Saturday, June 28, 2008

Todd at House of Blues this Sunday

I'm looking forward to seeing Todd Rundgren again. It's been a while. As I looked through YouTube looking for an appropriate clip, I came across this one of Todd in his pod and I realized -- that was the last time I saw him live.

It was in Cleveland at Gray's Armory. For this tour, Todd's concept took individualism to new heights. In the center of the floor was a complex pod containing all the instruments -- guitars, keyboards, drums, plus various control panels that operated an amazing array of devices. Long metallic arms jutted out from top of the pod, from which were suspended plastic toys and video cameras. AT the press of a button, Todd could lower the cameras into the crowd, enabling people to become video artists as the cameras were feeding live into a bank of monitors circling the top of the pod.

Red and green lights were signals for the crowd to either stay off the outer ledge of the pod or to jump on it and drum along with sticks handed out by our intrepid master musical genius.

Tomorrow, Todd is at the House of Blues in Cleveland. I have no details on his current tour. Having seen him many times over the course of decades, I'm sure the show will be special pod or not!

Here's some great footage of Todd and pod in action in a concert in London:

Friday, June 27, 2008

In the urban jungle

Although I've been living here for ten years, I had never met this other resident of my urban jungle lot before today. Oberon, the Huskador Retriever, found him or perhaps "her" before I did because the turtle was completely hidden inside the shell, which lead me to a description of the box turtle as the only type that can completely hide appendages, head and tail.

The turtle's shell was at least 6 inches long and highly domed. I did pick it up and look at the bottom, but quickly set it down again. That was the only time I touched it. After I put the dog inside, I sat outside -- with camera ready -- to observe. After about five minutes, the turtle's head poked out and it began to move with great purpose. I followed, snapping away with the camera.

It made eye contact with me once, but as I stayed at a respectful distance, it did not close itself in again.

The turtle climbed the concrete step along the walk right beside my back door,then turned right into a shady garden bed filled with ferns, sweet woodruff and ivy. It had to tilt itself a bit to get through the 4 inch opening in the wire fencing. As it did not seem confused at all, I got the impression this turtle had travelled this route before. Once beyond the fencing, it quickly vanished into the greenery. I let it go and have resolved not to go poking in there, as I want that turtle to continue to live here as long as it likes.

Later on, I noticed a turtle sized path in the undergrowth along the right side of my property line. It's all shaded and damp along that side, and the path goes under another fence to the front of the property where there is a dogwood tree and assorted grasses and vines providing a nice wild sanctuary for the turtle. In that area, I have run into a toad and once found a snake's cast off skin. The front area is much more sheltered as the dog doesn't hang out there.

Turtles eat insects and slugs, so I'm betting this turtle had been dining in the back garden where the slugs were out in force after all the rain. Although my urban jungle is in reality a tiny city lot, I am happy it has enough natural wildness about it to attract and keep healthy such a magnificent creature as this turtle.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How plastic is your garden?

Nothing like standing in the middle of one's garden after all is planted, taking stock of how each plant is doing, noting daily growth, budding and flowering of various plants and generally feeling a great glow of satisfaction. Until, one heads for the garage to pick up a weeding tool and stares at the mound of plastic containers, waste products from this season's planting.

According to a Chicago Tribune article, over 320 million pounds of garden plastic are created each year in the United States. Peat pots are rare these days. Instead most nursery plant pots are formed from #5 plastic, but there are some sold in #6 containers. Even the plant information tags stuck into pots are made out of plastic. I can remember when they were handwritten tags on wooden popsicle sticks, but you don't see that any more. Only one of the plastic tags currently on hand was identified, and alas -- it was one of the bad ones -- a number 6 indicating polystyrene resin. (Over 20 cities in the US have banned polystyrene, which is a main component of fast food foam containers.)

I couldn't find a plastic identification number on any of the thin three and four pack containers (generally black or green) that are usually grouped into flats, also made of plastic. Graf's Nursery uses cardboard flats, which makes them easily recyclable. I gathered up all the plastic flats and took them back to Dunkler Farms on my last visit there to pick up a few end of season items.

However, I'm still stuck with all this garden plastic and feeling dreadfully guilty about it. Some of the plants I bought, I could have grown from seed in recycled paper containers, but unfortunately my job cycle is busiest when indoor planting is supposed to start. So I'll have to wait until I retire to jump into the joys and challenges of growing from seed.

Some folks in other places have found ways to deal with unwanted garden plastic. Michigan State has organized a recycle day for garden plastic. Read about it here. In Minnesota. a consortium of garden centers, AGSI Plastics and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have organized a massive garden waste plastic recycling program all season long!

There are many difficulties in recycling garden plastic. The process requires that all the pots be clean as dirt hinders the recycling process. There are very few plastic recyclers that deal with numbers 5 and 6. One garden plastic recycling group had to set up its own equipment and got into the business of turning the recycled plastic pots into plastic benches for gardens. It's great to see creative solutions coming out of difficult problems. As petroleum becomes more precious, the easy and convenient throw-away plastic containers will increase in cost -- to pocket books and to the environment.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Eliminating a waste stream

I like to mix club soda with fruit juice for a refreshing sparkling beverage that has no additives or artificial flavors and colors in it. The only problem -- far too many plastic bottles in my recycle bin every week.

So I acted on a tip from Beth at Fake Plastic Fish and visited a site called Soda-Club where one can buy a DIY club soda making machine, as pictured above. Beth wanted the elegantly cute Penguin dispenser with glass carafes bu5t I opted for the cheaper Fountain Jet, which unfortunately comes with plastic bottles rather than glass. However, the plastic bottles are supposed to last for three years and there are only two of them. Had I continued buying my usual 6 bottles per week at 52 weeks per year for three years -- well, that's a lot of bottles no longer in my recycle bin.

The Fountain Jet comes with an aluminum tank of CO2 that lasts for 110 bottles worth of soda. Then I can mail the empty tank back to be refilled and resold. Naturally, I ordered a back up tank to have on hand. It also comes with a sampler pack of soda flavors including various cola and root beer options. I've never been into flavored soda, so I will be Freecycling the sampler pack.

It's very easy to operate. I keep the soda bottles filled with delicious Akron water and store them in the frig until its time to charge one up as you have to use very cold water when you do the carbonating. You screw the bottle into the Soda Fountain and then press down on the lever three to five times and -- voila! Club soda for far less than one pays at the store and no bottle to recycle each week!

The soda maker itself is made out of plastic, but it is sturdy and looks like it will last for years and years. This is just the first of a number of changes I'm going to be making this summer that will help reduce my personal footprint upon this over-worked planet. Stay tuned for further green adventures!

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin: We Like War

George Carlin never rolled over for anybody. I'm very saddened to read of his death. Here's one of his most potent routines. As we learn that the main stream media has cut way back on its war coverage, this one is more than apt. As in all Carlin routines, this one uses all the words that make some people cringe. And those were the people Carlin loved to target.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In the garden

Above you see one of the many delights and attractions of summer break that has lured me away from blogging. My compost box demands nothing other than steady feeding from the top. I don't stir it or add a magic potion to make it work. Layers of pulled weeds and other green garden and kitchen waste alternate with decaying straw, leaves, and pine needles. When it rains, I take the top off so it gets watered every now and then. But mostly the sun beats down upon it, heating it up and transforming it into gorgeous black compost.

What you see above is what accumulated and transformed over the winter. I opened the compost box up at planting time, which is when I took this photo. Then I misplaced the camera, which made me mad because I took the photo to accompany my next blog post. And since I couldn't find the camera, I couldn't blog -- or so I told myself.

Today, I found the camera in the linen closet! Good thing, because the garden has never looked so good. I spent today filling in a few gaps here and there. It's a good time to pick up bargains at the local nurseries. Dunkler's Farm has flats on sale for $7 and all individual plants and hanging pots are greatly reduced.

The skies started to get dark late afternoon. I ran inside to check the forecast only to find that Summit County was in the middle of a tornado warning, with the storm cell forming in Barberton and heading straight to Akron! Yikes! After running around closing windows and putting away loose tools into the garage, I fooled around with the TV remote trying to find useful weather coverage. Channel 3 was the only station that interrupted programming to show us the Doppler tracking the storm.

I had the cat carrier ready to stuff Ophelia into should we need to head down to the basement. Fortunately for the cat and for our neighborhood, the storm tracked north of us and we didn't see as much as a hail stone. Just short bursts of heavy rain, which was just what the new transplants into the garden needed.

Here's a shot taken today of a clump of rescued tiger lilies. I found them on sale at a grocery store a couple of years ago, all dry and root bound in their plastic pots -- 99 cents each. What a deal and now look at them:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Obama's campaign rep is busy in Akron

At a political meeting earlier this week, Obama's Summit County field rep was in attendance and spoke briefly. His name is Sol and he is the lead guy, but says that more will be arriving in the next few weeks. He already has a list of 3,000 local people to contact and get involved in the campaign. At the moment, Sol can be located via the local Democratic Party headquarters.

But if you are looking for tee shirts and bumper stickers, the only place to find them at this point is online and it takes about 3 weeks. was offering free Obama stickers, but they also say on the bottom -- which may be a problem for some folks.

So what is Sol doing while waiting for more people to join him? He's working on making contacts and goes down town every day to register voters. He says the Cascade Plaza bus stop has yielded over 5o registrations so far.

Apparently, the vaunted Obama grass roots effort is for real. Hope to see a lot of you out on the campaign trails this summer and fall.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Saturday show choir

Apologies to all for the lack of blogging here. End of school year coincides with garden work and sorting out the piles of things that stay at school or come home from the summer. I'll be back regularly at some point.

Meanwhile, enjoy this (with a tip o the hat to mom):