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I wanted to share my spring project with everyone through the blog. I'm in the process of building 2 new raised beds on what has always been my large grassy lawn. I have always planted a garden to grow vegetables in a plot next to my house. I've done pretty well with that plot but last year I decided that the sunniest part of the yard should be tapped for more garden both to grow more vegetables and to reduce the amount of space that was covered by otherwise unproductive grass.
I'm now putting my plans into action. The plan is to add 2 4X8 foot raised beds. I've purchased the lumber (18 4X4 by 8 ft. untreated fir fence posts) and I've also ordered a Juliana Mini 3 green house for my seedlings, etc. I'm also going to setup a composter which is something I've also been meaning to do for some time now. I'm planning on using the "Square Foot Garden" method. (I'll provide a link to the site shortly). This method uses a amixture of 1/3 each compost, vermiculite, and peat. There's no "soil" involved. This method divides the garden into 1 foot squares rather than planting in rows.
As I build my beds and greenhouse I will post pictures and more details about what I'm learning along the way.
Stay tuned for more details....
Lots of progress to report. I've now purchased all of the materials and constructed my raised beds. I purchased 4"X4"X16' fir fence poasts for the beds. I got the lumber at Cambridge Lumber. For the amount of lumber I purchased delivery was free.
I purchased corner brackets and mending plates to connect the lengths of fir together to form my two 4'X8'X1' boxes. I treated the wood with pure tung oil combined in equal parts with citrus solvent to help it penetrate the wood and dry more quickly. The coats dried in a few hours.
I purchased peat, vermiculite (coarse), and 5 varieties of compost to start things off. These three ingredients get mixed 1/3 each to product the growing medium. I put a layer of cardboard in the bottom of the boxes to kill the grass and weeds while letting the water drain through the bottom when saturated.
I used eyelets to connect nylon chord to mark the 1'X1' squares (square foot gardening) and planted my first bunch of plants. I will be getting the second box into production this weekend.
The boxes cost about $150 per for the materials. The soil mix cost quite a bit as well and I will add some details when I get a chance along with pictures.
I haven't had a chance to dive into the other piece of this project which is to assemble the leanto style greenhouse that I am putting on the side of my house.
In the meantime, I also decided to replace my traditional lawn with a "no-mow" lawn of fescu grasses....I'll write another blog on this as I get going on it. The basic idea is that the new grass will be over-spread on top of the current lawn. The fescue grasses will crowd out the old grass and the weeds. It will provide a nice looking and feeling lawn but require very little water and no mowing!
This past fall, we had a pellet stove installed and we really like it. It’s an insert to our fireplace that burns small pellets made of compressed sawdust. It heats the living room and most of the downstairs very well. We still use our regular furnace and radiators, mainly for heating upstairs. But if you leave the stove running for several hours it does a pretty good job of heating the whole house.
We bought the pellet stove from Energy Unlimited in Wayland. I also expect that we’ll be buying fuel from them.
So far this year, the stove has been our primary heat source although we do use our gas furnace regularly. Our bills and gas consumption have gone down significantly– on the order of 30%. Of course, we’ve had to pay for pellet fuel which cost $300 for a ton and $50 for delivery.
We keep up the pallet in the our garage because the pellets need to stay dry. We’ve burned through the first ton and are ordering a second ton now.
In terms of labor, you have to carry the 40-pound bags of pellets in from outside, obviously, and pour them into the stove from the top. We have been emptying the ashes out every two weeks and using a vacuum to clean it out thoroughly. We throw the ashes on the compost. We’ll also have to get the chimney checked regularly and the stove cleaned professionally.
My biggest concern with the stove so far is getting the fuel. Pellets were not available around here last winter. And getting a second delivery from our supplier has been delayed a couple of times. Places like Home Depot also sell pellets, so that’s another option. I’m told that getting high-quality pellets are important.
The stove itself cost about $2200. Altogether, the stove, installation, and delivery of ton of pellets costs over $3000.
It gives off a dry heat, blown out with the fan and it’s really nice having a fire going. Before we rarely used the fireplace, because it was so wasteful, heat-wise. You can’t smell smoke outside when the stove is burning like you can when you burn wood in a fireplace.
In theory, wood pellets are a renewable resource, although I don’t know about ours for sure. We get them from a lumber company which has set up a subsidiary to make pellets from its sawdust. In general, it seems environmentalist give pellet stoves good marks as a heating option.
Thomas L. Friedman has hit many nails on the head in his analysis of what this country needs to do to deal with global warming, population growth, and the expansion of the world's middle class. This book is the current selection of the Arlington Democratic Town Committee Book Group. All are welcome to attend the discussion of Hot, Flat, and Crowded on Sun., Jan. 4, from 3 to 5 at Ken Larsen's house at 4 Frost Street. Please contact Ken at 648-5332 if you have any questions.
Here's my favorite review of what I feel is an essential-to-read book.
-- David Landskov
from Washington Post|September 7,2008
A Climate for Change
Tom Friedman says Americans can prosper by "outgreening" everyone else.
Reviewed by Joseph S. Nye Jr
Sunday, September 7, 2008; Page BW03
HOT, FLAT, AND CROWDED
Why We Need a Green Revolution -- And How It Can Renew America
The peripatetic columnist has made himself a major interpreter of the confusing world we inhabit. He travels to the farthest reaches, interviews everyone from peasants to chief executives and expresses big ideas in clear and memorable prose. While pettifogging academics (a select few of whom he favors) complain that his catchy phrases and anecdotes sometimes obscure deeper analysis, by and large Friedman gets the big issues right.
Almost a decade ago, in The Lexus and the Olive Tree, he celebrated the arrival of "globalization." Three years ago, in The World is Flat, he warned that borders, oceans and distance no longer protect us from the information revolution that is leveling the global economic playing field and relocating our jobs. Now he updates and expands this diagnosis by showing how population growth, climate change and the expansion of the world's middle class are producing a planet that is "hot, flat, and crowded." Unchecked, these trends will produce dangerous instability; but Friedman remains guardedly optimistic that we can stave off this nightmare, particularly if the United States changes its wasteful energy habits. In this important book, Friedman says we can survive, even prosper, by going green.
Of course, rousing a full-bellied nation, groggy from decades of energy overconsumption, is no small task. As the current election debate reminds us, the United States has proven inept at developing a serious energy strategy. Our approach, says one expert quoted by Friedman, is "the sum of all lobbies"; we have energy politics rather than energy policy. In the aftermath of 9/11, George W. Bush ignored calls by Friedman and others for a "USA Patriot Tax" of $1 per gallon on gasoline. Instead, the president offered tax cuts and urged us to shop. Rather than stimulating the economy to move toward fuel-efficient vehicles and renewable energy, we became more dependent on China to finance our deficit and Saudi Arabia to fill our gas tanks. Americans wound up paying even more for gas in 2008, but we enabled OPEC to be the tax collector instead of using the revenues ourselves. Friedman calls this a "No Mullah Left Behind" policy and quotes former CIA director Jim Woolsey: "We are funding the rope for the hanging of ourselves."
Friedman believes we need to become "green hawks," turning conservation and cleaner energy into a winning strategy in many different arenas, including the military. ("Nothing," he writes, "will make you a believer in distributed solar power faster than having responsibility for trucking fuel across Iraq.") We should stop defining our current era as "post-Cold War," he says, and see it as an "Energy-Climate Era" marked by five major problems: growing demand for scarcer supplies, massive transfer of wealth to petrodictators, disruptive climate change, poor have-nots falling behind, and an accelerating loss of bio-diversity. A green strategy is not simply about generating electric power, it is a new way of generating national power.
Incremental change will not be enough. The three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New York Times scoffs at the kind of magazine articles that list "205 Easy Ways to Save the Earth." In the 1990s, global carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.1 percent annually, and many nations (not including the United States) signed the Kyoto Protocol to try to curb those emissions. But from 2000 to 2006, growth in CO2emissions tripled to 3 percent per year.
Friedman cites an estimate by Royal Dutch Shell that it typically takes 25 years for a new form of energy to capture 1 percent of the world market. Shell predicts that if we do things right, renewable energy will provide 30 percent of global needs by 2050, but fossil fuels will still provide 55 percent. Friedman says we need to do better than that. "Carbon neutral" is not ambitious enough; companies and institutions should seek a "carbon advantage" over rivals. This will require innovations in clean energy; greater energy efficiency (including the use of information technology to create smart grids and smart buildings); and a new ethic of conservation. Friedman argues that rather than costing too much, such initiatives can create investment opportunities, new jobs and global leadership for the U.S. economy. Here one wishes he had provided more evidence from some of the pettifogging academic economists.
Friedman is skeptical of treaties, and he argues that "a truly green America would be more valuable than fifty Kyoto Protocols. Emulation is always more effective than compulsion." He makes a good case that "outgreening" other countries would contribute to America's soft power as well as our hard power. "We are still the city on the hill for many Chinese," he notes, "even though they hate what we've done at times at the top of the hill." But the problem of China could overshadow what we do at home. In 2007, China surpassed the United States as the world's leading emitter of carbon dioxide. Chinese argue that on a per capita basis each of their citizens is responsible for only one-fifth the emissions of an American, and that developing countries should not have to cut back until they reach rich countries' CO2levels. This is a formula for global disaster. As Friedman says, "Mother Nature isn't into fair. All she knows is hard science and raw math."
China uses coal, a particularly CO2-intensive fuel, for 70 percent of its commercial energy supply, while coal accounts for a third of America's total energy. China builds more than one new coal-fired power plant each week. Coal is cheap and widely available in China, which is important as the country scrambles for energy resources to keep its many energy-intensive industries running. But Friedman does not deal with the issue of cleaner coal in China, and no amount of renewable energy in America will solve the problem. At the rate China is growing, a Chinese switch to renewables will come too late.
What can the United States do about this security threat? The bombs, bullets and embargos of traditional security policy are irrelevant. A 2007 report from the International Energy Agency urged a cooperative approach to helping China and India become more energy efficient. In other words, to promote our own security, the United States and other rich countries may have to forge a partnership with China, India and others to develop a full range of creative ideas, technologies and policies to prevent dangerous climate change. This requires a reframing of what we think of as national security and a more inclusive strategy than we have had in the past. If we finally move in that direction, Friedman will deserve some of the credit. ·
Joseph S. Nye Jr. is University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard and author, most recently, of "The Powers to Lead."