First Snow and Zero Waste Update

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the end of gardening season

Today brought the first snow of the season. No, it is not much snow, and it will not stick, but it has effectively brought an end to the growing season for the year. Wednesday James and I hurried around the garden picking all the tomatoes, even the green ones, all the green beans, even the little ones, gathering herbs to dry, and clipping the amaranth flowers to dry.

We also dug up the sweet potato and what do you know, there were actually potatoes there! They were no bigger than my thumb, but I am emboldened to try again next year. I need to locate the plant in a warmer part of the garden I think, and not necessarily next to the regular potatoes. Since the Dashwoods love potatoes, we thought we would let them have the little sweet potatoes but they couldn’t care less. They eyed them suspiciously, took a peck, and then ignored them. Very likely a lucky squirrel came along and ate them.

When the rain and snow move out after Sunday and the ground dries a little, we will be able to dig sunchokes and horseradish. There are also still carrots to pull. And, we managed to save three pepita pumpkins from the squirrels! They are not ripe yet, but we can pick them and bring them inside where they will be safe until they ripen.

Last weekend I planted garlic. The Dashwoods were their usual helpful selves. They did not care about the garlic, they were interested in what my trowel might uncover when I dug a hole to put a clove in. There were a few surprised earthworms and some other critters I couldn’t determine because a quick and hungry chicken obscured my view. I very quickly covered over the dug ground with row cover fabric and anchored it down well. The Dashwoods walk across the fabric but don’t try to scratch on it, and it managed to keep the curious squirrels at bay. Last year we weren’t so careful and had to replant many of the cloves more than once, which might explain why the garlic didn’t do that well this year.

We watched a fantastic movie last night, The Need to Grow. It has won a number of film festival awards and is currently free online for another day or two. It follows three different people. One is an urban farmer in Los Angeles who has discovered a method for growing organic food in vertical containers and in “socks” using less water and fewer resources than regular farming on “scrap” land.

Another is seven-year-old Alicia, a Girl Scout, who lobbied the Girl Scout organization for years to make GMO-free cookies. She collected 45,000 signatures and went to New York to deliver them to the Girl Scout president. She got the royal run around and was only able to give the petition to the unlucky admin person who was sent down to the lobby to face a tearful little girl. Three years later, the Girls Scouts did begin producing GMO-free cookies but never acknowledged Alicia’s efforts. In the mean time, Alicia had gone on to start seed libraries at her school and another nearby school.

The third person, a genius physicist, developed a closed-loop energy creation and carbon capture process in Montana. In partnership with a lumber company, the Green Power House is fueled by waste lumber. The lumber is turned into biochar and the heat from the process is used in algae aqua-culture. The algae is then combined with the biochar to create an incredibly nutrient dense soil amendment. The excess heat from the process is used to power 100 nearby homes. And the methane created by the algae is used to power the the biochar creation process. It is one of the most beautiful and amazing things I have ever seen!

Watch the movie if you get the chance! It will make you feel good.

On the zero waste front, James and I continue to do really well. We have plucked all the low hanging fruit so to speak and have ventured deeper into creating a zero waste life rather than solely zero waste grocery shopping. A couple weekends ago we finally had time to go to Tare Market, a zero waste store that opened near our house in the spring. It’s a small store but they have a lot of things in there!

James didn’t like my homemade lip balm and he discovered a vegan lip balm in a cardboard tube the size of a roll of quarters. He really likes it. It is made by a company called Meow Meow Tweet who will likely be the solution to my non-mineral, plastic tubed sunscreen come spring. I like my homemade version so I’l be staying with that.

I did, however, walk out with a two-tiered stainless steel tiffin. I have been taking salads to work in a pyrex bowl that had a plastic lid. But the lid is breaking on the edges and upon arriving by bike to work one morning I found part of my salad in the bottom of my backpack. The tiffin has turned out to be amazing! I only need one tier for a salad and it is lightweight, easy to carry, and leak-proof. It will pretty much last forever. I love it!

We didn’t need anything else, but we discovered they carry our bamboo toilet paper as well as the bamboo toothbrushes we have started buying. They have bulk lotions and laundry soap, some dry goods like beans, whole grains, spices and teas, along with bags and brushes and all sorts of other things that don’t come wrapped in plastic, are not themselves plastic, and are either 100% compostable or recyclable. And For a rainy Sunday afternoon, the place was busy!

One more exciting thing to tell you about. Because we have so much less trash, our under the kitchen sink 20-gallon sized garbage bin was too big. We downsized and up-cycled a one-gallon plant pot that belonged to a shrub we bought for the garden in the spring. It takes us about 1 1/2 to 2 weeks to fill it with enough trash to take out for pick up by the city garbage collectors.

And yes, sometimes it is hard to pass up the convenience offered by plastic and things encased in plastic packaging. We are not perfect and now and then we give in or don’t do our research and buy something online to discover when it is delivered that is its wrapped in layers of plastic. But we keep trying and we keep learning. And it feels pretty great because I know there are others out there learning and trying too and it adds up. Together we make a difference.