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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Real Christmas Tree versus Artifical Debate

I'm hearing, (well I should say reading, cause it's all on the interweb) a lot of people saying that an artificial tree is better for the environment. Truth is, an artificial tree is the worst possible choice for the environment.

Artificial trees might look like the more environmental choice since it's reusable and you're not killing a tree. But they’re usually made of PVC! Do you know how many toxic chemicals are released into the air during production? Let's see . . . mercury, chlorine, oh and the most toxic chemical known to science,
Dioxin. Compare that to a tree growing in a field which is producing oxygen. Also when they wear out, and they will wear out, where do they go? that's right the good ole landfill. Artificial tress can't be recycled.

The majority of live Christmas trees are from a farm and grown specifically for that purpose. When they're are harvested, another tree is planted to take their place. It takes from 10 - 12 years for a tree to grow to the standard Christmas tree size. With a growth rate that slow, you can rest assured that most farmers, if not all, are running their farms in a sustainable fashion.

It's true that many farms do use pesticides and other chemicals in their quest for the perfect tree shape, so you should always check them out before buying. Our local Christmas tree farm has birdhouses throughout the fields. Also try to buy local, if you're tree had to travel 300 miles it's caused quiet a bit of pollution on the way.

Artificial trees are crammed back in their boxes after Christmas or taken to the landfill. What do you do with a real tree after the holidays? Many cities have a recycling program just for the trees, they chip them and use them around the town for mulch or give away them away as free mulch (check around and see if you're town has such a program). If you live near a lake or pond, a tree can be sunk to provide habitat for fish and aquatic animals, yet another reason to make sure it's pesticide free. If you have a lot of land you can put it outside to slowly rot back into the earth. Don't forget to remove all your ornaments.

Of course you can avoid the 'what to do with it after' question altogether if you buy a tree with root ball still attached and plant it afterward. If you don't have a place to plant, think of donating it to your town or a local retirment community to be used as a landscape tree. Just make sure you plan ahead and buy a tree that will do well in your area.

If you're still concerned. Try a rosemary topiary. They're often shaved into a Christmas tree like shape and you can use the herb in your cooking and crafts around the house. Or don't have a tree at all. Santa can leave those presents piled on the couch, under the kitchen table, or on top of the book shelves.

Really, he's flexible.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The big stinky yarn store tease

OK, first a little background on my lovely town. It's a very small town, the only big chain store type thing we have here is Wal-mart. I do not shop at Wal- mart. The nearest Micheal's, AC Moore, etc is a 30-45 minutes drive from here. OK, now onto the story.

I was driving down the main street of my town on an errand when I passed a building that used to be a restaurant. My mother said recently that the owner of the restaurant had died and that his son had taken over and then closed it down.

Out of curiosity, I looked over to see what, if anything, it had become. Imagine my delight when I saw a sign that said 'Mary's Yarn Shop'! I was so excited that I drove around that same way again to look at the hours on the sign. I didn't have time to stop just then so I decided I'd come back later that same day. Well within the hours of operation listed on the sign.

I thought about it all afternoon. There would be an easier way to get yarn and needles and other supplies, there would be someone there to help out when i got stuck on something. perhaps there would be a whole knitting and crocheting community, once hidden in my town, now revealed. I could barely wait until I could go back and check it out!

I went back. Parked my car in the public parking area behind the building. Climbed the step to street level (yes the parking spaces are in a large hole) walked down the sidewalk. Put my hand on the doorknob. Pulled. Nothing happened. The windows were dark. (this is an old building with tiny windows and you couldn't see if the lights were on or off until you stand right in front of them.)

I peaked through the door, right beside the sign telling me it was a yarn shop, and I saw tables with ketchup and mustard bottles sitting on them! No yarn. What? There was a door to the right of the main door, which lead to the upstairs of the building, but there was no sign on that door and the 'Mary's Yarn Shop' sign was closer to the main door than this one so I didn't try it.

I came home and decided to look for a number and call the store and ask where they were located. There is no listing in the phone book, there is no info on the web that I can find. I asked several people in my town if they'd ever heard of this place and they all said no.

Argh!!!! Should I hold out hope that it will open soon, that they're in the remodeling phase now, that it's actually upstairs in that building even though they have no phone? Or should I just resign myself to traveling for my yarn and supplies?

Stupid stinky yarn store tease!!

Le sigh

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My Knitting Manifesto

Inspired by Nutmeg over at Material Mama I've decided to share my knitting manifesto. I fully admit that sometimes I've just changed the words a bit to suit my situation, but hey, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

I will
  1. Encourage smaller, boutique pattern designers and yarn shops..
  2. Understand knitting does NOT save money. (although I might not share this with my significant other)
  3. Love my stash. Visit it, pet it, appreciate it, and listen to it.
  4. Learn to hear praise and compliments about my work and say “Thank You”.
  5. Not play down my accomplishments, even if it's figuring out something that I feel should have been obvious.
  6. Knit gifts for those who appreciate them
  7. Be proud to show my one of a kind, properly fitted, custom tailored garments.
  8. Know mommy made things make my child feel special and loved whenever they are wearing them.
  9. Knit because I have to, it’s a part of who I am
  10. Occasionally toss an item across the room in frustration.
  11. Forgive myself.
  12. Ask for support when I need and want it.
  13. Listen to my heart about MY yarn and pattern (or lack thereof) choices.

I will not

  1. Support pattern companies that do not support me.
  2. Feel pressured to defend my beautiful stash
  3. Feel pressured to knit for others
  4. Support sweat shop labor
  5. Allow my stash to control me and how I feel. I am always in charge of Stash.
  6. Listen to any negativity about how knitting is outdated (it’s classic, and classic never goes out of style)
  7. Throw anything heavy at someone who tells me “wow, did you know that knitting is getting popular again?”
  8. Knit for anyone who might not appreciate it, or sees it as inferior to store bought. It’s their loss.
  9. Deny that knitting feeds my soul.
  10. See myself as competing with Wal-Mart, Target, etc.
  11. Engage in negative self talk or berate my skills to myself or others.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reduce Reuse Recycle

Lots of people have questions on how they can and/or excuses why they can’t reduce, reuse and recycle. You don’t need to go out and buy a fancy set of recycling boxes to sort your things at home. Get some reusable plastic bins or use old cardboard boxes. You don’t have to shell out a lot of money on a compost bin. There are plenty of suggestions and instructions online for making your own. It’s not as hard or as expensive as you think. I’ll break it down into three sections.


This literally means reduce the amount of stuff you buy and use. Use washable reusable plates, cups and silverware. Yes it means you’ll have to wash the dishes more but think of how much less often you’ll have to take out the trash.

Consider using cloth napkins rather than paper ones or paper towels. If you’re eating a few grapes or crackers, put them on a plate or bowl rather than using a napkin as a container.

Look at what you buy in the store. Instead of buying prepackaged single serve chips or cereal, buy the big bag and dose it out into reusable plastic containers at home. A lot of times it’s cheaper this way too. There are lots of things on the shelf with too much packaging, try to be mindful of that and steer clear.

Consider taking reusable canvas or net bags or baskets with you to the store. Shun the plastic grocery bag. If you can’t take your own, ask for paper or an empty cardboard box. If you have only one item or something with a handle, a gallon of milk, for example ask that they not use a bag at all.

Consume less in general. Do your banking and bill paying online, refuse the receipt at the ATM, turn the water off when you’re brushing your teeth, carpool, ride a bike or walk, turn lights and electronics off when you not using them, hang your clothes outside to dry.


This one takes a little creativity sometimes but lost of things can be used again for another purpose.

Reusing glass or plastic jars is easy, Just wash them well and then use them to store leftovers in the fridge, dry gods in the pantry, change on your night table, nuts and bolts in the garage, pencils on your desk . . . The list goes on.

Old cereal boxes, magazines, the lids from plastic jars and tubs, etc, can turn into craft projects for the kids, gift boxes or storage boxes for other things.

Old clothes can be cut up and used in crafts or home décor (a small wall hanging quilt made of little squares cut form your child’s baby clothes); old tee shirts can become cleaning cloths. Or donate gently used clothes to a local charity.

Catch rainwater to use to water your plants or your garden.


That’s the one everyone’s talking about these days. But something they often forget is food. Have a little chicken leftover from dinner? Don’t throw it out recycle it into tomorrow’s lunch. Don’t like the crusty ends of bread? Save them in a reusable container in the freezer until you have enough to make your own croûtons, bread crumbs, or bread pudding.

Start a compost bin. Throw kitchen scraps, potato peels, carrots tops, coffee grounds, etc in and let them decompose naturally. Keep anything that comes from animals out to prevent bad smells and pests in your compost. No bones, meat, cheese, milk, butter. You can use this compost in your garden, in your flower pots; give it to a family member with a garden, etc.

Most communities have a recycling plan of some sort. Some cities pick your things up from the curb, some have special recycle points throughout the town. Check your yellow pages under recycle; call your town’s sanitation department.

This link may help:

What you’re able to recycle varies by location. Most places except plastics #1 and #2, paper, cardboard, aluminum, and glass.

There are seven types of plastic in all, but we’ll focus on 1 and 2. You may also be able to recycle the other forms of plastic, locally. Make sure you rinse all bottles and containers well and remove the lids or caps.

Number 1 plastic is PETE or PET - Polyethylene terephthalate. It ranges from semi rigid to rigid and is used most often in plastic bottles. One use for recycled PETE bottles is the popular polar fleece fabric.

Number 2 is HDPE or high density polyethylene. It’s harder and less transparent than PETE and is used for things like milk jugs, laundry detergent bottles and refillable bottles. HDPE is used in wood plastic composites. Like mug jug fences.

Any kind of paper that can be ripped can be recycled. Newspaper, old magazine, paper grocery bags, school and office paper, etc are allowed. Wrapping paper that doesn’t contain metal can be recycled as well. Note: You do not have to remove staples from magazines or the little plastic windows from envelopes.

Most places accept flat cardboard, like in cereal boxes, and corrugated cardboard, like shipping boxes. Some places ask that you place flat cardboards with your paper goods when you sort.

Aluminum food cans, drink cans and aluminum foil can all be recycled. As with the plastics, make sure you rinse them out. You do not have to remove the paper from cans.

Glass is usually divided into clear, green and brown. As mentioned earlier, make sure to rinse the glass out and remove the lid.

Some recycle centers accept used motor oil, old tires, and large appliances. You may want to look into that locally.

Also see if your town has a freecycle program. You can give away things that you know longer need but that still have a lot of use in them. You can read more about freecycle here: Donate gently used things to a local charity.

If you find that your local community doesn’t have a recycling plan, let you elected officials know that you’re interested in having one. If your area doesn’t have a freecycle group or something similar, start one. Remember one person making one change can make a huge difference!

The dawn of a new day

John's finally started to get excited about green living. He was doing a few things before, switching our light bulbs to compact fluorescent, mostly remembering to throw his recyclables in the recycle bin when he was in the same room, things like that. But he watched a few hours of the discovery channel's green programming this weekend and now he's calculating how much sun light we get a day for solar panel optimization and starting a recycle program at work.

I'm so glad he's made this change. Before I felt like I was the only one who cared. I was the one who took everything to the recycling center, Sam was into throwing the glass in and hearing it shatter at the bottom, but the novelty soon wore off. I was the one on guard to make sure kitchen scraps go into the compost, and I was the one digging things out of the trash when they didn't go where they were supposed to. I was also the one sorting through wastebaskets from other rooms. I felt like the recycle police! I was the one who tries to make sure the rain barrel is functioning, who tried to fix it's leak. It's me who turns the compost and put the garden (such as it was after the draught) to bed for the winter and planted the garlic. I was the one trying to make conscious decisions to buy things in less packaging, fish that was sustainably caught. I was the one who saved glass bottles and bits of cardboard for reuse.

Maybe I'll have a little more help learning about home remedies and herbs for health, keeping those nasty chemicals out of our bodies. Hot tea instead of Tylenol for that headache, for example. Maybe some help finding healthy recipes, some support for buying organic, and locally. Our farmer's market is only open on Saturday mornings and it's hard to get out of bed early on a weekend.

Maybe it's the dawn of a new day here. maybe I won't be alone in this any longer.