Saturday, May 28, 2016

Carbon Munching Garden Pics

Not a lot to say today, so I will let you see how the garden grows.

This is what arugula flowers look like. 

All of the arugula plants exploded this week with tall stalks and flowers.

I (literally) tried drowning my roly-poly sorrows in beer this week. Not one little crustacean was harmed in any way, but I did enjoy the rest of the beer and the roly polies have not shown themselves. Weirdness!

The food-is-free-planter exploded - mostly arugula.

One gecko has returned to the compost box. Stubby, it's always good to see a friend!

The big honking celebrity tomato stays green.

Three little sweet peppers!

The front-porch planter fit right in.

It's hard to beat a squash flower for a final pic!

Quick and unpictured:
The new pallet garden is struggling so far. Probably a poor compost to soil ration - I overdid it with the compost.
I am learning that ollas are my favorite approach to gardening. If you garden in a dry place - try it!
Hoping to build two more pallet-lumber raised beds for the front yard soon.
Planted black garbonzo and calabacita seeds this week. Hope!
The romaine and celery still show great growth daily.

May you know the joy of growing your own!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I'm Digging this VermiCompost Idea (Literally and Pun Intended)

I hate to admit it, but I am a miserable failure when it comes to vermicomposting. Mostly, it's been a lot of heat, a lot of drought, and whole lot of worm death - poor, brave, little guys gals dual-gender invertebrates!

But, I've been thinking about a plan to be successful without having the worm composter in the house. (Not everyone likes the idea of worms in the kitchen.)

I had something like this in mind

The plan is simple - a normal dual or triple bucket setup, but mostly buried in a shady place. That way, the worms get to live at a stable temperature with really great insulation. My garden will get the benefits of vermicomposting and I won't have to deal with all the senseless worm death at my hands. Definitely a win-win situation.

But you know me - the guy who writes much faster than he builds (and I'm a pretty slow writer.) So, I have not actually tackled the project.

But I do check my email. Today I received an email from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm. The email featured a new product that caught my eye. It's not the same idea as mine, but it's pretty darn close.

Bury it, throw in your scraps, let your native worms do all of the composting work! All that for $29.90 and free shipping! It looks like the Mesquite Hugger may be trying Vermicomposting again soon. The WormFeast doesn't really allow you to harvest the compost or compost tea, but it does fertilize the immediate area around it while breaking all your scraps down into a much more earth-friendly substance. Place it in your garden and you have some good stuff happening down in the dirt!
Now, where did I put that over-used debit card and the posthole diggers this time?
May all your digging be worthwhile and may some wiggly invertebrates do the dirty work in your personal carbon reduction!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lubbock on a Bike: 40 Percent Shows Up Again

Yesterday after work I swung by Hodges Community Center to vote. I was on the bike. When I walked up to the table, a friendly volunteer (who had a Mary Steenburgen vibe) asked, "So, are you the local-crossing-guard guy?"

I had a moment of confusion and then realized she was referring to my lovely reflective vest. "Nope, I'm the local-crossing-town-on-a-bike-at-5-o'clock guy." She and her volunteer compatriot laughed and told me that I was very brave and that there was absolutely no way they would ride a bicycle in Lubbock. Then the first lady said, "But I wish more people would ride a bike. I think we'd all be a lot better off."


This morning my blog feed had a new post from Bike 5 - Trip Reduction Therapy. I love it when I run across someone else's writing that expresses something I have been thinking or wish I had been thinking. I started commuting on a bike because it was the cheapest, most convenient form of green transportation I could find. I was trying to find a way to burn less gas. Along the way, I found a lot of other benefits too, not the least of which is that I enjoy living more.

That particular post is based on Bob tracking how many car trips he has replaced with bike or walking trips. Coincidentally, he finds that he has replaced 40% of his car trips. Hmm...maybe it's a thing.

In case you are not a link clicker, I am sharing the penultimate paragraph (busting out the big words today!) from today's Bike 5 post. Maybe it'll ring a bell or two with you too!

May we all be crazy stupid brave enough to make a lot of differences daily.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Two-Wheel and Tuk Tuk Tuesday (2/3 Powered by the Sun!)

[Before we get started, I owe all of this one to Steve Hanley over at GAS2 - he led me to all three of these stories. Thanks for sharing all the cool stuff, Steve! Readers, if you like electric vehicles you should be reading GAS2.]

I'll start with the sexy one first - keep in mind that sexy can be mind-blowingly expensive.

Airbus, a company known for making some big, honking airplanes, is now making an electric motorcycle - the Light Cycle. It's one of those machines that skirts the line between bicycle and motorcycle. Since it has no pedals, we'll go with motorcycle. It is all kinds of simply gorgeous. The frame is 3D printed using an aluminum-ish material. It only weighs 77 lbs. Wow! Top speed is around 50 miles per hour, and the range is around 35 miles. None too shabby.

A work of art!

The price? Let's just say that you could buy a new one of all these for the same money:

That's a lot of moolah!

Moving on (but still not having to pedal): A -solar-powered e-bike.

Considerably less sexy and 40lbs lighter, this next contender hails from Netherlandia - a place of many bikes. Really, other than having two wheels and electric power and being European, they have little in common. But this one pulls at my heart strings because I dream of self-solar-powered transportation, and the Maxun One is just that - a vehicle that cleanly fuels itself up and has the ability to travel in a bike lane. If I had one, I'd have to add legs and a clear tablecloth. This thing is the ultimate self-powered picnic table! Cheers to Albert van Dalen - keep up the great work!

Check out Albert and the Maxun in Action here
Staying in Europe but getting closer to my vintage scooter roots is the story of a German/French electric vehicle rally - man, I'd like to go to that! But this isn't really about the rally, it's about Naveen Rabelli and his solar-powered tuk tuk  named Tejas.
The machine started life as a diesel Piaggio Ape. ("Ape" is Italian for "Bee"; Piaggio's more famous product, the Vespa, got its name for resembling a wasp.) Having converted my own Piaggio product to electric and living in a place called "Tejas", I felt a little affinity with Naveen until I read that he will travel to Germany (from India!!!!!) in his tuk tuk so that he can participate in the rally! Triple cheers and a round of "For he's a Jolly Good Fellow" to Naveen and his solar-powered adventuring. Living the dream never sounded so grueling!
There you have it  - 3 electrics and 2 solars plus a big clean Euro-rally. My typing here is (Almost) done!
May you dream of self-solar-powered transportation, and may your dream come true! ;-)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Frankensteen Gardening: Re-Animating Veggie and Lumber Scraps

This is so simple! Buy the right veggies. Eat them. Put the scraps in a little water and give them a little sun. Watch them grow.

My lovely wife and my not-so-lovely self have been discussing veggie re-animation a lot lately, so she started with Romaine lettuce a little while back. In a short period of time we had a pretty amazing little plant, so I transplanted it into the food-is-free planter. Overnight it was mowed down by a marauding herd of roly polies. We cried a bit, and then she started over four days ago.

Celery with four days growth

Romaine lettuce with four days growth

The top view

If you want to learn more and want to Frankensteen your own veggies, here's a link to get you started: 17 Plants You Grow from Kitchen Scraps. There are lots of similar articles, but I chose this one based on the blog name - Black Thumb Gardener. (Be sure to check out the DIY concrete planter on that site.)

I also built a planter holder to hide my not-so-lovely 5-gallon bucket planters this weekend. All of the wood came from a house being re-animated about a block away from our house. Mostly rafters and floor boards.
This pallet and those two boards became a pallet planter too. More on both of these to come. The local alleys have provided nicely of late.
May you stand in your garden at midnight and yell, "It's alive!" (It's very invigorating, but the neighbors will wonder.)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saturday Random: Wooden Box, a Slug, a Hopeful Rack, the Finger

It's Saturday, and I had freedom to walk and pick up trash. What a thing!

Junked jewelry box

 Monopod? Gastropod? Mollusk? Slug!!!

These lines and concrete footers appeared at the local coffee this week. I am hoping for a bike rack!

It's been one of those weeks. The universe (and the garbage) keeps sending me the same message.

May you not find hidden meaning in garbage!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Fossil Free Friday: From the Roley Poly to the Rolley Scooter

Yesterday I ran across a link on Endless-Sphere about the Scooterson Rolley (Rhymes with holy). At first, it seemed pretty gimmicky, but the more I looked at it and learned about it, the more intrigued I became.
While this is not the best part of the scooter, my favorite part is that it does not need a kickstand - it is self-balancing - just like Weebles!
A rather cool new European/British electric scooter

The attached video is very informative and explains a lot of the features:

Man, that's a fat tire!
If my math is right, it has a 36 volt 11 amp-hour battery pack. The range is up to 30 miles and the top speed is either 16 or 20 miles per hour. The info on the motor setup is a little vague - one or two hub motors at 250 or 500 watts. The hydraulic disc brake setup is impressive, and the level of control vs. simplicity is very appealing: no pedals, no throttle; just kick-kick-sit. And it gets to know you and does not talk to strangers (without your permission). Yep, this thing is pretty cool.
Anyone hiring?
I really want to ride one of these! Yep, my dream job is just to go around test driving funky electric two, three, and four wheelers. This one is definitely on the I wanna ride it! list. Just FYI, I also want to test ride the GeoOrbital Wheel, the Spira Foam Car, the RadWagon, the FlyKly scooter, the Boxx Scooter, the Bolt M-1, the VanMoof, the Genzes, a Yuba elMundo, and (of course) the Fido Scooter.
May you find yourself some cool green transport, and may you call me if you need someone to try out your cool new machine!


Lubbock on a Bike: National Ride to Work Day is here!

It's a small accomplishment, but I did ride to work today.

So, have you ever tried it? In case you haven't, I will tell you a little about my bike commute.

(The hand-me-down mountain bike is slowly transitioning to commuter - rear rack, taller handlebars, home-made pannier, and lights. Still to come are a front rack, a bell, a mirror, and more streetable tires.)
It was a chilly, foggy morning. The temp was in the high 50's. I really love riding in light fog. My friends always say it reminds them of Seattle. I always think London. (I've never been to either, but I like the foreign feel of heavy, lingering moisture. It's a tiny vacation for someone who grew up in West Texas.)

A five mile commute was very intimidating a few years ago. Now it's a comfortable distance. I'm not ready for a triathlon, but at 47, I am capable of much more than I was at 40. I hope the trend continues!

(No spandex for this fat boy! Lubbock, you are very  welcome!)
For me, the days are better when I ride than when I don't. Besides the whole save-the-planet thing (which is really big in my thinking), my brain works better on ride days. I stay awake and focused better. I am less likely to get caught up in negativity, gossip, and discouragement. I enjoy the commute in both directions. And I notice more about the place in which I live. In this very busy life, it is a time that feeds my soul rather than pounding at my stress.
I can't promise that a bike commute will be as worthwhile for you, but I do recommend that you give it a try.
May you find a daily practice that offers you (and the world) so much goodness.
PS. Always invest in thorn-resistant tubes on your commuter bike.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Forty Percent - Can You Do it?

I admit it - I am a fair-weather biker. I have a simple set of don't ride criteria
  • water falling from the sky
  • ice
  • temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit
  • temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit
  • wind above 25 miles per hour
The local climate is semi-arid/plains/desert type stuff, so this criteria keeps me riding a lot. Strangely, National Bike to Work Week always seems to bring a monsoon with it. I rode to work on Monday. I will ride again on Friday (tomorrow). There has been rain, lightning, and cold in between.

I am thankful to be able to ride tomorrow - it's National Ride to Work Day!

Sure, I would love to be able to ride every day, but this week I will have accomplished a 40% reduction in gas-powered rides to work. If we could accomplish that on a larger scale - say a town, a county, a state...we could make a massive dent in our ecological well-being. We could slow climate change. Yes, I love bicycles, but bike riding is not the desired outcome. We need to reduce carbon production and release. That's the real goal.

So, how about you? What could you do to reduce the damage caused by your commute by 40%? Would you need a bike? A more efficient car? A bus pass? A carpool plan? Thicker socks? A schedule change at work?

If you can't get there, look at other parts of your life. Could you use 40% less electricity? 40% less water? Could you create 40% less waste? Could you help make it possible for others to make a 40% improvement? Could you inspire others to make a 40% improvement?

Just think, if an overweight, middle-aged dork-on-a-bike can do it, you can too!

May forty percent be the beginning of something amazing in your life!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tiny Munching Invaders: Roly Polies in the Garden

It's good to be back in spring!
In our front yard, we have a recycled Food is Free planter where we grow food to (theoretically) share with the neighbors. If anyone needs a tomato or a pepper or whatever, they can come by and grab one. But last year, the little patch o' heaven wasn't really productive enough to do much sharing. We are hoping for better this year. 
However, the sharing has started early this year, and we are trying to figure out what to do about it.

 Nope, it's not Swiss cheese arugula - someone's been munching.
We have been invaded by roly-polies! (aka pill bugs, and lots of other names)
Over the last few days, we have learned a lot about these rather cool little creatures. First, they are not bugs. They are land-based crustaceans. (I think we should rename them crusty pills or pill crusties.) And, like everything else, they are great in moderation, but they are not so great when there are lots of them. And we have lots and lots and lots of them in the Food is Free planter - we created a little roly-poly Paradise City and they have populated with abandon. They like moisture, wood to munch on, and rotting vegetation. We added lots of water, lots of compost, and lots of wood mulch. Yep, it's Party in the Planter 2016. They usually just munch on the dead stuff, but they go after the live stuff when their numbers get high. And their numbers are high! It's time for a mass exodus.
Link here
What's a gardener to do? Our first attempt is in place - we made a honeydew list assault by slicing up a melon to work at attracting the roving hordes of crusties. I checked it yesterday morning and found the hordes to be lacking, but I am going for the Patience approach and let the melon get over-ripe. I will keep you posted.
Not too hordish yet.
May you not need guns to protect your roses, and may the crustaceans be your beneficial friends.
Bonus roly poly trivia:
There is a Roly Poly Japanese girl-pop band!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

It's easier...

I struggle with easier.

It's easier for me just to turn on the tap.
It's easier for me just to pay the electric bill.
It's easier for me just to drive a car.
It's easier for me just to pump gas.
It's easier for me just to throw plastic dishes away.
It's easier for me not to save and eat leftovers.
It's easier for me just to ignore the news.
It's easier for me just not to vote.
It's easier for me just to buy a new one.
It's easier for me just to trash it.
It's easier for me just to shop at the big store.

Yes. Those things are all easier.

It is time to find a new adjective.

It's worthwhile for me capture rainwater.
It's worthwhile for me just to conserve electricity.
It's worthwhile for me to walk, pedal a bike, ride a bus, or carpool.
It's worthwhile for me to choose renewable energy in all forms.
It's worthwhile for me to wash dishes.
It's worthwhile for me to save and eat leftovers.
It's worthwhile for me to follow impactful stories.
It's worthwhile for me to research and vote for my beliefs.
It's worthwhile for me to repair my stuff.
It's worthwhile for me to compost.
It's worthwhile for me have a garden, shop local, or buy used.

(My favorite)
May you find life rather than ease. (Thank you for reading!)

Monday, May 16, 2016

700th Post, A Rough Start to Bike to Work Week, and Saving Water

This is Mesquite Hugger Post #700 - I thought I'd celebrate by posting an in-focus pomegranate photo. Enjoy!
It's like having Georgia O in the backyard!
Lubbock on a Bike

It was my toes or my soles or something that told me. I was about a mile away from the coffee house on a rare (wet & foggy) morning. One foot was slipping on the pedal, the other was firmly staying in place. When I looked down, my problem was pretty obvious:

Yep, one of these things is not like the other.

It's a problem I keep having. My brain was preoccupied with something other than what I was doing. It's a big part of why I have enjoyed things like biking (and scootering, kayaking, motorcycling, etc.). I have terrible coordination, so those things keep my brain fully engaged trying to make hands feet eyes fingers legs arms and everything else work in concert to make it possible for me to ride without catastrophe. There is a great feeling in being fully engaged.

Getting dressed in the morning? Not so much.

But today is the first day of National Bike to Work Week. I biked to work. I am still claiming this one as a win. Now, where exactly is that other pair of unmatched shoes?

Water Conservation

It rained this weekend. (It was awesome!) My yard had taken on a very Captain Crunch feel, but things are much better now. But it did point out the need for me to step it up in the rain collection department. (More on that as I figure out the plan.)

The 55-gallon rain barrel was filled in no time at all. I diverted it all to the front yard and captured another 55 gallons right away. I set out every bucket and can I could find and collected another 80 gallons. We have a lot of plants out and hope to be planting more this week, and plants love rainwater.

But the goal (for me) is much bigger than just the garden. The real goal is to limit the amount of water we access through the tap in order to stop draining our local water sources. Here in Lubbock, water becomes more and more scarce. Whether you get your water from a municipal pipe or from a well in your backyard, you have access to a very precious resource that we need to conserve.

Want to learn more about rainwater harvesting and water conservation in our area? Check out the High Plains Water District for many great resources, including the brochure below.

One inch = 1,246 gallons - that is awesome!

May you find yourself fully engaged in something worthwhile and enjoyable!