Eco-Saturday: Fruit-fly trap

Score one for Pinterest: After an infestation of caffeine-junkie fruit flies this summer, I ran a search for organic solutions to the problem. This one, courtesy of Suburban Turmoil, kept coming up.

For any method to work on a long-term basis, you have to start by finding the source of your bugs. In our case, the flies came in with some dodgy bananas, invaded the compost bucket in search of coffee grounds (apparently a great favorite of fruit flies — not that I blame them) and decided the filter on the underside of the lid was an ideal place to raise kids.

To eradicate the larvae and eggs, we replaced the filter, and to kill the adults, I used Suburban Turmoil’s technique:

Get a Mason jar with a lid. Fill it about halfway with apple-cider vinegar. Add a couple of drops of dish soap, put the lid on the jar, and shake until it’s good and sudsy. Open the jar, add enough water to bring the bubbles up to the top, and leave it out overnight.

Your fruit-fly trap should look like cheap beer with a nice head. Try to suppress the urge to drink it.
Your fruit-fly trap should look like cheap beer with a nice head. Try to suppress the urge to drink it.

The bugs will smell the vinegar, think you’ve got rotten apples for them to snack on, and become trapped in the suds when they try to check it out.

Gross.
Gross.

I caught the better end of 30 flies the first night, and over the next few days, this sneaky little trap killed at least 100 more. Every time the suds died down, I closed the jar and shook it up again, adding soap or vinegar as necessary and replacing the solution a time or two until I stopped finding bugs in it, which took maybe three or four days.

I don’t know the blogger over at Suburban Turmoil, but I definitely owe her a beer for this excellent solution to a really annoying problem.

Emily

Another recent project

Following up on yesterday’s post, here’s another little project I did recently. The Blue Swallow Motel on Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico — which we have long since established is my favorite place in the known universe — has a set of black cardboard information boards under the glass on the front counter. The boards have been in existence for as long as anybody can remember and provide information about other local businesses and services that might be of use to guests.

I’m not sure what was used to make the white letters on the boards, but it doesn’t respond well to spills, and despite the glass over them, moisture occasionally reaches the signs and smears the lettering. I’ll be in New Mexico soon to lead a motorcoach tour, do a few projects at the Swallow and spend a couple of days signing books at a festival.

The owner asked whether I could include restoration or replacement of the information boards among my projects. Based on the historic nature of the originals, we decided the best course of action would be to leave them as-is, remove them from harm’s way, and replace them with a set of updated boards featuring current businesses. Using paintmarkers and black poster board, I created these modern versions, designed to approximate the style and dimensions of the originals. The originals will preserved in some manner that maintains their historic integrity and protects them from further damage. I had the new ones laminated. Hopefully they’ll last as long as their predecessors.

The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners' names.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners’ names.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.

I’m looking forward to getting to Tucumcari and starting work on the mural I’ve got planned, which will be something of a tribute to Bob Waldmire. I haven’t had a good dose of New Mexico since October, and I really need one. While I’m out there, I’ll be signing copies of Greetings from Coldwater and the new print edition of Route 66 for Kids, which has been updated for 2016. (There’s also a Kindle version of the guidebook, but it’s the 2015 edition. I haven’t had time to figure out how to update it and link it to the print version yet. The information is mostly the same, but a few places have raised their prices or changed their hours in the past year.)

Emily

What a spring.

I keep thinking I’ll get on here and write a post catching up all the stuff I’ve done this spring, but every time I think I’m about to catch my breath, something else happens.

March was a little bit busy, but nothing ridiculous; mostly just the usual preliminary garden work, and I started a redecorating project in my dining room that got pushed back a bit when I landed a gig painting a mural at the new juvenile justice center the county is developing. I spent the middle of April working on that. I think it turned out well:

Ignore the white smudges; that's just sealer that hadn't dried yet when I took the pictures.
Ignore the white smudges; the sealer hadn’t dried yet when I took the pictures.
The mural is in an area where little kids in the foster system wait when they have court dates.
The mural is in an area where little kids in the foster system wait when they have court dates.

I also had three road trips in April: a nice trip to Pontiac, Illinois, on April 9 to help the Illinois Route 66 Association spruce up the museum ahead of tourist season; a pleasant trip to Tulsa for a Judy Collins concert April 24; and a trip to Afton, Oklahoma, for our friend Laurel’s memorial service April 30.

That last trip started out well but turned into a nightmare 70 miles from home, when my Subaru decided to have its second catastrophic breakdown in as many years. When we described all the problems we’ve had with the car since we bought it, Subaru corporate offered us $1,000 off a new one. Uh, no. I already spent $5,000 having the transmission rebuilt in this one — for which I still owe $8,500 — and now it needs a $6,800 engine and radiator replacement. I’ll just cut my losses now and park it until I finish paying it off, thanks.

Of course this happened the week I decided I was going to break my 30-year swearing habit by assigning Weight Watchers-style points to profanities, giving myself a daily quota, and cutting off an inch of my hair for every day I exceeded my points.

When we left for Afton, my hair looked like this:

memarch

After I spent two weeks cussing that bloody Subaru, it looked like this:

memay

I don’t love it, but I hate it less than I expected, for various reasons.

Automotive woes notwithstanding, it’s been a pretty good spring. I’ve been doing a lot of landscaping projects. Here are a few I especially like:

We bought an arbor in April. I’d wanted one for a long time.

To the right is a wall I built around the asparagus patch to keep Riggy from sneaking into the garden via that gap between the metal fence and the privacy fence. Just beyond the gate is the new arbor I bought in April to train the wisteria.
April. To the right is a wall I built around the asparagus patch to keep Riggy from sneaking into the garden via a gap in the fence.
This is the wisteria a month later. (Notice the parsley to the left of the arbor, too. It grew all winter and got huge this spring, so I'm letting it go to seed.)
This is the wisteria a month later.

I also decided to try my hand at fairy gardening, Whovian-style:

Fairy gardening is all the rage on Pinterest. This is my geeked-out version.
Don’t blink.
A month later, the lucky bamboo is struggling a bit, and the fern is a lost cause, but the other plants are thriving.
A month later, the lucky bamboo is struggling, and the fern is a lost cause, but the other plants are thriving.

And, of course, my pride and joy:

March.
March.
April.
April.
The pond as it looked today, with the water irises blooming profusely.
Today. Love those irises.

Finally, here are two views of my front porch since I started adding plants and decorations to it:

Curb appeal. We haz it.
Curb appeal: We haz it.
The view from my front door. Love those ferns.
The view from my front door.

I have several other projects to share, but this post is getting out of hand, so I’ll stop there for now. Hope you’re having a good spring, wherever you are.

Emily

I’m tired.

waltersniff

lilburrow

I haven’t had a chance to spend much time online lately, because I’ve been busy redoing my office. After the past three weeks, I kind of feel like Lillian looks in that picture above.

The drywall in here was as disastrous as the mess in the bedroom, so I had to retape and mud the corners and repaint the whole room.

rondesk

Because textured paint covers a multitude of sins, I decided to sponge-paint the office. I chose two shades of light blue to open up the space a little bit and give it a sort of airy feeling. I’d planned to do sort of a random pattern, but clouds started appearing as I worked, so I just let them happen.

clouds

Before I put the room back together, I cleaned Ron’s desk (which he cluttered up again within 12 hours, because Y-chromosome), steamed the carpet, rearranged the furniture, and discovered the two smaller dogs’ crates would fit neatly under a folding work table I’ve been keeping in the basement, giving me a much-needed work surface without costing me any floor space.

dogs

After all the rearranging, Song got a little confused about which crate was his and inexplicably decided to wedge himself into Riggy’s crate — prompting Lillian to go into Song’s crate, while Riggy went into Lillian’s. (When I texted the picture of Song to my sister, her immediate response was a Talking Heads line: “This is not my beautiful house!”)

notmyhouse

I used the newly freed-up space to sort my old photo prints from my 35mm days. In the span of three days, I threw away more than 1,600 duplicate and/or inferior-quality prints and rounded up close to 100 more to give to various people I thought might enjoy them. A collection that once took up eight photo storage boxes now fits in three — two of prints and one of negatives. When I finished sorting photos, I went through my newspaper clips and knocked that collection down to half its former size.

While I was on a roll, I picked up some small baskets from the dollar store and reorganized the medicine cabinet so we could find things easily. I wish I’d taken a “before” picture. It was a jumble.

meds

To reward myself for a job well done, I went to Target and bought myself a little combination bulletin board/chalkboard to hang next to my desk. I really like it.

mydesk

Here’s another thing that got cleaned recently:

wetwalter

Poor Walter. He grooms himself pretty well, but that long coat is a dirt magnet, and it had gotten so dingy, the vet even commented on it last time he went for a checkup, so we gave him a bath and a good brushing. He didn’t like it much, but everybody survived.

Eco-Saturday: Spatter cover

The object you see covering the plate of chili cheese fries above is a microwave spatter cover. Maybe you already have one; if you do, you already know how handy they are. I didn’t own one until a couple of months ago — which is a shame, because it’s already paid for itself several times over.

Last summer, in the interest of paying down debt and getting to that tiny house of our dreams faster, we stopped eating dinner out so much and started cooking at home five to six days a week. That’s saved a lot of money, a lot of empty calories and a lot of paper wrappers and plastic straws, but it’s also caused us to use a lot more paper towels.

One day as I was warming up some marinara sauce to go with lunch, it occurred to me that I was using at least three or four paper towels a day to cover dishes in the microwave. Three or four might not seem like a lot, but they add up quickly: Three a day works out to 21 a week. That’s a full roll every two to three weeks, depending on the brand.

I vaguely remembered one of the families I babysat for in the late ’80s owning a plastic plate cover for microwave use, so the next time I was at Target, I checked to see whether such a thing still existed and whether they carried any. I found a Nordic Ware model,* which set me back a whopping $1.79 — roughly the price of a roll of paper towels. It’s exactly the right size to cover my biggest dinner plates, and it doubles as a sort of steamer for softening tortillas. I use it just about every time I cook, and since I bought it in December, I’d estimate it’s saved me at least four rolls of paper towels. Not bad.

Emily

*NOTE: Nordic Ware didn’t give me free products or money or anything for this review. I just mentioned the brand because it’s what I happen to have, and I like it. I doubt it really matters what brand you get. I mean, we’re talking about a plastic plate cover, not a complicated electronic device.

My fellow white people …

Let me preface this riff by saying I am not a giant Beyoncé fan. I don’t dislike Beyoncé; I just don’t know a lot about her music, mainly because I grew up listening to whatever records I could pilfer from my baby-boomer parents or pick up for a quarter at thrift stores, and I haven’t done a great job of expanding my musical interests since then.

Here’s the thing: I don’t have to know every word of every song Beyoncé ever recorded to respect her work or appreciate her talent. And you don’t, either.

You don’t have to like her music. It’s OK if her style isn’t really your bag. But there’s a big difference between not enjoying a particular type of music and attacking an artist’s morals or integrity.

If you just aren’t into Bey’s style, you’re probably not going to call for a boycott of her music or claim she’s “divisive” or “antifeminist” or “immoral” or whatever other dogwhistle you’ve decided sounds better than saying, “Her performance at the Super Bowl scared the crap out of me because my personal comfort depends on maintaining a status quo built on white supremacy.”

Let’s unpack some of those dogwhistles I’ve been hearing all week.

Dogwhistle 1: “‘Formation’ is divisive.”

No, it really isn’t. If Bey released a song called “White People Suck and I Hope They All Die of Amoebic Dysentery,” that would be divisive. I listened to “Formation” and watched the video, and speaking as a former English teacher who has spent a LOT of time looking for hidden meaning in words and images, what I see is a woman celebrating some aspects of black culture that racists frequently attack (e.g., her daughter’s natural hair) while calling out the deadly consequences of institutional racism (e.g., the government’s lethally incompetent handling of Hurricane Katrina; the disproportionately high rate at which black suspects are shot by police). I don’t hear her saying, “Black people are better than white people.” I hear her saying, “I’m proud of my culture, and I’m tired of watching people who look like me die at the hands of racists.”

Why would anybody have a problem with that? And don’t give me some disingenuous line about how white people aren’t allowed to celebrate our culture, because you and I both know that’s crap. White people blow smoke up each other’s arses 24/7. We just get away with it because we’ve set ourselves up as the default mode, so we don’t have to specify that we’re praising white culture every time we do it.

Excuse 2: “Those skimpy costumes Bey and her dancers wore at the Super Bowl offended my Christian sensibilities.”

I will believe this if and ONLY if you can show me a single instance in which you have protested the Rockettes’ skimpy costumes, which have been a punchline for at least 75 years.

Dancers wear costumes that show off their legs. This is not new. If Bey offends you, but the Rockettes don’t, I have a hard time believing your moral outrage is as color-blind as you claim.

Excuse 3: “If Bey were a real feminist, she wouldn’t dress like that.”

And if you were a real feminist, you would respect other women’s agency instead of trying to police how they present themselves. Potato, potahto. If you need a litmus test, try this one: Ms. magazine devoted its cover to Beyoncé’s “fierce feminism” a few years ago. When was the last time you made the cover of Ms.?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Emily

Sustainability on a shoestring

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