Green Schools

Watching Jericho and imagining living for three months without power, is a strong reminder that energy is precious. We should not waste it. We should do everything in our power to conserve it and find new ways to create it. So this morning while watching the news, I hear that President Bush plans to veto legislation to upgrade older schools to make them more energy efficient. Why? Apparently he feels that it would not be 'fiscally responsible'.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has information and further links to this legislation on her website. Read it. Does this sound 'fiscally irresponsible' to you? Those words from our President make me angry. Why wouldn't we want to make our public school buildings more energy efficient? Is it too expensive? It's expected to cost $20 billion. Yes, billions. That does sound expensive to me. But wait a second.... How much have we spent on the war in Iraq? Not billions but trillions. This continues to mystify me. We are able to find (or borrow) trillions of dollars to wage war in another country and to rebuild that country but twenty billion dollars for our own country is too expensive.

What's wrong with this picture? What is wrong with my government? What's wrong with me and my fellow citizens? Why are we letting this happen? The phones should be ringing in Washington, D.C. Mail should be delivered by the bag full. Email boxes should be filled to capacity. We should not sit idly by while our President vetoes this legislation. Write or call the members of Cress who represent you and let them know that any veto must be overridden. Too often we blame our Senators and Representatives for voting for or against pieces of legislation but how often have we written and told them how we want them to vote? The Internet has made it much easier for us to communicate with out government. Let's use the power at our fingertips to make a difference. Start here to find the members representing your state and district.

As I've been studying solar and wind power, I've learned that the first thing to do is cut your energy usage by making the building more energy efficient. In homes this is usually done by replacing windows, sealing ductwork, and adding insulation. So why doesn't President Bush want to make our public school buildings as energy efficient as possible? Is there some hidden agenda here? Are the right companies not in line to make money from this deal? Is greed getting in the way of common sense? Should we start looking for the money trail? Maybe it's just ignorance about the physics, renewable energy (and the fact that oil isn't considered renewable) that makes President Bush think that we can continue to do the same things and have different results in the future. The oil supplies aren't going to last forever. We have to start to make changes NOW! We cannot wait until the world is fighting for the last dregs of oil to begin converting to renewable energy. We've got to start now.

We have to begin educating people so they understand the benefits of these renewable energy sources. What better place to do that than in a school? When children attend a green school powered by alternative energy, they see these principles at work everyday. It's the way life works for them. They can see the solar panels that generate power for the lights. They are taught the principles of recycling and reusing on a daily basis. It becomes habit. A good habit.

While the Green Schools Bill would cost billions to implement, it's billions invested in this country. The citizens of this country were the ones who were taxed to obtain those billions and who will be taxed in the future to pay back any loans and interest. Isn't it about time that we started investing in America again? The housing industry is in a slump. Housing construction has slowed and stopped in some areas. Why would our President veto the opportunity to put people to work? When people have good steady jobs, they spend money and the economy benefits.

I, for one, am tired of feeling second rate. I pay taxes. I'm a citizen of the United States of America. I want my government to invest in America. I want our children to attend schools that aren't crumbling, leaking and growing mold. It's time for the citizens of this country to start telling our politicians how to run this government. We've spent too many years sitting around letting the politicians run our government. We complain about the government and the politicians but how many of us have taken the time to write, call, or email our politicians to express our views? WE need to take action and take control.

This is a great opportunity to start moving our nation away from it's dependence on foreign oil and oil in general. If we make buildings more energy efficient, we use less fossil fuels to heat and cool them. If we add solar panels, we take an even bigger step away from our addiction to oil. Yes, I said addiction. We are so dependent on the way things are now that we're unwilling to give it up for something new. Oil is our drug of choice whether for our cars, power plants or homes. We need to get into rehab. How about we start with the rehabilitation of our schools?

Disaster Preparedness Class

Last week the husband and I went to a disaster preparedness class. I found out that we weren't really as prepared as I thought. I have lots of things that are useful in a disaster. I just don't have them organized where you could grab them and go out the door or hunker down in a room to 'shelter in place'.

The class was interesting in more ways than you'd think. My husband and I were perhaps the youngest people attending...we're in our 40s. I'm not sure what that means. Does it mean that the younger crowd doesn't think anything will ever happen? Do they think that the government will take care of them in a disaster? or maybe it's because they've looked all this up on the Internet and have prepared disaster kits. I hope the latter is the case.

Another interesting thing that I learned was don't go to the fire station or hospital if there's a disaster. Well, let me qualify that. If you are having a medical emergency, then you belong at the hospital. If you can walk yourself to the hospital, then you don't belong there and they are likely going to tell you to go home or at the very least to the end of the line. They are going to be very busy taking care of people who are seriously injured and in danger of dying. There was a scene in Jericho where Dale and Skylar are at the hospital after the riot/fight at the mine. Skylar has sprained her ankle and Dale is trying to get some attention for her. When I first viewed that episode I thought she was being ignored because people didn't like how she handled her ownership of the mine. I thought it was about feelings and relationship. In reality, she would probably receive the same treatment even if the doctors and nursing staff didn't know her. A sprained ankle would be very minor when patients are being triaged. So in a disaster think about that scene and whether you really belong at the hospital. You may be wasting your time getting to a hospital. You may end up being more comfortable at home, in the park, or wherever safe shelter can be found. It's not going to be fun sitting around a hospital watching other people get treated in front of you. If you're not suffering from a life threatening ailment, then stay at home. Be prepared to treat your own scrapes and bruises.

I'll repeat that again because it's important to understand. Be prepared to take care of yourself. That really begins with the prepared part of the equation. If you or a member of your family depends on oxygen, do you have extra canisters? Do you want to stake your life or the life of a loved one on the fire department or some other organization being able to reach you with another oxygen canister? I wouldn't.

Medications: Are there medicines that you require to stay alive? Do you have a seven day supply on hand? Yes, seven days at least. Just think back to those news images of the Super dome in New Orleans or the recent earthquake in China. Consider that it may take at least a week before you are in an area with a functioning pharmacy. Don't count on the Red Cross or any other relief efforts to provide you with medication. Even if you do get to an area with a pharmacy, they aren't going to just hand you medications because you say so. Make things easier for everyone by having your bottle with the prescription information on it or a copy of the prescription written by your doctor.

Are we beginning to see the theme here? Being prepared helps the whole system work better.

So husband and I have begun to work on getting all those disaster items that we have in various areas of the house organized. I started by organizing the food stores. I actually started that before attending the preparedness class. With food prices, I don't want to buy food that I may already have on hand. I found that I have seven jars of marshmallow creme fluff...or did the total rise to nine? Anyway, more than enough fluff. The movement of food from the four foot deep pantry shelves to walk-around shelving in the garage netted about twenty boxes of Hamburger helper. Oh well if we get tired of it we can just cook the noodles and use the flavor packets for broth or something.

Turns out that the pantry design creates shelving that is too deep. Things get pushed to the back of the shelves and stays for years. The plan is to put plastic shelves in the garage. They are free standing so we're able to walk around them and shop from our own little store. Since they can be disassembled, they'll move along with us if we decide to go somewhere else. So what about all that pantry space in the house? I've decided to move the deep fryer, steamer, rice cooker, etc into those deep shelves in the pantry. After all it's a lot easier to see that big rice cooker behind the fryer than it is to find the can of beats behind the cans of pineapple and corn. Hopefully, we'll have no more lost food. We'll know how many cans of pasta sauce we have on hand and will buy more only when the supply reaches the restock level.

The other messy place where food gets lost is the bulk foods tub. It didn't start out that way. It started out in plastic bags from the grocery store that collected on the counter top. Then it got cleaned off for a party and parked in a tote (still in their plastic bags from the store). Pretty soon we didn't know whether we had dried cherries, corn meal or farina. So I've gone on a buying spree to acquire square or rectangle storage containers. Round containers seem to leave too much wasted space. The containers must stack. They must be labeled. Now I'm focusing my obessive organization skills on our food supply. Now we can quickly tell how much bottled water we have on hand.

I'm still reminded of the Jericho episode where Jake is talking to Hawkins. "You have a generator and a food supply..." Jake seems to think that makes Hawkins a terrorist. Why? Maybe he's just prepared for the nexted disaster. Sad to think that someone might be labeled a terrorist just for being prepared. Although I'm not as prepared as Hawkins, I don't have a generator. I don't have a concrete room in my basement. Mainly because a basement doesn't really working in my semi-wet geographic location next to the old swimming hole. However, if I ever move to Kansas, I will have a basement. I grew up on the edge of tornado alley. I've seen a few of them on the ground. I've heard them in the air when they didn't touch down and I've driven through the aftermath of tornadoes. For Kansas, I'll have a safe room in the basement or an underground house.

Which brings me to my dream house....good for tornadoes, nuclear attacks, and keeping burglars out. Call me crazy, a recluse, or maybe the woman of your dreams but I want my very own missile silo. I want to win the lottery and convert my missile silo into a luxury home. This website shows one man's dream plan for converting a missile silo into living space and more. It's called "World's End". Just imagine fourteen levels of living space. Swimming pool, theater, and all the storage you could ever want. No danger from tornadoes. Just build a nice earth sheltered garage above and you can laugh at the weather. I'm sure lots of neighbors would start stopping by whenever the weather started getting rough. Well, at least there'd be plenty of room for everyone.

I'm chuckling right now as I write. I'm sitting in a Starbuck's in an upper class neighborhood while I write this. Not exactly the type of place where you hear conversations about disaster preparedness, growing food in tubs or living in missile silos. Of course, I'm drawing more than a few glances in my jeans, hiking boots and waterproof jacket. Of course, if they were designer jeans and the latest in high tech outdoor gear, I'd be acceptable. But here I sit writing away. They'll just have to deal with this decaf drinking hick chick. Oh yes, did I mention I ordered and am drinking black decaf coffee? Not an Americano, not a latte, just plain old decaf coffee. In the Pacific Northwest, that's almost as bad as walking into a Northwest brew pub and ordering a Budweiser. Sacrilege! But hey I got free coffee because they had to brew it. Didn't expect that...that is the free coffee. They always have to brew decaf for me.

This is quite the rambling post but maybe you'll stick with me and learn something or begin to think about things. It doesn't matter if you don't learn from me. If you just start to think about things and go elsewhere to learn more, then I feel like I've accomplished something.

Since watching Jericho, I've found myself reading more. I read about solar power and hydroponics. In searching out these books at my library, I've remembered how much I love libraries. They are magical places for me. With a book and some time, there isn't anything I can't do. My husband has rediscovered the library and now has his own library card. He loves movies and used to buy lots of DVDs. Then there was the day that he bagged up a grocery bag of DVDs that he no longer wanted. Of course, several hundred dollars of DVDs will get you less than fifty when you sell them. So back to the library. You can check out DVDs at the library. Wow! Free DVD rental! In this economy that can be a wonderful thing. So I urge everyone to find their local library, get your library card and spend a few hours discovering what's available.

The well of words has finally run dry for the day.

The Lettuce Raft Lives!

Yes, it is true. The lettuce in the raft has transformed from seeds into small plants. I haven't managed to kill them yet. It's a relatively simple setup. I went to the large box hardware store and over to the insulation area. That's where you'll find sheets of the 1-1/2 inch styrofoam. Cut that a size that will allow free floating inside a nice tote tub. Then it was off to the hydroponics store to find net cups. (I've since discovered that just taking a knife to a regular little pot will transform it into something that will hold rockwool and let the roots out to the nutrient fluid.) The pet store yielded an inexpensive pump, air stone (for making bubbles) and some air hose. Quick inexpensive little hydro or aeroponics set up. Right now I dont' care about the terms. I have plants growing on my front porch!

The lettuce is up and growing. It might be planted a little close together but I moved some over into the cantaloupe pot. The cantaloupe didn't seem to be sprouting so I figured at least give some of the lettuce a chance in that pot. The peas are looking very good. I haven't killed off the tomato either. In fact, I see that it has a bloom on it.

So I started another raft system. I managed to score a pot of burpless cucumbers that had three plants in the pot for $3. That's $1 per plant and gives me a head start which I really need here in the cooler climate. It's 54 here today, cloudy and rainy...the plants don't seem to be growing much. I did shock the plants a bit when I added them to the second tub. It was nice and warm when I filled the tub...of course the water was cold. So I removed the plants from their dirt and packed them into pots with rockwool and stuck them in their raft. A few hours later they were looking wilted. OOOPS! So I pulled the pots and sat them on the raft out of the water. Back in and wilt, back on the raft for recovery. After a few trips they seem to have figured out that they are going to have to adjust to the new temperature.

I started some New Zealand spinach in the dirt starter disks. They've been sitting outside with their little plastic cover held in place by rubberbands. They were used to the weather. They didn't go into shock when I placed them in the raft. So it looks like I'm going to have some success growing food in tubs of water and nutrients. I'm hoping to move everything inside for the winter.

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