Saturday, May 30, 2009

Farmer's Market Finds!

In the thirteen short minutes I had with my two hot, tired, hungry children (:-) we managed to flesh out this year's garden with plants AND buy some cool new glasses made from recycled wine bottles.

First, for all of you brown thumbs with a big heart like out there, perhaps our tale will inspire.

My five year old and I have been feeling rather discouraged from our attempts at growing seeds beginning inside in March. The first time I forgot to water them for over 24 hours (ironically enough around Earth Day - so many events, so little time for tending). Apologies and copious watering efforts proved futile.

We tried again - this time about half of those survived, so we bravely placed the thriving (ok maybe that's a strong word) plants onto the screened in porch before make the colossal jump to the garden. At which point half of those plants died. Our THIRD attempt we planted the seeds straight into the Earth. A whole new appreciation for farming has emerged, as have three lettuce plants, three pea plants, two beets and two cucumber plants (if we can't grow cucumbers, we might as well pack it in right now!) Good news: they look great, but lonely. So today we headed to the farmer's market today to fill in the gaps.

We chose our plants from Radical Roots - a community farm based in the Shenandoah Valley who grows high quality ecologically grown vegetables using permaculture principles. I found out about them from Christine Gyovai's class at Gaia. I am excited: we've got mini-watermelons, canteloup, sweet red pepper, brandywine and cherry tomatoes.

We hereby resolve to be mindful of watering our plants EVERYDAY with our cool new rainbarrel. And this year we aren't taking any chances with the deer. We took bamboo stalks and limbs from our pin oak and built a fence of deer-proof (we hope) netting; we plan on using St. Gabriel's deer repellant; hanging human hair from the posts from boy haircuts; and we're encouraging "camping" - (our family euphemism for permission to urinate outdoors). Stay tuned in later blogs for our imminent success.

The SECOND sweet farmer's market find was the four cool drinking glasses we bought from local industrial designer Jose R Rodriquez Bosch shown above. I got a chance to talk to him briefly about his creative designs, but look forward to a more in-depth interview. His current work includes glasses of all sizes made from beer bottles and wine glasses from Horton and Barboursville. As well as ultra cool toys: fanciful wands made of reclaimed wood dyed naturally, funky pull toys, and swords are on the way (my boys' eyes lit up).

Betty hopes to join the famer's market in the non-profit area with the help of volunteers (inquire at

See you there,

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Earth Craft Home Tours begin...

I posted this graphic compliments of the Vermont Green Building Network: to inspire your thinking around green building and housing becuase today and tomorrow you have a chance to see hands-on examples of green building elements at Charlottesville's Earthcraft Home Tour 2009 which began yesterday May 22 and runs through tomorrow. Details at The tour includes homes that are in the stages of construction so you can see up close and personal techniques and materials that help reduce energy use in your home.

The Department of Energy reports than single-family homes account for 80% of residential energy use - 47% of which goes to heating air, 17% water, 24% lighting. So whether you decide to build a home or renovate your existing home, keeping the
Earth in mind will reduce your carbon footprint, conserve natural resources, and over time save you money.

Kingma Developers and Barry Meade are two of 19 EarthCraft Homebuilders in the area, who are also listed in Betty's directory:

Real Estate Weekly magazine's article on the event cited a recent study which found that %70 of buyers are inclined to purchase a green home over a conventional home, which means in this market it's also a good investment if you plan on the future resale of your home.

As we've talked about in previous blogs, there are also tax benefits available for use of solar panels and geo-thermal units.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

The side of Bruce Edmonds they don't write about in the papers...

After Friday's Bruce and Betty show, we had a serious meeting in the 1061 the Corner parking lot regarding my next piece in the June Abode: Recycling Conundrums. As you can see.

One such recycling question mark was this piece of purple plastic packaging some flowers I received recently arrived in. You know that stuff that's not tissue paper and it's not plastic.

Bruce informed me that he not only knows all about recycling and household hazardous waste, but also FASHION. This purple landfill-bound sheet makes for the perfect Jackie-O fashion statement he volunteered. (Sorry, it's not recyclable)

Try it on, I say. Stunning. I wish I had some bubble wrap. That would have made a stylish accent poncho.

Don't quit your day job, Bruce!
Thank you for recycling at McIntire everyone.
Better World Betty

Friday, May 15, 2009

Discovery Museum - helping kids go green!

My son had a playdate with one of his buds this week at the Discovery Museum, where we were enjoying all the great new additions and contemplating whether his energetic all-over-the-place energy could sustain focus for the Discovery Dash next weekend, when we spied a cool new green display, pictured above. With some cool tips for kids to go green. Besides encouraging recycling and water conservation and making a fun reusable tote bag, the poster also touts the importance of packing a zero-waste lunch. It's possible to forego the one-use, disposable items like drink pouches and single-use yogurt containers for the bigger bulk containers, which you can put into small glass, reusable containers. I like to use old sandwich loaf bags for storage as well as the biodegradable wax bags found out Whole Foods, Rebbeca's and Integral Yoga. Don't forget your cloth napkin. Now the only waste you have to worry about is the crusts your picky eaters still manage to leave behind. Take heart, bread crusts make great compost too!

Back to the Discovery Museum, for those of you who want to further encourage eco-friendly behavior in your kiddos, they are having a one-day going green camp on Memorial Day. I neglected to write down the details - but will post the event on Betty's calendar in the next few days. Or just call them directly at 434-977-1025 to get the details and/or sign up or go to their website:

Have a great weekend,

p.s. As long as we're talking kid stuff, I hope to see you at the Quetzal Kite Festival in Palmyra on Saturday. Nature's spring breeze plus creative colorful kites, make for a beautiful outdoor activity.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Betty's got a barrell!

I'm singin' in the rain because last Sunday (May 3) I FINALLY took matters into my own hands and installed the rain barrel I've had sitting around for over a month my green friends. Completed SOLO I am proud to add.

The delay? Well that would just turn out to be a long list of really good excuses. But Sean Tubbs of Cville Tomorrow made me feel better today when he said, "I am seeing Betty everywhere." Ah-ha. That's why you haven't seen me installing my rain barrel.

Step one: I chose a strategic spot, the southeast corner of our home so that we don't have to use any county water this year for our veggie/flower garden. Instead we will use the collected rain fall.

Step two: I gathered/purchased all necessary supplies. It's not just the barrel you need but a connector piece, a flexible drain hose, a saw, a tightening ring (I'm quite sure these are NOT the official terms), cinderblocks to give it some height for easy access, and a piece of particle board or other wood platform. The cheapest place for the cinderblocks would be the Ivy MUC Landfill facility (tip from Brian Buckley - Thanks!), but I didn't want to consume all that gas to get there, so I bought mine along with the other stuff at Martin's Hardware (about 4 bucks each). I think everything together cost me 25 dollars.

There are handy-dandy products that attach neatly and snug, and if that's your preference it will cost anywhere from 20-50 dollars, at least when I looked. The only downside of rigging my own was that now I have a five foot section of drain hose that doesn't have a home (email me and I will give it to you FREE).

Step three: Saw off the gutter and then start attaching the parts. Set your barrel atop the platform, setting on the cinderblocks. You're set.

After just four days of rain last week, it's full! The garden is not exactly in full swing yet.

I will confess to you all right now I only DREAM of being an amazing gardener/green thumb. The only thing green about my thumb is I can use it along with the pointer finger of my right hand to write checks to better gardeners whose plants I purchase (only to kill them with improper watering or pretending the deer won't come eat them!). That or type articles to inspire others to use THEIR green thumb.

Happy harvesting!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nature gives...

I had the unique pleasure of spending last weekend at the Gaia Women's Gathering in the hills of Albemarle County. Eighty beautiful wise nature-loving women gathered to celebrate and share their expertise on a variety of topics including herbal medicines, hand crafts, respiratory wellness, diet, and permaculture. Deb Soule, organic gardener, founder of Avena Botanicals shared her love of plants and pollinators.

Local permaculture expert, Christine Gyovai, shared with us her process of creating a sustainable home, garden, and way of living. It was enough to make me want to set up camp in her backyard and eschew suburban living altogether. Take heart, if you live in the city or don't have loads of land. The beautiful and Betty-like theme of the class was start with what you have, simplify, and learn ways to work with Nature rather than against.

I was excited to learn more about "permaculture" - a term I have heard a lot about recently, but if you asked me I couldn't really tell you what it was. Now I can! Permaculture is a way of using the land that is modeled after the way forests, nature-made ecosystems naturally occur. Permaculture can teach you how to garden like a forest, where there are seven layers: underground, ground, shrubs, mid-canopy, full size, vines.

Permaculture encourages: 1- care of the Earth - (ways of renewing the Earth on a daily basis) 2- care of the people (building community through work parties for example) 3- share the surplus (incorporate giving so nothing goes to waste).

I'm not able to go into the detail (Christine whittled down a dozen hours of workshop time into this brief hour and a half introduction), so if you are interested here are Betty's suggestions for ways to get started:

* Attend one of the fabulous workshops given by the Blue Ridge Permaculture Network, which are listed on their website and on Betty's Events page

*Christine recommended these books:
Gaia's Garden, by Toby Hemingway
How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jearons
Edible Forest Gardening by Dave Jacke

*A lasagna garden is great way to start - I can vouch for this technique having used it in my own two box gardens.

1st layer: cardboard
2nd layer: some organic - manure or dirt or local Panorama Pay Dirt (available at Southern States)
3rd layer: newspaper sheets, but NOT the glossy ones
4th layer: more organics

Christine recommended letting it break down for a season, but last year I left out of the cardboard, instead I used dry leaves on the bottom layer and started gardening right away and (until the deer got to it) the garden was flourishing. Speaking of deer, this year I am going to use bamboo-staked fence with deer netting (my boxes are not that big) AND St. Gabriel Laboratories Deer Repellent spray - which is made locally (I got mine at Whole Foods) from all natural ingredients and therefore is safe for the fruits and veggies. I plan on being vigilant with the reapplication, especially after rain this year. Usually the deer chomp through our lily patch like it's some kind of salad bar, but with this spray we were able to enjoy the blooms last year.

Hope that inspires!