Entering the Home Stretch!

In May I completed my Hunter Education Instructor Certification through the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and began the process of obtaining my Environmental Educator Certification through the NC Department of Environmental Quality. It’s a 200 hour program, and I have busted it out. I’m almost done! I have three more workshops to attend over the next few weeks and then I will only have my community project and teaching hours to complete. The Land Trust for Central NC, which is headquartered here in Salisbury, has a program for school aged children, called the Leopold Society. I will be leading hikes and outdoor experiences that help the participants earn stamps on their “Passport” and which will count towards the completion of my certification. I am currently taking Chemistry and Math at Rowan Cabarrus Community College, and will likely begin my bachelor’s studies, in earnest, this summer, through Oregon State University online. OSU offers degrees in Environmental Science, Wildlife and Fisheries Management, and Natural Resources Management, completely online. In review of my previous plan, I will no longer be seeking the Associate Degree of Environmental Science through Forsyth Tech. As cool as it was, it would not bring me any closer to the type of employment I seek. I may even fall one course shy of earning an Associate of Science and an Associate of Art. The reason being that in order to do so I must take a class on “College Transfer Success” which I feel is a waste of my time and money, as I have been to a four year university previously, and did just fine. If it helps me get a bachelor’s degree sooner, then I will definitely reconsider, but for now, I’m just concentrating on making sure I complete as many Math and Science classes as I can at RCCC. It’s been a very long summer, but it sure has been fun.

Sprouting Seeds in a Ziploc Bag and Other Gardening Hacks

Back in February, my husband and I went a little nuts, and proceeded to buy about thirty packets of seeds for our garden. We then bought three of those mini greenhouses that are nothing more than 72 peat moss pods that go into a plastic tray with a clear plastic top, the point of which is to give your seedlings a place to sprout. Water, seeds, place in a sunny area, and viola, two weeks later, plants are growing in your kitchen! Well, we decided to place these containers outside on warm sunny days. The lids don’t fit snugly onto them, so I used a bit of painter’s tape (because that’s all I had other than duck tape) to secure the lids against the winds of March. The tape however, was not enough to secure the lids against hungry birds. The robins, mocking birds, and house wrens that I normally love to see and hear in my yard became enemy number one after they pried open my greenhouses, and made a buffet out of my seed pods! Literally only three stalks of corn, of the dozens I had started, survived. I lost all my spinach, all my eggplants, and I’m pretty sure all my carrots and kale, but more on that in a later post. Since I had not started all our seeds, I began to wonder what would be a more secure, cheaper alternative to those flimsy pod trays. Then I dawned on me: “I have perfectly good compost in the back yard, and don’t we have some disused flower pots in the tool shed?” I opened up the tool shed, and after stumbling past the wheelbarrow, there was a pile of plastic flower boxes, the kind you affix to your window outside, and grow ivy and zinnias in, (or whatever it is you do with those things). I took them to the compost pile and scooped up several handfuls of compost, filling each one about 1/3 full. I then took them inside the kitchen, aka “the lab”, and began setting up my improvised mini greenhouses. I divided each container roughly into thirds, and simply sprinkled seeds into the compost, took a stick and lightly stirred them in, and then watered them, leaving the empty seed packet inside to mark what was to be growing in that section of the planter. “But how to keep the birds out?” I thought. “Saran Wrap,” I answered myself back. To secure the top of the container, I wrapped plastic cling wrap in three sections short ways across, and in one long piece from end to end, leaving enough excess to tuck under the planter, and then, just for good measure, I took a length of Saran Wrap and ran it under the lip of the container, effectively “tying” the “lid” shut. It looks a bit dodgy, but you can see the results in the pictures above. The other bright idea I had was to simplify this even further, and just scoop compost into a Ziploc back, add seeds, seal, shake, water, and set in the sun. That also turned out well, with one caveat; instead of shaking them, next time I will gently stir the seeds into the top most portion of the soil, so as to avoid plants sprouting on the bottom of the bag, only to suffocate, as was the case with much of the basil I started. Again, it looks silly, but it’s kept the birds out so far, and I will be transplanting the seedlings to the garden once the rain stops! Now obviously this has some less than Eco-friendly side effects, mostly in the form of generating plastic waste from the plastic cling film and the sandwich bags; but I will be reusing/recycling them, so as to mitigate the negative effects on the environment.

Super Stoked! Kinda Wanna Puke!

I am very exited right now, but also I want to throw up in my mouth ever so slightly! The whole premise of this little exercise is to chronicle my efforts to make the world a better place through service, education, and lifestyle changes. In doing that I have made the decision to change careers, after nearly 10 years in my current field, and get into Environmental Science/Biology/Engineering. Which means I’ve gone back to school. Now, I’m not sure if I’ve explained this, but I also currently run my own business, so this has become quite the juggling act, and this fall I will add a few more balls in the air. Hence the aforementioned trepidation-induced nausea! I am in the process of obtaining both my Associate in Science, and my Associate in Arts from the local community college. Since I have a wealth of previous credits, I will actually qualify for both these degrees by taking only a handful of classes. This will absolve me of having to complete any Gen. Ed. requirements, should I matriculate to a four year University, which is the ultimate goal. So that’s the manageable part. Where I’ve thrown a spanner into my own works is; I have also enrolled at a community college about 45 minutes up the road, because they have an Associate Degree of Applied Science in Environmental Science Technology. Therefore, this Fall, and next Spring, I will be taking classes here in town, and online through the school just up the road. In Spring of 2018 I will have earned my Associate of Science, and my Associate of Arts from the local community college. I will roll right into the Summer  semester of 2018 taking classes full time, on campus, up the road, and will continue to do so until Spring of 2019, at which point I will have earned my Associate of Applied Science in Environmental Science Technology. In two year’s time I will have earned three degrees, which is exciting, except for the part where I have to take 17 credit hours Fall of 2018! Que the gut punch sound effect! All the while remember that I have a business to run, volunteer work to perform, and a personal life to live in there somewhere. The pay off is that I will have two degrees that transfer to a four year school, and one that qualifies me to actually begin working in my field. Keep in mind that on top of all of this, as if it’s not enough already, I am getting my Environmental Educator Certificate from the NC DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality), and my Volunteer Hunter Safety Instructor Certification. The former requires several upon several work shops, that I do student teaching of sorts, quite a bit of travel, and culminates in a community project that I am to design, and execute, in conjunction with a local organization. The latter is nearly complete, but once finished I will be leading Hunter Safety Courses, which will be another item to add to my already full schedule. I’m hoping that all of my volunteer work will provide me with not only valuable experience, but also with contacts that could lead to employment once I graduate in two years. I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot; it’s a lot of time, energy, money, and brain power to pull all this off, and I’m sometimes fearful that I can’t do it. I’m very lucky to have an excellent support system here at home, and am immeasurably thankful to all the wonderful people I have in my life who encourage me, and reassure me that I can do this. Now I’m making this cockamamie scheme public on the world wide web, and that makes me accountable, which is another layer of both anxiety and motivation. I may have to, in the immortal words of my father, “fall back and punt”, but once I make up my mind that something is going to happen, I generally make it happen. I’ve pulled through some major set backs in my life before, and will continue to do so, as nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. But for now, that’s the plan, it may have to change, but I intend to see this through. Here goes something!

So, here’s what I’m doing…

Truly, I am a hippie at heart. I love the outdoors, camping, fishing, cycling, and occasionally hunting. When Trump got elected, and started taking steps aimed at dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service, I got pissed. I mean positively livid. I grew up outside, playing with my fiends in somebody’s back yard, riding our bikes all over our little one stoplight town, camping trips with my family on the Blue Ridge Parkway, lazy summer days at our little trailer by the lake, boating, swimming, fishing, and hiking. These were the things that made my childhood magical. These are the activities that shaped me. These are the experiences I want to share with my children, one day, to pass on my love of and reverence for nature, to instill in them the principles of conservation and stewardship. So to see our country’s leader declare war against the things that I hold dearest to my heart really set me off. And much as it may sound strange to say this; I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful because finally, after 17 years of soul searching, going to different colleges, trying out different careers, and earning various degrees, diplomas, and certificates, I have found my calling. This was the impetus behind my, once again, going back to school. Only this time I knew with out a doubt that I wanted to study Environmental Science. That wasn’t enough, though. Because despite all my credit hours and varied work force experiences, I don’t yet have enough credits to jump right into my field of study. I still have some basic freshman/sophomore level courses before I can begin taking “major level classes.” I want to do something now, not have to wait until I finish a four year degree. So with the help and advice of some awesome friends, I came up with an action plan to do things now that will protect the environment whilst simultaneously building my resume. Here they are:

  1. Lead by Example- When we were dating, my husband and I bonded over our mutual love of Tiny Houses, and our intention to Grow Food Not Lawns. The first summer we were together, we had tomatoes planted in our front yard. This year I’m taking that several steps further. I already have a fair amount of sweet mint, peppermint, rosemary, and bee balm planted in the front yard. I have a compost pile in “the back 40” where the neighbors can’t see. I’ve built one small hugelkultur in the front yard, and plan to do several more over the next few weeks. This year we will in fact Grow Food Not Lawns. I plant to, at some point, make a few signs for the neighbors to read as they walk past, so as to educate, and hopefully inspire my fellow historic district residents. I’m also starting a diet. I’m trying to cut back on my car usage, so I’m finding more ways to walk or ride my bike to run errands or go to work. Again, my neighbors see this, and comment on it. If I can get just one more person to follow suit, I’ll feel like I’ve done something.
  2. Get Certified- After talking with a colleague who works at the Land Trust for Central NC, I found out that there is a nearly free program through the NC Department of Environmental Quality, through which I can become a Certified Environmental Educator. Now this program is not just a bunch of workshops for me to sit through and be a mere student. As I progress through the self-paced program, I will be required to teach classes, and the experience culminates with my designing, executing, and leading a community project. Additionally I am going to be following in the footsteps of my father, and (the nerd in me really wants to say become a Jedi) obtain my certification to be a Hunter Safety Instructor. This will allow me to assist the Land Trust with their youth outreach program, with the aim of getting more kids outside. Getting the younger generations involved is key to keeping the cause of Environmental Protection alive. We need these kids to be passionate about the natural world. I have also signed up on Greenpeace’s Greenwire website for a six week webinar series on grassroots activism.
  3. Volunteer- This goes hand in hand with the above, but even while I’m getting these certifications I can participate in activities with local advocacy groups. I’ve got a couple of events with the Land Trust that I will be helping with. Also, in the past my husband and I have cooked and served lunch at the local homeless shelter. Currently we are trying to get a group of friends together to do this on a more regular basis. The aforementioned community project might have a tie-in to the homeless shelter. As I build rapport with the people there, I will see what possibly could be done in the way of setting up a compost pile and vegetable garden on the property.
  4. Blog- Right now the only person who reads this is me. As time goes on I hope to get more exposure and use this blog to inspire others. I hope to use a mix of humor and honesty to make this interesting enough to keep people coming back regularly for fresh ideas and information. If nothing else this will serve as some sort of documentation of my efforts, and who knows? Maybe this will help me land an awesome job where I will have access to even more resources to educate the public, and combat pollution.

So I’m a blogger now!

I started this page like I do most things in my life, and that was by stumbling into it. I recently wrote a letter to the editor of a magazine, voicing my opinion and offering advice. To my surprise they contacted me back and asked me to write a blog post for them! I did, and they offered to put up a bio page and links to my social media, therefore necessitating that I actually have links for them to post. I had contemplated starting a blog before, and figured now is as good a time as any. I hope to share with you my efforts to make the world a little better through volunteer work, growing food not lawns, riding a bike, and generally trying to be awesome!