Don’t forget to sign up at the library

Even little kids can join in on the fun. Photo by Salena Wakim

September is the designated National Library Card Sign Up month, and although the month is almost over, there’s still time to join.

Libraries take sign ups all year round of course, but it’s still a nice time to either get a new card, or reactivate your old one (yes, even your card has to periodically be renewed 😉).

What’s so special about now? Well, if you get everything set up now, then you’ll be all ready to participate in all the upcoming Holiday activities your local library has planned.

If you haven’t checked it out in awhile, then you may have been missing out, not only on all those new releases, but also on free cooking classes, contests, giveaways, and free seeds for your garden too.

Today’s libraries truly are community centers, with plenty to offer all ages. All you need to join in on it all, is that free library card, which the whole family can qualify for. So, check it out, and start enjoying all those additional perks!

Green Living Challenge

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As we wrap up this heat-soaked July, and enter into a possibly even hotter August, a challenge is being issued to all of you who are taking refuge from these high temps.  Take a moment to re-evaluate what you’re doing to be green. Can you improve on anything, maybe add a little something to your repertoire?  Perhaps start by checking on what all you believe is recyclable.  Double check with your local trash company, you might just be surprised at what you find.  So many things  that people assume are recyclable, actually get rejected by the local waste management company.  Make sure that your efforts are going to be fruitful by updating your green living knowledge.  Challenge set, now go.

Esri is back in town!

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For a couple of years now, all conferences, and conventions, have either been canceled or moved online.  The consequence of this is similar to what we’ve experienced in other parts of our lives, it’s isolating.  When this happens with conferences though, that can mean a decline in idea sharing, and cooperative actions.  However, 2022 has seen a return to face-to-face gatherings for many of these organizations.  This is a bit of a double edge sword of course, as not everyone can safely return to such huge gatherings.  Luckily, not all organizers are oblivious to this fact, and some have made sure to continue to offer the virtual option for those of us who, for various reasons, can’t attend in person.  A great example of a blended event is actually currently underway in San Diego, the Esri User Conference.

This will be the first time that Esri has met in person in three years, a fact that Esri president Jack Dangermond mentioned in his plenary speech on Monday.  The overview that he gave during that speech was inspiring, showing the best of what can happen when we work together, and just what assistance that GIS can lend. 

If you thought that maps were only useful for getting around an unfamiliar city, think again.  The Esri UC allows a showcase for the true scope for the modern use of maps, and data analysis.  From conservation, to finding landmines in Ukraine, this technology is helping to address some of the world’s most urgent needs. Plus, by bringing all those who are working on these problems into the same space, Esri is also helping to facilitate future collaborations, and even more solutions to be worked out.

As the week progresses, and the various sessions play out, I’ll try to share some of that information with you’re here.  See you soon. 

Time to plan for the future you want see.

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The events of the past several months have been demoralizing at best. How to best move forward is now the question on everyone’s mind. The only advice that I can offer right now is to look to your own future first.

Why you ask? Well, if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want your future to look like, then how will you know what to fight for?

Make your plan, find others who share that dream, and then try to make those plans a reality.

Good luck to us all.

It’s time for another drug take back day

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This is just a reminder that this Saturday, April 30th is Drug Take Back Day.  Remember to remove any personal identifying information (such as labels) before you turn them in to your local drop off location.  Want to go the extra green mile this year? Then also take a moment to gather up any old batteries you might have laying around, so that you can properly recycle them too.   Earthday might be over, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook until next year. 

How to best fight inflation by growing some edible greens

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No one likes high inflation, but most people are especially hating what’s going on right now.  Sadly, we seem to be stuck with these rising prices for awhile to come, but that’s not to say we have to take it lying down.  If you’re like most people these days, you’re searching out articles like this, as part of a desperate attempt to claw back some of your hard-earned cash.   Therefore, you’ve probably already seen that one money saving tip it to grow a garden.  Yes, this will absolutely help you to save on your grocery bill, but what some will find to their horror, is that it may actually end up costing you greatly in other ways instead.  So, that’s what this article is for, to try and help you avoid those gardening pitfalls (as much as possible that is).

First off, let’s look at what’s needed to start a garden.  You’ll need seeds of course (or plants if you want to save some time), good soil, water, and some good old-fashioned elbow grease. 

1. Seeds and plants can both be found on sale.  However, the variety you’ll find is often greatly reduced by the time those sales happen.  You can make your own sale when you need it, by looking for discount coupons and/or codes online. 

However, you can also potentially get your seeds and plants for free by joining local garden clubs (they usually call these events seeds/plants swaps).  Depending on where you live, your local library might even offer free seeds via an increasingly popular program called “Seed Saving Libraries.”  Call your local branch for help; even if they don’t have one, they might know who does.

2.  Soil is a big part of gardening success, and the solution to this problem really is unique to your situation.  If you live in a track style home, often the developers scraped off the topsoil to sell it, long before the house was even built.  It’s an income source for them, but a nightmare for homeowners, as they often have to fight for years to fix the poor soil quality.  If you’ve just figured out you have this problem, you’ll need to pick your battle.  Unfortunately, to fix the entire front and back yard, will cost a small fortune, and the amendments you add will often have to be repeated (at least in part) more than once, over the course of a couple of years.  Only then will you have truly addressed this issue fully.  DON’T PANIC yet though, as most people will never need to truly go that far, after all, you’re not starting a farm here, just a garden.

If you’re fixing a small plot, then money output will be minimized considerably.  Often, all you’ll need are several bags of garden soil additive, mix it in, and you’re good to go.  However, you should know you’ll probably need to repeat this every year that you do a garden.   

 If you’re just getting going, the easier route might be to start with a container garden instead.  You can get some inexpensive pots (large ones, not small, plants grow after all), or a starter “Raised Garden” kit.  This will have you starting out with Container or Potting Soil, which will have all the nutrients needed to grow healthy plants.  You’ll only need to fertilize periodically over the growing season, which with pots is much easier overall.  This also has the added benefit of being clean soil, usually free of any plant diseases from previous growing seasons.  Trust me, starting out with good soil will be worth it in the end. Plus, even soil can be bought on sale as well.

3.  Water is often completely overlooked when making a garden plan, and ironically can wind up costing the most.  Consider what you’re really wanting to grow.  Some plants just drink up water, and will wind up cost you much more to grow, than they ever would have from a store.  Watermelons, for example, take a bit of water, and can be very difficult to successfully grow.  Other crops are very susceptible to pests, especially if they are under-watered.  All that work, only to have your plants die, or get eaten up, will only lead to headaches for you, and who needs that right now.  Avoid this pitfall by seeking advice from your local garden center about what is easiest to grow in your town.  Note I said town, as sometimes what will grow in a region on average, actually won’t work at all for your little corner of it. 

Also, make sure to seek out better ways to water throughout the summer months.  Ask about drip irrigation (which is sometimes as easy as just using a special hose), and how to save water by clustering your plantings.  Certain plants can be grown in close proximity to each other, and it actually helps them grow better.  Sometimes that comes from nutrient replenishment from one plant, pest repelling traits that benefit them all, or shade being granted by one plant for another (which prevents excessive evaporation).  It’s worth inquiring about, as this can mean a greater harvest in the end. 

Then there’s that free water that available to us all, RAIN.  Rain-harvesting, or gathering, can help to cut into the water bill of a garden considerably. Even if you don’t get a lot of rain in your area, it’s still worth grabbing what you can.  This can be done via a rain barrel (there are still rebates available for these, so look for them), or by simply putting some buckets/large bowels out on your patio (just be sure to weigh them down with a rock to prevent them from blowing away during windy storms).

4. Finally, stagger your plantings.  If you’re going to plant carrots for example, you should plant a couple of rows, wait a week or so, and then plant some more.  That way not all your veggies will ripen at the same time.  It may seem great, at first, to be pulling in bags and bags of tomatoes, but how many of them can you eat in one week?  Staggering your plantings, or planting varieties that will ripen at different intervals all on their own, will help make sure that you can fully benefit from the fruits of your labor.  Unless, of course, you want to give most of it away to others who didn’t even help with the weeding.

Don’t forget that you don’t actually have to grow everything all by yourself.  If your neighbors are growing a garden too, then think ahead, and talk to them about the possibility of doing a swap, if you have a good turnout.  Then you each get a little bit of variety, without all that extra work that variety would usually entail. 

Gardening can be fun, and relaxing, which can only be viewed as a bonus in times like these.  Get the kids involved if you have them.  It’s also a great way for them to learn about where their food comes from, while they simultaneously burn off some excess energy to boot.

If your garden grows the way you hope it will, then your food budget can get a bit of relief as a result.  Which sadly, can then be used to help pay for your gas.  I’ll leave you to search out gas saving tips on your own I’m afraid.  I’ve got my own garden to start, so see you next time.  Happy gardening Everyone!

Mind your mask manners, Love Planet Earth

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Masking has been such a ridiculous part of the whole Covid-19 controversy, that really, we should all be ashamed.  The fight, especially in light of the now raging Ukraine struggle over retaining their actually endangered freedoms, has been a petty squabble from start to (hopefully soon) finish.  One of the most long-lasting problems involved though, is the fact that so many people seem to be walking out of stores, tearing off their mask as if declaring freedom, and then throwing it on the ground.  There it stays as a gross piece of litter that no one wants to touch. 

Littering is littering, no matter what your political values are.  Most of us grow up learning that you aren’t supposed to throw things like Kleenex, and napkins on the ground when you’re done with them.  So, why are so many people acting like spoiled children when it comes to their masks?  It doesn’t matter if you love or hate them, at the end of the day, they are still your responsibility. 

With mask mandates either lessening, or ending in various parts of the world, the reality still remains that masks will continue to be a part of our lives for a while to come.  If you go into a hospital, doctor’s office, or use public transport then you will still be required to wear one.  If the infection rates start to climb again, due to a new variant popping up (and I think we can all agree to hope that this doesn’t happen), then you will need to mask up once again.  Regardless of why it might be needed, your reaction to having to wearing it should not, and cannot, include tossing it on the ground once done. 

All of the free N95, and KN95 masks that the government is now handing out, via local stores and pharmacies, are all disposable.  Please use them when required/needed, and then properly dispose of them.  Regardless of what is happening to us right now, the world, as a whole, simply can’t afford for us to toss yet another item into the ecosystem.  I know that all those masks going into the trashcan isn’t great either; but it’s a far better fate then all them all winding up on the ground, where they can eventually be blown into storm drains or wildlife areas.  This is so easily avoided, shame on us if we don’t do our best to do so. 

Please, be the better version of yourself, and show your care of the world around you by doing your part.  In this case, it isn’t even hard to do.  The Earth will thank you. 

The not so happy holidays of 2021

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2020 was supposed to be the worst, and 2021 was supposed to be better. What happened? Sadly, “WE” did.

2020 hit us all like a bag of bricks, but lets face it, we managed to screw up 2021 all on our own. By the time 2021 came rollin’ along, we all should have known how to handle this situation better. However, despite that, and our own well being, we simply didn’t. Why? It’s time to face it folks, it’s because too many of us were far too busy hating everyone around us, and unfortunately, loving it.

The odd thing about 2021 is that most people lament the state of things. Yet, when you watch people being interviewed (or when you talk to people face-to-face for that matter), it’s not hard to see that many of them are just reveling in the fact that they finally have an excuse (all be it a crappy one) to finally unload on those around them. It’s like an unofficial agreement to hold a year long verbal “Purge” event has been declared. People from all walks of life have spent the last year sharpening their verbal knives, so to speak, and to be clear, no one side is any less blameless than the others.

Now, I’m not one to eagerly encourage the world to grab a coke, sing kumbaya, and put on a happy face (you know all the cliches). That said though, I would at least like to see an attempt at a return to civility. Would that really be so terrible?

I don’t mean to sound so grumpy, but I’m tired. Aren’t you? Tired of the arguments, tired of the craziness, and well, just plain tired of it all not seeming to be getting better (who names something Omicron anyway?)

This holiday season is going to be bad enough for so many of us, as there have been so many lives lost over the past year. It’s time to consider the repercussions of not giving a crap about your fellow man, and maybe, just maybe 2022 might have a chance at being just a little better for us all, if we do. I’m not saying you have to actually love your fellow humans, but maybe you could just start out by faking it, until you make it?

Just something to think about…..and try to have a Happy Holidays Everyone. In the end, trying is all any of us can really do. Here’s a holiday wish that we may all achieve some measure of success.

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Time to “fall back” into better battery habits

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Once again, we’re at that time of year when we have to change our clocks. November 7th, 2021 will be the day you change, or Fall Back, your clock by one hour. Many people will also use this date to change out all the batteries in their home’s smoke detectors too. That’s great, after all safety first right, but only if you include the additional safety precaution of properly recycling those old batteries as well.

The danger of old batteries being thrown away, and left to corrode in landfills, has been shown time and time again. The problems of contamination, animal ingestion, and dangerous childhood exposure have been seen, and warned against for years now. However, despite this, many people choose to ignore the issue entirely; leaving too many batteries to wind up simply thrown away to become future catastrophes.

Part of the problem is that those who do this often don’t think about it as a problem at all, mainly because the battery goes away with their garbage, never to be seen again. However, every so often the proof of danger plays out right at home. Although all batteries need to be properly disposed of, for some reason people often forget that this includes smaller batteries, the so called “button batteries” as well. Unfortunately these can quickly prove just how small, but mighty they truly can be.

These are the type of batteries that are generally found in watches, garage door openers, and small electronic games. They typically range in sizes similar to that of small, medium, and larger buttons. They are also usually just as thin. Babies, toddlers, and animals have all been known to find these shiny little “buttons,” and swallow them whole, much to their detriment. As the stomach acids start to break down the battery casing, out comes the battery acids, and then boom, you have a homemade nightmare to deal with. You can imagine what happens to the stomachs, and intestines, of those who were unfortunate enough to have consumed the battery. Hospital visits, surgery, future treatments, and even death can (and sadly often does) soon fallow. There have even been instances where children have gotten button batteries stuck in their throat, only for the acid to start to burn its way through. How could all of these tragedies been avoided? None of it needed to happen, and wouldn’t have, if only the batteries were properly recycled in the first place.

So, please do your part, and take steps to “Fall Back” into some good battery safety habits this year, once you’ve changed those clocks that is. Have a great November everyone.