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Nov. 2nd, 2006 09:53 am
helwen: (Default)
[personal profile] helwen
Worked yesterday, no work today or tomorrow. A bit stiff and achey today, so I don't really mind having the days off. Besides, it gives me more time to work on the court doc for Concordia and other stuff.

Hoping to get the last piece of window plastic up today, but we'll see. Once the room is all set up, I'm looking forward to being able to leave open the door to the porch/greenhouse during the day -- the sun is quite strong in there, and can help to heat up the house. And of course we don't want the plants in there to roast :) Not remembering how hot it could get in there, I hadn't realized when I started my project that it might help to cut down on our heating oil usage. Happy thought!

One of my bleeding hearts up by the studio is blooming, along with the rose. The pinks are also in their second bloom. Markers of the unduly warm weather for this time of year. I know a number of people who don't care for snow and cold weather, but the plants need it. Many pests and blights that our weather kept reined in are no longer slowed enough by frost and ice, because it comes later in the year. Hemlocks are taking a lot of damage, many fatally so, from an asian bug, all across the country. There's a beetle that can help with fighting the invader, but Romney won't support the funds for it in Massachusetts. Ash and White Pine and other trees are suffering from other pests: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-10-23-trees_x.htm

Being a Gray, one of my concerns is the Sugar Maples, which don't seem to have quite as immediate a threat to them, but the warmer weather is hard on their general health and longevity (think about what happens to you when you don't get enough sleep on a regular basis), and for the farmers it means a shorter sugaring season. Once tapped, the trees provide sap for the same amount of time until the tap holes heal over, but because of the weather the quality of the sap can change more quickly. Once the trees start to bud the season's over, because the sugar is diverting to growing leaves. Our family has other means of income, but for some folks it can be a major source, and finding something to replace that income could be difficult.

And of course the beauty of the fall foliage would be missed by everyone in the valley -- over time, if our weather becomes too mild, the Maples will die out, along with other northern plants. Weather changes are happening faster than the environment can keep up with.

So, what can one or two people do, especially without a lot of money?" Well, we won't be going off-grid anytime soon, but we're doing our best to winterize and use fuel with even greater economy than before. The greenhouse will be providing more heat, as well as some fresh veggies and clean air. I'll be getting some English Ivy for the greenhouse, to replace the air filter in the bedroom (saving electricity and new filter materials). Fossil fuel is a precious and finite commodity -- using it more wisely means it will last a bit longer, and the environment will have more of a chance to deal with the pollutants from it.

NB: English Ivy isn't good for kitties (if you have the type that eat houseplants), so if you get this plant, hang it or put it on a shelf the cats can't reach. It's esp. helpful in an office, around electronics.

For people who want to lower their thermostats and save energy, two things. One: don't change the temp. range more than 5 degrees, as it wastes fuel. Two: keep your feet warm -- cold floors = cold feet = turning the thermostat up.

The new studio has a bamboo floor, and we used only a tiny bit of treated pressurized wood for the deck supports under the building. The roof edge is extended further than usual on the long side, to move rain/snow fall further from the building, but also to provide extra shade in the summer, and windows at either end are for pass-through ventilation. Windows are double-paned, argon-filled. Building will be fully insulated by snowfall. Some of the leaves in the backyard are getting bagged in plastic bags (yes, plastic - but reusable for next year) and put around the studio foundation to keep wind and cold out from under the floor. This last thing is a useful thing to do around house foundations, especially if we end up with an open winter.

NB: An open winter is when it gets cold but there's no snow on the ground. Snow insulates plants -- no snow means the wind blows over the ground, pulling moisture out of the soil and dehydrating plants. Larger plants like bushes and trees will have dead or brown patches the following spring/summer, and many plants overall will die. If you're concerned about saving particular plants in your garden, you may wish to mulch around them this year.

Windows: look for leaks, drafts, and caulk them. If your storm windows aren't great, plastic them. This helps to stop drafts/leaks you missed, and creates another barrier (air) between you and the cold outdoors. Don't forget to check the doors too - felt stripping can be used to overlap the door edge to stop/slow down drafts. Bottom of door drafts are trickier -- if you have this and aren't sure of the best way to deal with it, feel free to contact me about it.

Back to the environment -- we stopped using body care products that have parabens in them. You can find shampoos and such that don't have them that are affordable. Parabens mess with the endocrine system, affecting hormones, in people and I would expect in animals too (gets into the water). It's hard to get it out of the ecosystem, but we don't want to add more to it. And I'd rather not have anything that might be causing weight gain or might cause cancer in the house. We're using Jason Organic shampoo and conditioner - nice stuff! Some Dove products also seem to be acceptable. More research needed on this stuff...

Easy way to cut down on sunblock and save money -- wear a hat, wear longer sleeved clothing, wear gloves while driving (yes, the sun _can_ burn you through a car window, oy!). Hats can be fun and fashionable. More people should wear them!

We're trying to eat at home more, save money spent on service and gas. Better for us anyway.

Hmm, looks like a couple of people can do quite a lot! And if more people did this, and spread it to other people, then we can affect some change whether the government helps or not.

Well, there's a few thoughts for the morning...

Date: 2006-11-02 03:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loosecanon.livejournal.com
Have you considered water-bottle heat transfer solar?
Place soda bottles painted dark in the sun during the day to collect solar warmth, move them to the chilly part of the house to radiate their heat.

I'm starting the research on going solar again. The new setups are a lot less hellish than the heat exchange solar I grew up with. That was truly unpleasant.

Rather than leaves, which my neighbors complain blow around, I use branches and trimmings from hedges and pruning. They are less likely to move.

We need the snow for more than just earth-blanket. It also works as a heat-deflector. The land is really taking a beating.

And Jason makes great products! I like their toothpaste.

Date: 2006-11-02 03:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] helwen.livejournal.com
>>Have you considered water-bottle heat transfer solar?
Place soda bottles painted dark in the sun during the day to collect solar warmth, move them to the chilly part of the house to radiate their heat.

I'll be painting some for the greenhouse, for night-time heating for the plants. Hadn't thought of having other ones to move around the house. Hmm...

>>I'm starting the research on going solar again. The new setups are a lot less hellish than the heat exchange solar I grew up with. That was truly unpleasant.

Looking forward to hearing about the results :)

>>Rather than leaves, which my neighbors complain blow around, I use branches and trimmings from hedges and pruning. They are less likely to move.

That's why we're bagging them. They would never stay by the studio otherwise, because of the wind patterns through our property.

>>We need the snow for more than just earth-blanket. It also works as a heat-deflector. The land is really taking a beating.

True. And esp. true for the maples in the spring -- the whole sugaring process only works because of the pumping action formed by cold nights and warm days, which works best when there's enough snow on the tree roots to keep them from warming up too much during the day. Even if we weren't tapping, the pumping action is necessary for the tree to get nutrients up to the leaves, etc. It's very saddening.

>>And Jason makes great products! I like their toothpaste.

We just got some Tom's of Maine to try out, but I'll get some of that to try next. Thanks!

Date: 2006-11-02 03:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] helwen.livejournal.com
2nd thing on hedge trimmings.... unfortunately we don't have much in the way of branches and hedge trimmings - another reason we opted for the bagged leaves. I have Russian Sage in the front but it tends to blow around too. The branch cuttings from the yews and holly are too short to be useful. I suspect my yard is a little too civilized for some options... unless I cut down some of my neighbor's branches... :)

Date: 2006-11-02 07:50 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (nebula)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Sounds like a lovely plan. And thanks for the reminder on how much there is that we all can do!

Date: 2006-11-05 09:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] helwen.livejournal.com
Hi! Good to hear from you :)

We keep working away on things. I find it's easier to stick with a change if I only do a few at a time. Less chaos that way :D Altho' with my job hours not being guaranteed, I'm starting to look at other forms of income -- so, perhaps working _right now_ toward my future goals is a _good thing_. Sort of laying the groundwork for the next larger change...

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