Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Archive for April, 2010

Tony Avent’s Plant Articles

Welcome to Tony’s Plant Articles section. Here you will find a series of in depth articles about an array of various subjects from Arisaemas to Plant Trademarks. Many of these are reprints of articles that Tony has written for publication in various venues over the years, with some written specifically for the website. These are not the typical website articles which are short and fluffy, but instead often go into great detail….you know, the stuff that everyone says is worthless on a website. We think you will find a wealth of information in these articles, and we thank the other authors that have also allowed their work to be republished here.

“Mr. Avent said he stopped using pesticides and chemical fertilizer in his outdoor gardens 20 years ago and was amazed at the improvement in his soil and plants. Conventional wisdom says that plants can’t tell the difference between a chemical fertilizer and an organic one, he noted, “but the microbes do — the fertilizer was burning up the compost.”

After he switched to organics, he said, “it took about a year before everything started jumping. Our insect problems disappeared. It was just amazing.””


Welcome to the Meatrix (Where does our food come from?)

Produced by Sustainable Table and Free Range Studios, the animated movie The Meatrix spoofs The Matrix while illustrating the problems with industrial agriculture and today’s meat supply. The Meatrix uses pop culture and entertainment to educate viewers about the food they eat and where it comes from. The film features three superhero farm animals including Leo, the young pig who wonders if he is “the One,” Chickity, the feathered family farm defender, and Moopheus, the trench-coat-clad cow with a passion for green pastures. Join the group as they delve into the reality of animal cruelty, antibiotic overuse, massive pollution and destroyed communities.



Ozarks Sustainability Festival in West Plains, Mo.
Sunday May 10, 2009
3495 N. US Hwy 63
West Plains, Missouri 65775


An opportunity to see products grown or produced locally. This one-day event has been designed to promote the local grower and producer, Giving attendees a marketplace for many products. Shop with vendors selling plants, organic produce, free-range meats, eggs, natural products, seeds, Solar and other renewable energy sources: bio-diesel, alcohol fuel, hydrogen-gas mix. There will be health promotions such as Massage Therapy and Herbal Medicines. Also Books, various Crafts, Food Storage, Survival in a Disaster. Delicious Natural Food; baked items & other concessions. Seminars/workshops on seed-saving, gardening & soil improvement, food preservation, making soy-milk & Much More
Join us to promote community sustainability

BACK40BOOKS.COM will be there with their usual great selections. Back 40 Free-Range Poultry Specialist Herman Beck-Chenoweth will present a workshop.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds will be one of the Many Vendors. Over 1,000 kinds of Heirloom Seeds
Last Year this Festival was Held at Skip & Mary Badiny’s Home in Rover, Mo.

Due to the large attendance and tremendous success a larger location with better access and parking. This location is North Hwy 63 from West Plains about 3 miles past Green’s Furniture on the Left at the Next Step Seventh Day Adventist church.

Questions? Want to participate? Present a workshop?

Contact Mary Badiny via email Phone: (417) 764-3698
or Craig Wiles (417) 818-6057 for information and details for the festival

GPS Coordinates: 36.7963080000 -91.8960030000


DIY Recycled Pallet Furniture

A friend of ours in Costa Rica told us about a project she’s working on, making furniture from used pallets. An article with pictures will be coming, but it piqued our interest, and we started looking around. Well check out this article with a plethora of links to pallet furniture projects at and instructions at


Weekly Podcast: Biofuels – Woodgas, Environmentalism and Earthday

This week’s podcast continues the biofuels series by talking about woodgas, the gasification of biomass scrap into a gaseous fuel consisting of Hydrogen and CO. We also talk about what we mean by “Environmentalism” and who is an environmentalist. You may be surprised. Links for further education and the podcast itself are at Leave us feedback on your thoughts and comments at Share this post with others by using the “Share/Save” button.


Want more info on how to garden successfully?

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. – Mark May 2 and 3, 2010 on your calendar—these are red-letter days, dedicated to fun and enjoyment in a family-oriented atmosphere. Come out and join in the all-new and improved Spring Planting Festival at Bakersville.

Want more info on how to garden successfully? You will thoroughly enjoy our broad range of speakers, with talks on such diverse subjects as: The Healing Power of Gardens (and garlic); Gardening for the Fun of it—Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff; Compost; Organic Gardening; and much more. These are free seminars and you may attend at your own leisure.

Our festivals have become a premier event for historic culture and music, last year drawing 60+ musicians from many different states, including the Legendary Sourdough Slim. You’re going to love tons of music ranging from Western, Country, Gospel, Folk, Blue Grass, Americana, and Irish—playing continuously both days on 3 stages. Enjoy some of Branson, Missouri’s finest talent and have your tapping toe ready!

The National Folk Music Contest is open to any contestant who is not a Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. employee or a professional musician hired by Baker Creek. Free for any and all old-fashioned musicians, solo acts or groups. Bring your instrument or voice and go for the Grand Prize of $600 cash. There’s a second place cash prize of $200. Judging will be done by the audience. This is always a crowd-pleaser.

Over a hundred vendors selling old-fashioned fresh honey, fresh-baked bread, homemade jams and preserves, vegetable starts including tomatoes, raspberries, blueberries, and much, much more will tempt your palate and your inner gardening muse.

If you get hungry, there’s our new Earth Restaurant, with delicious meals made from scratch using local ingredients.

Spring Planting Festivals are held at our village and farm. Come to Mansfield, MO and follow the signs. We offer free tent and RV camping; no need to register—first come, first served. Admission: $5.00 per person each day. Pay at the event. Children 16 and under are free. All pets over 20 pounds must be pre-approved. No weapons, please.

Don’t forget to do a complete tour of Bakersville while you’re here. We’ve added a lot in the past year.
For more details, go to our web site or call us at 417.924.8917.

Y’all come!


Simple Steps to More Environmentally Friendly Deck Protection

Spring is here. And, with mild temperatures, comes the chance to assess the damage inflicted on your deck and porches by winter snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Your old finish may be worn leaving the wood unprotected and open to rotting and splitting. The ultimate test is to apply a few drops of water to the wood. If it beads, your wood should be well protected for another season, but if it soaks into the wood, it’s time for restoration.

For many years, staining wood meant working with toxic solvents and harmful fumes. But, to meet growing demand for more ‘green’ alternatives, environmentally friendly wood stains have become more prominent on the store shelves.

“We now see eco-friendly wood stains on the market that can match or outperform more toxic, film coatings on beauty, longevity and overall performance,” according to Rob Mueller, Past President of the Paint & Decorating Retailers Association (PDRA). “While many stains simply coat the wood, these high-performing, high-quality eco-friendly stains actually penetrate it for protection from within.”

For a ‘green’ deck that you can expect to last, here are some essential staining tips:

Select a water-borne stain that penetrates wood

Traditionally, wood stains used oil-based solvents to simply coat the wood. For water repellency, these oil-based solvents often contain paraffins, which quickly break down with exposure to sun light and heat.

The move to water-based stains combines the benefits of both oil and water-based coatings, using water as the vehicle to get oil penetration deep into the wood for deep down protection.

An added benefit of ‘water-borne’ alkyd wood stains is that they significantly reduce the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to smog or ozone depletion. “Water-borne stains perform like a solvent-based formula but provide the inherent advantages of water, such as the ability to allow the wood to breathe and the stain to bond with the wood,” says Sjoerd Bos, Vice President of Sansin. “These eco-stains don’t just sit on top ready to be chipped or scraped away and harm the environment.”

Clean and rinse the deck

Apply a biodegradable deck cleaner to remove any buildup or mold/mildew. Rinse the deck off with a hose (making sure plants surrounding the deck are covered), and let the deck dry thoroughly, making sure all signs of the previous coating are gone. For bare wood, use a minimum 3000 psi pressure washer with clean water.

Sanding is worth the time

This step may be time-consuming, but is worth the effort. An orbital sander with 60-80 grip paper should do the trick to create a level, consistently porous surface that will absorb more stain, resulting in a better wood finish.

Use less stain and apply with spray, then brush

Using less is always more for the environment. To reduce the need for multiple coats, wood stains now come in ‘one-coat’ formulations that penetrate deep into the wood to repel condensed water while allowing water vapor to escape.

“With water-borne wood stains, you can even protect wood with high moisture content with one coat, since the stain allows the wood to ‘breathe,’ preventing moisture from getting trapped inside the logs or wood and causing decay,” says Sjoerd Bos, Vice President of Sansin.

It’s best to apply the stain with a garden sprayer followed by ‘back-brushing.’

Maintenance pays off

How long should your deck stain last? That’s a common question, and it does depend on the stain and the preparation as described above, but two to five years is the average. To extend the life of your wood stain, apply a maintenance coat if the deck no longer repels water. Prior to the maintenance coat, best to use a deck cleaner or pressure washer.

Even for home owners with pressure-treated wood on their decks on porches, a good stain will inhibit the eventual fading, graying and cracking from outdoor exposure.

“No matter the wood or pre-treatment for your deck, it’s important to protect your investment. Now, homeowners can get high-quality protection with the added bonus of low VOC, low toxic wood stain products that can be applied in one coat,” says Sjoerd Bos, Vice President of Sansin.

# # #

Reprinted with permission by Sansin Corporation. Copyright © 2010


Five Great Reasons to Replace Your Dry Cell Battery Supplies with Rechargeables

By Aaron Fowles, Corporate Communications Specialist
SANYO North America Corporation

Each year, more than two billion household batteries are disposed, and that number only represents those that are sent to landfills. The impact on our environment from discarded dry cell batteries can be catastrophic over time, polluting our world’s ground soil and water supply, resulting in health hazards to humans, plants, and animals.

The amount of chemicals and/or metals in batteries can be staggering. For example, a car battery has almost 20 pounds of lead in it and 16 ounces of sulfuric acid. (Source: “The Effects of Non-Disposable Batteries on the Environment”, by Jason Petrina, Editor and Publisher, Article Click)
As our society continues to heavily depend on battery supplies to power many common electronic devices, such as digital cameras and flashlights, the need for efficient and ecologically responsible battery use has become paramount.

Therefore, replacing traditional dry cell batteries with rechargeable batteries offers a number of important benefits, highlighting meanings of “eco”, economical and ecological, simultaneously.

1.A typical dry cell battery lasts only as long as its life cycle, limiting the use to one time only. Rechargeable batteries can be recharged and reused more than 500 times. In fact, there are some rechargeable batteries out there that can be charged again 1,000 or more times.

2.Buying dry cell batteries that can only be used once is typically less expensive upfront, but that cost increases dramatically over time. Thankfully, budget-minded supply managers know rechargeable batteries allow hundreds of cycles per battery, making the cost per unit go down over times used, resulting in hundreds or thousands of dollars in cost savings each year.

3.Rechargeable batteries last longer, with one rechargeable battery taking the role of multiple batteries each time it is recharged and reused. The reusing of resources minimizes impact on the environment. Batteries, which contain a number of metals including mercury, aluminum, and nickel, pollute groundwater and soil when not disposed of properly. Also, if you look close enough, you will see that most rechargeable batteries are recyclable.

4.Rechargeable batteries are more convenient. This is counterintuitive because the traditional image is that they don’t come pre-charged and that translates to inconvenience. The way rechargeable batteries work has improved remarkably and deserves attention. They can come pre-charged today, are usable right out of the box, and can be recharged and used again tomorrow and the next day. If you don’t use them right away and decide to charge and store them, some batteries, like SANYO’s eneloop batteries, keep 85% of their charge after sitting on a shelf for one year.

5.Today’s rechargeable batteries are extremely powerful, particularly when powering digital cameras, computers and other power-hungry devices. Rechargeables can deliver solid performance and reliability, as evidenced by the recent developments in stable voltage opening up longer use of each charge.

If you have been sitting on the fence or are looking for something that you can do to start down the path of sustainability, rechargeable, re-usable batteries are a great place to start.

SANYO North America Corporation, a subsidiary of SANYO Electric Co., Ltd., markets and sells energy- and environment-related products in North America including a variety of commercial and consumer solutions such as rechargeable batteries, digital imaging devices, biomedical and health-related equipment, HVAC equipment, home appliances, etc. SANYO is also the world’s largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries. For further information on SANYO, please visit


Weekend Urban Permaculture Design Course

Common Circle Education is thrilled to present our Weekend
Urban Permaculture Design Course taking place on twelve
consecutive *Sundays* starting June 27th in California and
as a two-week intensive in Oregon.

With the news of peak oil, environmental destruction and economic
challenges in the air, permaculture offers tremendous solutions
that are simple to implement through re-localization and looking
back to how humans have lived sustainably for centuries.

Read more information:

Starting by learning the lessons from the garden with some of the
world’s most renowned organic farming experts, we will then look
at how to apply what we learned from the soil and the water to
building sustainable, lasting institutions.

During the workshop, we will talk about:

* Principles of Permaculture and Sustainable Design
* Smart Design through Careful Site Analysis
* Recognizing Patterns of Natural and Human Systems
* Reading the Land & Understanding Natural Cycles
* Soil regeneration and Land Restoration
* Food Forests, Trees & Garden Design
* Water Harvesting, Conservation, and Grey Water System Design
* Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology
* Natural Building Design
* Waste Recycling and Treatment
* Aquaculture and Animals
* Agroforestry and Forest Gardening
* Useful Plants and Planting Strategies
* Patterns of Settlement
* Cooperative Economics, Money & Financial Systems
* Designing Sustainable Cities through Sustainable Economies

“My experience in the course was invaluable. Â I find myself with a
new permaculture lens that I can put on at will, and see the world
around me in a way that I feel leads to making more conscious
decisions and living better in harmony with Mother Gaia.”
– Deborah F., Course Graduate

Read more information:

This workshop is an incredible opportunity to have fun and learn
practical skills you can apply in the real world in your own home
and backyard, or in your wider community.

You’ll learn how to create sustainable, thriving human systems,
from green houses and organic gardens, to local micro-economies
and communities, using sustainable design principles that are
applicable to every human system, from businesses, communities,
and cities to personal relationships.

Common Circle Education is the leading ecological design and holistic
living school with courses in Oregon, Hawaii and California; our
instructors are some of the most well-known leaders of the
sustainability, organic food and permaculture movements.

Upon successful completion of this course and meeting the
requirements, you’ll leave with an internationally recognized
Permaculture Design Certificate as the course will build upon
the standard 72-hour permaculture curriculum.

This course being offered at our two campuses — in
Eugene, OR as an intensive two-week course from July 10-25th;
and on Sundays in Berkeley, CA from June 27th through
September 12th (twelve Sunday series).

details at Please visit our
website, for more information about this
course as well as our Sustainability in Motion Bicycle
Tours and Regenerative Leadership for Sustainability program!

We hope you will be able to join us for this incredible,
life-changing experiential course!


Celebrate nature’s most powerful plants with The Herb Companion!

Would you like to receive information on how to make the most of nature’s most useful, flavorful and powerful plants? Want to learn to turn mundane meals into scrumptious feasts – without spending a lot of money? Want to know how to create wonderful scents, soaps and lotions to soothe your body and ease your mind? And how about getting great herb gardening tips from some of the most knowledgeable experts in the world?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, we know you will enjoy The Herb Companion, a sister publication of Mother Earth News. The Herb Companion is sure to be a smart and easy complement to your own upbeat, healthy way of living. Each issue is packed with great information on how to:

* Transform your cooking from good to Wow!
* Become the gardener you’ve always wanted to be;
* Create a landscape as useful as it is beautiful;
* Complement modern medicine with effective traditional remedies;
* Replace harsh chemicals with gentle, natural alternatives;
* Fill your life with nature’s best aromas and flavors.

Get the most recent information about nature’s powerhouse plants by subscribing to The Herb Companion today! Articles cover everything from recipes and reviews to people and places. Don’t miss out on the latest news from the herbal front in Fresh Clips or our in-depth profile of individual herbs in Herb to Know. Plus see specific health concerns addressed in each issue’s Ask the Herbalist!

Order a subscription to The Herb Companion today, and you’ll pay the low introductory price of just $10 (U.S. only) for a full year (six issues in all). You save 66% off the newsstand price.

Click here to subscribe to The Herb Companion!

We look forward to having you as a reader of The Herb Companion.

Let us be your partner and guide as you explore the herbal world!

Kind Regards,

Bryan Welch