The Big Pond

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This pond is not on my current rented property, but is nearby, on family property.  It is about 100 feet in diameter and I am featuring it because it does have an effect on the climate around here, including creating a lot of cool breezes in summer, and I’ll probably be foraging for berries around it later this year.  It used to be a cattle pond when this was all a ranch and later was deepened and the dam improved for a fish pond.  In good rain years it overflows multiple times and it is pretty awesome to watch the brown swirling water rushing into the pond and right out again.  That is some serious acre-feet that goes through there.  This year it has filled up most of the way, but not quite to overflowing, due to this being a weird La Nina year.

This picture is taken in late afternoon, standing on the dam.  The pond is surrounded by blackberry bushes, originally planted to keep predators away from ducks on the pond.  By the way, this does not work.  The bushes take a lot of up-keep and lately have been allowed to run free a bit too much, so there are some big bramble patches now.  They do produce a LOT of berries, though it’s always kind of a race to pick them before the native bees puncture them and suck the juice out.  Oh well, sharing is a good thing, right?

The other side of the pond.  The brambles on the far side are at least 15 feet thick and house many bullfrogs and small birds, as well as probably lizards and snakes.  It does not seem to be frog breeding season yet, but when I was walking around a bullfrog/Yosemite Toad (I can’t get close enough to tell the difference) would dive into the water about every three feet.  Good to know this little ecosystem still has a healthy population of amphibians.

Warm blackberries with fresh raw cream are a wonderful paleo-style treat and I have a bunch of ideas I am looking forward to trying out for other recipes. I always loved blackberry cobbler and if I find I am craving it I will eat some, paleo or no paleo, since I don’t want to torture myself, but we shall see what other creative ways there are to eat blackberries (assuming they make it in the house first!).  Now I am having visions of blackberries, warm and melting sweet, dancing in my head…

Y Girl

Kickin’ ur plastic: Part 3

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Hand soap – a guide for the squeamish and germ-phobic person.

For years and years I have heard about the dangers of Triclosan in liquid hand soaps and how it was contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and how it was not even necessary for killing germs.  I also disliked having to go through so much plastic buying soap.  I used to try to find a way to make liquid hand soap, but I could never find a practical way.

BUT.  There are several aspects of using a bar of soap that were very off-putting to me.  The holder tends to get slimy and yucky looking quickly.  I dislike having a bar be used hundreds of times over several weeks until it disappears.  It just seems unsanitary to me, especially when hair or something gets stuck in it, and I cannot get over that feeling.  Plus, liquid soaps seemed to be much better at keeping my hands moisturized.  So, I kept using them.

Then I read several articles about the way Triclosan (and many other chemicals) mess up our thyroids.  I was trying to lose some weight and I know a LOT of people, women especially, who have hypothyroidism and it makes life so much more difficult in every way.  Did I switch?  Well, I tried harder to think of some way I could start using bar soap, but I just could not figure out a way I could tolerate it.  I told myself that it probably was not that big a deal anyway, I was just washing my hands with it and had a lot less pollutants in my life than most people.  I experimented with shampoo bars, though, and discovered several sources of really nice, natural soaps that felt luxurious to use.

Then I went Primal with my diet (and sleep, and exercise) and discovered how much of a huge difference tiny changes can make.  My body composition was changing drastically for the better with mostly lifestyle changes, very little exercise, and I had so much mental energy that I decided to revisit the old soap issue and find a solution this time.

It turned out that the solution for me was provokingly simple.

I cut up my soap bar into small pieces and put it on the top of an overturned glass jar.  It was reused from being a food container, so it did not even cost anything.

This works for me because the soap is used up in just days and as soon as it’s gone I can put the jar in the dishwasher and get it perfectly clean again.  Thus I always have a clean holder and nice looking soap.

Including shipping the soap cost me about $8.00 and I think it is going to last (used by two, in the kitchen) about two months, so only a dollar a week or so.  This is cheaper than the plastic refills, which is great.  I believe I was spending about two dollars a week on the liquid soap.

You can probably find someone selling  really cool soaps near you at a farmer’s market, or if you are not able to get to any then there are tons of great suppliers online.  You can always go with hand soap from the supermarket, but until you have tried a really great hand soap you have no idea what you are missing.  Actually, one reason I am happy about having made this change is now I get to try more varieties of soaps than I have been able to before!

Y Girl

Happy Earth Day!

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I hope you all had a great one! This picture is my backyard while I was laying out in the shade reading my Kindle in the breeze.  It was quite nice…  I’ve got some more setup posts lined up for this week and then after that I intend to start getting into the nitty gritty of the gardening and other anti-plastic projects I have planned!

Y Girl

About My Habitat – Part Five: The Summit

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This area includes the dog, an old set of outbuildings (including the one I had my first flock of chickens in over ten years ago), the water tank (everyone around here is on well water), and it goes up to a very wooded area past the perimeter fence.  LOTS of poison oak up above there, but I don’t have to worry about that, fortunately.

Next, a little above:

Sort of panning around in a circle.  Isn’t this pretty?  Definitely the absolute peak of the year in CA, IMO.

Whoops, totally forgot about this old shell of a tank.  Wonder how many years it’s been here?

Looks like we’re miles from anywhere, ahh…

Here is the dog, Kippy.  I was going to tell her to sit and stay to get a better picture, but I remembered that even when she is staying her head still keeps moving, so oh well.  The only way to get a non-blurry picture of her is sneak up when she is asleep, and that is pretty hard.

Here we are overlooking the driveway.

Another clump of iris.  These are definitely zone 4 – never get watered, weeded, or dead-headed.  This year I am picking some flowers, but even that didn’t happen much in recent years.  They smell great.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

That finishes up this series about my immediate surroundings for now, but I intend to add some more about other significant features of the landscape around here, such as the nearby quarter acre pond.  Stay tuned…

Y Girl

Big picture, what should humans live in?

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Not quite sure of all the steps, but I started out looking at something about sustainable housing and ended up on a very interesting website about cities, towns, suburbia, and farms and historical versus modern designs.  What I thought was cool was how the most beautiful cities in the world really are the ones with narrow streets and a lot more walking people than cars. I remember reading Human Scale several times, the last time a couple years ago, and being really fascinated by so much of what I expected to be a really dry book.  I definitely recommend you find it in a library or something.  There is a lot of cool info like how far away we can recognize humans we know and how if a square or public space is bigger than that distance we feel small and disconnected.

Anyway, I have not thought much about the actual city life in Europe.  That is, I love reading books about Europe, talking to people who live there, and am very interested in history in general, but for some reason I had this idea that most of those picturesque, winding little streets were mostly shops now.  I did not realize how many of them are still homes.  It’s weird discovering these blind spots in oneself…  Anyway, the site as a whole appears to be mainly about stock markets and currencies and trading, but the articles on cities and suburbs are really well written and have lots of great photos.

Harry Potter and Traditional Cities

Of course, I am living in a not-quite-rural, not-quite-suburban, situation and am very car dependent, so my blog is mostly about making the most of that sort of circumstance, but I have always wanted to have about 60 acres of well watered land to care for.  I never ever could understand the desire to live in a city, but after viewing those articles I could actually imagine doing so pretty happily.  I still prefer country life, but this definitely was a fascinating and inspiring series of articles and makes me a fan of the traditional style of city.  We all know suburbs are going to have to disappear as oil gets more and more expensive, but here is something that looks like a much more delightful way of living.

Y Girl

Asthma/Allergies: A good reason to kick your plastic

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It seems like my immediate family members are the ONLY people I know who basically never have seasonal allergies, and none of my siblings (or me) ever had asthma.  There are several of us, so it always seemed a bit unusual to me, considering the prevalence among other families.  It’s especially weird considering that breathing fumes from candles or woodsmoke or basically anything tends to give me a headache after about five minutes, so I’m pretty sensitive.

Right now the pollen outside is so thick it layers all the cars in green and yellow and if you go on a walk at dawn the air smells incredibly strong and spicy.  I can tell I am breathing a lot of pollen, but I do not have to blow my nose often and my head and eyes feel great.  I am quite “bright-eyed and busy-tailed” lately, actually.  It’s not that I have good genes, either, because various cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents have seasonal allergies.

I was wondering why none of my immediate family has allergy problems and thinking about plastic and what I’ve been learning lately.  Specifically, if you are using plastic around your food supply, it leaches chemicals most quickly when exposed to radiation such as sunlight, heat, or acids.  I suddenly realized that maybe the reason we don’t suffer from allergies is because growing up (and still, for those of us who have moved out) we never had a microwave.  It never seemed necessary and with so many little kids it’s kind of a given it would get broken often, so we never got one.

I did a little googling, and boy is there a lot of interesting stuff out there related to plastic and the airway!
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If you use a microwave and don’t want to stop using it yet, try only heating things in glass or ceramic.  The microwave itself is still plastic, but you will lessen your exposure that way.  Then you can think about putting your microwave in the garage for a month or two and seeing how you can get along without it.

The body is pretty incredible and can metabolize a lot of poisons with time; phthalates especially I believe can clear out within a week, though other plastics might take longer.  What if you could cure your allergies and asthma symptoms by eliminating plastic?

I am SOOO curious about this, please someone try this and tell me!

Y Girl

Frog ponds and West Nile

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It occurred to me that there are probably a lot of people who would like to put in frog ponds but are worried about mosquitoes and diseases, which is certainly something to think about.

The life cycle of mosquitoes can vary depending on temperature.  I have heard that if you disturb the water by stirring it every few days that the larvae will die, but it looks like that may not be true.  I am going to keep an eye on my mini frog pond and if the frogs are not sufficient to keep the water clear of wigglers then I will get one or two minnows from the feed store and let them keep the bugs and algae down.

I do know that after years of living next to a large pond, I have been bitten more at other people’s properties where there is no standing water than I have been next to the pond, which had gazillions of frogs, waterfowl, some fish, and bats.  As long as you keep an eye on things and you are educated about life cycles and predators of pests than you can figure out how to proceed.

Oh, and I have not yet had a chance to look for frogs to “plant” near my bucket pond, but it may not be necessary – yesterday evening I saw a frog hopping away from the pond into a rosemary bush, so it seems they have already found it!  I did some research over the weekend and I think the frog I see most often around here is the California Treefrog.  It was kind of fun to find out that frogs are such an important indicator species of the health of ecosystems and realize how many there are in this area!  In spring the large pond tends to be full of these Yosemite Toads, as near as I can tell.  I’m not sure how many there usually are in the pond at breeding season – I remember springs where it seemed like there were hundreds, but it sort of depends.

If anyone has or puts in a frog pond, send me a picture and I will feature it!

Y Girl

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