We love bats June 11, 2008
After a side discussion in Comments about bats, I’ve been searching the Bat Conservation International site for more information about how great bats are, how they help us, and how we can help them. Essentially, bats are pretty harmless to humans, but they eat a lot of bugs that make us sick, eat our food, or kill us (think West Nile Virus). So, bats are great! They eat what we want them to eat, and otherwise leave us alone.
Baby bats are called pups. Females have one pup per year – that’s a pretty low reproductive rate.
Bats live over 30 years, making them the longest living mammal for their size.
Bats and birds are not related.
One way to help bats is to build or put up a bat house to provide them shelter during the day so they can eat bugs at night. The best place to put a bat house is on a building or a pole, not on a tree.
In the United States, little brown bats often eat mosquitos and can catch up to 1,200 tiny insects in an hour. An average-sized colony of big brown bats can eat enough cucumber beetles to protect farmers from tens of millions of the beetle’s rootworm larva each summer. Large colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats eat hundreds of tons of moth pests weekly.
The biggest problem is human fear.
Another big problem for bats involves some of the things we do to the places where bats live. We spray a lot of chemicals, which are dangerous. Bugs are sprayed by the chemicals, and then the bats eat the chemical-coated bugs.
And, windmills are posing a problem for bats. As we strive to find renewable energy, we must remember to not harm other species in the process. (remember though, pollution from our gas-cars harm uncountable numbers of animals) The Bats and Wind Energy Consortium has joined together with energy innovators to find solutions. The Oregon Wind Turbine (below) is safe for birds and bats.
Recently, scientists have discovered White Nose Syndrome among bats in the North East. They don’t know the cause, but the mortality rate is 95%.
We should do what we can to help animals like bats. Without knowing, we depend on others for our survival, so it’s in our interest to keep them safe.
Aeros Recycle June 4, 2008
The Akron Aeros are encouraging fans to recycle this season! You can recycle aluminum cans and plastic bottles at the Canal Park Stadium, in partnership with Summit Akron Solid Waste Management Authority (SASWMA), the city of Akron and the Portage County Solid Waste Management District.
Many sports teams are taking the lead on reducing our impact on the planet. Stadiums across the country have added solar panels to provide power to themselves and the surrounding community.
Next time you’re at a game, check out what efforts have been taken to be environmentally responsible.
Mosquitoes June 2, 2008
With summer comes mosquitoes. I seem to get bit just thinking about them. So, here are a few tips to keep your yard and your body mosquito free:
- spray your yard – grass, trees, plants – with garlic oil. It should repel them for up to 4 weeks.
- keep your dog on heartworm medicine. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes!
- remove all shallow standing water – dog dishes, tires, etc.
- keep bird baths fresh
- line your gutters with gutter-guards. You can do it yourself with supplies from the local hardware store.
- rake those leaves – mosquitoes love piles of damp leaves
- stay in the sun – mosquitoes seem to only bite when you’re in the shade.
Instead of stinky mosquito repellent with harmful deet, we use a mixture of lavender oil and water. It’s so refreshing, and it really works. Other sprays that probably work are eucalyptus oil and lemon oil. You can get essential oils in the “healthy” section of most grocery stores, or in some specialty stores. We mix up a little bottle about 10 drops of lavender oil and 4 oz. of water.
Farmers Markets Coming Soon! May 29, 2008
It’s almost Farmers Market season, and I’m ready for it! I can’t wait to scoot down to Lock 3 to pick up some fresh, local peppers for dinner, and some juicy tomatoes (while I wait for mine to ripen).
The Akron Beacon Journal has a great write-up of Farmers Markets in the 5-county area. The first one opens in Peninsula on May 31.
Here are some benefits of local food (from an earlier post):
Local food is so important to our health and the health of the planet. If you buy from a farmer, you can ask him/her how your food was grown. Many small farms grow organic food, but they don’t go through the process of becoming certified organic. The FDA’s rules are less and less strict about what can be put in food and still label it organic, so it’s nice to talk to the person who grows the food to find out how they grew it.
Local food also travels fewer miles, making it fresher, and generating less pollution.
Don’t miss Ohio’s great local food! And, as the Beacon suggests, hide some in the freezer, as food prices will continue to rise.
A note about organic food:
A lot of articles are floating the web about what is the best food to buy organic, and which ones you don’t really need to bother with. They suggest the more porous fruits should be organic, and stuff with a good skin or shell don’t necessarily have any benefit to being organic. While that’s true for your health’s sake, here’s my opinion… the people who pick our fruits and vegetables are exposed to the pesticides in much greater numbers that we are by eating just one piece of fruit or vegetable. So, when deciding which foods to buy organic, remember the health of the workers. Organic, pesticide-free food is healthier for you, and for the workers. The best bet… buy local food.
Test Drives May 27, 2008
I’d prefer to talk about what other people are doing to reduce their impact on the planet, but I think lots of people are interested in the fuel efficient cars. So, here’s my review of a few cars.
After careful consideration of our Car Math, my husband and I decided that it’s time to replace the Suzuki. It’s been a great car, and I recommend it to someone who needs to haul stuff. However, it’s unnecessarily big for us, and frankly it uses too much gas. Saturday afternoon, we headed up to the Bedford Automile to drive the Smart ForTwo, and the Toyota Yaris. (The Honda Fit is just outside our price range, but another great alternative.) Committed to not driving an automatic, we set out. First stop… Smart.
The Smart ForTwo was fun to drive. It has a “manual automatic” transmission, which means you can drive the same car as an automatic, or as a clutchless manual. The manual option consists of pushing the gear shifter up for higher gears and down to lower the gear. (not instinctive for a traditional manual driver, for whom 2nd is down) Two models also have paddles on the steering wheel for “shifting.” As I mentioned, you can also drive it as an automatic. The compactness is very practical for city driving. Most cars only have 1 passenger, so again, the Smart makes a lot of sense. It’s also very roomy. Some test drives show a 6 ft man fitting comfortably in the car – even moving the seat forward. The bad thing is that you feel every bump, which I’m used to on the scooter, so no big deal. My husband really liked it. But, I like the traditional clutch-manual transmission. Plus, for the same amount of money, the Yaris is only 4 mpg less efficient, and still seats 5. So… on to the Yaris.
The Toyota Yaris was great. It handles nicely, and the engine is quiet. The best thing is that it’s really big and roomy inside. I doubt I’ll ever put someone in the back seat, but if I did, there’s plenty of space. It has compartments and cup holders to spare! You could fit everything in there. The weird thing is the instrument panel is in the middle of the dash “in line with the rearview mirror,” as the sales person reminded me. Still, it’s not intuitive. I would say that it makes you really pay attention to how the car feels to determine when you should shift. So far, the Yaris is the winner. Just for fun, we drove the Scion xD.
The Scion xD was so awesome! The clutch was smooth and so fun to drive. Unfortunately, it was also just out of our price range, and too big for me. It can also have a lot of customizations. If you’re looking for a fun stick shift with good gas mileage, drive the xD.
My vote is for the Yaris. It’s a fun little car! It’s actually not that little. Why doesn’t anyone make a little car anymore? It’s short – nose to bumper – but it’s taller than the Civic. Check out FuelEconomy.gov to see gas mileage and EPA ratings.
All the Way Home May 24, 2008
All the Way Home: Raising a Family in a Falling Down House comes out on Tuesday, My 27. This must-read by David Giffels is about his family’s restored Tudor home. David writes about the process of starting a family in Akron, and finding their dream home – a falling down house on Portage Path – and rebuilding it. Don’t miss it!
I love the way David salvaged so many materials for their home. The Giffels’ see beauty in other people’s discarded bricks, railroad ties, and other building materials, and turn them into treasures. Reuse to the max!
Here is an early press schedule:
Tuesday, May 27: Release date for All the Way Home, on sale wherever books are sold.
Wednesday, May 28: Live appearance on the CBS ‘Early Show,’ time TBD.
Saturday, May 31: Feature story and book excerpt in the Akron Beacon Journal.
Monday, June 2: Feature in the June issue of Northern Ohio LIVE
Monday, June 2: Live interview on WCPN 90.3 FM ‘Sound of Ideas,’ 9-9:30 a.m.
Tuesday, June 3: Live interview on WAKR 1590 AM, with Ray Horner and Bob Ethington, 8 to 9 a.m.
Wednesday, June 4: ‘Official’ book launch at Akron-Summit County Library, Main downtown branch, in the auditorium with talk, reading, Q&A and book signing. Books will be available for sale. Begins at 7 p.m.
Video Friday: George Carlin’s Story of Stuff May 23, 2008
I love the Story of Stuff. George Carlin presents basically the same point… we need less stuff!
Beware – Carlin isn’t shy with words.
Make your own biodiesel, and convert your car! May 22, 2008
Disclaimer: this post is for people who don’t want to buy gas anymore.
Visit Instructables.com for detailed how-to’s on converting your diesel car to biodiesel. Diesel cars are more efficient than conventional gas to begin with. Unfortunately, they’re rare and hard to find. Check cars.com and craigslist.org for a listing of cars in your area. The good news is that VW will begin selling diesel Jettas and Rabbits (or Golfs) in the US soon. So, find yourself a diesel car, and check out these fantastic how-to’s.
Convert your car to biodiesel. Yes, a small conversion is necessary. Vegetable oil will harden in the cold, so you can add elements to run the car on diesel until it warms up and then switch to the vegetable oil, or warm the veggie oil tank so it stays in liquid form.
Make your own biodiesel processor. A small amount of processing is necessary – simply to remove food particles from the used vegetable oil. For the time and energy used, it’s well worth it.
Finally, how to make your own biodiesel. Easy as pie. No more gas!!
If you do any of these things, please keep us posted. It just makes so much sense to reuse vegetable oil and run your car with it. Diesel engines were invented to run on vegetable oil.