Composting Yet?

My brother and I were talking on the phone the other day and he mentioned the leaves in his yard. He was going to take them to a friend’s house and dump them there.

“Start a compost pile,” I told him, for the millionth time. I try to persuade everybody to do it, but usually get few takers.

“Seriously, the leaves are good material and no one will even notice,” I said. He said he would think about it. Lol. Damn right he will cuz I’ll keep bringing it up.

So, while there is all this lovely organic matter just laying all over the place, pick a spot, rake a heap, add some rotten food and boom, baby, you’re a composter.

Let me know how it goes 🙂

Remember Me

Hopefully, you do. If not, that’s okay, too. I have been suffering lately from a rare form of Post Partum Depression – something that I thought I had under control. But, looking back on things and the manic writing I was doing (the climate crisis has traumatized me because I am concerned for the futures of our children), I was sick. I am healing by following the advice of medical professionals and will not be sharing every step of the journey.

I did not want anyone to think that I had forgotten them, so this is just a note of “Hey, I’m still here,” for some of you. I hope you have all been taking care of your flowers, yourselves, and your babies. One day soon we will be sharing lots more stories – and all of them will be beautiful, full of hope, laughter, nature, and that bittersweet twang of truth.

The Next Morning

Did you cry after? Nah, I never do. I need nicotine, though. And the blackest coffee you can make.

The only thing that can make me really cry is writing what I’ve just been keeping. Keeping for what? For who? Because why?

You won’t like all that I have to say. So, I’ll get back on the road. All a man wants is a ‘like’ anyway. Whether you make that click or made him a sandwich.

Men have more heads to think with, but usually only listen to the one. Nah, I’m not mad. I’m just furious.

Is this about you? About him? About me? I don’t think so. Actually, I do. But does it matter? Sure as hell not – which is only a construct that’s supposedly full of fuego. Even though fire is an earthly element.

Can I be a bitch? Oh, you don’t even know. The word bitch is mine. And belongs to every feminine bulldog, woman, girl, or female runt of the litter.

You feel taken advantage of? Oh, honey, please don’t. Don’t think on those words ya dicho between the pillows.

I didn’t mislead you. And anyway, are you sure I wasn’t just thinking of flower talk?

Do I live to write? Do I write to live? Eh, that’s too philosophical. Jump out of the clouds, and come look at the real ones with me.

Alright, I’m off. To roll down the windows, to turn off the radio.

You know there’s not much of the world left. I tell you all the time.

P.S. Díos mío. Did I just challenge you? Well, are you on a different Earth? Anyone can be challenged. Only the true fighters rise to it. And only we will fix this god-damned dumpster fire of a polluted, destroyed life.

# that (Admittedly, I probably won’t. Nor really want you to. I’m just as afraid as everyone else).

Easter Eggs

So, I’ve been looking at my writing (who doesn’t read their own stuff?) and finding that I’ve got some puns and/or plays on words that I didn’t notice upon first draft, or even final edit, which never catches all of my errors (but who can pay an editor that knows their grammar well?). I’m not here to brag; some of ’em might not make sense and I might come off as estúpida (new non-native speakers of Spanish: don’t use this word. Not one native-speaker that I know has ever used it (around me) because it’s connotation is that much stronger than ours [como me han dicho]). I’ve also missed a few witty word combinations, but I hate to edit an original work. Alas, what can be done?

Well, it got me thinkin’ on post topics. Most of which I scratched. I scrap a lot of stuff. I’m always cleaning something. Easter egg. Why do they call it that? Isn’t it mostly the Swifties? Don’t put words in my mouth; I can jam to T. Swift any day, but Drake, you’ve always had me in my feelings. Ever since Best I Ever Had. (No innuendos there, I just love that man’s music). I simply don’t understand why they applaud Taylor Swift (or anyone else they apply this reference to) for leaving “Easter eggs” when it’s something that all good writers do: leave a little to the imagination, tell a suspenseful story, create some drama.

I’m not accusing anyone of anything. I watch what the celebrities do, but they live their own lives (in the same world as mine) and theirs are not something I should judge, or worry about. I just find a lot (not all) of celebrities shallow.

Sure, celebs write catchy songs, dance like hell, act better than I ever could, or know a lot about make-up, but I just want ’em all to stop arguing. Quit engaging on Twitter (the only way to beat a troll) and focus on the big problems that are only beginning to surface (like icebergs. Because no, I don’t care where you’re flying to in your private jet, or what kind of flooring you have). We’ve got a White House full of chuckle-heads, shooters at festivals, concerts, malls, schools from Florida to California, Ohio to Texas. There are people questioning other people on their whereabouts, with skin color as the only probable cause. The LGBTQ community aren’t allowed to decide who they want to like or love, and there are others that think sticking to one language is better than knowing two (or more).

You might think but Alex, you don’t know any of the answers. I don’t know ’em all but I know how to research on Google (and what makes one source fake, and another legit). You need more sources of information if you don’t believe in climate change. You need more sources of information if you aren’t aware of patriarchy and all of it’s dangers. You need more information if you think there’s only one religion, one god.

I’m disabling comments on this one, because I’m not asking for an argument. If you want a conversation, go outside and listen to the trees. Because they’re all starting to fall.

If you really want to talk about this, don’t go trash my other posts’ comment sections (I know what the trolls do). Post a response and tag me in it. #inventmyplace. I’ll read it. I have no qualms with listening to the opinions of others. And that way, you just might contribute to the discussion that’s happening all around us, rather than be stuck at home in awe and fear, confusion or rage, like I usually am. Celebrities have much louder voices than everyone else, and those of us that don’t speak make even less sound.

Pondering on a Poem

I usually don’t dabble in poetry. I don’t understand the rhythms involved and leave it to those with more…flow or something. I don’t know what it takes to write poetry, but sometimes I stand under the impossibly blue, impossibly vast sky and the Earth hums to me, tells me what to say. This probably won’t make much sense, but I didn’t think poetry had to. If you have a much better poem (let’s stick to the theme of wilderness or the outdoors), leave it in the comments.

stay with me now,

as i jump from thought to thought

the stepping stones are covered with moss

yes, it feels quite soft

the winds are in the treetops, the sky is about to fall

and if we don’t have a tomorrow

i’ll tell ya now,

i swear i loved it all

Rain, Rain, Come and Stay

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. I try to only recommend items that I personally own or have used, and hope that they serve you well also, if you do decide to buy.

If you have a garden, or even a few flower pots, you understand the importance of water. You also understand that it can get quite expensive to run the hose for a few hours each day: what many plants and gardens require. To save a few dollars, I created a rain collection system.

With some trial and error over the last two and a half years, we now have three barrels (left over from construction sites that my husband works on) full of rain water, oxygenating plants, and a dozen guppies (my goldfish never survive for several reasons).

A few months ago, I spray painted each barrel a dark green (they used to be a bright blue). It is really much more pleasing to the eye. A rain gutter empties into the top barrel, which sits on a stand that my husband made. I am still learning the basics of woodworking so don’t ask me any particulars on that design (it’s pretty simple anyway). Some plastic piping feeds the next barrels.

Only the top barrel has a nozzle; I use the other two barrels as wells and make sure to leave plenty of water for the fish. The fish are necessary for eating mosquito larvae and do not require much attention. The fish do much better with plants in the barrels because they need some source of oxygen. Hornroot is what is currently floating in my barrels.

To keep the water from stagnating, I purchased a small fountain that operates on solar power. It is completely submersible and helps keep the water crystal clear.

This water is not clear because the fountain was “missing” (thank you Sergio) for a few days. However, it’s chock full of fish fertilizer.

The water is not treated because it comes from the sky. The fish add nutrients to the water and everything goes right back into the ground. I always have plenty of free water on hand, as long as the rains are favorable. There is work involved, however, and I have a few quick tips.

  • Get a long hose, and try to use it on a slope. The water that exits the top barrel is not pressurized, so gravity is your best friend when transporting the water via a hose.
  • Use a watering can, or recycle big plastic containers like the one above (it’s an old Cheese Puff container) to carry water.
  • Empty your barrels often if you don’t have fish or a fountain yet; mosquitoes go crazy for these barrels when there are no predators to snatch them up.
  • Cover the tops with grates. Fortuna once leaped right into one, and had to be pulled out before she drowned (I was right there so no time was lost). Children also love to look into them (it is cool to see the fish!) so use supervision or make it impossible to fall in.
  • Make ’em pretty by placing pots around the bases, floating bog plants on top, hanging vines above. The barrels often overflow so any nearby plants will get water also. This year, I have been adding rocks (large, small, pretty, ugly) to the area. Invent a place around your barrels: an oasis, if you will.
  • Save lots of money by upcycling. There are wood barrels on the market that are quite expensive. If you use a little paint and some flower staging, any plastic barrel can be just as pretty. An old garbage can could work too.
  • Downspouts can be shortened or lengthened depending on your desired height of barrel. Take a look around your house and decide which downspout you would like to modify. Make sure your barrels will be in an easily-accessible place. Make sure they’re not too far from your garden; carrying water across the yard can really wear on your shoulders and back.

Collecting water is a great way to save money and give your plants some extra nutrients. If it doesn’t rain much where you are rain barrels are even more helpful. Check your city’s rules and regulations first (I have heard of laws against them so do some research in your area and especially if you live in the Southwest) and don’t start without a plan: mosquitoes are a serious problem if you don’t care for the water correctly.

However you decide to collect water will save you some money and help your plants in the end. There are so many ways to save in the garden and this is only one of them. Happy rain collecting!

This post had to be updated to fix grammatical errors and such so many times later in the day. That brings me to another tip: drink lots of water while you are bringing it to everyone else.

Washcloths Are Worth It

So, everyone is talking about replacing paper towels. I like paper towels, but use linen dishcloths more often. It’s surprising how much we have been trained to rely on paper towels. But there’s something else you should stop buying: loofahs. I am not talking about sponges that come from luffa gourds; if you can grow those, go ahead! I am referring to the balls of plastic netting that we buy every few months to use in the shower. Have you ever seen one come apart? Don’t use them. Just use washcloths. They last (some of my washcloths have been in my linen closet for years), they work (you can also use them for teething babies), and they are not made from plastic, recycled or otherwise. I use simple white washcloths, and when they become worn or particularly discolored, I switch them to the kitchen’s basket of linens. Washcloths instead of louffas is a simple change, and keeps plastic out of our oceans and landfills.

Composting with Critters

If you read my posts on composting, you might think: “So, you have a big pile of food in your backyard, and a smaller pile of dog shit?” Yes, I do. I have seen some passerby look at it, too. But I don’t care. Call the city. I would fight them on this. I would even throw food in my yard right in front of you, if it came to it. Also, the piles are separate. There are so many good reasons to compost, but I don’t get paid to do research, so I won’t list them here.

The dog shit pile is getting much smaller because we only have one dog now. This dog, our thirteen-year-old Westie, is a crazy dog, and I wouldn’t recommend the breed to first-time dog owners.

He barks incessantly, especially if we aren’t following the “rules” of the house. It’s my house, but my mom lives here and so, in the mind of her faithful companion, her rules are to govern. (He WILL bite you for horseplay, even me, his favorite).

He, his name is Joey, disappears occasionally, to be found on the front doorstep. “What a good boy!” we exclaim. We praise his achievement, only to find later that he was gone for hours. Much later we find that he was playing at a local football practice, wandering around the vet’s office, or (about two years ago) impregnating the female dog of a neighbor. We had a good laugh with Roger (the neighbor) and good homes were found for the puppies.

Joey also has a problem with…overeating and throwing up? I don’t think it’s bloat related (something that I have researched, and that you can find here on the AKC website) because he has done it throughout his life and survives. We always fed our dogs separately, as a way to combat this, but he continues to do it. We joke that he is bulimic, but it’s really not funny (for either species). Well, since I started the pile of food in the backyard, Joey has had a problem.

Joey won’t stay out of that damn, rotting food. I don’t care what it is, he’s out there in it. He, like most dogs, stays away from the dog poop, but he just can’t help himself with the leftovers and has had several tummy aches over the last few years. It really worries us, as it probably should. I rub Joey’s stomach, pat his back, and try to get him to burp before he vomits. This has helped in the past, but doesn’t always.

Also, I noticed a small skunk rounding the corner of our shed the other night. Joey and I were on the screened porch, the door locked. Joey didn’t see it, so there was no problem. I love skunks and leave them to their own devices. Joey loves them too, but they’re not allowed to fraternize.

My point is this: dogs and compost don’t mix. In addition, expect other animals around the pile. The birds love compost, as well as chipmunks, squirrels, skunks apparently, and who knows what else? I suspect a coyote has come around once or twice and I don’t even want to mess with the raccoons. I need an inventive solution and I suspect some chicken wire will do the trick. I don’t want to keep the birds from their feast, however. The raccoons will probably be able to tear down whatever I devise, and the coyotes can just stay away. My main priority is Joey, who is aging and eats just fine inside.

Watch your dogs around piles of rotting food. They shouldn’t eat it for the same reasons we shouldn’t. And fights around the pile aren’t safe either (I didn’t even talk about wild cats, one of which injured Joey’s eye a couple years ago). Dogs are pretty tough, but if you do suspect something off-limits has been eaten, take a list (mental or physical) of recent compost items to the vet with you. Check out the information from the AKC website about bloat, a serious condition that I have never witnessed but have often heard stories. Watch for bloat in all of your bigger dogs, as the AKC article states, and in dogs that tend to eat quickly. Please don’t allow your dogs to eat items that are not compostable: such as plastic bags, candy wrappers, other trash that ends up in the pile, or anything containing residues of chemicals or poison.

IMPORTANT: COOKED BONES DO NOT GO IN THE COMPOST PILE. Cooked bones can shatter within the body of the animal that ate them. Please dispose of these in the garbage. Other than supervising your dog around unsuitable food waste, composting with dogs and other animals around should go off without a hitch.

Lemonade Without the Plastic, Please

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. I try to only recommend items that I personally own or have used, and hope that they serve you well also, if you do decide to buy.

I love you, Simply Limeade, but I don’t know what to do with the plastic bottles that contain your citric concoction. I have used the bottles as watering cans, but inevitably I throw them away because they’re not the most visually appealing garden accessory. This irks me, because I am concerned with stretching the lifespan of all plastic that enters my home (I paint old jars or coffee canisters to use as miscellaneous receptacles, cart compost to the pile in single-use plastic containers, and let my son use old shampoo bottles to practice ‘pouring’ and ‘dumping’ skills).

A few weeks ago, my husband suggested we make limeade the ‘real’ way, by squeezing our own limes and adding the juice to water with some sugar. I shrugged my assent, and gathered supplies. Lime and lemon are reversed in English and Spanish. Lime is limón and lemon is lima. Limonada is a beverage made from either, but my husband is usually referring to limes. When in doubt, you can always use colors to describe the correct fruit (amarillo vs. verde). So, I asked my husband to run for a bag of each, interested in trying homemade limeade and lemonade. When my husband returned with one of those mesh bags (made from plastic, I fear) of limes, I decided that I would find a way to make the beverages without touching a single plastic bottle or bag.

This may seem an obvious way of making lemonade, but as a millennial, I have been trained to search for the cheapest, most convenient options when grocery-shopping for my family. This often means that I buy food wrapped in plastic packaging. That’s all there is anymore. These days, we have to seriously commit to leaving the plastic behind. I am doing this in small ways, one change at a time. Limeade without plastic is my most recent exciting discovery on my way to a sustainable life. I am inventing my own solutions.

What You Will Need

  1. In order for this recipe to matter as an alternative to plastics, some items are necessary. I have a plastic pitcher, but I stopped using it when my mother brought home an authentic, Blenko glass water pitcher. It is a beautiful green, pictured right. I am lucky to have received this gift, but other glass pitchers are easily found. This pitcher is what inspired me to continue my green-living journey with ambition.
  2. Gathering the limes yourself, and placing them into a reusable, preferably cotton or canvas, sack eliminates the need for those plastic, pull-down bags at the store (My worst enemy. I despise to see them on my counter). I found sustainable options on Amazon.
  3. Visit your local co-op to find vegetables and fruit that are not trucked from miles away to your nearest Walmart. I have yet to see limes or lemons at the co-op where I live, but you never know who is growing what. If you have a bright green thumb, and maybe a greenhouse, you just might be able to grow your own in a few years (My lemon tree experiment failed horribly).
  4. None of the utensils pictured are made from plastic, except the lemon squeezer. However, I’ll cut the contraption some slack because, without it, I’d be squeezing limes and lemons all day. It’s not single-use either, so it’s okay.
  5. Keep a large glass or ceramic bowl around for the spent limes. This can go to your compost pile, where they avoid the plastic bag of the garbage can.

Some Tips on Selecting and Squeezing los Limones

  • Look for limes with smooth skin. The smaller the ‘pores’ appear to be, the better. My husband, a connoisseur of cerveza and tequila, knows quite a bit about limes, and has relayed this information to me.
  • Wash the limes beforehand. I always wash what I am about to cut into because bacteria (and probably insecticides or preservatives) can be transferred to the inside by way of the knife.
  • Roll those little green limes around your cutting board before halving and squeezing. This helps loosen the juice, I guess.
  • Squeeze the limes cut-side down in the juicer. You can use any method here, however.

The Amounts

  • About one pound and a half of limes (or lemons), you may have to gauge this
  • One cup of sugar (you can control this, too)
  • Two cups of freshly squeezed lime juice (any more and you might cauterize your mouth)
  • As much ice and cold water as you’d like (pro tip: don’t use bottled water. Remember, stay away from the plastics by using tap water or a water filtration system) This pitcher holds about 2 liters of liquid. It doesn’t have measurements so I have to guess. If something seems off, simply change your amounts and try again
I even use a wooden spoon. See ya, plastic

As for freshness, the sooner you drink it the better, but its great taste has lasted in my fridge for about two days. Other drink recipes are possible, so be on the look-out for ways to use glass pitchers, cotton sacks, etc.!