Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pasture Rose

Not sure who is going to get these rose hips first, my mom or the birds. I originally planted this native rose for the birds but soon after, my mother discovered the health benefits of consuming rose hips herself and now pesters me each year to harvest them for her. Last year I sent her my entire supply but luckily this year I have a bumper crop and figure that there are at least 700 hips on my 7 plants...more than enough to feed the birds and my mom. These rose plants go by the name Rosa Carolina- also known as Pasture Rose and are listed by the Wild Ones as one of the best winter berry producing native plants for birds.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dreaming of Outdoor Line Drying in the Winter...

It dawned sunny, dry, and windy today and I didn't let the high of 32 degrees prevent me from hanging two loads of laundry outside to dry. I figured I needed to experiment and see if the whole idea of sublimation was true. Sublimation is the process where clothing hung on a clothesline in below freezing weather will go from wet to dry by releasing frozen water vapor. Would my clothing dry after four hours outdoors on what would typically be a great day for drying if it wasn't for the fact that it was the end of December and below freezing? According to the process of sublimation, it should.

Now that the experiment is over, I can say that the extremely light weight clothing, the stuff that practically feels dry when you remove it from the washing maching, did dry. So did the men's cotton business shirts. The rest of it was wet and frozen stiff. It was actually kind of cool. I could remove the clothespins from the clothing and the clothing didn't fall off of the line because it was frozen in place. Hating to remove the board stiff clothing and rehang it indoors, I decided to leave it out overnight and hope that it would dry in the early part of the day tomorrow. We are supposed to reach 41 degrees and it will all dry in the morning. Because of the promising weather, dare I try and get a few more loads hung out after that?

You may wonder why I put myself through hanging my laundry outside and dealing with the possibility of it freezing and such. Why not just hang it inside you may think. Well, I really don't enjoy hanging my clothes up inside the house. It feels so much more like work. I guess that it just suits me better to be outside, feeling the sun and wind and watching my dog explore the yard. Plus you can't beat how clothes smell when they come in off of the line. It is especially good in the cold weather when the clothing hung outdoors brings the fresh smell of winter indoors.

All of the posts that discuss my experiences with outdoor line drying can be found by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A good reason to buy a snowblower...

I have resisted owning a snowblower my entire life and preferred the quiet solitude along with beneficial exercise that comes from hand shoveling my driveway. Through winters in Colorado high country and now Illinois, I have had this philosophy and it has served me well. But this December here in Chicago, where we have already received 22" of snow, I am not finding snow shoveling to be as much fun. I have spent many hours over the last few days digging digging digging myself out and it is still snowing as I type this.

It has not gone unnoticed by me that my snowblower owning neighbors are able to spend more time sitting by their fire or singing carols around their piano, than communing with their snow shovel on the driveway. They are decked in their Christmas sweaters and gathered around their table as I bundle up for yet another go at shoveling. The snowblowing folks spend a fraction of their time outside, zipping up and down for a few passes and then pop back inside. They spend so little time outdoors, they could almost complete the job while brewing a single cup of coffee if need be.

This may be the year that I need to invest in a snowblower. I can think of a million reasons why it would be a good idea to own one. But something nags at me. The resources used to build it and then the energy used to power it. Also, my trusty shovel never breaks down or needs to be repaired. It is quiet and doesn't send wafts of gasoline smell all over the neighborhood. Just like you don't need a clothes dryer to dry your clothes, you don't need a snowblower to clear your driveway. No matter how great the want feels, you really don't need something if you can do the job without it. It all works out. Expending my own personal energy to hang clothes or shovel the drive gives me a greater level of fitness than simply letting machines do all the work.

I need to remind myself that it really does feel good to spend time outdoors in the cold. Pushing the snow across the drive, lifting and tossing it into a growing pile. Finishing the job gives me a great sense of accomplishment, and a warm cup of coffee afterwards makes a great reward. I will hold off on the purchase until I am old and 80. Maybe then, I will purchase one. On second thought, maybe by then, with global warming, it won't be necessary. Funny to think how if I were to purchase a snowblower today with its belching of carbon dioxide, that I would simply be helping the process of global warming along, and essentially helping to cause the obsolescence of the snowblower...and ourselves too I suppose..

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Wonderland

With it just a few days past the winter solstice, it didn't take long for the cold temperatures and snow to really kick in. We had brutal cold over the weekend with a high of -3 on Sunday. Today it is snowing with about 3-5" expected. Above is a view from my front door with snowflakes filling the air.
The snow is even making it hard to count the birds at my feeders. I participate in Project Feeder Watch through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology by monitoring and reporting the number and kinds of birds that visit my backyard.
I have got to get out and put more seed in my feeders so that it doesn't run out. Even though birds are adapted to surviving winter weather without human intervention, I fear that I have conditioned them to rely on my seed. Speaking of winter survival for birds, I have picked up a book called "Winter World, the Ingenuity of Animal Survival" by Bernd Heinrich. This book has gotten good reviews from Amazon and I am looking forward to starting it just after I finish shoveling the driveway this afternoon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Day

When schools are closed like they were today due to snow, the neighborhood kids are out in force, making forts, throwing snowballs, and sledding.
I love watching all of the different ways that kids interact with snow. Laying in it making snow angels, digging it, sliding on it, marching in it, tasting it, packing it, totally interacting, immersing themselves in this wonderful gift from the sky.

On days like this, there are few children left inside, and I am hopeful that these snow experiences will help to foster a connection to the joys of nature for our children.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One good reason to have a clothes dryer...

I wondered when not having a dryer was going to get me and it came this past Saturday. My son and his friends had been playing outside in the snow and had come inside to warm up. As I started to make them some hot chocolate, they began to strip off their wet snowpants and coats and gloves. Without thinking I started to say, "throw those things in the dryer...". Suddenly I remembered that while I could warm them up with hot chocolate, no longer having a working dryer meant I would not be able to dry and warm up their snow gear. Unlike years past when it felt good to send them back outside with both their gear and bodies warmed, this year I would have to send them back out into the snow with everything soaking wet and cold. YUCK! It was enough to make me want a dryer for Christmas.

Well, my son and his friends have been in and out of the house many times refueling on hot chocolate since last weekend and so far they don't seem to mind that I can't warm up their clothing with a dryer when they stop in. If I can just get myself to feel O.K. with it, then I can get past this desire to buy a dryer. Unfortunately, it is the little things like this, the desire for perceived comfort that generates the want, which results in the purchase. Wish me luck in staying strong.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Goodbye dryer for good!

As winter approached, I wondered if it was really going to be possible to manage without a dryer. From what I have read from other folks experiences, winter line drying has meant stringing lines in the basement or drying things outdoors in the cold and finishing them off indoors while draped over furniture. Because my washing machine is located on the first floor, walking my wet clothing down into the basement to dry on lines seemed like a lot of extra work and I knew once I got it down there, I would never be inclined to retrieve it.

My outdoor line that I used when the weather was warmer, was just steps from the laundry room which made the drying job simple and possible. I think the key as I move my drying operation indoors for the winter is to continue to keep things simple and enjoyable. Then
I will never be tempted to fall back on the dryer.

Last week, I figured out a way to hang two loads in my 8x8 laundry room but sometimes it is necessary for me to do the weekly washing of three loads in one day. Well this afternoon, I hung my entire weeks wash up by stringing an additional line across the room and more efficiently hanging the shorter items from a wire shelf that runs above the washer and dryer. Now I feel like I have mastered the art of winter drying and don't think that I will ever have a need for a dryer again.

Goodbye dryer...for good!!!
All of my experiences with line drying outdoors can be found by clicking here.