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Stories and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems, written by a beginning farmer/gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Photos

What an incredible year 2015 has been! There have been so many new adventures in my life, such as moving to a new city and having fun living with Green Guy, gardening and eating vegetables I've grown myself, learning new recipes in the kitchen, meeting awesome new people in my community who advocate for better bicycling opportunities, and so much more. To celebrate and reflect on the last twelve months, here are (more than) twelve photos from 2015:

On January, Green Guy and I hiked to the top of Buzzard's Roost in Big Basin State Park.
 
 
In January, we also went on the Light Up the Night Bike Party ride in Santa Cruz.

In February, I tabled for the Sierra Club at an event at UC Santa Cruz. Throughout 2014 and 2015, I did a lot of tabling for the Santa Cruz Group and worked with many awesome interns who helped support the Sierra Club mission to explore, enjoy, and protect our planet. 
 

In February on Valentine's Day, my sister and I participated in a One Billion Rising march in downtown Santa Cruz to raise awareness of and stop violence against women.

In March, I attended the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. and was able to bring my best friend from high school along with me! The summit was an awesome opportunity to learn about bicycle advocacy work nationwide, and my friend and I had a blast exploring our nation's capital.

Also in March, I helped organize a Trans Pacific Partnership forum in Santa Cruz to educate the community about what the TPP and Fast Track would mean for our country and our region. It was well-attended, and I continued to work on opposing Fast Track and the TPP for many months following this event. I was inspired and impressed by those who actively follow trade and global issues like this one. It's complicated and very political work, and I definitely learned a lot about what that side of environmental advocacy is all about.

In April, I organized a UCSC Sustainabilibuddies Alumni Reunion at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing. Lots of alumni of all ages showed up, and we had a great time seeing old friends and enjoying local beer.

The next day, I celebrated my 23rd b-earthday at my house with friends and family.  My amazing housemates made me TWO vegan ice cream cakes for the occasion! The one above was strawberry, and the other one was chocolate. Delicious and beautiful!

In May, I co-led a Sierra Club Outing as my final step in becoming certified as an Outings Leader for our local Group. I had read a lot of information online and taken a quiz prior to co-leading the hike. I became certified so that some of my interns from UCSC could co-lead hikes of their own for their final projects. 
 May was jam-packed full of intern-led hikes, including an incredible birdwalk led by a student with astounding birding skills (above), a history hike through Pogonip Park, a study break hike to the Porter Caves at UCSC, and a family hike with children at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

At the very end of May, Green Guy and I moved into a house together in a new city. A few days later, we were headed to the Bahamas for about a week of relaxation, swimming, boating, and fun in the sun. After that, we joined his family in San Diego for his grandparents' anniversary. What a way to kick off the summer!

In July, we got our first set of plants for our new garden out back. It was so sparse and empty back then!

In August, we took a weekend trip to Yosemite National Park and camped at Campsite 4 in the Valley. We waited in line for a campsite from 6 AM - 9 AM; it was worth the wait. We hiked most of the way up to Upper Yosemite Falls, made really yummy food on our camp stove, and drove up to Washburn and Glacier Points to take in the Valley from above.

In August, we also attended the Silicon Valley Bike Summit, which you can read about here.

August was a month of many new adventures, and it's also when I began blogging again more regularly. Here's a photo from when we volunteered at Veggielution Farm. Read about it here.

 
The last adventure we had in August was surfing with my old housemate for Green Guy's birthday. Very challenging, but so awesome!

 In September, I began worm composting and blogged all about it here.

I also attended the Silicon Valley Tour de Coop in September with two friends. We biked around exploring farms, chicken coops, and even a Duck-A-Ponics system!

In October, we took Caltrain with our bikes to San Francisco to see the Blue Angels.

Also in October, my coworkers and I attended Bioneers in San Rafael. What an inspiring conference! I blogged about it here.
 
 
Also in October, I participated in the Banana Slug Parade to celebrate UCSC's 50th Anniversary. We pulled Happening Couch dressed up as a sustainable slug.

In November, the garden was looking very lush! You can read all of my blog posts about the garden here.

 In December, we got a living pine tree for our Christmas tree! 

 I also baked a million sugar cookies and decorated them to share at Christmas.

Thanks to Pinterest, I also learned how to make rein-beer in December.

In December, Green Guy got this awesome handmade Stormtrooper full-face beanie for Christmas from my dad and stepmom, and he snowboarded at Heavenly with it on. I skied along beside him, and we had an amazing time in the fresh snow!

Of all of the adventures we had this year, I think the type of adventure we did the most was make and eat tons of amazing sushi! We had a few sushi making parties, and we found our new favorite sushi restaurant near our house. Yum!

Wow, what an awesome year! So many photos of fun adventures are not pictured here, but it would take far too long to include everything. Thanks to everyone who made 2015 so great. Here's to 2016 and 365 days of new experiences. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Results of Rain

We've been getting delightful rain lately, and it's led to a really lush green garden out back! Here are some photos from yesterday morning:

Those tall sunflowers have gotten droopy! Their vibrant petals surround an enormous sunflower face.
 So much green!
 Nasturtiums have really taken over!
 The younger sunflower finally bloomed.
 Broccoli
 
Kale, green onion, and chard.

The worms have also been doing well, eating through apple cores and other food waste slowly as the weather has gotten colder. I'm looking forward to January, when I can begin planting some new seeds again. Right now, I've just been tending what we have growing. The arugula on the living room window is super bitter, but I hope to mix it with other lettuce from the store sometime soon for a salad, or add it to pasta.

A new project that Green Guy and I will be tackling in the new year is beer making! In celebration of our three year anniversary, I got us a beer making kit. I'll be sure to document that journey on the blog once we begin.

Happy Holidays to everyone, and Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gratitude for Rain

National Novel Writing Month is officially half-way through, which means I should be at 25,000 words... Sadly, I'm not, but I am doing pretty well at 18,354 words! It's definitely more words of fiction than I've written in the last two years combined! So now you might be able to guess why I've been absent from the blog since November began, and likely between now and December 1, I'll be spending all of my non-work typing time trying to crank out enough words to reach 50,000 before the month ends. You can learn more about NaNoWriMo here and read my author page on the site here.

Despite knowing that I should be typing words on my novel right now, I wanted to share a quick story about how I've been able to go more than a week without turning on the tap specifically for watering the garden. I also want to share some photos of the garden.

It rained last Sunday, giving my plants a happy dose of water straight from the natural source. It's only rained a few times since we moved to this house, but we had noticed that water comes gushing off the corner of the roof near our bedroom window when it rains. Thinking it was a huge waste for that water to just go plummeting into the ground in one spot when it could instead be dispersed throughout the garden to water some plants, I stuck a bucket under the falling water and was able to obtain a whole bucket-full. I stuck some empty jars under there, too, and got even more rainwater. It didn't look like the most pure water (it was actually kind of soapy looking for some reason), so I decided only to use that water on non-edible plants in the garden later that week when the soil dried.

My other main source of water this past week for the garden was from the shower. A couple months ago, we began collecting water in the shower while we wait for it to heat up (we can't quite make the switch to just jumping into the cold water... especially in these cold weather months). Instead of wasting that water, I pour that water into my watering can and water the garden with it. Most weeks when there isn't rain, I have to supplement the bucket with about another bucket full of water from the kitchen sink. I know that we should also really be collecting the soapy water from while we're showering and use that to flush the toilet. We haven't quite gotten to that step yet, but we probably will soon.

One other way that I repurpose water is by saving the water that's used to cook vegetables and pasta, so long as there isn't salt in it. This past week, I saved the water from green beans, for instance. You have to let the water cool before you can use it on the plants. I have a pitcher on my kitchen counter where all of that extra water goes.

Between the rainy day, two buckets of water, the veggie water, and a couple random jars of rainwater, I didn't have to turn on the tap specifically for the garden this week. And this morning, Mother Nature gave me a break from my watering duties and watered the garden for me! I am loving this rainy weather we're finally getting. I'm praying that we continue to get the water we need but that El Niño doesn't wreak too much havoc...

Here are some photos of the windowsill and the backyard garden. To see even more photos, scroll through this album on Facebook (you don't need to have a Facebook account to view). You can click on the images below for a larger view.
 Arugula
 Arugula
 Cilantro
 Tomatoes
 Either kale or arugula--I can't remember what I planted!
  Either kale or arugula--I can't remember what I planted!
 A new chard plant from my grandmother, who visited yesterday with my dad and step-mom. We had such a great time spending the evening with them and enjoying a meal of delicious grilled veggies and salmon. Thank you for the plant, Nanny!
 Baby cilantro seedlings in the jalapeño pepper pot
 Tomatoes, basil, and baby cilantro seedlings
You can see where the rain danced on this succulent's leaves! 

Okay, time to get back to writing my novel. My goal is to try and get as close to 25,000 words as possible today. I wish I could count the words in this blog post as part of my word count!

Happy Sunday, and thanks for reading!
Green Gal

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Worm update & photos from the garden

Our sunflowers are almost blocking our back mailbox, which is where our landlord collects energy and water bill checks from us. We might have to figure out how to divert its growth to one side or the other... but hopefully, he likes sunflowers!
The other day, I planted a number of seeds, including some kale in an old soy yogurt container. I set the container inside an old Earth Balance butter container so I can water it from the bottom. I also moved a tomato plant from inside to the backyard, and put one of my aloe plants from the front porch into the back because I think it needs more sunlight.
Tomatoes, basil, jalapeños, cactus, aloe, and some pots that haven't sprouted yet but contain pea seeds (I think!). I moved the little hippopotatomus to this side of the garden.
Some more new seed plantings, including broccoli, kale, and arugula. The broccoli from this summer is still alive but has been devoured by caterpillars (I think). The nasturtium on the side yard is growing well, too.
I've been adding dried leaves and dried weeds from the garden to the worm bin lately.
The worms have been doing great! I add food every few days, and their population has continued to grow as far as I can tell. Most recently, I fed them really old, nasty-smelling arugula and spinach from the fridge, an old apple cut into small chunks that had also gotten a bit moldy, and some bell pepper stems. The worms can break down the food faster if it's already started decomposing, so my new strategy is to put food scraps in a plastic bag (I've been using old bread bags), and tie the bag closed so no smells come out. I leave it on the counter for a day or two until it looks moldy and then I add the food to the bin. Kind of gross, but it makes it easier on the worms! I also continue to give them avocado skins, which they love to hang out underneath, so I tend to put the skins on top of other food as a protective layer for them and so they can enjoy any remaining avocado bits. It was hard to get a photo of the worms since they hate the sunlight, so just imagine them below the food scraps, munching away happily and squirming around!
The green onions in the window sill are happy and tall!
Cilantro on the window sill is doing really great.
 Arugula on the windowsill seems to be doing well after separating the three plants into their own containers. One of them is very shrivelly and dead-looking so I didn't photograph it. But the one above and one below look okay.

 A younger cilantro plant on the window sill.

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

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