Friday, November 30, 2012

Orographic Clouds Are Amazing!!!

Clouds!  I have Clouds!!!

Thin, beautiful lines of clouds, right above my head!

Yippee!!!!

I quickly grabbed my camera to take a picture.  I couldn't waste even a second.  Those clouds were moving fast.

Click!

Totally black picture.

Oops...

In my excitement, I completely forgot that my camera phone didn't have a flash... and it was just after midnight.  I think this is probably an extreme form of selective memory, no?

Not only that, but I had no clue where my real camera is, and it doesn't allow me to transfer pictures half the time, anyway.  I watched the clouds zoom away.

But they were so awesome that I had to tell you about them!

I know, I know... you're wondering why I'm going crazy over something people see every day.  They're just clouds, after all...

But these were orographic clouds, which are typically formed due to cold, dry upper atmosphere air getting pushed downward by wind at a fate rate, toward warmer humid air.  It then lifts itself back up and repeats the process.

Long, straight, green line labeled "Dry Air".  Below is a blue, wavy line labeled "Humid Air".  Underneath, "Like that" is written in red, 2 arrows drawn pointing up
These clouds are formed when the air is pushed up and over a topographic structure, such as a mountain.

But wait-

I don't live near mountains!!!

What I do live by, however, is hills.  Lots and lots of hills with very different elevations between them.  

Take that, Wikipedia!  Looks like the person who wrote that entry needs to do a bit more research, hmm?

In their defense, this is actually the way science is explained to non-scientists in most places:  

  1. Take a sound scientific principle.
  2. Remove all the aspects that require previous knowledge.
  3. Replace the correct terminology with common words.
  4. End up with an explanation that only slightly resembles the truth.


So basically, a lot of sites, including .edu sites, gave mountains as the sole topographic feature that causes orographic clouds.

Sigh.

Enough of my educational soapbox, though... I'll put it away for now.

What I saw was called a Karman Vortex structure.  

Basically, the clouds form at the areas where the humid air rises to its highest point (see sketch above).  This causes evenly spaced strips of clouds shaped like a V:


Yeah, I know... the drawing is pretty lame.  I've never claimed to be an artist, though, so we'll just go with it.

The process a bit more complicated than my explanation, however, so check out the Karman Vortex link (in bold print) above for more detail. 

My clouds were very thin, which means that humidity wasn't very high when the clouds' formation occurred. They also formed a narrower V. They were beautiful, though.    So beautiful, in fact, that I had to talk to you about orographic clouds... a subject that normally wouldn't interest me very much at all.  This is the first time I've ever seen such a glorious, rather zen-like formation.

Have you ever seen one?  If not, keep your eyes on the skies, and dream.  

Everyone should see this.

  
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

DIY Kit Homes: A Viable Dream

Well, I've really done it, now...

I can't truly blame myself.  Well, ok.  Yes, I can.  I just don't want to.  Instead, I'm electing to blame Mother Earth News.

See, I have this special relationship with Mother Earth News magazine.

That magazine is like the evil friend that you spend tons of time with, and always manages to get you into trouble.  Why?  Because the articles are just so awesome!  The second you open an issue, you fall into sustainability heaven.  It's loaded with useful information directed to those of us that are excited about the possibility of making these dreams come true.

One issue caused me to want to buy a milk cow and raise it in a completely sustainable manner.  My family was lucky that we rent our home.  Of course, that caused me to think about chickens as an option.  I went through article after article about raising them, as well as doing my own DIY portable chicken coop.  This, naturally, caused my dad to consider doing the same thing, much to my mom's frustration.

You begin to see the problem... 

I just opened the latest issue, and they had a piece on DIY kit homes, written by Robin Mather.  The article was flooded with pictures of homes, some tiny, some pretty decent sized.  They all looked wonderful.

This article, A Guide to DIY Kit Homes, was written for those of us that dream of creating our own perfect home but have the presence of mind to realize that maybe, just maybe, we don't know enough to do it successfully.

I'm totally one of those.

Many DIY kit homes are designed with people like us - the beginners - in mind: Plans, instructions, and even easy to assemble pre-constructed walls.... You know, like Ikea... but for entire buildings!

I could grab my trusty tool set, construct my home in a short time, set up a table in my front yard, sit down with some freshly squeezed lemonade, and put my feet up as I watched the truly skilled construction workers do a job that I completed first!  That'd be so awesome! I'd be queen of the world!!!



Umm... Sorry... I was having a personal moment....

Anyway, In the article, Mather even went as far as to produce a two-page table (so many companies were listed that a single page wasn't enough) listing Company names, what kinds of kits they sell, price per square foot, and other descriptors for the various companies.

So much help!

As if the author knew that there would be dreamers like me, unfettered by such inconsequential things as reality, the article mentioned a site called b4ubuild.com.  It gives you a general idea of what to expect in terms of cost, time, and design possibilities.  You know, that whole reality part...

So, I've been staring at this short article from the moment that I was finally able to get around to reading my Mother Earth News magazine last night, dreaming of the endless possibilities.  It's a good thing that this DIY kit homes article was so short, because I was too far into that beautiful land of daydreams to truly focus on reading.

From what I've seen, DIY kit homes look like an extremely viable idea for people that dream of building a home, yet don't have the skills to go through it without help.  It's worth looking into.

For myself, there was one that I saw on the list that screamed my name. It's a company called Portland Alternative dwellings, and has a cost of $3-4 per square foot.

But!

One of the reasons that the cost is so low is that you use salvaged materials.  How awesome is that?  It's not for everyone, granted, but it's a very enticing idea for someone like me.

PAD helps you create your own tiny house... on wheels!  

Yep.  They're tiny.  The largest plan is 12'.  This, however, is a very green option.  Not only are you using salvage materials, but you'r also creating a living space that's far smaller than the norm, which means less house to encroach on nature.

Score!!!

They're small enough that you can easily uproot them and move them to an entirely new area, if required.  For that matter, it would work for the person that can't seem to settle in one spot for an extended period.

Or, if you're like me and need somewhere to run away to do your writing in peace, and where you won't be distracted, you could place one of these beauties in your backyard. Use it to hide from the world as you write your latest masterpiece, crying over fictional characters in a fictional world that exists only inside your head.

Hmmm... that almost makes me sound crazy, doesn't it?

Oh, well.  It's a happy crazy, so we'll just go with it!

Are DIY kit homes something that you'd be interested in?  Or are you someone that would rather renovate an existing home?  There are so many options...

No wonder I spend half of my time living in the world of daydreams!



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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Accidental Critter Feast, or How I Lost My Dinner

As mentioned before, I spent Thanksgiving weekend with my parents and grandparents in the frigid Northland, otherwise known as the North Shore of Lake Superior.  Honestly, though, I don't think there can be much of a difference between there and the North Pole.

One set of boot prints heading down a snow covered trail surrounded by trees and brush (also covered with snow).
See?  I told you it was frigid.  There's even some deep
snow covering the trail to prove it!


I returned home to a nice and toasty 38 degree evening.

Yeah, you heard that right... toasty.  That's how freakishly cold it is up there!  I know, I know... those of you that are real Minnesotans think I'm overreacting.  I have one defense that trumps your argument, though:

Desert Girl!!!

Anyway, the morning after I got back to my house, I noticed that my backyard habitat was still providing critters with happiness.

How?

I accidentally left the two mini pumpkins from my Happy Thanksgiving post on the outside table.  One showed clear evidence of critter contentment.

tooth marks in three different regions of the mini pumpkin.  A decent chunk of the interior was eaten.


My first thought was a simple one, reminiscent of Disney's Snow White:

"Oh, how nice!  I'm glad it made such a great dinner for some adorable little critter."

It was shortly followed up, though, with,

"Wait... That was supposed to be my dinner!!!  Noooooooooooooooo!"

True story.  I really was planning on using them.  Specifically, I was going to make pumpkin soup from their puree, then serve it inside the tiny pumpkins - ready-made serving bowls!  Yay!

That's kind of not happening anymore.  Oops...

The good news?  I can guarantee it wasn't a mouse that bit into it.  The tooth impressions were too large.  This leads me to believe it was a squirrel.  Specifically, the obese squirrel that I've seen around my yard.

No, really... 

It doesn't climb up trees... it waddles up trees.  You know when that squirrel, in particular, comes into the yard, because it sounds different from the others.

Louder.  Clumsier.

I really need to get a picture of him, but he seems to have some sort of psychic instinct that lets him know when I have a camera in my possession.

Someday, though... some day.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Decorations: The Ultimate in Reuse!!!

It's finally time to decorate!

Normally, our family tradition is to decorate for Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving, but we spent the weekend with my parents and grandparents, and so we weren't able to go about our yearly Christmas treasure discovery.  I had to wait until after I came back home.

A few hours before we drove off for the weekend, I brought the decorations up from the basement.



That's not all of it.  I really have a lot.

I was so glad to finally be able to open those boxes upon returning home!

Part of my Christmas decorating joy has to do with the ages of some of these treasures.  There's a lot of history in those boxes.

Made by my grandma in 1985


There are ornaments that mark important years.

Perhaps the most important of all years!


Some decorations remind us of loved ones lost long ago.

My great-grandma made this one.


All of these pieces make up a great example of reuse at its very finest.  Unlike many other occasions, this is a time in which people reuse items that they've hung onto for years, regardless of how much or how little they make an effort to be environmentally responsible.

These decorations all mean something.  

Some of them may be near to falling apart, yet we keep them, showing them off with pride, hanging them lovingly from a tree, or placing them on the walls and tables.

The state that they're in doesn't matter nearly as much as the thought that went into them, or the memory that's attached.  They're all beautiful.  They're all loved.

At a time that many people concentrate on how commercialized our holiday season has become (myself included, I admit.  My Black Friday shopping post is a good example of that...), it's good to remember that there are so many non-commercial aspects, as well.

I mean, how many people run out to buy a whole new set of Christmas decorations every year?  

Exactly... only the really, really weird ones with way too much money on their hands.  Most of us reuse our decorations every year, not because we have to, but because we want to.

Finding ways to reuse items within our homes is something we should all strive to do.  It's not only good for our finances, but it's good for the world as a whole.  While singing about "...joy to the world!" may make us feel all warm and bubbly, it does absolutely no good unless we're willing to try to bring that joy to the world.

And deciding to reuse things, rather than throwing them in a landfill to contaminate the earth is one small step toward that.

No, reuse isn't going to save the world.  

We all know that.

But every small step matters.  Those decorations that you've been using for more than a decade?  Those decorations matter.  You're right to feel that sense of joy as you hang a shabby, frayed ornament on your tree, glad that it survived another year.

Add some extra joy to your heart as you hang it this year, by realizing that it's not only made a difference in your life, but in many, many others, as well.

Sometimes being environmentally responsible is accidental, and that's when it's indescribably beautiful!

Give yourself a pat on the back after hanging that old and perfect decoration.  You deserve it!
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Wildlife Offerings in the Middle of Nowhere

My grandma lives in the middle of nowhere!

Well, ok.  Not quite.

She does, however, live very far outside of town in Northern Minnesota, surrounded by woods on three sides, and the great Lake Superior on the other.  It takes around 30 minutes to get to the closest (small) town.  In my mind, that is the middle of nowhere.

It's actually pretty nice.

One of the more exciting aspects of living off in "the boonies" is the large amount of wildlife.  Aside from the smaller critters that I'm now used to, such as rabbits and squirrels, larger animals may frequent your yard.

Like deer, bears, and wolves.

I told you it was exciting!!!

After picking oodles and oodles of apples from the trees back in September, many of them were left outside "for the critters."

Granted, this was probably just a really nice way of saying, "There's no room in the fridge for all of this, so I'm just going to leave it outside and let nature take care of it."

But it worked!

There was plenty of evidence that animals came by to eat from the baskets.

Basket of apples, nibbled on by wildlife.

Bite marks like crazy!

Indeed, on Thanksgiving morning there was an apple on the front steps of the house.  I discovered it mere moments before putting my foot down, which was very fortunate, since it was directly in line with where my foot was going to come down!

Half eaten apple sitting in the center of the cement porch step.





Living in harmony with nature, respecting nature, is important. 

This was a perfect example, to me, of giving back to the environment.  When there is an excess of food, it only makes sense to give it to someone that will make use of it.  In this case, "someone" was the wildlife within the area.

Winter months are frigid, and while bears are perfectly content to spend these months in hibernation, deer are left to fend for themselves, chewing bark from the trees and searching for bush that still has some nutrition within it.

It's truly survival of the fittest.

So setting aside some excess digestible plant material doesn't hurt at all.  Especially when the great outdoors looks like this:

Lake view through the trees, obscured by a cloud of snow blowing through the air.




I should point out, however, that while this is a good thing when you live in the middle of nowhere, it's not the greatest idea if you live within a city or town's boundaries.  Doing this within city limits can attract a large amount of unwanted visitors into your neighbor's yard... and not everyone loves wildlife on this scale.

So, well... I wouldn't be able to do this at the house I'm renting.  The neighbors may not be particularly happy about it. At all.

Oh, well... you win some, and you lose some. 

At least I have the joy of knowing that wildlife is looked after and respected within my grandmother's small section of the earth.  It's like a small-scale nature preserve... with side benefits!
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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sustainable Giving: Heifer International

Everyone has that one person that frustrates them beyond belief during the holiday season.  

Whenever you ask this person what he or she wants for Christmas, the answer is something along the lines of,

"I don't need anything" 

or 

"Whatever.  I'm not picky."

It makes you want to strangle them.  What do you do for these people???

Well, one option is donating to a charity in their name.  

This doesn't always work... some of those annoying "I don't need anything" people really do want some sort of physical item.  Donating may not be the best idea for them.

For the ones who truly don't care if they get a gift or not, though, finding a non-profit organization that they agree with, and making a donation in their honor may actually be a very good idea.

Heifer International is the one we'll talk about, today.

Heifer International Holiday Gift Catalog


I got a gift catalog in the mail about a month ago, and thought, "Huh.  Maybe I should check it out."

This one is the involved in sustainable community efforts across the globe.  It deals with helping families become self sufficient, which in turn effects the family's community as a whole.  We've all heard that saying,

"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.  
Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life."

This is one of the aspects of Heifer International's philosophy.  Rather than sending food to a community, Heifer International gives a family within a village a goat.  Or a cow.  Or some bees.  Veterinary medical kits.  The list goes on.

These animals become central to the community.

Rather than giving some food that will run out, or even spoil, Heifer International gives them a creature that can be used for years to provide milk, fiber, honey, etc.  The family does the work necessary to provide for itself, as well as the community, which gives people a way to care for themselves with only a bit of help in the beginning.

We're talking self-sufficiency, at least in part.  We're talking confidence.  Knowledge. 

That person that doesn't care about receiving a gift of his or her own?  Give this person the gift of knowing that in some small part (s)he has helped give a truly meaningful gift to someone else!

Granted, this isn't for everyone.  

Plenty of people scoff at an idea like this.  "Look, Honey!  For your  Christmas gift, I gave someone else a few chickens!" (Yeah... I totally heard that one a few days ago.)

But for the idealistic person that dreams of making a difference?  This is one small way for them to do it.

This holiday season is about hope... regardless of your theological assertions. 

It's supposed to be about helping others find peace and joy.  We may have turned this into a season of throwing money into corporate pockets, but it doesn't have to be that way.  We can change this, but we have to do it one person at a time.

We have to start with ourselves.

This one is easy.  For only twenty bucks you can provide a village with enough chickens to be able to feed them for years.  That seems a lot better to me than buying a single person an iphone that they'll only use for a year or two, and that costs way more, on top of that.

I went to Charity Navigator to check in on the organization, and saw that it was rated at 3 out of 4 stars.  Heifer International isn't perfect.  The majority of its funding, however, goes directly to program expenses (73.2%).  This is important.  The transparency rating is also high - another plus.

Indeed, I think the primary reason for the less than perfect rating comes from its deficit (almost $10,000,000), which is higher than combined administrative expenses (roughly $7.6 million).  Many people consider this a bonus.

Sometimes, though, better funded administration means smoother flow of activity.  I'm not trying to dissuade you from making a donation, of course.  I just want you to know what you're looking at.

Heifer International, from what I've seen so far, is a valid choice for donation.  

It gives you a chance to provide for more than a single person for years to come, and for very little cost to yourself.

If you have any information to the contrary, please leave a comment to let everyone know.  For that matter, if you've had a good experience with them, let us know that, as well!  The more information we have, the happier we are.

Remember to always research any charity you choose to give to, and always be sure that it's something that makes you comfortable.  Giving is good, but knowledgeable giving is better.

Do your research, and do something truly worthy of the meaning of the holiday season.

For me, this means sustainable giving.  It means helping both the earth and its people at the same time.  Donating to a charity that's essentially green helps more than just the people it was designed to aid.  It helps the world as a whole.

Sometimes taking baby steps and performing a single small action helps us navigate the trails toward being environmentally responsible far more than jumping over everyone else's boot tracks in an effort to tackle the largest issues.

Every step matters. 












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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Support Small Business Saturday! Find a Local Store!

Today is Small Business Saturday!  Yay!!!

Small Business Saturday gets such a small amount of media exposure.  A really, really tiny amount.  So miniscule, in fact, that unless your local news station does a story about it, you probably won't remember it's happening.

Even then, there's a chance that you'll be gung ho about heading off to support small businesses, but have absolutely no clue who is participating, or even what the big deal is all about.

That's what I want to do today.

I want to help you find small businesses in your area without having to get redirected about 5000 times.

Small Business Saturday is sort of like Black Friday for the little guys... minus the insane shoving, rudeness, and heart attack inducing stress levels.  The frightened employees, cringing every time a customer comes within a three foot radius, are also absent.

Come to think of it, maybe it's not much like Black Friday at all...

They do have deals, though.  And they can be really good ones.

So, what is Small Business Saturday?  

It's a day in which we can support small businesses within our community by taking our holiday shopping to them, rather than to big corporate entities.  To quote the Small Business Administration's Administrator, Karen Mills:
"Small businesses are the back bone of our communities. And when we shop small, we not only get great products and services, but we support our neighbors and strengthen our local economies." (SBA blog post)

Community support.  That's important, and it's something we tend to forget this time of year.  Funny that we should forget about helping each other during a season of hope and love, right?

Yay, capitalism!

Going on, though...

Small Businesses across the country will have sales today - just like the corporations did on Friday (and Thursday... sigh).  Indeed, many of these mom and pop stores have been preparing for months!

Where do I find these businesses, though?!

I found a national store locator online, that included stores in towns with under 4000 people.

Brief warning, though: it's an American Express store locator, so you can pretty much guarantee that it only lists stores that accept American Express cards.  (I'm not complaining about that, though, because it makes sense, after all.)

The National Federation of Independent Business has a small list of businesses, as well.  

It's not nearly as all-encompassing, and you have to scroll down to your state to see what they've listed. BUT!  The NFIB locator does have one great aspect to it that you won't find on the simplistic American Express locator...

It gives the business and address, of course, but it also explains "why you should patronize this small biz."  Bonus!

Oh, and another thing about the NFIB:  When you click the link above, you'll also see a link to get their mobile app.  Talk about useful!!!

You may also want to pull up your local newspaper or tv news site.  

Many times, the writers will include a list of local businesses that are participating in Small Business Saturday.

This is a much better option than the hell we all refer to as Black Friday, and it's happening today.  Get out there and support your local businesses, while grabbing up some great deals in the process!

That's what I'll be doing!


Are you a small business owner?  Feel free to leave your store name and address in a comment.  It's some extra exposure, after all!







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Friday, November 23, 2012

Grinding Flour Using a Mortar and Pestle

Swirl!                                       Swirl!  
Shake!                 Shake!  
POUND!

I was grinding my flour... finally!  It took a while, but I finally found the pestle that my daughter had absconded with.  Where was it?  Deep inside the darkest corner of the couch.  Where else does something like that go?

I got my supplies together,

wooden mortar and pestle, small bowl, 1 stem with grains attached, a sieve (actually a tea strainer)


flexed my muscles, and went to work.

First, I removed the grains (seeds by this time) from the stem, placing them in a bowl in order to have a visual indicator of how much I was going to be working with.

Grain removed from stem and sitting within a small white bowl

Not much.

I added the grains to the mortar, ready to grind it into flour.  I grabbed my pestle, which had transformed into a great and terrifying  +1 Club of  Pounding, and went to work.  My inner Kitchen Ogre rejoiced.

I alternated between a cyclical grinding motion and outright pounding.

Loud pounding.

The kind that makes your dogs bark, and causes the neighbors to wonder if they should alert the police to unusual activity.

Ok, maybe it wasn't quite that loud... but one of my dogs did panic at the sudden loud sounds and let out a single bark, so I'm going with the first version.  It's more fun.

I also had to shake the mortar (softly) to remove fragments that had gotten stuck to the side pretty frequently.

In total, I'd say I worked on this for about 15 minutes.

That seems like a long time, but when you consider that I was using half of the recommended minimum amount of  material, that makes sense.  It's always harder to grind anything when there's very little of the grain to grind against each other. The result was a pretty course grain, but it was flour nonetheless!

Very course grained flour, brown in color

Another problem had to do with my choice of sieve   I used a tea strainer, because that was the best I could come up with.  The holes within the strainer were a bit too wide to produce a fine powder.

That's ok, though.  

I didn't need perfection.  I just needed to see whether a mortar and pestle would work to produce enough flour to make a single cookie.

It didn't, but that had more to do with the amount of material than with the process.  I can always add in a little bit of the store bought stuff to make up for the lack of home ground flour.   The process itself was valid.

Yay!!! 

Definitely more green than buying packaged flour from the store... and it gives a good workout, too!
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

The words "Happy thanksgiving", made using black walnut twigs.  Mini pumpkins and gourds accent it.


I want all of you to know how thankful I am that you're here.

Not just today, but also in the past and in the future.  Even Green Boots Leave Trails is all about stumbling along the path to becoming environmentally responsible, and every person that visits, whether they come once and never again, or they stay and continue reading, has made a difference by caring about the world around them.

I'm thankful for that.

I'm thankful for you.

And lookee there!

The "Happy Thanksgiving" up there was created using black walnut twigs.  Looks like I found another good use for those trees!  My neighbor thinks I should glue the letters together and reuse them next year.  Not a bad idea, hmm?  What do you think?

You know what I think?  

I think you should stop sitting at your computer and go have some Thanksgiving yumminess and joy.  That's what I think!

Have a happy Thanksgiving!
I look forward to having you here again, tomorrow!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Carrot Surprise! Using Milk Jugs to Protect Your Find

Huh?!

Wait... what?  How?!

I was dumbfounded.  I stared at the patch of soil in which I had grown lettuce and spinach, only to discover healthy green leaves that had burst out of the soil at some point.

green, healthy mystery leaves


Carrot leaves.

full and vibrant green carrot leaves

Carrots in a patch of soil that I had planted spinach and lettuce inside?  After a few freezes and temperatures that never left the range of 20 to 50?  In November???

How could this be?

"Oh, yeah..." I remembered.

Back in July, I had planted a few carrot seeds in that patch, having completed my run of greens.  My daughter loves carrots, and I'm pretty enamored with them, as well.

Of course, soon after planting them, I completely forgot about their existence... and we had a nice little drought in the area.  They were left on their own to do what poor little carrot seeds do when they're neglected and un-watered.

Apparently, there were a few survivors.  Not many... just three.  They continued to grow against all odds in an area that was simply covered with leaves and forgotten.

Clearly, the carrots sprouted much later than they would have if I had been paying attention to them.  Judging by their size, I'd say they sprouted at around the middle of September (maybe earlier... they had it rough, after all!)... long after I had stopped paying attention to that particular area.

So what do you do in a surprise situation like this?

Well, I brought out a couple of the plastic milk jugs that I had been saving to have another go at winter sowing, of course!  I cut off the bottoms, removed the lids, and placed them in the soil over the struggling carrots.

Plastic milk jugs pressed into garden soil


The milk jugs act as a mini cold frame, gathering heat from the sun and keeping the soil a bit moist.  While not quite as strong and protective as a true cold frame, they worked quite well, when last I used them.

Normally, I'd cut a few ventilation holes along the edges of their tops rather than simply removing the lid, but it was around 3:00 pm when I found them, and the sun sets early around here, so I didn't have a whole lot of time.

After staring at the milk jugs for a while, I realized that I needed to do more.  Milk jugs alone are a great way to protect the carrots, which do well in cold climates anyway, but I have critters.

Squirrels, rabbits, a shrew, and who knows what else?  

They'd knock over the plastic if they got curious.  Even if all they did was nudge the jugs a bit, wind would do the rest of the job, blowing away the mini cold frames, and leaving the carrots vulnerable to frost.

That's where the never ending leaves in my yard came into play.  

Not long after my Autumn Purge, the wind kicked up again, and I had more leaves in my yard than I did when I was first inflicted with the need to tidy it up.  Naturally, even after a second go, I had plenty of leaves to spare.

I shoved them into place around the milk jugs.

plastic milk jugs surrounded by dry leaves


They'd provide a sort of bumper against the critters, and just enough of a barrier at the base to stabilize the milk jugs against the wind.  Theoretically, anyway.  Let's cross our fingers!

I'm still baffled that these carrots managed to pull through against all odds.  Indeed, if I can keep them protected for just a little while longer, I may have carrots from my garden... in December!

Have you ever had such a wonderful surprise appear in your garden?  What was it?  What did you do to nurture it once it was discovered?

And what should I do with my three garden fresh carrots when they're ready?

Excuse me while I head off to do a little happy dance... again.  It's just so exciting!!!


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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Kitchen Ogre's Quick Thanksgiving Recipe: Cranberries

"Oh, no!  It's almost Thanksgiving, I'm in a rush, and I still have to figure out a side dish to bring to grandma's house!!!"

We've all been in a similar situation.  Maybe it was somewhere other than grandma's house.  Maybe it was a different holiday.  But we've all been there.

Some people are lucky.

They don't cook, so they bring the chips or some drinks.  They just have to suffer through long lines at a grocery store.

The rest of us, though, are stuck trying to figure something out a day or two beforehand, fighting the impulse to transform into an Ogre due to the stress, because we just kept putting it off until tomorrow.

So what do you do in a case like this?

I have this problem... well... a lot.  Indeed, my procrastination has caused this so often that I've made a list of holidays, and which "quick foods" I need to offer to make... well ahead of time.

Seriously.  A list of holidays with foods beside their names.  Complete with offering to make them a whole month in advance.

Hey!  I know I'm going to forget, so I may as well make sure I have a safe point when I do, right?

The rules are simple, and anyone can follow them:


  • You must actually like the food in question.
  • The recipe must use 5 ingredients or less (makes it easier to find them all at the last minute)
  • Total time spent in the kitchen (including the cleanup) must be 30 minutes or less.
I clean slowly (because I hate cleaning), so in actuality, half of my time tends to be used cleaning.  15 minute recipes, anyone?

Cranberries are key!

My go-to recipe for Thanksgiving is cranberry sauce.  If you're really stressed for time, the bags of cranberries tend to have a basic 3 ingredient recipe on them. This recipe generally consists of cranberries, water, and sugar.

But that's boring.  Seriously, who wants to eat that?

I use a recipe that I got a few years ago.  It's much more tasty, still has only a few ingredients... unless I decide to get creative, in which case everyone steers clear of the kitchen for fear of being attacked by

The Kitchen Ogre.

Green-faced ogre wielding a giant spoon.  "ME SMASH PUNY HUMAN!"


Did I happen to mention that I always get creative?  Having a clear kitchen is rather handy...

The recipe is simple.

Ingredients:


  1. 1 bag of cranberries (standard size)
  2. 1 cup of orange juice
  3. 1 cup of sugar
  4. cinnamon
Heat your burner to medium, pour in the orange juice and the sugar, then stir it until the sugar dissolves.  Add the cranberries.  Stir again.  You want those cranberries to be reasonably covered. Once the cranberries pop (literally... you'll hear the sound), remove the mix from the burner and add cinnamon to taste.    Mash it up.  Or don't.  Again, that depends on taste.  The sauce will thicken as it cools. 

Total time, including cleaning is around 20 minutes.

But I'm creative, see, so my ingredients end up looking like this:

Bag of oranges, bag of cranberries, hand juicer, raw sugar, spice container, recipe card
Yep.  That's the same sugar that I used for my sugaring paste.
Sugar lasts a while in this house.


Yep.  Forget the orange juice.  Do you know what they do to that stuff to make it fridge/freezer ready???  Seriously, the processing is pretty gross.  Be nice to the environment and your body.  Use some elbow grease and squeeze your own juice... the old fashioned way.

Ok, maybe you don't want to do that.  It increases the time it takes to prepare the sauce.

Not a problem.

Grab a victim volunteer and make him or her do it for you.


My husband doesn't like the Kitchen Ogre.

He's learned, however, that if he does a portion of the work for me and stays in a single out-of-the-way location, the Kitchen Ogre stays at bay.  If he plans it right, he can even manage to grab a snack or a drink out of the fridge and run out before I notice any changes have occurred within my lair.

Clever human... 

Once your victim has juiced enough oranges to give you one cup of juice, follow the recipe instructions above.  As long as you have the 3 main components (cranberries, orange juice, sugar), it's really hard to mess up.

Cranberry sauce is a beautiful thing...

This time, I changed the recipe in a few ways.  For one, I didn't feel like using a full cup of sugar.  Sure, what I have is organic, and it's pure, lightly processed sugar cane, rather than the GMO filled beet sugar that you generally buy, but I wanted to make it a little more environmentally friendly.

So I used 1/2 cup of local honey from the farmers market and 1/2 cup of the sugar, instead of one full cup of sugar.  Just a small step toward eco-friendliness, but a step, nonetheless.

bottle of honey with a blue and white label: Pure Natural Honey, Net wt. 2 lb

I also got creative with the spices.  Instead of using plain cinnamon, I threw together some nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, - just a dash of each - then sprinkled some in, bit by bit, until it passed my taste test.

The result?

Bright red sauce with some whole berries still visible, contained within a large glass bowl.

Pure yumminess.  

As you can see, I mashed it.  I could have strained it to remove the skins if I wanted, but that would have a) taken more time, and b) created more waste.

The skins are edible, after all, so why remove them?  I kind of think they add a nice visual quality, as well as texture.

My total time, due to juicing oranges and bringing out extra supplies was 27 minutes - that includes cleaning! This recipe is quick, as well as easy, which means that the Kitchen Ogre has less of a chance of attacking innocent bystanders.

Of course, one has to wonder... are they really considered innocent if they're invading your lair?

Hmmm...


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Monday, November 19, 2012

Black Friday Shopping Mania: How To Avoid It

It's approaching...

Soon it'll be time for the most scary, stress inducing, even violent day of the year.

Black Friday.

Stick figure with long, blond hair, screaming "Nooooooooo!!!!!"


See, I really dislike Black Friday.

People get excited over Black Friday deals, racing to get their hands on items that are significantly reduced for that one day, only.  All bets are off.  All that seems to matter for so many people is getting those deals.

Pepper spray has been used on shoppers that have gotten too close to the item that a consumer wanted.

Large crowds have created a stampede that injured everyone around them as stores opened with their so-called deals.

People have even died because of consumer greed.

Every year, there are new reports of consumer greed causing trauma.

And for what?  A little bit of money saved?  Is life really that insignificant when placed in the shadow of "great deals"?

I refuse to be a part of that.

The only shopping I tend to do on Black Friday is grocery shopping.  Grocery stores are just about empty on those days, which means that everybody within the grocery stores are much more accommodating and polite.

No lines.
No waiting.
Stress-free smiles.

Indeed, the only negative to grocery shopping on Black Friday is that the cashiers tend to be bored silly.  No reason for me to complain there!

But what options are out there for those that want to shop on Black Friday without placing themselves or others in harm's way?


  • Some stores have Black Friday deals online.  That's right... avoid the crowds and get great deals without endangering an employee or fellow shopper.  It's not just a Black Monday thing, anymore.

  • Shop at local businesses.  Do your shopping at mom and pop stores.  Sure, the deals may now be as huge... but by doing this, you're giving the added gift of support to someone else.  Two gifts for the price of one!
Still not enough for you?  Is excitement what you're looking for?  Is that the draw of Black Friday?

Well, on Black Friday there are going to be strikes at Walmarts across the nation.  Workers are protesting against things like unsafe working conditions (like everything I linked to above), discrimination, inadequate wages, ridiculous health insurance premiums, and retaliation toward workers that voice disagreement with these problems.

Help them out.

Seriously.  If you want excitement, you'll find it by standing with people to protest the abuses of a mega-corporation.  I'm not saying you have to take part in a protest, but I really doubt they'd turn away someone that comes to bring them, say, a huge vat of hot chocolate while they're outside in cold weather.

Moral support.  

Let them know they matter as human beings.  Let them know that you believe them to be more important than a great deal on a laptop.  Drive by your local Walmart, and stop by if you see a protesting group... even if it's just to give them a smile and let them know that they matter as human beings.

You're probably wondering just what in the heck this protest has to do with a blog about environmental responsibility.

Well, Walmart has done quite a bit of harm to the environment, regardless of its statements to the contrary, and its so-called sustainability initiative.

It sells substandard products that get thrown away at a much faster rate than higher quality products, in order to give us the savings that we scream for.

That's a lot of extra landfill waste.

It contributes to global warming by way of urban sprawl.  Think about it.  Each new Walmart Supercenter opens in a brand new location, with a brand new building and parking lot.  This is done by removing habitat and soils for wildlife.  Wildlife loses a home, which disrupts the eco-system as a whole.

Say good-bye to all of the Carbon Dioxide absorption that the plants in those areas were providing.  It's being replaced by smog.

Granted, some sprawl is necessary as our population grows, but in all honesty, have you ever seen a full parking lot at a Walmart?  There's always space available - even on Black Friday in a large city.  The parking lots are larger than is needed, planned specifically to entice more shoppers onto their grounds.  Those larger parking lots mean more cars.  More cars mean more fossil fuel use.

Then we get to all of those vacant Walmarts across the country.  

Walmarts that were closed in order to create new, bigger locations.  There are a lot of them.  In Texas alone, as I write this, there are 75 buildings for sale.  In Minnesota there are 37.  Don't believe me?  Look at the Walmart Realty listings.

Those building just sit there, unused.  

That means an unnecessary amount of land has been taken from the eco-system, and replaced with a burden that Walmart's sustainability initiative don't even come close to making up for.

Do we really want to leave this kind of heartless, damaging legacy to our children?  Remember, everything that we mess up now, they have to fix later.  They already have a big clean-up job to do. We really don't need to make it bigger... all in the name of 'great deals'.

This post is getting a bit too long, and I don't have my usual wealth of pictures littering my page, so I'm going to end it now, leaving you with one simple question:

What are your plans for Black Friday, now that you know all of this?
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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Solar Lights For a Treacherous Trail

Since the time change, I've dreaded taking my dogs outside after supper.

Back at my old home, the time change was annoying.  Here in Minnesota, though, it's actually a bit dangerous.  That is... if, like me, you have to walk up a short trail to get to the area where you can allow your dogs to run free.

long, treacherous garden path, mid January
This photo was taken not long before this blog began!


See, by 4:30 the sun has lowered enough that you have to start turning on lights indoors.  

By the time I feed the dogs and take them outside, the sun has completely set, and my backyard is swathed in darkness.  Since pushing the clocks back an hour, I've stumbled on the treacherous trail that leads up to the fenced area of the yard on several different occasions.

I'm clumsy, in general, I admit, so when darkness is added into the equation, my lack of dexterity turns me into my own worst enemy.  I've tripped on rocks, as well as the steps themselves.  I've even managed to trip on the air itself, misjudging where a step should be... you know... because I can't see the darned thing!

I realized that if I didn't do something soon, I was going to end up really hurt.  Fortunately, there was an easy answer.

Solar lights.  

The kind you use in your garden.

I remembered that I had bought an 8-pack of Westinghouse solar lights that were on clearance for a ridiculously cheap price about a year and a half ago.  I had left two of them at my home in the desert southwest, and had used one to make a solar lantern last year, so that meant I had 5 remaining.

That's enough to do the job!

After hunting around in the basement for a while, I finally grabbed the box of lights and ran out to the path.  Having only 5 lights, I had to be careful with them.  I needed to find the two most treacherous spots (You know, for symmetry.) and ensure the lights were placed for max effect.

I elected to use only four.  Again, that whole symmetry thing.

I placed the first two into the ground immediately after the retaining wall.  The trail climbs pretty steeply there for a few steps, and time has eroded quite a bit of it.

2 solar lights on either side of the retaining wall of the path entrance.  Path angles at about 35 degrees, at the beginning.

I placed two more solar lights mid-trail, at a point that would cover some unevenly positioned steps that were also falling victim to erosion.  This would also shed light on the final steps at the top.

A solar light on each side of a particularly unstable brick step.

I tested all four lights prior to setting them in the ground, by placing my hand over the sensor, and they were all in good condition.  I found this rather shocking, considering the length of time that they were shut away in the basement, but I'm not complaining!!!

There was nothing left to do at this point but wait.

I knew that I wouldn't get a full idea of the effectiveness on this first attempt, due to the solar lights only charging for another hour, but I'd get an idea of how well the placement would work.  What I would be able to see, though, was a glimpse at shadows.  If there were any shadows in important zones, I'd have to re-position everything.  I kept my fingers crossed.

Finally, it was almost time to take the dogs out, and the sun was almost fully set.  I could go out and check my work while still able to see my feet if I had failed.

Just a hint of light remaining in the sky.  The 4 solar lights are shining along the trail.

The solar lights were still working, so I breathed a sigh of relief.  I stared at shadows.

The placement worked!!!

There were no shadows in inappropriate places.

When I brought the dogs up the trail, I could see the ground beneath my feet for the first time since that blasted time change!  The lights were dim, of course, because they hadn't been fully charged, but it worked.

I didn't stumble... not even once!

Solar lights are a very effective way to light up areas that aren't easy to light using electricity.  Not only that, but solar lights are so much more green than their corded counterparts.  You're drawing your energy from the sun, rather than fossil fuels, after all.  They help decrease your ecological footprint, and who doesn't want that?

They're a great way to light an unsafe area, while at the same time allowing yourself to be environmentally responsible.

Bonus!

Do you have a treacherous area in your yard?  Any area that you always manage to stumble over, or even simply bump into?  Solar lights worked for me, so they may be of value to you, as well.
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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mortar and Pestle: Grinding Flour For ONE Cookie...

I had one sheaf of wheat seeds staring at me from my raised garden in the backyard.

Just one.

So, naturally, I removed it, and stared with wonder.

one small, wimpy bit of wheat berries

Jokingly, I had mentioned in an earlier post that I thought it would be fun to grind it up when it was ready, and make...

one cookie.

one small, sad, unfulfilling cookie.

The funny part, though, is that now I'm starting to think that may not be such a bad idea!

Think about it.  

How many people do you know that actually grind their own flour?  Unless you live in a farm community, the answer is most likely, 

"Not many."

Or even,

"None."

It's not a common skill.  There's nothing wrong with that, of course.  If we want flour, we can just go off to the store and buy some.  It's a no-brainer.

The idea of grinding your own, though... of learning a new skill...

Now that's exciting!

I wanted to know what to do.  What is required?  How hard is it?  What techniques are used?

I started researching.  It's very difficult, very muscle intensive work.  Most people that grind at home have an actual mechanical grinder for the task.  A quick search found that grain grinders can cost anywhere between one and three hundred dollars!  

That's not bad if you plan on making your own flour all the time, but I'm just experimenting... there's no way I'm paying that price! 

All I want to do is make a cookie...

I looked at was was available in my own home.  I had a coffee grinder.  That seemed kind of messy, though.

And a blender is just too big.  Especially for the amount I'm grinding.

It was then that my gaze lit upon my beloved mortar and pestle.  My beautiful, eco friendly, non-energy sucking mortar and pestle.

wooden mortar and pestle... minus the pestle...

Ok, make that... my mortar and missing pestle.  My daughter absconded with the pestle long ago, much to my frustration, and I haven't yet found it.

But!

People were grinding flour long before we had compound machines, so a mortar and pestle may just do the job.  If I couldn't find my pestle, I could always use something similarly shaped, or even make one of my own.  I mean, I do have plenty of black walnut branches, after all!

The hunt was back on.

I did another search for grinding flour with a mortar and pestle.  It's an intense process that requires oodles of muscle work, plus a great deal of sifting, but it's viable.  Especially for the tiny amount of grain that I'm using!

To be honest, I already knew it could be done.  

I had seen a woman making flour from yucca a few years ago, using a huge wooden pestle on a large mortar made of stone.  I just didn't know the full process, nor the appropriate techniques.

That was what I was going for:  Instructions, so that I could produce something worth using in a recipe.  G.K. Bayne actually wrote a nice, simplistic tutorial on ehow, so all I need to do is gather my supplies.

Ok... hunt them down... at least my poor, missing, no doubt abused pestle...

Truthfully, you can make flour from any edible grain, or even nut.  

Those weedy grasses that sprout up in your yard?  They may be worthwhile.  You need to research each grain prior to using it, however, because you don't want to accidentally make yourself a cookie that gets you high.

Or, depending on your personality... maybe you do.  I'm not judging!

Just be sure you know what you're grinding before you do it!

In all honesty, my wheat is past the grinding stage.  It's completely mature, and could be used for planting next year.  But how can I pass up the opportunity to try something new?

That's right.  I can't.

Plus... I really want to make a cookie...

Stay tuned!  Soon I'll be letting you know how the flour grinding process went!




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Friday, November 16, 2012

The Agony of a Migraine, and the Joy of Water

So, about that sinus headache...

It turns out I was wrong.  It wasn't a simple sinus headache that I had when I wrote my piece for yesterday... it was the beginning of a full-blown migraine.  The worst of the worst.  Public enemy number one in the world of headaches.

Oops.

stick figure using a jackhammer on my head as I lay on a pillow, crying.


Here's what happened.

After my overwhelmingly long, hot shower, I felt better.  Sure, I still had a bit of a headache, but it was more of an annoyance than anything else.  When that happens with a sinus headache, I simply ignore it.  It goes away within a few minutes, as long as I keep my activity levels low.

Only that didn't happen this time.

Instead, I had a very low level headache for about half an hour.  I ignored it.

Then it got worse.  A lot worse.  Suddenly.

Then the nausea started.

And the light sensitivity.

And the sensitivity to sound.

My critical thinking skills were in a complete disarray, and I was angered by just about anything that happened within the room I was in.  No sound was too minuscule to escape my notice.

Angry Me Stick Figure: "You don't think I hear that stomach growling? Mocking me?! Make it stop.  Now!!!" Confused Stick Figure Daughter: "Ok, mommy....?"


There was no doubting that it was, in fact, a migraine.  I laid out, flat on the couch, trying desperately to find that one position that would lessen the agony.  As anyone that has ever had a migraine knows, however,

nothing works. 

I was in agony.  I broke down and used painkillers, but as I mentioned yesterday, they don't work.

After a while, though, a brief glimmer of rational thought came into my head.  The answer, yet again, was water.

I hated that I was using even more water.  Being from the desert, I have a personal knowledge of just how precious that commodity is.  Water is not to be wasted.  Water, after all, is life.

My internal discussion was starting to make me feel like a character from Frank Herbert's Dune novels...

Water, though, was still the answer. 

Just like it is with basic sinus headaches.  The difference is in the way you use it.  I couldn't avoid it.  I needed water.  Specifically, hot water.

Here's what to do.


  • Fill your tub halfway to where you want the level to be at.  You're going to be in that tub for quite a while, so you need room to continually fill it.  



  • Make sure the water is as hot as you feel comfortable with.  You don't want to scorch yourself, but you do want it to be hotter than usual.  You're going to be in the tub for quite a while, so you need to be sure there's enough room to add more water.  You don't want it to cool too much.



  • Get into a position that seems to alleviate some of the pain.  Once you're sitting in the hot water, you'll notice definite differences in how your body reacts to your position.  More so than if you're laying on a couch.  


One important thing to note is that laying back may not be the right position.  It depends totally on your body.  Listen to what it says...  even if that means sitting with one leg straight and the other resting on the faucet while your neck is wrapped around your knee.

Ok, hopefully that won't happen... but you get the point.  Listen to what your body is telling you.  In my case, I was sitting cross-legged with my head hanging forward, so low that my forehead was nearly touching the water.

Now for the hardest part:


  • Try to relax.  See?  I told you it was hard!  This is going to take some serious effort.  You'll notice that some muscles are clenched that you hadn't even noticed before.  Coax your muscles into letting go.  It'll take time.  A lot of time.



  • Add a little bit of hot water every 15 minutes.  Only a slight amount.  You want just enough that the tub stays hot.  If you do this at roughly the 15 minute mark, you'll use less water - the water in your tank will still have heat, and the water inside your bath will still be above your body temperature.



  • Stay in the bath until the pain is entirely gone.  I do mean entirely.  Even if there's only a slight bit of discomfort, that's enough to give the migraine a foothold back into your body.  You need to resign yourself to being in the bath for so long that your skin shrivels and you look like a raisin.  Don't worry... it's worth it.


In my case, I was in the bathtub for almost 2 hours.  When I got out, though, I felt as though the migraine had never been there in the first place.  No pain... and my energy was almost as good as normal.  That's something that doesn't occur if you take some pills and lay in bed!

Why does it work?

Well, for starters, the water vapor helps drain your sinuses, just like with a sinus headache.... but that's not all.

The heat from the bathtub helps your muscles to relax, while the buoyancy of the water itself keeps you from having to use your muscles to the same degree as you would if you were, say, sitting on the couch.

Using a full tub of water to relieve a migraine may not be the absolutely most environmentally friendly option out there, but it works, it's natural, and it sure is better than loading yourself up with pharmaceuticals!




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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Relieve a Basic Sinus Headache: Go To the Source!

Someone was using a jackhammer on my head.



At least, that's what it felt like.  First thing in the morning, my brain decided to say "good morning" with a very loud, very agonizing headache.  It wasn't the worst headache I'd ever had... not even in the top ten, really, but it was painful, nonetheless.

The good news?

It was a sinus headache.  Not a migraine.  Those don't go into the good news category.  It was a simple sinus headache.  They feel horrible, but they're also the easiest to get rid of.

See, sinus headaches come out to play when your sinuses get clogged.  Unclog those sinus cavities, and you're good to go.

Of course, when your sinuses are clogged well enough to give you a headache, blowing your nose doesn't do the job.  You can't.  Your mucus has turned to glue.  The kind of glue that Gorilla Glue looks upon with envy.

It. Just. Won't. Let.  Go.

Ugh.

Most people reach for their big container of pain-relieving pills.  This is fine, and it may do the job for a little while, but all pain relievers really do is block the pain receptors.  That means that since they do nothing to fix the source of the problem, the headache can return.

You need to start at the source.  In this case, the source is the blocked sinuses.  Sure, there are meds that can take care of that... usually.  But they don't always work, as we all know.

So what do you do?

Start simple.  Do the environment a favor, and instead of using something that was created in a pollution producing factory, then packaged in something created out of petrochemicals, do something much more green.

In this case, use water.

No, seriously.  Steam is the number one way to reduce sinus blockage.  It works better than drugs, and costs less by far.  The heat has a softening effect, while the vapor helps moisten everything for easy release.
Steam not only helps loosen the mucus, but does the same for ear wax, as well.

Many times, ear wax buildup can help make these sinus headaches even worse.  I mean, think about it.  It's wax.  Wax used to be used to seal letters, after all!  Sure, it's a different type of wax, but it shares a common name for a reason.

So, how do you use water to fix that sinus headache?

Go take a shower!



A nice long one.  A hot one.  I'm Queen of the 5-minute showers, and even I will tell you to take a long one. Let all that yuckiness drain out.

If you still have a headache after you're done, then you can go ahead and take those pain relievers.  You've done your job and attacked the problem at the source.  The pain you're feeling now is simply residual.  It's real pain, of course, but blocking those pain receptors for a little while will help you get through it. I won't be disappointed if you choose to take those meds now.

But you may not have to.

If you've managed to relieve your sinuses early enough, the pain will simply go away.

Water, not medicine, is the best way to fight a basic sinus headache.  To cure something, after all, you need to fight the cause, not the symptoms.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Frost Patterns: Behind the Beauty

Frosted sabers.

Icy feathers.

Whatever you see when you look at the patterns, you have to agree that they're breathtaking.

What patterns?

Well, yesterday morning I walked outside to take my daughter to school, and stared at amazement at my car windows.

frost covered car window.  The steering while inside can hardly be seen.

I've seen frost patterns plenty of times before, but these patterns were different from anything I'd seen in the past.  I wondered why.

I mean, I know the basics.  

As water freezes, the molecules line up, so to speak, and that's what produces the pretty shapes.  Windows never (or at least, very rarely) frost up with any kind of symmetry.  There are too many impurities.  Dirt, dents, oily fingerprints, etc.  This is why frost on windows is so different from snowflakes that fall from the sky.

This wasn't my problem.  Rather, I wondered why the frost patterns on my windows here, in Southern Minnesota, were so different from the patterns on my windows when I lived in the desert.  It has to do with the temperatures and humidity, obviously...

But how?  I needed an explanation.

After a while, I found Seabrooke Leckie, a writer and naturalist.  Within a few sentences of her post on frost feathers, I knew she'd appeal to both the scientist and the dreamer in me.

She explained that you need a catalyst.  Something for the molecules to adhere to.  Dust, pollen, threads from a spider web...

My car hasn't been washed in around a year.

I have catalysts galore!

She goes on to say that
 "The specific patterns of the feathery growths from the catalysts depends on numerous factors including, but not limited to, air pressure, air temperature, surface temperature, humidity, and even imperfections of the surface." 
I was right about the temperature and humidity aspects, but air pressure was something I had never considered.

I traveled over to hubpages, where I found a piece dealing with dew point and frost formation.  

This taught me that as pressure increases, more water is able to form in the air (This gives us dew).  I know, I know... this is Basic Weather 101.  Go easy on me... I'm from the desert.  Humidity is not something I've ever truly had to spend time thinking about!

Frost forms when the dew point falls below freezing.  

The water on a frosty surface, though, is icy from the beginning - it never gets the chance to become dew.  It's formed from water vapor, itself.  Sublimation:  We go directly from a gaseous state to a solid state.  Fun!

And the author even gave me a bit of forecasting knowledge to play around with!

"The ideal conditions for the formation of frost is a night with clear skies, light winds, and a temperature forecast to be near or a little below freezing."
Even better than that, though... he mentioned 5 types of frost:

Hoar (stop the snickering!),
advection (this one just sounds cool),
window, and
white frost,
as well as frost flowers.

Nice!!!

So which one did I have?

a closeup of several long lines of feathered ice crystals

  It was on a window, so window frost was undoubtedly the answer.  Window frost forms on... windows.  Obviously.  But!  The same frost pattern was on the table that you constantly see in my farmers market posts, so obviously that explanation was too vague.

I needed more.  Again.

This time, though, I had to rely on my own reasoning skills.  Scary, huh?

I read about frost types, frost conditions, and window frost, specifically.  Cal Tech had a very simple explanation of frost types that, though very basic, was also very enjoyable.  I drowned myself in the basics until I was sure of the explanation.  I had finally put to rest any doubts I had about my own theories.

Basically, the reason that frost here, versus the desert southwest, is so different, is because of the humidity mixed with the temperatures.

It snowed the morning before, so there was plenty of moisture in the air.  Temperatures that evening had been in the 20s.  Furthermore, there was a very light wind blowing through that had robbed the clouds from the sky, allowing heat to escape the atmosphere, reducing night temperatures even more, and allowing the ice particles to form on my very dusty windows.

High moisture + wind + quickly decreasing temperature = big frost feathers

This is a difference from my old desert home, because of the high moisture factor.  Hence, in the desert, the individual threads of frost, while still covering the window, are much smaller.

Woohoo!!!  I learned!

And I got to admire nature's beauty up close and personal.

As we walk the trails toward becoming more environmentally responsible, learning why things happen the way they do helps us to understand why it's so important to go green.  It gives us a sense of wonder, and a desire to retain the beauty that's all around us.

Obviously, I'm on a big winter kick right now.  

Yesterday, you read about my tradition with the first snow, and today you got beautiful frost.  Expect more of these!  Being in an area that's so fascinating during the colder months is probably going to bring out a bunch of this kind of excitement in me.

Is there anything cold weather specific that you'd like to know more about?  I'm absolutely giddy about learning these things.  I'm not used to such a dramatic change in the seasons!


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