Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Do You Hear The Bell?


 "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were;  any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."-- John Donne, Meditation XVII




"The planet isn't going anywhere. We are. We're going away. Pack your s***, folks. We're going away. And we won't leave much of a trace, either. Thank God for that. Maybe a little styrofoam." -- George Carlin

**************************


Earth Day 2011 is coming up on April 22. To commemorate it, Jan Huston Doble, who writes the blog Thanks for Today, has asked garden bloggers to document what they are doing or plan to do, to help save mankind from itself, with her Gardener's Sustainable Living Project. Because, like George Carlin said, the planet isn't going anywhere, but we are. If we continue to use up finite resources, like oil, if we continue to kill off species that, for all we know, might be essential to our own survival, if we don't limit our use of fresh water, we could end up hoist with our own petard.


So here's what I do to contribute.


1.) I compost.


Compost bin at previous garden


Used coffee grounds from Starbucks -- you know they give them away, right?

Lovely horse poop

Vegetable trimmings headed for the compost pile

Current compost bin

Why is compost better than chemical fertilizer? Compost feeds the bacteria, worms and other bugs that live in the soil. Those bacteria, worms and bugs then provide their own waste for plants to use at their leisure. Compost helps the soil structure, and helps retain moisture. Chemical fertilizers are composed primarily of three elements -- nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. They do nothing for soil structure, and because they are harsh chemicals, they actually kill off the  bacteria, worms and bugs. They leach into ground water, where the nitrogen turns into nitrates, which at high levels can make people, especially children, very sick. And the potassium and phosphorus used in chemical fertilizers are mined from the earth, making them a finite resource.

2.) I grow some of my own vegetables.





Pea flower in last year's garden (no pictures of the pea harvest, we ate them too fast!)

Any vegetables or fruit I don't grow myself, I can buy at the farmer's market.



When we lived in Massachusetts, we were members of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm, which provided us with more locally grown, in-season fruits and vegetables than we could use (we shared with a neighbor). We haven't joined one in Washington (yet) because we now have a much larger vegetable garden, and access to the farmer's market. I wanted to see how much we could grow ourselves.

Why is local good? Because when you buy local, in-season fruits and veggies, you aren't buying food that was probably picked before it was ripe, and then trucked or flown thousands of miles (meanwhile, ripening artificially), thus using up our precious fuel, and releasing the exhaust fumes of those fuels into the atmosphere. Local is also better for you, because it's fresh -- the longer food sits after being picked, the more nutrients it loses.

3.) I drive a Prius. 



We have only one car, and it gets about 43 mpg. My husband takes the Sounder train into Seattle almost every day for work, and sometimes works at home.

The car before this one was also a Prius. (We won't talk about the one before that -- oh, OK, in the interests of full disclosure, it was a 1988 Cadillac Fleetwood -- not exactly great mileage).

The car I would really like to have one day is a hydrogen fuel-cell car. Follow the link to a Wikipedia article.

4.) I recycle as much plastic as I can. I've been an enthusiastic recycler from the moment we got our very first recycling bins many, many years ago.


Disappointingly, the company that takes our recycling here in Pierce County in Washington will not take a lot of plastic items that are recyclable. Margarine, cream cheese or yogurt tubs, for example. I don't understand why, our recycling company in Seattle took everything, even plastic grocery bags. When we lived in Massachusetts, they took anything that had the HDPE triangle symbol, no matter what number it had.

So I try to give those items a second life, as plant markers.


If I could just figure out what to do with the bits and pieces left over. Maybe I could make a mosaic with those little plastic triangles?
 
I give clear plastic containers like berry tubs and salad green tubs a second life too, as cloches for direct-sown seeds in my garden beds.

It works really well.
Look at all those poppy sprouts!

Did you know that plastic, like oil, is a finite resource? That's because it is made from oil.

5.) I plant lots of Pacific Northwest native plants that bear berries to attract and feed the wildlife in the area.

Red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)

Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)

I'm not a purist about the natives, but I do prefer them because they not only have beautiful flowers, they also need less water during the summer here in the Pacific Northwest, because they are adapted to our typical summer months of drought.

And I provide food, water and shelter for the critters that come to my garden.






I take care of the critters because, like John Donne said, "No man is an island." And I consider the animals my friends (except for those pesky raccoons). 

I hope you've enjoyed this trip into my sustainable living practices (or at least learned something). To learn more, go to Jan's blog Thanks for Today. Lots of other garden bloggers have written posts about what they do to sustain the Earth -- and themselves.

7 comments:

  1. Great posting Alison. I especially like the reuse of the cream cheese tubs for plant markers. Brilliant!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love that essay. I made my students read it in English Lit. I work at a job corps center and this year we will do clean up's along the creeks in Rapid City, Sturgis, Deadwood, Spearfish, and our little local town of Nemo. On center students will be adding new planters to our greenhouse, planting our outdoor garden, building a worm compost bin, and starting seeds in the greenhouse using recycled milk cartons and egg cartons. I'm proud of my kids as they love to give back. At Christmas time they will willingly donate half their paychecks to needy kids. They have embraced Earth Day and love to work in our garden. Thanks for asking what we do. It is good to share positive things.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I enjoyed reading about the things you do to leave less of an imprint on the earth. I told Jan I was going to participate, but things have been very busy around here, and I am having trouble thinking about what to write about. Maybe a post will come to me yet.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You are really good Alison! I have a really hard time when I go to someone's house and they don't recycle, it drives me crazy throwing something in the garbage that can be recycled. At home if someone gets lazy and throws a pop can or cardboard in the trash I will dig it out and put in in recycling. I think it's good that so many kids are growing up recycling without really even thinking about what they are doing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very interesting post. I must try the plant label as well.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Alison, a great post! I love your current compost bin too...did you build it yourself? It's beautiful, but also looks like it would keep the pesky rodents out!

    I find it a little disheartening, that in the 21st century all plastics can't be recycled in all locales. Our last house had that problem, I found it infuriating that I couldn't put something with a recycle symbol on it, in the recycle bin! I'm grateful that here they'll let us recycle almost anything that isn't moving ;)

    I love your Symphoricarpos photo. When we moved here, at first, we couldn't figure out what it was, but it was everywhere! Once we ID'd it, I was thrilled. We have a forest full, and the local native nursery wanted $8.99 for a 1 gallon plant. I felt rather smug after that!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I enjoyed reading about the things you do to help the earth, Alison. Too bad they won't take your yogurt/cream cheese containers. I always throw those in. But as far as I know they don't want plastic grocery bags. Using the containers in the ways you do is so wise. I did not know Starbucks would give you used coffee grounds...I've never thought to ask. But I sure will now! Good luck with your veggie garden this year; I hope you can grow all of them yourself! I'm still learning about veggie's and don't expect to have a huge crop turnout, but, I do love our local farmers markets too! Thanks for joining in my project! Jan

    ReplyDelete

Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.