Musings of an everyday woman . . .

Reflections on living and loving life . . .

Getting ready for winter November 8, 2008

Filed under: Alternative Fuels,Living Green,Reflections,Winter — everydaywomanusa @ 6:44 pm
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Even though it feels like anything but winter right now in New England–as we’re enjoying balmy weather in the 60’s–we know it’s on the way.  We’re laying in our supply of wood in the basement, not a favorite job of our children–or us.  Since we have a combination wood/oil furnace that also heats our domestic hot water, my hubby’s favorite line to our kids when they frowned as he arrived with a dump truck load of split wood was, “Do you like hot baths?”

So, it’s been a family chore that we share.  Actually, stacking it in the basement is probably the easy job, compared to cutting and splitting the wood.  Now, ironically, our oldest is now in her own house where she and her husband are laying in their own supply of wood for the winter and my youngest and I were busy with the job here.  Funny thing is I was feeling kind of nostalgic and really didn’t mind . . . besides it was good exercise!


My giant of a son, Nathaniel, doing the "bull work."
My giant of a son, Nathaniel, doing the “bull work.”


Winter Warmth!

My Contribution to APLS October Blog Carnival October 12, 2008

I’ve learned an awful lot this past year while attempting to live in a more earth-friendly, sustainable lifestyle, and am offering my “two cents” on the theme of Environmental Education for the APLS October Blog carnival.  Click here to see what APLS (Affluent Persons Living Sustainably) is all about!


At first I thought–no way–I’m not affluent and I’m only really beginning to try to live sustainably, but then I learned differently from my green, bloggy friends.  To see where you fall on the “Global Rich List,” click here.  You may be very surprised about the definition of “affluence”, too! 

Anyway, Abbie over at the Farmer’s Daughter  (and my daughter in real life, lucky me!) is hosting this event at APLS October Blog carnival.  So, regarding the topic of “Environmental Education” . . .

Thanks to Abbie, I had the pleasure of taking part in a life-changing event, which really made me re-think the way we live.  Two summers ago, we had the pleasure of taking part in teacher professional development, which included living at a totally green school in Cape Eleuthera for a week!  I really learned by living and this experience has had a profound effect on how I now think about everything–in a much more environmentally-friendly fashion.


First, a bit of a side step to the Island School, because this was really a life-changing experience for me.  Who wouldn’t accept the opportunity to go to the Bahamas for a week on vacation with your daughter?  Granted, it was August (read very hot, humid here) and it wasn’t really a vacation, but a learning experience (read no AC, limited water supply, etc.), so this is what it really meant:

·         Spending an entire day traveling: 3 planes, including one tiny one from Rock Sound to the Cape, an hour spent in a steaming, hot Caribbean airport waiting for a taxi that would take us for a 2-hr. equally steamy ride over rough roads at a hefty fee

·         Absolutely no COLD water and NO ice for drinks.  In fact, the basic beverage of choice was warm water, which we carried everywhere with us in refillable containers, which had been collected off the roof (and purified through an electrostatic process).  Fortunately I didn’t see the multitude of frogs that inhabited the holding tank until our last day on the island.

·         An introduction to “Navy” showers, which means five minutes, tops, that the water is running, and turning if off between lathering up and rinsing

·         “If it’s yellow, let it mellow . . . “  (OK, I thought this was just my Dad, many years previously, who said this because he was just plain cheap!)  Later, I learned that I had grown up “green” in part before it was fashionable.  This was probably the toughest habit to kick, because I had developed an automatic reflex to flush over the years. . .

·         Sleeping in dormitory-style rooms (25 or so women in double-decker bunkbeds) sans air-conditioning, just a few overhead fans

·         While sleeping in this heat, also being visited by “no see-ums,” which visited nightly, squeezing their tiny bodies in between the screens.  (Fortunately for me, I must not have been as tasty, young and sweet, as some of my colleagues were, because if I spritzed with bug spray (probably a no! no!) before retiring, I didn’t wake up in the raised red welts that some of my colleagues did.)

·         Washing dishes, filling compost buckets, slopping pigs . . . and did I say washing dishes by hand?

·         Filling large water jugs and lugging them to the dorms at night

·         Waking up to the blowing conch at 6 am to participate in an hours- long exercise sessions of running, biking, and/or swimming

   OK, to be fair, here was the UPSIDE:

·         Swimming in the incredibly clear, turquoise, cleansing waters of the Caribbean

·         Bonding with fellow, like-minded teachers from all over the world who were looking for a little adventure over the summer and the opportunity to learn something new

·         Waking up to the lovely tune of the blowing conch at 6 am to participate in a morning greeting with friends and an hour long exercise session of running, biking, and/or swimming

·         Crab hunting at night with flashlights and lots of laughs

  • Eating delectable island-grown salads and spicy Caribbean rice dishes, mostly from local ingredients, with fresh fruit for dessert
  • Discovering the local marine wildlife through snorkeling and scuba expeditions
  • Visiting local schools, also supported the Island School
  • Touring Cape Eleuthera Research Institute to learn about hydroponic gardening, local fish species, and efforts to preserve the coral reefs (a joint adventure with the Island School)
  • Oh, and did I say swimming in the brilliant, turquoise, clear, wonderful Caribbean waters?


Abbie and me in the incredible Bahamian waters, the best way to get clean!

Abbie and me in the incredible Bahamian waters, the best way to get clean!






Working to preserve the coral reefs . . .

Working to preserve the coral reefs . . .





Our colleagues/friends at the Island School . . .

Our colleagues/friends at the Island School . . .







Incredibly beautiful local flora, grows best over the environmentally-designed septic system!

Incredibly beautiful local flora, grows best over the environmentally-designed septic system!



Wake-up call!

Wake-up call!



Hydroponically-grown lettuce









Converting used vegetable oil into bio-diesel to power vehicles on the island . . .

Converting used vegetable oil into bio-diesel to power vehicles on the island . . .





Fresh lobster for dinner!

Fresh lobster for dinner!



We did attend classes, too, outside mostly . . .

We did attend classes, too, outside mostly . . .







Group meetings, sharing, learning, dancing, etc. . . .

Group meetings, sharing, learning, dancing, etc. . . .








So, what did I learn at the Island School?




 That I needed to make some life-style changes!

So . . .

Here are a few very simple things I’ve done so far . . .

  • I’ve totally stopped buying bottled water and now use re-fillable aluminum bottles like SIGG or non BPA-plastic filled with my own lovely tap water.
  • I take my own bags to the grocery store and avoid piles of plastic, chinzy bags gathering in my pantry.  (I’ve worked on this a while and now I actually REMEMBER to take my bags with me.  I must admit that I’ve collected quite a cute collection of recyclable bags and that now I’ve expanded beyond the grocery store, taking them everywhere I go shopping.)
  • I actually DO recycle plastics, bottles, and aluminum cans now on a regular basis, rather than just pretending that I do (which was once in a while).
  • I actually LIKE it hot in the summer, even sticky, icky hot, because it’s an excuse to jump in the pool.  My three guys can’t stand the heat after working outside in it all day, so we just have AC in the bedrooms for sleeping.  I must admit that I shut it off during the day, keep curtains closed and doors shut, and only turn it on in time for it to be cool for their sleeping comfort.
  • OK, this might be crazy, but I heard this from a thrifty friend.  At first, I thought it was a bit out there and then I tried it: I shut the furnace off during the day (and now after showers at night, too) because why heat it up all day and night to make hot water that no one needs it?  In the winter, we use our combo wood/oil furnace, so we actually use very little oil.

Probably one of the most important things that I brought back with me was realizing that it was up to me to help spread the word about living in a much more environmentally-friendly way.  I love to share the experiences from the Island School with others–and I’ve also brought much of this information back to my students–although they’re in elementary school– because it’s NEVER too soon to start thinking GREEN!

So, to me, Environmental Education means LIVING it and SHARING it with those around me, especially my students!


Thankful Thursday: PEDAL POWER!!! August 8, 2008

I’ve been pedaling a lot lately – – on land and on water!  This week I’m thankful for small things, like PEDAL POWER!!!

In a time when “staycations” are popular, I’ve been saving fuel, too, and using pedal power to have a bit of summer fun close to home.  I’ve always enjoying biking, especially in the orchards and down along the river on my mountain bike, but this summer, I’ve added another toy.  I’ve always wanted a pedal-powered boat for our pond and had been talking about it for a while.  When my son said, “Gee, Mom, your dreams are really kinda small and if you really want a pedal boat, you should get one!”  I justified it, thinking it was another way to get in some exercise, and a way to further enjoy summer in our backyard.  Although some of my family members may think I’m a little crazy, I’m enjoying it!

I’ve even convinced my daughter to go for a “spin” with me one day, and, then one evening, my husband humored me by pedaling along with me.  Although they both thought it was more like work than relaxation, you have to admit, there’s something just virtuous about physically pedaling along!  Although my little “yaht” is supposed to carry 5 people, it’s really just about right for two and is even fine for a single!

So, if you’re looking for me this summer, I’m likely pedaling along . . .


Green “Word of the Day” July 25, 2008


Sustainability is a characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely. The term, in its environmental usage, refers to the potential longevity of vital human ecological support systems, such as the planet’s climatic system, systems of agriculture, industry, forestry, fisheries, and the systems on which they depend. In recent years, public discourse has led to a use of “sustainability” in reference to how long human ecological systems can be expected to be usefully productive. In the past, complex human societies have died out, sometimes as a result of their own growth-associated impacts on ecological support systems. The implication is that modern industrial society, which continues to grow in scale and complexity, will also collapse.

The implied preference would be for systems to be productive indefinitely, or be “sustainable.” For example, “sustainable agriculture” would develop agricultural systems to last indefinitely; “sustainable development” can be a development of economic systems that last indefinitely, etc. A side discourse relates the term sustainability to longevity of natural ecosystems and reserves (set aside for other-than-human species), but the challenging emphasis has been on human systems and anthropogenic problems, such as anthropogenic climate change, or the depletion of fossil fuel reserves.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Example of a Sustainability Project:


At the Island School in Cape Eleuthera in the Bahamas, researchers are working on providing sustainable sources of fuel by transforming vegetable oil (donated by cruise ships visiting the island) to biodiesel fuel.  Right now, all vehicles at the Island School run on this alternative fuel and they provide it to residents of the island at a fraction of the cost of traditional fuel sources.  Their goal is to further develop these sustainable fuel sources on Eleuthera.