Archive for July 2012 | Monthly archive page

As the Republicans and Democrats fight it out during the Presidential race, you may not be aware that amongst all the blustering, canvassing, and fundraising, there is a third party contending for the highest office in the land.  This election cycle, the Green Party ticket is being represented by Presidential nominee Jill Stein and Vice Presidential candidate Cheri Honkala.

So, what does the Green Party stand for? 

GP legislation and principles have their roots in the commitment to social justice, non-violence, environmentalism, and grassroots organization.  Formed in 2001 from the Association of State Green Parties, members hope to renew the idea of democracy without the contributions of corporate donors.  Their primary goal is to assist state Green Parties in growth and policy debate.  They emphasize transparency and the democratic process and in building consensus.

The core of their political activity can be summarized through 10 Key Values: Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice and Equal Opportunity, Ecological Wisdom, Non-Violence, Decentralization, Community Based Economics, Feminism and Gender Equality, Respect for Diversity, Personal and Global Responsibility, and Future Focus and Sustainability.  (For a more detailed elaboration of these ideas, visit their website).

Who is running?

Dr. Jill Stein: A Harvard-educated doctor, author, and environmental advocate, Dr. Jill Stein has been nominated as the GP presidential candidate for 2012. She has co-authored widely-used reports on environmental health, including In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development and Environmental Threats to Aging.  Her “Healthy People, Healthy Planet” teaching program draws connections between human well-being, climate security, and economic stimulation.  She began her work as an environmental advocate in 1998, and has since used her expertise to testify before legislative panels, appear on nationally televised news programs, and sit on the board of such organizations as the Massachusetts Physicians for Social Responsibility.  Stein’s activism has earned her many awards including the Clean Water Action’s “Not in Anyone’s Backyard” Award and the Toxic Action Center’s Citizen Award.

Stein was approached in 2002 by the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party to run for governor of the state, and her acceptance marked her entry into the political sphere.  She has represented the party in two additional races, totaling some of the largest numbers of votes ever for a GP candidate. In 2003, she co-founded the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities, and in 2008 helped create the “Secure Green Ballot” initiative that asked lawmakers to make the establishment of a green economy a top priority.  Her “Green New Deal for America”, an idea rooted in Depression Era politics, is a four-part strategy designed to guide the economy out of crisis and establish a sustainable financial sector.

Cheri Honkala: Standing as one of the foremost leading advocates for the poor, Cheri Honkala is currently the National Coordinator for the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.  Influenced by her personal experience as a homeless, single mother, she has dedicated nearly thirty years to build a movement to end poverty.  In 2011, she became the first woman to run for sheriff in Philadelphia and the only candidate to run on a “no evictions” platform. Honkala has received a number of awards for her social activism, and endorsed by Green Party and National Organization for Women.

 

Make your living space a room that actually grows and breathes.  Through some innovative and simple designs, blank walls can be transformed into vertical gardens.  Perfect for adding a novel, green touch to the home, these planters maximize limited space, clean the air, and soothe the soul.

Woolly Pocket- Take advantage of Woolly Pocket’s mountable, soft Wally Planter made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.  These water-tight modular units come in individual sacs, miniatures, and horizontal rows of 3 and 5.  Wally Planters come in black, green, and chocolate brown, and can be watered with a long-necked bottle or can.  The built-in reservoir conserves moisture and prevents leaks.  You can also purchase kits that include the planters, drip system, automated timer, and supply line.  Check out their website for inspiration, maintenance and hanging tips, and professional case studies!

Pallet Garden-  DIY enthusiasts will appreciate this step-by-step tutorial on how to turn an ordinary wooden pallet into a rustic planter box.  With just some staples and landscaping fabric, you will be ready to create a great accent for a patio or balcony.  Add potting soil and plants, and keep the pallet on the ground for a couple of weeks while the roots take hold.  After a month, your new green wall should be ready to hang, water, and enjoy!

Urbio Magnetic Garden-  Fans of organization and modernist design will love Urbio’s Magnetic Garden.  Equipped with neodymium magnets, each pod and vessel easily snaps to the metal wall plate and are strong enough to hold a variety of objects.  Able to be adjusted and rearranged, your potted plants can be moved at a whim.

Florafelt Living Wall Planters- The people at Plants on Walls bring you Florafelt Living Wall Planters.  Available in 4, 8, and 12 pockets, they are made from recycled PET plastic and hang from nylon tabs.  The panels’ microfibers wick water from the top row to the bottom, irrigating the entire set.  Excess moisture is either recirculated or drained away.  Each system includes soaker hose, root wrappers, and plastic mounting panel.  The company also offers framed Vertical Planters which are complete wall systems that water themselves automatically.

Walking through a friend’s front yard, I was enjoying the stillness and quiet of a summer afternoon when I heard a slight rustling coming from a nearby enclosed garden bed.  Tall stalks of some new native plantings were slowly being moved aside by an unseen force from below, crunching as they were being pushed out of the way.  Edging closer, I peered into the patchwork of sages and grasses.  Something was crawling laboriously through the underbrush towards a small clearing where a small plate of strawberries had been placed.  After several minutes of waiting patiently for the creature to emerge, Olaf the box turtle poked her head out of the vegetation, and started towards her lunch.

Having been adopted by a botanist and reptile enthusiast, Olaf was one lucky girl.  This was not her first owner, but one who was more than happy to have a friend bask amongst her shrubs and eat snails and veggie table scraps.  Her new abode was complete with hiding places, a burrow, small pond, basking spots, and shady areas.

When you buy a baby turtle or tortoise, you are signing up for a commitment that could outlast most marriages and mortgages.  Since some of these animals can live up to a century, many of these animals find themselves in a last will and testament, or an adoption center if they are lucky. Too keep these reptiles from being abandoned or injured, San Luis Obispo offers shelters and adoption programs.

Too Slow, The San Luis Obispo Chapter of the California Turtle & Tortoise Club, helps to treat injured or sick chelonians, and place them in suitable homes (other than the ones they carry on their backs).  Applicants living within CTTC chapters are screened and paired with their new shelled companions.  Founded in 1989, Too Slow is dedicated to preserving turtles and tortoises through education, rehabilitation, and proper placement.

The CTTC supports three major programs. Of great concern is the rescue and care of the endangered California desert tortoise.  It is illegal under federal law to buy, sell, or move these rare creatures.  By agreement with the CA Department of Fish and Game, the CTTC serves as licensed representatives for relocation, providers of veterinary care, and maintains a database of captive tortoises.  They have the authority to issue to the necessary paperwork to become a caretaker of the tortoises, and have placed over 30,000 animals in homes across the state.  Their second area of work finds suitable accommodations for all other species of turtles and tortoises,  capturing exotics, and aid in the survival of threatened animals.  Their third operation deals with relocating snapping turtles from California ecosystems.  Despite their illegal status, many are possessed as pets and could create a potential disaster were they to become established in the wild.  The CTTC ships the turtles to outside organizations instead of euthanizing them

 

 

To me, a good pickle is the convergence of all things inherently wonderful in cuisine.  How can you go wrong with  crispy, fresh cucumbers, garlic, dill, and spices?  Through the miracle of fermentation, this humble green vegetable is not only preserved long past its normal shelf life, but transformed into a savory, briny treat that is perfect for summer picnics and barbeques.  Now that your salivary glands have started into overdrive, gather the following materials and ingredients to get your pickle project started:

-One or two quart glass mason jars with lids and caps.

-Fresh pickling cucumbers, preferably small enough to be able to pack a fair number into the jars.

-Coarse salt (Kosher or ice-cream salt)

-Fresh dill (Use the whole plant and trim off any woody sections)

-Fresh garlic

-Mixed pickling spices

-Crushed red pepper (optional)

-Green beans (optional)

-Small fresh green tomatoes (optional)

Instructions:

1.  Soak the pickling cucumbers in cold water, drain dry.  Do not use hot soap and water as that will kill the necessary bacteria for fermentation.

2.  Pack the cucumbers, beans, and tomatoes into the jars.

3.  Add to each jar:

-1-2 tsp pickling spices per quart (optional 1/2-1tsp of crushed red pepper).

-2 Pressed garlic cloves per quart (more or less to taste).

-Lots of fresh dill on top.

4.  Add salt water to brim of jars.  Make the salt water brine by adding 1 cup of coarse salt per gallon of water.  Tip: To dissolve the salt easily, add part of the water to all of the salt, stir, pour off the clear solution, add more fresh water, and repeat until all of the water is used.

5.  Place lids and caps on jars, keeping the amount of air to a minimum.  Screw lids closed, but not too tightly as some gas will be produced in the process of fermentation.

6.  Store the jars in a cool place.  Place them on a tray in the event of liquid overflow.  Every 2-3 days, add more salt water as needed to replace lost fluids.

7.  Fermentation should be complete after 10 days.  After this time, carefully top off each jar to the brim with salt water, making sure that the lip of the jar and lid are free of spices or dill which could create leaks. Tighten the cap securely.  Store the jars in a cool, cold place.  The flavor will be mature in four weeks.

Voila!  Your little delicacies will keep for up to a year as long as caps create a strong seal.

Special thanks to Aaron Novick for his recipe, and to Nikki Jacobi for passing it along!

It’s summer. The kids are home from school, the weather is warm, and the tourists are back.  Instead of staying cooped up in front of the computer or television, get outside with a number of events that explore the beauty of San Luis Obispo’s wild landscapes.  You will learn a little about where you live while enjoying the beauty and diversity of the Central Coast!

Wilderness Explorers- Running from July 30-Aug 3, join Outside Now in Santa Rosa Park to discover some of the county’s most fascinating ecosystems!  Participants in the Wilderness Explorers will learn basics in local ecology, ethnobotany, animal tracking, and native uses of endemic flora and fauna.  The program is designed for children aged 8-12 years.  Transportation is provided from a central meeting location in SLO.  For more details on this informative and engaging camp, visit their website for fees, scheduling, and additional activities.

Anacapa Adventure-  Grab your hiking gear and make your way to the City Hall of Pismo beach on August 11 at 7am.  The trip will explore the beautiful Channel Island located 12 miles off the harbor in Oxnard.  Adults 18 and over will spend the day trekking across the East islet and observing amazing examples of marine and avian life.  The cost is $90 per person and registration ends July 27.  To reserve your space, call (805) 773-7063.

Dune Day- Enjoy the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge free of charge on September 29.  Wander through one of the largest coastal dune habitats remaining in California.  Bring your camera to capture glimpses of endangered species such as the Snowy Plover, a variety of marine mammals, and sea birds.

Camp Ocean Pines- Give your kids an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria!  With sessions through July 27, the accredited nature camp offers overnight stays, field trips, and a host of fun games and lessons on their beautiful campus by the sea.  Teens have the chance to take field trips with knowledgeable local guides that stop at sites across the state.  Visit their website for registration and fee information.

Trail Trekkers- Sinsheimer Park hosts the Trail Trekkers Jr. Ranger Activity Camp from August 13-17.  Kids spend the week learning about topics that span from energy conservation to back country camping techniques.  The course is $100 per participant and can be reserved through the City of San Luis Obispo website.

Surf Camps-  Sign up  for Surf Camps held at the Sandbar Surf Company in Pismo Beach!  Instructors teach both beginners and experienced riders ages six and over.  They make sure that each student is safe and having a wonderful time spending a day out on the waves.  Wetsuits and boards are provided for sessions running through the end of August.  Register through the San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation activity website!

 

Back in the Good Old Days, being a DIYer meant being fairly well-versed in the fields of carpentry, plumbing, sewing, and mechanics.  Now, in an era where electronics and personal computers run our lives, taking control of our tools means knowing a bit of hacking and basic wiring.  Following the Maker mantra of “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it”, tinkerers around the world are striving to make hardware accessible, affordable, and repairable.  Demanding that manufacturers make parts that can be easily replaced, swapped, and fixed is integral to taking ownership of our high-tech gadgets.  While waiting for the big companies to listen to the voices of the consumers, there are some excellent resources for those looking to modify or mend their electronic devices.

Hackerspaces- For a little collaboration and instruction, check out your local “hackerspace”.  These sites are dedicated to acting as open community labs where DIYers can socialize, trade knowledge, and work on projects.  While events vary with each incarnation, lectures, workshops, and hands-on activities are common among most hackerspaces.  They are generally funded by members, but some allow outside sponsors or accept grants by filing for a non-profit status. Many hold markets where their creations are displayed, open build nights, and competitions.

Hack a Day- Having trouble drumming up some inspiration for your next hack?  Visit the Hack a Day blog for hundreds of examples of ingenious modifications, tips, and review on collectives across the country.

Make Magazine-  As one of the ultimate online resources for DIY fanatics, Make Magazine offers videos, articles, and project instructions guaranteed to keep your brain and hands busy.  If you need a part or kit to complete your masterpiece, their Maker Shed store provides tons of tools, kits and goodies.  Take advantage of their forums to connect with other gadget geeks for advice and tech support.

Instructables- Acting as a colloquium for DIYers and a platform through which they can sell their work, Instructables nourishes a huge community of makers enthusiastic about fabrication and modification.  In addition to instructions, the site also sponsors contests, makes recommendations for e-books, and sends out a newsletter you would actually look forward to receiving.

Become personally involved with what you use every day.  Customize, tweak, and revamp your effects.  Get hacking!

It is summer, and lavender is in the air!  Follow your nose to the Fourth Annual Central Coast Lavender Festival, held on July 14 at the Downtown Paso Robles City Park from 10am to 5pm.  This free event highlights an emerging California product and its producers from across the county.  Taste examples of lavender cuisine, smell quality essential oils, sample delicious dipping sauces, try botanically inspired ice cream, and learn about sustainable farming practices.  Attend seminars distilling the fragrant flower, and take part in the talks, lectures and demonstrations at the City Park Gazebo. In addition to the floral fanfare, the festival will feature a juried arts show, children’s activities, and a bouquet of food and crafts vendors.

Lavender, from the genus Lavandula and a part of the mint family, is commonly used as an antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, sedative, and stomach settler.  Growing between 2-3 feet tall, this perennial herb sports purple-blue flower that cluster in spikes at the tops of stems, emitting a pleasant and relaxing scent.  The plant originates from the Old World, native to land spanning from the Canary Islands across Southern Europe, the Mediterranean, Arabia, India, northern and eastern Africa, and Cape Verde.

English, Dutch, and French lavender are most often used for the production of essential oils and as ornamental vegetation.  The flowers yield nectar that when pollinated by bees, makes for a highly sought after variety of honey.  The blooms can also be candied, steeped in tea, pressed into extracts, and used as confection decorations.

Take your family to Paso Robles for a little floral fun!

 

 

 

To proponents of permaculture, farming is not just about the production of food, but a means through which humans care for their communities, restore the land, and display the most enlightened of agricultural techniques.  Modeled after natural systems, permaculture aims to work in harmony with the earth, provide nourishment for people, and place limits on growth and consumption.  The discipline draws upon elements of organic farming, population dynamics, bioethics, and ecology.  Through these practices, permaculture allows for more self-reliance and maximum  efficiency.  Crucial to the understanding of permaculture systems is the comprehension of the relationships between each design element, from landscape topography to species interaction.  Practitioners become adept in the 12 principles that guide each new undertaking and at utilizing the guidelines to create dynamic farms.

Where better to get back in touch with your literal and metaphorical roots than on the Central Coast’s very own Four Elements Organics Farm? Join the teaching team led by Larry Santoyo this September 2nd-15th for the Earthflow Permaculture Design Certificate Course.  Tuition covers in-depth talks and hands-on training in the patterns and principles of EcoVillage Design and Economic Development.  The program is located at the beautiful Four Elements Organics Farm, nestled in the coastal mountain range of San Luis Obispo.  Four Elements showcases examples of permaculture and biodynamics, including such features as cob ovens, composting toilets, biodiesel production station, straw-bale greenhouse, rare herb garden, and orchards.

For more information or to reserve your place, contact farm manager Matt Finkelstein at matt@fourelementsorganics.com!

It used to be that the biggest danger to your children from their toys was not being able to find their favorite plaything before bedtime or a long road trip.  Now, parents lose sleep over where action figures and stuffed animals are produced, whether the materials are safe, and what will happen to them once they reach the end of their life span.  Toys are supposed to be enjoyable, not objects of worry and anxiety!  Bamboo is an eco-friendly, non-toxic, and sustainable choice for fun.  Luckily, there are innovative and imaginative designers out there with our children’s entertainment and well being in mind.

– Israeli designers and Chinese manufacturers have teamed up to create safe bamboo toys for children.  The Hape Company and students at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv collaborated with traditional craftsmen to build rolling cars, garden sets, games, puzzles, and dolls.

– For the young artists out there, Rocking Frog makes a bamboo version of the classic spiral drawing toy.  Just the right size to fit into a backpack with a couple of crayons and a few sheets of recycled paper, the smooth bamboo tablet and wheel are hand-crafted in the United States.  The North Carolina builder also offers gorgeous rocking animals composed of bamboo plywood, and finished with with safe stains and seals.

– Bambu Batu is proud to carry (and shake) Dandelion Toys® Bamboo Zoo plush rattles, made from bamboo viscose and filled with corn stuffing.  Machine washable, they are free of harmful toxins, extremely soft, and made in the US.  Perfect for teething, coordination, and a snuggle, they are a great addition to your baby’s crib or stroller.

– When your baby is teething, it is of the utmost importance that they are chewing on something that is safe and free from harsh dyes and chemicals.  Opt for an organic knit blankie with teething ring from Baby Green Sprout for your little one to gnaw upon.  The ring is filled with sterilized water and can be cooled in the refrigerator to bring relief to sore gums.

Feel confident about your purchases!  Look for bamboo, reclaimed materials, safe dyes and sealants, and non-toxic materials!

X