Rainy Day Blues

It is one of those rainy days here, as I am sure it is in many other parts of the world. When you look outside and see cloudy skies, wet weather, and it is a little chilly, how does it affect your day?

Creativity is sparked in some.

Others enjoy a warm cup to drink and a quiet book.

Many curl up and hide… really.

I like to do stuff. I drive to places I keep meaning to go, and check them out. I hit my to-do list, and actually accomplish some of the items (like write on my blog.. hey hey double whammy… keep on reading and you will see what I mean!)

Refreshing as it is, getting things in your life and home ready for the winter takes extra effort. The enticement is certainly not the actions necessary, even though the completed projects are rewarding.

Today~ I repotted a sad plant. It was on clearance for $3 from a nearby home improvement store. I was worried about this plant. It wasn’t doing horribly, but didn’t look happy enough for an aesthetically motivated house plant buyer to want. I thought to myself, “I sure don’t have any dying house plants right now, maybe I should get one.”

The fate of this very pretty green and yellow leaved plant was not advancing well into the future, unless I did something about it. Whining kids in tow, I searched the soil for bugs, none seemed evident. None of the leaves have been chewed on or spotted, only yellowing and only from the center of clusters, making me think it was either over or under watered, and was outgrowing its current conditions.  I checked the roots, and sure enough, bound in a twist, thick, and suffocating.

So I did what any ordinary garden/plant geek would do, I bought it. The whole way home I thought about two things- it would be great if my 3 year old stopped kicking the seats, I’m trying to freakin drive; and my track record with house plants is terrible, why did I just get one that needed extra help? Balancing this questionable line of reasoning, I sucked it up to the facts- at a mere $3 it would be a great next victim.

This struggling plant sat on my porch for a day or two, just in case those bugs showed up, didn’t want a population to fester without consent. It did eventually come inside and sit on a shelf, with just enough light (according to the little tag). That was 3 weeks ago… Took a little longer to make room in the schedule I guess. It got threatened with being banished to the porch by my other half, if I didn’t repot the silly thing already.

Today I actually did it. I made a crock pot recipe (red beans and rice) for dinner, and after cleaning the kitchen from breakfast and the prep… I looked out side and said to the audience, “I’m finally ready to repot this plant, come on 3 year old, lets get our hands dirty!”

It took a whopping 10 minutes.

Once we repotted it, I did what every ordinary person does, I looked up the plant variety. Wait… I think I did it backward-  turns out it’s going to be OK. Apparently, it’s not toxic for dogs and kids so that’s a relief… that was my first investigation. If they eat the stem of the leaves it offers a significant burning sensation in their mouth, but other than that it is safe. Knowing that I decided to keep it above reach, don’t want the new puppy munching on the green stuff in between meals and getting funky, ya know what I mean?

So on this rainy and wet day I helped Mother Earth with similar efforts;  I helped something struggling to stay alive flourish and grow. My cup is full.

What can you do to make Mother Earth smile on a rainy day?

The only down side, I don’t think the plant and pot match very well… Like my mother would advise, use what you got. Hopefully, it will outgrow the pot and I can do this again sometime!

Today I found the Easter Bunny

I have three very young ladies as a captive audience. Needless to say, this whole parenting in contemporary times has sure taken it’s toll on my soul. Did I mention I hold a B.A. in Philosophy? Yep, and add a few ethics classes, lots of upper division political science courses, don’t forget my minor is in Environmental Studies. I was what you would call an “intentional student”. I didn’t take classes for the sake of taking them, I took them because they were interesting to me and I wanted to understand more about the topic so I could make informed decisions about the world and my life in the years to come.

College is very expensive. Ask my husband- we will be paying for those important classes for years to come.

Today I hopped around my home in the middle of the night, hoping my restless 5 year old wouldn’t wake up and catch the Easter Bunny delivering wonderful sugary delights in corners and nooks of the couch. I decided that five major retailers in my area offered valuable enough wares to enhance our life. Upon checking out the sales clerk asks, “How are you?” Of course I reluctantly offer the courtesy reply, “Good, how are you?” She mumbled some polite response, expected of her on a Saturday night around 7pmish when she would much rather be at Freddy’s with all her friends horking down milkshakes or perhaps perusing the movies with that cute boy she’s had a crush on since 8th grade. I joke about having finally found the Easter Bunny. She doesn’t really understand and neither do I.

I can’t wait to hear them squeal! The “stuff” they get from the Easter Bunny isn’t that much different from what other Easter Bunny’s deliver I am sure. It is difficult to purchase gifts when your inherent nature is to resist a consumer driven society. So here I have to wrestle with offering my children a somewhat normal childhood in relation to their peers so they can understand one another, yet still have a supportive backdrop of how things really “ought to be”. We shouldn’t be teaching our children that life is just about “stuff” But we should show them through our own discipline that there is also room for spontaneity and celebration. So I select an item that each will need, love, and hopefully appreciate. This year I opted for pajamas and sandals (both of which they need), a painting craft, and a bright pink fancy skirt (for the three year old who loves all things girly), and a pair of stretch pants (which my five year old will love the purple color and softness).

The “baby” (now almost 2 years old), is the wildcard. I never know what she would actually want and with two older sisters she has almost everything she could need at her fingertips anyway. I spent time coloring a little mask from the craft store for her to practice colors and pretend she is a cat, she gets a decent variety of sidewalk chalk, and two soft bunnies (which we already had packed in the Easter bin- no purchase necessary). She also got a hefty dividend of the chocolate share this year, hope daddy doesn’t mind the shaft.

My children are actually pretty naughty and can act spoiled, too. I think many people are wondering why I would write this post about the “stuff they get”, and then confess that my kids are bratty sometimes. Of course they are, some will obviously say, look at what you give them! These are often times people who don’t have children of their own but think they might understand something about actually raising a child. Silly people. Or perhaps it is a generation of parents that didn’t have the dilemmas we have now, and were raised with a different sort of depravation and strict values themselves. So discipline is another sort of monster when you are actually encouraged to physically strike your child when they disrespect you, not in 2014 though- that’s a good reason to find the cops at your door. We have to provide this “balanced reward system”. I will be the first to admit- it is difficult to implement. What- with each new phase of childhood creeping in at every milestone, and don’t forget the seasonal changes that provide new opportunities for mischief and want of desire. There is of course our fascination with electronics- or just anything that lights up and makes noise upon our command.

In 2014 American Society you are expected to have an easter egg hunt for your kids, just like you had as a child. Your precious offspring will be youtubed, facebooked, and twittered about all day. It will be fun, you will smile, and they will eat a crapload of candy. Or perhaps you are breaking the rules, maybe you went camping and got rained on all night (if you were in NoCo I will place a bet on it!). Maybe, just maybe, you didn’t do anything. Some little people I know will find a bunny hopping around their yard in the morning, funny how I am a stranger to these kids but can know the Easter Bunny personally and the little ones have no clue what is coming. Certainly my eldest will excitedly report once she arrives home from school on Monday about Oliver and Elliott, how it’s so unfair, and that we must meet this bunny ASAP. I fact, here is the phone, call his mom and schedule a playdate!

Those of you who found the Easter Bunny this year, will quite possibly vow to do it differently next year. We all know the truth… it is likely you will pull out the same Rubbermaid tub from wally world labeled “Easter”, and do it all over again. There will be a year when the surprise is gone, and that will be the first year I am the most glad I found the Easter Bunny all the previous years.

 

Planting Trees Is Good For The Soul

When we went to get pumpkins with our children, we decided to visit a nursery. Since we wanted to add trees to our landscape, and they were buy one get on 1/2 off, we purchased eight 5 quart trees. They sat in our backyard, sheltered against the fence for a week, until we figured out exactly where we wanted to plant them.

Since it was raining yesterday, I got to play in the mud! Anyone who thinks they know me, should also know that I love to play in the dirt. Mud is just wet dirt, so I love it too. What a fun project it was. We got to work together and put something natural in the earth that will grow and we can enjoy as long as we live in our home. I must say, my husband and I make a great team (most of the time). He let me master the soil composition ratios, depths, and locations of each tree. While he graciously dug, and did most of the hardest manual labor. I love my ox. Even though he does the brunt of it, I don’t get off easy at all. Oh no way. He expects me lift, dig, haul, and put in whatever I am capable of doing. My physical strength will just never measure up to his, no matter how determined I am.

Working with our hands and bodies is healthy, it provokes a sense of ownership to the work we are performing. Although we were both very sore afterwards, it was immediately rewarding. Now when I look out my kitchen window I see the trees I planted with my husband, and I get to watch them grow everyday.  Did I mention how it was also good for our marriage? We had to work together, cooperation is key in a marriage. We managed to problem solve and think long-term together.

No matter how stressed we can get at times, it is good for the soul to work towards something you can enjoy everyday.

IDEC 2013 Afterthoughts

I attended the IDEC 2013 (International Democratic Education Conference) http://www.idec2013.org/ specifically to participate in a workshop involving Jefferson County Open School http://www.jeffcoopen.org/. First I must say, the word “Democratic” does not mean the opposite of “Republican”. Of course the word itself has political implications, meaning every individual has a say, and political meaning the organization of people. In this context, however, we are speaking of education. This translates to mean, every person in the educational community has a say, intending to include the student.

I learned a lot about the changes that are taking place in education across the world, there were many attendees from Korea, inklings from Europe, China, and other parts of the US. I am sure there were attendees from other countries that I did not get the pleasure of meeting.

Some countries are on the verge of breaking, or at least trying to break free of oppressive governments, or oppressive ways of life that are taking a stronghold on their culture and future. These educators are working to make changes from within the educational institutions to empower the individual, and create the necessary paradigm shifts within their societies using education as a powerful tool. The northern European countries I encountered seemed as though they are not trying to break free from governmental control of education so much as they are seeking to further perpetuate the individual spirit and enlighten the mind through alternative methods, possibly creating a more self-aware learner. A learner that chooses what they learn and is aware of their interests by having the freedom of pursuit.

The individuals I met from the US were from a variety of different backgrounds. Some were not educators but worked with at-risk youth and this conference helped spur ideas for them to approach alternative methods of reaching out. Many were homeschoolers, or worked with/for organizations knitted to homeschoolers. Many were affiliated with organizations that are involved in education one way or another, but are not schools themselves, and the hybrids always exist.

There were certainly, and always will be the bulls#!%%3rs too. The sellers. The ones who don’t really have a contribution but want to be known, or want to profit from the event. I came across a couple but it was not overwhelming. Thank goodness for that.

I found out about a program in my area called Innovation Labs. The website is www.redefineschool.com, and I poked around a little before writing this. I just might have to get in touch and see what I can do to help the educational community in my school district.

And then there is AERO. The Alternative Education Resource Organization, which can be visited via http://www.educationrevolution.org/. This is a great network of alternative education resources, if you are interested in the alternatives in your area, or perhaps just in your interest it might be worth taking a gander.

In the end I can say there is a lot of movement within the realm of reforming education, and there has been for quite some time. It seems to be the conflict, however, that an alternative system only works for a small group of people. When you have a lot of students to manage, the oversight has to be systematic. And yes, the drawback is the uniformity of education, but the advantage is cohesiveness and coherency. I think what many educators who are involved in Democratic Education are pushing to change is the way we view our understanding of how the system should function.
The afternoon workshop I chose to attend was titled “Intersection of Formal and Informal Education”. There was some controversy as to whether there is even a difference, and the underlying assumption among all the participants (at least it seemed this way) was that an “Informal” education was better or more important in some way. Sometimes these things go unspoken, but are present and unquestioned.

In my Philosophical studies I have come to realize one very important thing about life, and I remind people of this on a regular basis. There is idealism- what things ought to be like, and there is realism- how things are. We can strive for the ideal but the realism sets in when we accept that there are practical limitations.

In the case of education, we have the application of “Democratic” education as the practical limitation. This means for each educator how to facilitate and manage, and oversee, and guide, and mentor a large body of individual needs. Every educator would be spread so thin the quality of their work would necessarily be undermined. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. The systems (or un”systematic” systems) that are present and successful in alternative education tend to be of the smaller student:teacher ratio, and of the smaller subset of the population.

One person being interviewed said it all in one word: money.

Until our educational systems are seen as relevant enough to warrant enough of our collective contributions, there will not be enough individualized attention in education. We will have systems in place that are best suited to address the more basic needs of every student, even if the approach is rigorous and boring. As my educator friend said to me, “how does 2 teachers take 80 students on a weeklong backpacking trip?” My answer, now clear to me, “you don’t.. we do”.

That is the key. Education is not something someone else does for us. It is something we all do together, and for each other. Education is not something that happens in a building, or on a chalkboard. I mean, it can happen there too, but real learning comes from everywhere and anywhere. We have to not only open our eyes, but our minds too. We all learn in many different places, of course. I think it is important to recognize when we are learning, and how we are learning so we can strengthen and perpetuate our methods to be most effective.

Help Wanted: Better People

After careful deliberation this is what I have come to understand.

The World Needs Better People.

Who is the World?

It’s everyone!

Who is everyone?

It’s you and I.

What is a better person?

It’s you and I choosing better actions.

When?

Now. Oh, and tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives.

Why?

Things can only get better for all of us!

Where?

Everywhere you go.

How?

Consider everything you do. Then try your hardest to make the best choice.

The last time I checked, there is only ONE EARTH for us to live on. International communities are realizing that the only way to function is to maintain some sort of unity. We must all work together. The only way to do this is to consider one another, and those unspoken for, and make the right choices every time we can. We can’t let money override our values. We can’t let those with the biggest voices have the power unless we know in our hearts and minds that they are working and speaking on behalf of the rest of the communities. We can’t be persuaded to view the world in a way that seems unfit just because someone influences us to think that everyone else thinks this way too. This is TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY gone wrong and we will not tolerate it.

We all have brains, use them!
We all have hearts, use them!
We all have strength, use it!

Create the world as it ought to be
This is a goal of my lifelong education.
If I do it, will you?

My Pajamas Are Dirty

So, I have been gardening!
Went outside early in the morning last week to see how the earth was feeling. As it turns out, she is feeling like making food for my family.
I couldn’t help it so I played in the dirt awhile, turning it over and seeing where the moisture is from the night before.
Rushed inside once I realized it was almost 7 a.m., and made my plan for where things will go. I did a little research on CSU Extension- this is worth checking out if you are going to garden. Certain to save you some time and headache trying to figure out where to put what.

My biggest task was getting the kids excited to garden together.
We went outside and my daughter helped sow some seeds. The other one wanted to play with her babies so that was fine too. Now I can’t help but have dreams about those first little tender plants poking out of the ground!

Here is what we planted: Sweet corn, spinach, buttercrunch lettuce, yellow italian squash, dark green zuccini squash, black bush beans, green bush beans, and sweet peas.
Still have to plant sage, and butternut squash seeds.
Will also purchase tomatoes and peppers as it is too late to start seeds outdoors in CO for these.

I love to play in the dirt.

Hickenlooper Tightening Belt on COGCC

Today it was a good day. I found out our Governor, John Hickenlooper, who is known for his business savvy, just issued an executive order tightening the reigns on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. See, the problem has been a conflict of interest in the mission of the agency. They are supposed to develop mineral rights, while also enforcing regulations that protect public health and environment. Let’s just put it this way, after months of in-depth research, I decided the agency is more focused on developing mineral rights than they are with protecting anything (other than the industry). Looking at the members of the board, they are all pro-industry. This means nobody cares about the public health and environment, they just do what is necessary to stay under the radar and make some serious money.

People are sick of it.
Enough people have stood up and made a stink that the COGCC is now being held responsible for their favoritism of industry. Even more amazing is that pro-money Hickenlooper is backing the public on this one, maybe that’s also a good business (ahem political) move.

The COGCC is instructed to review and adjust their regulatory framework, especially fines. Here are a couple of my favorite (emphasized by me) sections:

“The COGCC must structure these adjustments so as to hold the oil and gas industry to the highest operating standards in the nation for protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including the environment and wildlife resources.”

My favorite is item (6) of the penalty rules they are ordered to construct: “Make certain that any economic incentives for noncompliance with the Act and its regulations are eliminated.”

This is the biggest problem I think. There are rules, sure, of course there have always been rules. The agency doesn’t always (nor usually) enforce the rules, let’s just say they are a little “understaffed”. The amount of wells being drilled compared to the amount of people working in the agency who monitor or enforce regulations, sincerely reflects the agencies priorities. They say they can’t keep up, but on the same token, if they enforced the rules and imposed the penalties and fines accordingly, they would have more funding for staff to enforce regulations. If half the staff shifted to monitoring, rather than, I don’t know, say, approving new permits… The COGCC would be a completely different environment.

On a side note, but a very serious issue to be clear on. Mineral rights are separate from land rights. One person can own the surface, another “person” can own the minerals beneath it. Mineral rights trump land rights. This means the person who owns the mineral rights has to be allowed access to fully develop their right. In other words, if someone owns the mineral rights below your property they can pull permits with the COGCC to develop them whether or not you cooperate. Your land must be restored to it’s original condition to the best of their ability, but also “within reason”.

Raised Garden Beds, yay!

This last weekend the first half of my dream came true! The hubby was finally convinced that building me raised garden beds would make our life much better, and I promise, it will.
The planning and research has been taking place since we purchased our home, and I knew I wanted my beds located with full afternoon sun. I found the area of our yard that isn’t shaded by a fence and instructed a landscape company to install the sod and irrigation uncentered so I would have plenty of room. He was a little surprised and it took some explaining on why our yard is over there rather than in the middle, but I think he is fine with it now.
I shopped lumber and found Redwood in 2″x10″x8′ and also 12′ at Lowe’s for a reasonable price. Had them cut the 12′ in half since I can only reach in 3′ or so -halfway from each edge meets in the middle. We joined the edges, and leveled the tops and outside corners so there is less risk for abrasions while I am leaning and working. The wood is slightly warped and each board is within 1/4″ of advertised size so there was a little leveling and balancing to make it neat and perfect. So for under $200 after tax we have two 6’x8′ raised beds. The unexpected cost was the hardware, at a whopping $5 per bracket, and two on each corner, we spent almost half on just securing the beds. I really wanted to used reclaimed wood but he wouldn’t go for it, and these are the kinds of things we compromise on. I get the garden I want, he gets to build it with the materials he wants.
We made sure to space them far enough apart so I could fit a wheelbarrow between, as well as kneel comfortably. I can access the beds from all sides as well, important since they are pretty large.
The next step is fill dirt (since we don’t have extra), topsoil, compost, and peat moss. I need to turn the existing soil beneath the beds and then mix in the above materials, plant some seed and maybe some indoor starts I will buy from either craigslist or a farmer nearby… I am so excited!
I will be planting things that I have had luck with in my mother’s garden growing up, we are the same- temperate zone 5. From seed I will start squashes, cucumbers, beans, greens, onions, chives, oregano, maybe more. I will plant tomatoes, peppers, and basil from indoor starts. I will also try to plant things between rows that attract bees for pollination (just found this gem- http://www.organicgardening.com/tags/honey-bee-menu-for-pollen-and-nectar) and ward off other pests who might be interested in consuming my harvest before it’s time. This is the learning curve, let’s see what I come up with. I am reading magazines checked out from my local library to help me with this process; Country Woman, and HGTV had the most attractive articles this time around.
So, wish me luck and if you have any tips… do share!

2013 Drought Burden

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U.S. Drought Monitor March 12, 2013

Water is a major topic in Colorado. We are a headwater state, meaning water originates here and flows downward. Western states rely on compacts and treaties with CO entitling them to a reasonable portion of all waters flowing naturally through their states. States to the east of Colorado also rely on water from all rivers flowing towards the Mississippi. Let’s not forget the groundwater systems relied upon by midwestern agriculture are recharged by seepage and flow from rivers originating in Colorado, too.
Colorado has a responsibility to the rest of our country to be good environmental stewards as water pollution, consumption and usage affect the entire country. The way we chose to treat the environment as it relates to water flowing from Colorado impacts the nations food supply, fuel production, and human health.

What happens when there just isn’t enough to go around? I was born and raised in Colorado, you better believe we were taught from the outset not to waste. Every year around this time, the snowpack reports begin to create anxiousness and nervousness for Colorado residents, which is a growing population. What are going to be the drought restrictions this year? Will my grass die ( even though we probably shouldn’t have grass but it is a free country)? etc. It seems as though every year is a drought, should we begin worrying about the apocolypse?

One thing to think about is just how wasteful is wasting water? For example, if you leave the faucet on while you brush your teeth (big no-no), does the water just disappear down the drain? No. It doesn’t just disappear. It goes back to the same source it originated from, the water treatment plant (WTP). They got it from your local source (we should all know the source of our local water supply but most don’t), and the water is treated again because it is effluent- dirty. It will end back up in the water system as it is discharged from the plant. Every drop either evaporates or makes its happy little way downstream, eventually recharging water supplies, and used again by someone else for something else. So this makes me wonder, is it really wasted? Not in the sense that the water is gone. But it is wasteful in the sense that the WTP must consume energy to filter and clean the water coming through your drains.

Which brings up another topic. The most wasteful user of natural resources is “industry”. Highest energy consumers, water demanders, and produce the most pollution. We will shelve this one for another article, or 5.

Ask yourself this- Would it be wasting water if we polluted a LOT of it with a LOT of very harmful chemicals, and then dug deep holes in the ground, and then buried storage tanks with this polluted water? And they say natural gas is the answer, drill baby drill.

Back to what we can do for ourselves… are there ways for households to use their water wisely? Absolutely. Vegetable gardening is a great way to use your water supply to reduce the nations food supply burden, and recharge those groundwater systems the local agriculture economy is relying on. There is of course, no reason to over use this precious resource, but if we use it wisely we won’t need as much. I mean, after all, the fountains in Las Vegas wouldn’t be so pretty if all grew our own vegetables… Which reminds me, it’s time to start seeds!

What are you going to do this year to relieve the nation’s drought burden?