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Is there a quick way I can ready my soil for planting?

Yes. I learned about this method during my Capstone at Portland State University during one of our weekly sessions at the Learning Gardens Laboratory. Let’s take a small area, like the side of a garage for starters.

  • Acquire enough free dirt to line your garage 1 1/2′ wide and then however long your garage is.

  • In September, line the entire area with cardboard, brown paper, or newspaper. Ensure no grass is showing. Take off all tape.

  • Cover the area with your free dirt.

  • In a few weeks, the ground should be soft enough to dig freely and you will be ready to begin transplanting.

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Kitchen References

Water Use It Wisely Homepage. 2008.

For a start, we took the family-water audit test offered here, to see how good we were at saving water. We flunked. If you’re like us, you may want to see what this site offers: over 100 tips on how to save water in and around the home. Examples of water saving tips include running a bath and plugging the tub before turning water on, then adjusting the temperature as the tub fills up; using food coloring to test for leaks in the toilet tank; bathing children together; and using a commercial carwash that recycles water, like Eco Car Wash in this section under “Car Wash.” There is a lengthy list of water saving plants for our area as well as links to other websites for water saving technologies such as waterless urinals, instant hot water heaters, and leak detection equipment. The site also offers educational tools and games that are fun for both children and adults. You can participate in the family water audit to measure how your family currently uses water and then use the site to make sustainable water choices for your particular lifestyle. Maybe next time we’ll pass the exam.

Water Saver Home. Homepage. 2006.

This site is a great hands-on tool for homeowners navigating through a model home and wondering how to save money on their water bill. Go to the website, click on “typical household objects”, and learn about water conservation and the applicable technology. Suggestions range from on-demand hot water system to greywater systems, rainwater harvesting, and to low, water-use gardens. Look here for advice and statistics on incentives plus rebates, benefits and costs, where to purchase equipment, maintenance, and handy installation tips.

Water Smarts. Ogorzalek,? T. 2003. Journal of Housing and Community Development. 60(4):24-29. (Journal article)

Water Smarts provides some shocking statistics of water use in the United States. For example, 24% of residential water is used for toilet flushing and 4.8 billion gallons a day are flushed. It is a huge water use but there are some helpful alternatives to the standard toilets installed in most residences, which suggests that we do not have to waste so much water. If you own an older home, consider the merits of upgrading to a more efficient system. A new kind of low-volume toilet was introduced in the 1980s that led to legislation requiring newer toilets to use only 1.6 gallons of water per flush. The US EPA estimates that a three-person household can save $60 and 54,000 gallons of water annually when low-flow toilets, showerheads, and faucet aerators are utilized.

A list of behavior modifications is included, which allows readers to easily identify areas for improvement:

  • Only run the dishwasher when full.
  • If washing something (dishes and clothes) by hand, fill a tub and use that rather than letting the water run continuously.
  • If you have to wash your car, turn off the hose between rinses.
  • Cover an outdoor pool when not in use.
  • Sweep sidewalks rather than hose them down.
  • Water the lawn at cool times of day (at night or very early in the morning) to lessen evaporation.

Water. 2008. Rocky Mountain Institute Homepage.

The Rocky Mountain Institute’s website offers advice and information on the following water topics:

  • Water-efficient fixtures & appliance
  • Landscaping and irrigation
  • Greywater systems, compost toilets, and rain collection
  • Wastewater treatment systems
  • Drinking water quality

Civil action: promoting water efficiency and protecting rivers

This site is comprehensive and useful. Regarding composting toilets, there is a warning to homeowners that many local jurisdictions are unfamiliar with the technology, and therefore do not have codes enacted — making it difficult to pass inspections. The Rocky Mountain Institute provides numerous links for further information on all of these important topics.

Products for Water Conservation. Green Home Building Homepage.

A good source page for information on water conservation products, Green Home provides links to suppliers or manufactures of:

  • Conservation Kits
  • Clothes Washers
  • Composting Toilets
  • Bathroom Fixtures
  • Grey Water Supplies
  • Barrels & Tanks

Check out this site to get ideas for your next home project.

West Coast Seafood Guide. 2006. Seafood Watch Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Access this handy guide for eating seafood throughout the year in Oregon (in the Appendix).  Drop-down menus explain how seafood is harvested, farmed versus wild fish, abundance of fish for the current month, nutritional aspects, and best-employed management practices. Fish existing in the healthiest habitats are not yet endangered: Abalone (farmed), Catfish (US farmed), Clams, Mussels, Oysters (farmed), Cod: Pacific (trap or hook & line-caught), Crab: Dungeness, Snow (Canada), Halibut: Pacific, Lobster-Spiny (US), Pollock (wild-caught from AK), Sablefish/Black Cod (AK, BC), Salmon (wild-caught from AK), Sardines, Shrimp: Pink (OR), Spot Prawn (BC), Striped Bass (farmed), Sturgeon, Caviar (farmed), Tilapia (farmed), Trout: Rainbow (farmed), Tuna: Albacore, Bigeye, Yellowfin (troll/pole-caught), and White Seabass. The guide also lists alternatives when optimum choices are not available, as well as choices to avoid because of over fishing and other practices, including farming or the endangerment to other species. A small printout is available as a pocket reference in the Appendix. Sustainable sushi anyone?

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Questioning authority

In the ubiquitous Shepard Street House, the aforementioned perfect 20-year-old house, I made a sign that faced outside on the north living room window that read, “Question Authority.” To those who know me, it’s no question that I do not support wars (while supporting troops is another thing entirely). And I lived in that house while our nation decided to go to war in Iraq for never-found weapons of mass destruction (distraction) in hopes of finding terrorists (where there was limited linkage they were actually there). To us, it was a no-brainer to question authority and the logic behind sending young men and women to fight for a not-so-clear cause.

Recent years have shown me different groups of people, different authorities, who likewise need to be questioned. I find it interesting what authorities we take for granted viewing their opinion as weighted in gold and which authorities we do not. For example, I might not question a doctor as often as I would a politician. But which position has more immediate impact on my well-being? I would vote that the doctor does. That being as it is, shouldn’t the doctor deserve more questioning or at least the same rigorous questioning I would give a politician? Recent health situations (I have a disease) have proved to me the importance of questioning common medical practice. I elected to take a course of treatment not typical for the U.S. (although typical for Europe) and the results have been quite good (lucky me). This result is that I have not so far needed a gland to suffer radiation.

Previous posts have shown how educators often get stuck in their own modes of thinking and find themselves on pedestals, comfortably seated. The irony of the professor who I wrote about was that he came across as a questioning individual, yet when the same type of questioning was turned on him, he refused it and made others ‘suffer’.

I have a question, dear reader, which authorities do you question and which authorities do you inherently trust?

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Backyard Chickens Part Two

The trek into having chickens has become more informative. For the City of Portland, a permit for chickens is only required if you have 4 or more chickens. It is suggested that you follow the guidelines for having 4 or more chickens even if you have less, just in case you want to have more later. Plan ahead, in other words!

The City of Portland decides the code and Multnomah County enforces the code. The basic requirements are that the coop’s outer reaches (the chicken’s enclosure) is not less than 15 feet from your neighbors home. Although the requirement is quite flexible, it is suggested that you keep the coop on your property and contact all neighbors within 200 feet of the chicken enclosure. Keep the odors under control, and don’t feed the chickens things that will attract rats.

For more information, check out the following links:

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Vintage or really used?

When I was first introduced to Portland, my friend Kate had a sign on her car “boycotting” “overpriced thrift stores on Hawthorne.” This was 2001. The reason was that residents and businesses on Hawthorne Blvd. were boycotting a potential McDonald’s. They did not want a McDonald’s to be built on their street lest it ruin the ambiance. So, Kate printed a sign that read “Stop Overpriced Thrift Stores on Hawthorne” in small retaliation against the NIMBYism which she witnessed.

Now that I’ve lived in Portland for five years, I find myself getting really tired of these quaint ways of describing things like using the word vintage to describe a once decrepit bungalow or reclaimed wood to describe a torn up old fence. It’s like this city is so full of euphemisms it fails to recognize the hypocrisy of those terms. I’m tempted to say that it fails to allow people to see the bad in the city, but many are quick to judge or point out when someone is “wrong”. A short visit to the Cesar Chavez city council meeting in November made it clear that there were at least two sides to the issue and both sides were loudly voicing their opinions.

When I was attending Michigan State University for the second time, one of my professors had us read a piece on multiculturalism. He pitted two articles against each other for the days readings and we discussed them in class. So, one article argued for multiculturalism to be taught in schools because that was one way to incorporate diversity into education. The other article condemned multiculturalism as a mode of thought that only wanted to teach the good about any one culture and refused to recognize the bad, such as genocide one culture may have inflicted on another.

It feels like Portland practices the latter form of multiculturalism. The residents (many of whom are transplants like myself) want to celebrate all that is good and great about Portland without recognition to the bad that happens. Sure, sell that property as vintage and give it an overpriced sticker for rent but don’t ask what happened to the previous tenants who paid $500 less a month for it before the owner decided to renovate. Then we call it development instead of gentrification. That mind set is really used and not at all vintage.