So as I alluded to in a previous post my family was going to be expanding a bit in August. Well it is now the end of September and that TERRIFYING/WONDERFUL thing has happened and my family has now grown by one more. I'm not going to tell you their name or post a picture of their butt in a cloth diaper so don’t worry about that. I don’t believe in putting pictures of personal things or people out there unless I have their explicit permission. Which is of course is hard to get from someone that is only a month old.
But since little one has been in cloth diapers now for a few weeks I wanted to share some early thoughts I have on the difficulty of cloth diapers versus disposable. Just so everyone is clear when I am referring to cloth diapers I am referring to a type called a pocket diaper. Where you have a separate liner and a waterproof shell with a built in pocket.
You can see what I mean in the product link below
What could be simpler right planting a tree is as simple as digging a hole and plopping it in the ground. Well as someone who is out there both professionally and personally on the front lines of tree planting, I can tell you that you are mistaken.
Planting a tree can be that simple but, in many cases, it is way more complicated than you think. Because when you are planting a tree you aren’t just sticking a tree in the ground you are adding a long-term fixture in the landscape that will have impacts and repercussions long after you are gone from the scene. I will be approaching this issue from the perspective of planting a tree in an urban or community setting. That is because planting a tree in town comes with a set of issues that are not a problem in a more rural setting so I will focus on those issues here.
So I have to make a confession or perhaps an announcement to make to the whole wide world. I am about to become a parent for the first time. Sometime during the month of August 2020, I along with my partner will be welcoming a new life into this world. Unless of course, the new addition to our family decides to be fashionably late and arrive in September.
Needless to say with everything going on this has not been my idea of a good year to have a baby. Aside from the obvious pandemic, it has been a personally tough year in other respects getting ready for the new baby and all the changes it will be bringing into my life.
The biggest concern I have had on my mind is can I raise a child without compromising my green living values. Children can be inherently wasteful mostly in ways outside their control or even comprehension. It really falls on the parents to make the decision that is best for their child and in my case the values I live by.
But when you look out into society and the products and expectations that come with raising a child it is clear that disposable diapers, cleaning products, fast fashion, and cheap throwaway toys rule when it comes to raising children. I have received so much pushback on our plans to use cloth diapers, washable wipes, and to put our kid in all used clothing. It has mainly taken the form of knowing looks and the phrases,
“That’s gross why would want to clean dirty diapers”
“Ohh that's too hard you won’t keep up with it”
After many years of waiting and bad crops with my currant bushes I managed to get enough off of them to bother making something from them. I plant these bushes 4 years ago and in every year since I have been fighting the birds, the weather and just bad timing trying to get more than a handful of currants.
This year I finally did it. I actually have to thank the fact that I am working from home for this. It has really allowed me to monitor my various fruiting shrubs much better than I have in years past. Let me tell I am just a bit surprised by this since the weather this year has been atrocious for my garden. For most of the spring it hovered at or below 32 degrees and it rain/sleeted. Then flipping a complete 180 it jumped up to 90+ degrees for weeks on end with no rain which has turned portions of my garden to something like concrete.
and the hail don't even get me started on the hail.
But I and my garden persevered and push through all the bad weather to finally produce something I can enjoy eating.
As I right this the the currants and the sugar is cooking together on the stove top and I really hope it turns out. Being able to produce my own food is part of how I am trying to live a greener life. The more I can grow at my house the less I have to buy which is better for the environment as well as being better for my wallet.
For this particular foray in jam making I am using a simple recipe I found at the The Spruce Eats.
What I liked about this recipe is that it also gives the amounts in grams and ml which makes it much easier to adjust to the amount of currants I have,
and here at the Green Living Library stuff that is simple to use and change is gold to us.
That's all for now
There is a disturbing trend out there in the world right now that that needs to be addressed.
The return of disposable plastics
If you look back over the last decade you can see a growing momentum of city, counties, and whole nations trying to limit the use of disposable plastic bags, straws cups, and other single use items. While the effectiveness of these bans can perhaps be questioned on how much plastic they save or trash they prevent. The important bit is what the plastic bans represent in the sentiments and ideas taking hold out in the world.
We as a global society were finally starting to see past the short-term gain and look at the long term picture. But then something happened, something that took our gaze from the future and yanked us roughly right back to the present.
I am of course talking about Covid-19.
The pandemic has taken us from the path of reusable bags and bring your own coffee mugs right back to single use plastic. The line we hear from everywhere it seems is that single use plastic is more sanitary and safer to use. But where is the data that backs up that theory?
It’s not there in fact the data that has been gathered about how long the virus sticks around on various materials has shown that it can live longer on plastics, stainless steel, and other hard impervious materials and it has a much shorter half-life in things like cardboard most likely fabrics.
So where is this assumption that plastic is safer and more sanitary coming from?
Fear and Propaganda.
We are all afraid of this thing and what it could do to us and our families and fear can make us lose all reason and drive irrational thinking and poor long-term choices. It is perfectly understandable that people are afraid, hell I am more than a little paranoid myself about a few things. But the fear that using items more than once makes them unclean and unsafe is simply not true. Items can be cleaned, they can be sanitized and they are as clean if not cleaner than you. So if you believe you are doing a good job with keeping yourself safe than your cloth bags and coffee tumblers are no more dangerous than you.
The propaganda is coming from an industry that was under attack from falling demand changing times as people around the world demanded products that were better for them and the planet we live on. They are trotting out the same message they have for the last half century that life is always better with plastic. In many ways they are right, the modern age would not be possible without plastic and the many advances it enabled us to make.
But plastic in its many forms is also a major polluter both during its manufacture and after it has been used. For a long time, we were willing to accept that pollution for all the benefits it gave us but lately, we have begun to wake up to the problems.
So fear and propaganda aside let's look at the idea that single use plastic bags are safer than cloth bags for use in the grocery store. First of all, people are under the mistaken impression that grocery store plastic bags are sterile and clean.
Think about that for a second….
They are manufactured in a factory, packed and shipped all over the place, and then finally unboxed and handled by many people and placed in a rack at the checkout. They then sit there and get exposed to the grocery store environment with all its people and their hands and breathing until they are finally used up.
If that sounds clean and sterile to you need to look in a dictionary.
Sterile- free from living organisms and especially pathogenic microorganisms
If you compare that to cloth reusable bags the chain of people touching them and how long they are in the grocery store is much less intimidating. Assuming you bag your own food no one but you touched your bag which cuts down on contact transmission. If you bring your own bags you also limit the time they are exposed to the environment in the store which again reduces contact time. Finally, unlike plastic bags your cloth bag can be washed, bleach or otherwise sanitized to your heart's content.
Try doing that with a plastic bag at the store....
The same principle can apply to any situation we were once again being coerced into using disposable plastic. When you really think about it is much safer for you to use stuff that is only exposed to you and your immediate environment, not something anyone can use at the store.
Thinking about the Future
I know the times are scary and stressful but we cannot let the immediate crisis take our eye off the ball that is global climate change. What can happen if we don’t start making drastic changes to the way humanity operates will make the pandemic look like a pothole on a road heading for a cliff. You shouldn't ignore the pothole but don't let it distract you from that pesky cliff coming up real fast.
So the moral of this story is don’t let fear control your actions, question all the propaganda you hear about how single use is better and use your brain to make good decisions
Growing a garden in an apartment or other small space is the ultimate test of plant growing ingenuity. When most people think of growing something indoors they think they need a nice sunny window to put the plants in. While a bright sunny window is nice to have it is by no means the only way to grow a garden in an apartment anymore.
With the advent of low cost, long lasting LEDs you can grow a garden just about anywhere without it costing a substantial amount of money. Just as an example you can see in a picture below where I grew cherry tomatoes and salad greens all winter long in an otherwise very dark room. This room hardly got any daylight into it and certainly none on the wall where I put the pots.
If you want to grow a garden inside then what you want to do is maximize efficiency in the following ways,
When it comes to growing food inside I find it is best to start with your light setup. You want something that is adjustable in height so it can be raised or lowered according to plant height. It is important to keep lights just above the plant you are growing because this will get the most light to impact the plant leaves. Even with today's LEDs you still need to be close to the plant to offset the fact that light bulbs are not the Sun.
Light systems can be purchased commercially like this one or you can make your own from DIY parts. The commercial bought systems are not cheap but they come with all the bells and whistles and come with bulbs specifically tuned to produce light in the wavelengths plants need for photosynthesis.
A DIY system is not for the faint of heart and I do not recommend them unless you are comfortable with doing your own wiring. That wiring can be as complicated as actually wiring up an entirely new light system or just modifying an existing one. The one seen in this photo below was my approach since I could get the parts for a very low cost. It consists of an old bathroom vanity light wired up to be plugged into a wall receptacle instead of being hardwired.
Just to reiterate if you are not confident in your ability to do electrical wiring or you live in a location that doesn't allow it,
DON'T DO THIS and I am not liable if you do and something bad happens.
If you assemble your own grow lights you can either do something like I did you can use what I call a shop light setup. Doing it this way can be nice because you can get the same LED technology in these and they are built in a way that puts light where you want it. You can also get these with a receptacle plug pre-installed so that means no wiring for you which can be a stress reliever.
When you buy the bulbs make sure to get ones that are at least 100 watts and in the daylight part of the light spectrum. These bulbs will put out a bright white light instead of the softer more yellow light usually found in most home lamps.
An example of what I mean for the standard A21 bulb is below.
The choice of what to grow your plants in can have a dramatic effect on the cost of the setup and the ongoing effort to make it work. In terms of expense the bottom of the shelf is just regular potting soil you would use in a pot. Most potting soils are soil less and are instead a mixture of organic and inorganic parts. Some of the most common potting soils are made from peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite which are all great at holding water and nutrients for the plant to use.
The next step up is to use a hydroponic system that flushes a nutrient rich water over plant roots periodically. This system requires something for roots to anchor on like, clay pebble, coco chips, pine shavings or just plan old river rock. These systems are nice because they tend to be lightweight unless you use rock and you get very good production when compared to a potting soil setup. They do come with more expense because you have to supply extra nutrients, buy pumps and timers to regulate water flow and they use more electricity than a potting soil system.
The step up from that is aeroponics which is basically hydroponics that does away with the growing medium altogether. It used fine misters to spray plant roots with a fine nutrient rich mist. It can work great when it works but this system is highly dependent on nothing going wrong. A power loss or a water supply failure causes the roots to dry out in minutes and you can lose a crop just as fast. So aeroponics is not for the faint of heart or for people that like to set it and forget it.
To put these systems in terms of ease of use and likelihood of failure I would put them in the same order as expense. The addition of a water/nutrient holding medium in the first two systems reduces the chances of total failure. You have more time to catch and fix whatever is going wrong in the system.
What I would do
If I was a new indoor gardener I would set up the following system. I would use a soilless potting soil with a built in catch basin to hold extra water. I would place them under pre-purchased shop lights because of the ease of setup and the ability to raise and lower the lights easily.
If I had the room I would multiple shelves of produce from floor to ceiling with 3 feet between each shelf. This should give enough room for most plants to grow while providing clearance for the lights.
The plants I selected would most likely be any or all of the following,
I picked them because they continually produce and they don't need any pollination to produce.
Hopefully, this gives you some ideas or inspiration to start growing your own indoor garden this winter so you can enjoy fresh produce all winter long.
Having a garden is not just for those who have large plots of land that they can till up and plant seeds in. Even someone with no more space than a deck can have a bountiful container garden that can produce just as much and in some cases more than a garden planted in plain old dirt. This is possible because you can tailor the soil medium for maximum growth and place the pots where they can get the perfect amount of heat and sunlight.
There are a few things to consider when establishing a container garden.
There are two basic categories of containers you can use for planting a garden on a deck.
I seperate them out because pots come premade in many different styles, materials, sizes and can be moved once full. While planter boxes are typically built on site and are too large to easily move once they are full of soil.
You can get pots these days in many sizes and materials. They can range in price from cheap plastic to more expensive terracotta and ceramic. In my deck garden I mostly use terracotta pots for the following reasons,
Plastic pots can have some benefits as well as being cheaper than terracotta in most cases and are better at holding moisture for people who water infrequently.
When it comes to container gardening for most plants bigger is always better. This is because the more soil or other growing medium you provide the better the plant will grow. I dont grow anything in a pot smaller than 12 inches now and most of my pots are actually bigger than that.
Smaller pots can be quite successful for herbs but keep in mind that if you vary your pot size too much it can play hell with a watering timetable. Small pots on hot days in the sun can need water multiple times a day while larger pots suffice with one watering a day.
If you are starting from scratch I would try to pick a once size pot to use so that you can better predict what you watering needs will be. If you want to vary from that once size go bigger since that will in most cases need less watering than the smaller one.
If you have the space and a good sunny location for them planter boxes are the way to go in my opinion. They will cost a bit of money and time to build and install but the benefits are worth it if you are serious about having a deck garden. Planter boxes are much better at holding water and providing larger spaces for plants to root into. This will result in stronger plants that need less frequent watering to establish and maintain good production.
There are many shapes, styles and materials to build planter boxes out of treated/untreated lumber. Plastic panels, metal watering troughs, old fridges (seen it) pretty much anything you can think of using. I made mine from untreated lumber coated in many coats of raw linseed oil.
What to plant
You can plant anything you want in container gardens but there are things that will do better in a traditional garden. In my experience the following garden plants are good for pots,
If you have large planting boxes than maybe you can spread out into other crops like,
You can go two ways with watering your container garden.
You can water by hand every day or you can set up a timed irrigation system.
Both systems have their pro’s and con’s. If you hand water it will most likely happen everyday even if it rains since rain typically can’t get enough water into the pots. It puts you out in your garden everyday which is great for monitoring plant growth and when it comes to harvesting but it does take time everyday.
A timer controlled irrigation system is great for those of you with busy lives. It will water your plants automatically once it is set up and all you need to do is check it once a week to make sure it is still working right. This way has a lot more upfront cost and setup time but it is nice to be able to relegate watering duties to a timer.
So now that you have my take on what you need to know to start a container garden it is time for you to give it a try yourself. The options and ways to do it are endless so you need to figure out what works best for your situation. If you have any questions about this, send me an email and I will help you out as quickly as I can.
For more information on how to start a container garden check out some of my other articles here on the Green Living Library.
Its been a rocky start so far with below average temperatures and lots of rain but the 2020 garden is officially in the ground and growing.
Hopefully it stays a bit drier than last year so I wont have as many powdery mildew issues.
Below is a gallery of some of the pictures from the year so far.
To kick off my series about growing your own food I am going to start with the way I am most familiar.
Growing a garden in an average urban back/front yard.
Growing your own food on an urban lot comes with its challenges as well as benefits. You obviously lack space that you would get on a larger piece of land but what you gain is easy access to water and immediate proximity to your garden. This walkout your back door kind of access makes it really convenient to do everything. From planting and maintaining to harvesting your produce, having your garden just 10 steps from your door makes it really easy to garden.
You are probably thinking about it more than ever these days. With the pandemic sweeping across the globe we have all seen the impact it has had on the food system. From restaurants shutting down to empty grocery store shelves this pandemic has shaken the food system to its core. We have been given a glimpse into the inner workings of a system that usually delivers what we want when we want it without any hiccups.
But just because it appears to be this indestructible behemoth of a system that is simply not true. The food system as we understand it is built of two separate supply chains. One chain that feeds into the grocery store system which caters to the home cooking crowd and one chain that feeds into the commercial food space. Commercial food for the purpose of this article includes restaurants, schools, prisons, event centers, and other large venues where lots of food is made.
What the pandemic has done is thrown a wrench into the finely tuned food production and delivery system that is modern food. We have what is called a just in time delivery system. In most stores across the country there is roughly a three day supply of food on hand in the stores. This three day supply is based on the average food purchases that occur at that store.
I will give you one guess about what happens when say a novel disease makes its world debut and people start to freak out.
Suddenly that average consumption rate is useless, and stuff begins to fly off the shelves faster than it can be replenished. The emptiness then triggers more panic buying because omg there might not be enough food. Well that is both right and wrong. We are not going to run out of food in the short term there is plenty to go around. The immediate problem is that it isn’t going around as fast or as efficiently as before. That combined with the surge in demand has led to the current crunch in food supplies in some locations. The potential problem that worries me is the impact that this will have on future food supplies. Right now, we are living off the good times of years past but sooner than we think we will need to replenish that supply.
In the normal course of things, spring is the time of year when crops are being planted, livestock is being born and we are laying the groundwork for next year's food. But this pandemic is wreaking havoc on certain parts that system, most notably the vegetable and fruit farms/orchards. These farming systems are still heavily reliant on manual human labor to plant and harvest the food. You can’t pick an apple or harvest lettuce with a machine. This pool of human labor is jeopardy because in many parts of the world these farmworkers are among the most vulnerable to getting this illness. They live and work in close conditions, in many cases have poor sanitation and they must travel to follow the various harvest seasons. You combine this with border closures that stop these workers from even getting to their worksites and you have a long term problem in the making.
This problem is simple without the workers ever arriving, things do not get planted. If they do get planted but enough workers get too sick to work or even die, then the produce won’t be harvested in time or at all. This means the real impact on the food system is potentially sometime in the future when there really will be a food shortage of at least certain types of food.
So what does this mean for the everyday person like you….
Well it means you should seriously consider trying to grow some food of your own. Every little bit helps and whatever you can do to stabilize your own food supply puts less strain on a system that will continue to be under a lot of strain for a while yet.
Stay tuned for a series of posts going over several options for how to maximize your available growing space and what to grow in those spaces that will give you the most bang for your dollar.
Hello my name is Josh Larson and I am the creator of the Green Living Library. Here on the blog you will find updates to content found in the Green Living Library as well as stories from those living the sustainable life already.