Friday, March 30, 2012

Earth Hour is tomorrow!

All over the globe, people are turning the lights off from 8:30 - 9:30 am tomorrow (March 31st) as a way to consider energy use and environmental degradation. You may register your commitment here.

On the one had, I love the idea of people binding together to make a statement. On the other, I'm not sure who the hell needs the lights on at 8:30 in the freaking morning. The sun does that. For free. All day even.

I suppose this symbol makes sense, as participants may realize they're using a precious resource in an unnecessary way. But it's also a trivial action. Here's hoping no one turns the lights back on automatically at 9:31a.m.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Water Conservation Techniques

At my last apartment, I didn't have to pay for water, hot or otherwise. This caused me to become complacent. While I never ran the dishwasher unless it was full, I took long showers sometimes and occasionally left the water running when I brushed my teeth. In the new house, I'm trying to reel all that in. Here's some of the stuff I've done so far:

1) I fill a little glass with water to rinse after brushing my teeth instead of inefficiently scooping water from the tap like I usually do.
2) I only shower every other day, and turn the water off when I shave or shampoo my hair. (Note: this was not as cold or horrible as I expected this morning and I'm the woman who keeps the heat at 54 degrees!)
3) Anytime I need to wait for the water to heat up at the sink, I put the cold water in a container and use it to water the plants. (Lately I've been using these big beer bottles from our last homemade batch; foder for another post.)
4) I'm saving pasta water for the same reason, though I'm uncertain if the starch is at all harmful to the plants and need to do a bit more research on that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Raised Bed Construction Commences!

I've been itching to get the raised beds in since it's great weather for growing spinach, peas, and onions. Raised beds are great for a couple of reasons. First, the soil doesn't get trampled so it isn't compacted as quickly. Second, it allows you to plant even when you're not too sure about the quality of the soil on your property. We're close enough to an old steel mill in Hazelwood that I'd rather be safe than sorry. Finally, you can produce much more in a smaller space than you could with traditional row gardening.

My wonderful father lent us his little pickup truck for the next month so we can haul lumber, dirt, and anything else that doesn't fit on my back or in Alex's tiny car.

The materials:

1) UNTREATED lumber (that pressure treated stuff is toxic and you have to line the beds, which is extra work and extra plastic) ; for each 4x8 bed we used 3 - 2x8s and a bunch of 2x4s cut into 18inch pieces
2) Long screws; we used 3 1/2 inchers

The day after we got the lumber Alex worked. Day two I worked. Day three was a thunder storm with hail that pummeled my new herb garden. Day four Alex finally began the project while I was at work. We were so close! But alas, the screwdriver bit on our drill was just too stripped to attach the final leg and the screws are really too big to do by hand. Alex heads out of town today so this project will have to wait a while. I'm not strong enough to lift the whole thing myself and position it in the side yard (which gets the best sunlight.)

Still, the incomplete bed is looking pretty snazzy, amiright?

The legs will be buried underground and then we'll fill the bed with compost and good organic soil. We'll be experimenting with the Square Foot Gardening technique this year (which you can learn more about here.)

In other gardening news, the strawberries are bearing the tiniest little fruits. Cauliflower and Collard Greens are looking great. Some little critter is nibbling the leaves of the brussel sprouts.

An Actual Conversation With the Pittsburgh Sanitation Department:

Me: Hi! I just moved into a new house and I was wondering what day my trash was picked up.

Sanitation worker: Um, where do you live? I can guess based on that.

Me: I live on Frayne in Greenfield. Can you look it up, though?

Sanitation worker: (Sigh) Ok. Um, Oh! That's that weird street that is spelled like "Fraaah- Nay"!

Me: Uh, it's F-R-A-Y-N-E.

Sanitation worker: That'll be wednesday. Or thursday.

Me: Great, thanks. I have another question if that's alright?

Sanitation worker: (Sigh)

Me: On one page of your website it says the garbage collectors won't pick up carpeting, but on another page it says you'll pick up anything smaller than 5 feet if it's bound by twine. Is there a city dump I can bring the carpeting we just pulled up? Or...

Sanitation worker: I don't think there are any dumps people can go to. There, uh, used to be one on Electric Avenue, but it'll cost you 50$ to get in there, and that was like years ago, so it could be 200$ now. Or probably illegal. Naw, you just cut the carpet into small pieces and leave it out a little every week.

Me: Ok...

Sanitation worker: Or you could TALK to your garbage men. You know what I mean when I say TALK?

Me: I...think so?

Sanitation worker: Ok, bye now.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Makeshift Grow Lamp

One of my first priorities at the new house was getting some seeds started so I could rock the gardening this Summer. It's much MUCH cheaper to grow from seeds. I bought 50 tomato seeds for less than what one plant costs; the seeds will last for 3 yrs if I store them properly. The varieties are far more vast, and if you are concerned with organics, it's pretty much your only option. But it does require a bit more work.

I headed to home depot to grab a grow light (they make official grow lights but they are three times as expensive and regular fluorescents work just as well) and a self-watering tray. The special tray wasn't really necessary, but it wasn't expensive, and it means I don't have to water the seedlings every day or worry about over-watering. When we got back to the new house, we realized the exact fixture we'd purchased was already installed in the basement, so we returned the lighting stuff and improvised.

The plants need to be very close to the light source and the light source needs to be adjustable so you can move it further away as the plants grow. We just hauled over a plastic shelving unit under the light, placed the seeds on the top shelf, and let the seeds do their thing.
We started broccoli, kale, onions, and tomatoes. Understandably, the broccoli likes our cold basement a lot more than the tomatoes, and the little seedlings sprouted in 2 days. I need a step ladder to check on the seedlings and add more water.

If you try this at home, it's best to shut the light off at night to give the seeds a rest and approximate natural light patterns. When they get big enough, we'll toughen them up by moving them outdoors for a few days before transplanting.

Project List! (It's cripplingly long)

Move-in weekend was barely survived. Alex worked all night at the ambulance company, then went directly to his Firefighter exam in the morning, picked up the UHaul, and brought it to the old house where my family was waiting to fill it up. I was ornery the entire morning and at an emotional breaking point. Not ideal. About midday, I considered smashing all my belongings with a sledge hammer just so we didn't have to move them.

But now on to the fun stuff!


1) Remove carpeting on first floor (COMPLETE)
2) Remove wood paneling from walls throughout house (DONE)
3) Paint living room Indigo (COMPLETE)

4) Sand and paint kitchen cabinets (3/4 DONE)
5) Tile kitchen floor
6) Paint kitchen walls
7) Install Paperstone countertop

Isn't the woodwork on the stairs gorgeous? This is one place where I don't need any projects.

8) Remove wallpaper from bathroom and both bedrooms
9) Fix plaster cracks (DONE)
10) Ground outlets in kitchen & attic
11) Refinish hardwood floors (DONE)
12) Tape up HVAC to be more efficient
13) Fix chimney & install liner
14) Get the ripped up carpet off the porch so we can enjoy it (COMPLETE)
15) Exterminate the wasps that think the house is theirs (COMPLETE)

YARD Projects:

1) Mow the lawn (CONTINUOUS)
2) Get the rose bushes under control

3) Weed the side bed and plant herbs (COMPLETE)

4) Fix/deal with the staircase to nowhere. Maybe repurpose elsewhere?

5) Build two 4x8 raised beds in the side yard (which gets the most sun) (COMPLETE)
6) Chicken Coop (and leveling the ground for said coop) (DONE)
7) rebuild the retaining wall (RIGHT SIDE DONE)

8) Plant the rubarb patch (COMPLETE)
9) Plant berry patch (COMPLETE)
10) Fruit trees (DONE)
11) Potato patch (COMPLETE)
12) Grain patch (DONE)

The journey begins!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reboot X 3 !

I used to blog here about all the weird crap I tried in the name of environmental responsibility. Much has happened to me since that time:

1) I earned a PhD
2) I landed a job as a professor at an awesome university
3) I left horrible* Colorado for a real CITY
4) I found an extremely awesome partner who is supportive of my crunchy, organic leanings and feminist commitments

But perhaps most importantly.......

I bought a house!

So! Greedy Green is being reborn a third time, as the place where I chronicle my attempts at transforming my 83-yr-old house in Pittsburgh into a green paradise. Of course, the affordability and sustainability pieces still apply since "turned into a global-warming skeptic," or "acquired great wealth" are not part of my above list.

Check back here for adventures with construction, rehabilitation, and growing my own food. The baby chicks are being delivered May 7th! The raised garden beds go in next weekend! The strawberry patch was planted yesterday (in the wrong part of the lawn I've since discovered...) and the fetching lime green carpeting was removed this morning.

As before, I will divulge cost and benefits information for all the decisions we make.

*Colorado was actually very beautiful and I am glad I spent 5 years of my life there. I made great friends and developed as a thinker and learner, but it is not the place for me and I will never live there again for any reason. Ever. Blergh.