Plant a Tree

After a week full of negative thoughts flooding my head, I wanted to do something positive. So I selected a location with plenty of sun, not too close to the house, not too far from the faucet, and with decent soil (almost no rocks found during exploratory digging). And soon my baby (2 year old) Meyer lemon tree had a new home, free from the plastic pot that had contained it for this past year. I made a ring of random bricks from around the yard, and then filled it slightly with a mulch of crumpled leaves and pine needles.

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Molly at 2 years 2 months

This plant is a survivor. After living the first year of its life cooped up inside, I had finally gotten the idea that it might like hanging out outside. Sure enough, being indoors must have been torture and this baby tree was finally able to stretch her wings and let her spirit soar after experiencing the warm sun directly and feeling the breeze rustling through her leaves. After a year outside, it was time to give her a permanent home in the garden where she is guaranteed plenty of room for future growth, both above and below ground.

And for her spiritual growth, I needed to find some companions. Today I had the day off work to go visit The Natural Gardener and do just that. I picked up a “Golden Bells” Esperanza shrub (after previous failed attempts to grow it from seed) and a Fuyu persimmon tree. A kumquat would have made a great companion but it’s apparently not kumquat planting time.

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Persimmon tree… or stick in the ground?

Yes, it doesn’t look like much right now (as a bus rider I chose the smallest one available), but it will grow. Fuyu persimmon trees grow up to 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It has a long taproot and is now situated in what looks like some fairly decent soil. All it needs is a few bricks or something around it to keep it cozy and maybe a bit of fertilizer once I’m sure there won’t be any more hard frosts. Lou here will grow up to be a behemoth and someday will provide us with lots of delicious fruits to boot.

It may seem like a small thing, but planting these two trees in the yard has made me feel a lot better. I’m looking forward to the future now, as these young plants continue to grow and as more trees and shrubs join them in the future. I know the future will be a beautiful place.

A Ten-Mile Stroll to the Library

Sunday the library was closed for New Year’s. On Monday again it was closed for New Year’s (observed). But Tuesday the libraries opened at ten o’clock, and I was ready at eight to start my new year’s resolution of hiking the circuit of Austin Public Library branches. My maps and supplies were on hand to assist me in this awesome journey. And the weather was absolutely beautiful.

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Overall route

Why would I walk ten miles just to go to the library? you may ask. Well, it’s simple. I love walking and I love libraries. I’d like to walk more and to visit more of the libraries in Austin. Plus, as a non-driver this is a great opportunity for me to explore ways of getting around the area independently. As a non-consumer, it’s a fulfilling activity that doesn’t require spending a dime. And as someone that doesn’t always get out enough, it’s designed to bring out a bit more of the explorer in me.

Little Walnut Creek branch library

Well… I stopped at this library before it opened, but the lights were on inside so I’m counting it! Don’t worry, I’ll be back many times this year.

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Kicking off my hike at the Little Walnut Creek branch library

The route took me through a part of the neighborhood I had never explored before. Sadly, it was full of litter and I quickly had my fill of picking up trash. Next time I go out I’ll need to take a bag with me for collecting it. 😦

(It turns out the litter is most prevalent in my neighborhood. An hour into my walk, I stopped seeing so much trash everywhere.)

It was cool to see more of the area though. All the little creek and railroad crossings were my favorite. There were areas widely paved for pedestrian traffic and areas with no sidewalk at all. Winter really is the best time for walking in such places because the shrubs and other unruly growth (or worse, poison ivy) aren’t pushing you into the middle of the street with the cars.

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Walnut Creek trail–once a dirt path and now a huge concrete slab complete with an amazing quantity of signs and a dashed yellow line in the middle.
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Crossing MoPac safely via underpass
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The area once known as Waters Park. This old railway transported in the granite used to construct the state capitol building in the 1880’s and a town built up around it but is long gone now.

Milwood branch library

Two hours after heading out, the Milwood library was finally in my sights. It was an area that I never visit. The bus doesn’t stop close by and I’ve always considered it to be in the middle of nowhere. How amazing that I was able to walk there!

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Metal sculptures in front of the Milwood branch library

I quickly gobbled down a couple of rolls before going in, grabbed a few editions of Texas Gardener magazine, and enjoyed an hour of replenishing relaxation.

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Entry to Milwood branch library

The seating didn’t look that plentiful. Fortunately, it wasn’t at all crowded during my visit.

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One seating area at Milwood branch

I marveled at the checkout center for electronic devices to use in the library. Next time I’ll have to try it out instead of just getting a quick glance.

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Laptop / tablet kiosk!

Soon my hour was up and it was time to head out on the second part of my walk if I wanted to get home at a normal hour.

The strangest thing about this trip was that I was sure I’d be tempted as afternoon approached to make a quick stop at the Krispy Kreme or Rudy’s barbeque or some other delicious food place, but I wasn’t. The few snacks I had with me kept me satisfied throughout the day. I’ve experienced this before too. Just by getting out and doing something active, I’m less tempted to overindulge. Then again, maybe it was due to that dead raccoon I saw by the side of the road.

Spicewood Springs branch library

Less than two hours after setting out again, I made it to my final circuit stop for the day.

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I made it to Spicewood Springs!

I’d been to the Spicewood Springs branch before, but it seemed way out there even when travelling on the bus. No wonder my feet were starting to hurt a bit. I quickly grabbed a couple more books and a comfy seat and sat down to read.

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Kicking back and reading Lynda Barry’s “One Hundred Demons” at the library.

After some relaxing easy reading, I had to walk just a few blocks to hop on the bus back home. There was a transfer towards the end involving a fifteen minute wait.

But no, I had a crazy idea. It wasn’t that far from the transfer stop to my home. I could walk that too! This may not have been the best idea. I could feel a few little blisters forming on the bottom of my feet and the first several blocks felt like the longest of all. Good thing it was only a half hour distance on foot from my house….

Home Base

Woohoo! I made it back in one piece. I was just in time to catch the episode of MacGyver with the robots that look like Daleks, while I made and then ate delicious fideo. My husband was really lucky he got home in time to eat some of it too.

Hike #1 of the Austin Public Library circuit was a resounding success. It was thrilling to realize the huge area that I could now consider “walking distance” and I immediately started dreaming about the next hike. Will I do another long trek all the way downtown to the central library (still shorter than this one)? Will I explore one I’ve never been to before? Every option sounds good right now.

Preparing for my first Urban Hike

 

Today is the first hike of my new year’s resolution to walk the Austin Public Library circuit. At 10.5 miles it’s also the longest urban hike that I’ve planned for the year. And with my lazy December, I figured I had better do some kind of prep.

Last week I did a virtual walk using Google Street View and made a few modifications to familiarize myself a bit with the route, reduce the amount of time spent walking along streets without sidewalks, and choose the best way to cross major highways. I ended up adding about a mile to the trip overall, but it’s safer and therefore totally worth it.

My kit (free of disposable items) is ready and waiting:

  • Light jacket for the cool morning
  • Baseball cap for the sunny afternoon
  • Phone, fully charged, and with the map saved as an image for guaranteed offline viewing
  • Reusable water bottle, pre-chilled
  • Various snacks: rolls, pecans, and a tangerine
  • $20 in case I need other sustenance (in my wallet)
  • Cloth napkin
  • Dry deodorant to freshen up at the stop points if needed
  • Library card (on my keychain)
  • Bag to hold everything
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Zero waste supplies for my urban hike

In addition to supplies for the walk itself, I also have my bus pass ready in order to get back home in a more timely manner and a plan for an easy and replenishing dinner. Based on my previous walk, it’s probably best if I don’t eat much in the morning or on the hike so I’ll definitely be ready for a good meal after.

I even went on the library website and have a couple of books picked to check out from each branch. Good thing my new year’s resolution wasn’t to be more sponanteous!

Not New Doorknobs

I wish I could do a complete Buy-Nothing month but there’s too much work needed for the house that I’ve been putting off for too long already. To at least avoid buying brand new items when perfectly good ones already exist, today I headed over to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store to pick up some items from my list.

I started off in Hardwares with the goal of finding some curtain rod brackets so I can add window treatments for the last few windows. Unfortunately it’s an uncommon item so rather than finding them easily on a shelf I had to dig through several different buckets along a row of some-sorted, some-not miscellaneous hardware.

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A few bins in the Hardware section at the Re-Store

In the end I found four of them, but in those four there wasn’t a single matching set and I had to walk away from that section empty-handed.

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Failure

Later in the trip I found a section with some wooden curtain rod brackets, but once again they were unmatching individuals. 😦

Fortunately, my second item on the list was a resounding success. The light on the back porch didn’t have a cover. (Or a bulb for that matter, but we found one in the closet.) There were several rows full of different kinds of lights and I ended up choosing a whimsical bubbly globe thing to add a bit of personality to our home.

Next up was some white paint for the indoor trim. I had a bit of trouble identifying the container to purchase because these were custom blend paints and there wasn’t much more than a dab of paint on the lids to show what color they were inside. But in the end I found one that should work well.

After browsing the second-hand cabinets, sinks, leftover tiles and other goods, I stopped by the doorknobs section to pick up a couple to replace two that haven’t been turning all the way. (It turns out that it was a plastic bit that failed in our old ones, and these new-to-me knobs are metal where it counts. They could use a little oil to turn more smoothly, but I can take care of that later.)

Finally, I found a couple of really nice textured curtains that I wasn’t looking for. (It turns out that one’s a shower curtain and the other is just a nice sheet, but they’ll do.)

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Haul from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store

All together these items cost a whopping $12 plus tax. Not much unnecessary packaging to dispose of. And better quality than I would have splurged on if I was buying new. So other than still not having the curtain rod brackets, it was a pretty good trip. Someday when we get our real (not-just-a-flimsy-plastic-shell) bathtub I’ll be back, if not for the tub then at least for the tile. It’s awesome that these places exist!

New Years Resolutions – 2017

Fireworks are popping all around the neighborhood. They may be illegal here in Austin city limits, but I’m making sure to appreciate the beauty of the few that I’ve seen from my bedroom window. And it reminds me that it’s time to make my resolutions for 2017 official. Some people don’t believe in yearly resolutions (I’ve been one of those people myself), but towards the end of the year I always end up losing a bit of focus and have found that this really helps for me.

2016 Resolution Recap

This has been a great year. Being a homeowner has brought unexpected challenges but I’ve grown more confident in who I am as an environmentally aware human being.

Recap of my 2016 resolutions:

  • Buy Nothing New: I’ve bought a few new things here and there but overall this was a success. I’ve even managed to avoid most freebies, which would have been unthinkable previously. This isn’t going back on the resolutions list for 2017 because it’s evolved into a normal way of life at this point.
  • Buy a house: We got our new home in February, and I love it! (For 2017, we plan on getting the roof done and also getting a real bathtub instead of the current flimsy plastic shell, but that’s not quite a resolution.)
  • Eat less meat & dairy: After a couple of weeks to get used to it, this is amazingly easy so long as you limit the amount of meat & dairy in the vicinity. I learned to make soup, chili, spaghetti, fried rice, and more without adding meat. After Thanksgiving I relapsed a bit due to travelling, feasting, and a week of being sick (and having several fast food places super conveniently located) but during that time I was eating less meat & dairy than I would have a couple of years ago.
  • Try at least one new food each month: I lost track of this resolution for a while, but I closed strong by trying guava (delicious!) and tecojotes (not actually a hand fruit) just a week ago. The highlight of the year was dragonfruit; I may try to grow it one day.
  • Reupholster the couch: What can I say? After realizing how much work it was to own a house that needs a bit of fixing up, this project was postponed indefinitely and later on decisively scratched off as a “Won’t Do” to ease the stress of a long ToDo list.

2017 Resolutions

To keep things realistic, I’ve chosen only four of my many wishlist resolutions to actually keep track of this year.

Walk the APL (Austin Public Library) circuit

I mentioned my plan for a “Walk in the Harvested Woods” in another blog post. This year, I’ll be walking library to library for the couple dozen APL branches in Austin. This is my primary resolution of the year and I’m excited not just to get in a little extra exercise, but to explore more of my hometown, check out more libraries, gain more transportation independence, and engender gratitude (for being healthy enough to do this, for the pleasant weather we often have here in Austin, and more).

Tuesday the 3rd is the first day the library is open in 2017 and I’ll be kicking off with the longest trek on the list, stopping first at my neighborhood Little Walnut Creek branch, then at Milwood, and finally wrapping up the urban hike at Spicewood Springs.

Try at least one new food every month

My natural inclination is to stick to the foods that I already know and love. Half the time I try a new food, it turns out that I don’t care for it. But there are always new things out there. Who would have thought a fruit with dragon-like scales on it would be a strangely sweet jello-like deliciousness inside with light crunchy seeds? Or that turnips are actually better-tasting than radishes? The only way I can learn these things is by keeping my eyes open at the market and trying new foods regularly.

Tithe

My husband and I are fortunate enough to have more money than we need. Unfortunately, my natural frugal tendencies are always encouraging me to save money for other things or for the future rather than giving back. For the past year, my husband and I have been choosing a new recipient each month and that’s helped to make it more interesting but we still didn’t hit 10%. This year we’ll exceed it.

Pick up 1000+ pieces of trash

There is so much litter in my neighborhood that I’ve gotten used to just ignoring it a lot of the time. So on my personal calendar for 2017, I’m adding 3 checkboxes on each day for the first three pieces of litter that I pick up on that day. That’s just a lower limit, though, to make this resolution easier to track.What are you working on this year? 🙂