Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Moonshine...The Original Organic Drink

Before Chewy went green, he hung out at his original blog:

It started out as part of a 365 day group, with the goal being to post one photo a day of your town, thereby giving online friends a way to get to know where you hang your hat. Chewy did well at first, but the truth is our Walmart looks just like yours, and he wandered off track, venturing into Franklin County history, and Virginia history, and the gardens, and the greenhouse, and so on.

So he's decided to keep the history at the Moonshine Capitol where it belongs, and have the gardens and greenhouse over here. Doesn't mean you won't see pretty garden pictures there, and historical pictures here - just not as jumbled up as they have been.

Also - he'll probably import some of the earlier posts on rain barrels and freezing tomatoes over here, to save on having to re-write them all.

Whether here or there, still all Chewy all the time. Black, furry and now, uh, green.

Kitty Contributions to the Budget Deficit

One of my interests for this blog is finding and sharing inexpensive ways to maintain "the lifestyle we have become accustomed to" in this economy.

Over the last year I've been experimenting with various kitty litters for our 3 indoor felines. Even the least expensive "packaged" littee is too costly (and I'm not sure I want my cats playing in those chemicals) - so I've finally come up with this solution.

For about $8.00 total (based on prices in our Virginia area), this 25 lb bag of basic clay litter ($3.00), sparingly mixed with baking soda (bought in the 12 lb bulk size at Sam's for $5.00) will last about 2 months.

The trick is to sift and scoop out the solids about every third day. Doing this will keep the litter fresh for up to 2 months, with periodically adding and mixing a little refresher layer of clay litter, and lightly sprinkling with baking soda.

If you only have one cat, it will last longer. It will also last longer if you don't have a kitten, who thinks the litter box is a private beach and playground.

The other obvious benefit, besides the huge monetary savings, is that this is a natural solution - you can dump this used litter in your flower beds without upsetting the soil balance. *Don't use it in any gardens with edible food, or in a compost pile you plan to use in edible gardens.*

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blueberries, and the Spring Project

We had a relatively warm day today so I picked up some blueberries at Lowe's to replace the ones that died last year. Turned out only two had died, so now I'm up three new plants.

Last year was the beginning of the Big Blueberry Project. Blueberries went to $7.99 a pint locally, and I decided I'd grow my own. They're easy to grow - all they need is 6 hours of sun a day, acidic soil, and a LOT of water. I had the sun, I added pine needles to the mulch, and that meant all I had left to figure out was the water.

Of course last year was the second year of drought conditions in our county, so having blueberries meant designing a water collection system. I installed the first rain barrels late last spring, then a couple more, then it became an obsession, eventually leading to a system of nine barrels.

In a 15-minute, light summer shower, those nine barrels will collect almost 500 gallons of water.


500 gallons.

Turns out that was enough for one small garden up by the house, plus the big fountains, and the hollyhock beds along the side of Chewy's yard.

Then came the blueberries. By the end of summer, the blueberries really needed more water than I could collect. The more water they get, the more blueberries I get.

Of course, the plants that were producing the most berries were the older plants (the three-year-olds), but more importantly those plants were at the top of the slope, while the two plants that had died were were at the bottom of the patch.

So this spring's project is an expanded rain barrel system. We are going mega-collecting.

The idea is to dig out a small pond in a dirt pile at the top of the yard slope, filling it with water plants to naturally filter the water. The rain barrels will continue to fill, and empty into the pond. The lower side of the pond will be connected to an underground pipe that connects with an underground drip water hose that runs up and down the rows of blueberries.

It's about a 30 degree slope from the pond site down to the blueberries. If the gravity-feed works sufficiently, we'll expand the drip hosing to the rest of the garden. Currently, there is underground soaker hose for the rest of the garden beds, but they're connected to the town water system. Considering we spent 3 weeks last summer on water rationing, plus the cost of the water, it would be great if we could collect enough water for the whole garden.

In light of needing either a pond form, a pond liner, or a really big piece of heavy-duty plastic, while I was at Lowe's today, getting blueberries, I found the the last pond form left from last year, for 60% off, so made the decision to go that route.

Now we'll start digging out the pond, as soon as there's another relatively warm day. Updates to follow.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Those Weird Looking Light Bulbs and Why You Should Make the Change

Actually, there's no reason NOT to make the change. Those dim, flickering first generation Compact Flourescent bulbs (CFC's) are a thing of the past. The price has come way way down, the choices of size and wattage are as good as those incandescent bulbs and you can even get floodlights, 3-ways and dimmer bulbs now.

My own personal experience may help to nudge you in the CHC direction. In May of 2007, we used some of our tax refund to purchase enough CFC's to change over every bulb we need. My daughter and I spent an hour or so walking through the house, writing down every bulb, and wattage , as well as any special needs (ceiling fan, oven hood, 3-way lamp,sunlight or natural light, flood lights).

Turned out we needed 29 bulbs (we have a lot of ceiling fans than each take 4 bulbs).

Previously we had researched cost at both Walmart and Lowe's and Lowe's came out less expensive. However, the store brand (and clearly marked "best deal") was not the best deal. The more expensive bulk pack of 6 bulbs saved us almost $3.00 a box.

The net cost for all bulbs was $110.00.

Plus the hour or so it took to change the bulbs out.

We changed ALL of our bulbs. The photo below is of my vintage 1930s floor lamp (much beloved and the first lamp I ever bought for my first apartment, straight from a little antique store on Rue Chartres in New Orleans. I've re-wired it twice, replaced the shade twice,and will never give it up. Now it's continuing into the 21st century.)

The one below is the kitchen ceiling fan. Probably the least attractive, since the glass globe own't fit over the size bulb we need. To us, it's more important to have the CFC bulb than the glass globe. Your mileage may differ.

Also a kitchen light, showing how warm the light is. It does come on slightly dimmer, but not with the characteristic icy-blue light of the earlier CFC's. Probably takes less than a minute to
come to complete light capacity.

Here's the livingroom ceiling fan - again, we didn't replace the center bulb in the glass globe.
Each of these CFC's equal a 40 watt bulb. In the ceiling fan overhead light over my desk, I have 4 "natural light" CFC bulbs -they simulate sunlight, and I love them.

The light on the homeschool table. It's a 3-way bulb, used constantly, and sits on the homeschool table specifically for reading and studing.

Now, remember these bulbs were replaced in May 2007. As I write this it is February 20,2009.
Almost 2 years and no problems with the bulbs (and this is amazing because we're on the east coast, and our power grid supply lines are old, and very hard on light bulbs. Previously, we were constantly replacing incandescent bulbs that would blow out, burn out, or just dim within weeks.

Financially, here are the usage statistics: from June 2007 until the current February 2009, we have saved no less than 7294 kw, which translates to roughly 2.3 months of our normal usage,
or $639.00 in 20 months, or $31.96 each month.

Our $110.00 investment literally paid for itself in 14 weeks.

Now, saving money may not be your primary motivation, so here (from Fast Company) are the more important reasons for switching to CFC lighting:

1. If every one of 110 million American households bought just one ice-cream-cone bulb, took it home, and screwed it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people.

2. Compact fluorescents emit the same light as classic incandescents but use 75% or 80% less electricity.

3. A $3 swirl pays for itself in lower electric bills in about five months. (Our personal experience was 3.5 months)
4. Compact fluorescents, even in heavy use, last 5, 7, 10 years. Years!

5. The single greatest source of greenhouse gases in the United States is power plants–half our electricity comes from coal plants. One bulb swapped out: enough electricity saved to turn off two entire power plants–or skip building the next two.

6. In terms of oil not burned, or greenhouse gases not exhausted into the atmosphere, one bulb is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads. Did you catch that? ONE BULB SWITCHED OUT IS EQUIVALENT TO TAKING 1.3 MILLION CARS OFF THE ROAD.

7. Last year, U.S. consumers spent about $1 billion to buy about 2 billion lightbulbs–5.5 million every day. Just 5%, 100 million, were compact fluorescents (2007 stats - I figure our purchase alone pushed this number higher).

8. A 60-watt classic bulb and a 15-watt swirl are identically bright–the swirl just uses 45 fewer watts.

Chewy gives CFC bulbs 4-paws up, and says make this your year to make the switch!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So What Are You Doing on Saturday, March 28, 2009, at 8:30 pm?

Because millions of people globally will be sitting in the dark, or at least,in the non-electric dark, just to bring attention to the earth's dwindling resources, and how we waste them daily, by the hour. Watch this video and consider joining them -it's a Saturday night, there's nothing good on from 8:30-9:30 pm,and you homeschoolers can make a unit study out of it.