Hannah Goes Fishing

A Fishing (and more) Blog


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Accounting for Myself

In my efforts to be as zero-waste and green as possible, I’ve started the slow process of trying to identify the “problem areas” in my life.  That is, places where I make a lot of waste.   I started off at home:

Food waste – build a worm bin and start turning food waste into compost.  Check!
Plastic waste – buy fewer plastic products, search out alternative brands that use less plastic packaging, always buy used if at all possible….Check!
Personal waste – I’ve switched up my whole personal routine to use nothing but a bar of soap and some vinegar rinse.  No more plastic bottles, chemical-y shampoos and washes, etc.  Check!
Personal transportation – Ooohhh……I drive a ’94 Toyota Pickup with a custom exhaust (bought it that way) and extra large tires (also, came with the truck).  No check.

So, what to do about my personal transportation?  In Alaska because of the sheer scale of our landscape, most things are incredibly far apart.  The public bus system doesn’t run out to where I live, and I’m just not hardcore enough to bike or ski the three miles to school when it’s -50F outside (seriously though, some people are!).  So, I drive.  Now, I do make major efforts to drive as little as possible, to carpool with Tom or M whenever possible, and to condense all chores into one trip once and sometimes twice a week.  However, I’m still driving an old pickup with mileage reduced modifications on it.  So what to do?

My fuel usage spreadsheet

Well, a few things.

First, I try not to let my truck idle unnecessarily.  Idling eats up a LOT of fuel for almost no purpose (other than to warm up the vehicle briefly).  I also plug my truck in at night whenever it is below 0 degrees.  This helps the fluids stay thin and warm(ish) and flow more easily in the morning.  Takes up some electricity, but cuts way down on pollution.  Finally, I try not to use my 4wd as often as possible to help save fuel.  With a truck as old as mine, it really does seem to make a difference.

Finally, I’ve also started keeping track of my gas expenditures and mileage per tank.  I’ve created a simple spreadsheet that allows me to keep track of the date I fill up, the amount I spend, the number of miles I traveled on the last tank, and the number of gallons I purchase with each fill up.  I also make some general notes of the driving conditions, and whether or not it was particular cold (idle time) or icy (4wd usage).   I’m hoping every six months I can evaluate how much fuel I’m using and make alterations to my driving habits to help cut it down.  In the long run, being more accountable for my fuel usage will also help save me some money, and I’m never one to turn down savings.

I’ve also participated in a bike loan program through UAF in the past, and plan to do so again this summer.  That way, I should get at least six miles of bike riding in per day, plus I won’t be using my truck!  Good for me and the climate.

What methods do you use to account for your use of fuel?  How do you cut down on your driving time?  Share your thoughts in the comments!


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Bread for the Apprehensive Baker

I’ve been on a bread baking kick lately in an effort to stop buying store bread. Room mate M was actually able to find a place where we could buy fresh bread wrapped in only paper (Safeway, of all places), but it’s still not as great as making bread at home. Inspired by L over at Sustainable Alaska, I purchased a full 50-pound sack of whole wheat flour for the pretty reasonable price of about $38.00 (it was actually a bit under). I did the math, and when compared to buying similar flour in bulk at Fred Meyer, I still save about 24 cents per pound. Even more when compared to pre-packaged varieties. Plus, I’m supporting a local business that carries great products; a win for everyone!

So, with all this wonderful flour I decided it was time to make some bread. This week I’ve made a few banana loaves with some bananas that were rapidly heading south. I also tried out a yogurt wheat loaf with a bread maker Tom’s mom has lent us. Don’t care much for bread makers, but they sure make yeast breads a heck of a lot easier!

For those of you unfamiliar with my baking capabilities, they are…well…teetering on the brink of sheer incompetence. Okay so perhaps not quite that bad, but I still don’t seem to have the knack for consistently producing yummy, light bread. Pizza dough, sure. Sandwich bread, not so much. So needless to say, I’m a huge fan of yeast-less breads.

This week, I wanted to try something I’ve heard other folks talk about but have never eaten myself: beer bread. I found a super easy recipe over at Farm Girl Fare that I’m reposting here along with some photos. I seriously cannot emphasize how easy it is to make (literally, five minute prep time). It’s also thick, hearty, and delicious. I’ve tried it with Alaska Brewing Company Pale beer, and this time I tried it with the same company’s new Black IPA.

Farmgirl Susan’s Almost Too Easy Whole Wheat Beer Bread Recipe
Makes one loaf

2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 cup organic all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder (make sure it’s fresh!)
14 ounces beer (or 12 ounces beer & 2 ounces water)

Optional glaze: 1 egg & 2 teaspoons water, beaten

Oven Temp: 375 degrees

Make sure to grease your bread pan!

Seriously, it’s really that easy. The prep time takes me (at most) 5 minutes, and then I just pop it in the oven. The smell alone when prepping and baking is totally worth not going to the store. Make sure to check out the Farmgirl website by clicking on the link. Her beer bread is just the tip of the tasty iceberg.

I wondered about not having any cooling racks, but then realized I could just set them on my coil burners (I have an electric oven/stove) to achieve the same effect! I just love it when I find a way to get around buying something. Other tips for green cooking include using a knife to check the center of your baking goods instead of toothpicks, and using vegetable oil to grease your pan instead of a spray.

Anyway, thanks for reading and happy baking to you!


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Rumble in the Jungle

Remember a while back when I said I was going to try my greenish thumbs at indoor gardening? Well, turns out not all is well in my jungle-y paradise. The last couple of days, I’ve noticed a whiteish mold growing on the soil surface in some of my pots that have yet to sprout or are still in seedling stages. Most websites tell me that I’m over-watering (probably true), and that my plants aren’t in the right environment to fight mold.

Being that my budget requires me to conserve heating fuel, the temperature in my cabin usually hovers around 65 degrees; probably not the most friendly of plant environments. We also don’t have a lot of warm air circulating (just blasts of cold air whenever the front door is opened), and though this new cabin is much lighter than the last, my plants still aren’t receiving much direct sunlight. Unfortunately, warm circulating air, direct sunlight, and being careful not to over-water are all the easy cures for soil mildew! So, what to do?

Well, I found this nifty website that talks about homemade fungicides and other plant problem solutions that I wanted to share with you. Apparently all I need to do is whip up a weak batch of apple cider vinegar rinse (not unlike what I use in my hair) and give my plants a spritz or two for a few days. I do worry that my plants are too delicate to handle the rigors of mildew annihilation, but hopefully they’ll pull through.

Still, my thumbs are seeming less green as the days go by and my seedlings, while they appear to be healthy now, grow at a glacial pace. Any suggestions for speeding up growth? Any suggestions for growing seedlings in general? Share them in the comments!


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Valentine’s Gifts and Grimaces

Valentine’s Day.  Not a phrase that I commonly hear people speak of with unbridled excitement.  Does anyone really even like this holiday?  Not to belabor the anti-consumer whine, but I feel that it is the rare holiday in our culture that is more aimed at consumers and awkward feelings of guilty love than Valentine’s Day.  Does love really need to be more awkward than it already is?

Anyway, I thought perhaps it would be useful to talk about some non-consumer gifts that might be appropriate for this and other holidays.  A bit late to be posting on the day of, I know.  Being a grad student sometimes comes with the unusual luxury of not really realizing what the date is.  My calendar seems to revolve around assignment and reading due dates rather than actual space and time.

But I digress.

Here, for your reading entertainment and pleasure (and perhaps saving yourself if you happened to be like me and had totally forgotten today’s significance) are some non-consumer oriented gift ideas for that Cleen significant other.

Seeds for a perennial gift of love

1.  I’ll start out first with my Valentine’s gift from Thomas.  Knowing my love for all things growing and green, he found me a gift that keeps on giving and will remind me of his affection every time I enjoy the results of my minimal labor: flower seeds!  My apologies for the grainy photo, but the packet on the right is Forget-Me-Nots, Alaska’s state flower and one of my favorite wildflowers.  The packet on the left is Lemon Queen Sunflowers, which grown tremendously high.  Perhaps the sentiments that accompanied the flowers were even sweeter:

“I wanted you to have sunflowers because, like the sun, you light up my life.”

Swoon!

The gift itself is great because it was A) economical B) a fun project for me to enjoy and C) the seeds come wrapped in paper, so the entire thing is zero-waste (and even perhaps negative waste, since the plants will help recycle our indoor air).  Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore fresh cut flowers.  But, here in Alaska we are miles and miles away from the nearest field of fresh flowers and so it is ecologically (and monetarily) expensive to ship flowers up here while keeping them fresh.  They are expensive even at the box stores, and always come wrapped in lots of plastic.  So, Thomas’s gift was perfect for me in every way.

2. My friend L and her husband are also in the Cleen boat, and live on a limited budget.  So, they have the wonderful idea of cooking a special treat for one another on Valentine’s Day.  This year, she made him a special batch of his favorite cookies for dessert, and he was in charge of making a special dinner.  I love this idea because it’s more of a celebration of knowing and loving each other by making food the other is bound to enjoy, and since they’d have to eat anyway, it’s light on the pocketbook and gives them more time and energy to enjoy their meal together instead of worrying about going out.

3. Another gift idea I love is creating a playlist of your sweetheart’s favorite songs and surprising them by uploading it to their portable music player.  Gifts don’t always have to be about receiving something new.  In fact, speaking from a woman’s perspective, most folks really just want to be acknowledged for who they are on V-day.  That means giving something that reflects your true knowledge and affection for your significant other.  For me, if someone knows and can appreciate my taste in music and compile me a winning playlist, they can be my Valentine all year long!

4. Finally, there’s nothing sweeter than hearing from your significant other just how much they care for you.  I love receiving letters, and it’s so wonderful to have loving sentiments in writing so I can look back on them later with fond recollection.  Even if you’re not much of a letter writer, try writing out a few lines (be sappy!) and giving it to your sweety as a keepsake.  Better yet, hide it somewhere where they’re bound to find it (under a pillow, in their wallet, etc.).

Long story short, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be stressful or full of consumption driven purchases.  Think about the message you really want to convey and choose something simple yet meaningful.

 

What’s the nicest Valentine’s gift you’ve ever received?  What great zero-waste gift ideas have you heard of?  Share them with us in the comments!


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Cleen Update

Time for a personal products update!

So, I’m still really enjoying having only a single bar of soap and bamboo scrubber for my entire shower routine.  My next step (that I should take sooner than later) is to switch over to reusable razors.  It seems lately that I’ve just been foregoing shaving altogether instead, but summer knows that won’t last forever!

I have noticed recently that my scalp has been experiencing a little bit of buildup from my soap.  I’ve been using the coconut plant-based soap that Thomas introduced me to, but I haven’t been very diligent about keeping up on vinegar rinses.  Probably because I left my home made bottle of it somewhere (I use a lot of public showers since I don’t have running water at home), and haven’t gotten around to making up a new batch.  I am thinking, however, of switching over to Dr. Bronner’s again.  First, it just feels cleaner and I adore the peppermint variety.  It makes for such a nice, tingly scalp.  Second, I’ve never had residue problems with Dr. B.  So, maybe when this bar runs out I can make the switch.

As for using only soap and scrubbing on my face, I’ve actually seen a marked decrease in breakouts.  I still struggle with my shoulders from time to time, but I chalk that up to it being a difficult place to reach and scrub very thoroughly. I also am still finding that I’m using WAY less lotion that I have before, even in super-uber-dry Fairbanks.  That being, I’m milking my current lotion bottle for all it’s worth and need a replacement soon. Any suggestions?

Finally, a fun if slightly stressful change: M and I have moved!  Okay, so we only moved maybe 50 yards down the road from our old cabin, but our new one is so great! Lots of natural daylight (which my plants and vitamin D levels love), a slightly quieter street, and much better insulation that will hopefully help our fuel go much further.  We’re excited for our new digs.  I promise to post a picture soon!