Thursday, April 23, 2009

the day after Earth Day

Remember the little guy with the broom following the parade at the end of the intro to The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show? I often picture myself as that little guy.
So after all the great Green Celebration online and in commercial advertising of What We Can Do To Save the Planet for the past few days, and after watching the auditorium in Bay City filled with citizens wearing "Clean Coal" baseball caps and t-shirts touting "Clean Coal = Michigan Jobs" ... I'm feeling a tad cynical.
Note to World: There IS NO Such THING as CLEAN COAL.

Funny, some of the biggest financial supporters of the Wanton Earth-destroyer former president are giving away those energy saving curly light bulbs in their big box stores this week. There has to be a catch.
Ah, yes, mercury.
Invite a curly bulb into your home, invite a mercury contamination site.
Better turn your lights off, or switch to LED fixtures.

If you already have curly bulbs in your home, it might be wise to bone up on the proper way to dispose of these bulbs and how to clean up after breakage. Have a plan.

In case you haven't heard much discussion from your news, or governmental services, or enviro-green-gardening clubs, maybe you can start a local discussion, or at least spread awareness of this small but potentially significant issue.

(UPDATE: I just heard on NPR today the Republican party in Michigan is fighting tougher mercury regulations. But I must admit, politicians on the Right have no lock on stoopid - a prominent local Democrat was there in Bay City touting the air and water for jobs swap deal as well.)

Luckily, a few weeks ago, Sheryl from sent this information on CFL bulb breakage from the Natural Resources Defense Council, to pass along to others.


1) Open a window before cleaning up, and turn off any forced-air heating or air conditioning.

2) Instead of sweeping or vacuuming, which can spread the mercury around,
scoop up the glass fragments and powder. Use sticky tape to pick up remaining glass fragments or powder. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or wet wipes.

Dispose of the broken bulb through your local household hazardous waste program or recycling program. If that service is unavailable in your area, place all clean-up materials in a trash container outside the building.

Wash your hands after cleaning up.

5) If vacuuming is needed afterwards,
when all visible materials have been removed, vacuum the area and dispose of the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag. For the next few times you vacuum, turn off any forced-air heating or air conditioning and open a window before doing so.

NOTE: The most common risk of mercury exposure to children comes from canned tuna because kids eat so much of it. Give them chunk light tuna rather than white albacore, since it's lower in mercury, and limit the portions and frequency according to their weight. Pregnant women should do the same. Get guidelines from the NDRC.

UPDATE (2:30 pm): I just opened an email from the Environmental Working Group with added valuable advice on curly light bulb (CFL) cleanup:

Cleaning up broken CFL bulbs
If a bulb breaks in your home, proper clean-up procedures can reduce airborne mercury concentrations by roughly half.

Follow EWG's 10 step clean-up checklist (link).

The most critical steps:
* Keep children and pregnant or nursing women away from the contaminated area.
* Close doors and open windows to allow volatile mercury vapors to vent outdoors. Stay away for 5 to 15 minutes.
* Scoop up bulb fragments and use tape to collect tiny particles. Seal the waste in a glass jar with screw-top lid. (Second choice: a plastic jar with a screw-on lid.)

This point on the EWG 10 point cleanup list is disturbing:

6. If a bulb breaks on a rug or carpeting:

Fabrics are harder to clean than hard surfaces; removing all mercury may be impossible. Hang a CFL-contaminated rug outside. Experts disagree on whether to vacuum carpeting. EPA recommends doing so and cleaning the vacuum afterward. Scientists with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection disagree: after testing various CLF cleanup scenarios [link], they concluded that vacuuming can spread mercury vapor and permanently contaminate the vacuum.

Keep infants, children and women of childbearing age away from the carpeting for several weeks.

Disposing of spent CFL bulbs
Each state has its own laws and regulations for recycling or disposing of spent CFL bulbs. Learn about your state's recycling and disposal options at this EPA lightbulb site
Also,, a nationwide recycling information site, lists retailers like Ace Hardware, Home Depot and IKEA and municipal programs that accept burnt-out CFLs.

And, if you've ever had a thermometer or thermostat break ... the EWG adds:
"Thermometers, thermostats and silent switches made with mercury contain more toxic material and pose a much greater health risk. If one of these items breaks, read EPA's clean-up instructions at:"

The EWG website also has a thoughtful discussion on proper placement of CFLs in the home - don't put them in children's rooms, recreation rooms, or workshops where breakage is more likely. Don't put them in pole lamps. Don't use them in rooms with valuable carpets.

There is a buying guide on the EWG website as well, listing the bulbs with the least mercury in them. Check out the EWG Green Lighting guide for more discussion (a .pdf link is at the EWG site here).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

a small bit of comic relief - Chia Pet!

I was bopping around the channels on the Tube a few evenings ago, after Herb had turned in for the night, and landed on a random channel showing a stage set with the big word, SALVIA! written across the backdrop ... a gardening show?

No, Dr. Phil (whom I admit I have no patience for), was pushing and pulling some willing edjit (where do they get these people?) through the wringer concerning her inability to parent her son, her problem being that she was letting this kid use drugs, including the latest boogieman of the plant kingdom, (gasp!) Salvia.

Salvia, indeed.

You'd think a doctor would have a better grasp on basic botany than to allow his stage designer to smear a whole genus of diverse but related plants by putting just their in-common name up on a Dr. Phil's Billboard of Shame.

Scatter shot Phil was actually aiming at Salvia divinorum, a hallucinogenic Salvia used by indigenous North Americans in their religious tradition, but that big sign offended the herb gardener in me ...

I happen to like Salvias.
I use various Salvias for colorful yard ornamentation, to stuff my poultry, and to flavor my signature tea blends.
I even use one member of the great Salvia genus for Silliness.

Okay, everyone, now sing along with me...
"Chi, Chi, Chi, Chia PET!"

My depressed local area shaping up to be Garage Sale Central for 2009, I found a Chia Pet Kitty locally, for less than a song on Itunes.

(On consideration, I don't know why my family never bought me a Chia Kit for a holiday or a birthday - did they think I was too sophisticated? Ha! Shows how little they know me, or listen to my broad hinting.)

Anywho, I sent away for Chia seeds, Salvia hispanica, from Richters, who also sells the bad Salvia, by the way.

So, my friends, follow along with me on a little pictorial tutorial on the "Greening of the Kitty".
First: soak your Kitty. Overnight. Soak a small quantity of the Chia seeds as well. They generate a delightful mucus. This project is great for adolescents of all ages.

With your fingers, spread the mucus-y Chia seeds into the grooves on the Kitty.

Devise a little tent of plastic film to keep the seeds hydrated. Place Kitty in a bright spot, remembering to refill her water cavity as needed.

In a matter of a few days, rootlets form, and leaflets.

Another day with good light, Greenness.

And in a few days, with spritzing and watering Kitty, here is what you have:

Cute, huh?
Here is what Richter's catalogue says about Chia:
Incredible supergrain!
An ounce of Chia seed has as much omega-3 as 8 ounces of Atlantic salmon, as much calcium as a cup of milk, the fibre of 1/3 cup of bran, the Vitamin C of 2 oranges, the potassium of half a banana.

Aztecs called it "the running food" because messengers could run all day on a handful of seeds.

The J. L. Hudson seed catalog mentions there are 900 species in the genus Salvia, and of S. hispanica writes that the mucus-y Chia seed hydrated in water or juice "resemble(s) frog's eggs, the whole being drunk and is quite refreshing. ... also an old California-Mexican remedy for diarrhea."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Egg Hunt

My grand-babies, aren't they lovely. Little Aubrey loves finding the eggs but puts them in Kayla's basket. Sweetheart.


I'm looking at other Easter Egg Hunt postings on Flikr and notice all of the lovely parts of the country where the grass is green and the leaves are unfolding. Hmpfh!


Nature's Easter colors hereabouts are mainly blue sky and dirt brown everything else, with a few hints and spots of promise in spring green alliums, inch high rhubarb with its pink green ruffles, reviving green primroses and greening up iris leaves.


The crocuses and scillas are most of what provides the spots of color in Mom Nature's cheeks, but what nature doesn't provide, we do for ourselves ... pretty dresses, colored eggs, plastic toys that hint of summer fun.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Day to Bless the Sun

Somehow along the path this morning I ran across this reference (link) to a tradition called The Blessing of the Sun and somehow it fit with my mood today. Although we got five inches of snow on Sunday night, it just feels like Spring is coming... Is it because there is the sound of birds calling now instead of the quiet of winter, or other obvious signs of of the season, or just the noticeable change in the length of day and the noticeable warmth coming from my old friend, the Sun.
So for a while before I kept my movie date at the Flint Institute of Arts, I amused myself a bit by reading up on The Blessing of the Sun.
(Don't you love Google (link)?)
So, God created the Sun on a Wednesday, and this is a special one.

After the movie, my friend and I sit around a while and talk about the film, and our worlds, and sometimes, like today, about our creative lives. What a joy to have someone to talk to. Friends are like blessed sunshine.

Along that train of thought, about creativity, here's my latest stepping stone. (I threw it on the melting snow outside the back door to get a photo of it in the blessed sunshine. Isn't that poor croaked crocus, the one of the bunch that had the strength to stick up out of the snow, pathetic?)
Can you guess what the flower on my stone is? Herb had a hard time. I guess I need to learn more about cutting glass to achieve more botanically correct leaves. It's been so long since he saw a dandelion, I'm sure that's it.

Here is a line from Wikipedia about The Blessing of the Sun:
"Birkat Hachama (ברכת החמה, "Blessing of the Sun") refers to a Jewish blessing that is recited in appreciation of the Sun once every 28 years, when the vernal equinox, as calculated by tradition, falls on a Tuesday at sundown. Jewish tradition says that when the Sun completes this cycle, it has returned to its position when the world was created."