Tag Archives: lawn

Third Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

It is now October and that means it is fall.  It also means that I am nine months of the way through the year which is probably a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost nine months. Through the end of September 2019 I have driven ~5,893 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~6,733 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter and succeeded in the second quarter, the third quarter was a little better. I spent some money that I was “awarded” from work via a gift card.  It was money spent at Amazon, but it was not my cash and I felt that the effort to transfer the funds was not worth the return.  Trying to reduce my spending at both Amazon and Walmart has made me think about our consumer habits in general.  More to come.
  • No more Walmart—Spent about a $100 on school supplies for a work organized effort to help out area kids during the back to school time. Walmart was running sales where I was able to pick up whole classrooms’ worth of some supplies for a few dollars.  It was craziness and well worth failing in my goal to make it happen.
  • Read twenty five books—38 books read in the first nine months.  Mission accomplished.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—This is probably the singular failure so far this year. Sure, some stuff has gone to Goodwill but I feel that on the whole nothing is less cluttered than it was nine months ago.  Maybe I can sprint to the finish.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. I have even purchased the wax rings to install the new toilers.  Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground. Three Colorado blue spruce trees in the ground.  Mission accomplished.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— No real progress, but I have plans. I promise!
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—I am sitting at ~2,718 miles for the season as the month of September came to a close. Surprisingly, September was a real dog of a month for riding as the weather really conspired to keep me inside.   Mission accomplished.

So far, so good I think.

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Five Trees in the Ground

My goal for the year was to plant an additional five trees in my yard.  Before spring the yard contained thirteen trees (1 elm, 1 sycamore, 1 maple, 3 yellow poplars, 3 Norway spruce, and 4 red oaks).  Over the years I have drawn out several plans to add to my trees.

However, the nursery stock this year was harsh.  I rarely saw a shade tree worth a second look and the conifers were wicked expensive.  Early in the season I was able to find a pair of Norway spruce for about $65 each.  This was an easy choice since I had a spot picked out:

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Both trees really took to being planted and put on a thrush of new growth within weeks.  The weather this summer has been amenable to trees as well with well-spaced moisture and not too many blistering hot days.  Even the days that were hot lacked the combination of heat and sun that really seems to knock the stuffing out of plants.

Hopefully before the end of fall I can trim around the trees like the maple in the foreground of the picture above.  The surrounding mulched bed will not be planted with perennials like the maple.  Over the years the branches will spread to encompass the entirety of the mulched bed.  Also, this is just the start of what I have planned for this side of my yard.  See the disastrous “sport” court in the neighbors’ back yard?  Yeah, I do not want to see it either.  Next year is going to be a heavy year for trees.

Just this weekend I ran across a store doing a fall sale of container grown conifers for just $15 each.  Normally, I am not a fan of Colorado blue spruce as the species is over planted in eastern Iowa.  I could not turn down relatively good looking trees at a low, low price.  I picked up three and got to work finishing another planting bed where I am trying to take out all of the turf grass:

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This part of my lawn is almost entirely sand.  The only soil, so to speak, is what came on the rolls of sod that were laid down and what I have added when planting trees.  The area has little soil fertility and retains very little moisture.  It is like a thin layer of soil, compacted, and sitting on a jelly roll pan.  If you pour out a bucket of water you can watch it flow downhill without really penetrating the soil.  While the rest of the yard can handle a period of drought—mowing the grass extra high and allowing clover to spread helps—this little corner dries out and dies.  I had considered top dressing the lawn in this area, but felt that it was a better use of space to plant trees and perennials, edge the area, amend the soil, and deeply mulch.  I will get to the edging, amending, and mulching next year.  I promise.

The only downside of all of this planting is that I have used up the contents of one of my compost bins.  There is some compost left and a few things that did not break down over the years, like the muslin bags used to steep grains during my homebrewing days, which will go into a mixture to improve soil health in the areas where I remove turf.  The other bin is fairly full, so in a year or so I should have a lot of nutrient dense compost to amend my sandy soil.

Friday Linkage 7/26/2019

The heat and humidity finally broke here in eastern Iowa this week and we got to open the windows.  Okay, we opened the windows in our house but it seems like everyone else still has their air conditioning running full blast.  Naturally, this includes my neighbors who run their air conditioning even when it is sixty degrees outside.  It must be an ice box inside that house.

These are the same neighbors who complain about their high electricity bill.  So it also makes sense that these same neighbors would install a hot tub.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, says high electricity costs quite like a hot tub.

On to the links…

American Green—If there is one thing that I wish people would do it is that they stop obsessing—in terms of both time and money—about the lawns surrounding their homes.  Who cares if a stray dandelion shows up or some clover has established itself?  Who cares it some spots start to brown out when the mercury hits 90 degrees?

New York Just Passed the Most Ambitious Climate Target in the Country—There is no climate leadership at the federal level, so it falls to cities and states to move things forward.  Luckily, the states most likely to move forward also happen to be home to a lot of people and a lot of economic activity.

Refinery Explosions Raise New Warnings About Deadly Chemical—If a Tesla or other electric vehicle catches fire there is sure to be a whole raft of coverage.  If a normal ICE car bursts into flames or an oil refinery explodes there is little coverage.  Never mind the potential of a truly catastrophic incident at an oil refinery.

It’s Just Good Business: Even Red States Are Dumping Coal for Solar—I think that this needs to be the response for anyone who gets asked a question about solar power.  It’s just good business.

Waste Only: How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World—Plastic is bad.  It may be a necessary evil in some applications, but limiting the use of plastics is the ultimate goal.

Cigarette Butts are the Most Pervasive Man-Made Pollutant—My late father, a former smoker who quit in his thirties, hated cigarette butts with a passion and had a more hot burning hate for the people who threw their cigarette butts about with abandon.  His whole theory was that cigarettes with filters should be banned, all cigarettes should be called coffin nails, and the package should say “Smoke More, Die Younger.”

10 Ways the Bicycle Moved Us Forward—The bicycle is a humble solution to a lot of problems.  As we design ever more complex solutions to our problems we need to remember that easier solutions exist.

In Madrid, a Car Ban Proves Stronger Than Partisan Politics—I know it will come as a shock to most right wing reactionaries, especially the ones on Fox News who want to cover themselves in a cologne called Fossil Fuel Funk, but people actually like living in places where cars are not valued over people.  Remember, in most modern offices your car will be allotted more space in the parking lot than you will be inside the building.

How ‘Corn Sweat’ Makes Summer Days More Humid—If you live in Iowa during the summer you understand this phenomenon all too well.  The humid haze that rises from the endless fields of tall corn in July and August is like an oppressive ghost moving through the landscape.  Maybe I spend too much time cycling along these same fields in the heat.

Dunkin’ Adds Beyond Meat’s Sausage to its Menu, Starting in New York—Are we turning the corner into a world where renewable energy is the cheapest source of electricity, people actually care about the climate, and non-meat alternatives are commonplace?  I sure know that non-meat alternatives seem to be everywhere.

Can You Taste the Difference Between Plant-Based Meat and Beef? Burger King Sweden is Betting No.—This is what the people behind calling plant protein “meat” in Arkansas are worried about.  Okay, their actually being funded by a locally powerful meat industry to take this fight on but their paymasters fear this outcome.

Has Wine Gone Bad?—When reading Napa at Last Light by James Conaway I was struck by some critiques of wineries for the total lack of environmental consideration.  The gist was basically that if anyone actually knew just how much of a bad actor the wine industry was in California it would cripple the industry’s marketing efforts.

The Budweiser Beer Empire was Built on Debt. Now it’s Racing to Pay it Off—Geez, I cannot imagine how building an empire through acquisitions fueled by debt could ever go wrong?

Friday Linkage 7/5/2019

With July 4th falling on a Thursday this year it makes for a rather strange week.  If you are not taking vacation, like half of my building it seems, you get a day off near the end of the week and have to come back for a Friday.

It’s like a ghost town in the office right now.

On to the links…

What Will Our 2040 Energy Future Look Like?—These forecasts have a way of being very wrong when market forces and technology collide to change the paradigm.  However, when a relatively conservative news outlet like Forbes is sounding the death knell for certain fossil fuels you know something is up.

There’s a New EPA Air Sheriff in Town, and She’s Got a Shaky Grasp on Climate—Where is the Trump administration finding so many barrel bottoms to scrape these political appointees from?  How soon before Sean Hannity is appointed to be Secretary of State or some such BS?

The Sack Of Washington—Oh wait, it is like a concerted plan by the most polluting industries to destroy the EPA from within.  I was giving ol’ Donnie Two Scoops too much credit.  [LINK: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/two-scoops%5D

For the First Time Ever Renewables Beat Coal in the US—23% of U.S. power in April was generated by renewables. 23%!

Market Efficiency, Not Regulation, Is Driving People from Coal—Nothing Donald Trump does can stop this from happening.  His actions can slow down progress, but come January 2021 the game us up.

As Trump Attempts to Prop Up the Struggling Coal Industry, Illinois is Taking Another Step Away from its Dirtiest Source of Electricity—Illinois is merely pushing over a tottering industry.  The article states that the eight coal fired power plants at risk for closure are already uneconomic to operate.

A 100% Renewable Grid isn’t Just Feasible, it’s in the Works in Europe—I have said this many times on this blog, do you remember a time when skeptics said renewables could only be a small portion of our electricity generation? First, it was no more than 5%.  Then it was adjusted higher.  Each time renewables exceed a certain threshold the skeptics just keep adjusting higher.  100% is going to be the upper limit.

Fracking Creates A Glut Of Fossil Fuels & A Mountain Of Debt—If you want to destroy value just invest in the fracking industry.  Don’t listen to me, listen to a former shale gas executive lay it out:

The shale gas revolution has frankly been an unmitigated disaster for any buy-and-hold investor in the shale gas industry with very few limited exceptions. In fact, I’m not aware of another case of a disruptive technological change that has done so much harm to the industry that created the change. While hundreds of billions of dollars of benefits have accrued to hundreds of millions of people, the amount of shareholder value destruction registers in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The industry is self-destructive.

Cement Production makes More CO2 than all the Trucks in the World—Our love affair with cement and concrete is killing the planet.  This is why tall timber buildings are the future.

Shipping Sector Comes Under Increasing Pressure To Cut Its Carbon Footprint—This is why it is so critical to stop buying so much stuff.  That stuff we buy has to be shipped and shipping is a carbon bomb.

Cities are Beginning to Own Up to the Climate Impacts of What they Consume—What we consume has a direct relationship to our carbon emissions.  Consume less, emit less.  As the economic engines of the modern world cities have a lot of power to change consumption patterns.

One Man Is Trying to Fight Climate Change By Mobilizing an Unlikely Team: Iowa’s Farmers—Actual farmers, as opposed to giant corporations and absentee land owners, care about the soil because these men and women understand that the soil is what sustains generations upon the land.  We need to support policies that reinforce these beliefs at the expense of the agricultural industrial complex.

Big Farms Find Easy Ways around Trump Trade Aid Limits—Color me surprised that big corporate agricultural interests found a way to work around rules meant to benefit smaller producers.  Oh wait, that is basically how agricultural policy in the United States has worked for the past fifty years or so.

Everything You Need to Know about the Booming Business of Fighting Food Waste—We waste a lot of food.  Combating food waste is both an economic and environmental imperative.

Give Your Yard Back to Nature—Every square foot of turf grass that we replace with low maintenance native plants is a victory for bugs and the land.  Our never ending expanses of artificially green turf grass is an eco-catastrophe.

The Mycelium Revolution Is upon Us—There is a fungus among us.  Sorry, I could not help myself.

Second Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

June has come and gone.  Summer is officially here.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost six months. Through the end of June 2019 I have driven ~3,706 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~4,181 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter, I feel like I am nailing it in the second quarter with $0—yes, zero—spend at Amazon in the past three months. It is surprisingly hard to resist the temptation to just order something from Amazon at nine in the evening.  It is like our brains are wired to just hit the “add to cart” button.
  • No more Walmart—As with my goal of spending no money at Amazon met with reality in the first quarter but improved in the second quarter, so too did my attempt at not patronizing Walmart. Zero dollars in the second quarter.
  • Read twenty five books—23 down, 2 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground. I am actively hunting for additional trees to plant, but the nursery stock locally has not been very attractive.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— Plans are laid out and some of the hardscaping materials are sitting in my driveway. However, this is the kind project that has to wait until the temperature declines a little bit.  Spending a day digging out turf when the mercury is over 90 degrees and the humidity level is above 90 percent is a no go.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—Almost 1,200 miles have been spent in the saddle so far and this includes a lost week spent on vacation in Colorado. I had the best of intentions to ride while I was out in Summit County, but I chose to hike and raft instead.

So far, so good I think.

Friday Linkage 5/3/2019

A while ago I permanently deleted my Facebook account because I felt that the company was a blight on this planet.  Now, Facebook is trying to improve its image by partnering with fact checking organizations to conduct reviews of the news that it features.  Too bad Facebook chose to work with a partisan hack factory funded by the Koch Brothers.

Seriously, this is how Facebook thinks it is going to repair its image.  Good luck with that Zuck.

On to the links…

Iowa State Board Allows Sale of Electric Vehicle Energy by the Kilowatt-Hour—One of the impediments to more publicly available chargers and a reasonable scheme to charge for power is going to be removed in the state of Iowa.  Granted, our retrograde legislature that is a Fox News wet dream right now is going to charge fees on solar power and EVs because…reasons.

Renewables Set To Top Coal Power In The U.S.—The worm has turned.  It is now cheaper to build new solar and wind than it is to operate coal and some natural gas.  Imagine a world where the price of energy increases because of a global shock.  If people are already flocking to renewables what will that future look like?

Solar Power Doubled In Most American Cities In Last 6 Years—I believe it.  In my little slice of the world there were no visible solar systems on anyone’s roof a few years ago.  Now there are several within view of my driveway.  Every time I drive somewhere in town I notice a new system.  Bring it on.

$13.6B Record-Breaking Solar Park Rises from Dubai Desert—This project is just massive.

Japanese Utilities Turn Away from Coal Plans Amid Green Energy Boom—Where is all the coal going to go that Trump wants to dig?

RWE Abandons All Present & Future Coal Plans—It is not going to Germany.

‘Wonder Material’ Phosphorene Could Revolutionize Batteries—I have read about more so called wonder materials than I want to remember.  I am holding out hope that one of these pans out and we get lower cost batteries with excellent range.

New Type of Plastic is a Recycling Dream—Maybe the answer is less plastic as opposed to a better kind of plastic.  Sure, we need to use plastic in some use cases.

Want a Happy Commute? Researchers Point to Travel by Bicycle—It’s better than going by car, but I would not say that all of my days commuting via bicycle are happy.

‘It’s a groundswell’: The Farmers Fighting to Save the Earth’s Soil—We have the solutions.  We just need the will to implement the solutions on a broad scale.

The Case for Carbon Farming in California—What if we looked at the land we use for agriculture as a giant opportunity to capture carbon?  It is my contention that this would be a better paradigm for rural communities than the current economic model of industrial agriculture.

Why You Should Turn Your Lawn into a Meadow—Lawns are the worst.  This is why I have decided to just mow a lot less this summer.

The Surprising Science of Fighting Crime With…Trees—You mean to tell me that if people are not living in a brutalist landscape dominated by concrete and steel that people might actually act more civilized?  Wow, mind blown.  Or not.

Burger King Plans to Roll Out Impossible Whopper across the United States—Well that was quick.  It seems like only yesterday that this was just a test in the St. Louis metro.  Now it is going to be nationwide.

Mission Actually Impossible—People really like the Impossible Burger.  Now, the company just needs to be able to dramatically increase production without sacrificing quality or alienating customers.  I am scared that this is the moment when Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, which is going public, are going to run into a lot of trouble.  Fingers crossed.

First Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

The year is one quarter behind us, which means that we are three months closer to a world where the phrase “President Donald Trump” is not something we have to utter every again save for historical remembrance.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf is in the garage. So far I have driven the little EV ~1584 miles and saved ~1732 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Based on the average price of fuel in my area and the average fuel economy of the vehicle mile I am displacing with the Nissan Leaf I also saved ~$162 in just fuel costs.  This assumes that I am using grid electricity with an average carbon intensity and an average price.  This will drop even further when I add solar panels to my existing array.
  • No more Amazon—Kind of an epic fail. Four days into the new year I ordered something off of Amazon.  In my defense—if such an explanation is allowed—I had a gift card, so not using it would just gift Amazon that money, and I needed a Level 2 charging cable for my Nissan Leaf.  On the plus side that is the only thing I purchased.  In the end, Amazon got about $150 of my money.  On January 4th.  Damn it.
  • No more Walmart—Nothing illustrates the difficulty of avoiding Walmart than my spring break trip. Somehow, someone forgot our bag of toiletries at home and did not notice until we were unpacking in Avon, Colorado for a week of spring break skiing at Beaver Creek.  What to do?  Spend $100 at Walmart replacing toothbrushes, shampoo, and what not.  Do not bring the kids with you into a grocery store after spending more than 13 hours in the car.  They are like locusts looking for crops.  Damn it.
  • Read twenty five books—13 down, 12 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—It may not be warmer yet, but my gravel ride is all kitted up for the new season.

So far, so good I think.