Gail of Green Living


Summer Garden in June

Purple Hulled Peas

Let’s start with the GOOD things about my garden in June.  These purple hulled peas are growing in a pot about 14″ in diameter.  I can’t remember how many seeds I planted, but I know they are way more crowded than any seed packet would advise.  The first picking last night yielded only 1 serving, and I just need 2 at a time, so maybe next time, it will be better.  They are a beautiful summer plant!

Pumpkin

Now, this seems like a really odd-looking pumpkin, but it just might grow up to be a tall, skinny dude someday.  Two other small pumpkins have not made it as far as this one, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  The vines are resting on cardboard, because the ground underneath is full of tree roots and weeds.

Blueberry Bush

This is a ripe blueberry I ate right after the picture was taken.  It was the best one ever!  I have netting all around both bushes now, and I might get to eat the last 1/2 dozen on the bushes.  The Mockingbirds and Bluejays LOVE them, too, and they were clearly the winners this year.  My grandson ate two and I’ve had one.  I wonder how many bushes a city dweller needs to have enough production to matter!

Better Bush Tomato

Well you can see that I’ve had to cover the tomatoes with bird netting as well!  But I’m getting more tomatoes again.  They aren’t very big, but they are good.  This bush shows the result of heavy rains and heat…yellowing leaves and new growth.  So they won’t win a beauty pageant, but I’m counting on a nice bumper crop later in the summer.

Cucumbers

After enjoying several great cucumbers, all of a sudden, the leaves all withered and died.  I think it was too hot, but I’m going to try again.  This is the second crop getting started.

Parsley

Now parsley is usually not a big thing on my maintenance routine.  Usually, if I just keep it in the shade during the summer, it makes it.  However, about six weeks ago, I had bright green and black striped worms (and you can see where they stripped off the foliage), and after using the HOD method of worm control, I didn’t see anymore.  I’ve been seeing butterflies in and around it the last few days, so I am prepared for another round of worms any time now!  Someone tell me why butterflies like parsley.

I also found a very large hornworm on one tomato plant this morning.  Two things tell you to look for one and they leave clues about the location…no leaves left on stems of one area of the plant and worm “poop” directly below where that rascal is munching!

In Houston near the Medical Center, we need more consistent, but less heavy rains.  I hope your garden is doing well.  I hope to hear from my friend who has her garden in Maine every summer!  Her blueberry picking experiences inspired me to get my bushes!

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GREEN Medical Center Home For Sale: The Building Envelope

3703 Drummond

This is the third in a series of posts regarding the above property for sale in the Medical Center neighborhood called Braes Heights, in Houston.  This owner/builder has researched and studied so many products and methods of green building, that I’m sure we can all benefit from his research.  This week I’m summarizing his research on The Building Envelope, the backbone of  The Building System.  This is where the outside environment conflicts with the inside.

Traditional builders still use the wood framing method, which falls short in regard to durability (termites, wood rot, mold), and it requires added insulation.  Steel framing is quite expensive, and it’s difficult to find people who know how to do it.  It also requires insulation.  Thermal bridging is an issue with wood, and more so with steel.

SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) are easy to manufacture and provide good insulation and strength.  They can be made to various sizes with window openings all pre-cut.  They are easy and quick to assemble.  The roof system can also be SIPs, with modest trusses, allowing for open and attractive interior spaces.  They do not suffer from thermal bridging, which is another plus.  The downside of SIPs is the fact that they limit the design of the home to a simple gable design with relatively few corners.

ICF (Insulated concrete forms) have been around for fifty years.  There are lots of manufacturers and this construction method is widely used in Canada and some northern states.  It is extremely strong, with 5″ foam insulation sandwiching 6-1/2″ of reinforced concrete.  Convection is not an issue and no termite wants to eat it.  The R-value of the system itself is about 25.  But when you take into account the thermal mass, the lack of convection or conduction and add in the radiant barrier/moisture barrier and air spaces, plus the exterior finish (stucco, stone or brick) and the sheet rock on the inside wall, the number is probably more like R-50!  There are no seams like in the SIPs system.  And a 14″ thick wall makes for a quiet home.  OK, this ICF has massive strength, the thermal mass, resistance to heat movement, sound dampening, resistance to convection moisture, bugs, wind, fire…so this is what makes sense!  The additional cost was $3/sq.ft over the cost of wood framing…amazing difference it makes!  They found a company in Texas that makes the product, BuildBlock ICF, and their service and reputation are first-class.

The roof information in my next post will amaze you!  Meanwhile, if you would like to see more photos and details of this beautiful home, click here or contact me for a personal tour.



Grow Grass on the Roof!

Yesterday I was in a doctor’s waiting room, and as I started to sit down, I noticed the building below had grass growing on the roof of the parking garage!  I’ve seen this in other cities, and I’m sure there are more places in Houston, but this was my first time to see it in the Medical Center.  This building is for the Bi0Science Research Collaboration, an innovative space where scientists and educators from Rice University and other Texas Medical Center institutions work together to perform leading research that benefits human medicine and health. More than just a building, it is an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional catalyst for new and better ways to collaborate, explore, learn and lead.  The building has Silver Level LEED certification.

I’m sorry the picture quality is so poor, but I had to take the picture through a window.  It appears to me that there are two kinds of prairie-type or natural grasses growing on the roof.  This is insulation for the building.  It is a wonderful way to eliminate or reduce street flooding as the rain is absorbed in the sod.  And street flooding is a huge issue in the Medical Center streets!  Just last week, we received over 5″ of rain in a morning, and floodgates were dropped in front of several of the parking garages, forcing many people to not be able to get their cars out.  But why would they want to get out anyway?  Those who were out, were getting their cars destroyed by water!  Those people were in the best place ever at the time.

Many challenges due to flooding have been addressed since Tropical Storm Allison dropped about three times this much rain in a night of June, 2001.  Braes Bayou has been widened in several areas to increase capacity.  Residential neighborhoods have had their storm drain capacity increased, water lines replaced and new streets built since Allison.  Insurance companies along with FEMA have revised their flood zone maps, which has required more people to carry flood insurance for their homes.

And the Medical Center has developed flood gates to be dropped in entrances to prevent water from reaching basements where valuable research is being performed, patients are being treated, and some basements are part of the parking garages.

Last week was a great test to see how things are working, and I believe as long as life and property are saved from floodwaters, we can tolerate street flooding.  Parking spaces are so valuable in the Medical Center that the top of most parking garages is more parking space.  But the grass growing there would surely absorb many, many gallons of water and save it from flooding the streets.

Tell me where you know of buildings or homes with grass or other plant material growing on the roof.  What are the benefits in that location?



Knollwood Fall Color
December 17, 2011, 11:13 am
Filed under: Houston Neighborhoods | Tags: , ,

I think this is a type of Maple.

On my walk yesterday, I noticed the fall color in Knollwood near the Medical Center is spectacular this year!  Thank goodness I carry my phone with me and I am able to share with you the fact that Houston, Texas indeed has fall color; it’s just at Christmas time instead of October!

Chinese Tallow

This tree redeems itself of it’s past bad behavior in the fall!

I think this is type of maple.  The red color was brilliant!

Two beautiful Tallow trees near the corner.

Mimosa tree

 This tree has pale clay-colored clusters at this time of year.

Flowering Pear which will be an early bloomer in the Spring

All these beautiful leaves are great for your compost pile!  If you don’t have one, start one, or put the leaves in biodegradable bags and maybe a neighbor will pick them up from the curb!



Green Townhome
1414 Southmore

I have this property listed in the Museum District, which is just adjacent to the Medical Center.  It has some green features you can usually count on finding in a property built since 2005.  Several of these features would be easy to put in an older townhome to make it more efficient.  One is low-e windows.  There are more windows placed on the north and south exposures than on the west, where intense heat can add to energy use in the summer.

Another feature that is easy to add to any home is a digital programmable thermostat.  Set it to be warmer in the summer while you are at work and have the house cool by the time you return.

A feature of this home that you don’t see in many green articles is the flooring.  All floors except the two bedrooms on the second floor, are Italian carerra marble tile.  In Houston, this creates a cool floor that is very comfortable in the summer.  The second floor living area has very high ceilings that trap warmer air at the ceiling and make this living area more comfortable.

Ceiling fans throughout the home allow the thermostat to be set to a warmer temperature in the summer.  In the winter, the fans can blow the warmer air toward the floor for added comfort.

A North-South exposure is another feature that makes heating and cooling this home more efficient.  In the winter, sun will come in the south windows to heat the home.

Another green feature of this home is its location.  It is within walking distance to the Metro Rail that can take you to downtown venues or south to the Medical Center, Rice University and Reliant Stadium.  You can also walk to Hermann Park, lots of museums and Miller Outdoor Theater.  You can park your car in the garage and improve our air quality and gasoline.  This feature is beyond reality for most Houstonians!

Look at other pictures and information for 1414 Southmore http://goo.gl/shGxO  and let me know if you or someone you know might be interested in this stunning property.



My Green Business

This week has been Keller Williams Green Week.  The mission of Keller Williams for its agents is to create careers worth having, businesses worth owning and lives worth living.  A life worth living would be one that includes a healthy environment, is money-smart and sustainable.  So this week we have celebrated our company’s growing environmental initiatives.  We have recently launched the book, Green Your Home,  that can help you develop a plan for making your life, your home and your lifestyle more green.

Our real estate listings and contracts are all turned in to a paperless system.  And we are transitioning to an online system that will allow both sides of the transaction to sign digitally and have the documents all saved and stored permanently online with permanent access to the transaction, even if the other agent is not with Keller Williams.  eEdge was designated the Most Innovative Technology for a real estate company by Inman News for 2011.

For my real estate business, I office at home and save miles on my car and in gasoline.  I have enjoyed classes online, called Webinars, that allow me to receive the latest technology education possible.  In line with this week’s theme, I have had classes on “Getting Green with Google” and “Building a Green Lead Generation System”.   This helps me stay ahead of the pack when it comes to marketing my listings online and generating leads to sell them.  The transaction can be handled online as well.  Title companies and mortgage lenders are also communicating and sending documents by email.

As I am sitting in my home office in Knollwood near the Medical Center, working by the light of my cfl lamp bulb, and feeling the comfort from the low-e windows, I wish you a healthy, green and fun weekend!  If you are interested in the Green Your Home book, please write your name and email address and/or phone number in the comments, and I can make sure you have a chance to get one.



Thank you, Target!

Thank you, Target for being a business encouraging green living!  As I walk into my Knollwood neighborhood Target, near the Medical Center,  I see their recycling bins for (1) cart wipes, (2) trash, (3) glass, plastic and aluminum, (4) plastic bags, and (5) MP3s, cellphones, and ink cartridges.  How handy is that?  If your apartment or neighborhood recycling system does not collect these items, bring them next time you shop.

And if you bring a reusable shopping bag, they will take 5 cents off your shopping total for each bag you bring.

Thanks again, Target!  What stores do you know that encourage green living?