Sustainability Info – Workshops & Farmer’s Markets

With spring coming, farmer’s markets will be starting up again in Socorro, Magdalena, Quemado, Glenwood, Silver City and other locations. You can find the nearest farmer’s market online and also look up what’s in season in New Mexico. Early carrots, lettuce, peas, spinach, red Chiles, garlic and other greens will be coming up in March. Many farmer’s markets also offer local honey, handmade breads, jams and jellies, and local meal and poultry.

Near Socorro, you can stop by Bee Chama to tour the facility and get some local honey, or shop online for their honey. You can also buy onlline. Pollo Real, also near Socorro, offers local and heritage chickens and meat poultry, and can be found at many farmer’s markets, or online at Pollo Real. Dunhill Ranch near Magdelena also offer sustainable, locally raised lamb and appears both at farmer’s markets and sells online.

Spring is also the time to start thinking about getting outdoors again. Not only can you start thinking ahead to a spring garden, you might want to consider a workshop to help spark your interest and get some new ideas. UNM offers programs in sustainability, as well as a degree, and these upcoming workshops:

Improving Desert Garden Soil, March 7, 2020 8:30 AM, Open Space Visitor Center, 6500 Coors Blvd NW, Albuquerque

Improving Desert Garden Soil: Amending desert garden soil is a continuous effort. The class will cover the basics soil constituents, soil testing and the benefits of the soil food web. The value of humus in finished compost will be prominent in the discussion. Options for improving soil fertility and resiliency in the face of warm temperatures and low precipitation will be presented. Useful take-home information will allow participants to plan for and implement soil amending practices right away. Prior to the class a useful read, The Soul of the Soil by Grace Gershuny, posted at Reading Materials. To register, call 505-897-8831 or send email to register@nmcomposters.org.

Raised Bed Gardening and Composting, March 28, 2020 9:30 AM, Open Space Visitor Center, 6500 Coors Blvd NW, Albuquerque

Raised Bed Gardening and Composting: Raised garden beds in the high desert present many useful options for home gardeners. Soil, amendments, mulches and irrigation methods are well-contained by raised beds. The class will will cover set-up, soil, irrigation, mulching, and sheet composting for soil fertility in a raised bed.To register, call 505-897-8831 or send email to register@nmcomposters.org.

Home Composting Basics, April 8, 2020 6:00 PM, Larry Abraham Agri-Nature Center , 4920 Rio Grande NW, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque

Home Composting Basics: Home composting is recycling that produces a useful soil conditioner. Basic science will be presented with a special focus on useful practices for a high desert climate. A variety of home composting options will be covered. Useful take-home information will help a participant get started and / or improve an already chosen composting method. Prior to the class it may be useful to read our brochures: (1) Composting in the Desert, and (2) Selecting a Method that Works for You. There will be a $5 charge for this class. Pay cash at the door. To register, send email to register@nmcomposters.org.

Improving Desert Garden Soil, April 15, 2020 10:00 AM, Bear Canyon Senior Center, Room 5, 4645 Pitt NE, Albuquerque

Improving Desert Garden Soil: Amending desert garden soil is a continuous effort. The class will cover the basics soil constituents, soil testing and the benefits of the soil food web. The value of humus in finished compost will be prominent in the discussion. Options for improving soil fertility and resiliency in the face of warm temperatures and low precipitation will be presented. Useful take-home information will allow participants to plan for and implement soil amending practices right away. Prior to the class a useful read, The Soul of the Soil by Grace Gershuny, posted at Reading Materials. To register call 505-767-5959 or send email to register@nmcomposters.org. Instructor: Rye Bailey and Rod Reay.

More information on UNM programs and their sustainability newsletters can be found online.

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Sustainable Gift Giving

We’ve all struggled to figure out what would be a good gift for loved one for a dear friend, and we’ve all made the mistake of buying a gift that ends up in a closet or re-gifted because it wasn’t wanted or wasn’t useful.

One way to make sure that your gift is useful and sustainable is to check out this list of items that you might want to consider giving this Christmas. Not only are these ideas practical and sustainable, they’re also very inexpensive and some of them are even free!

Reusable Water Bottles – these can not only be useful but they can be stylish and clever art on the bottles can be matched to a person’s likes to make the bottle the perfect gift. We’ve all seen empty plastic water bottles littering the sides of roads, parks, and even public places – one of these bottles will help reduce this litter, and if you buy an insulated bottle it will keep the cold beverage cold making for happier hydration!

Delightful Dinners – Surely, you know at least one coworker, friend, or family member who would be delighted to receive a home cooked meal she or he can pop in the oven or microwave or just eat after coming home from a hectic day of work, shopping, or volunteering. Give yourself extra credit for providing everything in reusable containers.

Labor of Love – giving the gift or your labor. Installing a low-flow showerhead, squirting caulking around drafty window frames, or spreading wood chips in the garden are all things that someone might appreciate you doing.

If you are mechanically inclined or tech savvy, friends or family members struggling to assemble a gift for someone else or trying to set up a social media account will appreciate you coming to the rescue.

You can give a gift like this with flair by using a computer to make up a fancy gift-certificate or even make your own with good-old-fashioned paper and pen!

Vintage Treasures – If you listen carefully to our friends and loved ones you might hear them mention something they really need – like a new coat, or a some kitchen item, or maybe a larger piece of luggage. Why not support your local church, Veterans, or non-profit by listening to your friend and getting them a vintage item that fits their needs. Most folks these days love receiving and re-using second-hand items. A fancy hand-made card and a re-used gift bag and your just a few minutes away from supporting a worthy charity, re-using a second-hand item, and giving a practical gift that’s truly useful.

Warm Up their Heart and More — During the winter, it seems like no matter how high you crank the heat the house never warms up to where you can walk around in a t-shirt. So help your loved ones warm up with gifts like scarves, sweaters, fingerless mittens, shawls, and slippers. Consider those those small blankets that are around 50” x 70” that you can wrap around your shoulders, tuck over your lap, or even cover yourself up with to take a nap. Not only will they be happy to be warm, they’ll save on heating costs.

Seed Packets – Winter is here now, Spring isn’t far away and this gift will have them thinking about warmer times – seeds! Did you know you can buy seed packets at the dollar store? You can even get little pots and maybe a bit of potting soil. Whether you buy them flowers, or fruits or vegetables this a gift that will be fun and useful for almost anyone.

Potted Herbs Plants —  Most people appreciate receiving live plants as a gift, but you can take this gift idea a step further by choosing a plant they can put to practical use several times a week. Providing a beautiful and useful gift really shows you took the time to think it out.

Rosemary bushes can grow quite large and make a more useful housewarming present than the traditional fichus. They also smell fantastic whenever you brush against them. Thai basil and sage are two other kitchen plants that can step up to the dinner plate on a regular basis.

 

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Natural Fruit

When I was a kid I grew up in a big city and I thought that fruit looked like it did in supermarkets — uniform giant fruit, much of it covered in wax so it’s shiny. I didn’t think anything about the fact that the fruit tasted a lot like cardboard, or that the wax they used was actually Carnauba wax, the same stuff you pay extra for at the car-wash to shine up your  car, or that the bitter taste on the skins of the fruit was me actually tasting the pesticides they put on them.

Since I’ve been in my adventure into the world of sustainability, and eating foods that are locally and organically grown, I’ve learned that fruit can actually be very delicious, have no bitterness, and often grow much smaller.

The picture is of a hand-full of organic peaches grown in my neighborhood. They’re literally bite sized, and sweeter and more flavorful than the supermarket variety. Life’s full of surprises!

 

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Sustainability for Pets

           Pets are good for our health—studies have shown that pet owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Our fuzzy friends also reduce stress and prevent loneliness. Just watching a cat can improve your mood (often because you laugh at their antics). Pets can also be great exercise buddies. But are you thinking sustainable for your pets as well as yourself?

One thing to keep in mind with pets is that a little care can prevent huge vet bills. Make sure your dog has healthy treats to keep his or her teeth clean—that means buy those made in the US. Buck Bone makes organic chews. Shop also for not just the cheapest food, but those with good ingredients to ensure a healthy pet. Look for Darwin’s Natural Pet Products, Castor and Pollux and Henry’s Health Pet Food. If you shop for non-GMO and organic, you’re encouraging those companies with your dollars.

Honest Pet Products can be found online and they make toys for cats and dogs—they are also from a company dedicated to sustainability. Another company with a ‘reduced pawprint’ is Only Natural Pet, which is a great place to go shopping for everything your pet needs.

Other pet care options are to look for friendly flea and tick controls. Wondercide makes a variety of non-toxic pet care and grooming products. The upside is that not only are you not exposing your pet to chemicals, you’re keeping them away from yourself and the rest of the family.

All of this doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Consider making a dog tug-toy out of an old pair of jeans cut up and woven together—and what cat can resist a box that’s been put out. Keep an eye out for vet clinics to make sure your pets are up on all their shots—and to make sure they get spayed and neutered so you don’t end up with lots of dogs or cats to feed and care for. To reduce cost even more, consider making your own pet food. Back in the early 1900s there was no such thing as dog or cat food—they ate scraps, hunted for their food, and did very well. Dogs love meat scraps, cooked skin and organs, and cooked veggies. Cats need to stay on a meat diet, but again you can cook up the stuff you don’t want to eat, freeze it and thaw it for their meals. You can find recipes for cats online at felineliving.net and for dogs at damndelicious.net, or just do a search for “make your own dog food” (or cat food) and you’ll find tons more recipes that will end up being cheaper than buying food. This also avoids the disaster of pet food recalls and possible vet trips for pets made sick by the wrong kind of food.

If your pet passes and you are thinking of getting a new pet, consider adoption. Fur and Feather has cats and dogs looking for good homes, and if you want a particular breed, go online and search for that breed’s rescue site in your area. If you do rescue a pet, it is a good idea to do an initial vet check up–and many areas have local pet funds to help you if you’re short of cash, so check with your vet about that. Remember, a little bit of care can prevent major problems down the line. The same goes for making sure your pets have clean water, some regular grooming to keep their coats clean, and then you can enjoy sitting down together to enjoy life. You and your pets will all live longer.

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Zeer Pots

Modern refrigeration uses quite a bit of electrical power (especially the older refrigerators made before the advent of Energy Star). And, they require constant availability of electricity, which, in areas with lots of brown-outs and black-outs can be a real issue.

There is a practical small-scale refrigeration solution that anyone make themselves for very little money, and best of all it uses no electricity at all. The device is called a “Zeer Pot” or “Pot-in-Pot Evaporative Refrigerator”, which made of two different sized clay pots with a layer of wet sand in between. The pot cools as the water evaporates which works best in warm, dry climates.

Evaporative coolers like the Zeer Pot have been around the Old Kingdom of Egypt, around 2500 B.C. For centuries in Spain, botijos, porous clay containers, are used to keep and to cool water and in the 1890s gold miners in Australia developed the Coolgardie safe, based on the same principles.

A Zeer Pot will keep items inside it about 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding area. This makes it ideal for storing fruits and vegetables, making them last much longer. You can cool drinks in a Zeer Pot, and it’s also great for storing butter to keep it cool and fresh yet not as hard-as-a-rock.

If you don’t already have the materials at hand, they can be purchased at any fair sized hardware store. You’ll need two unglazed terracotta clay flower pots of different sizes – The small one should be big enough to hold whatever you want to keep cold, and the large one should be big enough to hold the small one with about 2″ – 3″ around the edges; some sand; and a lid that fits the inner pot (this is optional).

First, cover the drain holes in each of the pots – this can be done with a sturdy, waterproof tape or epoxy, etc. Add a layer of sand to the larger pot, smoothing it out as you go. You need enough in the bottom of the large pot so that you can set the small pot inside it and have the lips of the two pots be on the same level. In fact, you should really have the inner pot just a tiny bit higher. Continue filling the space until you’ve reached the upper edges, and pack the sand down as much as you can.

Then add water. You’ll want to pour the water slowly onto the sand while constantly moving your water container–you don’t want to flood just one area. Keep filling until the sand is soaked, but don’t fill it so much that water is standing.

Move your Zeer Pot to its permanent home–it should be in a shaded location with good air circulation–such as a counter near a window. If you have a lid that fits the inner pot, use it, or just cover it with a damp piece of cotton cloth.

If the top half of the pot is turning dark, that’s a sign you need to add more water. You’ll need to water the sand once a day, usually in the morning. Try to elevate the entire pot on a wire rack to increase the amount area of the pot that is exposed to airflow.

A Zeer Pot is not a replacement for a modern refrigerator, but it can help keep cool items at hand, and help you become self-sufficient if you don’t have or don’t want electricity in your home.

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Farmer’s Markets

There are few things better than local produce, but you can get far more at local farmers markets. Eggs, honey, bread, jams and jellies, dried herbs, locally produced meats, and handcrafted goods can often be found for sale. You can find even more at farmersmarketsnm.org.
The New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association is dedicated to strengthening the local food system by supporting agriculture producers for a healthier New Mexico. Their website lists locations for local markets all over the state, including Magdalena, Glen-wood, Socorro, Silver City, Grants, Gallup, and even more spots. They also provide great recipes that use seasonally available produce.
Right now markets are just staring to gear up based on local weather and what’s seasonally available. Many markets will have root crops such as carrots, garlic, spinach, greens, and even some red chiles.
If you’re on the SNAP program and looking to extend the value of your food dollars, you can use the Double Up program. For every dollar you spend on fresh New Mexico grown fruits and vegetables, you get another dollar to spend on New Mexico produce. That’s more than a bargain.
Another advantage to shopping at local farmers markets is that you’re supporting your local farming community—every little bit helps our local farmers and ranchers. Local produce and meat will tend to be healthier for you as well. Recent studies have shown there are beneficial microbes in produce which tend to get washed away by large chains which try to sell the best-looking produce instead of the best for you
fruits and veggies. You’ll get a better taste as well from local produce. You can be sure you are buying fruits and vegetables that are in season, and which don’t have to be picked before they are ripe to allow for long-distance shipping.
Finally, shopping at a local farmers market will get you outside so you can start to enjoy some sunshine after this rather long, snowy winter. Local markets often have local entertainment as well as food ready to eat—maybe even some homemade tamales! That means you can make a day of your shopping trip. So pick a day, find a market and head out to become a regular shopper for home-grown goodness. You might even pick up some plants that you can put into your own garden for even fresher produce and herbs to add to your meals.

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Sustainability Tips

Image result for axe handle

Got a big drill or screw hole in a piece of wooden furniture, wood paneling, or door or window framing? Stick dip the tip of a wooden golf tee in wood glue then tap it into the hole with a hammer. Cut the excess off with a saw then repaint or refinish the wood.

If you’re worried your UPS or FedEx packages will be stolen from your porch, put a large beat-up and unattractive cardboard box, cooler, or other container with the bottom removed on your porch and have your package delivery company put your packages underneath it. Out of sight, out of mind.

Next time an axe, rake, shovel or other tool breaks, don’t buy another tool, just buy a replacement handle. Also, remember to keep those tools sharp! Sharp tools work much better than dull tools.

Use C-Clamps on your ladder at whatever height you need to keep tools just as a hammer at your fingertips.

Dip woodscrews in dishwashing liquid before driving them in to make them turn more easily.

To reduce splintered edges as a saw blade exits plywood, press masking tape onto the back side of the cut. The cut won’t be absolutely clean, but it will be better than without tape.

Have you ever pulled a drawer too far out and had the contents and the drawer itself crash to the floor? Here’s a solution – pull the drawer out as far as it’s safe to go then put some tape on the rail right where it protrudes from the cabinet. Look for that tape the next you pull the drawer and don’t pull it out past the tape!

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Ollas and Watering Stakes

Ollas (pronounced “oy-yahs”) are an ancient, highly efficient watering system in use for over 4,000 years. They are unglazed terracotta pots that are buried in the ground with the neck exposed above the soil surface and filled with water for sub-surface irrigation of plants.

The way it works is that the microporous (unglazed) walls that do not allow water to flow freely from the pot, but the water seeps down near the roots only as the plant needs it, never wasting a single drop. Ollas nearly eliminate the runoff and evaporation common in modern irrigation systems, allowing the plant to absorb nearly 100 percent of water.

To use ollas in a garden or farm, burry ollas in the soil leaving the top slightly protruding from the soil The olla is filled with water and the opening is then capped with a lid – such as rock, clay plate or other available material to prevent mosquito breeding, soil intrusion and evaporation. Depending on the size of the ollas, watering could be done weekly, or twice a month instead of daily.

A modern take on ollas are Terracotta Plant Watering Stakes. They are inserted into the ground near the plants, and then a bottle is filled with water and inserted upside-down into the hollow terracotta stake.

The advantages stakes have over ollas are numerous: they can be added to existing plants indoors and out, you can easily adjust the bottle size to accommodate how thirsty your plants are, they don’t need a lid as the bottle provides a good seal, and it’s much convenient to remove the empty bottle, fill it elsewhere, then put the now full bottle into to stake.

Also, if you’re planning to be away for a long time you can replace the normal wine bottle with a magnum to achieve a longer unattended watering cycle.

Ollas cost between $20 and $50 each depending on the size, whereas Watering Stakes cost as little as $3 each and do the same job (wine bottle not included).

Plants benefit tremendously from the use of this ancient technology. Plants do much better when they are watered deep near the roots, and when their water supply is regular rather than sporadic. So expect not only to use a fraction of the water you do now, expect your plants to grow bigger, healthier and to produce more flowers and better fruits and vegetables.

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Dealing with Allergies

   Warm days are upon us The trees and flowers are bursting into bloom, and you’re spending more time outside enjoying the sun. But hours later you start to sneeze and cough, your eyes water, and soon you have other cold-like symptoms thanks to common allergies. Here are some tips for natural relief:

You may have heard the old wives’ tale that eating a spoonful of honey a day will cure your allergies. Well, it won’t cure them but it can significantly decrease your susceptibility to local allergens. Eating small, regular doses of local honey or bee pollen supplements can help your body build up a tolerance to pollen allergens, reducing the havoc they wreak on your sinuses. You can find locally produced honey and bee pollen at farmers markets in your area, as well as in many organic chain markets. It’s important that you choose local honey. The top three imported honeys in the US comes from Vietnam, Argentina, and India. You can be sure their pollen is going to different than the ones here. (For really local honey, try Springerville farmer’s market or Bee Chama honey from Southwest Feed in Socorro.)

In your diet, avoid melons, bananas, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, chamomile, and any herbal supplements containing Echinacea, as these can make symptoms much worse. Garlic and ‘butterbur’ may help relieve or ward off symptoms. Apples, broccoli, and cauliflower are also known to help as these tend to be low in histamines.

    Onions, peppers, blueberries, and parsley all have quercetin. Dr. Elson Haas who practices integrative medicine, says quercetin is a natural plant chemical that can reduce histamines, which are part of any allergic reaction.

Nasal rinses can wash out the allergens that get in your nose. Irrigation with squeeze bottles, sterile water and saline solution will moisturize your sinuses. Some experts think the treatment is even more effective than medication! This is a cheap and easy way to alleviate allergy symptoms.

A recent study found that eucalyptus oil and frankincense oil are effective to reduce symptoms when used in laundry and rubbed on the chest.

Also check out local herbalists. In New Mexico, we have The Cactus Company in Quemado or Ember’s Herbs in Socorro, which specialize in local treatments for allergies.

If all else fails, visit your doctor to see what kinds of relief are available.   ●◊●

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Spring Compost/Vermiculture Cleaning!

Breaking down the strawbale walls

It’s Spring! And that means it’s time to harvest the rich black soil from the Compost/Vermiculture system.

First let’s review what the system is and how it works. All of the organic waste on the ranch is digested by the system. It is similar to a compost pile, but it’s supplemented by vermiculture — which is to say worms — red wigglers to be precise.

The worms consume everything that the composting bacteria don’t — which includes paper, cardboard, human and animal waste, and nearly anything else.

The straw bales provide insulation to keep the worms comfortable, and the placement under the south side of the tree provide shade to keep the worms cool in the summer and sunshine to keep the worms warm in the winter.

The old bales are used to cover the compost, and to line the bottom of the composting toilet buckets

Each spring we remove one wall, move the compost, take the enriched soil from the bottom, and rebuild the walls.

The soil created by this system is dark and rich. We put it into our cold-frames and container gardens and use it to grow vegetables for the ranch.

 

 

What the finished job looks like

 

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