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by Wendy Gabriel

I read an awesome article this week by Alison Kerr at Loving Nature’s Garden about When to Plant Vegetable Seeds. It’s really informative and got me excited about spring (and a little nostalgic about last spring).

Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.
~Quoted by Lewis Grizzard in Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You 

Here are some photos I took last spring:

The goddesses hugging a tree

Spring 2009 at the farm

Spring 2009

Some of my favorite photos and photo blogs:
Twilight Earth’s Photo Sunday
Mother Nature Sunday Gallery: Beaming Flowers from Love Earth Always
Photo Terri

Sam Can Shoot

Twin Cities Photo Blog
 

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human activity

Guest Article by Adam Shake

My brother once said, “If our family had a family crest, it would be a skinny guy standing on a soapbox, fist in the air and yelling into a bullhorn.” Yup, that’s the Shake Men. Ready to mix it up at the slightest provocation of a dissenting opinion. Ready to espouse upon an idea and even more than ready to defend an argument. The problem is, the Shake Men don’t see eye to eye on all subjects, which makes for some VERY interesting family get-togethers!

This being said, I’m a little flummoxed at my current state of nervousness, given the opportunity to Guest Post for Wendy.  You see, my bio says things like writer, activist, environmental advocate, member of professional business sustainability panels and Co-Founder of an online media company with seven environmental websites and some of the worlds best writers. It’s full of accolades and highfalutin verbiage that really serve no other purpose but convince people that I might, kinda, know what I’m talking about. To me though, it speaks of my passion.

So why am I nervous? Because to me, Wendy, and her zeal to make a difference for her girls, her family and herself, are what inspire me. It’s Wendy (and people like her) who keep me going, keep me passionate and make we want to make the world a better place. Because that’s what environmentalism is really all about, isn’t it? Making the world a better place for our children and theirs? So if I write an article for Wendy, it’s a little different than writing an article for some big, huge website with millions of readers. It’s different than being interviewed on the radio. It’s different than speaking at a conference. Wendy is a friend, and this, is personal.

But I digress. What I really want to talk about is community and what draws us together, and how our environment is a catalyst for what I’m finding to be, a warm, vibrant and caring group of people.

Just a few years ago, we were called hippies. But now we’re wearing suites and ties to work while taking the Metro train to our jobs on Pennsylvania Avenue. A few years ago, we were called TreeHuggers, and now we are proud to wear that label. A few years ago, we were protecting spotted owls and the loggers were mad. Now we are protecting whole swaths of forest so that they can act as carbon sinks to absorb excess Co2 and lessen the impact of Global Warming. Yes, a few years ago, we were sitting in trees to keep the trees from being cut down. Now we’re sitting in trees to keep mountain tops from being blow off to extract the coal in what is one of the most devastating acts to our environmental and human health. Yes, we’ve gone mainstream, and in doing so, we’ve made connections and communities with people who care about everything from corals dying from ocean acidification to children dying desertification.

You are part of this community. You may have a cause, an ideal, an area of land, an ethos, even an animal that you think is worth fighting for. But whether you care about Acid rain, Bio-fuel or Coal, Diesel Hybrids, Energy or High Fructose Corn Syrup, we are a family. A family who cares. A family united in one single cause, creating a better world for our children and theirs.

My message to you is this. When people start to care as much about others as they care about themselves, they will start to care about the environment. Because the environment is what care for us all.

We must move forward. Our community must demand that the health of our planet be placed above the profits of Corporations. Only then, will we gain the one fundamental freedom of which we are all entitled to by virtue of birth – the freedom to live. To Breath. To Drink. To Eat. Without fear of sickness or death.

Keep up the good fight and Alter the Eco!

Thank you Wendy, for allowing me the honor of adding to your wonderful site. Thank you also for being a friend to our lovely planet, your great community and to myself.

Editor’s Note: I am elated to have Adam Shake, the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Simple Earth Media and founder of Twilight Earth and EcoTech Daily, bring his point of view to My Green Side. Not only is Adam a noted environmental writer, advocate, entrepreneur, speaker and Washington DC-based activist; he is my friend.

Cartoon courtesy of  Seppo.net

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by Wendy Gabriel

Carole Brown at Ecosystem Gardening has bestowed upon me the honor of  The Honest ScrapHonest Scrap Award. Like she mentioned in her post, I don’t usually do these kinds of things, but Carole has perfected the art of gentle persuasion, so here it is.

To accept this honor, I have to tell you 10 honest things about myself that you wouldn’t know from reading this site. And I have to tag 7 other bloggers to participate. Thanks Carole!

So here we go, 10 things to know:

  1. My favorite color is purple… any shade. Purple has been my favorite color probably since the day I was born. I’ve never waivered. Other colors have tried to surpass purple in my heart… spring green has come close but purple remains my color of preference.
  2. My dream is to be a published Children’s Book author and illustrator. I have a few books near completion (one I’ve been “working” on since I was in middle school), a journal full of written ideas and sketchbooks full of visual ideas.
  3. I love milk chocolate. I know that all the health benefits come from dark chocolate… but I can’t help myself. My favorite is Green & Black’s Organic (Milk).
  4. I’ve lived in Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and currently in Fargo, North Dakota.
  5. I have three younger sisters. I’m very close emotionally to all of them and very far away in actual driving miles… thank goodness for cell phones, email and texting.
  6. I am a twitter addict. I’ve met some amazing people through twitter (like Carole) and am always learning something new.
  7. I do hug trees… lots of them.
  8. I can’t think clearly when my home isn’t organized… right now it’s not quite organized.
  9. I frequently forget my canvas bags when I go to the store or I only bring one when I need two or three. Luckily, I carry a big purse…
  10. I love lists (which is probably tied in to #8). I make lists for everything. Frequently when I mention something I forgot to do, my six-year-old daughter replies, “You should’ve really put that on a list.”

There it is. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about me! Now it’s time to Sleeping rooster drawn by Wendy Gabriellearn some fascinating things about some other writers.

Tag, you’re it:

  1. Christopher Gabriel at The Christopher Gabriel Program.
  2. Mindy Lockard at ManneroftheMonth.com.
  3. Leslie Quigley at Recycle Your Day.
  4. Marghanita Hughes at Marghanita.com.
  5. Adam Shake at Twilight Earth.
  6. Becky Striepe at Glue & Glitter.
  7. Katherine Center at KatherineCenter.com.

Feel free to stop back and post a link to your Honest Scrap!

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by Wendy Gabriel

Little Greek goddess had a few days off school last week so the Gabriel girls packed up and took a road trip to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s farm. We were surprised to wake up to snow on Thursday morning. October 15th and snow in Wisconsin is a recipe for tons of fun.

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? ~J.B. Priestley

Chickens love snow too
First snow and snowman of the season

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by Wendy Gabriel

Chris Baskind is a writer and the publisher of several websites, including Chris Baskindthe green living journal Lighter Footstep. He recently launched More Minimal, a new site focusing on the benefit of a simpler lifestyle. A frequent spokesperson on Environmental issues, Chris has appeared on venues as diverse as National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” Business Week, and Slate.com. He’s also a familiar presence on Facebook and Twitter. He lives in Pensacola, Florida.

How do you make your day-to-day life a little greener?

For one thing, I quit driving. It started as a one-month “carfree” experiment, and I’m now going into my fourth month without getting behind the wheel. Bicycle advocacy is becoming an important feature of my writing and outlook on personal sustainability.

You cofounded the groundbreaking site Lighter Footstep in 2007 with business partner Lisa Cagle. What was the impetus for starting a green living site?

It extended from my conviction that greener living is for everyone. There weren’t many sites dedicated to lowering one’s environmental impact in 2006 when Lisa and I started laying the groundwork for Lighter Footstep. There are hundreds now, of course, but just a few years ago, most green websites were primarily targeted to the treehugger crowd. I’m a treehugger myself, but “dark green” environmentalists account for a tiny slice of the population — and they’re not the ones looking for practical answers to difficult lifestyle questions. So that’s where were pointed Lighter Footstep.

More Minimal is your personal blog. A wonderful site that promises: Leaner. Greener. Happier. How do the pieces you write for your blog differ from the articles you include in Lighter Footstep?

More Minimal is very new, so we’ll have to see how these siblings get along. But the big difference between the two sites is that More Minimal is largely written in the first person. Lighter Footstep is very direct, pragmatic, and how-to oriented. More Minimal is more intimate. It’s also focused on downsizing our hectic, overstimulated, vastly consumptive lives. Learning to make more of less is the new green.

You were recently interviewed by Sean Daily at Green Talk Radio. It was a wonderful interview with some very quotable phrases including, “It’s not what we buy, it’s what we don’t buy.” Can you elaborate on that concept?

To be honest, a lot of green living and environmental websites and magazines are starting to look like product catalogs. Buy this, buy that — shop green and spend your way to a more sustainable world. This is nonsense. I am totally behind people and companies who are genuinely reevaluating the production chain: how we get products to market; how can we minimize the energy and materials involved without compromising quality; what should we do with these products at the end of their lifecycle. But the surest way to minimize a product’s impact is not purchase it at all. This is particularly true in the middle of a steep recession. Money is dear, and we don’t need a bunch of luxury goods presented as “green” products convincing people that simpler, more conscious living is only for the rich. It’s for everyone.

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by Wendy Gabriel

Carole Brown is a Conservation Biologist with a passion for Ecosystem Carole BrownGardening–giving a little back to wildlife by creating welcoming habitats in our gardens, conserving natural resources, and choosing sustainable landscaping practices. Carole has worked as a wildlife habitat landscaper for almost twenty years, designing, installing and maintaining Ecosystem Gardens for wildlife for homeowners, businesses, and other property managers. She is a consultant, educator, and author of Ecosystem Gardening. Avid birder, butterfly watcher, and lover of all wildlife.

How do you make your day-to-day life a little greener?

I try to do this in as many ways as possible. We belong to a local CSA for produce as well as a local food co-op, and try to get as much of our food as we can from local sources. I’ve installed CFL light bulbs throughout the house, low-flow adapters on all of the faucets and shower and low-flow toilets.

My next project inside the house is to install a hot water on demand system, which only uses energy when we need hot water as opposed to a traditional hot water heater which is constantly running.

We recycle everything that we can and attempt to find new owners for the stuff that we no longer need, usually by donating it to people in need or to charities who can locate people who need what we have.

I installed a programmable thermostat and keep the temperature as low as possible during the winter. This means wearing wool socks and sweaters through the cold times, but I’ve found that I much prefer that to an overheated house.

I’m always looking for new ways to “green” my life, which is why I so enjoy your “Four Questions” series because I’ve learned a lot from the other people you have interviewed.

You are a Conservation Biologist who teaches people to manage their properties sustainably, in an environmentally friendly and conscious way. How do you educate people to be aware of the impact they are making on the environment?

One backyard at a time. For almost 20 years I have worked as a wildlife habitat landscaper designing, installing and maintaining ecosystem gardens for my clients who included homeowners, businesses, and other property managers.

I’m now continuing this work as a consultant and educator to larger audiences, trying to stress how critical our gardens are to the survival of wildlife and the health of our environment.

We humans have made some pretty bad choices for the environment and we’ve destroyed a lot of habitat in the process. In fact, habitat loss is the number one reason why so many species are in such trouble. Do we really need one more Walmart, Starbucks, or Home Depot?

I try to show people that we can choose to make much healthier decisions, we can give a little back in the form of creating welcoming habitats for wildlife, using more sustainable practices, conserving natural resources, and eliminating our use of toxic chemicals.

I really enjoyed a recent post on your site entitled, Why Your Ecosystem Garden Matters, Even When We Already Have Protected Lands. Can you explain how our gardens can have a huge impact on the health of the wildlife around us?

We have taken so much habitat away from wildlife, either by destroying it outright, fragmenting it into smaller and smaller pieces, or poisoning or otherwise degrading it, that many species simply have nowhere left to go.

This is where our gardens come in: if we can learn to share our space with wildlife, to provide for their needs, we can create habitats that will support many species of wildlife and bring nature right up to our back doors.

By removing invasive species from our gardens and incorporating more native plants we can create beautiful gardens for us to enjoy that also support a wide variety of wildlife, including birds, butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles and amphibians, native pollinators and other insects, and bats and other mammals.

All of these species are dependent, either directly or indirectly, on native plants. When we choose to add more native plants to our gardens we are giving something back wildlife instead of driving them away.

Our gardens can be stepping stones between larger natural areas. When neighbors band together, larger habitats can be created which can become safe corridors for wildlife to use.

You say on your site that you have been saying for years that if every one of us did one small thing for wildlife, the cumulative effect would be enormous, and can contribute to the ecological health of our neighborhoods, regions, country, and even have a global impact. What are some examples of one small thing we could do for wildlife?

• Plant a tree. Oak trees support over 500 species of butterflies and moths, plus many birds and mammals. Many other native tree species also support many butterflies and moths.

• Make a Monarch waystation by planting milkweed and a variety of nectar plants.

• Install a wildlife pond and watch dragonflies, frogs, toads, and birds almost immediately move in. This is truly a “if you build it, they will come” activity.

• Find out which butterflies are native to your area and plant a patch of their host plant. Each species of butterfly is dependent on a particular plant on which to lay their eggs.

• Reduce your lawn. Lawns are a monoculture of (usually) non-native species which support very few species of wildlife. A wildflower meadow with native grasses would be much better for wildlife.

• Fill in that bare spot in your garden with a native plant.

The possibilities are endless, but it’s so important that each of us start with just one thing that will help wildlife. All of us doing this will mean that there’s a lot more places for wildlife to go. It’s the actions of one multiplied by the power of many, and that can only be a good thing!

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Today is Blog Action Day ’09 and almost 7,000 sites around the world are joining together to blog about climate change.

My Green Side is honored to be a part of this event.

According to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, one of the most significant challenges in addressing global climate change is reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the use of coal. Coal use, primarily for the generation of electricity, now accounts for roughly 20 percent of global GHG emissions. Rising energy demand will continue to drive up coal consumption, particularly in countries with large reserves such as the United States, China and India.

My thoughts on coal:
Clean Coal… Really?
New Dirt on Clean Coal

Here is a wonderful Q & A courtesy of the Pew Center (from the Kids Page):

Do scientists agree about global warming?

Scientists who study the climate are still arguing about how fast the earth is warming and how much it will warm, but they do agree that the earth is warming and that it will keep warming if we don’t do anything about it.

What is causing global warming?

Scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal cause greenhouse gases to escape into the air and that these gases are causing most of the warming. Another cause is deforestation (cutting down trees). Trees soak up carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases, from the air.

What is the difference between “global warming” and “climate change?”

Global warming” refers to the increase of the Earth’s average surface temperature, due to a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “Climate change” is a broader term that refers to long-term changes in climate, including average temperature and precipitation.

What will happen if global warming continues?

There are already some changes happening because of global warming. Sea level is rising and some animals are already moving to new homes. It’s already too late to stop global warming completely.

If the warming gets worse, as scientists expect, there may be some kinds of plants and animals that become extinct (disappear completely) because they can’t move to new homes. There may be more storms and floods. Sea level may rise so much that people have to move away from the coasts. Some areas may become too dry for farming.

What is being done about global warming?

Global warming is a very difficult problem to fix. People are having a hard time agreeing on what to do about it. For example, everyone agrees that wasting energy is a bad thing to do. But some people think that the federal government should make laws about it, while other people think it should be up to each person or business to decide what to do.

Many states and businesses in the United States are not waiting until the federal government decides what to do. They have already started working on the problem.

What can I do about global warming?

You don’t have to wait until you are grown to do something about global warming. Scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels is causing global warming. Since these fuels are burned for energy, and everyone uses energy, everyone can help stop global warming just by using less energy.

Think about the things you do each day that use energy. The lights in your house use electricity. The TV and computer use electricity. The washing machine, dishwasher and dryer all use gas or electricity. Every time you ride in your car, it uses gasoline.

There are some simple things that you can do to help stop global warming:

  • Wait until you have a lot of clothes to wash before using the washing machine. Don’t use the machine for one item just because it’s your favorite shirt.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
  • Turn off your computer or the TV when you’re not using it. Unplug chargers when not in use.
  • Close the blinds on a hot day if the sun is shining in. Dress lightly instead of turning up the air conditioning. Or use a fan.
  • Dress warmly inside your house when it’s cold, instead of turning up the heat.
  • Bike or walk short distances instead of asking for a ride in a car.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Take shorter showers. Heating water uses energy.

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by Wendy Gabriel

Baby Greek goddess has not yet met an accessory she doesn’t like and, somehow when you’re two, the look works.

It is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure. ~Coco Chanel

Accessory definition from Dictionary.com: an article or set of articles of dress, as gloves, earrings, or a scarf, that adds completeness, convenience, attractiveness, etc., to one’s basic outfit.

Baby Greek goddess and her accessories                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
Some of my favorite photos and photo blogs:
Twilight Earth’s Photo Sunday
Mother Nature Sunday Gallery: Beaming Flowers from Love Earth Always
Photo Terri
True to Words’ Friday Photography
Twin Cities Photo Blog

by Wendy Gabriel

It’s a surreal experience to be driving down the street and see your husband’s face larger than life smiling down at you. I couldn’t be prouder of him. Not because he’s on a billboard, but because he followed his heart and didn’t let anyone or anything deter him from achieving his dream. 

Opportunity is often difficult to recognize; we usually expect it to beckon us with beepers and billboards. ~William Arthur Ward

The Christopher Gabriel Program

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by Wendy Gabriel

Alison Kerr is an American from Scotland who lives with her family in a Alison Kerrleafy suburb in North East Kansas, within the Kansas City metro. She writes about our connections with nature and with each other and ways to grow greener kids, home, garden, and community at Loving Nature’s Garden. Visit Alison’s blog for thought-provoking conversations, tips, and interesting tid-bits about nature, gardening, sustainability, and learning.

How do you make your day-to-day life a littler greener?

Firstly, I think it’s essential to have contact with nature and have a sense of place. The feeling of connectedness with others, with community, and with nature is what keeps me working toward being a little greener. I was raised in an essentially frugal family. I do things like keeping my mileage down, air drying laundry, eating only 4oz of meat a day and setting the thermostat low in winter, warm in summer; I love wearing sweaters, which helps! These all result in savings for me as well as for the environment. On top of that I grow a vegetable garden and subscribe to a farmer’s alliance (similar to CSA).

My husband and I have agonized over the myriad of schooling options for our daughters. Public schools, private schools, home schooling. What have been the benefits you’ve seen in home schooling your children?

When my kids were younger we would meet other homeschoolers at the park once a week and stay until the schools got out. Those were great outdoor times for us. Like you say though, responsible parents agonize over educational choices. I don’t think choices are set in stone though. My kids have been in public school as well as Montessori and homeschool. I tend to go with what feels right at a particular point in time for a particular child. As to the benefits of home schooling, there’s a lot of flexibility to find something that works. There is so much choice now for materials, but there’s a fair bit of trial and error involved. I feel very fortunate to spend so much time with my kids and watch them develop. They love to learn and I enjoy being with them, which to me is what it’s all about.

I really enjoy your site, Loving Nature’s Garden. On it, you mention you love good food. What is one of your favorite recipes?

Thanks, I’m so glad you enjoy my site. I like to cook meals with minimal ingredients. Here is a simple soup I make quite regularly. 

  • 6 cups of stock – chicken or vegetable
  • 2 small or one large green onion (washed and sliced)
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn
  • 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed)

Basically you just warm up the stock, then throw in the corn. When the corn is warmed up add the other 2 ingredients and serve. I rarely make things exactly the same way twice – I might throw in some parsley from the garden, or anything else suitable which is on-hand.

You are originally from Scotland. Are there any challenges to living sustainably that you’ve noticed, specific to the U.S., that you didn’t have to deal with in Scotland?

Yes, in Scotland public transport is very available and I used it a lot. I got my first car when I was 25 years old; I only felt I needed it because it was hard carrying a kayak though the streets of Edinburgh to the train station. I think one of the biggest challenges to sustainability in the U.S. is the sheer scale of our country. Things in Scotland are closer, homes are smaller, and the year-round temperature range in Scotland is significantly less. This all translates to more energy use in the U.S. for a similar lifestyle. Overall I’d also say that the Scots are just a bit less concerned with appearance and more with functionality and frugality, which is good for achieving sustainability. The Scots are a kind of down-to-earth, practical race. On the other hand, America has huge strength in diversity and innovation. Once we set our minds and hearts to something we can’t be stopped. I think there is great reason to be hopeful of a sustainable future once we all start doing our part.

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