Thursday, 22 May 2014

30 x 30 Nature Challenge: Week Three

I am partipating in the David Suzuki Foundation 30 x 30 Nature Challenge, to get outside in nature for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. To read how I did in weeks one and two, click here.

This week was a very busy one and I found it challenging to get outside and spend meaningful time in nature every day. On a few days it only amounted to watering my garden. However, I more than made up for it on others days when I binged on time outside, either at the beach, at the park, going on a bike ride or doing some serious gardening.

I generally don't have difficulties getting outside in the spring because of my love of gardening and the hours that my backyard vegetable garden requires. However, there are times when I just don't feel like getting off the couch, especially after a long, stressful day at work. The 30 x 30 Challenge has been a good fit for me because I feel some accountability to get up and get going.

Take today for instance; it was my day off and I just wanted to sit, do some knitting and maybe catch up on the internet. The sun was struggling to get out from behind the clouds and it wasn't particularly warm in the morning. I dutifully watered my garden and sat down on the couch. Luckily I had mentioned to my youngest daughter last night that I wanted to take her on a bike ride to a park to see ducks and rabbits, and she was quick to remind me of this when she saw me getting comfortable in the Mama-Do-Nothing spot. I would have been tempted to redirect her to some other activity if I hadn't signed up for the challenge and for this I am grateful. We had a nice morning riding the bike for an hour and spending time exploring around Minoru Park.

I have yet to try geocaching! Must do this last week so I can say I met all my 30 x 30 goals.

Here is my third week in photos:

One way I enjoy being in nature is taking photos. I don't have a fancy
DSLR camera unfortunately, but I think my iPhone does a nice job.
I love taking macro photos of my garden with my Olloclip lens.

My girls love to play at the beach and it is always a battle to get
them to leave. 

This is my "naturehood" where the Fraser River meets the Gulf of Georgia.

Normally May is a wet month here on the west coast, and the weather
keeps threatening rain, but we have been blessed with picture perfect
days. The iffy days just make for stunning cloud photo moments.

No matter how many hours I spend in my backyard I can still be surprised
by what I find. In a little used corner I found some volunteer poppies.

Britannia Heritage Shipyards, full of history of Steveston's fishing and
pioneer past, is along my running route. I love this old tree and always
stop to take in the view of the local swans nesting here. 

I challenged myself to ride my bike to Minoru Park in the city centre today.
My four year old and I were thrilled to watch, from a safe distance, these
goslings with their mother.

Join me in the 30 x 30 Nature Challenge here.

Follow my progress with the 30 x 30 Nature Challenge here.

And follow my fellow Green Phone Boothers who are also participating:

Friday, 16 May 2014

Week Two: 30 x 30 Nature Challenge

I have completed the second week of the David Suzuki NatureChallenge to get outside, preferably in nature, for at least 30 minutes a day for 30 days in May. Last week was a resounding success and I was highly motivated to get outside for over twelve hours, by biking, gardening, walking to school and playing at the beach.

This week was more challenging to get outside. It rained on and off for a few days this week, so I had to dash out into the garden in between rain showers. Then, at the end of Mother’s Day three of us got a stomach bug, which limited our ability to do much outside for the rest of the week.

Next week I hope to increase our time spent in more natural settings, by water and amongst trees, and to hopefully finally give geocaching a try.

Some Positives to being motivated to get outside each day: 
  • I am not just task oriented when I spend time outside gardening. Much of my time is spent just observing. I love sitting in one spot and watching the goings and comings of the insects and birds around me. It is amazing how busy nature can be.
  • My mood improves after being outside, particularly if the time is spent being active.
  • I have more daytime energy to get things done.
  • I am naturally a night owl, and I have a bad habit of staying up too late and regretting it the next day. For the last two weeks I have been more tired and ready for sleep.
  • My television viewing is generally limited to a few favourite shows that I catch up on in the evening. Because I am more tired, I have not been watching as much television. 
  • I am up-to-date with gardening tasks, which is a first for me. On more than one occasion it crossed my mind to procrastinate, but then I remembered that I needed to get outside for the challenge. This week I planted the second round of carrot seeds, thinned more beet and turnip seeds to give the stronger plants a chance to grow, transplanted my tomato seedlings, and started the sisyphean task of weeding. 

Here is my second week in photos:

This is where I spent the majority of my time outside this week:
my backyard garden.

Along with gardening chores, I am now spending time wandering around
my garden beds looking for food to harvest. This is kale and rhubarb.

My youngest daughter enjoyed watching the dragonflies and noticed this
one land on our fence for a rest. We spend over 10 minutes observing it.

I have let my kale go to seed, and in addition to the benefit of seed
collecting, I have been fascinated with all the pollinators the bright
yellow flowers have attracted to my yard. The plants are humming
with bees.

For Mother's Day I like going on outdoor adventures with my family.
This year we went to Fort Langley and learned about a
piece of our province's past. My girls' favourite part of the day was
panning for gold. 

I have been walking to swimming lessons with my class each day,
and I always enjoy the landscaping around city hall, especially these irises.

My favourite part of gardening is sitting and just observing. I even grabbed
a few minutes to put up my feet and have a coffee one morning.

By the end of this week everyone was feeling better and I managed to get
back on my bike to go shopping and meet a friend for coffee. I took my
favourite route home past Britannia Heritage Shipyards on the banks
of the Fraser River. 

Join me in the 30 x 30 Nature Challenge here.

Follow my progress with the 30 x 30 Nature Challenge here.

And follow my fellow Green Phone Boothers who are also participating:

Egg Shells for Tomatoes

As my Green Phone Booth name suggests, I love composting. But there is one item that I never put into my backyard compost bin; egg shells

We save every single egg shell that we generate and now I have a fairly sizable bag. I have read many blog posts on the multiple uses of egg shells, such as growing seedlings in them, and using for a calcium boost in smoothies. I use them in two particular ways for gardening.
  1. I crush egg shells and scatter them around my young plants to protect them from snails and slugs.
  2. I grind them up and use them as a calcium supplement for my tomato plants.

Tomatoes are prone to a problem known as blossom end rot, which is when the bottom on the tomato, where the blossom was originally, begins to rot. This is due to a calcium deficiency, which eggs shells can alleviate.

Tomatoes with blossom end rot resulting from
calcium deficiency. Image source link

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Week One: 30 x 30 Nature Challenge

I have decided to join The David Suzuki Foundation 30 x 30 Nature Challenge to spend 30 minutes a day outside, preferably in nature, for 30 days in May.

Overall this first week has gone well and I've logged many minutes, far more than the 30 minutes per day. In fact, not that I'm officially keeping track or will continue to do so, but I have spent more than 12 hours outside this week. I've been lucky with the weather so far, with only one solidly rainy day, so I have been able to find time to do gardening, biking, and walking in between rain showers on less than perfect days. I'm a hardy pacific northwest coaster who is usually embarrassed to use an umbrella, so even a little bit of rain doesn't stop me from getting outside. That said, as I type this I am bundled up in a blanket on my couch to warm up after a particularly wet bike ride home from the school pick up.

Some interesting things have come up as a result of participating in the 30 x 30 Nature Challenge. I haven't worried too much about my three daughters getting their 30 minutes outside as they run around outside during recess and lunch at school. But when I've gone into the yard to garden they usually follow me out, then stay outside long after I've gone indoors.

After a quick tune up, we've been using our bikes far more than usual, and have used them to ride to gymnastics class and to a sushi dinner out at a local restaurant. My husband has also joined us on weekend bike rides to our favourite local spot, Garry Point. This has highlighted for him how much he needs a new bike, which will be his joint Father's Day / birthday present this year.

I can be lazy (can't we all) and I have been avoiding a few gardening tasks, but knowing that I am participating in the nature challenge has really motivated me to get out into the veggie garden each day and slowly tick items off my to do list. So overall, regardless of how I do for the remaining 23 days, it has been a success for us.

In photos, here is how I spent some of my time outdoors this past week:

We rode our bikes out to the beach at Garry Point, and had ice cream. After
coming home from work my husband rode his bike to meet us for dinner.

Wandering around on driftwood at Garry Point again.This was my first time
wearing my beloved Birkenstocks. Can you see the sand all over my feet?

I logged many hours outside in my garden this week. My biggest back-breaking
 task was thinning the seedlings, which gave me a yummy snack of microgreens.

My girls followed me out to the front yard while I was cutting the lawn (with a push
mower). They are natural tree climbing monkeys. Sadly I couldn't convince
them to help with the raking or weeding.

I am enjoying watching the progress of my mason bees.They have finally started
laying eggs and plugging the holes with mud. 

I love visiting the chickens at Britannia Shipyards,
just around the corner form my home.

I'm trying to motivate myself to run on a more regular basis. It's easy when
this is along my route. My shoes match the surroundings!

One of the many bike rides this week. This is on the way home from the school
drop off. Can you seemy four year old, Little Monster, in the bike trailer?

The only activity on my list that I haven't tried yet is geocaching, which I've wanted to do for a couple of years now. I've downloaded a free app onto my iPhone, but I'm looking for any suggestions of websites or apps to try, any tips and ideas for getting going.

Join me in the 30 x 30 Nature Challenge here.

Follow my progress with the 30 x 30 Nature Challenge here.

And follow my fellow Green Phone Boothers who are also participating:

Friday, 2 May 2014

Eco Rock Star In The House!

While I have always had crunchy tendencies, it was becoming a parent that pushed me into living a more eco conscious life. But the seeds for my beliefs and actions were sown in my childhood, with a mother who wanted to make healthy meals for us (I had carob chips for a recess "treat" instead of chocolate to cut down on sugar), and a grandmother with an amazing green thumb. Both of these women also instilled in me a hoarder-like need to repurpose everything before "upcycling" was a thing, which is why today I have a closet full of glass milk jugs, toilet paper rolls, egg shells and old sheets.

David Suzuki speaking at the Youth REaDY Summit
I also remember watching a seminal Canadian television show, "The Nature of Things" with David Suzuki growing up. I felt a small personal connection to him because a family friend was one of his graduate students when he was a professor of genetics at the local university. It isn't surprising that my parents' friend went on to be a pioneer of organic farming in Australia. 

Through his tv show, David Suzuki taught us about the wonders of nature, the delicate balance between species, how this impacts the health of the environment, and why we should care. He is an advocate for getting people out into nature to inspire environmentalism. He himself developed his love of nature from spending time with his father fishing and camping around the Vancouver area before they were sent to internment camps during World War Two (one of many black marks in Canadian history).

I have continued to be inspired by David Suzuki throughout my life, and in recent years I have been following his foundation, The David Suzuki Foundation. Through the organization I have found inspiration for living an eco lifestyle, an education guide for connecting students with nature that I have used with my own class, and daily tips that I can use to green my life. 
Musqueam Nation elder
chanting a welcome.

To say I was excited to finally see David Suzuki speak at a public event is a gross understatement! This past weekend I attended the REaDY Summit, a youth led Earth Day event to promote environmental sustainability, and David Suzuki was the keynote speaker (last year his daughter was the keynote). The theme was "We Are the Fraser", referring to the importance of our local river to the health of the region.

After an emotional welcoming ceremony by an elder from the Musqueam First Nation, there was an electric buzz in the air as David Suzuki took to the stage. His talk once again highlighted why he has been an inspiration for generations. 

Some Key Points from David Suzuki's Message:

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth>>>

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Let the Nature Challenge Begin!

Click here to sign up!
This month I'm participating in the 30 x 30 Challenge from the David Suzuki Foundation. The idea is to spend 30 minutes outside for 30 days. There are so many reasons why this is good for us; check out the website for great tips! I've officially signed up so I can receive ideas and reminders to keep me on track.

Even though I have natural couch potato tendencies, I always feel better after a natural dose of fresh air, vitamin D. The trick is motivating myself so that I don't get hung up on my many inside responsibilities.  Instead, I need to remember that being outside motivates me and gives me more energy, which in theory should help me accomplish all that I need to do. And if I don't, well, those dishes and that marking will always be there and that's ok.

It's easy to spend more time outdoors in May, with the warmer weather that pulls us all outside, and my vegetable garden that always needs some attention. But there are those days when it is a little colder, or raining, or I'm tired from a long day at work, and it is a challenge to avoid parking myself on the couch.

So here is my tentative plan for making it a priority to get outside for 30 minutes over 30 days:

  • on my days off from work walk my kids to and from school as much as possible (when we don't have immediate after school commitments), which I try to do.
  • continue to check on my garden with watering, weeding and cutting of the lawn
  • try an after dinner family walk, which is easier now that it is light so late into the evening
  • go on a family walk or bike ride on the weekends, which we have being doing so far this spring. 
  • try geocaching, which has been on my list of activities to try for some time

I hope to check back throughout May to share how I'm doing with this to keep me honest and on track.

Do you get enough outdoor time? Do you want to join me in the 30 x 30 Challenge?