How East Atlanta Village celebrates Earth Day

So we made some lanterns:

My Lantern, representing the village:

And launched some wishes:
Fly! Be Free!

And had a parade:
The parade starts

Then there were performances:
HoopEssence gives fiery performance
Juggling fire!

and short films in the park:
Short films to watch

(most of the above photos are by John E. Ramspott /BURNAWAY on Flickr)

Then we came back on Saturday for more:

and had demonstrations on gardening, biodiesel, cycling and pedestrian friendliness, a seed swap, park tours, history tours and a fleet of alternative fuel cars!

It was a lot of work, but at the end of the day, we collected 4 truckloads of electronics, a truckload of paint, a truckload of tires, a huge box of batteries, another huge box of CFL bulbs, a grocery bag of printer cartridges, and close to 100 cellphones for recycling. We also collected a couple dozen pairs of eyeglasses for reuse, and over 5 huge boxes of books for the library. Then there was the freecycling… oh WOW did we freecycle some cool stuff! All the leftovers were donated to charity or to Wonderroot’s creative reuse team.

Thanks East Atlanta! It was a success and we hope to do it all over again next Earth Day!

Earth Day Extravaganza! Celebrate, Educate, Participate!

This is the first part of a three part festival, taking place over Earth Day week. This first portion will coincide with the opening of the East Atlanta Farmer’s Market, on April 19th. More details on the rest tomorrow, including a call for vendors…


By now you’ve probably heard the buzz about the collaboration between Recycle EAV and EACA, which will be bringing you a 3 day Earth Day festival like nothing you’ve ever seen. You may have also heard some talk about lanterns, and a parade. You may be wanting to know more, which makes this your lucky day!
On Thursday, April 19th, right at the closing of the year’s first Farmer’s Market, the festival kicks off with a Wishing Lantern launch. Often seen on Chinese New Year, weddings, or during other significant events, Wishing Lanterns float into the sky like tiny hot air balloons, carrying the hopes and dreams of the person releasing it. The lanterns are large enough to be launched by two people (especially if there are children involved!) and burn completely up in the atmosphere, leaving no litter behind. Do you have a wish for the neighborhood? Come get a lantern and set your dream in motion.
You may purchase your Wish Lantern at the April EACA meeting, on Tuesday April 10th, or at the Farmer’s Market on the day of the Launch. Lanterns are 5$, or 3 for 10$. All proceeds benefit your Community Association and it’s programs. 
Once the wishes have floated away, the Vauxhall Gardens Variety Players, along with special guests from The Imperial OPA, HoopEssence, and Turnin’ Trixx, will lead us in a lit up lantern parade of epic proportions, through the Village and down to Brownwood Park.
If you don’t have a lantern, come by one of our two lantern-making workshops and create your masterpiece. The first workshop will be held Thursday April 12th, in the back of the Farmer’s Market lot from 5-8pm. The second workshop will take place during the Farmer’s Market on the 19th. Some materials will be provided, feel free to bring your own, as well as your imagination. You will need a battery operated light source for your lantern, some may be available for purchase at the workshops, but supplies are limited.
Once the Parade has wound it’s way to the Park, you will be treated to more fantastical performances from the entertainers listed above, in preparation for the launch of the first of EACA’s Movies in the Park series. Films are provided this month by Studio Outpost, and will feature local artists and films. 
This is a great free event for all ages, and we hope to see you there. 

Garden 2011

The garden’s been a little slow this year. Things got planted late, and then we realized nothing was getting enough sun, because trees keep growing. Who knew? *cough* Now that the wisteria has been demolished, however, we’re getting back to some awesome growth. Yay.

berries are on the other side and out front, plus there’s an herb garden and more beans up by the patio. so far so good!

Rose Hips, another garden treat.

I’m collecting an unusual harvest today. You see, all spring and summer, this delightful rosebush provides bouquet after bouquet of tea roses, and I keep the fading blossoms cut back to encourage more.


However, towards the end of the summer, I stop pruning the dead blossoms and let them go to seed so that right around now I get these:

Rose hips are an old-fashioned thing to collect, but boy are they good for you. You can make teas, jellies, puree, or just dry them to eat like candy. They are incredibly high in vitamin c and depending on your variety have a slightly spicy or nutty flavor. It’s best to collect them after the first frost, when the hips are a vibrant red and still slightly soft. You’ll want to let them dry a little bit and then open them up to remove the seeds inside. Once you have the seeds out, let them dry the rest of the way if you want to keep them for tea, or you can boil them down and strain them to make jelly, syrup or puree.
I’m going to make jelly after mine dry a bit, so I’ll post a recipe next week!

Blog Action day 2010: Let’s talk about Water

The first part of this post was written for the Eco Etsy team blog as part of Blog Action Day 2010 You can watch a video about this year’s topic, WATER, here:

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Part 1:
They say that you can survive for quite a while without food, but if you don’t have access to drinking water, it only takes about 72 hours to die. That’s a pretty scary thought, but it’s also an abstract one. I mean, who among us, sitting here with our morning coffee, reading this blog post on a computer can really imagine what it is like to have NO water?

by flickr user zaveqna

Yet for over a billion people, drinking water is not a given. There are no fancy bottles of spring water, no free-flowing taps, not even a well in the backyard that isn’t contaminated. How is this possible on “the blue planet”?

img via

From oil spills and fracking contamination to pesticide runoff and manure “lagoons”, to coal fly ash, heavy metals and radioactive waste, our global lifestyle choices are contaminating what was once an abundant resource at an alarming rate.

Unfortunately, that contamination is often all too easy to ignore, as it happens in places far away, which tend to be poor and without the resources to make their stories known. Even when disaster strikes closer to home, trucks stand at the ready to deliver gallon after gallon of this precious resource in single-serve bottles to those affected, thus solving a very real and immediate need, but ultimately making the problem worse.
(suggestion: explore alternatives like this one)

So what do we do?

Today is about blogging for awareness, but for this blog’s readers, most of my words are preaching to an already well-informed choir.
With that in mind, how about taking this one step further? Let’s blog about things WE can do, as individuals, as families, as people from countries with more resources than most. What can we change about our own lifestyles that will ultimately reverse these trends of pollution and scarcity?

I’m moving the rest of this post to my personal blog to talk about my solutions and ideas. If any of the rest of you want to join in, leave a link in the comments section to your follow-up post and let’s spread the word as far and wide as possible. Each of us comes at this problem from a different angle, and we can learn so much from each other about how to make a difference. So, let’s get that conversation started shall we?

How can YOU make a difference?


And here’s part two:

In our household, we try and grow as much of our own food as we can, watered from rain barrels and greywater when possible. This is partially a self-sufficiency thing, but cutting back on pesticides flowing into rivers, sewers and lakes is important. This isn’t always easy or successful, but we’ve made the change and learn a little more, and add a few things to the garden each year.

We have mostly eliminated bottled water from our lives, and when we are in situations where we have to use it, we buy water bottled locally. My biggest challenge in this regard is really liking carbonated water (it settles my stomach) and I’m saving my pennies to buy one of the machines that lets you charge your own tap water. (there’s also a DIY solution that I’m pondering)

We stretch what meat we do buy as far as possible, and make an effort to buy from local and sustainable sources since commercial meat production is a big culprit in water overuse and pollution.

We try to keep a bucket near the tub and use what water that doesn’t go on plants to flush the toilet. (I admit this is something we’re better at doing during drought times. I’m going to go get another bucket and resolve to keep this up year round)
If you’re like me and love a hot bath, you can feel a little better about the amount of water you’re using by transferring the low-flow-tank toilet idea to a larger scale.

We also make an effort to buy secondhand as much as possible, especially with clothing as the production of clothing uses an astounding amount of water. Unfortunately, this is far easier for me than it is for my rather tall husband. But, we try.

My husband and I are lucky enough to both work mostly from home, so we are able to cut our driving by quite a bit. We don’t live in a terribly walkable neighborhood, but it is one easily accessible with a bike or scooter. Since petroleum production is a huge polluter, cutting back on it’s use as much as possible is pretty high on my priority list, but I admit we could both do better in this regard.

We have also taken steps to make our home’s heating more efficient, since producing oil, coal and gas for energy is another huge water contaminant. During the renovation, we’ve been tearing out existing exterior walls and filling them with insulation. We’ve replaced all but three windows, caulked the heck out of our doors, and have added quite a bit of insulation to our attic. Next up will be insulating the crawl space with foam that goes right up under the floorboards. This way even though we use natural gas for our heat, we can use less of it.

This is all totally a learning process and frustratingly slow, as many of the improvements we want to make are out of our budget or are dependent on things we cannot yet control. However, they say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that’s just something I try and remember when I see a problem and start to feel helpless or overwhelmed by not having a ready alternative or solution. The more people who are trying to make these changes, and the more we talk about solutions, the faster we’ll get to them.

Winter Garden

My tomatoes are finally going bananas, but of course now that the night temps have suddenly dropped into the low 40’s, I doubt any of the fruit will ripen. Bah. I guess I’ll pull them green and make some green tomato salsa to can. The good news about all these low temps is that I can finally plant my winter garden! Here in the south, that’s like a whole other chance to get it right, especially if you add in the protection of a hoop house. Since summer was sort of a massive failure, I’m banking on this winter to get me back on track!

Here are some things I’m probably planting over the next 2 weeks:
Asparagus, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Radishes, Peas, Spinach, & Swiss Chard.

Last year I grew Kale and several lettuces, but I think I really prefer swiss chard to kale. Asparagus will be a new try, as will broccoli. I’ve had great luck with kohlrabi and radishes, and maybe this time I’ll actually get cabbages, since the spring crop got demolished by moths.

Is there anything else you like to plant in the winter? I’m in zone 7, for the record.

Salmonella, it’s what’s for breakfast.

Last week I had the opportunity to take care of a friend’s chickens, and as a result have a lovely supply of fresh eggs. Frankly, this couldn’t have come at a better time given the insanity of the current egg recall. Half a billion eggs and counting, a situation that is not only affecting families, but restaurants and other food-based businesses in a spreading wave of totally preventable illnesses.

Ground Beef, sprouts, baby food, cookie dough, spinach, peanut butter, pistachios, chinese dairy products, frozen steaks, green onions, pepper, potato chips… All of these things and more have been recalled in massive amounts over the last several months.
Every time it happens, people express surprise that in this country there’s no effective watchdog over these huge companies who supply so much of our food. People are “shocked” at the conditions that food animals are forced to endure. People clamor for more legislation and more guidelines, even though there is not enough manpower to enforce the laws already on the books. The corporation responsible for this latest scramble has a track record of violations and abuses so long it makes your head spin that they’re even still in business. Clearly it isn’t more laws we need, it’s a healthy dose of common sense.

Some people say the solutions to these problems are to simply stop eating eggs or meat, however that list above should show you quite clearly that food safety issues are not exactly cut down some vegan battle line. The true answers to these sorts of problems lie in allowing people to regain more control of their food supply. Instead of these monster farms and processing facilities, we need smaller, more regional farms. People should be encouraged to grow as much of their own food as they desire, even if it is in their front yard, which of course, brings me back to those chickens I got to take care of. While I, and this neighbor are lucky to live inside the limits of a city who never bothered to outlaw urban chicken keeping, neighbors mere blocks away are finding that they are unable, through shortsighted laws and restrictions, to take more control over their own food supply. There was a little bit of noise last year about reversing such ordinances, but sadly that bill never made it out of committee.
Now, of course not everyone can, or wants to grow their own, and that’s fine. However, for every person who either gets their own hands dirty, or makes the switch to smaller producers, farmer’s markets and CSAs, the burden on our corporate food chain is lessened, making it that much easier to keep a watchful eye on.

Okra Flowers!

They’re so pretty! I’ve never grown Okra before, so this is a big, pleasant surprise.

In other garden news, vine borers are again slowly strangling my zucchini. I want to cry. Stink bugs are sucking the sap out of my cucumber vines. Handpicking them off is the only solution, but the buggers are fast and they fly. I think even my homemade “safe” bug spray was what was driving away my bees. Now that I stopped using it, they are back. I like my bees, but I don’t know what to do about the pests!

This does really put a bit of explanation in the whole bee disappearance thing. I mean, think how many pesticides people are putting on their gardens? Even the supposedly eco-friendly ones will deter bees. This was kind of a sobering realization. Back to the drawing board on keeping away the bugs!

Ethanol: A big, dangerous lie.

Over the past year or so, pretty much all of the gas stations in our area have started carrying gas with 10% Ethanol. Around that same time, we noticed our beloved 92 Honda Civic started getting worse gas mileage. Where we used to squeeze almost 40mpg out of it on the highway, we were mysteriously looking at a number far lower, hovering around 33-34mpg. The car is old, and had had some recent engine work, however, so we couldn’t quite pin it totally on a change in gasoline.

This past weekend, all of that changed. While on the road to Savannah, we found a station which advertised “no ethanol” in it’s gas, which frankly surprised us because we thought it was now everywhere. Well, wouldn’t you know, that tank of gas went about 12% further than the previous one, under near-identical driving conditions.


There is a growing list of reasons to be extremely wary of the greenwashing that is corn-based ethanol production. First, while production methods have improved enough to no longer require more energy to grow the corn than is released from burning the fuel, there are still other factors to consider like water usage, and pesticide contamination. There’s a rather in-depth discussion of the efficiency of it over on The Oil Drum, but the gist of the argument is that using corn as fuel isn’t a very good long-term solution.

One other factor in using ethanol is how it is going to affect the world’s food supply. As more land is being used to grow crops for our gas tanks, less land is being used to grow crops for food. While this may be a short term gain for farmers growing the corn, ultimately it is not a sustainable solution. This topic is covered in depth in a 2007 article in Foreign Affairs magazine.

Thanks to high oil prices and hefty subsidies, corn-based ethanol is now all the rage in the United States. But it takes so much supply to keep ethanol production going that the price of corn — and those of other food staples — is shooting up around the world. To stop this trend, and prevent even more people from going hungry, Washington must conserve more and diversify ethanol’s production inputs.

Now, studies are being published that show the increased demand for corn, and it’s resultant fertilizer pollution are contributing to yet another disaster in the Gulf Of Mexico. This graphic from an article in the SFGate shows the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf, as compared to the current BP oil spill.

As the graphic states, the Dead Zone is caused by fertilizer from cornfields running down the Mississippi river and flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, where the nitrogen causes massive algae blooms that consume the ocean’s oxygen, leaving all the living things in it to die of suffocation. As demand for corn-based ethanol and feed for factory farmed animals has increased, so has the size of the dead zone. Continuing on in this fashion could ultimately be more harmful to the gulf than the current oil spill disaster.

So after doing a little research, I just can’t be convinced that continuing this folly of corn-based fuel is a good idea. The damage it has done to our gas mileage and pocketbooks is just the last nail in the coffin. I think it’s time to end these ridiculous subsidies for such a damaging product and allow our farmers to go back to diversifying their fields, and let truly efficient forms of renewable energy take the funding currently being wasted.

On Etsy, business planning, and pricing your crafts.

Etsy Peddles false Feminist Fantasy via Slate
Somehow I missed this article when it came out. I have to say, however, that as much as I appreciate the areas in which Etsy is great, these guys have a pretty sharp point.

On that note, one of the factors involved in the sustainability of our household is my business. I hate to admit this, but I’ve usually been running from one festival season to the next with so much going on in-between that I’ve never sat down and taken a good look at where all this running is taking me. I recently ran across this article on Crafting an MBA and boy did parts of it hit home. Now that I’m thinking about broadening my work with these potential Home-Ec type classes, it’s even more important for me to really get myself centered into a proper long-term business model with a real plan, a budget and goals. This is not something I can continue to put off.

So here goes! First up is a business plan. The SBA has an online, self-paced course here:
The course itself is really basic, but there are good links and templates along the way, making the framework of your plan really easy to set up.

One of the trickiest sections for me is the financial planning; this is where you have to really sit down and take a look at your budget, your profit margins (if you even have any!) and how to price your work. I’m historically not very good at this, despite knowing what I should be doing, and since I have heard this from other people who craft, I figured documenting my struggle might help someone else as well.

The general consensus about finding a fair price for your work goes something like this:
materials cost + labor cost + overhead= minimum you need to make to break even.
Sadly, that’s usually where most people stop (including me).
See, there’s this thing called PROFIT. I know I, and many other crafters consider our wage profit, but the hard truth is that that’s just not the case. You need that wage to buy groceries and pay your mortgage and the vet bills. Profit is the money you put back into your business, and if you’re not putting money back into your business, it won’t grow. It may not even survive the first rough patch. So, you absolutely have to include profit margins in your pricing. However, figuring out what that number should be isn’t always easy. One company I used to work for doubled their minimum break-even point, then doubled that number again to arrive at their wholesale price. I have to admit this sort of sickened me, when I knew something that I got paid 5$ to make, that had maybe 20$ of materials in it was going to ultimately sell for around 200$. However, even if I think their formula was outrageous, the hard fact is that they are still in business, and that’s a lesson in itself.

Only you can decide what a comfortable number is, but I’d advise you to not skimp too much. While I can’t bring myself to use the above formula, I know that doubling my break-even price once is not outrageous at all. I’ve been needing some new equipment, and wanting to try some new techniques, and both of those things cost money that I won’t have if I don’t plan for growth.