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30 April 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Three words of advice


-- Anonymous

Do it now.

Another image I shot at
The Art Institute of Chicago



This whimsical painting caught my eye last year at Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver. I have a companion piece I'll post later, but sorry to say I do not have the name of the artist.

Do you tend a garden? Keep houseplants? Live in the shade of a thirsty star tree?

Keep a watering can near your kitchen sink so you can catch water. If you're letting cold water run until hot, or if you are just letting pipes flush out before filling the kettle, get in the habit of catching water in the watering can; then use it to give a drink to your landscape--indoors or out.

If you're able, invest in an attractive metal watering can. Some are painted with bright enamel; others sport copper detailing. They're esthetically pleasing enough to leave on your counter. If that's not in your budget, a simple bucket or a washed-out gallon jug will do.

Conserve water: No water, no life.


29 April 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Touch Your Heart

"Winged Figure" by Abbot Handerson Thayer, 1889

The Art Institute of Chicago

"All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love."
-- Tolstoy

"No one becomes compassionate
unless he suffers."
-- St. Thomas Aquinas


GARDEN GATE: Waiting for the Last Frost

The deciduous trees
have not yet concealed their nests.
The aspen tree next door shimmers in full leaf,
The Emerald Queen maples have unfurled their leaves,
And the oak trees,
let go of last season's brittle, brown leaves.
The oaks are the hangers-on,
refusing to relinquish their old leaves
until assured of buds.
The lilacs down the block
have just started to pop,
releasing their purple perfume.
In Denver, the last frost date is 5 May.
My mother swore by 15 May.
Gardening cultivates patience.


THE WRITTEN WORD: What a Difference a Letter Makes for SPORTea

I’m a big tea drinker. Have been my entire life, starting as a kid with a cup of orange pekoe softened with milk and sugar. In my kitchen, I have a whole drawer full of teas, and I know how to use them.
Yesterday—feeling a bit under the weather on a sleepy, overcast day—I found myself in the plentiful tea aisle at Vitamin Cottage. I picked up tins of the usual suspect, Earl Grey, and also some green tea. Nosing around the rows and rows of boxes and tins, I noticed SPORTea.
The box in primary colors depicts mountains. I recalled an interview I’d conducted years ago for a feature in The Denver Post. I had been contributing a standing feature that ran every other week under the title "The Nature of…" and was researching "The Nature of Medicinal Herbs." Along my path, I’d found a bright, young, clinical herbalist. When I made the initial contact via telephone to set up an in-person interview, she suggested we meet for tea. I was in. I picked her up at her shop. We drove downtown to a tea house. I don’t remember where, but I do remember that this impressive herbalist ordered SPORTea.

The tea that fortified an Everest ascent

I’d never tasted SPORTea, but after a quick look at the label, I dropped the bright box in my shopping basket. This morning, while the water heated in the kettle, I read the box more closely. Turns out SPORTea hails from metro Denver, packaged by Ultimate Performance Products, Inc., in Englewood. The tea blends black and green teas, Siberian eleutheroroot, ginger, mate’, electrolytes, and vitamin C. The box carries an endorsement from a man who, fortified by SPORTea, led a Mt. Everest expedition.

The tea that makes you feel god?

But, oh, in the fine print, another declaration. It’s a risky, risky business working in the print media. What a difference a letter makes.
Here is the copy from the box:

“SPORTea’s energy is ‘ENHANCED PERFORMANCE’ energy. SPORTea makes you feel god because it helps your body operate more efficiently.”

I believe they meant, “It makes you feel good”—not “It makes you feel god.”
It’s tasty tea, but so far, at least for this customer, no theophany.

Wonder how long that typographical error has been on their packaging. Or maybe it's intentional?

I have a lot of respect for copy editors. Blogging is working without a net. I'm sure I've got my share of typos, but somebody ought to bring this tea package to the attention of Jay Leno.


GARDEN GATE: Rilke Defines Spring

"It is Spring again

The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart."

-- Rilke


28 April 2009

GARDEN GATE: Pansy Thoughts

At Denver Botanic Gardens last week,
late season snows left these pansies unfazed.
Pansies actually seem to appreciate the cold.
PANSIES, botanically known as Viola tricolor,
derive their common name from the French word “pensees” meaning “thoughts.” I’ve long thought that pansies are some of the dearest posies. I love them!

And the blooms are associated with love. In
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare credited pansies with working a love charm on Titania.
But dating back even further, to the time of Hippocrates, physicians used pansies to treat heart conditions.

The Victorians assigned various meanings to flowers. In Victorian flower language, pansies communicated “you’re in my thoughts.” And Victorians believed that carrying a pansy ensured the love of their sweetheart.

I've seen the edible flowers spruce up everything from wedding cakes
to green salads, but I don't know about eating them. I'm happy just to look at pansies and savor thoughts about how I love them and how they do bring ease to my heart.

If you're interested in flowers' myths, meanings, and remedies,
check out this marvelous book: FLOWER POWER by Anne McIntyre.


27 April 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Eckhart Tolle on "The Flowering of Human Consciousness"

"Earth, 114 million years ago, one morning just after sunrise: The first flower ever to appear on the planet opens up to receive the rays of the sun. Prior to this momentous event that heralds an evolutionary transformation in the life of plants, the planet had already been covered in vegetation for millions of years.
The first flower probably did not survive for long, and flowers must have remained a rare and isolated phenomena, since conditions were most likely not yet favorable for a widespread flowering to occur.

"One day, however, a critical threshold was reached, and suddenly there would have been an explosion of color and scent all over the planet--if a perceiving consciousness had been there to witness it. Much later, those delicate and fragrant beings we call flowers would come to play an essential part in the evolution of consciousness of another species. Humans would increasingly be drawn to and fascinated by them."

Drawn to and fascinated by these flowers--tulips on a walk to Denver Botanic Gardens, and the exotic tropical bloom inside DBG's conservatory-- I returned home to reread the above opening paragraphs from A NEW EARTH: AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE by Eckhart Tolle.


AND ECOJUSTICE FOR ALL: Reel mowers and grasscycling

A grassy lawn sets off this handsome house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park, Illinois. In semi-arid Denver, grass require irrigation; and large lawns are falling from favor in the wake of drought.

When push comes to shove, manual reel lawn mowers are turning around the turf industry as clean, green mowing machines. Though technologically simple, reel lawn mowers offer complex benefits. Compared to their power rotary counterparts, reel mowers are quieter, safer, easier to maintain, more beneficial for the grass, and easier on the environment.
Demand for these charming, nostalgic throwbacks is growing. The cutting edge models depart from the old wooden handled, cumbersome cast iron icons of yesteryear, yet today’s reel mowers still encourage one to relax and take things at a slower clip.
Originating in England in the 1830s, early advertisements touted the reel mower as “an amusing, useful and healthy exerciser for the country gentlemen.” By 1896, prices ranged from $2.20 to $4.75 per mower. When post-war industrialization introduced the power rotary mower, reel mowers fell out of vogue. By 1953, power mowers outsold reel mowers, and reel mower manufacturers were forced to cut back.

The grass is always greener...

The grass is always--or at least usually--greener on other side of the fence where a manual reel lawn mower is used. Reel mowers promote healthier turf because the mower blades scissor-cut the blades of grass, as opposed to power rotary mowers that rip, tear or chop grass. The reel seals the cut end of grass, allowing blades to retain their vital fluids, making for a moister, greener lawn. Horticulturists claim the sealing action also prevents the invasion of disease into the turf. Power-mowed grass that has hemorrhaged its fluids dries out and yellows more quickly than grass cut by a reel mower.
Reel lawn mowers sprinkle fine grass clippings, as opposed to the clumps coughed up by power rotary mowers. Consequently, the clippings dispersed by reel mowers don’t require raking or bagging. Instead, they can remain on the lawn, forming a natural mulch that prevents evaporation, keeps the ground cooler and adds nitrogen ultimately equivalent to a free annual application of chemical fertilizer.
The Professional Lawn Care Association of America points out that grass clippings are 90 percent water by weight, so they decompose quickly and do not form thatch. Leaving grass clippings on the lawn is known as grasscycling. Grasscycling is good news for rapidly filling landfills, where yard trimmings make up the second largest component of municipal solid waste.
Grasscycling is just one of many environmental benefits of reel mowers. Along with reducing obnoxious noise pollution, reel lawn mowers reduce carbon monoxide emissions. One study indicated that a lawn mower can emit in 30 minutes what a new car emits in 172 miles of driving.

Safer for operators and wildlife

And if all that weren’t enough, reel mowers are safer. They’re kinder and gentler to baby rabbits, toads, snakes and other critters that may have taken up residence in the lawn. And reel mowers offer safety to the person mowing the lawn, too. The Consumer Product Safety Commission Emergency reports that each year emergency rooms typically treat about 55,000 people for injuries involving power mowers. Reel mowers aren’t likely to inadvertently cut off fingers or toes along with the grass. And they don’t throw rocks or debris the way power mowers do.
Reel lawn mowers power up when the person pushing starts and stop when the pusher does. They always start. They never needs gas. Or oil. Or sparkplugs. There’s no key, no adjusting the idle, no yanking the cord anywhere from one to 100 times. There’s no electricity needed and no necessary tune-ups, aside from an occasional turning of a screw, a blast of WD40, and perhaps sharpening the blades every other year.
Manual reel lawn mowers aren’t for everyone. But for people with a small lawn or a big concern for the environment, for those who want a workout while doing yard work, for the homeowner who wants to trade in maintenance hassles for a little peace and quiet, reel lawn mowers are the real thing.

NOTE: Published in a slightly different form in my CREATURE COMFORTS column that ran in The Denver Post circa 1997.


25 April 2009


At the Art Institute of Chicago, I took a digital photo of Renoir's painting. Will any daily newspapers survive the digital age and the recession?

Last week, we added a list of links to some of my previously published pieces. Thanks to the digital age and, you will find my features on Bruce Springsteen, Elizabeth Gilbert, Garrison Keillor, Jamaica Kincaid, Judy Collins, Jesuit Father John Dear, Eckhart Tolle and others. You'll find my articles on honeybees, ice skating, pipe organs, outdoor concerts, Buck roses, antiquarian books, vegetated roofs, writer's workshops, Denver Art Museum, and a three-part series on yoga for various age groups.

If you scroll down and down and look to the right of the screen, you will find a blue column labeled LINKS TO PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED PIECES.
Please scroll, click, read, and--if you care to--leave a comment and join the conversation. Blah, blah, blog.


NAMASTE': Interviewing Baron Baptiste

Not the perfect headstand, but one of the most difficult I've ever executed. This Sonoma Coast beach had not sand, but zillions of loose black pebbles, making balancing extremely difficult, like trying to do headstand in a field of ball bearings. I could not hold the pose while looking toward the violently crashing surf. Nothing felt stable! After falling several times, I turned my back on the ocean, which all the signs posted on this dangerous beach warn against, but I set up a safe distance from the perilous waters, managed to get upsidedown, and changed my perspective.

Ha! I finally worked one of my favorite word plays--HEADSTANDING-ROOM-ONLY-- into a feature article, the lede of a piece I wrote on the yogi Baron Baptiste, founder of Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga. My story runs in the fitness section of
The Denver Post this Monday. I have my yoga roots in Iyengar, but now practice Bikram and Power yoga, so I was honored to interview Baron, as he's know to students.

Please check out the article. Or if you're not local, you can Google
The Denver Post Baron Baptiste by Colleen Smith
and that should bring up the article.

We'll get a link up, too.

I wrote the copy below as a sidebar to my feature. The sidebar got killed--meaning it was not published--but that's the beauty of the blog: The writing was not all for naught. Here it is:

If you think yoga is only for hippie-dippy, tie-dye donning, navel-gazing, om-chanting, vegan sorts, bear in mind that from 1994 to 1998, the Philadelphia Eagles contracted Baron Baptiste to train the team. Baptiste worked with Super Bowl champion players and coaches, but he touts yoga not only for NFL players, but also for athletes in any athletic activity at any level.
“Yoga is great cross-training or counter-training,” he said. “It’s a good support for any sport, a platform for all training.”
The benefits of regular asana practice are many, and evident on many levels, according to Baptiste.
“Yoga builds ease in the body, so people are more comfortable in any movement or sport. Yoga builds agility, balance, mobility, freedom of movement, strength. You feel a freedom in this sense of strength,” said Baptiste.
“It’s a great balance of releasing and strengthening muscles and joints, using your own body as weight, working on multiple planes and angles and dimensions.”
And the mental benefits figure into the athletic equation, too. Baptiste said, “The great mind training allows athletes to be relaxed and at ease and performing at their peak.”


THE WRITTEN WORD: Interviewing David Whyte

The cover of David Whyte's new book: "THE THREE MARRIAGES: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship."

David Whyte defies pigeonholing. Even to classify him under the Bluestocking department “The Written Word” feels not quite spot on because he defines himself as much through the spoken word.

I had the good fortune to interview this poet/philosopher/naturalist recently; the story appears tomorrow in the Books section of The Sunday Denver Post. If you don’t get the paper, you might Google
Denver Post David Whyte by Colleen Smith
and you should find the piece. The Post’s website can sometimes prove difficult to navigate.

Also, go to for more about David Whyte’s books, audio recordings, tours, speaking engagements. If you Google him, you will find some wonderful footage. I urge you to listen to this prophet: In his marvelous Yorkshire accent, he masterfully articulates messages of wisdom, truth, and self-compassion for artists and all seeking to live artfully.


AND ECOJUSTICE FOR ALL: A Primer on Produce and Pesticides

Lemons did not make the list.

Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization, sifted through 87,000 government studies to compile two lists in the "Shoppers Guide to Pesticides." One roster includes fruits and vegetables most laden with toxic pesticides; the other list presents produce least likely to pose pesticide problems. The ranking system goes from 100--peaches are most laden with pesticides--to 1--onions are least contaminated.

Below, find the short lists, or go to for a full list of 47 items, a pdf or iPhone ap of the list, and more information about effects of pesticide and how to limit exposure to these chemicals that are, by design, toxic.

THE DIRTY DOZEN (Buy organic)
Ranked from the most contaminated
Peaches • Apples •
Bell peppers • Celery • Nectarines • Strawberries• Cherries • Kale • Lettuce • Grapes (imported) • Carrots • Pears

DON'T WORRY (Produce with fewer threats from pests--therefore less often treated with pesticides--or produce with thick, impenetrable skins)
Onions • Avocados • Corn (frozen) •
Pineapples • Mangoes • Asparagus • Peas (frozen) • Kiwis • Cabbage • Eggplant • Papayas • Watermelons

P.S. Last autumn, while on assignment
in California's Santa Inez Valley, I had lunch with an intelligent, charitable couple--farmers growing vegetables. We were part of a larger party, guests of a fabulously hospitable Franciscan priest from Ireland. The setting was idyllic, a patio at the good padre's golf club.
Curious and making conversation, I asked the farm wife whether they grow organically. She said, "No." She briefly told me that her husband takes issue with the organic standards, and that, basically, they believe organic labeling is a scam. I dropped the topic, so as not to spoil our lunch. On that patio, surrounded by other people, wasn't the appropriate place to get into it, but I kept their contact information and would like to visit their farm and find out more. If I remember correctly, they grow artichokes, cauliflower, and one other item. I'd like to know more about their stance.

My post titled "YUM: Roasting Strawberries..." includes a comment made to me during an interview with a school principal in Oxnard, California, where strawberry fields stretch forever. This principal noted that when some of the field worker parents come to pay their tution, she notices how terrible their hands look because the skin is burned from the fruits' acids and chemicals on the berries.

In the works: A post about tomatoes--another terrible food controversy.


24 April 2009


From my little corner of the world to yours.

After hearing from a woman in France, in French, and a woman in Brazil, asking for a translation, we've added a new, free, translation button. Talk about amazing technology: Instant translation into 38 languages! I can't vouch for anything that might get lost in translation, but I'm tickled pink to think that people read Bluestocking blog internationally. Merci! Gracias! From the bottom of my heart and my corner of the world, thanks for reading, and, moreover, for taking time to write.


23 April 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Celebrate Shakespeare's Birthday Today

Above, Shakespeare's signature from his will.

Today—23 April—marks the traditional anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and death. To celebrate, consider reading a sonnet, going to the theatre, listening to some madrigal music, hurling an eloquent Elizabethan insult—“He is an overweening rogue!”-- or watching a Shakespeare-related film.

A few favorites:
• “The Merchant of Venice” (starring Al Pacino)
• “Much Ado About Nothing” (starring Kenneth Branagh)
• “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (with an all-star cast including Calista Flockhart, Rupert Everett, Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer and Stanley Tucci)
• “Romeo & Juliet” (starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the star-crossed lovers) (or the 1968 version directed by Franco Zeffirelli)
•Hamlet (directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh)
•Othello (starring Lawrence Fishburne & Kenneth Branagh)
•Macbeth (directed by Roman Polanski)

Not a Shakespeare play, but a play on Shakespeare’s life:
• “Shakespeare in Love” (with Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes)

Fare thee well!

For more Shakespeare images:


THE WRITTEN WORD: "A book is the only place..."

Some of these antique books came from my grandmother, including my Aunt Pat's college English book. Another English major! In this mix is a well worn copy of LEAVES OF GRASS by Walt Whitman. The thick, burgundy volume was the textbook for a British Romantic Literature class--one of my favorites of all my university courses.

Today--23 April--marks the traditional birthday of William Shakespeare, one of the finest writers of the Renaissance or any other era.

"BOOKS: A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore and explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It if one of the few sources of information left that is served up without the silent black noise of a headline, the doomy hullabaloo of a commercial. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy."

k k k

No clue about the author of the quote above, but I found it years ago while on assignment, rummaging through the archives at one of the old Spanish missions in Southern California. I think it was at Mission San Fernando, and the quote was in a very old book and accompanied by a rustic woodcut print of a Renaissance man reading. Blogs are one thing; books, another. Please keep cracking those spines.


22 April 2009

WELL BEING: Flowers As Medicine

Snapped this image last Spring in Chicago, where they really know how to plant containers. What they lack during the frigid winter, they make up for in spring and summer plantings.

You know how we tend to bring or send flowers to people who are sick? Well, as it turns out, maybe flowers have some healing properties.

At least that's implied by Dr. Andrew Weil. Today's mail included a slim booklet titled "Dr. Weil's 8 Week Plan for Optimal Healing Power." The good doctor has made a good name for himself in integrative medicine, as well as founding an entire industry that includes Weil Lifestyle and the Weil Foundation.
In this booklet, Dr. Weil includes for each of the eight weeks four sections: Projects, Diet, Exercise, and Mental/Spiritual. In the Mental/Spiritual sections for weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, and 8, he advises readers to bring flowers into the home and place them in a prominent place. In week 8, he also advises readers to buy some flowers for somebody else.
Now that's my kind of prescription!

You might like to check out for news, daily tips, and weekly updates.


AND ECOJUSTICE FOR ALL: Green Dreams & Nightmares

Twin rainbows, just outside Denver, taken last summer. Happy Earth Day!
Queen Anne's lace and other wildflowers thrive off the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago. Eight days in the heart of the city is too much for me, so I rent a bike near Millennium Park and pedal away from the skyscrapers on a wonderful path along the lake, past marinas, and parks with stately old oaks.

This photo was taken on a scenic byway near Guanella Pass on a drive to see the Colorado aspens in autumn. I believe the closer we are to Mother Nature, the more we are mesmerized by her wonders, the more apt we are to take actions that conserve the beauty of the earth. Let's wake up and do our part!

My previous post included PATS ON MY OWN GREEN BACK, a listing of habits I believe help Earth.

I also have

SHAME ON ME: Here is a PARTIAL list of habits that do not help the planet:
• I never did watch "An Inconvenient Truth."
• I’m a frequent flyer. Tsk. Tsk.
• Since I live in a drafty, old house, and since my work--writing--requires me to sit still, sometimes I get very cold. The quickest way to heat up is to slip into a hot bath. (Okay, granted, the quickest way to warm up probably would be to get up and do some sun salutations.) It's not that I'm dirty, it's that I'm cold, so I don’t add any soap. Once the water is cooled, I haul the "gray" water to my plants. I don't do this ALL the time, but most of the time. Colorado is so dry, and after the drought, it slays me to waste too much water. As Americans, we already use WAY more than the average human being. Water is precious. Without water, no life.
• I still buy food that is not grown locally, but I’m more mindful about it now.
• I practice hot yoga, which requires asana rooms heated to 105 degrees F. (Bikram) or about 95 degrees F. (Baptiste Power Vinyasa). In my defense, I do walk to class.
• I have some thirsty grass—but not too much. (I kept some grass for the dogs.)
• I leave my salt lamp on all the time in my studio. Sort of my intellectual sanctuary lamp.
• I use disposable razors. Bad news.
• I consume too much. Of everything.
• I subscribe to a lot of magazines. (But I do pass them on or recycle them.)
• I have some fountains, but they are very small and don’t hog too much power or water.
• I have a gas grill. Not sure if this is better or worse than charcoal.
• I have a professional exterminator bait boxes with mouse poison. (Sorry, little guys, you can roam my outdoor spaces, but not the indoors!)

I’m sure I have other environmental sins, but I like to see that my list of things I’m proud of doing is lots longer than my list of shame.

• I’d love to have a green roof on my garage. One with succulents or evergreens, perhaps. I’ve done a couple of stories on these roofs; and I got the new National Geographic today, and noticed there is an article on green roofs.
• I’d love to have a solar-powered fountain.
• I’d love to have a wind turbine! One that is beautiful as kinetic sculpture. (My little corner of the world seems to have plenty of wind.)
• I’d love to add solar panels, and I have plenty of sunlight. I did look into this, but think the technology is about to change dramatically, so I’m holding off for now.
• I’d love to get one of those solar ovens! I saw one at the Smart House. I have such a sunny spot that I think I could get some use out of that.
• I’d like to get new storm security doors. My doors are drafty.
• I'd love to get a bat box. Bats eat lots of mosquitoes.


AND ECOJUSTICE FOR ALL: Happy Earth Day, Fellow Earthlings

Photos depict a stream in Colorado, a rock formation in Sedona, Arizona; redwoods and the Sonoma Coast of California.

I'm tickled pink about the green movement.

Here are some images of Earth to enjoy.
These photos show
the beautiful American West:
Colorado, California, New Mexico,
As our new energy secretary--a guy who won a Nobel Prize--said,
...from here on in, every day has to be Earth Day."


As a nature lover, a gardener, and a farmer’s granddaughter, I’m tickled pink that so many people are going green.

Waking up to the responsibly of living as stewards of Creation is good news—and it’s about time. For all of us, living more conservatively is a process. As we all learn more, we all can do more. I consider it a privilege to educate myself about ecojustice, to learn new habits, and to walk as softly as possible upon this bountiful Earth that gives us so much by way of basic needs—food, shelter, clothing—and also beauty and inspiration.
Like the Romantic British poets, I aim to let nature be my teacher.

Here is a PARTIAL list of my conscious efforts to help the planet.
(Maybe you’ll make your own list or glean some practices from this one.)

• I have more plants than I have sense. (Plants, of course, use water, but “eat” CO2 and release oxygen.)
• I don’t drive much. In the last 18 months, I’ve only put about 2,000 miles on my car. And last time I bought a car, I bought a used car. It’s a very luxurious used car that doesn’t get the greatest mileage, but still, buying used vs. new saves a lot of energy!
• I keep fresh water in a bird bath for birds, squirrels, butterflies, and anybody else who wants to belly up to the bar.
• I signed up for wind power as part of my power bill as soon as it was offered. I'm in awe of the look of those wind turbines--always brings to mind Don Quixote. (Watch out, birdies!)
• I try to buy organic foods. I like to buy local foods.
• A few years ago, I bought Energy Star appliances: washer, dryer and refrigerator.
• I wash clothes in a front-loading washer with cold water; and since 1989, I’ve dried them outside on a retractable clothesline with some privacy in the secret garden. (Colorado boasts 360 days of sunshine, so this is possible with rare exceptions in the dead of winter.)
• I had an irrigation system installed to conserve water.
• I’ve planted 5 trees in the last 2 years.
• I've planted species to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. This is my joy.
• I got rid of a long swath of thirsty lawn in favor of river stones and xeric junipers.
• I recycle and have for many years—long before curbside recycling. I used to drive my newspapers and magazines to a bin.
• I have three compost bins. I’ve had two outside for about 15 years. I’m big on composting. Last year, I bought an indoor model, tho’ I’m not sure about it since it does use electricity. But when I went to the Smart House at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, I noticed one there, so I figured it can’t be too bad. If only I can master it, the composting process will be easier during winter.
• I’m something of a water miser. When I wash vegetables or fruits, I catch the water in a big bowl and then fill my watering cans from it. But see a related water confession under GREEN NIGHTMARES posting.
• I catch water from the roof’s watershed to water plants. Psssst: This is illegal in Denver, due to archaic water laws.
• I garden organically. I, happily, have lots of bees. (Watch future posts for easy, economical, enviro-friendly tips for the garden.)
• I use earth-friendly cleaning products, like baking soda and natural air fresheners.
• Many years ago, I took Denver up on its offer to replace toilets with water conserving models. If it’s yellow? Well, if I’m the only one in the house, I’ll now let it mellow.
• I have a low-flow shower head, too.
• I carry reusable shopping bags and finally have gotten into the habit of using them almost all the time now. SO much nicer. This trend is catching on.
• I cut my electrical bill in half last winter by switching to zone heating. I bought a product called Eden Pure; and I recommend it. I first heard about it from the late, great Paul Harvey. Even before this new heater droid, I kept my thermostat turned down and put on a couple of warm layers. Cashmere over silk is lightweight and long-wearing and about as warm as you can go. Another super warm natural fiber I am now a fan of is alpaca. Much softer than wool! Renewable resource!
• I use draft dodgers at the bases of drafty doors. (They have some pretty ones now--not just the original fleecy ones, but be aware of them or they could trip you up.)
• I invested in a SolaTube, installed in one of the dark stairwells of my house.
• I invested in an electric kettle that heats water quickly and shuts off automatically. If you’re still using a stovetop kettle, you might check this out. I am a big tea drinker and make coffee in a French press, so I use mine a lot and am a fan.
• I try to unplug appliances I’m not using, shut down the printer, turn off lights.
• When I’m art directing projects, I try to purchase paper with a portion of recycled materials.
• I use a stainless steel water bottle. The fridge has a water filter, so I'm rarely using bottled water any more.
• I’m vowing to grow more succulents in containers so as to use less water this growing season.
• I gave up my Perrier habit, figuring that water is heavy, and glass is heavy, and France is a long ways away, and it’s just an affection, anyhow. But I do miss the Perrier.
• I had a ton of insulation blown into my attic and went for the recycled newspaper kind.
• I had the draftiest windows on the house replaced with glass block and a well sealed slider.
• I avoid eating over-fished species like Chilean sea bass.
• I've switched out most incandescent bulbs compact fluorescent light bulbs.
• I had energy saver shades put on most of my windows.
• I am big on reusing. (Empty tissue boxes hold wads of plastic newspaper bags that I pass along now to friends with dogs or cats. Broken terra cotta pots get used for crocking at the bottom of containers. Styrofoam packing peanuts get added to the bottom of containers, too, to keep the pots from getting too heavy. I never toss a piece of bubble wrap; somebody is always moving or knows somebody who is moving and needs it.)
• I use only cloth napkins and shun disposable plates. Have for many years.
• I print a lot fewer pages; and I recycle ink cartridges, giving them to nonprofits who get cash for them.
• I contribute financially to a number of animal advocate organizations.
• I do more and more business without paper.
• Instead of tossing unwanted, but still usable things into the landfill, I donate them to thrift stores that benefit nonprofits.
• I use my fireplaces only rarely now--big air particulate problem--and when I do, I buy those composite logs—supposedly better for the air.
• I avoid chlorofluorocarbons. These are the nasties depleting the ozone.
• I’m careful about disposing of hazardous materials like batteries, paint, mercury bulbs. But not as consistently careful as I should be.
• I avoid wrapping papers unless they are recyclable. (I’m using up old rolls and reusing a lot of those beautiful gift bags too pretty to just throw away.)
• I mulch my garden to conserve water and protect plants. I amended my clay soil with organic material to loosen it up and to hold water better.
• I have a lot of wind chimes that mitigate noise pollution on my heavily trafficked corner. Of course, some people might classify wind chimes as noise pollution.
• In summer, I cool my house with an evaporative cooler rather than central air. The evaporative coolers use a lot less energy.
• I do not watch television. Well, rarely. Proud to report that I have no cable. But I do often have the stereo going.
• I rarely use plastic, ziplock baggies any more. Instead, for food storage, I use my glass containers (Corningware). I know those baggies are convenient, but I feel guilty using them now. Plastics stay with us forever, so I'm trying to use less and less.
• I manage a worm relocation program: I transfer nightcrawlers and red wigglers to help nurture soil on my property.
• For much of my career, I’ve written about nature, wildlife, gardens, stewardship and art-directed printed materials that showcase elements of the natural world.
• I make a point of reading about ecojustice to educate myself and, in turn, others.

Photos depict cacti in New Mexico, aerial view of I can't remember where, and Cherry Creek Lake in Denver.


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