Monday, September 22, 2008

#25 The next best thing

Okay, so I mentioned this in my last post, but it's worthy of it's own post. The Farmer's Market! Just about everywhere has one. So next to growing your own produce, this is the best way to get fresh local stuff. This summer I have depended on it for things like garlic, eggplant (mine didn' t do well,) berries (the ones we didn't pick ourselves), and other odds and ends. Yes, sometimes they can be more expensive than the grocery store, but the freshness and having the food grown locally is worth it. But you also need to shop the whole thing to find the best price on the produce you want. Another trick is to go right when the booths are ready to be packed up. This is especially useful if you are looking for a large amount of something. Most of the vendors really don't want to take the produce back home to sit for a few days until the next market (here they are Tues. and Sat.) Offer them what price you want to pay, and the worse that will happen is that they will say "no." If you go often, you can build relationships with the vendors and let them know what kind of things you are looking for at what price, and you'll be amazed at what they can come up with for you.
Pros: Fresh produce, with the middle-man eliminated. It doesn't have to be shipped across the country.
Cons: They are only available in the summer time (for obvious reasons.) And only at limited times. Prices can be high.

Monday, September 15, 2008

#24 Gardening

So I was going to continue on about some ways to save on fuel and such, but I'll come back to that later.  This summer a good portion of my time has been spent with my garden in one way or another.  It's the first year that we elected to get a plot at the community gardens and it has been great!   Well, great besides the bad soil and weed problems.  But we are dealing with those and next year we will be better prepared.  And despite that, we have had a great yeild of produce, especially beans and peas.  Tomatoes and tomatillos are coming.  I admit, it's a lot of work.  Soil prep, planting, thinning, weeding, watering, harvesting.  But with each bite of fresh, organic produce that I take (or my children and husband), it becomes more and more worth it. We have had countless meals that were almost entirely made with produce from our garden. My husband has even worked hard to save us from having to drive to the garden too often by leaving to work early on his bike stopping by on the way.   We also have a small garden plot at our house with some lettuces, summer squash, beets, cherry tomatoes, and carrots.  
You don't need to have a green thumb to have a garden.  Really all you need is a little space and a desire to do it.  There is a wealth of information out there on gardening-- my advice would be to find someone who is a gardener and have them help you get started.  If you don't have the space, you can just do some container gardening, or check to see if your community has garden plots.  

Pros:  You can be as organic as you like, get wonderful fresh produce and not have to buy storebought, shipped-in produce.  You can also get the whole family involved!

Cons: It's a lot of work, requires patience, and a lot of water.  And sometimes things don't grow the way you hope and work for (like my three-foot tall corn stalks and 3-inch long ears of corn)  

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

#23 Idle no more.

School is back in session.  The weather is beautiful, so when school lets out I pack up the baby and the 3 year old into the stroller, don my running shoes, and get ready to push 70 pounds+ of children and stroller up a very steep hill.  It's great exercise, I feel good about it, and I even get cheered on occasionally by strangers who witness my battle with the full stroller on the steepest parts of the hill.  I finally reach the top, and inhale a nice deep breath of... car fumes?  My path takes me past the "pick-up line" where parents await the final bell and the rush of children from their classrooms.  I have noticed that about 75% of the cars, trucks, SUV's, and minivans keep their motors running while they wait, emitting a steady stream of exhaust right into the path of walking kids and parents.  I want to knock on their windows and say, "Could you please turn off your engine?"  There really is no excuse to keep it running (around here it's rarely even warm enough to need the AC.)  Starting your car again is NOT hard on the engine, does not use more fuel, and your car engine does not need to warm up to drive in cold weather (see here).   That information comes from old cars and old myths.  Idling wastes fuel and creates emmissions.  I'm not sure I could go for turning off the car every time it's idling (i.e. stoplights,) but there are definitely times that my car is running idle and I am working toward making turning the car off a habit.   I am grateful that the school buses do not idle their engines while waiting for the kids.

Pros:  Less fuel wasted, less exhaust emitted.

Cons:  You can't run the AC with the car off, and it takes a second or two to start the engine to get moving again.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

#22 Garage sale fun!

Did you know that garage sale shopping is environmentally friendly? I definitely consider it so. Just think of all the things that you can put to reuse instead of having to be purchased new! The same can go for thrift stores and better yet, hand-me-downs from friends and family. But here is my loot from the last time I went to garage sales:

It includes 2 Children's Place sweaters, 1 pair of L.L bean shoes, one pair of firetruck jammies, one Thomas shirt, one Gap hoodie, 1 pair Levi jeans, 3 pairs of nice shorts, 3 pairs of tights, 4 pairs of socks, 1 Mr. Potato head computer game, 1 popsicle mold set, 1 bear backpack, and one turtle sandbox. My total for all of the above? About $15.00.

Pros: Fun, cheap, and puts a lot of things to good use.

Cons: It takes time and fuel to drive around to the sales. If you like currently trendy clothes, they are harder to find. It's also harder to find stuff as the kids get older-- that's where thrift stores come in handy.