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Daily Writing: A Summer Day

Today started with recording my essential oil master class, twice. I didn’t get the Zoom link sent to my attendee in time, so the recording would have to do. Zoom has a beautiful way of doing teleconferences, on the cheap. You can get up to 40 minutes free, and have most of the features that make that program great. And, you can do this without having some mystical Cisco account. 

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I have found though, that Keynote does a much crisper, cleaner job of recording slide shows. So, even though you don’t get the picture in picture with my face, you get a better presentation. So, the morning and after lunch was spent tidying up the recording, making the actual video in iMovie, and uploading it to YouTube. Sign up for my newsletter (left or right) and get access to all sorts of fun things.

Once I got those things done, I was determined to go to the pool. Levi has been asking for this for a long time, and I just didn’t want to spend the money. Husband and I shifted some things around, and I made it a goal to go at least once this week. My desire to play and work on my money story at 1:20 pm PST was not lost on me. 

So, play we did. We are back home now, changed, drying, and enjoying some individual screen time. I am writing. The kiddo is playing a bumble bee game in Roblox. For an hour and a half, though, we played. We floated, practiced swimming, we looked for rings. We dodged fellow pool-goers, and we even swam some laps. 

Community pools fascinate me. I didn’t really grow up with one. I grew up with free swimming access by way of my grandparents, my aunt and uncle who live on Lake Superior, or the local beaches in my hometown. The idea that one pays to swim is a strange one, but in the city for quick access, that indeed is what we do. 

I’m okay with paying, as the pool is well-staffed with young lifeguards, and it is kept clean. The community pool dynamic, though, offers a slice of a microcosm that I think is fun to acknowledge. 

First, the diversity of people is wider than most places we frequent. There are varied ages, ethnic backgrounds, and maybe varied education levels. We all congregate in this shared place. Typically there is one or two obvious goals: play and exercise. Today, there were two or three groups of boys who looked like they were between 13 and 16 playing basketball in the water. There was a boy of about 10 and his sister of about 8 or 9 playing together by tossing a ball and splashing each other. There were several moms with babies, floating and playing in the water. And more. This brings me to point number two, there was no disagreement between parties. That is, the boy and girl didn’t interact with the basketball players. The moms and kids stayed to themselves. There was a quiet choreography as we all shared the shallow end, dodging, smiling and nodding, and playing nice. 

I’ve observed this trend, specifically in the pool, on more than one occasion. I’ve observed this at community ponds/lakes where sometimes there is a lifeguard on duty, and sometimes not. It’s probably a visible trend on the playground too, but I haven’t specifically noticed that. There seems to be something about pool play, where maybe because of the heightened danger, that people seem to be more respectful. Maybe it’s just our local pool that is walking distance to our house?

I don’t know what the answer is to my observable trend. But, on this day, this full moon, lunar eclipse Friday, I wanted to acknowledge how easy people were at being kind. And, I’d like to invite you to pass it along. Remember, kindness is free, so give it away. 

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Mulch Mulch Mulch

Apparently people like mulch!  This blog has seen a steady increase in hits since I posted the ‘free mulch’ tidbits several weeks ago.  So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to preach to the choir about some mulch benefits:

  • Mulch keeps the soil warmer
  • Mulch retains more water
  • Enough mulch naturally squelches weeds
  • Mulch adds more nutrients to soil, especially compacted soil
  • By adding more nutrients, mulch helps attract beneficial creepy crawlies – like worms & bugs
  • Worms & bugs help aerate the soil, making it less compacted
  • Less compacted soil is better for growing things
  • When we have things growing in our yards, we attract beneficial insects
  • Bees are beneficial insects/pollinators
  • We would do well to attract bees
  • So mulch, mulch, mulch!

That’s all for now folks!

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The Urban Homestead

A lot dealing with sustainability answers the question, “How can I do for myself?” A major component of sustainability is keeping things local, and what’s more local than supplying for yourself from your place on this earth? Whether it be an apartment, a small house with a small yard, or a farmhouse, a new book breaks it down in simple ideas for the Average American.

The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficiency (review and blog) examines this question in a simple, easy-to-read format. It’s what we did with the Tolman Guide, it but makes the techy stuff easier to swallow. In The Urban Homestead you will find easy to understand tips for making your own cleaning products, how-to-compost and what to look for, and even a lengthy section on fermentation and storing food.

I will admit, I was a bit envious when I read it. The thought, “We did this first!” kept screaming through my head. But, they did it in a manner that’s easier to understand, and they hit many highlights of living in the city.

A must-read for any person who wants to live closer to the land in the city.

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A word about soil

There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about soil, what makes good soil, and why urban soil is so different than rural soil. First, it’s important to understand the components of soil and how healthy soil differs from soil in the built environment. Second, we need to know what an impervious surface is and how it differs from pervious surfaces. Third, we can now make the connections to urban environments and the importance of public transportation.

Healthy Soil

What does healthy soil look like? Healthy soil is full of microbial action and drainage. Healthy soil has bugs and worms that tunnel through allowing plants to breath underground and giving water a place to go. Healthy soil with healthy vegetation soaks up water from rain or other water events and draws it down first into their root systems and then further filters water down to the water table, eventually replenishing ground water supplies.

Impervious Surfaces and Why They Are Bad

Impervious surfaces prevent water from adequately soaking into the ground. Impervious surfaces can be compacted soil (urban soil), pavement, asphalt, housing with standard roofs, or even grass. Anything that prevents water from properly filtering into the soil to nourish plants and animals that live below the ground is an impervious surface.

“A raindrop is like a miniature water bomb: it hits the ground at 20 miles per hour. When raindrops hit bare soil, water can splash soil up to 6 feet away, carry particles away, and drop sediment into drainageways. Wind also dislodges, moves, and transports soil particles. We need that topsoil; it nourishes our food and allows us to live, but it can take almost 1,000 years to be created (Oregon Association of Conservation Districts 2007). In Portland specifically, composted soil can be made in a week (Plantea 1998).” [As quoted in The Tolman Guide to Green Living in Portland, first page Soil Section.]

Additionally, living in places with a lot of impervious surfaces makes that place more vulnerable to floods. When watersheds are prevented from doing their job, managing water naturally, floods are a bigger risk. The water from water events still needs to find someplace to go, and with impervious surfaces that place is usually a parking lot, which leads to the street and sidewalk, or even your basement.

Linking It Back to Place

I live in an urban environment, so it’s important for me to be aware of how my actions affect the environment around me. Likewise, when we learn how we can live in our urban environment full of compacted soil and impervious surfaces, we have more knowledge to make better choices. If, for example, we rely on public transit more than our personal cars, we lessen demand on the roads. Each bus here in Portland helps keep about 256 cars off the road. Imagine 1 bus for every 250 cars and think of how much less air pollution and ground pollution we would have if we improved that ratio. Now, consider what would happen when we plant with native plants in our yards, we use natural methods to help water go where it needs to go – in the ground, further reducing risk of flood and improving the environment in which we live.

I hope this basic run-through of why healthy soil is important helps with our general understanding of how place has a direct affect on our local ecology. Please email me with questions, further reading, or any thing else!