Saturday, July 28, 2007

Reduction update: power

Our electricity meter was read on Tuesday, July 17, and I downloaded the stats and statement the next day. Our usage for the previous 32 days was 739 kWh, or 22.4 kWh/day -- half of what it was two years ago!

Two years ago, before I started being careful about our a/c (air conditioning) use in summer, our usage for this time period was 1510 kWh. Last year, when I was pretty serious and yet we had a very hot summer, we dropped it to 1245 kWh in our highest-use time period for the summer. Until we get the house better shaded and insulated, when it's sunny and hot we tend to use a/c very lightly during the day, and for night drop it to the highest setting at which people can readily fall asleep.

So 739 kWh is really, really great -- and yet aided by a halfway rainy, cloudy, semi-cool couple of weeks. I'm waiting for a totally blazingly hot month or so, to see how much improvement we've really gotten, with the addition of some little tower fans in the living/dining/kitchen area.

Interestingly, to me anyway, the new time-of-use meter says we used 697 kWh in non-peak hours, and a parsimonious 42 kWh in the peak hours of 1-7pm Mon-Fri, in which we get charged a higher rate. (Our bill was nice and low as a result.) I'm very happy about this, because it says I've been fairly successful in avoiding the peak hours. That meant no toaster, coffeemaker, or microwave oven then. Gotta use it before 1 pm, and eat different foods. We're eating more cold and room-temperature foods for lunch, which is great in a warm summer anyway. It's also helping me aim for light dinners with good appetizers.

This week we had a cooler day and night, so I turned off the a/c entirely, and at dusk opened the house for the night. It was pretty comfortable. Not cool like needing a sweater, but very nice. So, I've kept the a/c off, and opened up the house at dusk. We use the outdoor air to cool the house to 74F or so, rather than running the a/c at night to cool the house to 84F (upstairs). The house is a bit more humid this way, but this week it has been very nice. Love our fans.

The most uncomfortable time seems to be the evening and early night hours, because the house is at its warmest. It helps a lot to spend some of the middle evening outdoors, when the sun is low but it's not dark yet. Then at dusk I open the house up as the outside temp starts its slide down to the pre-dawn low. Nice. Also, I love hearing the outdoor noises rather than being insulated from all of that 24 hours a day all summer.

By the way, when we have guests for part of a hot day, if need be I put the a/c at 86F (top of the stairs, remember) and turn on the tower fans. That seems to be quite comfortable for everyone.

As for other electricity use:
- I'm staying steady with our careful use of the clothes washer (full loads, cold water), clothes dryer (not at all; hang everything to dry), and dishwasher (full loads, short cycle).
- The addition of little tower fans replaces some a/c, so that's a big plus. I bought one at a big box store for $20 last month, and rediscovered the other under my little-used loft desk; it was a handmedown from a friend many months ago.
- In the warmer house my laptop gets hot and uncomfortable to use after a while, so I find myself putting it to sleep and doing other things more, another plus.
- In the evening I have noticed that we are content in the living area with only one lamp lit (compact fluorescent), and the living room tower fan (and, often, our two laptops or one laptop and the TV).

- Get a smart power strip or two to plug the stereo and TV stuff into. These have several always-hot plugs (we need one for our DVR), and the rest of the plugs turn off with the power strip switch.
- Get two regular power strips. One for the microwave oven so I can keep it off when not in use. The other for the various chargers, again to keep off when not in use, and maybe for the clock radio I use for the radio in the kitchen.
- Buy reusable tinting film for some key windows to cut the light coming in. In addition to our two south-facing windows on the main floor, morning sunlight falls on the lower and upper windows in our dining area, facing NNE. The top windows are 9 feet up and have no coverings. This project will require me to reach out and find a friend or neighbor willing to lend us an indoor ladder.
- Clean under the refrigerator -- that's where the coils are that are supposed to be kept clean.
- Change the house air filter.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Reduction update: garbage & compost

The boys and I actually set up sheet composting/bed preparation about 2 weeks ago on the grass-overrun backyard garden beds. I still can hardly believe that I finally did this thing I've been "meaning" to do for several years. A friend has this quote in her email signature:

"There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you are interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results." - Ken Blanchard

I am definitely committed to reducing our emissions tons and tons (haha, I guess that's a joke? tons of CO2...). Dear husband is on a rare business trip, and I took the opportunity to see how it is to leave the a/c off completely, opening the house up to catch cooler night air. Since I only cool our upstairs bedroom to 84F anyway, maybe we can continue opening the house up at night after his return. We love our bedroom ceiling fan, and the two little tower fans in the living/dining area.

Back to the composting. To start, we laid down cardboard from boxes (to block light to the weedy grassy stuff), watered it well, and dumped a bunch of grass clippings on top, spreading that to the edges of the cardboard. A week later (mowing day on our street, apparently!), I liberated bags of untreated grass clippings from a neighbor and added those to what my husband acquired from mowing our yard. Then... I did the second amazing thing. I started saving kitchen scraps and actually dug them into the grass clippings. Twice!

Then I started to worry about whether I was doing this all wrong... found some Web sites that discouraged kitchen scraps, especially with sheet composting... started to worry that my browns and greens were out of balance.... But I kept saving my kitchen scraps. Right now I have a kitchen bowl (with a lid) full of a week's worth of fairly wet kitchen scraps I need to toss somewhere! So I did some more research and decided to trust the several pro-sheet and trench composting sites that encouraged kitchen scrap use.

I'm a little worried still that I don't have enough browns, but now I know to check for an ammonia smell when I tuck the kitchen scraps into the composting beds. If it's there, I'll get the boys to join me in hand-shredding some paper and newspaper, and mix that in.

Here's the final amazing thing. We produce so much compostable kitchen waste! I love redirecting the food scraps (not meat or dairy or fats), and that includes coffee grounds and tea bags, but wow, it adds up fast. It has made a big impact on the amount of kitchen garbage we send to the landfill.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Eating locally: a book review

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors, was a couldn't-put-it-down book for me this week. Her prose didn't have the inner glow of her essays and novels, but I stayed up late one night trying to read as far as the season I am in right now!

The book is about Kingsolver and her family's year of eating locally, focused mostly on what food they grew, why, how, and how they ate. Throughout the book there is a lot of info -- some would say preaching -- about why one ought to choose to eat locally produced food. I've heard most of it before and she was preaching to the choir with me. On to the food!

This book made me hungry. During the two days I devoted to the book, I had good ingredients, and found myself eating...

Farm-market tomato and homemade bread sandwiches
Farm-market peaches, sliced, with local cream
Homemade multi-seed bread, toasted, with local butter
Local Spanish peanuts
Local pecans, toasted
Farm-market peaches, sliced, with homemade granola and local yogurt
Wedges of leftover frittata of local, pastured eggs and farm-market tomatoes, made into sandwiches with homemade bread slices.

I had this stuff; the book sent me into the kitchen to do something with it! And frankly, Kingsolver inspired me to cook much more from scratch and to find a way to do some putting food by for the winter.

The story of how they grew most of their food for the year was fascinating and impressive. Sometimes too impressive. Because the book begins with their move from Arizona to Virginia, I expected them to be starting with a new garden... but no. They relocated to land and a house they were very familiar with, having owned it for years and spent many summers there. They had already renovated existing orchards and spent years preparing the garden plots. They had gardened for years in both places, and had lots of experience putting up food.

Also, they come off somewhat as foodies -- used to making amazing food with specialty ingredients -- though they seemed able to focus on local foods if they could grow plenty of interesting things in their garden, and still have their olive oil. This year was more a matter of intense focus and energy toward a singleness of purpose: eating local food and trying to grow as much of it as possible themselves. Clearly they had years of garden preparation and garden, cooking, and preserving experience to bring to that focus.

It was amazing, and yet, honestly, too impressive to inspire me to similar heights. The gardening seemed on a massive scale, compared to my faltering efforts, and I must look elsewhere for inspiration in that regard. I have made and canned jams and preserves, and have dropped peaches in boiling water in order to slip the skins off easily... but the massive effort that the Kingsolver-Hopp household poured into canning the huge amount of tomatoes and tomato sauce they did... that seems beyond me. An August spent over a hot stove? I wondered time and again whether they had a summer kitchen (open air, not attached to the house), or did they use a lot of air conditioning, or is it less hot and humid where they live than how I think of Virginia?

With all of my questions about the Kingsolver-Hopp household doing major amounts of water-bath and pressure canning over a hot stove, as well as plenty of blanching in order to freeze foods, I was glad to find that Sharon of Casaubon's Book had recently written about preserving foods in low-energy ways. She emphasizes something Kingsolver does not: eat seasonally and accept what is in season for your fundamental food resources for that season -- with preserved food as accent and supplement. Perhaps with that in mind the tomato dependence could be eased somewhat!

I loved Kingsolver's descriptions of local-food meals, both simple family meals and celebration meals. This book has probably given me the final push to make yogurt, and I will probably try making cream cheese and mozzarella. These are three things our family really enjoys, and apparently they are all pretty easy. Also, if I can find a way to preserve that would fit better with our life, I am motivated to buy bigger quantities at the farmers' market and preserve away. I still want to plant fruit and nut trees this fall, and berry bushes. I'm at the beginning; they are at the fruition.

So, I have mixed feelings about this book. And yet, I want a copy on my bookshelf, to read as powerful inspiration to cook simple, seasonal, local meals -- consistently.

A deliciously cool morning, from our entryway bench

Cool morning air gently stirs the upper tree leaves and branches. A scarlet male cardinal pauses briefly in the grass below our river birch's low branches. The red geranium in the pot at the front step blooms again after a quiet few weeks. Not a cloud in the blue, blue sky.

I hear the gentle clatter of Son2 getting his breakfast... cars going by on the cross street... the gas mower working the grass on the far side of the cross street... and, in the intervals (oh, there went a motorcycle), bird song.

The only thing I can smell is laundry! Sadly, it's the overpowering smell of (too much) softener in someone's clothes dryer, pouring out the dryer vent and into the morning air. Oh well.

Our tall orange daylilies -- so very tall in this year of plentiful rain -- have finished blooming, their flower stalks stiff and drying even as they lend support to some stems of Mexican hat, which will bloom much longer. The short, russet daylilies started blooming later and have a few buds of promise still. The red-orange-yellow The sunny yellow coreopsis has been in a lull for several weeks; I think they'll bloom again next month, but we'll see.

The morning is especially delicious because the humidity was low yesterday and last night, and the temperature didn't reach 90F yesterday. I opened the house up shortly before dusk, and it cooled down wonderfully overnight -- much more than the frugal use of the air conditioning would. Great, great sleeping weather for summer. In half an hour or so we'll close up the house for the day to preserve the cool into a warmer day today.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter 7 is in the house

We've had Harry Potter book 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, since Tuesday. Yes, that's four days before the worldwide release in English-speaking countries (which would be... 12:01 am today in the USA). I. Could. Not. Believe. It. A friend preordered it from a small bookseller/distributor that is now being sued for delivering 1,200 copies on Tuesday.

We got our copy Tuesday early evening, and with my busy week I managed to get the book read by... Wednesday evening. Who can wait?????

The book is SUPERB.

I'm not ready to reread it, though I reread the epilogue the next day. . I read it with attention to detail, and I'm just not ready to read it again -- yet. My current plan is to start a reread of books 4-6 while waiting for Son1 and everyone in the world to finish HP7. Then the worldwide conversation can begin!!!

The hardest part about being an early receiver of the book is that I cannot (will not) talk with anyone about it. I am pretty thankful that the friend who ordered it for us also got hers early; we talked several times as we read it, and again yesterday when we'd both finished. Sometimes ya just gotta process things aloud! In addition, over the last couple of days I looked online for "HP unanswered questions" and loose ends lists and predictions to read.

Soon, soon I'll be able to talk about HP7 with other people!

In the meantime, we head out to pick up Son1 from church camp this morning, and I promised him we would bring HP7 with us if we possibly could -- so I will. I bet I won't be the only parent bringing a copy to pickup! I warned Son2 that Son1 would want to read all the way home and all the rest of the weekend. Son1 took HP6 with him to camp; I wonder how far he got?

In related news, for the first time in the history of the Harry Potter movies the entire family saw a Harry Potter movie in the theater AND in the first week of its release. Son1 and I went to the HP5 movie before he left for his week at church camp. Son2 and dear husband went earlier this week. We all really enjoyed the movie, though dear husband reported that Son2 was a little bored at the evening showing, and arrived home very tired, but happy to have seen it. As for me, after the HP5 movie I realized it's time to reread books 5 and 6, and maybe even 4. So after reading HP7 I started HP4.

Another related news item. The day after seeing the 5th movie, dear husband decided maybe he could read the series now. Hurrah! He took HP1 on his business trip. My new plan is to buy the series for the family in hardcover, "like new", from used booksellers online. Son1's paperback copies are literally falling apart!

We've never attended release night Harry Potter parties, but yesterday when I picked up a new paperback copy of HP1 for dear husband at Barnes & Noble and saw all of the cool backdrops and so on set up for that evening, I was wistful. I thought briefly of taking Son2, but I've heard of long lines... and it would be incredibly past his bedtime... and, biggest of all, Son1 would be crushed that we did it and he couldn't (being away at camp and all). So, we stayed home and went to bedtime at our normal times and got a good night's sleep.

Like dear husband, Son2 has seen all of the movies (most at home on DVD), most of them multiple times. A year ago he read about half of the first book. Yesterday I finally let him know that we had the HP7 book, and he begged me to tell him: does Harry die? (I told him, and made him promise not to say a word to anyone until his brother has finished the book AND only talk about it with people who want to.) A bit later, more questions: does Lord Voldemort die, what happens in the end, ...

At that point I decided, and told Son2, that he would have to wait until Son1 finishes the book -- probably this weekend. I'll tell him then. That's just too much info to entrust to a 7.5 year old!

Status: One family member has finished HP7 and is reading HP4; another is reading HP1 for the first time; yet another has been reading HP6 and will drop everything to start HP7 at about 11:30 am today. Perhaps I should take a soundtrack CD for the drive home from camp?!?

Enjoy, everyone.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blogiversary - three years today

Amazingly, today is the very day of my three-year blogging anniversary. Plus ca change, plus ca ne change pas -- the more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm blogging a lot of the same stuff! I don't know whether to be cheered by or disappointed in that, but I'm going to go with cheered.

And a heads up: I'm working on changing this blog into a WordPress blog, as soon as I make some decisions about a Web address. Amazingly it was really easy to import all of the posts and comments; now I get to have fun inventing categories At Last!

Plus ca change?

Doing anything with those grass clippings, mister?

The sheet composting is a go! A week ago Sunday I marshalled the troops -- well, the kids -- to prepare some neglected garden beds for sheet composting while dear husband mowed the front lawn (so he could add the grass clippings as a top layer).

Sheet composting, a/k/a horizontal composting, a/k/a lasagna gardening, is composting in horizontal layers in the location you intend to grow plants. The cardboard is supposed to cut off sunlight for the unwanted plants (grass etc.) and be the first "brown" layer. The grass clippings are an easy source of a "green" layer. My intention is to add food scraps, coffee grounds, etc. as available and cover them with more stuff.

We commandeered all of the large, flattened cardboard boxes lounging about in our garage and laid them over the grass that had overrun the backyard garden beds against the house. I neglected those beds all of last year's scorching summer, and the only remaining intentional planting is a sturdy Russian sage (Salvia petrovskia, I'm pretty sure). So. We covered an entire bed with cardboard boxes, and most of the Russian sage's bed. Then the boys enthusiastically watered down the cardboard, and we headed back indoors.

Half an hour or so later, dear husband had dumped a lot of the grass clippings onto the cardboard. I spread the clippings with a rake, and overnight some storms watered everything really well.

A week later, yesterday morning the traditional bags of grass clippings perched curbside at most driveways up and down our suburban street, ready for the city's weekly yard waste pickup, and I needed more grass clippings. So, I liberated the four bags of a nearby neighbor's grass clippings -- choosing a neighbor I knew did not have their yard treated -- and plentifully covered my composting beds. Woohoo!

Last night I realized that I had a solution for my need for "brown" layers: newspaper and the ever-present sack of papers to recycle. We probably need to shred these, because the only barrier layer ought to be the bottom layer (until it decomposes). I don't have a shredder, so I think the kids and I will get used to tearing up newspaper and other paper. At some point I expect to get a hand-crank shredder I saw on the Web once.

Once we have a ready supply of "brown/dry", I can add kitchen food scraps to the composting beds and cover it up with paper pieces, a bit of water to wet the paper, and some soil.

My hope is that this fall or at latest next spring I'll be able to plant in those beds. One is intended for vegetables. The other, I'm kind of planning to put in a cold frame this fall for cool-season vegetables, and in spring maybe perennial flowers, and vining beans on a trellis for summer -- it's in front of a south-facing window.

If we get motivated further, with a good supply of cardboard and newspaper, I'll finally create the island bed around our river birch trees in the front yard. That would seriously put to use the street's supply of grass clippings for a few months. If I want to do that, though, I need to start pretty soon, 'cause happy growing grass won't last too long now that the standard Oklahoma summer heat has arrived.

Woohoo! This has the potential to rescue those neglected garden beds AND prepare them for some really good gardening work AND help me put kitchen food scraps to good use. It's sadly amazing how much food we throw away (scraps and stuff that we didn't eat). And then there are the coffee grounds.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Keeping cool

Some really great, easy ideas for keeping the house cooler on those blazing hot Oklahoma summer days I'm sure we're gonna get any time now.

102 and No Air Conditioning on the Blue Skies Urban Farm blog. Fresh tips: honeycomb insulated blinds; siesta schedule.

Keeping the Heat Out on the Green Living Ottawa blog. Excellent tips: Coolaroo shade sail for outdoor living areas, or sunny walls and windows; window tinting film that can be removed for winter and reinstalled for summer.

The big tip I have to offer was my mother-in-law's excellent idea: use a tower fan in the main living area. We got one and its lovely oscillating breeze has been a huge help in keeping the a/c to a bare minimum all day and into the evening.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another baking day

Yep, that Amish Friendship Bread starter was soooo ready. No denying it; today had to be a baking day. I still have three and a half loaves of breads in the freezer, and plenty of granola, so I am baking only I needed or had promised to do.

1. Chocolate cake layers, for Son1's cake to enjoy (he left for Boy Scout camp the day after his half-birthday party last month)

2. Four loaves of Amish Friendship Bread! I still had both bags of starter, so I made four loaves of bread (I cut the sugar some) and two bags of starter.
- One loaf of cinnamon-sugar AFB
- One loaf of cinnamon-chip AFB (from the mini cinnamon chips I got from the Baker's Catalogue)
- Two loaves of vanilla AFB

3. I'm probably going to toss the bowl of sliced nectarines, peaches, white peaches, and their juice into an 8x8-inch pan, top it with some stuff, and make a crisp or cobbler, whatever it's called!

Time to pull something together for dinner. I'm pretty sure dessert and breakfast are covered for a few days...

Friday, July 06, 2007

And the other son... Gryffindor!

Son2 being Sorted
Originally uploaded by Pioneer Library System

"Because I like Harry Potter."

Who could argue with that logic?!

Thank you, dear husband, for locating Son2 in the sea of Sorting photos!

Is there a Hogwarts in his future?

Son1 being Sorted
Originally uploaded by Pioneer Library System

At our public library's second annual MuggleFest last month, the staff snapped a photo of Son1 being Sorted by the Sorting Hat, in conversation with Dumbledore.

Oh, you want to know which House he chose? Dumbledore told each candidate that in their heart they would know to which House they belong. My dear 11 year old son said,

"Slytherin, because I'm evil and crazy!"

I was shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- that he was not a Gryffindor boy. At least it gives me a reason to exclaim,

"I canNOT beLIEVE we have a Slytherin in the family!!!"


Thursday, July 05, 2007

How lucky do you feel?

About climate change

A very interesting argument is made in this short video. Check it out, and see what you think.

In the media and in watercooler conversations, are we arguing about guesses or about choices? Watch the video!

If you find yourself thinking up (or reading in the comments) various counter-arguments or muttering about details, check out his followup ventures into the complexities.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

White peaches, nectarines, more peaches, watermelon.

Lots of little flags along our curb.

Kids' special treat of small-bottler birch beer and cream soda in glass bottles.

Plenty of time for conversation with friends.

Good beer. Margaritas.

First-ever homemade three-bean salad, a success!

First-of-the-summer homemade salsa, always delicious.

Grilled burgers and sausages.

Ice cream bars.

Fireworks from near to the horizon. Cities and towns and families all around, making fire and light and sound.

Oooh. Aaaah.

Now let us renew the light of liberty, which is more powerful and good than capitalism or war or climate change or all-bets-are-off free trade, as our best gift to the world. And that's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

How low can we go? June report

90 Percent Emissions Reduction -- Month 1 progress

We're coasting this month because it's been so cool. Usually we're well into our peak a/c season, the height of our yearly electricity usage, but we're still in spring-type usage.
  • Unusually cool, cloudy (and rainy) month -- easy to keep the air conditioning off. We run it once in the late evening to dry the house out a bit. I set it on-but-warmish overnight and enjoy our bedroom ceiling fan -- I think the a/c might run only rarely because I only bumped it a bit warmer this weekend when I got up and it hasn't run once all morning. (I usually turn it off in the morning but there was some sleeping in happening).

  • Still hanging the laundry to dry, but I was getting a bit desperate for some sunny or at least windy days to beat the humidity! Today we have sun and a breeze, so a load of laundry is airing out -- hurrah!

  • Bought a small, oscillating tower fan. Has kept the living room very comfortable when it's been humid or a bit warm indoors. Hope it will help tremendously if or when our normal hot, dry Oklahoma summer arrives.

  • Tweaked the energy saver settings on this Mac laptop (PowerBook G4). Learning to use the screen at a much dimmer setting.

  • Discovered the light wash setting on the dishwasher, a "duh" moment. An 18-month-old unit; we run it full, in the wee hours of the morning thanks to the delay feature.

  • Experimenting with making a full pot of good coffee every 2nd or 3rd day, and drinking cold coffee from the fridge the other days. Started turning off the coffeemaker when brewing is finished, as the resident hot-coffee lover only wants that first cup anyway.

  • Started making sun tea for my husband's iced tea, rather than using the coffeemaker to make a concentrate. Seems to work better when it's not actually raining, though.

  • Discovered that our microwave and our toaster draw the same amount of power in use. Still absorbing this fact.

  • Not sure this will affect our reduction, but it's interesting: I signed up for a time-of-use electricity meter, and that was installed earlier this week. Now I'm very motivated to keep everything low and off in the 1 to 7 pm time frame on weekdays (very high cost at that time). I hope it will lower our electricity cost, and also spur me to keep our use shifted to the overnight and morning hours. When we get our normal hot, dry Oklahoma summer (still hoping), I expect this will reinforce my determination to keep the a/c off.

Natural Gas
In summer our only use is the hot water heater and occasional stove and oven use.
  • Our use might increase a little this summer, though our food costs and miles would go down, because I actually did a baking day this week and would like to do this routinely.
In the warm season I generally avoid like the plague any use of the oven and stove (it heats the house and heats me). I miss homemade bread and other things, and a friend gave me an Amish Friendship Bread starter that needs to be divided and loaves made from it every 10 days... so I'm going to try a planned baking day about every 10 days. That means I'll spend less on breakfast foods, too. As described in an earlier blog post, Friday morning I did my first baking day.

I would love to have a backyard wood-burning oven for such a baking day -- someday.

Not much to report here.
  • I started washcloth "sponge baths" to freshen up, and I'm continuing my Navy-style showers. I found I can use a very small amount of water to wash my face and to brush my teeth. My husband and I flush frugally. We all turn the water off when brushing teeth.

  • The dishwasher and washing machine are run with full loads only, except for the occasional small laundry load.

  • The shower heads are all low flow, and I'm trying to encourage the boys to use less than the full flow.

  • No need to water the garden or other plantings due to the torrential rainfall.

  • Baseball season is over! Beginning this week we're no longer going to the ballfields every weeknight.

  • I've worked to combine errands and to reduce our "out and about" days. We seldom leave our town of 100,000; we have one car; and my husband works two miles away. As a result, our basic daily use is up to me -- to choose our activities and errands wisely, and have a basket of "to-dos" ready near the door to reduce driving miles by getting a bunch done in one trip.

The category with the most potential for reduction... and the least progress.
  • Attempted to keep compostable food scraps; got quickly overwhelmed. I really need a compost pile or a couple of sheet-composting locations asap.

  • I noticed we throw away a lot of packaging materials. I'm about to do my once-a-month grocery and household goods shopping rounds, so I'll have the opportunity to make a lot of decisions about packaging that hadn't quite sunk in last month.

  • I started saving all envelopes that come in the mail with a plain back, for my scrap notepaper stack by the phone. I already reuse all printed paper that has a blank back.

  • I contacted the several catalogs we receive and reduced (one) or stopped (the rest) the mailings.

Consumer goods
Quite mixed.
  • I feel as though we spent more on nonessentials than usual, but this is typically true in May and June for various reasons. We paid for Boy Scout camp and the deposit for church camp. We bought the tower fan, some thrift-store clothing, baseball team photos, and a new book for me -- a very rare thing. I got a cell phone for the first time (cheap prepaid).

  • On the other hand, I browsed in a new yarn store in our once-yarn-poor town, but held firmly in mind my stash of yarn at home :) and I continued my heavy use of the public library.

  • Succumbed to the lure of fast food too often on baseball nights. Must consistently prep food ahead next spring -- the home version of fast food.

  • Baking day, see above, using lots of bulk and many local foods; should lower our food cost and miles for breakfasts.

  • I'm preparing for my monthly round of food/household shopping; time for lots of decisions on food choices, sources, miles, and so on.

  • Bought more goat milk laundry powder and soap, dairy (cream, butter, buttermilk), and some produce through our Oklahoma Food Co-op.

  • Bought other produce only at our town's farmers market (and only homegrown by the sellers).

  • Found a friend of a friend who sells eggs from her home flock and lives a mile from me. I'm getting a couple dozen eggs!

  • Found some local sorghum syrup sold at a rural corner store nearby; will try as a substitute for honey, maple syrup, and molasses.

  • My vegetable and herb plants are struggling 'cause I have waited a really long time to plant them in hopes of sunny days. I still have hope.

  • Last weekend my husband finally got a nonsoggy day to mow the very tall, fully weedy front and back yards; I grabbed two of the full cans of clippings to spread over cardboard and newspaper to start sheet-composting beds. I haven't done it yet because we've gotten so much rain since then that I'd need snowshoes to walk in the yard without sinking ankle-deep in the soil. I still have hope.

By now I'm just laughing at my tired-of-rain attitude!

Should I just brave the rain and marsh-like yard to get going on the sheet composting? Or wait for the weather to break -- supposedly late this coming week? Today was beautiful and I was able to hang a load of laundry to dry. Woohoo!

I do love this psalm

Psalm 84

1 How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in Your house;
They will still be praising You. Selah

5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.

8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 O God, behold our shield,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.

10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.

12 O LORD of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You!

(This is the closest I could find online to the version I love the most.)

New King James Version (NKJV)
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.