Gail of Green Living

Knollwood Water Main Breaks

Because of our extended drought in Southeastern Texas, there have been an unusual number of water main breaks.  I think the City of Houston was repairing 100/day and the backlog was 900, and they decided to get the private sector involved.  They are working around the clock to keep water from just flowing down the drains!  Some people have purchased pumps and pumped the water out of the street gutters and on to their lawns.  Hurray for these resourceful people!

The street pictured is in my Knollwood neighborhood and I think there were at least three breaks in this one block.  City crews arrived today and I caught a worker repairing the last one in this block.  Thank you, City of Houston, for hiring people who are willing and able to work in the intense heat and around the clock, to save water!

Do you know of others working in the heat every day to make a difference in the quality of life of your neighborhood?


Not Always Good Results!
August 28, 2011, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Gardening, Green Living | Tags: ,

NOT my usual beautiful green bell pepper plant!

Last week I went out to see why my green bell pepper plant had not perked up after watering and noticed mealy bugs all over the underside of most of the leaves!  My organic garden instructions for mealy bugs state that you are to take a Q-tip, soak it in 100% vinegar and then swab the bugs.  Just look at how many leaves I’m talking about here…and you can’t see all the leaves that have dropped in the last two days!  So I thought I would just use my vinegar/water sprayer, add a cup or so of vinegar to the small amount of half water/half vinegar solution, and give the leaves a good spraying.  I have sprayed water from a hose in the past to get rid of pests, and it worked.

Now those of you not in the drought/record heat area of the U.S. right now, need to know that is where the green bell pepper plant lives.  Yesterday the temperature climbed to 109 and today was 106, I think.  Anyway, the result has been lots and lots of dropped leaves and many of the ones that remain are burned.

Since the plants are in a pot, we have moved it to more shade, and we are trying to wait patiently for temperatures to drop.  I am confident new leaves will appear in the fall, and I will have a bumper crop of organic green bell peppers.

Have you ever seen someone post a disaster like this?  I learned something and wanted to pass it on…don’t spray a plant with organic or non-organic spray and let the intense heat and sun burn the leaves!  And try to stay cool!

A Tall and Tiny House in Texas
August 18, 2011, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Green Building--Residential, Green Living | Tags: ,

Marfa, TX, is known for its community of artists and freethinkers, so it makes sense that the town’s architecture would reflect its populace’s values. Architecture firm Candid Rogers contributed the Marfa 10 x 10 Lightbox to the residential mix, and it fits in perfectly with Marfa’s collective aesthetic. At 320 square feet, it’s a tiny, inspiring addition. The home’s architecture consists of two stacked boxes clad in rusty Cor-Ten steel siding. The simple, modern structure features a minimalist awning that opens from one wall into the home. This awning structure pays homage in look to the artwork of Marfa’s most famous resident, minimalist artist Donald Judd. In its explanation of the vision behind the Marfa 10 x 10 Lightbox, Candid Rogers noted,

“As a retreat for thoughtful repose, the Marfa Lightbox embraces the site and landscape of the Southwest. Offering unique connections to the local landscape and the landscapes beyond, including the stellar and fictional.”

It makes sense that a building in Marfa would reference the fictional world of artist and writer, since the town has attracted these creative types for decades. And since Marfa’s been rumored to be a prime destination for extraterrestrial visitors, the stellar reference makes sense, in a wacky way, as well. The Marfa 10 x 10 Lightbox won the AIA San Antonio Design Award, 2007 and the AIA National Small Projects Award, 2008.  This tiny house is a great example of green architecture and green building.

Photos courtesy Chris Cooper and Candid Rogers

Not your Usual Compost Materials

Our family has been recycling since the early 70’s, and composting is part of recycling.   The end product is there for you to use in your garden.  There are the obvious candidates for the pile…leaves, grass clippings, small branches and twigs and even an occasional banana peel.

My Living Compost

From the top, our tomato vines from this summer’s crop; I need to clip them up into smaller pieces so they will break down faster.  In the middle is a mixture of yard waste from a neighbor, and at the front you can see some really rich, dark soil ready to mix in the pots for my fall vegetables.  The pile can reduce from about 3′ high to 1′ high quickly with frequent watering and turning.

But I have recently learned of several items that I had not ever thought to compost.  Here are the Top Ten:
10. Pizza boxes, torn into small pieces; you can even include pizza crust.
9.  Cellophane bags, not clear plastic (amazing!)
8.  Wine corks…of course, they are organic!
7.  Old jelly, jam or preserves; who has any that is old?
6.  Old loofahs
5.  Dryer lint; the birds also like this for nesting material.
4.  Pencil shavings from your sharpener and also hole puncher confetti.
3.  Contents of the vacuum cleaner bag or cannister–just take it back outside from where it came.
2.  Hair from your brush or shower drain, or bring it home when you get a haircut.
1.  Latex balloons

By creating a working, living compost pile we can make more room in our land fill and save the life of our disposal, too!  The result is organic, rich dark soil material to add to our garden and pot plants, instead of chemicals.  Let me know how yours is working!

Recycle! It’s not Garbage Anymore
August 5, 2011, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Green Living | Tags: , ,

RECYCLE receptacle in downtown Seattle

While visiting my daughter last year in Seattle, I was so impressed at how much the city and businesses are doing to embrace the idea of taking care of the environment.  From the Link light rail ride from the airport to my B & B downtown ($2.50 or $1.25 for senior), to my wait in the airport, I observed so many examples that seem easy to implement.  At the airport in each seating area are three bins for recycling, one for mixed paper, one for plastic and one for trash.
The recycle bins pictured above are on every block of the streets downtown and other areas of the city.  Solar trash compactors are also found downtown.  I watched the recycle containers being emptied by Public Works at night.
Apartment dwellers have opportunities, too.  Multiple bins are in place for metal/aluminum, paper/cardboard, plastic, and glass.  You can take your recycling out any hour of any day of the week, and it’s gone!  How convenient is that?!
Buses have run on electric wires for years, but buses that are not electric, I observed most, if not all,  to be hybrid.
The guys at the Pike Street Fish Market put their merchandise in biodegradable bags, written in large letters on the bag.  Those guys are proud to be making a difference!
Molly’s Ice Cream Shop has paper cups and plastic spoons that are compostable.  There is a sign stating so right above the receptacle labeled “compost“, not “trash”.
Recycle or Compost; it’s not garbage or trash anymore!”

What is your city doing to make recycling easy and convenient for the citizens?