Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nay Sayers and Other Mean People

With Earth Day just finishing, I've been in contact with a lot more of my Eco community than other times of the year. I think we get busier and reach out more this time of year knowing a few more people will be seeking information as the media puts the environment in the spot light.

The one topic that seemed to come up often was Hypocrisy and other attacks on our choices. I was invited to speak to a local group working on sustainable issues recently and had decided that would be one of my speaking points, that same week I saw 2 different posts from other bloggers talking about being called a hypocrite.

I'm not sure why people think you have to achieve perfection when you are working toward a goal. The one thing I've learned on my journey to live more gently on the planet is it's hard to not only get to 100% sustainable, zero emissions or what ever your goal may be, but it's also very hard to know how to achieve it. There is so much conflicting info, so many things to consider that we all have to set our priorities and be realistic.

One problem I've run into time and again is feeling like I have to defend my choices. I was asked if I considered myself a hypocrite because I have a freezer and a second refrigerator in my garage. I felt I had to justify that 90% of my energy comes from my solar panels and I have a side of grass fed beef from a farm 40 miles from my home in the freezer and I need the fridge to store my abundant harvest from my garden sometimes because I don't always have time to preserve the produce the day it needs to be picked, well that and it's great to have space to store more beer in the summer. I've had family members get down right hostile about my choices, basically calling them a fad and that the things I believe are not only irrelevant, but I can't have any impact so why bother.

My latest attack came today. I'd just finished an awesome bike ride and conquered some new big hills and was on top of the world. We were working in the yard and I heard the door bell. It was animal control, my first thought was someone turned in my dogs for barking, and I got ready to let her know it isn't my dogs, but the ones next door that start at 5 am or the people behind her that bard about 10 hours a day. She said I was told you have chickens. My heart sunk, my head started to race. I know I had looked up all the ordinances and made sure I was in compliance with all of them. I'd even talked with my neighbors, one was concerned the hens would get over the fence, so I fully enclosed their yard so that wouldn't be an issue, I couldn't imagine why she was there. I asked was I supposed to get a permit or license them? She said no, and that they are only allowed in certain areas of the city. I told her I didn't see any mention of that in the code. She asked if they were 20' from each fence line? I told her yes and she's welcome to measure. She then told me it was a complaint about the smell. I was instantly pissed. My chickens haven't had enough time to create a smell. This was an attack on my choice to legally own an animal. I was trying so hard not to show the anger welling up inside of me. She followed me into my back yard and was surprised out how much space my suburban lot has, I took her through the dog run, which if anything smells in my yard it would be that area, no smell today thankfully. She asked if I had any roosters, I told her we won't know till the end of summer and I know I can't keep it if any of my flock is male. She gave my coop and my yard a good looking over and she said she couldn't smell any odor, she couldn't even see any signs of chicken poo and not only do I appear to be in compliance, but my coop is cute. I was so relieved, but still upset that someone would turn me in on a false claim. She asked for my full name and phone number and said she would put a note in my file in case there are any future claims.

I could go on and on about all the noise and other pet violations my neighbors have and the thought of starting a war crossed my mind. I still may take some sort of action, I was considering a huge sign in my backyard that could say something like, I have the right, I am in compliance and you need to just get over it, with probably some name calling too. I may write a nice letter explaining that I got the visit I'm in compliance, I have the right and if they ever have a real problem knock on my door and I will address it. I'll give myself a few days to cool off before I do anything.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting back on track

I'll admit I can really be on the lazy side, I'm the queen of procrastination. I'm so easily distracted and get side tracked way too much. When I was younger I was so much better at tackling many things at once and doing well at all of them. I'm going to but the blame on parenthood, some how putting the boys priorities over mine, made it really hard to focus on what I need to do. At least that's what I'm telling myself so I don't have to consider it may be hormones, age or personality defect.

There is so much that I want to do and accomplish, but I have to keep my goals  realistic for me, and keep myself focused on just a few things at a time. With so many things distracting me over the past few months, I'm finally getting back on track. I have set my goals and made plans to reach them. Here's a list of the big ones.

  • Get my veggie garden installed and grow lots of food
  • Train for Climate Ride enough that I'm not walking all the hills and taking SAG to the rest stops
  • Learn to make yogurt and bread at home
  • Make more meals at home and do better at following my food ethics
  • Accept more invitations to do fun things with friends
  • Invite friends over more often
  • Find new volunteer opportunities
  • Write to my elected officials often
I finally feel like I'm actually training for the ride, I'm already over 200 miles for this month and have been doing a little climbing. Now that I understand a little more about climbing, instead of looking at total elevation gain look at feet of gain per mile. My worst day for the Climate ride is just over 70' per mile and I've already done one ride that was 50 miles and over 55' per mile. I'm slowly being introduced to all the epic hills in my area one by one. Some are tougher than others. I'm finding I can do a long gradual hill with out too much trouble, it's when they suddenly change to a steep pitch that I sometimes have to stop. I found it very convenient that the 2 hills I had to walk Costco hill and Oak Leaf were on the 2 rides my hubby set up for me, but was unable to ride with me because he broke his pelvis. I'm also learning a lot about what to put into my body on a long ride. I was unable to finish the final 15 miles of Party Pardee because I didn't fuel well. On the other hand I did surprisingly well on the hottest day of the year thanks to my new love Hammer Fizz tablets. It's also getting easier to not talk myself out of rides when the weather isn't great.

My garden is starting to take shape, we have tilled the new large bed and I'm in the process of putting a boarder on it so I can add several inches of compost. According to my soil analysis I need to add 7 yds of compost for every 100 sf over the course of this year. I have one 4'x6' bed planted with carrots and beets. My large 3'x40' is ready to plant, just waiting to get the trellis installed before I start my beans there. I have 2 smaller beds that need to be tilled and one needs a trellis for the cucumbers. I've had mixed results with my seed starts. As usual all the squash seem to be doing amazing. My peppers are just starting to set their real leaves. The tomatoes seemed to have stalled, I've been advised I may have been over watering, so I've cut back and hope they will recover. My cucumbers are catching up with the squash and have been the fastest growing plant so far. I think I may have over heated my flowers and herbs, so I'll give them a few more days and reseed the pots to see if I can get them to sprout. I've also added some enzymes to the pool area in an attempt to help break down all the roots in hopes to be able to plant there later in the year. I have potatoes growing in a few locations and they seem to be thriving. I just hope I'm able to harvest the ones in the pool bed, I'm worried the roots may make it difficult.

On the cooking front, I've been feeding my family crap lately. I have made a few loaves of bread that were pretty tasty. Still working to find the recipe that will be my standard. I attempted to make a sour dough started without success, I will research and try again. I made my first batch of yogurt, at last something very easy to do. The only thing I have to worry about is forgetting about the hot milk while it's cooling. I was worried that plain yogurt wouldn't go over very well, but both my guys said it was good and have found something to mix into it for a little sweetness. I'm now on a mission to use up things in the freezer in preparation for the summer harvest. The next few weeks could be interesting.

Last weekend the Utility Exploration Center where I've volunteered for the past 4 years had their 5th annual Celebrate the Earth Festival. This is my 4th time at this event and it just keeps getting bigger and better every year. I've been a volunteer and student in the Green Gardener program for the past few weeks and have a few more to go. This is a wonderful program that has been adapted from the professional program which was created by our local water resource boards. I'm learning so much. I've signed up to be considered for the Master Gardener program which is a 16 week workshop that will start in Jan. I'll find out in Sept. if I've been selected. I was recently asked to give a 10 minute presentation to a wonderful group I didn't know existed, Placer Sustain, this is a rather impressive group of individuals and business owners who are getting together to try to create a more sustainable community.

I've had plenty of opportunities to spend social time with friends, my cycling friends know all the great places to eat in our area. I'm loving spending time with friends and trying new restaurants.

I think now that the weather is being a bit more cooperative I'll be making greater progress toward my goals and having fun along the way.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Season of Distractions

I really did plan on writing more often, but it seems there is always something else going on. This winter was filled with distractions, family tragedy, family drama, projects gone wrong, injuries and bad weather just to name a few. I don't want to dwell on the negative so I'll skip all the family stuff and move on to the other stuff.

My food forest project was derailed by poor planning and a budget. Instead of doing what I knew I should have done, which is have the company put pen to paper, I let them start work and was shocked when I got the bill and so little was accomplished. Yet, I continued on this path until my funds ran dry. So, for more money than I want to admit, I now have a plant free yard. Unfortunately the area where I intended to plant all my vines and trees is so root bound planting is out of the question for this year, so that will be looked at again in the fall. I decided to go another direction and hired a wonderful lady from a company called Peas and Harmony, I met her and her partner when they were giving a class on permaculture and after a few hours of consultation and more money I now have a 3 season multi-year vegetable garden plan for my raised bed area which will ultimately be moving from raised beds and go directly into the soil. I'm happy to say I now have some food growing in the yard, I was able to put in a bed of root veggies in 1 large bed and several varieties of potatoes in various other areas that won't be planted until the fall at the earliest. I've also started several hundred seeds indoors in an attempt to save some money and not have to buy plants this year. I have over 100 tomatoes, lots of bell peppers, some celery, chard, pumpkins, several varieties of melons, and zucchini that were started a few weeks ago and some are already in need of transplanting. This week I started cucumbers, herbs, green onions and companion flowers. So far, all look to be doing well. I have hope.

I got my chickens a little sooner than I planned, good thing I got the coop built last fall. We set up a web cam so I could watch them and it took pictures of them. They are so much fun to watch and they all have names. The Rhode Island Red is Helen, because from the beginning she was the bravest, she's named after our good friend Helen who is crazy when it comes to her running and cycling. My sister Belinda got to name one Betty Lou, she chose the Americauna. Jacob, my son who's taken Russian History named the 2 Wyandottes, so the Gold is Anastasia and the Silver is Natassia. I named the Black Astralorpe Henny Penny, because we always had one in our flock when I was a child. They stayed in the shower of our downstairs bathroom for about 6 weeks and just recently moved into their coop. They really seem to like it and it only took a few days for them to figure out how to get themselves in without my help. The first day was like a slapstick comedy, I'd put one in and turn around to grab another and the first one would have jumped back out. I had to close the door behind each one which was a challenge, since they are getting so big.

On the food front I decided this year I will master bread and start making my own yogurt. The yogurt was easy, mostly had to buy the machine and heat milk, mix in culture and pour. So far no one has tried it, I guess I should have mixed in fruit. I'll make them eat some this weekend. I made the first loaf of bread in my machine and baked it in the oven. It came out good, but I'll experiment with recipes to see which ones I'll be making on a regular basis. I started my cultures for sour dough, it will be at least a week before I know if it works.

Now for cycling. The weather has just been so unpredictable it has been hard for me to ride. I am definitely riding more than last year, but not as much as I'd like. Jan = 41 miles, Feb = 138 miles, Mar = 184 miles. I'm definitely getting more climbing in, I was averaging 39' per mile in March. With 2 rides this month I'm at 50' per mile. I did my first organized ride for the year, Party Pardee it's a metric century, but I stopped at the last rest stop at mile 50 and took SAG back to the start. I hadn't been fueling well and was concerned on the major hill that was coming up, I'm OK with walking it, but I worried about the descent. I'm also picking up speed on the descent, I got up to 36 mph on the Pardee ride. I owe that to my wonderful hubby who did all kinds of upgrades to my bike. The most important was new wheels since my stock ones weren't true and would pulse when I hit the brakes, it was too scary to allow myself to pick up too much speed. I've joined a few more cycling groups and I'm starting to connect with lots of women who are available to ride during the week which is perfect for me. This is also a good thing since my Dear Hubby will be starting his Death Ride training and will be leaving me in the dust soon.