Earth Day, Every Day

Good Mornin', Sunshine!

“There would be very little point in my exhausting myself and other conservationists themselves in trying to protect animals and habitats if we weren’t at the same time raising young people to be better stewards.”

~ Jane Goodall

I leave most annual celebrations — birthdays in particular — for kids and grown people who look forward to ‘milestones.’ For me, birthdays are for the mommies.

On my birthday, I prefer to call my mom. After all, she deserves a good hardy pat on the back for the first 20 years or so of my life, particularly for that day that started me into the world — the day she painfully pushed me out.  It seems sort of selfish of me to think everyone else owes me a phone call, some flowers, a gift…a card. It’s she who did all the real work. She deserves the rewards.

Having lived through [and survived] each of my own children’s births, it does help me to annually recall minute details of those days each year, lest I strangle them on the remaining 364 days. While they look forward to the ceremonious height-mark on the wall of the laundry room and the happy birthday song and video of them blowing out candles, it is their father and I who wax sentimental about what remaining years we have left living under the same roof with them day-in and day-out.

As for others’ birthdays birth anniversaries, I might or might not remember them, depending upon how much I have going on in my life at the time. These dates mean nothing in particular to me, except that they are important to the person I love. They are just as destined to slip my mind as all the other missed appointments, to-do’s, or forgotten school projects.  When I think of you, it generally doesn’t coincide with the day you were born some-odd years ago, and just because I don’t remember you on your day doesn’t mean that I don’t celebrate you in my every other day of the year.  I do.

I feel those days are more important anyway.

Earth Day is no different.  While it may only be an anniversary to some, a single day or week of the year to shout out environmental awareness and raise support for hippy causes, for me, it’s a daily way of life.  I do my part where I can, and sometimes, even when I can’t — like the fact that there is a gas-guzzling SUV in the garage. The older more fuel-efficient minivan gets the daily workout, but the SUV is a practical and environmental answer to airfare-for-six a couple of times a year. It is [self]equipped with a potty and the built-in satellite phone never drops calls or shows zero bars, even in the most remote mountain location. Like our homeowner policy, it’s like insurance that we hope to never use. And it’s paid for, so we think we’ll keep her. Perhaps in another decade or more, we could actually downsize to an electric car. If we’re lucky by then, we will be able to convert it from gasoline to methanol without breaking the law.

Big things aside, doing your small part today is easier than you might think, especially if you live in or near a city like we do.  Try one of more of these just for a day. We already do.

1.  Take a sink bath and don’t wash your hair or put on make-up. You’re beautiful in your own skin, just as you are.

2.  Turn off your smart phone or computer and TV for the day. Listen to the radio instead — which consumes less power — or walk down the street to visit a neighbor.

3.  Don’t eat any animal flesh or any foods ‘produced’ from exploited animals.

4.  Power down your home air units.  Open up the windows for some fresh air or, better yet, go outside.

5.  Don’t buy a single unnecessary thing. Know the difference between a “want” and a “need” and put off wants as long as you can.

6.  Drive only if you have to and run your errands along the way. Don’t idle in the Starbucks drive-thru; you may “need” your coffee, but you can certainly park and walk in, instead of burning gasoline while going nowhere for it.

7.  Don’t waste a drop of water. Drink it if it’s clean; flush your toilet or water a plant if it’s dirty.

8.  Go outside with some kids and count the other species that share your space. Become aware of and find joy (not fear) in all the others that share our planet, no matter how small or big.

9.  Take a walk through the ‘hood. Look up into the trees. Breathe in and out slowly and purposefully, thanking them silently for that respiration.

10. Smile sincerely at anyone you pass. Be sure to catch their eyes when you do so they will know that they count in this world.

Earth Day — April 22
(This has been modified and re-posted.)

Spring Storms, Shirking Work

5.  Pink Jasmine in Bloom

Dressed In White, Nowhere To Go

It is so very hard to concentrate on ‘meaningful’ stuff these days, in that, I mean the dirty four letter word: work. We are all affected by it, Mom, Dad and kids. I don’t even want to blog about it, because it means more time indoors. I just want to be out in it.

These are the precious days of spring on the Gulf Coast, when the temperature is not yet in the unbearable range and the mosquitoes aren’t trying to take flight with us still attached to their faces. Here it is, end of April already, still sleeping with the windows open at night, hardly running A/C at all. Unprecedented. Not only does it mean the electric bill stays below $100 for another month, but being indoors just plain sucks.

Gotta get outside.

Continue reading Spring Storms, Shirking Work

Homemade Dirt Lasagna, Feeding Worms

Future Black Gold -- Free for the Taking

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ~ Margaret Atwood

Flippin’ Gardening Gets Me Flippin’ Excited

This may be my favorite time of year. You can’t see my toenails and fingernails, but I can tell you they. Are. Dirty.

The spring garden season at DirtNKids always starts with a compost flipping exercise which always (and quickly) ends with a planted garden. It’s just hard to stop the momentum once the clean-up begins, and I find myself yearning for the immediate gratification of a walk-able garden space once again.

If you’re like me, you do this twice a year — once in spring, once in fall — to enjoy both the summer and winter fruits of your labor. Here, compost piles aspire to become the next season’s edible garden. Instead of bringing the compost to the garden, I like to put the garden right into the compost.

Continue reading Homemade Dirt Lasagna, Feeding Worms

Morning Meditation, Birds and Bullfrogs

Mama Cardinal

Oh no. There is a six in the first digit of my alarm clock. I have overslept. I slowly get up, smooth my hair out of my face, find my glasses, my pants, and (on school days) the laptop and Coach binder.

As I close in on the mid-century mark of my life, the more I appreciate the quiet pre-dawn hours before one of my children — as well as the rest of the world — wakes up. Once the rest of the world is awake, the real work begins.

Some people go for a run. Some catch up on reading or their Facebook feed. I like to listen.

Continue reading Morning Meditation, Birds and Bullfrogs

Neo-tropic Migrants, State Testing, and Camp Banshees

Laughing Gull

State Testing and the On-Line School

Still being in public school means that all grades get to participate in STAAR testing with the State of Texas. Many parents I know who host a more traditional home school chose their curricula to avoid the obligatory testing. I’m pretty much split down the middle (on whether I prefer it or not), but I certainly don’t feel it is all that intrusive.

And hey. At least my curricula is funded by the state, not my budget.

Continue reading Neo-tropic Migrants, State Testing, and Camp Banshees

They Call Me Mellow Yellow

Cone Flower

There are really only two yellow flowers I like seeing in spring, and I’m not talking about daffodils:  I want tomatoes and cucumbers. As of today, neither one have their little root-y feet dug into my yard garden. Soon, perhaps even this weekend I’ll have purchased and planted some [expensive] plants at the nursery. I missed the window entirely for seeds or seedlings.

Nevertheless, my time was spent outdoors enjoying the finicky weather that is Houston in the spring. We get but two perfect windows of good weather — one in spring, one in the fall — followed by a year ’round hell of heat and humidity.

Life’s best when these little pleasures are enjoyed in the moment.

We camped. We birded. We canoed. We beach-went. We generally spent every waking moment — and equal amounts of sleeping time — outside. Sometimes it’s just good to mellow out for a couple of days!

Continue reading They Call Me Mellow Yellow

Blue Jay Mimicking

Blue Jay

Blue Jay, On the Lookout

For a couple of years now, there has been a blue jay on our property with quite a unique skill:  the ability to hawk call. He is so good at imitating another regular backyard resident — the red-shouldered hawk — that he is able to clear an area of other bird species within seconds, leaving him to enjoy the bird bath and feeder all to himself. We hear it all the time (and can tell the difference between him and a real hawk).

It is impressive.

You’ll hear this amazing jay vocalize the hawk at the beginning and middle of the track, then end with a traditional jay ‘yaak yaak‘ giving his family the ‘all clear.’

Blue Jay

Ah…a nice soak, all to myself.

Who says birds aren’t smart?

State testing this week — please excuse my absence! 

I feel a Blog Binge coming on.

Pitchfork, Calorie-Burn, and Big Fat Dirt-Eaters

Dirt Girls!

To me, that is just pure fun.

As we girls get back to playing in the dirt for the season, another compost pile gets ‘flipped’ to ready the area for planting. Nutrients are all there and accounted for. Moisture level is perfect — not too wet, not too dry, juuuuust right. No additional inputs are necessary via herbicides or fertilizers. It’s all right there, bio-ready. Ready for plants or seeds.

Continue reading Pitchfork, Calorie-Burn, and Big Fat Dirt-Eaters

Live. Bird. Recharge. Repeat.

Selfie on the Trail

Aaaaahh. So nice to be back!

The simple pleasure of mountain hiking and birding for me is just what this girl needs to continue the home stretch with the school at home and the Spring Marathon that is the yard for the next few weeks. The kids were contented to stay back in Texas with their cousins, so Mr. and Mrs. Dirt could hit the trail.

Continue reading Live. Bird. Recharge. Repeat.

Teen Training, Exploring Wild Urban Spaces

Crab Apple Blossoms

Never Too Young To Build Work Experience

This week, my oldest — officially a teen — began exploring community service opportunities with another classmate. It’s never too early to start building that education resumé not only to potentially earn some income through high school, but also to be distinguished among all the other hundreds of college applicants when the time comes.

All of my kids are hard workers. When a ‘free day’ is at stake, there is little pushing by me to complete 5-day’s lessons in only four, so that Friday can be a relished day off. Since John’s interview would be at a park location in Houston, we decided to just stay and explore there for a while instead of rushing back home. We would only need to beat rush hour traffic. No problem.

Continue reading Teen Training, Exploring Wild Urban Spaces