’s the last time I moved slower in the summer heat? Not counting this past summer, when I didn’t have a choice (man, 40 degrees is HOT), I can’t even remember!

So, how do I fix this? My first step is going to be a move towards eating seasonally (with some localness thrown in for good measure).  Which will be easier once summer hits and I can simply goto the farmer’s market (there’s a smaller one just a short bus ride away but it’s only a couple days a week, and during the summerish…)

Essentially, I’m trying to live seasonally and starting from scratch. I have a vague notion of what seasonal is, what might be local (or maybe not… “cows and wheat” isn’t quite what I mean here), what’s probably not local (Bananas! Chocolate!) and that there’s a farmer’s market close by.  At some point in time. One or two afternoons a week, when it’s hot out? I don’t know what a 100 mile radius would include, or where to find things from within that radius. I don’t know how to tell if produce was kept from when it was harvested or if it is fresh. I don’t have my chores listed out in seasons. I don’t know when the frost danger passes here, nor when it comes back. And probably a million other things I can’t even fathom right now.

In summary: I have a lot to learn. Wanna watch? Stay tuned for missteps and triumphs in my journey! (Wow, that was cheesey!)

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Rambles

So, I was talking to the lady who owns the used bookstore “next door” on Wednesday.  Amazingly intelligent, well-read woman, she is. We talked about a lot of subjects.

The economy, and how the Alberta Premier is … well, trying to prevent a panic by … ignoring the fact that the economy is in shambles. And even if the Alberta economy was perfectly okay (it’s not, the oilsands are not economically sound as long as oil is less than $75/barrel, or something stupid like that) it couldn’t support all of Canada indefinitely. And how Canada has been rather  sheltered from the economic falling-apartness that is occurring everywhere else, but now we’re starting to feel it. (On a side note, I asked the lady at London Drugs if they were hiring and she said no, with the funniest look on her face, and then continued her thought with a “wow, it’s been years since I’ve said that… ” and a sad shake of her head.)

We touched on how the budget is going to infrastructure (okay), unemployment insurance and similar help (… why? If the Premier is so sure our economy is still booming, would unemployment help be so important?), and home renovations/purchasing a new home.

Now, if people were smart, wise, thoughtful or had an ounce of common sense, they’d use that home renovations money/bonus to refurbish the house to use less energy. Re-insulate, put in some beneficial landscaping (trees! block the hot sun or the cold wind depending on the season), that sort of thing. We came to a bitter, resigned conclusion that many of the people who qualify will spend the money on a hot tub, or something equally frivolous.

We wander off onto the cruise she’d just been on and how horrible the waste in the dinning room was. We talked about how people in Haiti are eating DIRT while people in the dinning room are ordering 4-5 dishes, a night, to eat a bite or two of each. Wow, that seems fair. Not only can these individuals afford to take a week or two off of work, but they”re throwing out enough food to feed 4 people (we’ll be generous and assume they ate enough to feed yourself, rather than simply sampling), each night. Oh well, go out with a bang, I suppose. Since cruises may become a thing of the past as first people can’t afford either the time off (in terms of lost wages, and risking losing the job) nor have the money to pay for the cruise itself. And then the cruises will have issues with fuel shortages too. Unless they start rowing around the Caribbean or to Alaska. That’d be something.

She likes the quote about living simply so others may simply live. How the developed countries have taken so much and, essentially put it on credit (and no, I’m not talking about money), that generation upon generation will be paying for it. How the USA has taken so many resources and lived so sustainably that the next hundred generations will be trying to make amends. That’s like passing on your credit card debt to all of your great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandkids, and each generation having to pass it on the entire next generation after having lived their whole life in poverty paying. For what? Some new clothes, nights out, furniture that matches, bought new, every time the style changes? Can you imagine making your grandkids pay for your latest wardrobe? Well, guess what, they will be. Chew on that for a while the next time you can’t possibly wear those jeans another 6 months.

I’m sure there was more, but this was all food for thought and what stood out to me. Made me think, anyway.

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Habits

So, I was wandering around my house today (I do that sometimes, it helps with the ADD). Room to kitchen to sitting down at the computer to room to bathroom to computer to room to kitchen; All the while wondering what’s wrong with me (usually when I wander something’s on my mind).

Then it hit me, I was cold. My heat’s never on (it’s supposed to keep the pipes from freezing and that’s all as far as I’m concerned!) and the upstairs neighbours’, plagued with a job loss and a recent high utilities bill, must not have theirs on because oooh it’s chilly in here!

So I scampered towards the room (ie. did a u-turn in the bedroom door) and got out some socks, followed by a trip to the closet for my hat and one to the kitchen to heat up a bit of tea.

My thoughts never strayed towards the thermostat until after I sat back down with a wool blanket over my lap. And I’ll admit, those thoughts were more along the lines of, “aren’t I a good little environmentalist for not turning up the heat?”

I did this all without thinking. Habit. Impulsively, mayhap? So now I’m wondering, how much do I do without thinking that harms the environment.

For tasks that are simple and routine, most people don’t stop to think about them. They just do them the way they did them the last time it was done. Change is hard. And not soley because of the uncomfortableness that occurs when things are shaken – Change requires thought. Change requires remembering that you’re supposed to have changed. That the laundry gets hung up now, not put in the dryer. That getting the groceries means a stop at the farmer’s market first. That the brand you bought last week is not the same one you’re going to reach for this week. To make it from scratch. How many times have I made a loaf of bread, and still bought one from the store? (Hint: Too many!)

Last year I was going to garden.  I didn’t think to plant one (or even finish digging out the bed!) because it wasn’t something habitual. The same-old get home from work and turn on the computer was what happened. No matter how much I wanted the garden! Half the time it was late at night before I remembered I was supposed to have changed. And before I knew it it was too late in the season.

I’m sure there’s many, many things that I do without a thought that I really shouldn’t be doing. It’s hard to come up with these things without noticing yourself doing them. Which is also hard.

So I guess a green change I need to make is to be in the moment. Which will require lots of thought. Fortunately, once you make the change a habit, things no longer require any thought. They’re just what you do.

What’s the first thing you think of? Is the first thing you think to do in a particular situation harming or helping? What good habit will you form this month?

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