Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Enough already with the bags, Kate.

I'm still a bit obsessed with the multitude of plastic shopping bags in my life, and in our world.  I see the recycling bins at Hannaford and I know that lots of you are recycling these rascals at the retailer.  But look what one local crafter is doing. She crochets 60 bags into one great reusable tote and charges $5 to do it! Vera Heuer of Bowdoin says she takes about 6 hours to crochet one of these bags, and she truly enjoys doing it. If you provide the 60 bags needed, she'll charge you $5.  If you need her to collect the bags, then she charges $10.  A great deal either way.  She and I commiserated about how difficult it is to price handmade items, as charging by the hour would make items like this unaffordable for most people.  Call Vera at 353-2353 if you would like a bag.

Thank you to Katie Smith (on the Right.) for telling me about these bags and for modeling, along with Heidi Balboni on the Left,  how well the bags hold library books. "Vera Bags" no longer mean Bradley nor Wang to me.
Here are more bags crafted from shopping bags.  These were made by Bowdoinham's Deb Frizzle (who refused to pose for the picture!)  She has been making these for years and has played around with all sorts of designs and patterns. Love the bottle holder. She crochets with a double strand of "Plarn" or plastic yarn, to get this tight, strong weave in her bags.

And yes, this was the inspiration I needed to teach myself how to crochet.  I watched a handful of YouTube videos (is there a limit to what you can learn via YouTube?) and I jumped in to make this project using this free online pattern.  I ended up with a completely saggy bag but I will certainly carry it proudly to the farmers' market this summer. And I won't compare it to the professional's bags that inspired it!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

We celebrated Earth Day in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and climbed Blackcap Mountain, preserved by State of New Hampshire and the Nature Conservancy.  A nice day (first sunburn of the year), good friends, and compliant kids. In the spirit of Earth Day we picked up over 50 cans and bottles on our decent and our walk along the roadside. Thanks to Gaylord Nelson, the senator from WI who founded Earth Day, for the beginning of a movement.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vacation Fun this week

We’re on a trip this week and spent a lovely day with some old, dear friends in NH. 12 year old Talia is always up for a craft project when we are together. She has the magic combination of creative spirit, fearlessness and boundless energy.  Needless to say, when I visit her, we make stuff.  She was excited by my collection of newspaper bags so we tried weaving them together before fusing them (as seen in a previous post).  Zipped them into a tote bag on her mom’s sewing machine and she immediately packed it up with books and carried it off to school with her the very next day. She says she is going to try fusing some metallic bags she’s got…stay tuned.

Talia also showed me two things in her lunchbox that I wanted to share: a metal sandwich holder called a “lunchbot” and a reusable stainless steel straw.  One of my kids says he doesn’t use a straw at school for milk, but my other kid said she did. That’s 171 plastic straws per year we could save if I sent her to school with a reusable straw.   One straw can go in the lunchbox and maybe one should live in my glove compartment for the occasional milkshake at Richmond Dairy Treat?  Every little bit helps.

Our next stop on our vacation week tour was a visit to my mom and dad's home in Connecticut. Mom was getting her seeds started on the porch, in these nifty homemade pots made from newspaper.  Her "potmaker" pots go right into the ground and compost around her seedlings.
I'm also proud that her seedling labels were cut from old yogurt containers. Way to go, Mom.  And can I brag about her a bit more? We were together celebrating my birthday this week and she gave me an incredible basket that she wove from pine needles.(picture later!)  I come from a long line of crafty women and I feel very, very lucky to have learned many skills from them. Home in a few days to visit the Barn of Opportunity, and to start my own seedlings. Shouldn't our peas be in the ground already?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Another great barn

The girls of East Bowdoinham spent a lovely morning visiting Mini Mt Estates in Bowdoin.  Ramona Stinson (of Bowdoinham Recycling Barn fame) and her family hosted an Open House and showed us  a variety of animals, including Boer Goats. Some baby goats were only a day old.

Ramona has been telling me of the many ways she uses recycled materials found at the Barn of Opportunity. Here are my favorite examples: The baby crib turned into hay feeder.
(Actually there were bed rails and crib rails and headboards in almost every animal stall.) 
...and the kid's art easel turned into a kid's grain feeder. Nice thinking.
Ramona's daughter Amanda put together a great display with pictures and examples of many ways farmers are recyclers.  I loved her tutorial on turning a plastic vinegar bottle into a grain scoop.

 The highlight might just have been the goat meat chili. Yummers.
It was a great spring Sunday. Thanks, pals.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Barn of Many Uses

What do the following things have in common:
Skate board park, chicken farm, metal shop, music recording studio, organic tomato farm?

The name of this post gives it away. They've all been  housed in the Barn of Opportunity.  Do you think Earl Hobart could imagine these goings-on when he built this barn for his chicken farm back in the late 1950’s?

David Berry bought the barn when the former owner and closed his chicken business. Among other ideas, David had plans to fill the barn with sawdust and sell Merrymeeting Ice to coastal fishing boats. Instead, he started the town recycling program in a small section of the barn. The town has been leasing space from David ever since, and as the solid waste and recycling program has expanded, the Barn has accommodated its needs.

In a building as large as this one, there is plenty of space for other projects.
Over the years, the barn has been storage for furniture, building supplies, artwork, and a collection of boats from the Apprenticeshop at the Maine Maritime Museum.  The bales of recyclables can be stacked and stored for shipping in tractor trailers.

In addition to chickens, this Barn has been home to pigs, horses, sheep and rabbits. Now the only (official) animal housed here is Tuckah the barn cat.  Cathy is his guardian angel.

David's greenhouse reaches up all three stories of the south side of the barn. It protects tomatoes which he sells from his Merrymeeting Farm market boat. It was the request for storage space from the Maritime Museum that lead David to be "matched" with his wooden sailboat Beth Alison, the boat which he takes to the coastal islands loaded with produce and baked goods each week in the summer. He convinced the museum folks years ago that the boat was better "stored" on the Bay than in his barn. They agreed.

This week David's tomatoes looked like this.

 But later this spring...

Summertime will bring luscious produce grown in this great spot.  A happy customer blogged about the market boat here.

Rich soil.
Rich history.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bring your plastic to your retailer

I didn’t expect to learn so much about plastic bags, but here I am.  David Berry and Cathy Reynolds have explained to me the reasons they don’t collect film plastic at the Barn.  One issue is the Single Stream recycling that they/we all participate in that is processed at a large plant in Massachusetts.  The processor uses air to separate some of the plastic from the other recyclable materials and any film plastic in the bin becomes air born and clogs up the massive fans they use. I can picture that being a mess.  David explained the people power it takes to gather the film plastic in order to transport it… the film compacts a bit, then bounces back… then compacts a wee bit more.  He says it takes hours and hours to create a bale of plastic.  The bottom line is that there isn’t a market for the stuff that makes the labor to handle it worthwhile.  We are lucky that Hannaford, Shaws and some other local retailers provide bins in their stores to recycle this stuff.  I reached Casey Harris, an Environmental Program Specialist at Hannaford.  She said that their recycling program is a "point of pride" and confirmed that Hannaford would accept all types of film plastics in their bins, so long as they are “clean, dry and free of food residue”.   She went on to list the films that we all can drop off at Hannaford: the wrapping plastic around our paper towels, plastic around  toilet paper packages, zip lock bags “with the hardware removed”, produce bags, and all kinds of shopping bags.  No cling wrap, and nothing that is “really crinkly and crunchy” which signals a different type of plastic. I asked where it all goes and she said to Hilex Poly, a company in Indiana which turns it into more bags. They call it their Bag-2-Bag program.  Tour their website to hear a plastic producer trying to justify their existence… pretty interesting.

Bottom line: please just say NO to plastic bags and bring your own reusable totes. If you have them, do as the text on the bag says and "reuse them as many times as you can"...And if you can't escape them, bring them back to your retailer.

Meanwhile, I'll share a lovely sign of spring spotted at the Barn on Thursday.  Can't you hear the "cheep cheep cheep" ?