Step Outside, Spring is Here!

Rose bush Leaf buds opening

The weather is warming, trees buds are swelling, irises are sprouting and it feels like spring. The Vernal Equinox is nearly here as a late winter storm passes through, and the trend is definitely toward Spring. I often hit a wall in late winter and lose my momentum. Spending time outside is one thing that refreshes and recharges me. Feeling the sun, breeze and nature around me clears my head and helps me move forward again. Going outside to walk, bike, garden, even backcountry ski are my Winter to Spring reset button.

A Thermostat That's Smarter by Half

Albert Einstein

Last fall I installed a 'smarter' thermostat as our old bimetal thermostat had started short-cycling the furnace. A local hardware store had a sale on programmable thermostats for $25, and I installed one that day. Within a day or two I had the thermostat programmed to our preferences and I haven't touched it since. The one question remaining - is the new 'smart' thermostat more energy efficient than the old 'dumb' one?

I can happily say that the new programmable thermostat IS more energy efficient!

Too Cool in the Kitchen

Oven Glow Bar Igniter

If you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, your oven is probably working. We had the opposite problem recently - a decidedly cool kitchen. After weeks of our oven taking longer and longer to heat up, it suddenly stopped heating at all. Thanks to a classic Fix-It-Yourself book, Google and a bit of DIY troubleshooting I found the problem. The Glow Bar Igniter in our oven was no longer heating sufficiently to start the gas oven. Happily, it was an easy fix.

The Map Moved Under My Feet

2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for New Mexico

Did you feel that? It felt like the earth moved under my feet. Actually, it was a shift in climate, as marked by the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The PHZM (Plant Hardiness Zone Map) is the guide gardeners use to decide what plants will likely grow, or not, in our yards. The 2012 version of the PHZM shows that the hardiness zone lines have shifted for most of the U.S. My home has shifted from Hardiness Zone 5b (1990 map) and is now solidly in Hardiness Zone 6b (2012 map) which is 10°F. warmer.

Let's Stay in for Coffee

Fresh Brewed Coffee

It's been a tough week or so here at the EcoFamily homestead. Our ~16 year old (yes, it really lasted that long) drip coffee maker died. Don't worry, we didn't go without coffee. But, my skill at coarse grinding coffee beans with a 'whirly-blade' grinder for french press coffee has much room for improvement. Of course, I did try to repair the old coffee maker, but the thermistor that died didn't have any useful markings.

A Toast to Fall's Harvest

Homemade Hard Apple Cider

The Winter Solstice has passed and short, cold days are here. If you planned ahead, the fruits of Summer and Fall are stored in your pantry. We preserved some Gravenstein apples in a very traditional American way - by making hard cider! After all, there are only so many jars of applesauce, apple butter and dried apples you can use.

Why I Garden #21

Snowy Coldframe with Winter Greens

I Love Winter. Except for one small thing. It is VERY difficult (or VERY expensive) to get fresh and ripe vegetables in the winter. And it is nearly impossible to get LOCAL vegetables (other than root crops) in the winter. That is, not until I built a cold frame. Now we have fresh salad greens (and hopefully carrots and broccoli) grown in our snow-covered backyard.

Woo Hoo!

More Info:

DIY Storm Door Cold Frame

$25 Thermostat vs. $250 Thermostat

$25 Programmable Thermostat - installed

Would you rather pay $25 or $250 for an electronic thermostat? What if the $250 thermostat is incredibly sleek, artificially intelligent, and Wi-Fi networked? Would that be enough to sway you? Fortunately, the $250 thermostat was completely sold out which made my choice easy. That and I'm way too cheap to blow 10 times more money for furnace bling.

What is Wilderness and Whither Preservation?

Rambunctious Garden - cover

What is 'Nature' and does 'Pristine Wilderness' still exist on earth? Emma Marris starts with these questions and launches a journey in Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in Post-Wild World. Ms. Marris effectively challenges many of the assumptions that inform our views and policies toward nature. I think Rambunctious Garden can spark a conversation about green places and how we use and protect them.

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