Buying Seeds

I saw this post over the weekend, and pretty much had to link over to it since it’s just about the time to start planting seeds and seedlings.

IF YOU ARE THE KIND OF GARDENER who buys vegetable seeds or seedlings (including tomato plants) from a local garden center, as I sometimes do, beware the varieties you select. Otherwise, you could very well be putting money into the hands of the wretched Monsanto Corporation. Forewarned is forearmed, right? Here is the list of Seminis/Monsanto home-garden vegetable varieties, and yes, it even includes zucchini:

I do buy varieties from a couple local nurseries, and while I try to go to the small ones first, sometimes they are out of what I want, so Lowe’s it is. The list over at AGardenForTheHouse blog will go right into my wallet so I can double check before I buy.

(please note: the list is not implying all those varieties are genetically modified. However, I don’t want to give Monsanto a penny if I can help it, so that’s why this list is important. You’ll probably notice there are some heirloom varieties on this list. Don’t panic. Some varieties can be from multiple sources, so if it’s an heirloom and it’s on this list, just ask your seller where they buy from)

The Wolves of Chernobyl

(this was originally written for the ecoetsy team blog, and is saved over here for my reference)
Chernobyl. The word is enough to terrify little children and environmentalists alike. Visions of nuclear meltdown and the end of the world as we know it are relayed as a cautionary tale over and over when we talk about alternative energy sources. I was reminded of it recently in a discussion on influential moments for each generation, and again when I ran across some of these photos on Pinterest.

I remembered reading an article a while back about how nature was reclaiming the area, so I decided to dig a little deeper and see if there was any update on how the animals were doing. What I found was startlingly good news, and a new documentary on PBS which is now airing.

In 1986 a nuclear meltdown at the infamous Chernobyl power plant in present-day Ukraine left miles of land in radioactive ruins. Residents living in areas most contaminated by the disaster were evacuated and relocated by government order, and a no-man’s land of our own making was left to its own devices. In the ensuing 25 years, forests, marshes, fields and rivers reclaimed the land, reversing the effects of hundreds of years of human development. And surprisingly, this exclusion zone, or “dead zone,” has become a kind of post-nuclear Eden, populated by beaver and bison, horses and birds, fish and falcons – and ruled by wolves.

While I realize this partially gives away the ending, I have to share that I watched it and found it to be powerfully uplifting. If you have access to PBS and want to see a lovely silver lining to what was one of the greatest catastrophies of my generation, check it out. We could all use a little bit of good news these days, couldn’t we?

take THAT Monsanto!

While I’m sure this decision is going to go back and forth in the courts for a while, this little bit of good news is certainly worth celebrating:

Purveyors of conventional and genetically-modified (GM) crops — and the pesticides and herbicides that accompany them — are finally getting a taste of their own legal medicine. Minnesota’s Star Tribune has reported that the Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled that a large organic farm surrounded by chemical-laden conventional farms can seek damages for lost crops, as well as lost profits, caused by the illegal trespassing of pesticides and herbicides on its property.

You can read the rest over on Natural News. and also in the local Star Tribune

One Day On Earth

Found via my friend Rebecca, this is beautiful and fascinating, and you can help make it happen.

One Day on Earth – Motion Picture Trailer from One Day On Earth on Vimeo.

ONE DAY ON EARTH creates a picture of humanity by recording a 24-hour period throughout every country in the world. We explore a greater diversity of perspectives than ever seen before on screen. We follow characters and events that evolve throughout the day, interspersed with expansive global montages that explore the progression of life from birth, to death, to birth again. In the end, despite unprecedented challenges and tragedies throughout the world, we are reminded that every day we are alive there is hope and a choice to see a better future together.

When walking home becomes a crime

Take note pedestrians, in Austell, GA jaywalking is a more serious crime than driving drunk.

In what amounts to a declaration of war on pedestrians, a small town near Atlanta, Georgia has convicted the mother of a child killed while she and others were trying to cross a busy street from their bus stop to their apartment building of vehicular homicide, while allowing the drunk driver who ran over the child and then fled the scene off with a six month slap on the wrist.

According to the local paper:

Nelson was attempting to cross at the intersection of Austell Road and Austell Circle with her three children when her son was struck by a car, said Savoy. The child later died from his injuries.

If you’ll check out the photo above, you will see the bus stop and the apartment complex the Nelson family called home. You will also see that there is no crosswalk. In fact, to cross at the nearest legal crossing requires adding a half mile walk to their trip. To some people, that half mile walk seemed reasonable. More specifically, to the Cobb County prosecutor and the 6 “peers” who made up the jury who convicted her. Yet none of those peers (and I’m willing to bet the prosecutor) had ever so much as taken the bus in their city. Not even once. To quote from the Transportation for America blog

They had never taken two buses to go grocery shopping at Wal-Mart with three kids in tow. They had never missed a transfer on the way home that caused them to wait a full hour-and-a-half with tired and hungry kids for the next bus. They had never been let off at a bus stop on a five-lane speedway, with their apartment in sight across the road, and been asked to drag those three little ones an additional half-mile-plus down the road to the nearest traffic signal and back in order to get home at last.

PBS did a story on this same issue on another street in the same Metro area, which is a real eye-opener.

As more people across the country try to use their cars less, or are simply unable to afford the luxury of one, situations which pit pedestrians and bicyclists against cars are becoming more and common. Some drivers just cannot comprehend that roads were built for everyone and even resort to using their cars as weapons to assert their imagined dominance. Urban planners will spend millions building crossings for wildlife, while in contrast, funding for pedestrian projects is often hard to come by. Prosecuting pedestrians and cyclists for the “crime” of being hit by a car is one tactic used by governments across the country to unfairly stack the deck even more against the poor and those who are simply trying to live a simpler lifestyle. Some cities (like my own) even refuse to take responsibility for sidewalk repairs, and then criminalize joggers and pedestrians for not using the broken, dangerous paths.

In contrast, cities like New York and Paris have seen dramatic differences by closing some of their main roads to cars for extended stretches of time, turning once smoggy streets into beaches and parks.

There have been plenty of studies showing the amazing benefits of including bicycles and pedestrians in urban planning equations. Walkscore lists just a few here:

Environment: Cars are a leading cause of climate change. Your feet are zero-pollution transportation machines.
Health: The average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs 6-10 pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood.
Finances: One point of Walk Score is worth up to $3,000 of value for your property.
Communities: Studies show that for every 10 minutes a person spends in a daily car commute, time spent in community activities falls by 10%.

So what can you do to help make your city more walkable? One of the first steps is here – a petition to ask the federal government not to cut dedicated pedestrian and cyclist funding from the latest transportation bill (something they are trying to do). Get involved with your neighborhood association and find out about projects that will affect where you live. So often bills get passed and funding gets granted without the people living in the neighborhood even knowing what was at stake. When we become more aware neighbors, we can drastically affect the future of our communities.
Last but not least, if you drive a car, look around you. Take note of bus stops and crosswalks and bike lanes. Be more courteous in your own day, a little compassion goes a long way.

(this post was originally written for the EcoEtsy team blog. Keeping a copy here for posterity)

EDIT: On Tuesday, the judge gave Ms Nelson the option to accept the conviction and take probation or to have a new trial. Ms Nelson chose not to have the conviction on her record and to opt for that retrial. No word yet on whether the prosecutor will pursue the case a second time.

The new DDT

When is rat poison not really rat poison? When it turns rats into “little poison pills” and kills anything who hunts them, and anyone who hunts what hunted them, and so on, and so on, and so on…

(photo of cute rats by matthieu-aubry on flickr)

This frightening article posted in the Sacramento Bee highlights how for the past decade products intended to kill rodents in homes and warehouses have been spreading up the food chain, despite warnings and attempts to get the products banned.

Allan Muth, awoke on June 28 to a startling sight outside his kitchen window: a half-grown bobcat kitten, lying on its side, breathing heavily near a water tray with an adult nearby.

“It was rather poignant,” Muth said. “The adult would go over and occasionally paw the juvenile as if to get it to get up and move, and it wouldn’t.

“Finally, the adult turned and walked away.”

By early afternoon, the young bobcat was dead. Suspicious, Muth placed it in a freezer and later sent it to UC Davis.

Last week, it was examined by Andy Engilis Jr., curator of the school’s Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology.

“When we do a necropsy, generally the organs are intact and there is little blood,” he said. “When I opened this animal up, it was engorged with blood. The only time I’ve seen that is with rodents exposed to anti-coagulant (poison). It was compelling.”

The problem has been spreading and is even impacting animals who live far away from urban areas.

Just like with the bees, dependence on the “convenience” of chemicals designed to eliminate “pests” is having a widespread and devastating impact on our whole world.

Please reconsider using these harmful products in your home and garden. The rat poisons in question are sold under the brand names D-Con, Havoc, Talon, Tomcat Ultra and Just One Bite, while the bee killer compound is clothianidin, sold by Bayer Crop Science, under the name Poncho

There are natural alternatives for pesticides if your rats are not as adorable as the ones up top. First, keep your spaces clean and foods in glass or plastic containers. Seal up your attic and crawlspaces to avoid temptation. Rats also hate the smell of peppermint, so soaking rags in peppermint oil will drive out any in your warm attic. Finally, often just the scent of a domestic cat is enough to make these little critters look for a more hospitable home. If you’re a softie like me, you can make sure that there are nice wooded areas left in or near your yard to give them a more appropriate place to call home.

For the bees, try using a simple solution of soap, cayenne pepper and olive oil on your plants to discourage pests, just avoid spraying the flowers so that your pollenators will still be able to do their jobs.

the throwaway society

There’s been quite the discussion floating around several blogs I read, all sparked by one comment in which a woman laid into a “green” design blog for featuring a rather expensive Eames armchair.
Treehugger summed it up pretty well by summarizing Oscar Wilde’s lament that people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

Both articles and the comments are pretty interesting in the range of reactions.
I responded to the ReNest article with this:

I am a maker. Not of furniture or probably anything else you’d ever feature on this blog, but a maker nonetheless. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that someone could buy “the same” item as something I’m selling at Walmart for half the price.

Sustainability has so many facets and affording those who make the items in question a wage which doesn’t leave them starving is one of those facets. Add in the cost of sustainable materials and this is often why things “green” cost so much more.
From the end-user standpoint, that Eames armchair aside, I’m so tired of household items that can’t be repaired once they’ve broken. I had quite a fight with a toaster before finally coming to the realization that I could not get the parts to fix it because no one made them.
That’s the real crime: Living in a world where things are designed to break, be trashed and replaced. That’s the thing that should make that woman sick to her stomach.

It’s a crazy line to walk; pricing items so you can keep making more and eat while you’re at it, and pricing them so people don’t roll their eyes and walk away. I hope people care that the things I make can be repaired, altered or made into something else when their current life is nearing the end. I hope that me and all my other maker friends are having an impact on our throwaway society. It is one of my biggest dreams, to help change this…

tee-shirt re-use

I saw this amazing chair on TreeHugger this morning and I HAD to share it with you given I’m currently making a tee-shirt quilt out of a friend’s old college jerseys.

“Swedish designer Maria Westerberg’s T-shirt Chair won this year’s Green Furniture Award. According to the jury, “the chair weaves together a meaningful story using worn textiles. This up-scaling of the classical ‘rag rug’ becomes an unique way of upholstering. T-shirts from friends together with other textiles such as grandma’s curtains, the favourite but now worn out jeans etc, melt together visually to form a colourful symphony of one’s personal history”.”>

Now of course I’m also looking at that box spring frame with new eyes. hmm…