Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Got Gas?

Is the price of gasoline ever going to stabilize again? Without getting into a political rant here (because I did that shortly after 9-11 and it didn't do any good), I'll stick to the environmental issues. For nearly 100 years, Americans have enjoyed relatively cheap oil and as our dependence grew and our air became more polluted, our government did nothing to stem the tide - and we did nothing in protest.
Now the planet is in trouble and so are we.
I tried combining trips when we lived in the city. Since we've moved here to the Ozarks, we've been forced to this. When we make a 12 mile, 40 minute trek to town, it's for more than a 1/2 gallon of milk or a dozen eggs (I ran out the other day while baking a cake and improvised).
My husband does most of the errands for us while he's in town during the day working. For example, I just got several packages ready to mail this morning and he took them with him. He'll either go to the post office up the street from where he works at lunch or after work. In the city, I probably would have procrastinated and ran into the post office (it was a 10 minute trip) myself.
This way saves us gas, saves the environment and saves me most what I have too little of - time.
Where can you, or have you, been combining trips?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Upsetting the Ecosystem

It doesn't surprise me, but it does sadden me that the city of Leawood,Kansas, one of the cities that makes up the Greater Kansas City Metro, has decided to take the easy way out and not the problem solving way to tackle the problem of coyotes in their neighborhoods by trapping and killing them:
I love pets. I've always had dogs and cats. Right now, we have four dogs who are our children. Two of them, Emma and Sade are big enough and strong enough to be out in the woods here alone. While I would rather they not go cruising, keeping two big dogs in a "yard" with no fence is impossible. We joke they have taken up with the "wrong crowd" and run with the coyotes each evening when they disappear. The two little ones, Dakota and Molly, are way too small to roam with their big sisters. During the times Dakota has broken from us and roamed the woods, its been a nerve wracking ordeal until she decides to wander back home. A coyote could have her for a snack and we would be lucky to find her collar. We're diligent about watching them and making sure we know what's around us when we take them outside. Coyotes are a smart lot and can learn routines and lay in wait.
I understand we chose this life, where we know wildlife roams, unlike people in the burbs, who think that being with nature means sitting on their deck. I was raised in the suburbs and have lived there most of my life, I know how out of touch these people are with their natural surroundings, because I was one of them. I wouldn't be happy myself if I had to worry about coyotes jumping the fence of my $500,000 home and killing my dog. However, I think it's time we humans take responsibility for encroaching on the natural habitat of these creatures as well, and that doesn't mean killing anything that doesn't mix with our view of the perfect suburban life.
For years, we've been poisoning our lawns with pesticides and weed killers, not worrying that the run off has to go to water sources "someplace." We use water to keep these lawns immaculate and fill our pools, not worrying at all that someday, we might not have a clean source of water.
Leawood's reasoning for killing the coyotes after they're captured in live traps is that they will become problems for someone else. Sure, if they're simply taken to another neighborhood. But what do they think is going to happen even if this entire pack is caught and killed? In a few weeks, months or maybe even a year, another pack, ran out of their natural habitat by development, will enter their clean streets once again. So, it doesn't solve the problem even for their residents, it just stalls it for a time.
And, hey, Leawood, here's a newsflash: Not everyone lives in the burbs. There is such a thing as the country, and there are a few places left where coyotes, and other wild animals are still honored as part of the eco-system. Here, and in other places, they control the population of wood rats and other rodents. They act as our garbage disposals and feast on carcasses, keeping our environment clean.
Why not focus on enforcing your own leash laws. If cats are disappearing, it's a horrible thing, but what are cats doing roaming the streets of Leawood anyway? If small dogs are being attacked, why don't you advise residents to watch their dogs while they're outside, as we do? Capture the coyotes live, and relocate them, not to where they will be trouble for someone else, but where they can live a natural life, either someplace where there isn't development, or in areas where people expect animals to be a part of our earth.
There's still places like that outside of your perfect, weed free little world.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

There's a Fungus Amoung Us

I've lost one planter of spinach and green onions, thanks to my dog, who dug them up. And now the wet spring we've had are threatening my mid-summer harvest of tomatoes. There's a fungus on the leaves and we don't have much of a choice of fungicides here. My husband bought one that a friend of mine said was banned in her state because it was shown to be too harmful when applied to vegetables.
So why is the same thing available in Arkansas? If it's too toxic for people in Pennsylvania, wouldn't it not be toxic to people here?
I will buy a bottle marked "Good for organic gardening," but it makes me wonder.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More Severe Weather

While we were in downtown Springfield on Saturday night, we got a little nervous when a large party seated at another table in a Japanese restaurant started talking about a tornado someplace. We knew we were safe, but our house and dogs and pet nanny were back in Arkansas. After watching the news, we learned the tornado hit another section of Missouri, not far from where we were in Springfield.
When I awoke in the middle of the night, on the 9th floor of our hotel, I was once again sent into a little panic to find we had lost power. Although it had been off for nearly two hours, it quickly came back on and I relaxed again.
And then the next morning we learned that our pet nanny had been without power to the house since the night before due to the severe wind.
Last night, another tornado watch.
This is how it's been for us since February 3rd, when the first round of severe weather and tornadoes cut a wide path of destruction in Gassville, just about 18 miles from our home.
Weather forecasters can't seem to agree. El Nina? Global warming? And some simply say there is no explanation.
I'm of the personal opinion that it is something we've done to the earth and to the atmosphere. Our earth is warning us, and we're just not getting the message.

Monday, May 12, 2008

That Crazy Rabbit

One of the things I couldn't wait to do once I got here was plant a vegetable garden. Well, things have been a little crazy since Dale joined me last October. This rocky terrain is not good for gardens of any kind and most gardens have to be built up and we coulnd't find anything that compares with rich Kansas top soil. Besides, I wanted to make sure I kept the rabbits, armadillos, deer and anything else that wanted to eat the fruits of my labor - away. I just decided to plant a container garden. I did some online research and everything I wanted this year - tomatoes, radishes, green onion and cucumber could be done in a container garden. All my seeds did well, but for the tomatoes and I ended up buying some plants. Since their planting, they've done very well - my husband thinks the tomatoes are growing by the day.
And then comes Mr. or Mrs. Rabbit. Hop, hop, hop up onto the deck - even with the threat of the dogs. Me and the dogs heard him twice and my husband caught him once. We've since taken to blocking the deck off with a pet gate, but I need more of a guarantee that I won't wake up one morning to a munched-out disaster. I mean, I told my husband not to spray the clover near the house with weed killer, for heaven's sake. Why can't the rabbit be happy with that!?
Back in the burbs, I used an environmentally safe product called "Deer Off," a mixture of hot red pepper, to keep the squirrels from my flowers. But not knowing how that might affect the taste of veggies, I think I'll see if something I heard about human hair might work:
Take some hair clippings and put them into a mesh or net cloth material, and tie it to the garden fence surrounding the veggies. Word is that the human scent repels wild animals.
I'll give it a shot - it's better than shooting the rabbit.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Green Lawns

When the FedEx lady brought a package to my home yesterday, she petted my dogs as she usually does and commented on their ticks. I told her we tried to get rid of them using any means possible, finally resorting to a topical treatment. It didn't work, but I told her we are trying another. I don't like putting poison on my dogs skin, but I don't like living with the fear of them - or us - developing a tick borne illness either.
She then said she used some different type of granuals on the ground. I told her that wouldn't work here, because the dogs are picking up ticks outside of our yard, in the woods. "Besides," I said."I wouldn't want that stuff to run into the ground water that feeds our well."
Sometimes, like my mom always said, the cure's side effects are worse than the disease.
I bought some all natural spray and if my husband ever gets it down, we can see if it works. He doubts it. But I'll also know we're not polluting the ground water or the lake with poisons either.
For you suburbanites, I received a press release on an environmentally friendly lawn care service that is also working to offset its carbon footprint:

Monday, May 05, 2008

Eco-Friendly Cleaners

As I've mentioed before, living in the country gets you to thinking a little bit more about where your water comes from - and where the waste water is going - and what it contains when it leaves.
For as long as I can remember, we've always used bleach to clean our toilets and wash our whites. I've been doing that since moving here, but it's time to change. Not only is bleach bad for the environment, no matter where you're at, it kills the good bacteria in the septic tank as well.
I haven't finished my research yet, but here's a website with some environmentally friendly cleaning products.
Do you use something besides bleach to clean and whiten your clothes? Tell me about it.