Sunday, July 11, 2010

Healthy Yards Survey

As a previous Healthy Yards Program participant, I was recently asked to complete a survey. I'm happy to report that I really really LOVE this program. I first learned of this very worthwhile program in the local newspaper back in the Spring of 2008 and was excited to take part in it. However, as I recalled, I signed up too late and was shut out of purchasing the Native Planting Kit for that year.

It didn't matter because I ended up attending the event anyways which was open to anyone. And a good thing too because I played one of their games and won a prize!!! The game I played was to match up pictures of leaves to the trees they came from. Since I got all the answers right, I won the right to choose any plant I wanted in the Games Area. Luckily for me, one of the plants available to be won was a White Birch. It was the one of the BEST prizes I ever won!!!

So in the Spring of 2009, I made sure to place my order for the Native Planting Kit bright and early and I ended up with a Red Dogwood Bush, a Black Raspberry Plant and some assorted native wildflowers, all for under $30.00. I managed to plant everything except for some native grasses and some of the yellow wildflowers. Grass and yellow flowers aren't my favourite plants. After planting all my favourites in my front and back yards, I'm proud to say that thay have all survived and look beautiful! What a fantastic way to green our gardens, by planting "easy to grow and maintain" native plants.

It's nice to see that the butterfly garden I started many years ago has even more native wildlife added to it.

Here's the Wild Bergamot planted in 2009

More assorted wildflowers from 2009

The Bergamot with its very pretty flower in full bloom in 2010

Some lovely bluebells poking out among my snow-in-summer plants (2010)

More assorted purple wildflowers popping out of my front garden in 2010. Can you tell purple is my favourite colour theme?

In the back, I planted the Red Dogwood Bush.

Here it is a year later. It's suppose to be very striking looking in the winter time with its redwood twigs showing up against a snowy white backdrop.

The Dogwood with some new buds.

The buds turn into dainty little clusters of white flowers

Then these lovely white berries form. They are so cute, but alas, are not edible.

Here's the Black Raspberry Bush, freshly planted in 2009.

Yay, we have a bunch of edible raspberries growing the following year. We picked them as soon as they turned totally black. Yummy!

These are the plants I didn't bother planting.

Here's the White Birch Prize I won back in 2008. Just a little thing back then.

The Birch grew up to my height the following year in 2009.

In 2010, it really took off and now is at least 2 feet taller than me!

The grasshopper seems to prefer our driveway to the grass. Maybe he's sunning himself?

A black & white butterfly visiting my garden. Poor thing looks pretty beat up with a bit of its wing being chewed off.

A beautiful damselfly sitting on a jasmine plant.

Some Burgundy and Blue Leaf Hoppers playing hide and seek on the milkweed plant.

A rather thirsty Monarch butterfly taking a sip from the purple cone flowers.

After a nice refreshing drink, the Monarch is ready to lay some eggs on the milkweed.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rescued Skirts

Here are 2 skirts I really liked but have not worn for a long time because they required some minor repairs or re-adjustments.

The first project is a skirt with a slightly flared style which I did not like. I decided to sew in about an inch on each side to reduce the flare and make it a more fitted style.

The result: A skirt that has a more tapered look.

The second project is for a skirt that used to fit snugly around my waist. But due to the many times I had to pull the partially elasticized waistband over my big butt, the elasticity got worn off.

I fixed the problem by using some cast-off shoelaces my hubby didn't like. He prefers flat shoelaces over the rounded ones as shown below. Good thing I saved them as I knew I would find a use for them some day.

I made two openings on either side of the inside of the elasticized portion and threaded the shoelace through so that they can be used like pull strings to gather the waistline to the size needed.

The result: A skirt I can easily pull over my big butt and now I can pull on the shoestrings to tie up around my waist. The good thing about this method is that the waistsize is now adjustable which is a good thing for those times when I have overstuffed myself with food. And I still have another shoelace left for some other future project.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fun with Refurbishing

We are all familiar with the 3 Rs - "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle". Today, I'd like to talk about another R - "Refurbish". I suppose this "R" falls somewhere in between "Reduce and Reuse". Refurbishing allows you to reuse a well-loved item by extending the life of its use and thereby reducing the need to purchase a replacement item.

Here are but two recent examples of items I managed to save from being thrown into the garbage heap. The first project took less than 5 minutes and the second more ambitious project took only a few hours, with a little help from my dear hubby.

So the next time you are thinking about tossing out something, see if you can find a way to refurbish it first!

Here's a favourite turtleneck of mine with a few holes showing here and there.

With a few quick stitches, my turtleneck is restored to almost new again in less than 5 minutes.

We've had these dining room chairs for over 17 years now and it is definitely showing its age.

Here's a chair with a nasty stain. So ugly but still I couldn't bear to toss these chairs to the curbside.

Being a collector of fabric ends from various fabric stores over the years, I finally got a chance to reduce my large pile of craft supplies by using them to re-covering the said chairs. Voila, our worn-out and badly-stained chairs get a second chance at life.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spreading the News

One of my favourite modern day hero is David Suzuki. Being a nature lover, (mostly of the insect and wildflower variety), I remember occasionally watching David Suzuki's "Nature of Things" as a child. Some thirty odd years later, I still enjoy watching his show.

When David Suzuki started out with his campaign to warn people of all the dangerous modern day activities being wreaked upon poor Mother Earth, no one wanted to listen, especially the Big Bad Corporations that were and still are inflicting most of the damages and encouraging the masses' love affair with over-consumption. He was viewed as a trouble maker, and thought of mostly as "Chicken Little", going around with his head cut off, telling everyone that the "Sky is Falling".

Well, 20 years later, David Suzuki changed his tactics. He adopted a more conciliatory approach. Instead of fighting the System, he decided to work with the System. He co-athored a book called "Good News for a Change".

I was thrilled to finally have had the pleasure of meeting my hero back in the Spring of 2002 when he gave a speech during a Book Signing at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. He signed his then latest book, with the message: "To Joan, Spread the News". I had no trouble absorbing the book's message as my values readily aligned with his. However, being somewhat of an introvert, I did have trouble "spreading the news".

Now, with the help of the internet, I will do my best to "Spread the News"!

If you would like to read examples of some groups' grassroots efforts to use the Earth's valuable resources with a light touch, and even Nature's own self-sustaining methods, I highly recommend the book, "Good News for a Change". Reading this book made me realize that we need a HUGE cultural shift in behaviour, a Cultural Revolution even, to ensure that the Human Race can live in harmony with Nature.

I also recommend reading one of his latest article: "Nature imposes the real bottom line", in which he rails against the Developed Nations' insistence on trying to solve our current global problems with Economic theories and paying little or no attention to the scientific theories of our Biosphere and its limited resources.

Here's an excerpt:

"As biological creatures, we depend on clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy, and biodiversity for our well-being and survival. Surely protecting those fundamental needs should be our top priority and should dominate our thinking and the way we live. After all, we are animals and our biological dependence on the biosphere for our most basic needs should be obvious.

The economy is a human construct, not a force of nature like entropy, gravity, or the speed of light or our biological makeup. It makes no sense to elevate the economy above the things that keep us alive. But that’s what our prime minister does when he claims we can’t even try to meet the Kyoto targets because that might have a detrimental effect on the economy.

This economic system is built on exploiting raw materials from the biosphere and dumping the waste back into the biosphere. And conventional economics dismisses all the “services” that nature performs to keep the planet habitable for animals like us as “externalities”. As long as economic considerations trump all other factors in our decisions, we will never work our way out of the problems we’ve created.

We often describe the triple bottom line – society, economy, and environment – as three intersecting circles of equal size. This is nonsense. The reality is that the largest circle should represent the biosphere. Within that, we have 30 million species, including us, that depend on it. Within the biosphere circle should be a much smaller circle, which is human society, and within that should be an even smaller circle, the economy. Neither of the inner circles should grow large enough to intersect with the bigger ones, but that’s what’s happening now as human societies and the economy hit their limits".

With this in mind, I will endeavour to live a less wasteful life. My family and I already live a lower consumerist way of life than most North Americans. For example, our family of 4 rely on only 1 small economy car, wear a lot of hand-me-downs (with style), cook most of our meals from scratch, thus producing on average, only 1 can of garbage every 2 weeks, do an average of 3 loads of laundry per week and line dry most of our laundry. To be sure, we can do much much more, but it is a start for us and we will continue to find more ways to make more changes in our behaviour to make less waste.

We are so fortunate to be already living such privileged and comfortable lives, I believe we can continue to live deeply satisfying and joyful lives, by giving up some of the excesses we have grown so accustomed. We can do it! Yes we can!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Life Renewed

Welcome to Mottainai Circle!

Here's a definition of "MOTTAINAI" I found on this website:

Mottai” is originally a Buddhist term that refers to the essence of things. It also applies to everything in our physical universe, suggesting that objects do not exist in isolation but are intrinsically linked to one another.

“Nai” is a negation, so “MOTTAINAI” is an expression of sadness over the repudiation of the ties linking all living and nonliving entities. It is also a rallying cry to re-establish such bonds and reassert the importance of treating all animate and inanimate objects with great care.

Practicing this concept requires making the most of limited resources and using them as efficiently as possible. In more familiar terms, it is very much in line with efforts to promote the “3Rs”: to reduce waste, reuse finite resources, and recycle what we can.

Implementing the 3Rs is the shortest path to environmental conservation. Since an appreciation of the concept of “MOTTAINAI” is synonymous with respect for the essence of things, it should not only contribute to protecting the environment but also lead to enhanced respect for human rights and world peace. It is a truly timely concept for modern times.

I have now reached middle age and my hope is that with some wisdom tucked under my belt and hopefully with more wisdom to come, I will live life as efficiently as possible while having as much fun as possible, and promoting world peace.

Why Mottainai Circle? Because was already taken. I chose Circle just because I like circles.

Mottainai and Peace!