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How to STAY COOL this summer without AC

Summer weather is on its way. Instead of heading down the slippery slope of air conditioning your home (once you pop those units in for the first 90 degree day, they tend to stay on all summer), try these age-old and remarkably effective methods instead. Work with the natural rhythm of the summer day and use your home and your freezer/refrigerator to keep you cool.

1. Keep out the heat! Here in New Hampshire, it is almost always cool at night even when it is really hot during the day. In order to regulate the temperature inside your house, you can keep the windows open all night, running a box fan if you want, and then close all the windows once things heat up in the morning. Light-blocking curtains work well if you have them, but, if you don’t, tacking up your winter blankets over the windows works too. If you have the money for it, I would highly suggest weatherizing your home because it will keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and save you money too!

2. Plan your day around the sun. Adopt a siesta schedule for the summer, if you can. Don’t plan to drive anywhere, run, bike, garden, or even swim in the hottest hours of the day (between 11 and 2) if you can help it. Save these activities for the mornings and evenings when it is cooler. Swimming in the evening before bed is a great way to cool off. Our family bikes over to a local pond most hot nights to cool off.

The recipe for this delicious (and cold!) green soup includes cucumbers and purslane.

3. Set up a summer kitchen. Your fridge and your freezer are your best friends in a heat wave. And no, I don’t mean you should stand in the open door of your fridge for hours! Stock your fridge and freezer with cool drinks and snacks, like homemade popsicles, gazpacho, and sun tea. Keep your oven and stovetop powered down and choose sandwiches and cold snacks instead. You can also cook outside on the grill to keep your house cool.

4. Dress for the weather. Dress in light colored, thin clothes and tie up long hair. Invest in a wide-brimmed hat and a loose-fitting sun shirt for when you need to go out in the bright sun.

5. When the nights get really hot, camp out in the coolest place in your house. When I was a kid, we used to have an old mattress in the basement for really hot nights and my sister and I would sleep down there. Camping outside is also a great way to get away from the heat of the house. Make sure air is circulating in the room. Even a warm breeze helps when the heat is stifling.

6. If you’re desperate for some AC during the day, visit a public place already running one. Go to the library, a bookstore, a grocery store, or a restaurant or cafe to cool off (thank you COVID vaccines!). If you can, get yourself a cool drink (in a reusable cup) while you’re there or make yourself an afternoon ice coffee.

7. If you just can’t stand the heat on those 95 degree days and nothing else is working, use an energy star air conditioning unit and cool as little of your home as possible. For example, set it up in the living room and everyone can camp down there. Only run it at night if you can’t sleep and turn it off once the air outside has cooled down. And, please, don’t let it become a habit or you’ll start using it on days you don’t need it.

I hope these tricks will help you to keep cool without the AC this summer. I have lived in New Hampshire for the majority of my life and have never used an AC. I’ve certainly been hot sometimes, but I’m proud of my Yankee hardiness. Join the AC-free NH crowd now!

– Hannah

I Want to Make a Change, Where Do I Start?

I’m taking some time off this week, so thought I’d share some of our older posts that get buried in the back of the site. They all offer simple suggestions about thinking more sustainably. I always say that you don’t need to adopt an “all or nothing” philosophy in order to make a difference. By choosing even one or two of these new habits, you’ll be helping the Earth and working towards preventing climate change.

No more paper napkins! Breaking away from paper goods is so much easier than you’d expect and saves a lot of trees, water and energy.

Composting! Food waste and scraps account for about 25% of our landfill. We can easily reduce that number through developing a free and easy habit.

What’s in your lunchbox? Reduce your reliance on ziploc bags and single use plastic.

June produce is here! I was so excited to see these items at my favorite local farm,

Meat and dairy production are incredibly taxing on the Earth. Jonathan Safran Foer writes about their effect in We Are the Weather. If going fully vegetarian or vegan seems too daunting, you can still make a difference by focusing on just One Meal a Day.

Lastly, there are so many ways to stay fashionable while maintaining your Earth-friendly principles. I share a few ways that I shop for my wardrobe without sacrificing style.

Have any other suggestions? Share with us. I’ll be back next week with regular content. Happy summer! – Rachel

State of my Green(er) Yard Report

We moved into a new home a little less than a year ago. Our goal is to make as many ecological changes as we can to the yard, within reason (since we don’t own the home and need to work on a budget). I’m so inspired by friends, family, and random people on the internet who have turned their yards into sustainable and beautiful oases. With three small ones at home all year (thanks, Covid!), it’s been a bit of an uphill battle, but with summer on the horizon, I thought it was a good time to share our progress thus far.

The Square Foot Garden

Awhile back I wrote about starting a square foot garden with my daughter in one of the raised beds my husband built last fall. My daughter planted the garden with snap peas, kale, mesclun, and cauliflower first, then added chives and basil, and finally tomatoes and peppers. She mulched it with straw after she saw me mulching my big vegetable plots at the community garden. Everything in her garden is very green and happy-looking, we’ve been eating kale and greens from her garden all spring, and she has been harvesting snap peas with her little sister this week.

My daughter is very proud of having her own garden. She even eats kale salads when they come from her plot.

The Herb Garden

The herb garden in more of a work in progress than I’d like to admit. I planted a few perennial herbs last year and some came back (the lovage came back a lot stronger than I intended). I’ve also planted some basil, parsley, and hot peppers we raised from seed. I don’t have a solid plan for this bed yet, so I’m fine letting the giant sunflower that popped up have its year in the sun for now.

The herb garden is a bit wild this spring. You can see the volunteer sunflower and the giant lovage plant are taking over the near corner. We still have a couple trees and bushes to plant (the black pots) and the plants in the foreground are broccoli for my big garden.

The Pollinator Garden(s)

My big project for this spring was establishing a pollinator garden in the back of the house. This took up a big portion of my yard budget and I’m only two thirds of the way done with it because I got over-ambitious and started planting other, smaller flower gardens all over the yard (and because my husband had to remove a whole truckload of gravel from the garden area). Luckily, my mom keeps giving me pollinator-friendly plants from her many gardens, so I don’t have to buy as many myself. The main garden is still a work in progress, but I plan to buy some plants later in the summer when they are half-off to finish it up. I did this last year for my front garden and it worked pretty well.

While I’ve been hard at work on my pollinator garden, Mother Nature effortlessly made her own in the field behind our yard, which is beautiful and diverse. It was humbling and inspiring to see this come up and to remember that, if we just leave Nature to her own devices, all will be well.

Chickens

We are the proud owners of six new chicks this Spring – three Easter Eggers and three Australorps (if you’re a chicken person). We weren’t really ready for them when they arrived and have been playing catch up ever since, first needing to buy another metal tub and heat lamp (because they needed more space) and then realizing that housing chickens would require more effort than we thought. BUT, my husband is almost done with the chicken tractor and the chicks have been perfectly happy recessing outside for weeks with a tarp for a roof. We will build them a chicken coop with nesting boxes this summer. Meanwhile, the children have been loving their chicks and we are looking forward to eggs!

The Battle of Green Desert

You may have read my post a few weeks ago about how grass is the least productive and sustainable option for a yard. We are slowly working to seed dead areas of our lawn with clover, while allowing “weeds” to spread wherever they will. We are also planting trees, bushes, and flowers to convert more dead grass area. My daughter and I planted a sunflower ring in a particularly dead area and filled in the inside with clover for a soft place to sit inside the sunflowers.

What’s Next?!

Clearly we still have a lot of projects to finish. We need to plants the rest of the trees, seed more clover, finish the second half of the pollinator garden, put the second half of the roof on the chicken tractor, and build the chicken coop. Not to mention, continue planting, weeding, and harvesting the vegetable garden (here and at the community garden). I think that’s probably enough to keep us pretty busy all summer and into the fall, but I’m already dreaming about next year. A strawberry patch to go along with the blueberry bushes and raspberry bushes we planted this spring. Bees (we already bought a hive, but we didn’t build it in time).

Happy Summer!

– Hannah

Products We Use: Cleaning

True or false – a few months ago, before I started the bi-weekly cleaning of our bathrooms, I said “I’d rather be giving birth.” The answer is true. While I realize that’s dramatic, that’s how much I hate these types of chores. But I still clean because the alternative is worse. Over the years, our family has moved from a paper towel and harsh cleaner routine (think Fantastik and the like) to more sustainable options. Here are a few of the items I’ve successfully swapped:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you don’t need paper towels! If it makes you more comfortable, keep a stash somewhere in your home for emergencies like dog accidents or similar. But you don’t need to have them sitting on your counter, because that allows for mindless and excess use. My loved stack of tea towels work just as well. When I clean, I employ little microfiber cloths that I found at my local TJ Maxx. They’re not ideal – the microfibers release plastic when being washed – but still better than lots of needless trash. Not to mention that paper towels actually use a lot of water and energy to be produced, plus the cost of trees. We can do better!

For hand soap and surfaces, I like Dr Bronner’s castile soap. Our family found that DB has been much gentler and less irritating on our hands than even the “organic” brands. No more red chaffing and dry skin! This discovery saved us during the height of Covid when everyone was constantly hand washing. It also works pretty well for cleaning my house – some people prefer Sal’s Suds (which is the more “detergent” version) – and I like knowing that my home and kitchen countertops aren’t covered with toxic chemicals. If you want to avoid plastic packaging, you can also buy the bar soap version and melt it in a crockpot. Or you can make your own! For dishwasher detergent, these pods are my current favorite.

A “before” cleaning shot of my “vintage” bathroom. That Biokleen bottle is also a few years old and I constantly refill it. I haven’t purchased a new bottle of cleaner in years.

For my stove, I like using Bon Ami (the nerd in me loves that it’s called “good friend”). The ingredients are pretty simple but effective. I ultimately want to move towards less packaging, but this product is good in a pinch. If you want to make more of your own detergents, try Clean Mama. She has all types of recipes, such as oven paste (it works – I’ve tried it!) and simple glass cleaner.

The bulk section of Bona Fide. It’s grown some more since taking this photo.

Obviously bulk filling your cleaners is the best choice but it’s helpful to have some back-up options for when you can’t get to the store. I’ll have more time this summer and plan to stock-up as much as possible. Yes, it’s a little more expensive than buying what’s on sale at the supermarket but I save money in other ways. For example, as mentioned, I no longer buy paper towels!

Anything I’m missing here? What do you like? Share with us! – Rachel

PS Totally off topic, but did you hear this exciting news?

Skip the Box Pizza Delivery! Make six low-waste pizza crusts to freeze and use anytime

Pizza delivery is wasteful (the driving, the packaging) and expensive. Keep pizza easy and fun with this six crust recipe. It’s much healthier than restaurant pizza and just as good (my daughters think it’s better). Freeze five crusts and you’ll have easy dinners right at your fingertips.

Why is this pizza low waste? We buy all our ingredients for recipes we make a lot in bulk. That means the flour, yeast, sugar, beans (yes, beans), and olive oil are all either package free refills or bought in 25 or 50 pound paper bags. The beans are cooked in the pressure cooker in bulk instead of bought in cans. Add canned tomato sauce and bulk shredded cheese and you’re basically working at restaurant capacity anyway! The crusts are frozen on cookie sheets and stored in reusable ziplock bags. There is no box and no extra driving.

This recipe uses white beans to add nutrition to the recipe. You can do the same process with any recipe.

Brief Note about the recipe: You can do this same process with any pizza crust recipe. Just multiply the recipe by however many crusts you want to make and proceed accordingly. The recipe I use (which I adapted from Spilling the Beans, one of my all time favorite cookbooks) requires more effort because it involves beans, but the beans also make this recipe healthier and more filling. No one, in the ten years I’ve been using this recipe, has ever noticed there are beans in the crust. Ever.

Equipment you’ll need:

  • A BIG bowl (I use a bread bowl passed down to me from my mom)
  • A food processor, immersion blender, or high powered blender (to blend the beans)
  • A pot or Instant Pot (to cook the beans)
We refill our sugar and olive oil (not pictured because I forgot) at the Concord Coop. We also buy our flour, yeast, and beans there through their buying club. I am still working through our COVID salt, but will be buying that in bulk again soon. We also buy cornmeal in bulk.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked white beans (2 15 ounce cans)
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 6 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 7 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose or half whole wheat)
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
You can tell yeast is working when it gets foamy.

RECIPE:

  1. Cook the beans. I use an Instant Pot and cook the beans from dry in less than an hour. I always do a bunch and use them in other recipes throughout the week. You can use canned beans, of course, and skip this step.
  2. Puree the beans with 3/4 cup of the warm water until completely smooth. I use my food processor, but you could also use a high powered blender or an immersion blender.
  3. In the large bowl, stir together the rest of the water (2 1/4 cups), plus the yeast and sugar. The yeast will get foamy.
  4. Add the pureed beans to the yeast mixture along with 3 cups of the flour. Stir well.
  5. Add the olive oil and the salt and stir. Then add another 3 cups of the flour.
  6. Add the last cup and a half of flour and begin to knead the dough. Knead for ten minutes on a floured surface (kneading video below).
  7. Wash the big bowl, dry it, and coat the bottom and sides with olive oil. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Then put the dough back in the bowl in a warm place to rise for an hour.
  8. At this point, you should divide the dough into six pieces. You should keep out however many crusts you’d like to bake now and freeze the rest (see directions for freezing and baking below).
Kneading takes a bit of practice, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. Just fold over a section and push it down. Fold. Push. Fold. Push. If it gets sticky, dust with flour. Yes, this part is harder than calling for delivery, but you’ll be working your arm muscles and enjoying the smell of fresh bread at the same time. Plus, it’s a good chance to watch a show or chat with a friend.

To Bake Pizza: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil and dust it with cornmeal (so the pizza won’t stick). Stretch out a crust onto the pan and spread it with tomato sauce. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove the crust and sprinkle with cheese and other toppings. Bake for 5 minutes more or until cheese is golden brown.

To Freeze Crusts: Form extra crusts into balls and lay them on a cookie sheet. Freeze for a couple hours or overnight. Remove from cookie sheet and store in reusable ziplock bags in the freezer. When you want to have pizza, take the dough out in the morning and place in a glass tupperware with a lid. We always have pizza on Friday, so taking out the crust on Friday morning is a standard chore.

I hope this post gives you the confidence to become your own pizza delivery person! With a some upfront effort and time, you’ll save money and lower the carbon footprint of everyone’s favorite dinner.

Enjoy your pizza!

– Hannah

1000 Hours Update and Planning for Summer

As I’ve mentioned before, and could have likely predicted, we’ve lost count of our 1000 hours over here. However, like many of you, our family has been spending way more time outside now that the weather is nicer. We are gardening, nature walking, playing in the yard and pretty soon swimming at our local pool (!!!), and my guess is that we average about two hours of outside time a day. Together with the previous months, that count totals to around 270 hours for the year. I expect this amount will rise even more once school is out (we have lots of outside plans) and I am resolved to improve counting and record keeping. I would love to get a more accurate picture and back on track!

While we’re talking about summer, have you noticed how hot it’s already been in New England? I live in an old house with a whole house-fan and no central A/C. I remember touring my beloved house and being told that A/Cs aren’t really necessary in New Hampshire because we only experience a few super hot days a year. Well, it’s only the beginning of June and I feel like we’re already breaking our normal record. Here are some water conservation ideas, if we fall into a drought. That said, New Hampshire isn’t the only area that’s feeling the effects. Atlantic hurricane season kicks off on June 1, and it’s supposed to be a slightly above average hurricane season. In the Western U.S., there’s already a serious drought and elevated fire risk.

As we head into the warmer months, I also thought it would be helpful to discuss Earth-friendly supplies. Obviously we want to aim towards using more sustainable packaging – either containers that can be recycled or, even better, refilled. This goal can be tricky, however, because I know skins react differently (for example, my children have allergic responses to certain sunscreens). But if you do have some flexibility, here are some online stores where you can find Earth friendlier options: Bona Fide, Tiny Yellow Bungalow and We Fill Good. More importantly, in my opinion, you also want to use a formula that is reef safe. Not only is that standard good for the ocean, it’s also healthier for your body (titanium and zinc tend to be the safer than formulas filled with hormone-disrupting chemicals). It’s a win-win.

On the trail at Stone Hill Pond. One of my favorites from this list

If you’re looking for natural bug spray, I personally like Hazel Moon Botanicals. Others also like YaYa. Both options are made in New Hampshire, which is a great option for local Granite Staters. Need some snack ideas? Hannah and Barb have you covered. I also often get Keens and other kid outdoor wear via Kidizen.

Lastly, I could use your help – I’m looking for a natural deodorant that works and won’t stain my clothes! I’m tired of white marks all over my darker clothes (TMI? – nah, we all sweat.) Do you have a product that you like to use? Please share!

Happy summer and stay cool! – Rachel

Five Questions With Jenny Humphries of Mr Fox Composting

If you’ve been a longtime reader of GreenLifeNH, then you know I’m a strong believer in composting. Food waste accounts for a large part of landfill space and composting is a free/cheap and easy way to avoid this trash. However sometimes composting just isn’t possible due to various factors. For example, much to my dismay, I pause my practice over the winter because my tumbler gets full and my “in town” yard doesn’t have space for large scraps heap. Or maybe you’re just super busy and don’t have the energy to add a whole other chore to your life. I get it. Enter composting services. I first learned about Mr Fox via our Instagram page and they seem like a reliable and easy way to compost without having to do much of the dirty work (pun intended). Read below to learn more and let us know if you have any questions! – Rachel

1) Please tell us a little bit about Mr. Fox Composting. How did you develop this interest and service? Mr. Fox has been around for over 12 years in the NH and ME Seacoast. There was a need for composting at the time and Mr. Fox was created. From there we have continued to grow and we are growing every day. It’s wonderful to see right now specifically, composting is ‘trending’ and more and more people are understanding and wanting to find ways to help the planet!

2) What is it like to own a small business in New Hampshire? Pros? Cons?
I do not own Mr. Fox but the business is small. I am the Operations Manager and there are four drivers, our owner, and our bookkeeper! It’s really fun, we work closely and are always talking with each other throughout the day. Cons … not everyone is composting. We want everyone to compost! The easier we can make it for people to compost, the better for us!


3) Composting is an important part of protecting the Earth because it diverts food waste and other natural scraps from the landfill. What are some easy beginner tips for people who don’t know where to start? Mr. Fox makes it really easy for people. You sign up online, we deliver you a bucket with a list of approved organic waste items to toss in. Then we pick it up on a scheduled day. If you do not want to sign up for our curbside program, we work with many town Transfer Stations, a town-provided service. If you want to start with the town, I recommend getting a 5G bucket from a hardware store and designating that as your compost bin. You can then bring that to the transfer station and tip your scraps into the bins there.

4) Please tell us about your own zero-waste journey. What are some habits you’ve mastered and others you are working on? It’s ongoing, as you can imagine. Composting is so easy to do – everyone makes organic waste so it was a simple way to help the planet. Other ways I try to cut down are reusing. My household is a no-paper house, meaning I use only cloth napkins, towels, shower liner, etc. I use those and wash them instead of using paper or plastic products. I also try to focus on the idea of ‘need vs. want.’ That’s not always easy, but it does help cut down on buying unnecessary items etc.

5) Anything else you’d like to share? Composting may seem intimidating or scary to begin, but don’t let that fear stop you from trying or starting! Everyone is learning and I am always here to help answer questions big or small. We only have one Earth, so every bit helps!

My Low Waste Morning Routine

It occurred to me it might help to see how some of these low-waste behaviors fit together in a normal day, so today I’m going to share my morning routine.

Striving for a low waste lifestyle is a matter of changing small habits, products, and behaviors over time. I didn’t wake up one morning and start doing all these things at once. It’s been a process over time and some mornings I do better than others. Over time my habits have gelled and it would feel strange to do things any differently. As always, take what works for you and leave the rest for tomorrow!

Afternoon homeschool could not happen without afternoon coffee.

First, coffee! In the summer, I don’t drink hot coffee in the morning, but I always want an iced coffee later, so grinding the coffee (which I refill at the Concord Coop) while walking the dogs is always part of our morning routine (in case my husband is reading this, I want to be clear that he is often the one doing this). While the water boils for the coffee, my husband makes our low waste breakfast, while I hang the laundry I washed the night before on the clothesline or hang the diapers on the clothes rack.

Just planted a lot of new pollinator flowers, so I have to water until they get established.

If it’s been dry, I also water the vegetable garden and anything I planted recently early so that the water gets absorbed into the soil before it gets hot. Recently we’ve been putting our chicks outside at this time. It’s so cute to watch them peck around at the ants and garden scraps.

We’re homeschooling this year (that could be it’s own blog), so it’s always awhile before the kids amble down with their water bottles for their oatmeal and tea (in the summer, I often make sun tea also and let it steep on the car so the toddler doesn’t break it).  

Easy breakfast.

After breakfast, I get ready for the day, which is a pretty simple process. First, I do a quick wash with a washcloth and put on my refillable deodorant. I bought this deodorant last December at We Fill Good in Kittery and I’m loving it! It works really well and is easy to use. Next, I brush my hair with this brush from the Concord Coop and brush my teeth with this toothbrush from We Fill Good and these tooth tabs I bought at Bonafide Green Goods in Concord. I also use an organic eyeliner which I bought years ago online and hope to replace with something purchased locally someday.

Toothpaste tabs and bamboo toothbrushes. Yes, they are more expensive, but once you cut out all the unnecessary extra bathroom stuff, you end up saving money.

In case you’re worried about my hair, I wash it with a shampoo bar at night a couple times a week and let it dry overnight. I know not everyone’s hair will let them do this, but I encourage you to try it! Each time you change your routine, it’ll take time for your hair to catch up.

If you see me and I am not wearing one of these outfits, I will be impressed. 🙂

Getting dressed is really easy because I created a capsule wardrobe a few years ago and almost all my tops match almost all my bottoms. My clothes are mostly from used sources and my underwear is from Pact. I still haven’t found a great source for athletic socks.

Okay, now I’m washed, dressed, fed, and ready to homeschool my crazy children!

May’s Zero Waste Wins and Struggles

Somehow it’s May and we’re already nearing the end of the school year. It’s been quite the ride, correct? Yet the days move forward, the seasons change and I keep working on my zero-waste lifestyle in order to help the Earth. Like I always say, small actions add up to big ones. Every little bit helps, and initial nudges become regular habits. I also admit that we’re all human and can’t live this lifestyle perfectly. We’re all going to make mistakes and do things we wish we hadn’t. So I like to be transparent about my journey. This month, I had one struggle and two wins. Bad news first…

Kids have their own opinions. When my girls were younger, I bought the majority of their clothes used and via Kidizen. I would let them choose from a pre-selected lot, but was able to steer their wardrobe for the most part. However they’re growing up and want to shop at real stores where they can pick the latest fashions and clothes that are “in style.” Unfortunately, there are no more kids consignment shops in my area, so we recently visited the fast fashion shops. Sure, it was fun to have a “girls day” and treat my older daughter to new some clothes. She had a great time and I loved watching her choose and find items she loved. At the same time, there was guilt about buying all of these new clothes and how that would affect the Earth. But what now? For one, I can balance this shopping spree by being even more selective about the items I purchase for myself. If you follow us on Instagram, I’ve been sharing some new-to-me/pre-loved outfits as I rebuild my work wardrobe after a long hiatus. I will also hopefully hand the majority of these new kids clothes down to other kids I know, such as my younger daughter. If not, there are other options. Which leads me to point two….

Think Outside of the Goodwill Box. You’ve probably seen the articles that Goodwill and similar charity organizations are overfilled with items that they can’t handle. Many of these unwanted items will likely be therefore sent to the landfill. So what can you do? Look for alternate sources. For example, I recently learned that a local school in my community keeps a closet for kids who need an extra tshirt, pair of pants etc throughout the day. I then remembered that I had a bag of outgrown clothes just sitting around the house. Eventually, I was planning to send them to Goodwill (because I wasn’t sure where else to turn) but decided to bring them to this school instead. The nurse happily accepted all of the items and I know they’ll be used. Will they eventually end up at a thrift store? It’s possible, and that’s ok, but I like knowing that they will also get used and appreciated a few more times before they’re done.

Eschew the traditional roses for something more local and sustainable. For many years, I happily received fresh flowers for Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day etc. I LOVE flowers and would often treat myself to them at the store. However I recently learned about how taxing they can be the environment – even just their carbon footprint from travel – and have been trying to break the habit. For Mother’s Day, I therefore requested a plant grown by a local nursery and loved it just as much. Plus, it’ll last way longer than a bouquet of flowers. However I still also love floral arrangements and was thrilled to find local tulips at Concord Farmer’s Market last weekend. I supported a local farmer, brought some joy and beauty to my home and was gentle to the Earth. I’d call that a win!

How about you? How have you struggled and/or prevailed this month? Share with us! We’re all on this journey together. – Rachel

PS Did you hear this exciting news? Pick-up trucks are getting a makeover. Can’t wait to see these new beauties popping up all over NH!

The Battle of Green Desert has begun

It’s time to man your battle stations against the most insidious enemy you never knew you had. It’s time to stop aiding and abetting the enemy. Don’t let the Green Desert continue to spread across New Hampshire. Seize the Day!

The good news is this may be the easiest battle you’ve ever fought because all you need to do is put down your weapons and let Nature take her course. Well, to start with.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the Green Desert is your own lawn – our lawns – those great expanses of unnaturally uniform and unwelcoming grass. Not only does the creation of a lawn deprive animals, birds, and insects of their natural habitat and food source, but lawns also use up a ton of resources, including water, to create and maintain and, if you are using fertilizer, actually degrade the surrounding land and water.

Have you ever wondered why we have such an obsession with lawns? The answer goes back to the Middle Ages when aristocracy started growing patches of grass in front of their castles. Since then, lawns were mostly a status symbol to send the message: “I have extra time, money, and resources and can care for this totally useless patch of grass instead of useful crops like food”. Do you want to be part of that nonsense?!

Who could hate this beautiful flower?! Not pollinators, that’s for sure.

Enter the Battle of Green Desert. It’s time to put some sense back into our land use. Am I saying let your whole yard go back to nature? No. I know it’s nice to sit outside without the danger of ticks crawling up your legs. But smaller, more reasonable lawns (hopefully covered in more ecologically friendly plants) would be a major step in the right direction.

Personally, I am only on Year One of a multi-year battle here. We just moved into a new home and, unfortunately, it doesn’t belong to us, so I have limited autonomy about my choices, but I will share my plan and I hope you will go a step (or ten) further). Here are two really useful articles about how to landscape with native plants and how to give your yard back to nature.

My Battle Strategy

As I said, I can’t entirely give my yard back to nature, since it doesn’t belong to me, but I have three plans to fight the Green Desert in smaller ways.

First, I am letting the dandelions, violets, and clover plants live. I don’t understand why everyone seems to hate these poor “weeds” so much. Personally, I think they are much prettier than grass AND they are food for insects and animals. This is the easiest part of my strategy. 🙂

This is what most of my lawn looks like. Dead, dry grass with living, lush weeds. I’m working on digging up the dead areas and planting them with clover and islands of native plants.

Second, my side yard and part of my back yard are pretty much dead because I don’t water them (why would I water grass when I have actual vegetable and pollinator gardens to water?!), so I am slowly digging up the dead grass and planting clover instead. Clover is more ecologically friendly because it provides food for pollinators and is more drought tolerant. It’s slow going, but I’m not in a huge hurry. If you don’t prefer to do things the hard way, you could definitely get a company to come in an seed your yard with clover. Or, if your yard is not as dead as mine, just patch in clover here and there. The pollinators will thank you.

As I did up the dead lawn to plant the clover, I am leaving the dandelions, violets, clovers, and wild strawberries because they do so well in this dry soil.

Third, I am taking over corners and islands of lawn here and there and turning them into pollinator and food gardens. In some places, this includes building raised beds, but in others it means planting trees and bushes with bulbs, native plants, and mulch around them. By taking back small areas of the lawn, I am making the area more hospitable to native species and less water intensive.

We recently bought several blueberry and elderberry bushes, apple trees, and a butterfly bush. I intend to create tree guilds around these to mimic natural forest systems and provide food for animals (and for us!). While this is definitely a bigger project, the returns will far outweigh the time and effort it will take this spring.

Still waiting to get in the ground, but the chicken tractor (wood pictured in the back) is taking priority this week because the chicks are getting too big for their basement home.

I hope reading about my battle plan is helpful to you. Everyone has a different situation, of course, but making small changes (even just leaving the dandelions) will make a big difference if we all go to war together. Make sure you’re fighting for the right team!

Sneak peak at my pollinator garden (in an area formally covered in gravel). It’s clearly still a work in progress, but will hopefully grow up to be a lush and beautiful flower garden. I will post on the process once I’m done (you can still see the gravel needs to be moved in the back).

– Hannah

What is your battle strategy?