The prevalent historical definition of Waste Not Want Not is “wise use of one's resources will keep one from poverty”. I would like to propose an alternative green definition “waste not want (or need) less (going forward)”.
I never was a fan of throwing out or tearing down anything for the sake of getting something new. Something new isn’t always better. A lot of times it isn’t as well made and there won’t be any sentimental value in it. See what you think after reading this green article.
I know that it is good to be and go green, reduce our carbon footprint, etc. What would make this goal really attractive to the masses and me? Reduce some painful cost I’m currently absorbing right now, every month. Make it obvious. Give me a break even point that hits fast.
I researched photovoltaic (solar panel) technology recently and made a 5 point checklist to help me decide whether to get solar panels now or not. It really makes it very clear how to proceed given a particular situation.
If you score well, you should seriously consider getting solar panels for your roof right now! Every month that goes by with you not using this technology will unnecessarily take a lot more money out of your pocket to pay for electricity.
Slowly but surely early adopters of creating solar energy at and for residential homes are increasing in numbers. A couple of years ago, my mom even had solar panels installed on her roof. Not only does this system generate all the electrical energy she'll ever need, it will generate a surplus she gets credit for!
I pay on average of $250 a month for electricity. When you consider that bill could go away entirely for many years, that is a small fortune!
I've identified five factors that indicate whether considering this now makes sense for you.
First, the cost of buying or leasing a new solar panel system for your roof is a significant factor. The good news is, the costs here are coming down, fast. There can also be special pricing for new regions or at certain times of the year. And with leasing now possible, with some of these companies, you may find you break even sooner going that way.
Second, the government rebate program(s) available to you when you'd be able to commit to a system can amount to a major chunk of the cost. My mother's total rebate was 70% of $40,000. But every year what is available in terms of rebates changes and it also depends on where you live.
Third, the amount of southern exposure your home has is a huge factor. If you are on a north side of a hill, and your home has little or no southern exposure, this will probably not be something you can pursue now while at your current home. You may say, "Well, I have a field." The costs for a photovoltaic system that is stand-alone goes up exponentially, at least at this writing. This is not going to be financially feasible for you given what is currently available here and its cost.
Fourth, the contiguous amount of usable roof surface footage for the portion facing south is another factor. If you have dormers, it interrupts the continuity and will reduce your usable footage for the solar panels.
Fifth, the amount of daylight and sunny days your region gets annually on average is key. If you live in Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon, for example, the numbers may not work out for you based on where the technology and cost is at today.
I worked with both Solarcity and Sungevity this summer. Both are very professional and will work closely with you. With their help, you'll be able to answer each of these items. Note: They even work with existing satellite image data of your home (and roof) to be able to give very accurate preliminary estimates of what they'd think they'd be working with, given your specific situation.
There is one more thing to consider which is different from the 5 factors I've already covered. It has to do with your electrical consumption. Now, some of you may say, "Why are you bringing that up? Any excess you don't need you'd get credit for, etc. " How a credit is handled may be different depending on where you live. My mom, for example looses any credit she has accumulated at the end of the year. I'm told, however, some utilities in some parts of the country will actually cut you a check and pay you directly for the energy on a regular basis.
Also, even though I had a south facing house and roof, the usable surface area was not that significant. The system that could be installed on my roof could only accommodate about 30% of my electricity needs. My break-even point would be just 3 years. But, because I wasn't getting much of my bill paid for, I want to hold out for more efficient photovoltaic technology that has a smaller footprint. It's a calculated chance I'm taking. The technology may take 10 or 15 years to become available. Or, maybe it will be just 5 years! It was a 15 year lease I'd be locked into. I simply want to keep my options open for right now.
My situation does not mean that getting into solar panel technology isn't perfect timing for many of you! I know it is.
Its easy to reduce our consumption of candy and sweets when you make the replacements really cool! For example, you can Go Green this Easter with a Green Easter Basket! This year, along with a few traditional items of chocolate and jelly beans, we are going green with special (young) plants! Featured here are Gardenia ‘Frostproof’ (Gardenia Jasmine), Lady of the Night (Brunfelsia gigantea), and Corkscrew Flower (Vigna caracalla). Each of these are known for one or more of the following: beauty, length of bloom, quality of fragrance produced.
Run to a garden immediately, if you aren't familiar with this magnificent flower. Perhaps a neighbor is growing them. If so, ask if you can hold and smell one. If you are extra fortunate, you'll be able to take a stem home! These flowers are out for only about 7 to 10 days. I just picked these today from our garden. This is an article I wrote last year about peonies which tells you a bit more about them: peony article
I like winter in New England for about a week, maybe two, around Christmas when there's a couple of inches of fresh, sparkly snow.
When it's the middle of winter, how I yearn for spring! The White Poinsettia left over from the holidays and the Paperwhites mom gave me for Christmas certainly begin to tide me over. But, I find that visiting very special greenhouses really helps a lot. The ones at the Lyman Estate Greenhouses in Waltham, MA fall into this catagory. These are also some of the oldest surviving greenhouses in the country and consist of four structures: 1804 Grape House, 1820 Camellia House, 1840 Orchid House, and a 1930 green house which features items for sale.
I first went here some years back with my Dad during the winter. We arrived in the morning when the green houses get a lot of light. A number of the pictures I took came out incredibly well. They can be seen here (just look for Lyman Estate in the title, there are 9 or so). I went again again this past Saturday with my friend. Take a look at this greenhouse:
Doesn't this make you forget about winter?! We got there late in the day (a half an hour before closing). But still was able to look at everything and even make some great purchases. Here's what I bought:
A Grey Lady Plymouth Scented Geranium (is at 1 o'clock), a Button Fern (is at 2 o'clock), a Serissa Foetida Mt Fuji Bonsai Tree (is at 6 o'clock), a Ficus Pumila Creeping Fig (is at 7 o'clock) and a Victory White Camellia (is at 11 o'clock). The total charge for this was just $35 plus MA tax of $1.91!
See what greenhouses there are near where you live, which you can tour. You may be quite surprised at what is available. Many of these places are for free. This includes the Lyman Estate Greenhouses (there is a fee for the Historic New England (formerly SPNEA) residence on the property, but it is nominal). Check colleges and universities. Wellesley College is another place close to Boston which has a wonderful greenhouse you can tour. Inquire with local botanical and horticultural societies about where interesting greenhouses are. They may even have one of their own. An example of this would be Worcester County Horticultural Society's Tower Hill Botanical Garden and incredible Orangerie which is similar to a greenhouse or a conservatory.
Have you ever noticed that some gardens seem to just pull you in and cause you to escape into a state of peace and contentment, even if it's just for a few moments?
There are reasons for this. And it has to do with the kind of thought that went into the garden design. When it comes to fairy gardens that have been made to date, I've noticed there is a wide range of quality that has gone into their design. This can be fine. Many of these, for instance, are part of children's play areas which may be in a constant state of change. And, part of the fun can be to just participate in creating a garden that may or may not touch upon a particular theme.
If, however, you'd like for the fairy garden to be something more, perhaps magical and alluring, it would be wise to step back and consider what attributes might work better than others.
I've identified some design rules which aren't really complicated or overwhelming. And, collectively, they make an enormous difference in the quality of the result. Here they are:
(1) Carefully utilize elements, both well and not so well known, from fairy lore.
(2) Approach the design of the elements with the essence of Zen (promoting a meditative state) in mind.
Some specific guidelines that could come out these design rules are:
(1) There is aesthetic use of geometric angles, lines and curves.
(2) Proportions are very consistent across objects. This allows the garden to be believable.
(3) Less is more. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to over do it and have a cluttered and therefore unattractive effect.
I also think it's important that you figure out what you love to see in a garden, if you haven't already. With me, for example, I love plants with dark, glossy green leaves and delicate white flowers. I also like rocky terrain.
Next time you see a garden you love, ask yourself what are 3 things about it that you feel really make a difference. After you do this for a while (this could take a few seasons!) you have a real chance of getting very good at designing a garden for yourself.
If you'd like specific information on how to create a beautiful miniature zen fairy garden, I have just published a new book, How To Create A Zen Fairy Garden, which is available at Amazon.
Making a zen fairy garden in miniature has a number of advantages including:
(1) It helps you make it through the winter in a cold climate or living in a city where you don't have access to a roof top or balcony garden.
(2) It takes hardly any time to start and complete. And you get a surprising amount of enjoyment creating it a gazing at it.
(3) If you think you are going to want to build a full scale zen fairy garden, creating a miniature one first will help you to develop the design more fully.
One last point. This makes a wonderful gift for folks that are hard to buy for, especially garden lovers!
Yahoo! It's the first day of spring! We made it through another New England winter! For those of you who like to garden, time to pull out the tools and the wheelbarrow, right? I wish. Look out the window in the above picture. We just got 10 inches of snow from a snow storm yesterday. Drat!
What is so nice about this kind of garden is that if your climate or weather is not cooperating, you can still have one and work with it any day of the year. If you have no yard outside you can have one of these. If you are injured, handicapped or elderly, depending on what you can or can't actually do at this point, you may be able to have and tend to one of these. If you have limited time or a limited budget, you should be able to have this kind of garden!
I stayed clear of of this sort of thing for a long time because I didn't like what I saw. I am very fussy about textures, colors and forms. And at the same time, I want a garden to be captivating and beautiful. But, then recently, I thought of and defined a hybrid garden, one that takes principles from both a fairy garden and a zen garden. And, that, I fell in love with.
Now, a month after creating it, my miniature zen fairy garden is very healthy, and is actually starting to fill out in places. Most of all, it looks beautiful from all directions (this is one of the requirements I have for this kind of garden).
Here is what the garden looks from the north side.
Notice the attractive textures and shapes that are being used. You'll see the same kind of thing on the south side.
The main goal of this hybrid garden is to create something that is very pleasing to the eye which can actually calm you down and let you escape for a moment or two. One other crucial requirement which makes this possible is to get object proportions correct.
Notice the size of the birdhouse relative to the ground cover and the garden bench. Look at how the type of vegetation that is both above the rock and below it make the rock seem like a boulder or a mountain ledge. The net effect of good proproptions is the garden looks very believable and therefore interesting.
If you'd like to get more details including how to make a miniature zen fairy garden, I have a new little book on it which is available from Amazon! How To Make A Zen Fairy Garden
Let's face it, after Christmas is over, we can feel a little down. Two things I can do in January really help me get over it. And, they are things I learned from my former husband. Yes, sweet, lovely things can come out of unions that don't last a lifetime!
The first activity is creating Christmas present tags out of the Christmas cards received. Even if you don't feel you have any artistic ability, you can absolutely do this. It takes no time at all and it's quite fun.
The first thing I do is survey all the cards. Of course the ones with family pictures get put into a different pile (they replace last year's pictures that are posted in a collage in the office).
There are ones that don't have a lot of interesting things going on. Sometimes the colors, textures and patterns let them become nice tags. Or, they just aren't interesting enough and aren't used at all. And then you have the cards that have a lot going on. It's typically some kind of winter or Christmas scene. And with these, you can often get multiple tags out of one card!
The key is to center on the central object if you have one (like a wreath, santa, horse drawn sleigh, etc) and figure out beforehand where will the back side of the tag come from. It's ideal when it can be above or to the left of the central object for a tag. Here, the fold will be just above or to the left of the central object. If you are worried about your centering and cutting straight lines ability, just use a ruler and a pencil with an eraser to get your centering correct and lines straight.
It's not that you can't make a tag when the back needs to be to the right or bottom of the central object, its just that it wouldn't open in a standard way. If I really love the tag, I will allow this, or maybe even make a tag out of two card sections by doing some cutting and pasting. Of course, if the tag is just a neat design or texture, you don't have this problem (you will be able to have it open with the fold on the left or top).
The percentage of cards that end up being usable from year to year varies a lot. This adds to the fun! When next Christmas comes, and you can use them as tags on presents, you'll see that they can really make wonderful accents for your gifts, especially when you match up the tag with the wrap and ribbon. Note that this is a fun activity to do on your own or even with children (just make sure you use the safe/blunt scissors).
The second activity is especially wonderful on a snowy or very cold day when you are relegated to the house. It has to do with developing a very special ability that you probably thought you are either blessed with it or you aren't. It's drawing. I told Peter when we were just dating how much I loved to draw. But I only took one art class and that was in high school. Although I got As, I thought that I didn't have much natural ability. I was sad and disappointed about this particularly because I knew both my mother and great grandmother had a fair amount of artistic ability, and both drew and painted some very beautiful things.
The next thing I knew, we were on a field trip to an art store. Drawing paper, pencils and erasers were bought, as well as the most wonderful book there is on drawing. It will show ANYONE how to draw and how to draw well. It's called Drawing On The Right Side of The Brain.
Honestly, it is remarkable how quickly this book gets you to develop skill here. If you have any interest at all in this, you have to get this book! You will be so thrilled and amazed with what you will be able to do.
Here is the first drawing I made (as I was reading the book).
My biggest challenge now is not learning how to draw, but giving myself permission to take the time to learn and practice. I always seem to have other priorities that "must" be taken care of first. Otherwise I feel guilty for indulging. Take a look at the dates of the drawings. Years can go by before I draw again!
But, as with riding a bike, once you develop some skill here, you have it for life!
I love white flowers the most! And certain varieties of flowers just don't seem to have them in white. But, if you look really carefully (or wait long enough for a hybrid), you may eventually be successful! One example of this is a white day lily: Gentle Shepard
I grew this from seed this year. It took over three months to get my first bloom! Now there are several dozen ready to pop! The timing is actually great because many annual summer flowers are spent and its a little too early for the mums.