I was walking with the GF and our dog back from the park when we ran into a young woman picking leaves from a fruit tree.  From half a block away, I knew exactly what she was up to.  She was placing the leaves into a bag, and her face was covered with a mix of pleasure, disappointment, and despair.  She was happy to be out working the garden, but not happy to be tending to this task.  I had just spent the winter trying to avoid this same task, through preventative measures, but alas, I too had just spent time stripping one of my fruit trees of its leaves.  She was dealing with leaf curl, a fungus that distorts the leaves of many fruit trees.  I grew up calling it peach leaf curl, since in our area it seems to skip citrus and effect mostly peach and nectarine trees.  We stopped to give our condolences and find out if she knew any better ways to deal with the curl than spraying for it, which had not worked on my tree.  We got to talking about the big beautiful front yard garden she was working, as well as other home and garden issues.  Eventually, we learned that she was Erin Axelrod, one of the brilliant minds behind Petaluma’s own Daily Acts.  (www.dailyacts.org.)

I had been on Daily Acts’ website before, when a friend of mine had posted a link about a cobb outdoor pizza oven building class he was teaching.  Small world…and it got even smaller when Erin gave us a copy of Daily Acts’ beautifully produced magazine, Ripples, which has won “Best of the Small Press Yearbook” and Copperfields’s Books Employee Pick.  On the cover was a picture of our friend, and fellow blogger’s son, “tending his future.”  This is just another reason why I think we live in the best place on earth.  We put our kids to work at a young age…no, that’s not it.  We live in a community.  There is no need to adjective-ize the word “community” when you talk about Petaluma.  We are the textbook definition of what a community is supposed to be.

I started flipping through Ripples, while the ladies chatted it up.  I have to say; a more impressive local magazine, I have yet to encounter.  And I found every article, idea, and picture interesting.  I couldn’t wait to get home and read further, as well as follow some of the suggested webpage links.  I especially loved one of the pictures showing plums being dried on the a sheet that had been placed on the dashboard of south facing car.  Growing up, my father was an avid outdoorsman, and pragmatist, and many of my meals were cooked using dashboard solar power and engine exhaust manifold heat.  Heck, I remember burning my tongue on a dashboard cooked burrito once, after returning to the car from a long hike – that is how much heat your car can generate by just sitting in the sun. 

Eventually, it came to light that I write a blog for Petaluma360…and the GF volunteered me to write about Daily Acts’ upcoming 350 Challenge.  I remember scanning an article about the 350 Challenge last year but had plenty of reasons why I couldn’t participate.  Even as an avid gardener, there is one thing I can do, even better than finding exotic fruits and veggies that won’t grow in my backyard, and that is coming up with excuses as to why I can’t participate.  I didn’t have the time that weekend, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and I wouldn’t know where to start … even if I had time, money. 

 

After perusing their website, I realize that I could not have been more wrong.

The projects are for every skill level, time availability, and budget imaginable.  It’s simple – Grow Food, Conserve Water, Save Energy, Build Community!  The projects are as big as installing a gray water system to as simple as conducting a home energy assessment.  And the best part is that if you log onto their website, all the instructions are easily accessible…and even easier to understand.   My excuses from last year have been easily, and painlessly negated. 

Not enough time?  – some of these projects are super simple…and might just be a modification of what you are already doing.  I am in the process of planting my garden anyway, so adjusting over to more drought-tolerant plants is freakin’ easy!

Not in the budget?  – many of these projects will save you money, not cost you money.  Water might not seem all that expensive now, but it will be soon, and besides, it isn’t just about money – it is also about doing your part to avoid waste.  Even if water were free, there is no reason to waste it, especially if conserving it costs close to nothing. 

Plus, there are all sorts of 350 Challenge discounts offered by local retailers. 

Cottage Gardens is offer 30% off all veggies for the weekend of May 14-15.  If you haven’t bought from CG before, I will let you in on a little secret.  If you don’t want to fuss in order to keep your plants producing, buy them from CG.  Every year I overwhelm my family with the veggies from just a handful of plants from CG.  Last year I planted one of their lemon cucumbers and it produced well over 20 cuc’s a week.  At one point I counted 100 cuc’s and 200 blossoms ON ONE PLANT, and that was without the help of compost.  And don’t even get me started on the egg plants.  Plus, their staff knows a thing or two about a thing or two…so take them all your gardening questions. 

Also, Sonoma Compost is offering a free yard of compost, while supplies last.  If you buy your mulch and compost in bags…STOP.  Not only are Sonoma Compost’s prices a fraction of what the bagged stuff costs (seriously, like 1/10th the price) but it is made from the lawn clippings that you throw into your green waste bins.  And this stuff is incredible.  It provides nutrients to your plants, as well as helps them conserve water by protecting the ground from evaporation.  Every year I buy a pick-up loads worth …although, after years of this practice, the level of my backyard is rising to the point where I may need to cull this habit.  Prices range from $16-$22 per cubic yard – compare that to your bag bought poop.  And if you don’t have a truck, they will lend you bags, so you can transport using a regular car.  Personally, I get the cheap stuff because our soil is already pretty good, but they have a compost for every situation.  Their Mallard Plus has become the stuff of legends, producing incredible yields, both for veggies and flowers.  (A pick-up truck bed will hold about two cubic yards – a cubic yard is 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet, in case you didn’t grow up building houses and dealing with concrete, like I did.)

Don’t have the know-how?  Seriously, check out Daily Acts’ website.  They have links to every do-it-yourself project you could think of.  Plus, how hard is it to plant some drought resistant plants?  You need little know-how, as long as you have the drive to make a change.

So what exactly is the 350 Home & Garden Challenge?  It is an invitation to take even the tiniest of steps, to help lessen our impact, while building a better community.  It is called 350 Home & Garden Challenge, not because they were looking for 350 challengers (they were looking for 300), but because 350 parts per million (ppm) is the upper limit of carbon dioxide (CO2).  Anything over 350 ppm and the climate starts to destabilize.  (Currently, we stand at 390 ppm.)  The challenge met with huge success, with 628 challengers creating water-wise gardens in one weekend – more than double the initial goal.

...completely missing the point that hotter weather will also mean colder weather.

Whether you are on board or not with the idea of climate change is not the issue.  Even if we were at an acceptable level of CO2, there are plenty of good reasons to make a change to your daily habits, and your foot print.  And I am not just talking about the all too popular “carbon foot print.”  We affect our planet on many levels, beside our carbon foot print.  There are no good reasons for inefficiencies, especially when many of our behaviors are not done out of necessity but out of laziness, misinformation, or lack of education.  And many of these can be changed easily and with little effort or cost.

But let us not despair.  At a CO2 level of 390 ppm (40 ppm above the upper most safe limit) it may seem like a losing battle, but it isn’t.  It isn’t as if we need to take the CO2 level down to zero.  For four hundred thousand years (400,000 year) CO2 levels have ranged from 200-300 ppm, excluding the past 100 years.  Well, well…lopping off a mere 40 ppm doesn’t seem so hard now, does it?  And all it will take is each of us doing our part…even if it is just a small change.  Call it your daily act to help yourself, your kids, your community, and your planet.

Visit www.dailyacts.org for more information about the 350 Home & Garden Challenge.  Along with the challenge, there are TONS of activities going on this weekend in conjunction with the challenge.  There are demonstrations all over town, including the planting of a rainwater-feed artichoke patch at a residence on 8th Street, as well as the conversion of the Petaluma Library’s lawn to a system that will save taxpayers money, water, and maintenance costs.  While you are on the website, check out all the other activities that Daily Acts has planned throughout the year.  House tours, garden tours, workshops, films, — you name it; they’ve got it.  They even have a workshop on fermented foods and beers.  They have something for everyone.  And it all is done in an effort to create a more symbiotic community.  It is simply amazing how much they have going on…especially considering you have probably never heard of them.  Well, let’s change that.

Once you register for the 350 Challenge, your location will pop up on their already jammed packed map.  And you don’t have to be in Petaluma to take up the challenge.  Due to last year’s success, the challenge has gone viral and is now being offered in dozens of communities nationwide, through Transition US.  (If you can’t find it in your hometown, encourage (demand?) your local conservation group to get connected.) 

And don’t be fooled – this is not some hippy-dippy fringe movement.  Daily Acts has affiliations with just every local government conservation agency, as well as most of the clean energy contractors and gardening shops in the area.  They even have sponsorships from some of the biggies, such as Redwood Credit Union and Kaiser Permanente.  Get involved now, and gleam with pride as you watch this group, and their daily acts, grow and positively impact our future.

After I throw together a sandwich for lunch, I am going sit back and enjoy a good Daily Acts website exploration session… and register myself in the 350 Challenge.  As I look down the list, there appears to be multiple easy projects I can take on this weekend, both inside and out, that will cost me close to nothing, and will require only a small portion of my weekend. 

 

Now, if I could only convince the cat to stop creating her own compost in my nicely loosened soil…