Friday, April 27, 2012

Freecycle to the Rescue

Today, two older, large, color CRT (cathode ray tube) computer monitors were rescued from the dusty basement and attic by a Freecycler.  I posted the monitors on my local Freecycle board, and got a quick response, and they were picked up within 24 hours.  Earlier in the week a Freecycler posted that she was in need of a printer, and it just so happened that we've had a printer sitting around taking up space as well.  There was nothing wrong with the printer/fax/copier, it just wasn't able to handle the capacity of our busy scholars, so I jotted her a note, and she came by the same day to pick it up.  I'm psyched to free up the space and reduce clutter, find new "homes" for the unused equipment, and glad someone else will put them to use. 

If you haven't heard of Freecycle, you should check it out at and search for your local Freecycle group.  The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,035 groups with 8,917,299 members around the world.  Freecycling links up people that have unwanted things to give away at no cost, with people who need or want things.  I have Freecycled countless items, and it makes me feel good to share with others and reduce the environmental impact of our waste by keeping it out of  landfills and/or incinerators.  It's also a good way for those on a budget to pick up items for free, reducing their expenses.  Ultimately, Freecycling also results in decreased demands on new manufacturing processes, which results in energy savings and resource conservation.  Freecycling is a win-win in my book!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Happy Arbor Day 2012!

Did you know that the last Friday in the month of April is National Arbor Day?

 I love trees.  Since I was very little, I've loved looking at trees, drawing and writing poems about trees, climbing trees, planting trees, and enjoying how beautiful they are.  During the hot summer months, I used to lay at the end of my bed, staring out the window at the silhouette of trees.   They truly are a gift of nature, a gift of our planet.

So what is National Arbor Day all about?   According to the National Arbor Foundation, "Arbor Day is a nationally-celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care."  It was founded by J. Sterling Morton in 1872, and each state, as well as other countries around the world, celebrate in some way.  

Arbor Day Foundation's mission statement is, "we inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees".  According to the World Resource Institute, there are approximately 100,000 reasons to celebrate, or 100,000 known species of trees that exist throughout the world.  If you need a reason or two to celebrate trees besides them being aesthetically pleasing, here are my top 10 reasons to plant a tree:

1.  Trees remove CO2 from the air, reducing the impacts of greenhouse gases and climate change.

2.  Trees produce oxygen that is necessary for life on Earth, and are good for your overall health.

“One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” —U.S. Department of Agriculture

“In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension.” —Dr. Roger S. Ulrich Texas A&M University

3.  Trees can add value to your home.

 “Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20 percent.” —Management Information Services/ICMA

4.  Trees help cool your home and neighborhood.

5.  Trees break the wind, and reduce both  heating and cooling costs.

“The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.” —U.S. Department of Agriculture

“Landscaping can reduce air conditioning costs by up to 50 percent, by shading the windows and walls of a home.” —American Public Power Association

“If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%.” —Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research 

6. Trees improve water quality.  Trees help to filter water, improving water quality and groundwater recharge. 

7.  Trees reduce runoff, which also increases groundwater absorption, and allows for groundwater recharge, which in turn is a source of drinking water for many Americans. 

8.  Trees prevent erosion.  The roots of trees help to prevent soil erosion which can lead to the siltation of streams and wetlands, and loss of property.  

“The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams.” —USDA Forest Service

9.  Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife and birds.

10.  Trees help to maintain biodiversity by providing shelter, food, and habitats for wildlife and birds.

You can become a member of the National Arbor Foundation for as little as $10, and they will send you 10 free 6-12" trees that will grow into beautiful mature trees as a thank you (you even get to choose from a list of trees).  I'm looking out the window now at my beautiful flowering tree that looks like it's decked out for the spring prom.  I received this tree as a gift from National Arbor Foundation many years ago, and it's grown into a stunning beauty that I'm still enjoying today, and hopefully will be for years. 

There is tons of great information on the Arbor Day Foundation website where you can learn about tree care and planting, tree identification, free landscaping ideas, join the tree forum, and much, much more.  It's worth checking out at There is also an amazing glossary of tree terms

I hope you'll decide to celebrate National Arbor Day in some way too, whether it is today, tomorrow or in the future because without trees our planet just wouldn't be the same :)  Happy Arbor Day 2012!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day 2012!

Happy Rainy Earth Day 2012!  Normally I would be sad that it’s raining on Earth Day, but this year our little piece of the Earth NEEDS the rain badly.  We have an 8 inch deficient here in Massachusetts, so I’m not complaining at all.  To celebrate Earth Day, rain or shine, maybe you’d like to consider one or more of these ideas "a la carte style" today, or in the future. 

  1. After the rain is the perfect time to weed by hand instead of using pesticides which linger in the soil, and can seep into the groundwater.  Not to mention pesticides end up on shoes, and can get tracked into homes and offices.  So skip the pesticides, grab a weeder instead, get your hands a little dirty, and get a dose of Mycobacterium vaccae, it's good for you!   
  2. Plant a tree in honor of Earth Day.  Trees help clean the air by taking in carbon dioxide, and producing oxygen, provide shade, help prevent erosion, are aesthetically pleasing, and provide homes for birds and animals.  
  3. Consider Xeriscaping.  Xeri what? Xeriscaping is landscaping and gardening that takes water conservation into consideration, and minimizes the use of additional irrigation.  For example, many people want lush green lawns and spend a lot of time and money in the form of pesticides, fertilizers, and watering to accomplish their goal of the greenest lawn on the block.  Some xeriscapists take the less is more approach, reducing the amount of lawn in lieu of a patio, or by creating mulched garden beds with shrubs and drought tolerant plants, or planting sections of ground cover that require less water than lawns. 
  4. Commit to greener, clutter-free gifts this year.  Instead of more stuff, how about giving the gift of togetherness in the form of memberships to places such as nature preserves, museums, or aquariums?  This type of gift encourages people to spend time together, commune with nature, and won't end up being a repository for dust.
  5. Speaking of nature preserves, commit to green exercise!  Hike or walk in nature preserves.  Communing with nature and just being outside is good for the soul and heart.
  6. Throw open the windows, let in the fresh air, and use ceiling fans to circulate cool air, especially in the evening and early morning, cutting down on cooling costs.  Be sure the switch is in the proper position, the fan should move forward, or counterclockwise so that you can feel the "wind chill" as the air pushes down.  Using ceiling fans can help reduce cooling costs by 40% or more.  
  7. Take leftovers for lunch.   I don't know why my kids don't like leftovers...but then again when I was a kid I hated them too!  As an adult, I love taking leftovers for lunch because it's fast and easy if you portion leftovers into lunchable containers after dinner.  In addition it helps use up leftovers that my family despises.  Taking leftovers for lunch means you will end up with a trashless lunch, which helps to reduce landfill waste by up to 67 pounds of waste per person, per year.  In addition, leftovers for lunch reduces landfill waste from leftovers that turn into science experiments!  
  8. Commit to remembering those reusable grocery bags.  Be honest, do you remember to use them every trip?  I'll be seems that half the time I forget to take the reusable grocery bags into the store with me.  I don't know why I forget soon as I unload them, I take them back down to the car, so they are ready for reuse.  I have been getting better, and I really do prefer them over the plastic bags that slip and slide all over the car.  The reusable bags stand up nicely, have great handles, and hold more than the plastic bags, which means less trips up and down the stairs when unloading at home.  I'm going to work really hard at remembering them this year.  
  9. When you do forget to use your reusable grocery bags, be sure to either reuse the plastic bags, or recycle them.  We end up reusing the plastic bags for many things including as garbage can liners, and for cat litter disposal (I know, I know I should use eco-litter, but my cats doth protest and then pee where they shouldn't, and then I doth protest loudly).  When the bags are ripped an unusable, we recycle on the next trip to the grocery store (they get bagged up and put in the car so that I don't forget them.)
  10. Join an environmental group, follow an environmental blog, take an online environmental class,  or commit to being informed about eco-issues. 
In "a la carte fashion", choose what will work best for you, and what you can stick with for lasting change.  I hope you decide to give one or more of these ideas a try today, or in the future :)  Happy a la carte Earth Day 2012!


Monday, April 16, 2012

Breezy Benefits

Fresh laundry on the newly installed clothesline
Today was a beautiful, atypically warm, breezy April day that felt more like June as the temps climbed to the 90s.  It was the perfect day to hang out some laundry and let the sun and breeze dry the clothes naturally...

...but there was one small clothesline had been taken down in the the wake of Hurricane Irene this past August for fear of tree damage (the tree it was attached to is dead)  But never fear, hubby to the rescue!

Besides being a warm April Day, we also had a holiday celebrating Patriot's Day in MA, and the Boston Marathon.  For those of you who live outside of MA, Patriot's Day is a state holiday commemorating the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord and the start of the Revolutionary War.  With hubby home for the holiday, he agreed to reinstall the clothesline in a new tree and after some effort, sweat, and thankfully no swears or injuries from tree climbing, the clothesline is back up!  It didn't take long for me to get the fresh load of laundry up on the line and take advantage of saving some energy.

For more information about the benefits of clotheslines and the energy savings, please check out:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Creative genius

Forrest Mc Cluer's Computer Virus #1
Floppy (2009)
This is based on a hybrid of T4 Bacteriophge and Adenovirus
I'd like to invite you to experience the creative genius of  Forrest Mc Cluer, economist by day and sculptor by night.  Forrest's collection of sculptures is comprised of three-dimensional "manipulations of  'found' objects into certain geometric shapes or polyhedra."  The shapes that Forrest replicates are found in nature and have fascinated artists and scientists for centuries.  His website, documents his ongoing project to deconstruct 30 discarded personal computers and then create sculptures from all of their constituent parts.  By making these 3D shapes with found objects he aims to "mark our moment in time with materials that would otherwise be disposed of and lost forever."  A 3D alacartegreen dream!

Earrings made from hard drive spacers

I was introduced to Forrest by a friend of the family when hubby donated several hard drives to his cause.  Forrest's up-cycling and creative use of the integral parts of the computers that he is deconstructing, and his detailed use of the parts was intriguing to say the least!  It quickly became evident that his passion goes beyond constructing his sculptures; his meticulous research of microbiology and virology, and mastery of mathematics are clear in the polyhedron shapes and viruses that he sculpts   Forrest writes that:
"It was the self-assembly or self-replication characteristic of biological viruses that influenced University of Southern California doctoral candidate Fred Cohen. He is the person who coined the term "computer virus" to describe a computer program that can "affect other computer programs by modifying them in such a way as to include a (possibly evolved) copy of itself." [2], [3].
Forrest's insightful use of computer parts to construct sculptures of biological viruses, which   computer viruses mimic is pure genius.   

As you can imagine, I was thrilled that the unused hard drives were slated to be up-cycled in such an imaginative, innovative way while simultaneously helping to declutter.   Although there was no need to thank us for the donation of the hard drives, Forrest thoughtfully surprised me and the girls with funky earrings made from spacers from the computer hard drives, and a hysterical "digital pirate" ear loop for the boys.  I can't wait to see the newest sculpture he creates with the hard drives!  If you'd like to see some of Forrest's sculptures up close, check out his work at the upcoming Artomatic Show in Washington, DC on May 18th .

Monday, April 9, 2012

Earth and Heart Healthy Exercise

Walking is not only good for your heart and overall health, but it's an exercise that can be considered "Earth Healthy" by virtue of the fact that it is an exercise that has a low impact on the Earth.  Let's think about it...there's no need to drive to the gym, so there's no carbon can simply walk out your front door!  The equipment that you need, your left and right leg, a bottle of water to stay hydrated (of course you should opt for a previously purchased reusable water bottle ), and a pair of sneakers which you probably already have, also have a low impact on the Earth.  Because you need very little equipment, it is easy to fit in a walk during a quick break at work, at the beach, in the mountains, in the city, in the park, on vacation, in the morning, in the afternoon, or in the get the idea, you can walk anytime, almost anywhere! 

Young or old, lace up and put one foot in front of the other!  Walking for a minimum of 30 minutes, or fitting in 2 - 15 minute sessions with a goal of approximately 150 minutes/week will reap many health benefits such as:
  • improving circulation
  • combating depression
  • bolstering the immune system
  • helping to prevent osteoporosis
  • helping to prevent and control diabetes
  • helping to control weight 
  • helping lower blood pressure
I choose to walk with my friend Beth, and we help motivate each other to get moving even when we don't feel like it.  Another huge benefit of walking with Beth is that we talk and vent, which makes the miles fly by.  Our walking sessions often double as therapy sessions as we both chat about the kids, their activities, work, husbands, goals, friends, family, household happenings, dreams, hopes, etc.  I've actually learned some things about myself by chatting aloud to Beth, and listening to her welcome advice.  An additional benefit is seeing the "sites" in our community; checking out the changes in the neighborhoods where we walk, exploring new areas, and admiring the gardens that we pass along the way.

Walking helps to keep us healthier in mind, body, and spirit and I'm happy to be reaping these benefits while chatting with my friend and treading lightly on the Earth :)  


Thursday, April 5, 2012


It's almost time for the Easter Bunny to come hopping down the bunny trail, and this year maybe you'll have an egg-cellent environmentally friendly surprise filled with sweets in your basket! Instead of plastic eggs from China, consider buying the "first 100% renewable Easter Eggs" made in the USA by eco eggs™.  Eco eggs offers their renewable multi-colored Easter egg alternative from non-toxic corn starch instead of petroleum-based plastics.  The eggs are also compostable, and do not generate emissions and create landfill waste, yet they are durable enough to be stored for years and used again and again.  And if you need grass filler for your Easter baskets, eco eggs™  also offers eco grass that is compostable and made from non-toxic corn starch, or can be stored and reused for years.  And just think, if one or two eggs get left behind after the egg hunt it won't be a problem!  The plant-based eco-eggs will slowly and harmlessly decompose.  For more Earth-friendly Easter tips be sure to check out 

Here's to an eco-Easter filled with fun and hoppiness :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mooney Falls Return Trip

Downstream of Mooney Falls

Although getting to Mooney Falls was a 2.5 mile adventure, it was worth the harrowing climb down, and we had an enjoyable, leisurely stop at the 190' falls ( Canyon Havasupai Mooney Falls2012.html.)  We took lots of pictures, had a snack break, ventured downstream to explore, and the girls had some adventures with some frisky squirrels that they named "squirrel brothers".   We discussed continuing downstream another 3 miles further to Beaver Falls, but some of the troops were not willing to do the additional trek to less traveled areas :)  Once we had cooled off, and taken our fill of pictures, it was time to pack up our beach towels, dry off our feet, sprinkle on some foot powder, put the hiking boots back on, clip our water shoes onto our backpacks, and retrace our steps back up the cliff front to head to two more falls. 

Before ascending, check to make sure that there are no hikers descending.  Hikers cannot pass along

this section as there is only room for one person, so it is necessary to take turns descending and ascending.  After checking to be sure we could go up without meeting any other hikers, we climbed back up an aluminum ladder and then a series of wooden ladders.  It's important to be cautious on this section, being careful not to slip since the ladder surfaces and footholds get wet from the mist from the falls. After climbing the ladders, there is a very steep section along rough rock, and chains that are anchored to cliff walls with rebar and eye hooks, are key to making it up the rockface.  Without this chain and rebar for handholds and footholds it would almost impossible to ascend safely unless you are part monkey.  The trail continues and as on the way down, you must pass through two narrow, steep tunnels on your way up.   Once we made it back to the "descend at your own risk sign", we continued hiking back towards the Village of Supai, past the campgrounds, and continued to our next stop, Havasu Falls (Havasu Falls is approximately .75 miles upstream of Mooney Falls).  (July 14, 2011)

Although we weren't able to make a video of our ascent because we didn't have  any extra hands for the camera, and holding on tight and paying attention to our kids was a priority, check out this amazing YouTube video that another courageous soul made.  I'm still impressed with my kids for making this climb, they were beyond brave for 11, 13, 14.5, and 15.5 year olds!   If you are afraid of heights, this video may give that queasy feeling in your stomach that you hate, but I love this video.  It brings me back, and helps me recapture this incredible climb, and makes me want to go back and do it again!   Thank you to Crazyfinx for sharing it on YouTube, it's absolutely breathtaking!

Other links to check:
and Mooney Falls2012.html

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tending the phlox

Creeping phlox in bloom at my house, April 2011
Leggy creeping phlox with brown areas

Gently pull on dead leggy sections
A little "hair cut" may be necessary for lush growth

So today it was a bit raw out, but spring was in the air, and I could see that some of my creeping phlox was beginning to show signs of buds awakening.   The prospect of my phlox budding was enough incentive for me to ignore the chill and get busy working in the garden.  And as always, there is tons of work to be done!

Part of today's job was to tend the phlox and get it ready for it's springtime show.  Tending the phlox sounds kind of biblical, doesn't it?

Well the bright blooms that grace my yard, are definitely gifts from God to be sure, and I look forward to the brilliant colors every year. 

My beautiful creeping phlox comes in several colors, light pink, hot pink, light purple, and medium purple and for me it is the highlight of my spring garden.  It's very hardy, and spreads easily via rhizomes or runners, and I usually try to break off some pieces and relocate it to other areas of the garden (gotta love rhizomes and perennials!)

Today the phlox needed some tending so that it would look it's showiest in the next few weeks. There are sections that drape over our timber retaining wall, and those sections sometimes get "leggy", or kinda gangly with brown patches.  I assume that parts of it get leggy as it flows over the wall because the rhizomes aren't in contact with the ground, and therefore can't put out roots into the soil to soak up nutrients.   

Trimmed and ready for the spring show!

Showy springtime creeping phlox 2011
Although some of the leggy parts are brownish and look dead, I've noticed that sometimes the ends of it are still perfectly green, and when I give it a "hair cut", the thin leggy pieces are still green inside the rhizome.  These brownish somewhat greenish leggy castoffs are often the perfect pieces to try to save since it's still alive.  I take the castoff cuttings to another section where I'd like to grow phlox, and pull back some dirt or mulch, pat it down, replaced the dirt and mulch and give it a drink.   If it takes great!  And if not, it was worth a try, and with the mulch in place you can barely tell.  In my experience, the odds are good that it will take, and next spring you'll have even more of this showy springtime wonder gracing your wall, border, or rock garden.  Happy tending and Happy Spring!