Monday, July 30, 2007

My personal Victory Garden

Grandma only had one story from World War II, and it involved she and my great grandma ripping up the front yard to plant carrots. I didn't get it. I thought "geesh, that's what grocery stores are for," and cataloged it into the cheapskate grandparent bin along with all the crumpled pieces of aluminum foil in their kitchen drawer and washing and reusing plastic bags.

I've since changed my tune. I saw this stat on "For the average American meal [...], World Watch reports that the ingredients typically travel between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres, a 25 percent increase from 1980 alone. This average meal uses up to 17 times more petroleum products, and increases carbon dioxide emissions by the same amount, compared to an entirely local meal."

Hmmm. Grown at home equals good for the planet. It's worth a try. My first step was to join a farm co-op. For about $200 I bought a half share, which means I get several bags of in-season produce that's grown about 40 miles from my house, from late may until the end of September.

It's the best thing I've ever done. My farmers, from Paige's Produce in Steubenville,OH, are the nicest people. I really enjoy seeing them every week when I pick up my food. And the food is 1000 times better than any produce at the local grocery. It's bred for taste, not the ability to sit for 3 days in a freight car and not bruise.

The farm also turned out to be less expensive. I thought $200 was a lot of money at first, but it's turned out to be a great value. I get a lot more vegetable for my money; it's actually cheaper than buying from the grocery every week.

But then my hubby and I decided to take it a step farther and plant our own garden. Our goal was to grow enough to live off our own vegetables and the co-op vegetables for the whole season, without having to buy any from the grocery.

Amazingly, we're almost to August and it's worked!

We spent about $20 on plants-- 3 zuchinni, 6 cherry tomato, 6 roma tomato, 2 green pepper, and some strawberry plants. We also bought some seeds for mixed field greens and cilantro.

Well, none of the seeds sprouted, but the rest are pumping out veggies. We can hardly keep up! The zuchinnis have just about run their course, producing more than 15 giant fruits so far this season. We made them into bread, into a pasta sauce, and have grilled them. We've also, of course, foisted the extras on unsuspecting friends. The cherry tomatoes have produced for about a month. We pick a large cereal bowl full every week. We'll probably have enough to get through the summer. We've had about 4 green peppers and the roma tomoatoes are about to turn pink. They make great sauce, and there looks to be enough fruit to make sauce this summer and have enough left over to can for winter use.

We're eating food grown within 100 miles of our house, so it requires less gasoline for transporting. It's not only a good move environmentally, it's good financially. For a minimal investment, we get a lot of high-quality produce for very little money.

All this from three small patches of dirt. We grow the green peppers and tomatoes in two small flower beds on either side of our house, and we grow the zuchinnis and strawberries in one of the front flower beds.

Just think how much I could grow if only I could tear up the whole lawn, like grandma...

Friday, July 27, 2007

The lazy person's water saver

You caught me red-handed. Yes, I still have a water-guzzling 5-gallon a flush toilet in my main bathroom. Sure, I've already replaced the loos in our other two bathrooms-- which we don't use nearly as much. But for some reason, I've left the one that would have the most impact if changed.

There's a simple reason: I'm lazy. The floor in that bathroom is on the "to replace" list and frankly, I don't feel like pulling the toilet out twice. once now, and once later when we decide what kind of floor to install. Can you blame me for not wanting to scrape two wax rings? That's what I thought.

So, I have a $1.69 solution. Not a cure, mind you, but it's something. I'm going to place a water displacement bag in the back of the tank, which will reduce water use by about 1 gallon per flush. It's like putting a band-aid on Niagara Falls, but hey, it's only temporary, right?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Toe-dipping into the compost pile

I shucked 7 ears of locally grown corn two nights ago. Looking at the giant heap of silk and shucks that came from those few ears, I realized a lot of our garbage comes from vegetables.

From the looks of our trash can on the curb every week, you wouldn't peg us as big throw aways. I always secretly wonder how our neighbors, most empty-nest retirees, manage to completely fill to overflowing their giant city-issued cans every week. We usually have three bags in our bin, which means it's about 30 percent filled.

The recycling bin, however, is always overflowing, and I usually have to put out another container full of recyclables with it on collection day.

But we could do better. It's time to start shopping for a compost bin. It's the next logical step in our "save the polar bears" action plan.

One compost site, called Black Gold, said composting vegetable waste saves CO2 emission from garbage trucks and saves precious landfill space for non-recyclable items. You also don't have to spend as much on garden mulch every spring.

So I'm going to shop around for a bin. I'll let you know what I find, as well as how hard it is to get the compost process "started."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

rain barrel update

So far this summer, we have kept 640 gallons of stormwater out of our local sewer system, thanks to the rain barrels. Of course, that also means we've haven't paid the city water department for the 640 gallons of barrel water we've used to water our vegetables and flowers, a net savings of about $4.30!
At least the plants seem to love it....