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monday musings

monday musings

  1. i am most aware of how quickly time is passing by how seasons ebb and flow, ebb and flow. our everyday routines tend to lull us into a sense of complacency about time: how it passes and how much is left.
  2. speaking of seasons, i think spring is sort of here. the light lasts past 8 p.m. now, and the birds sing a cacophony every morning. there’s still snow on the ground from last week’s snowstorm, but i have a feeling it’s going to be gone tomorrow with 60º weather.
  3. …which is good news. liz and i have the earth day half marathon on saturday, and i have been feverishly watching the long-term forecast. not even 4 days ago, i was expecting to start that run off in 30º, which is pretty awful. now it’s up to starting in mid-40s and ending in mid-50s with minimal wind and no clouds. fantastic. here’s hoping the weather holds and my feet hold up.
  4. earth day is almost here. i remember earth being a big deal in gradeschool. maybe it was of the era where the gas shortages of the 70s were still fresh in people’s minds and they needed to make sure to catch impressionable young minds. or maybe the catholic gradeschool i went to was progressive on that front. either way, it was a big deal. i’m hoping the green new deal catches fire and spreads, putting out the naysayers and fools who think we can do nothing to prevent climate change. and so what if we can’t prevent it even after changes are made? we made a better, cleaner world. no one likes garbage in the street, dirty air, and gross water. what’s wrong with making them better just for the sake of making them better?

    i have got to be better at using less wasteful items. it’s doubtful that i would ever go 100% waste free, but it’s a nice goal to aspire toward: more trips to the food coop and getting better at bringing my own containers. the amount of garbage we create is pretty awful, and it’s almost all plastic. i knew that the reckoning was upon us when i saw totino’s party pizzas in plastic packaging. i’m not sure why companies can’t use recycled paper (which apparently recycling centers can’t give away) to use for packaging. that’s a future fight.

  5. i was out on my run yesterday and i ran past lower spunk lake, which has probably half its ice gone. there were two loons hanging out. there’s hope!


give me some blogging topics 🙂 i’ve been really slacking lately. in good news, i have been doing really well at my yoga resolution of yoga-ing every day. at least there’s that!

bug out

bug out

brrr it’s been cold! i mean, what good is it when it gets this cold?


with the extended cold we had, it’s possible that those invasive insects could’ve been wiped out.

but first, a list of invasive terrestrial “animals” in minnesota:

Asian-Long horned beetle*

Brown marmorated stink bug*

Earthworms (!!!)

Emerald ash borer

Eurasian swine*

European Starling

Gypsy moth

Japanese beetle

Jumping worm

Mute swan*

Sirex wood wasp*

Walnut twig beetle*

first, let’s talk about the emerald ash borer, since it seems to be one of the big bad bugs i keep hearing about. it’s the reason you can’t bring firewood with you to campgrounds and have to pay $5 for 3 logs.

temps need to get to -20º to begin to kill the borer, and at that point, about 50% of them die. around -30º is when 90% of them will die. i think we can safely say sayanora to at least 50% of the EAB larvae in the state, more like 90%.

another bug that i would probably run away from, the gypsy moth, would suffer from some cold. temps of -20º that lasts 48-72 hours kills exposed eggs, and alternate freezing and thawing in springtime can prevent hatching. i think we may have hit that -20 (or close to it).

in other entomological news, the beetle epidemic that was sweeping the black hills is over!

and while the bugs won’t be gone forever – they will eventually migrate back – this summer will give the people who manage invasive species time to implement a containment plan and basically start with a clean slate.

and since we’re talking entomology, let’s end with some etymology.

the word bug was formed in the early 1600s from the word bugge (beetle) which grew from two words: bugge/bugja/bogge and budde/budda/buddo.

bugge was a word for a hogoblin, bugja meant swolen up, and bogge meant snot. budde was beetle, budda was a dung beetle, and buddo means a louse/grub. sounds like they just took a bunch of gross things and smashed them into one word.



today i bought popsicles because the popsicle brand came out with a cane sugar, real fruit kind of pop. yum!

imagine my dismay when i opened the (cardboard) box and found that the traditional paper wrappers had been replaced with …


today we get news that china is no longer buying our recyclables (a former large market).

there’s been a recent brouhaha over plastic straws and how mcdonalds and starbucks plan to eliminate plastic straws, either replacing them with paper straws or no straws. this begs the question: WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THAT PLASTIC GLASS?

manufacturers continue to plasticize everything, and most if it isn’t recyclable plastic. my waste service only takes bottles for recyclable plastic. what does that mean for the rest of my plastic? it goes in the trash, which means it goes in the landfill, which means it sits there for thousands of years.

i’ve been really aware of my plastic usage lately. i haven’t done much about it yet, but i plan to crack down on myself in the upcoming months. i need to do some research on how to reduce my plastic usage, where i’ll need to shop, what brands to look out for. i’ve already prepped for my next batch of laundry soap, which i will make with borax, soda, and bar soap.

as our landfills fill and we see photos like below making more waves, what is it going to take besides some people clucking their tongues about plastic usage and very few actually doing what they can to reduce their plastic footprint? even with some chain stores eliminating plastic bags, i still watch people go through a checkout with one item, then leave with that item they carried up to the lane in a plastic bag (WHYYYYYY).

i know i can do better; i fail over and over on the reusable bag front, but when i forget them, i make sure to stuff my plastic bags to the brim. when the checkout dude tries to put my 4 items in three bags, i say uh-uh, you put that all in one bag. at coborn’s, i request a paper bag after they ask “is plastic ok?” NO IT’S NOT WHEN HAS PLASTIC EVER BEEN OK

this is not just about straws. this is about putting the burden of plastic consumption on the consumer. this has got to start with manufacturers and them realizing that plastic isn’t the answer, even if it’s the cheaper option.* as a consumer, i will gladly pay a little more for an item encased in glass, tin, aluminum, or paper over plastic.

i know this can be done on that level because i saw it with HFCS. in 2010 when i became hyper aware of eating devil’s syrup, it was everywhere. now, about half the products that i avoided in 2010 use sugar in their ingredients instead of corn syrup. if people start demanding that less plastic be used, i bet it will make a difference.

next year my goals will include using less waste. whether that means purchasing more items in bulk, bringing in my containers to the food coop, or even making sure i really do put my reusable bags in the car.

and until popsicle brand starts to wrap their pops in paper again, no more popsicles for me, even with the revised ingredients list.

*i never understood how plastic can be so cheap when gas is so expensive. they are both made from oil. ALSO, recycled paper is basically worth nothing right now. companies could grab up that recyclable paper for $ZERO and create recycled paper packaging.

oui oui

oui oui

i did some research on the paris agreement/accord/whatever since i wanted to know more and figured you might too! 
the most incredible thing about the PA is that every country is taking care of its own business of its own accord and is actually doing it, with 202o as the goal start date. each country sets goals to combat climate change, and all countries except three have signed on of their own volition because IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
for the record, nicaragua at first decided not to sign the agreement because it wasn’t RADICAL ENOUGH. the president said 90% of its energy will be renewable by 2020, and they wanted countries to be punished for not meeting goals. (they’ve since are considering reconsidering because they don’t want to be lumped in the same category as the ridiculous US.) the US, of course, is out because trump. and syria isn’t a part of it because syria’s a war zone. 
(i mean, even north korea’s on board. really, DT?)
the countries that are a part of the PA have agreed to some stipulations:

  1. they want to hold the increase in global average temp to below (like, way below) 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. ideally, the limit would be 1.5ºC pre-industrial levels. (pre-industrial means pre-1750.) for the record, pre-industrial average world temp was 13.8ºC (56.84F) and in 2014, average world temp was about 0.8 C warmer than that. so, the world’s countries want to keep that at 1.5º or less, with AT MOST, 2º.  (remember average world temp does not mean average MN temp. when idiots huurrr durrr about global warming when it’s -15ºF, please just roll your eyes so hard they end up in the snowbank across the street.)*
  2. they want to make sure that climate change does not affect food production. there are a lot of people on the planet, and we need to feed them (preferably NOT corn, but we’re using that as an example ugh). think about the impact of a global increase in temperature on the US bread basket – all those plains may just end up being desert that doesn’t support food production. insane weather patterns also affect food stores, as there may be droughts or floods.
  3. and finally, the first-world countries recognize the benefits they had with the industrial revolution and how coal and other polluting methods to create the standard of living they now have. through this agreement, the countries that had that benefit will help out the developing countries to make sure their paths to development is a greener one. 

witheartha couple important points:
this is completely voluntary.
and there is no repercussions if a country drops out or doesn’t meet its goals. 
THAT’S how serious the world is taking this. 
so, here’s DT’s quote on why he decided to leave the PA:
“The agreement is a massive redistribution of United States’ wealth to other countries,” Trump said. “It’s to give their country an economic edge over the United States. That’s not going to happen while I’m president. I’m sorry.”
let’s talk about that massive redistribution of US wealth. that’s how point 3 above is handled. the developed countries that had the advantage of early development are going to commit $100billion a year to help the developing countries and overall greenification of the earth. in march last year, the US gave $3billion to the green climate fund, and as of now, there is $10billion in it. i believe it works as a grant system. it will also directly help countries most affected by climate change, like small island countries.  
now, here’s a wrench i’m going to throw in the system. heard of the international monetary fund (IMF)? i feel like this is a perfect thing for the IMF to jump into. the IMF is “189 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”
if there’s ever a time to use the money in the IMF to do all those things, i think this is it. as of 2016, the IMF had about $668billion in it. 
anyway, that’s an argument for another day. 
so, once DT announced the US withdrawal from the PA, it’s not like we suddenly aren’t in it. part of the provisions, even though it’s voluntary, is that it will take a good four years for the US to get out of it. a country can’t even begin withdrawal proceedings until it’s been in the agreement for three years, and after the withdrawal has been sent, it will be active one year after it’s been filed. the earliest the US can get out of the PA? Nov. 4, 2020…the day after the next presidential election
(seriously, all this brouhaha may be for naught.)
so, that’s a lot of political information on the PA and doesn’t really go into what countries are actually planning on doing as far as greenification. i was listening to “pod save america” this afternoon, and it already looks like china and india are well on their way to exceeding their goals, and china’s on its way to becoming a global leader (bye bye US as a global leader). but that’s another post. meanwhile, 400 new coal jobs were added in may in the US. we’re nowhere near 2011 levels of coal employment, and i doubt we ever will be. laid off from a coal job? time to go back to school and learn a new trade. like solar panel installation and upkeep. and that’s also another post.
REMEMBER: this is the only earth we’ve got. if the earth goes to pot and is inhabitable for humans, WHAT ELSE MATTERS**? who cares about the economy, refugees, travel bans, and especially transgender people in bathrooms. GET IT TOGETHER, PEOPLE.
*do you NEED a post about the science behind climate change? i mean, there are a TON of peer-reviewed sciencey environmental studies out there you can look at. and 97% of scientists agree that it’s human-made. that’s the same effectiveness as a condom when used correctly. you take those chances, so why not these? (also, you’re making cleaner air and water and a better place to live – is that REALLY so bad, even if climate change isn’t human-made?)
**in all seriousness, the earth don’t care. we’ll get wiped out and the earth will live on for millions more years and not give two hoots about people. but i’m sure you care, at least for the next 50 years or so. #humansnowhereearthdontcare
Sources: wikipedia, wikipedia, and pod save america.

pale blue dot, earth dwellers

pale blue dot, earth dwellers

hello earth dwellers. happy meteorological spring. i know we can’t all live in the setting i do, surrounded by trees, happy frogs, and happy birds chirping into the night. but i want this to be here for us. for a while. i may only have another good 50-60 years, but people as a whole can sure be here for the long haul. and we can’t keep it up if the earth is shot.
i’ve said it once; i’ve said it 100 times: every day should be earth day. and with the president not signing the paris accord, now more than ever do we need to keep this mantra. (if you’re like me, you also want to know more about the paris accord, but that is a post for another day.)
keep your heads and hearts high, earth dwellers. we shall get past this. businesses are already embracing renewable energies and lower-emission natural gas because it’s cheaper. our recycling centers and composting areas will not disappear or be disbanded. it’s highly unlikely coal will make a comeback (another topic i’d like to discuss at a later date). our hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts are the country’s greatest supporters of environmental conservation efforts. know that if you support your state’s department of natural resources, you are likely rubbing elbows with your camouflaged neighbors. 
your efforts aren’t for naught, earth dwellers. your composting, gardening, recycling, minimalist lifestyling, and buying choices are making a difference (look at the surge in organic and less processed foods lately – all my anti-corn efforts!)
and keep it up, earth dwellers. just because some heads of state are denying the inevitable doesn’t mean YOU have to. you may not feel like you’re making a difference, but your contribution is what does make a difference. now more than ever, we need you, the earth needs you, every day. 
remeber, earth dwellers: every day is earth day.

the DAPL thing

the DAPL thing

i’ve just read about the dakota access pipeline for the past half hour, and here’s what i’ve gleaned from my limited amount of research on this issue, which is probably more than the average person has dedicated to the topic:

  1. dapl-map-full_0the pipeline runs from the bakken oil fields to illinois to an oil refinery, which in theory should keep oil production in the US (a good thing for some people).
  2. the pipeline construction will create a lot of jobs along the way, though very specialized jobs, and not necessarily local to ND, SD, IA, and IL since those specialized jobs tend to not have the average unemployed joe or joette hanging around waiting for them. after construction, the number of permanent jobs the pipeline will create is pretty minimal – i’ve read between 10-30
  3. the company constructing the pipeline went through the appropriate permitting and awareness process. there were townhalls a couple years ago and the army corps of engineers approved the route*. there was minimal representation from the american indian tribes at these hearings. no one voiced concern. (REALLY – this was the time to do this. not sure why this wasn’t a big deal THEN.)
  4. this pipeline was supposed to go through bismarck, but it ended up veering another way because *ahem* they were afraid of contaminating the capitol’s water if there were ever a spill. (*eyeroll* classic case of not in my backyard.)
  5. *so, the army corps of engineers may have approved this route, BUT, there were treaty laws and architectural remains (burial grounds, etc), that were not taken into consideration, so in effect, the ACE really didn’t follow some laws to get this route approved.
  6. construction started earlier this year, and protests started after people realized that the DAPL would be winding across the missouri river a couple times and over the burial grounds. and it’s just gotten bigger. 

i didn’t do much research on the current state of affairs since we seem to be seeing that daily on our news feeds and through friends. here’s my take on that:

  1. keep these protests peaceful and LEGAL! from what i can tell, this is heading into violent and taking over private property, etc. if you want your concerns to be heard, you need to practice your first amendment right to assemble in a legal manner. 
  2. speaking of legalities, why no one attended any of the hearings a few years ago when permitting was happening is beyond me. this is why people should be aware of what’s going on your communities.
  3. i don’t know what is going on with the army corps of engineers, but you’d think that a federal agency would figure pipeline construction that will ultimately engage eminent domain should follow all laws, especially when it goes over treaty land. they should’ve been on the ball with that one, and president obama has ordered to figure out what’s going on. i think a lot of blame (if you can call it that) lies on them.
  4. remember the locals – there are local american indians who are sick of the protests. make sure to take them into account. 
  5. WATER IS PRECIOUS – in years to come, water will be more valuable than oil, especially if we keep placing possible environmental risks near it. also, my boss made a valid point the other day: there are pipelines carrying crude oil crisscrossing europe right now. but they are infinitely more stable and better constructed. (i can’t find a source on this and i don’t want to spend time to find it; we’ll just have to take her word on this.) we need to get on the bandwagon and think about how to construct things like this so that spills are very, VERY rare. if they happen at all. none of this lowest bidder crap.

BUT ULTIMATELY: if our energy source (oil) can screw up our life source (water) so much by a spill, maybe it’s time to take a look at changing our energy source. also, not only is the pipeline spill a possibility, but oil itself is no saint. i’d rather there be no pipelines anywhere and we all relied on renewable energy or something safer than oil (efficient ethanol sources, for instance, use water themselves – see sugar cane [not corn!!]). 

a day for land ethics

a day for land ethics

today i went to eagle bluff environmental center in lanesboro for a land ethic workshop that was put on by the land stewardship council. a couple years ago over give to the max day, i found the LSP and donated money to it, hence becoming a member. i get mailings and general info as well as invites to events.
i’m not the average LSP member: i don’t own acres of land; i don’t work for a conservation agency of some sort; i’m not going to college for a degree in environmental science or forestry (as tempting as that is…). i’m just your average joe schmo city dweller who’s concerned about the land and the environment. if there’s one thing that attending these type of conferences enforces, it’s that i’m not nearly the hippie i think i am. and that is something i need to work on.
since april is the home of earth day, i’ll just do a quick overview of the event, then focus on specifics throughout the month.
the day started with some nice snow and ice on the roads, as well as some fierce winds. i made it to eagle bluff just in time. the first speaker of the day was jen from the aldo leopold foundation, who spoke about leopold and his land ethic. 
after that, we were charged with a silent observation outdoor activity, and i went and did some listening next to some trees and brush that was starting to bud out.
back inside for some small-group discussion time on our observation and on a reading. 
lunch was fantastic! most of what they make is organic and/or local, with minimal waste. chicken, spaghetti squash, mixed veggies, and some apple crisp.
during the afternoon, i went to a session on forestry management and how to take advantage of programs that will help bring a landowner’s vision to fruition (with trees). 
next was a session on organic food, and i should have gone to the session on prairie restoration. the organic session was old hat, and i feel i could have benefitted learning about pollinators and how to help them out.
our final speaker was a professor at winona state who got a fullbright scholarship to help out farmers in panama, just to hammer home how global the land use epidemic is. 
and of course, supper was the finale – rabbit, veggies, asparagus salad, potato soup, irish soda bread, and lemon cheesecake. my first time eating rabbit! (seriously, it tasted like dark meat chicken.)
during april, i’ll try to post about each session i went to and see what else i can learn about each of them.
and i ended the day driving down through lanesboro for gas and coming up from the south through preston. good choice on my part, because i saw the spectacular sunset.

comfort zone

comfort zone

Treehuggeri donate some money every year to the land stewardship council, and as such, i become a member and get their mailers. i got one a couple weeks ago for “land ethic at work”, a day-long workshop at eagle bluff in lanesboro with speakers from the aldo leopold foundation*, a bunch of breakouts on different conservation techniques, and finishing off with dinner on the bluff. 
on the one hand, i love things like these. i love learning about more things i can do to expand my tree-huggerness and how to help out the earth. on the other hand, i HATE things like these – facilitated small group discussions?? lunch with people i don’t know**? a bunch of strangers that might stare at me because i’m not a (large) landowner, am relatively young, and don’t own any (useful) animals? (although i do garden regularly and collect rainwater from my roof; maybe that will help.)
but i decided i wanted to do it, and i applied for a scholarship to go. i got approved and it paid for my entire registration fees – $90! so now i HAVE to go. i’m gonna tweet about it and blog about it and maybe take some pics while i’m out there. april 2, i’ll be both uncomfortable and excited, and i guess that’s what life’s about, right? if you don’t step outside your circle occasionally, you can’t really experience things worth knowing. here goes nothing 🙂
*this dude is pretty cool. he noted birds’ migratory patterns in his wisconsin vacation home for his whole life, and pretty much documented that climate change is real by noting that birds that migrate based on temperature versus light have been returning to the area sooner and sooner. (i went to a speaker at rctc a couple years ago. one benefit of working at a college!)
**at least the food is included!



26275_665000317431_2432753_napril, you fickle beast, you.
i guess i shouldn’t be one to talk; i have christmas decorations yet on my chandelier and a greenhouse with baby tomatoes reaching for the light 6 feet away. 
while you tease me with 76º on the way home from work one afternoon, you drop to 64º within the hour after i happily donned my shorts and tank top. 
then after a drenching rain, you drop completely to under freezing so i’m forced to bundle up the next morning for work. 
you’re certainly living up to your reputation of april showers, as the next week holds the promise of drops from the sky, which ARE needed here, as 80% of the state is in a drought.
but after months of running on a treadmill, i finally got out of the house for runs, and that’s all i want to do – no going back to the treadmill this season.
but the WIND the WIND the WIND. not only is it maddening overall and a beast to run in, but it stirs up stuff on the ground and gets in my eyes and nose and lungs, and i’m sniffly and snotty and gross.
so i wait: hopes a little quelled; watching for the perennials to pop up; running shoes tapping impatiently; tethered to the 10-day weather outlook.
soon the weather will stabilize into above-freezing nights; the grass will green; my plants will get in the ground; my running shoes will hit pavement.
but until then.
april, you fickle beast, you.

soap: part I

soap: part I

when i got my gazillion metric tons of lard (ok, i exaggerate), i knew i couldn’t use it all – i only make pies a couple times a year, and even then i use half lard, half butter. what to do, what to do.
after a google search, one of the options was to make soap. i decided to give it a try. i found a recipe for lard soap, cold-press method. while cold-press method involves less cooking, it does take longer for the soap to “cure” – almost a month-long wait after actually making the soap, versus a couple days. if i do this again, i’ll probably buy an old crockpot and try the hot-press method.
after some more research on soaps, it turns out that all-lard soap, while moisturizing, is very hard and not very latherific. i decided to add some coconut oil and castor oil to my mixture (castor oil helps with lather; coconut oil helps with softness).
the fat:

  • 400 grams of lard
  • 250 grams of coconut oil
  • 50 grams castor oil

Lye solution:

  • 80 grams lye (sodium hydroxide)
  • 228 grams distilled water

gogglesmeasure everything out, and use a completely separate container for mixing the lye (apart from your food – i went to goodwill and got a used bowl, pot, and whisk for this endeavor). mix the lye into the water (this is apparently VERY IMPORTANT as every website i visited had in call caps LYE INTO WATER, not WATER INTO LYE). lye is pretty acidic. i wore goggles and latex gloves while i mixed. mix until the water is clear.
lyethe lye also gets pretty hot, so while you’re letting that cool down, melt the fats on the stove in your old and busted pot. once they are about the same temperature, although i think my thermometer is wonky and i didn’t have them the same temp, mix the lye solution into the fats.
now you’re supposed to use a stick blender to mix it up, but i thought, eeeeehhhhh, why waste my stick blender attachment? i’ll just whisk it…. yeah….. after about 15 minutes, i got my stick blender out and went to town. it only took another 5 minutes or so to get to the “trace” stage, where if you drizzle it, it’ll leave a trace on the top.
mixed in my lavender and rosemary mix as well as a little lavender oil and purple coloring. pouring it into a bread pan, and now it’s sitting in the basement waiting 1-2 days to turn out and cut before curing.
update to come when it gets turned out!