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helwen: (Due Consideration)
Was up shortly after sunrise, out the door at 5:45 a.m. for a nice brisk walk. Only 30 minutes, because my hips were being cranky after a while and I'm trying to maintain good posture and form. Did some things around the house, spent a little time on the computer, and then L suggested maybe a little more sleep, which seemed like a good idea. Too bad it wasn't just a _little_ more sleep -- got up again just a little before 11:00 a.m.! Yay jet lag. If I could take that much time off, I'd take a train to CA -- that would solve that problem at least...

Ah well.

Sunny day, got to see what's growing nearby, check out the river here and there.

***

Sad news from Oregon:

http://www.newser.com/story/169860/25k-dead-bumblebees-fall-from-trees-in-oregon.html

And this is why I keep signing petitions, writing letters, etc. against various pesticides, Monsanto, etc.

Won't be doing any of that nonsense on our land, you may be sure. We like our honey and bumble bees!

Earth Day

Apr. 23rd, 2011 07:13 am
helwen: (water drops)
It's snowing up here. Down in the valley it's raining, but up here the ground is covered in white.

This morning we're going down to the school to help out with spring cleaning. Might stop in at the Amherst Sustainability Festival. Hope to be back home sometime in the late afternoon.
helwen: (Tower)
Bad news everywhere these days.... birds and fish and crabs dying in large numbers all over the world, crude oil still messing up LA's marshes, and plenty of other things besides. Then there's the latest, that shooting of several people including a congresswoman (still alive and responsive), but also a number of deaths including, sadly, a 9yo child -- the shooting happened outside a grocery store, so folks from all walks of life were there. No doubt some folks are calling for banning guns or something. Do I think they should be banned? No, I don't, although I don't own any guns myself. Would it really stop crazy people from doing crazy things? Should knives be banned too? How about fertilizer or household cleaners?

Times are tough all over, political parties are polarized, and unfortunately the way a lot of folks deal with these stresses is bad for other folks.

Tolerance and moderation are in short supply. Those of us who can still be so, need to do our best, but be aware that the veneer of civilization is increasingly thin for some of the people we meet as we go about our lives.

Earth Day

Apr. 22nd, 2010 04:14 pm
helwen: (water drops)
I'm with Alberic (FB post) on Earth Day being a time to reflect on how we've messed things up (speaking generically on the "we"). Although perhaps it should also be a time to examine the state of things and strive to do better. As Sharon Astyk says, we may have cleaner air here in the U.S., but often at the cost of other countr...ies. And I suspect we aren't the only country to do that :( Here's some food for thought: Why I hate Earth Day, Part II

(btw, I don't hate Earth Day, myself, but she has a lot of good points and information, and I agree that we need to think about the Earth every day, not just once a year, and only a little bit. That's like being a Christian only on Sunday mornings, or whatever time/day you may go to a religious service, if you belong to some faith).

***

A way to improve Earth Day: Instead of buying a brand new cloth shopping bag, use an old one you already have. Don't have a cloth bag for grocery shopping? Check out Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other stores that carry used items.

Do you sew, & have leftover scraps of fabric from a previous project; make your own. Not enough scraps? Use a tough old shirt or pants for making the bag. Maybe you crochet/knit, & have leftover partial skeins from previous projects -- use those to make a bag.

One of the best ways to reduce the amount of trash we create, is to Not Buy More Stuff. We need to think more carefully about what we choose to bring into our homes. What's it wrapped in? Where did it come from? Where did the materials to make it come from? How much energy was used to make it? If it isn't food, how durable is it? Is it something you'll want and use for a while?

Think what we do doesn't affect others around the world? Think what others do doesn't affect us? Just look at Iceland's volcano, China's brown cloud, or trash on the beaches and river banks. We are all connected, and what we do affects others, and eventually, comes back to us. Let's be good to the world, and to each other!
helwen: (water drops)
As usual, funny but thought-provoking:

'How Bad For The Environment Can Throwing Away One Plastic Bottle Be?' 30 Million People Wonder


On the completely serious side, on further investigation the dimensions for the trash in the Pacific Gyre is now estimated to be about the same size as the continental United States. Primary items are plastic bottles, primarily from the east coast of China and the west coast of the U.S. However they have also found items that were originally in the Atlantic -- that one still weirds me out.

We've cut down on disposable plastics a lot, Fitzw and I, but we have further to go. And quite frankly, it wouldn't bother me at all if it hurt sales for the companies that use them. The various types of plastic floating in the ocean eventually break down into smaller pieces, which then get mistaken for food by fish and other critters. Eventually the plastics are either passed through or digested and absorbed into their bodies -- so we get malnourished sea creatures, making it harder for them (and those creatures that feed on them) to survive in our changing oceans. And of course some of those who eat them will be humans, so there's yet another source of fun chemicals in our diet. Why does anyone wonder at how many illnesses and diseases are more prevalent as time goes on?

I'm going back to carrying a thermos of water in the car -- we'd stopped at the beginning of really cold weather because the cold damaged one of the caps, and I kept forgetting to bring it in and out of the car. So I need to get back in the habit. Also, we tend to stop and get drinks at Dunkin Donuts, going to and from classes, so we need to add a couple of travel mugs back into the routine. I suppose ideally we'd pack tea and coffee made at home, but I don't think we're quite up for that yet... soon though!
helwen: (water drops)
Changing of the Guard for Birds in England

Boxing Day, walking, talking... Apparently one very common activity in the UK on Boxing Day is going for a walk. Interesting historical tidbits in the article too.
helwen: (Tower)
Excerpts from MSNBC.com on Jellyfish Migrating:

The gelatinous seaborne creatures are blamed for decimating fishing industries in the Bering and Black seas, forcing the shutdown of seaside power and desalination plants in Japan, the Middle East and Africa, and terrorizing beachgoers worldwide, the U.S. National Science Foundation says.

A 2008 foundation study cited research estimating that people are stung 500,000 times every year — sometimes multiple times — in Chesapeake Bay on the U.S. East Coast, and 20 to 40 die each year in the Philippines from jellyfish stings.

In 2007, a salmon farm in Northern Ireland lost its more than 100,000 fish to an attack by the mauve stinger, a jellyfish normally known for stinging bathers in warm Mediterranean waters. Scientists cite its migration to colder Irish seas as evidence of global warming.

Increasingly polluted waters — off China, for example — boost growth of the microscopic plankton that "jellies" feed upon, while overfishing has eliminated many of the jellyfish's predators and cut down on competitors for plankton feed.

...

It was a good living, they said [Japanese fishermen], until the jellyfish began inundating the bay in 2002, sometimes numbering 500 million, reducing fish catches by 30 percent and slashing prices by half over concerns about quality.

Two nets in Echizen burst last month during a typhoon because of the sheer weight of the jellyfish, and off the east coast jelly-filled nets capsized a 10-ton trawler as its crew tried to pull them up. The three fishermen were rescued.


The Japanese fishermen want help getting rid of the jellyfish, but this problem is beyond the scope of what governments can do. Between the increase in jellyfish foodstuffs because of pollution and overfishing creating a more predator-free environment, people's actions have combined to create this situation.

Effluents washing off land and into the water happens all over the world, in part because of general lack of concern or control over fertilizers, waste processing/treatment, proper land management ("wild" and "domestic"), causing some life forms to increase wildly and others to suffocate or die from chemical burn. The oceans are treated like crap and are full of people's crap, and now it's come back to bite them.

Want to solve the problem of too many giant jellyfish? Or stop the dead zones in places like the Gulf of Mexico from growing? Stop polluting and stop overfishing.

Biochar

Oct. 27th, 2009 12:17 pm
helwen: (water drops)
Terra Preta Files -- pics and what looks to be some how-to files

Demo of making biochar

The demo includes some interesting tidbits about the properties and uses of biochar. It's a little visually confusing because they show different stages of building the char-making unit but not in order of construction and use. Have absolutely no idea why they show it wrapped with insulation a couple times near the beginning of the video,when they don't show that later. Might have been part of one of their experiments.

One thing they found was that wood is _not_ one of the best things to char -- too dense. All those leaves one rakes in the fall in New England however, might have possibilities...

Friday

Oct. 9th, 2009 10:21 am
helwen: (water drops)
Almost finished warping the loom last night. Will finish this morning and start weaving.


***
[livejournal.com profile] daurdabla posted a link to news we don't see in the headlines here in the U.S.... here's one of the articles:

Europe Blocks U.S. Toxic Products
helwen: (water drops)
The World at Gunpoint

Food for thought.
helwen: (Tower)
I needed to do research on useful natural remedies for specific things -- most common ailments, as it were, and the research has gone down some interesting byways....

Specifically, apple cider vinegar. I'd started with looking things by using the key word "herbal" and whatever thing I wanted a remedy for. "Herbal" and "dysentery" led to Ipecac, Garlic, and Aloe & Rosehips (the last two going together for repairing tissue after dysentery, apparently). One of the descriptions of dysentery mentioned the need to keep the person from getting too dehydrated, electrolyte imbalance, and needing some carbohydrates. The first thing that came to mind for me was Ginger Water. This is a drink my father-in-law makes, mostly for during the summertime. Some historians/history buffs might recognize it by the name Switchell. And it may bear some resemblance to some type of sekanjebin possibly...

Ginger Water

1 cup maple syrup or honey
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 tsp. ground ginger
Enough water to make one gallon

Mix until syrup/honey is dissolved. Individuals may adjust to taste.

NOTE: The ginger will tend to settle, so stir/shake just before pouring.


I've often referred to it as an early form of sports drink, which it turns out it essentially is -- apple cider vinegar is chockful of minerals, in particular potassium. It also has sodium and chlorine which, once you've consumed it, combine with the potassium to make a couple of types of salts useful to humans.

Many sites online talk about organic, unpasteurized vinegar being the best because of useful enzymes, which are destroyed by pasteurization. I can't speak to that, but I can say that even the pasteurized stuff has great efficacy. The above drink provides water, electrolytes, a bunch of vitamins, and carbohydrates, so pretty much covers the bases for dehydration. The article I was reading didn't say specifically why carbohydrates, but I think it's because when a person is dehydrated from illness or overheating, he or she needs some energy input but often is not up to eating. And sugars-in-solution are one of the fastest ways to get it into a person.

Ginger wasn't mentioned on the page about dysentery either, but it is a useful herb for upset stomach and for overheating. It helps with blood circulation, and apparently can also help with asthma and with lowering cholesterol. I can personally attest to its capabilities both for stomach flu and for heat exhaustion. In fact I think I'm going to start bringing some ginger water to SCA events from now on... heaven knows my father-in-law never gets overheated!

Ginger also decreases the activity of plate-activating factor (PAF), a clotting agent that creates the clot that can result in heart attack of stroke. Ginger's ability to reduce PAF activity also makes the herb effective against allergies and asthma. PAF, which stimulates the inflammation seen in allergy and the bronchial constriction seen in asthma becomes more active when fat is consumed. Dried ginger, especially dried ginger tinctures, can offset this effect.


Full article on Ginger here: Herbal Remedies: Ginger

The parts about allergies, asthma, and cholesterol were all new to me. I've been poking about looking for replacements for my allergy/asthma meds, and definitely plan on looking into this. I'm already working on making gel capsules with nettles in them (allergies), but I could use something more some days. I tried Damiana and that worked on my allergies most of the time, but it started to have a side effect if I used it regularly (anything that gives me a bit of a heart rush makes me nervous). I know ginger doesn't bother me, so it's worth trying. I'll be terribly happy if I can work something out, because then I could stop using inhalers entirely (esp. the one with steroids).

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar to Treat Heat Exhaustion

Another property of cider vinegar:
Cider Vinegar for Hair Conditioning and Also for Oily Hair

How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar


Oh, also, one article mentioned that other types of vinegars may be efficacious as well, but at least in the U.S. it is difficult to get any of them unpasteurized or distilled, aside from apple.
helwen: (jug)
Interesting conversation with my mom yesterday.

She lives in a semi-assisted living community, and more folks there are getting active in living more sustainably, be it technological approaches, insulating, recycling, etc. She already has a couple of those solar pipe things -- you put a tube through the ceiling up to the roof and then there's a mirror and a curved part on top that guides sunlight into the room so that you don't need to use electricity.

They have a retired apiarist living there who somehow managed to find some bees, and transported the hive to the main community flower garden. In California, bees are a rare treasure indeed.!


And apparently the giant pile of trash in the middle of the Pacific was covered on Oprah this week (she watches this, not me). Philippe Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau's grandson, has really been going great guns on behalf of the oceans, both on tv and in classrooms :) His sister's involved as well I believe, but he's the face for that particular oceanic group. It truly is hard to imagine a pile of trash (and there's enough there that it sits on top of the ocean, not just floating in the water) -- the size of Texas. No idea how that's going to be dealt with, but we can all work to reduce trash, so that there's less that can escape and get washed into our rivers and oceans. So she's looking at what more she can do to reduce the amount of trash she produces.

Packaging of course is a big offender, and the "green" producers are often no better than anyone else -- like the organic eggs that come in plastic containers, or the recycled paper TP, each roll individually wrapped in plastic.

Cheap goods that don't last are another problem. If you're going to buy something and it has to be new, get something durable. And maintain things so they last longer! We've had our current tv (yes, we watch tv and movies) for about 4 years so far and it's still doing quite well. We got it when the previous television set itself on fire...

The car will be going in for some body work this year as it has a few rusty spots and one has gone through a bit more than we'd like. Firestone is opening some new stores in the Northeast -- apparently business is good, as more people repair their current vehicles instead of buying new ones. We got ours used of course -- I haven't had a new car since the one time I bought one in the early 90s. I had it for less than a year because of the idiot who crashed into me and my friends on the way home from an event. Lovely car, and it did its job well, including saving my life.

I do think I need to remove a few t-shirts finally from L's wardrobe though... granted he only wears them around the farm but... ragged collars and holes here and there, and 10+ years is a pretty good run for a t-shirt. If I didn't already have polishing rags... hm. Oh hey, there is that punching bag we've been talking about making, maybe we could use them for some of the stuffing!

And of course, it's been a year since I last tried riding my bike, so it's time to get the bikes out and try again. I think this year my shoulder can handle it. My mom doesn't bike, but she does walk a bit, and goes with other folks to go shopping, or takes the bus. There are definite advantages to living in a city in that regard!
helwen: (water drops)
In a recent survey in the UK, it was revealed that one-sixth of therapists still try to treat homosexuality, as if it were a mental illness. No doubt there are still therapists in the U.S. who do so as well, but the survey was only done in the UK. Homosexuality is not a choice, it just is. Given the grief a lot of folks get for being homosexual (from prejudice to insults to injury and death), who on earth would choose it? It's just a fact of life, and it isn't even one limited to the human race. Get over it already!



***
In a continuing effort to bring attention to the environmental plight of our world, Earth Hour returns again this year. Saturday, March 28, 8:30-9:30 P.M., your local time.

Personally, I plan on having the lights out for more than just one hour :)



***
Along with warmer weather comes the possibility of flooding, with it being more severe in some places than others. North Dakota is one of the higher risk areas, and just recently in Bismarck they've used explosives to break up some of the ice on the river, to give the water a chance to move on instead of continuing to build up more behind the ice. Meanwhile, the call is out for more sandbaggers, and Fargo is trying to raise their dikes to 43', higher than the predicted 39-41 feet.

Evacuations have already been underway since at least Wednesday.


Going to be an interesting year...
helwen: (water drops)
Are We Ready for Slow Fashion?

Not cut and dried, but also not too long. Talks about the different ways people are trying to create and/or acquire clothing with lower environmental impact.
helwen: (MacGyver)
Excellent post by Rufinia -- quote about how if we want change and improvement in our country we're going to have to help make it happen.

I agree completely, and have in fact already written to my local representative and senator today. About clotheslines. I know, probably sounds stupid, but a lot of folks use a lot of energy to dry clothing. From what I can find online, anywhere from 6% to 15% of home energy use goes into drying clothes. That's quite a bit actually, and in dollars it adds up.

Why write to legislators about this? Because a lot of people can't hang anything up outdoors -- many rentals and also home owner associations. Why isn't it allowed? Because only poor people would do such a thing, of course.

These days, even our electric company is putting ads on television and in with the billing statement with ideas on how to save energy. Why would they do that? Well in part because they have a hard time providing enough energy during times of extreme weather, when lots of people crank up their AC or heaters -- residents saving energy are a boon to them in being able to provide power in a predictable and reliable manner.

So yeah. It's our country, let's all do something!

And now, I'm going to shut down the PC for a while :)
helwen: (Default)
During my call to my brothers and niece (while they're all over at my mom's), had some interesting conversations. They all live in the same general part of California.

One of my brothers is a Sierra member so I expect some environmental stuff, but my other brother was talking about solar energy, how well does it work in New England, etc. And my niece and I talked about some of this too. Very interesting... Of course solar doesn't work as well here as in sunny California -- although they have their own problems -- lots of sun but not enough water, but that's another topic. And this far north the active solar systems work better than the passive ones.

Which is not to say one shouldn't employ passive solar. In fact without the convenience of affordable electricity and fossil fuels, powering a home in New England takes a fair amount of creativity and variety. Geothermal works all right as long as it isn't too cold -- then you need a backup system (it's hardware problem). Solar panels either need to be cleaned up after it snows or you have to wait until the snow melts (or why some folks prefer setting them up on the ground). Wood is only sustainable if it comes from well-managed forest. Wind power depends on your location (it can't be just windy, it has to have sustained winds at some reasonable height above your location). Hydropower also depends on what's geographically available.

In all cases, the better insulated your home is, the less energy it will need for heating and cooling, leaving more energy for lighting, electronic equipment, etc.

Even in Sunny California where solar could become king in the energy scene, there probably still wouldn't be enough energy to charge transportation vehicles. Although it might be able to do _some_ of that if people also cut back on how much energy they used (dryers are a huge one -- even if you decided to hang dry just your underwear, socks, and t-shirts, you'd start to see a difference in your electric bill).

And there's a limited amount of materials available to make solar panels. Or geothermal piping. Or industrial-size windmills. It isn't just fossil fuels that are limited, but all kinds of materials. One of the important parts of recycling nowadays is that limited materials need to be retrieved for re-use in new computers, etc.

It's tough to work on developing alternative energy because the answer isn't just plug one energy source in to replace another. On the other hand, isn't it nice to have options? I wouldn't mind having a bit of everything (assuming I could afford it), because then it would be more likely I'd have at least some power no matter what -- esp. if I had some decent batteries for storing some of the energy for later :D

One of them, I think it was the brother who never really talked about this stuff before, also talked a bit about global warming. ??!! Well, that's complicated and we weren't going to get in-depth, but I talked about biochar and soil erosion, and mentioned a recent study where scientists were figuring that people accidentally contributed to the Little Ice Age. When the Spanish came to South America, they brought various diseases with them that wiped out 80% of the indigenous population. These folks had a lot of land under cultivation -- an area a little larger than the state of California! Nearly all of that land became forest again, helping to cool off the planet -- in combination with some other things happening at about the same time.

So he says flippantly, well then all we need to do is plant a lot of trees -- we agreed that with the increased levels of pollution we'd probably need enough to cover two Californias -- as if planting all those trees would be that easy :D Granted there's plenty of land here in the U.S. where trees _could_ be planted, but for instance the Southwest is too hot and dry. He mentioned some state up north (Iowa? Idaho?) that was experiencing flooding, since obviously having enough water wouldn't be a problem for them. Yeah, the family sense of humor can be a bit on the dark side on occasion.

Still, I do have a couple of cards from the Arbor Day Foundation waiting for me to send them out. I'll be donating to get some trees planted and then send the cards out to a couple of folks telling them I had trees planted in their names.
helwen: (Tower)
30 Nov

Look well to your walls,
Check your stores against the storm,
The world is changing.
This is always a true thing
yet never more true than now.

***
Today's post has links to articles on overoptimizing and a mysterious and complete lack of acorns and hickory nuts in some areas of the U.S. (yeah, it's serious).

*** Overoptimization

Kurt Cobb's article The Overoptimized Society may be of interest to some.

Over-optimizing is the action of bringing more of an activity under fewer or one umbrella(s) for the sake of efficiency. But when an error is made, the consequences are greater -- see the banking/investment industry for an example. But not the only example:

But overoptimization isn't just limited to the banking industry. In fact, it is everywhere, and it makes for vulnerabilities across multiple fronts that quite often interact with one another. We've built a system too complex for any human to understand. Therefore, when something major goes wrong, no one can be sure how to correct it.

Witness the floundering attempts to revive the comatose credit markets. The seemingly incoherent policy shifts exhibited by U. S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are not so much a result of incompetence as a reaction to the opacity of the global economy and the inability of anyone to grasp its workings or interpret its supposed signals.

As for the vulnerabilities across multiple fronts, one need look no further than the world's ports. The financial crisis has slowed many to a crawl as exporters worry that importers on the other side of the ocean may not be able to pay them. Banks are reluctant to issue letters of credit guaranteeing payments when they can't be sure the bank on the other side of the transaction is sound. This has driven dry cargo rates down 90 percent from their highs this year forcing some shipping companies to simply idle freighters. In addition, several shipping companies are on the verge of bankruptcy. And, that means orders for new ships are plummeting as well driving shipbuilders toward bankruptcy or at least consolidation.


Cobb also discusses overoptimization in agriculture and power. The loss of power in 2003 from Detroit to New York and from the Ohio River to northern Ontario (started by trees falling on power lines and then a cascade of failures through the grid) could have spread to New England except that ISO New England was doing its job and severed our connection to the rest of the national grid in time.

*** A few thoughts

So far in our area things are relatively stable, at least compared to some other parts of the country. My SIL Doris told me last week about prices of gas in October when they were in Indiana for the wedding, and how the prices in Illinois (where one of the families is from) were nearly 50 cents higher per gallon than in Indiana, whose prices were a bit higher than here in MA. Reason for this is partly differences in taxing of gas by state but also where the gas is coming from.

Not all places are affected by the same issues to the same degree, be it jobs, gas, heating, cooling, cost of food, housing, weather, fires, etc. But some problems are becoming more universal over time, and it would seem that our much-vaunted methods for maintaining a global economy may be both a party in causing these problems and also a victim of it.

***
In the comments to one of Sharon Astyk's posts someone mentioned that they'd thought they were doing all right and then the husband got notice that his job would be gone at end of year. At that the wife said they were among the lucky ones, since some people were terminated that same week that he got notice.

*** ACORNS

From DC area up into parts of Pennsylvania there are regions with not an acorn or hickory nut to be found. Last year was a mast year in many regions. This year there are reports of starving squirrels and an increase in squirrel roadkill (traveling further and more boldly to find food):

Acorn watchers wonder what happened to crop

Rod Simmons, one of the botanists interviewed for this article, hunted for signs of nuts in his region along with other botanists and haven't been able to find anything. A zero production year is unheard of. Greg Zell, a naturalist, starting searching online and finding discussion of no acorns:

reporting the same thing from as far away as the Midwest up through New England and Nova Scotia. "We live in Glenwood Landing, N.Y., and don't have any acorns this year. Really weird," wrote one. "None in Kansas either! Curiouser and curiouser."


Theories abound but no one really knows why the lack of nut production. Hopefully it's a fluke and next year will be normal. In our area we have plenty of acorns and quite a few black walnuts, so this is one area that has plenty of squirrels and chipmunks. They've been plenty busy though, so we're expecting some heavy winter weather this year.

*** A few more thoughts

Might seem odd, combining these two rather different articles, but the common thread for me is the non-dependability and uncertainty of resources. Although I hope everyone reading this continues to have their needs met in whatever way they are being met, and better besides, it cannot be counted on.

If you can store some goods against the future, now is a good time to do so, especially with all the holiday sales. If you can pay down debts, do so. If you can set some money aside, do so. And if you're doing well enough to donate some food or money to the local food pantry, that would be good too -- they're in more need than ever with our current economy, and we need to keep them going -- day may come when one of us needs them ourselves.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best!
helwen: (Default)
28 Nov

The inclination
to let the timer decide
when the time is up
can lead to over-steeped tea
a slippery slope indeed.



Which is to say for those who haven't experienced our timer, its reliability is sometimes suspect... but when you're busy trying to do several things at once... Fortunately this morning I was paying attention and noted that the timer had misfired and watched the time myself.

***
Finally moved the mums off our porch and out to the garden yesterday, along with plenty of hay chaff around them. If they make it through the winter I'll find a permanent home for them. Today I'll do the same with the mums by Marian and William's porch, along with the hanging planter.

Also managed to find and dig out the wire rack shelf from the barn (in behind a bunch of other things) and bring it up to the apartment. That goes up today in the office. We've been rearranging the space, organizing, sorting, getting rid of some things. Should be more comfortable when we're done. There's also another set of adjustable wall shelves to go up, behind the door to the room.

Hung up one of the 4 new oil lamps (with brass reflectors!). They're inexpensive but decently enough made. I'll be putting the rest up today. One will go up on either side of the bed for occasional evening lighting, one in the hallway and one in the kitchen I think. The latter two will be mostly for either emergency lighting or evenings when we're moving through the apartment a bit (packing, event prep, etc.) and can be mindful of them being lit. With the glass around the flame I'm a _little_ less concerned than with candles, but flame is flame. Since they stick out from the wall, the one in the hallway will be over one of the bookcases so we don't run into it. Still not sure about #4, but it seemed like a good number to order. Yes, I don't plan everything down to a tee -- deal with it. Some part of my brain said order 4, so I ordered 4.

Got frames for some artwork and will be putting some of that up as well. I have other things I should be doing, I know, but I just can't stand the clutter anymore. I've been working away all fall trying to get things orderly enough that I can get back to work on artwork that requires my full attention.

It's getting there, but hopefully this weekend I can make enough serious progress to feel like things are at an acceptable level of chaos. Things were actually not too bad early in the year, but we've been doing a lot this year and too many things are halfway done. And of course not being able to store food in the back attic as I'd planned is causing problems too. We can't be sure we've gotten all the mice because the cats don't go into the back attic (too cold to leave the door open), so things are in the main area of the apartment -- which at the moment means I lost some apples this week because I thought they were cool enough and they weren't. So now I have a trip to the compost with some of my winter apples and have to make sauce with the ones that are salvagable. Grr.

***
Saw Quantum of Solace last night. Good film. Although kind of intense, and not just the action parts. Last night one of my dreams was a combination of spy stuff and a computer game I've been playing a bit of (Bejeweled 2) with Aqua Harp for musical accompaniment. ??

***
L was up on the hill yesterday clearing some of the fallen trees off of the pipelines. The wind from the storms this autumn have been pretty fierce. He's going up to do more today, at least of the ones we know about. Then we'll have to walk the lines to see if there are any others. This is something we didn't have a chance to do last year, and it was a real bear trying to clear lines with all the snow and ice on top of them. No doubt we'll still have a few limbs to deal with next spring, but at least it won't be as many. Checking on fallen trees and the general health of the woods is a good thing. Plus, it's as good a reason as any to get out into the fresh air ;)

***
L's also doing some cooking today, and we might even get to cutting up some pumpkins and squash. He's making oat farls today -- different from the ones he made for Thanksgiving, but I'm sure they'll be tasty too.

Okay, time have lunch and then get some work done!
helwen: (MacGyver)
China's economy is suffering from US slowdown, which may make borrowing money for the US just a tad more difficult....
China's economy slowing down

The one plus I saw with China's economy slowing down is that with factories closing down, they're putting less pollution in the air (do a search on 'brown cloud' to see what I'm talking about). Tough times for folks everywhere though.

On the environmental minus side though, with China producing less, they also don't need much in the way of recyclables for making packaging for their products:
Recyclables mounting up

So with the global economic slowdown, recyclables are stacking up all over the U.S, and likely other places too. If folks want to be more environmentally conscious, at least right now just putting things out for recycling is not enough. We're going to have to work harder at not bringing things into the home in the first place, and finding creative uses for some things (like re-using glass jars from food for storing beads, nails, beans, rice, various dry goods). I'm sure there are lots of uses for jars.

***
On cardboard and newspaper, that might be tougher for some folks. Although I've seen some creative use of carboard for making furniture -- gluing layers of corrugated cardboard together to create "boards" for shelving for instance. Or making stronger boxes for storage than just a single layer of cardboard might be. Or picture and mirror frames...

Since we have a wood stove now, we've decided that making paper bricks might make sense now. Burning straight paper isn't great for stoves, but bricks would be similar to some types of wood, so more efficient for heating. I know, burning things creates CO2 -- that's why we insulate so we don't have to use as much fuel as the average American. And it's still a more renewable and sustainable energy resource than oil. But obviously we'll have to continue to work on minimizing how much potential waste material comes into the house. It's also apparently possible to make paper bricks for building construction; like wood only different, I guess... but we aren't building anything right now, so...

Sustainable Village brick maker
Ubergizmo brick maker

Did some reading up on paper bricks. In the U.S. most newsprint inks are soy-based now, so not burning lots of toxins. To make good bricks the paper needs to be very thoroughly soaked so that it will bind together better, not burn one layer at a time, and be dense enough to be like wood again. They take a long time to dry. Drying on screens is a good idea, for complete air circulation. Not something that can be made and used immediately. But if made properly, they burn well enough.

In the meantime, we just used a lot of crumpled up newspapers to stuff a sitting cushion we got from Your Inner Vagabond 3 years ago (yes, we finally stuffed it this year). Now that we've sat on it a few times, it looks like it could use a few more papers, which we can get from the folks downstairs -- they get newspapers regularly. We only get the local paper (very small, sent to all residents of Ashfield).

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helwen

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