Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Scoop on Flushable Cat Litter

This month, I have been focused on ways to reduce the amount of trash my family produces. A big contributor to our trash is our cat poop and cat litter. I had heard about flushable cat litter, and figured that if we could flush our cat waste into the toilet, it would definitely reduce our landfill contribution. However, I was a bit skeptical about the safety of cat feces going into our water supply, so I decided to do some research and find out more about flushable cat litter.
So there is litter that is biodegradable and that can be flushed down toilets. The litter itself is not problematic, but the cat feces that are in the litter are. Cats can carry toxoplasmosis in their feces, which can be transmitted to other animals (this is why pregnant women are advised against changing litter boxes while pregnant). Anyways, wastewater treatment facilities can't treat this parasite, so it passes through the treatment plant and back into the water system. There is evidence linking toxoplasmosis (transmitted from cat feces flushed down the toilet) to sea otter deaths in California. Apparently, sea otters are fairly sensitive, and toxoplasmosis is entering the water system and killing them. How sad! So, the short answer here is no, it is not environmentally friendly to flush your cat poop.
But, sending it to the landfill where it will sit and not decompose is not exactly earth-friendly either. Several folks  talked about using biodegradable litter (like pine shavings, newspaper, etc.) and composting the litter and urine, but still bagging the feces and sending them to a landfill. Others felt that composting the biodegradable litter, poop and all, was fine as long as the final product was not used on food grown for human consumption. Others suggested getting a worm bin specifically for cat poop. Who is right? I still have no clue. However, I found a link to a book which supposedly answers these questions, Wake Up and Smell the Planet. I have it on hold at the local library and I will hopefully be an expert in pet wastes before the summer is over.
In the meantime, I think I will make the switch to a biodegradable litter (and hope my cats don't pee all over my house in the interim). I can compost the litter and landfill the poop until I have a better plan on what to do with it.
Additionally, I want to add that while researching this, I found LOTS of people asking and answering questions about how to best dispose of pet wastes, with lots of people discussing composting pet waste. Since we are currently composting our dog poop, I was happy to know that so many other folks are concerned about this, and happy to know that I am not a complete freak when it comes to these matters (although my husband would likely disagree). Pin It Now!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strawberry Picking...

Portland's summer so far has been less than ideal for gardening, so strawberry season here is just getting going. And, from the looks of things, it won't last long either. We made it out yesterday morning to pick some, but the plants and berries were all pretty tiny. We still managed to pick 2 pounds before Finn and Phoebe had had their fill...

 Oh, and did I mention that it was REALLY muddy?

And this is what we made...
 Strawberry Rhubarb Pie:
I cheated and bought pre-made pie crusts for this, as it was a very last minute addition to our dinner plans. For the filling I just mixed chopped up strawberries and rhubarb with some cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. I poured into a pie shell, put a few pats of butter on top, put another pie shell on top, and baked for about an hour at 350 F. Serve with coconut bliss or ice creamish type treat of your choice! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reducing My Trash: An Update

For the month of June, our family has been working on reducing the amount of waste that we produce each week. I feel that we have made some progress, but our trash reduction has not been as dramatic as I had expected. I guess we still have a long way to go....
Here is what we have done so far:
  • We have been diligent about only using a disposable diaper while Phoebe is sleeping at night, and not during any other times of the day. I thought about putting Finn back into cloth at night, instead of his pull-up, but the diaper we have don't fit him anymore and I don't think I want to invest in clothe diapers for a kiddo his size (he is 3 but wears 5T). We have also been diligent about using cloth wipes unless we are out and about.
  • I made some cloth one-use hankies for us to blow our nose on (see above) instead of grabbing tissue paper. The system is still getting organized, and I realized that I need to make more hankies (I guess we blow our noses a lot), but I have seen a definite reduction in the amount of tissue paper in the bathroom trash can each week.
  • We have been composting our dog poop. A little gross, yup, but so far so good. I carry it to the dog compost zone (we made a special compost pile just for this purpose only) each day and cover it with used straw from our duckhouse or yard waste. So far there has been zero smell and no grossness. I still need to do some research about flushable cat litter. Just haven't gotten around to that yet, but in my plans for the near future!
  • I have also been mindful about composting as much food as possible. Now that I am eating very little dairy, this has actually been a lot easier because I can compost almost all of my food waste, even food that has been cooked. I have to head out to the compost pile with food waste just about every day, which has been a little annoying, but also makes me realize that we were throwing away a lot of food that could have been composted. Now we still really need to work on wasting less to begin with. It is hard with a three year old to not waste... sometimes he eats 2 servings and sometimes he won't touch a thing on his plate. Oh well. 
  • My husband did a little research and found a local place that will take some recyclable plastics that our curbside pickup won't take (like the annoying plastic containers that strawberries and blueberries come in). So we have no set up a bin in the garage for these containers, and we will drop them off as-needed.
On the down side, we have had a few things break (like a full length mirror) that had to go in the trash, and cleaning out our garage produced some trash that had been hidden for awhile (oops). I feel like we are still producing more trash than we should be, but, we are taking steps to try and reduce that, and hopefully we will see it decrease more and more as time goes on.  
    Pin It Now!

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

    These muffins are almost too good to have for breakfast! They are perfect for those mornings when you are feeling like you deserve a treat, but want something a little more nourishing than a doughnut.

    What You Need:
    • 1 1/4 cups whole oats oats
    • 1 1/4 cups milk (I use rice milk but dairy works fine too)
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/2cup packed brown sugar
    • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    What You Do: 
    • Combine oats and milk and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Oil your muffin tin.
    • Stir egg, oil, brown sugar, and chocolate chips into the oat and milk mixture.
    • Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add oat mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just moist.
    • Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until ready. Enjoy!!

    Pin It Now!

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    This Moment...

    {this moment} - A Friday ritual.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama 
    Pin It Now!

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Cloth Wipes

    As part of my plan to reduce my waste, we have been pretty diligent about only using cloth diapers with Phoebe, even when we are out and about. The only exception to this is the one (or sometimes two) disposables that we put on her at night, which allows us all to sleep better and longer. We were using mainly cloth before, but would sometime put on a disposable to head out of the house, and Todd would use them frequently out of ease. But, I have gotten him onto a great routine, and our disposable diaper use has dropped noticeably over the past few weeks. I actually have only bought one pack of diapers in the past few weeks, so this has been a huge savings for us as well as a trash reduction.
    If you are already washing cloth diapers, it just make sense to use cloth wipes as well. Better for the environment and WAY cheaper than buying them. I made a new stack of cloth wipes when Phoebe was born and we finally have plenty to last until wash day! Here is my recipe for an easy homemade wipe solution:
    • 2 cups warm water
    • 2 Tbl. baby shampoo
    • 2 Tbl. grapeseed oil (I used baby oil with Finn until I realized that it was made from petroleum! Yuck!)
    • 5 drops calendula oil
    I just store this in a tupperware and dip in a cloth wipe as needed! Pin It Now!

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Yarn Along

    Happily joining in with Ginny at Small Things for this week's yarn along. This week I have been browsing through a couple of knitting books, Essential Baby by Debbie Bliss and Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant. I actually chose my first sweater pattern that I am going to knit for Phoebe; the corssover top sweater in Essential Baby. I already bought the yarn and everything (so it's official) but I am going to wait a few weeks to get started. I am a little nervous as I have never knit a sweater (or anything that complicated) before. I also started reading The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan and Stolen Harvest by Vandana Shiva. I will write up reviews on those when I have finished.
    This week I started knitting a stuffed peacock with a friend of mine, but it isn't going so well as we are having a bit of trouble deciphering the pattern. So that project has been temporarily put on hold. I am also knitting some adorable baby booties, the pattern can be found for free here.  I still have to tie in loose ends and add buttons to the first one, but so far they look really cute. However, I made the small size and am now kicking myself because I think they will probably fit P for about a week. Oh well.
    And, can you see the hidden baby feet in my picture? They are just screaming for new booties!
    And, last week I finally finished the Stella Pixie Hat (pattern from Vintage Baby Knits). I have been working on this for awhile, so it feels good to be done. Just in time for summer nonetheless! Anyways, it was hard to get a good shot of Phoebe actually wearing it, but I did my best.

    Pin It Now!

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Happy Summer

    To me, summer means:
     Bare Feet

     Colorful Blooms

    Cold Drinks

    And Garden Anticipation

    Wishing you all a wonderful first day of summer! Hopefully the first day of summer will bring some summer weather to Portland! Pin It Now!

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Our June Garden....

    We have had a slow start to our summer this year in Portland (again) and the lack of sun has delayed our garden progress quite a bit. Everything is 2-3 weeks behind what it normally is, so I hope our little plants have time to catch up and produce a decent harvest before fall sets in.
    I wasn't as organized planning our garden this year as I had hoped to be (that's what happens when you have a baby on March 1), but we still managed to get quite a bit planted. Now we are just waiting for the sun to shine enough to make it all grow... After a few summers of figuring out what doesn't work well in our yard, I seem to have lots of great ideas on how to make next year's garden better. I decided to start a garden journal, not so much to record the progress of our plants, but a place to keep all of my ideas for next year so that I can put my improvement ideas into action.
    As for now, we are just enjoying some blooms and the first harvests of the season. The current favorites are the snap peas, which just started to yield peas a few days ago. Finn can't seem to get enough of them.

    Pin It Now!

    And the Winner Is.....

    Ren at Lady of the Arts! Thanks to everyone who entered my teething bracelet giveaway. Pin It Now!

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Happy Father's Day!

    Happy Father's Day to all of you hard-working dads out there. I am so lucky that the man I chose is such a great papa to his 2 kids....
    Pin It Now!

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Almost Giveaway Day!

    If you haven't yet entered my giveaway for a wooden teething bracelet, you still have until midnight tomorrow! Click here for details.
    Happy Weekend! Pin It Now!

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    This Moment...

    {this moment} - A Friday ritual.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama 
    Pin It Now!

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    The Story of Bottled Water

    I start a new term next week and this class focuses on water, pollution, and environmental hazards. While preparing my course material, I was reminded of this great short video on why bottled water is so bad for the planet.This video is part of The Story of Stuff Project which has these great short videos on several topics. If you can spare a few moments in your day, check out: The Story of Bottled Water. 
    And then head to your tap to fill up your glass....

    And there is still time to enter my giveaway for a wooden teething bracelet! Pin It Now!

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    My First Giveaway!!

    I opened an etsy shop in January and it has been chugging along slowly. I have had a few sales, not as many as I would like, but enough to keep me motivated to use my sewing machine on a regular basis. Last week I came up with a new item for my etsy shop- a wooden teething bracelet. I made a few the other night and it was sort of addicting.. so I decided to make one for a giveaway. I know some of you also have young babies and could probably use one of these around your house (or maybe you have friends or family with a teething babe?). Phoebe is about 3.5 months now, and I suspect our first round of serious teething is just around he corner.
    These teething rings are made from all-natural unfinished wooden beads wrapped in 100% cotton fabric. The beads are just the right size for a wee one to bite, and I have sewed extra carefully to make sure that they stay secured within the fabric bracelet (that said, never leave your baby unattended with this toy, just in case!). This bracelet is practical for a teething ring but also cute enough for mom to slip onto her wrist as a bracelet for a teething ring on-the-go.
    I have seen some of these teething toys as a necklace style where the mom can wear it while the baby chews on it. I thought that having a bracelet that mom can slip off and hand over to baby may work a bit better for my lifestyle. I normally wouldn't wear a bracelet as big as this one, but then again I don't wear burp cloths or breastmilk stained clothes without a baby around either!
    Anyways, if you would like to enter to win this teething bracelet, just leave me a comment. If you are a "no-reply" blogger, make sure to include your email address in your comment or check back on Monday. That's it. Easy, right? I am willing to ship anywhere on earth! All comments need to be submitted by midnight (PST) on Sunday. I will choose a winner by random selection and will announce the winner on Monday (if you win I will also send you an email).
    P.S.- don't worry... the one I will be giving away looks like this, but is not this exact one. Your will be Phoebe-slime free!

    Pin It Now!

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Learn an Herb: Plantain

    Today I will be talking about the herb plantain (plantago major), not the banana-like plant that grows in Central America. You may not recognize this plan by name, but you have probably seen this plant before. It is a common weed that has naturalized itself around the United States, and once I started looking for it, it seemed to be everywhere.
    Plantain is one of those herbs that seems to be a cure for every ailment, a panacea if you will. This leaves of this plant can be eaten in salads (I have not yet tried) and are rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. This plant is an anti-toxin and has antibacterial and astringent properties. It has been used to treat asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, fever, blood sugar problems, and hypertension. The roots has been found to help all sorts of stomach issues (from diarrhea to IBS), hemorrhoids, asthma and allergies. The seeds have been used to treat parasitic worms. The plant can also be used as a dressing to treat wounds, ulcers, cuts, splinters and inflammation. A woman who leads many field trips for my classes calls it "nature's band-aid". If you get a cut in the woods, you can wrap a piece of plantain around it to help stop the bleeding and heal the wound. She said she has actually done trials and found that plantain-dressed cuts healed faster than cuts dressed with neosporin. Sweet!
    Plantain has also been used to help people quite smoking (it curbs the desire for nicotine) and as an anti-venom for rattlesnake bites (hope I never need to test that one out!).
    The entire plant is edible and leave can be cooked or enjoyed in a salad. To make a tea, use about 1 Tbl. of plantain (leaves, stems or roots) per 1 cup of boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes. A salve can also be made to apply to wounds. I give instructions on making a calendula salve here, but you could easily do the same with plantain. Plantain can also be made into a poultice to apply directly to wounds. This herb is definitely safe to use topically while breastfeeding, but I can't find much information on taking it internally while breastfeeding or while pregnant. Pin It Now!

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Some Big Summer Plans

    Today is the day that my summer officially gets underway (although with the cool rainy weather around here it certainly doesn't seem like summer) Even though summer is a time when we always seem to be busy, it is a good sort of busy. Summer is the time when life is a little more free, more easy going, and a lot more packed with excitement. It also seems to be my most motivated time of the year and the best time for me to get projects done. So, behold, my summer 2011 project list:
    • Work on sewing from a pattern. Phoebe's bonnet, that I made a couple weeks ago, was my first time sewing from a pattern ever. And it was an easy pattern. I want to expand my pattern knowledge. I plan on starting with sewing an apron from a pattern. If it goes well, maybe I will start using patterns more often!
    • Paint the exterior of my house. This is sort of a big undertaking, especially with a new baby, but my house is small. Really small. So I think a weekend with a couple of friends will be enough time to finish the whole project, and it will look so much better! Now I just need to decide on a weekend (and a color!)
    • Learn to pickle! I learned how to can a few summers ago but have never tackled pickling yet.
    • Choose a sweater pattern for Phoebe. Hopefully I will start knitting it as well, but I at least want to  have it decided on by the end of the summer.I am taking suggestions if anyone has some good one for me....
    • Make homemade paper. I have actually done this before, a really long time ago, but would like to re-learn how to do it and maybe improve my skills. 
    • Restart my 365 project. 365 project is a photo project that allows you to post one photograph for each calender day. It is a real motivation to take lots of (great) photos each and every day and then to sit down and critique them and decide which is your best from that day.  I started this photo project last summer, but then once my pregnancy had me feeling awful, I wasn't up for continuing. So, I want to restart my project again this summer.
    • Perfect a loaf of (yeast) bread. Enjoy it with the glass of beer pictured above.
    Do you think I can do it all? What are your summer goals? Pin It Now!

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    This Moment...

    {this moment} - A Friday ritual.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama 
    Pin It Now!

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    My 2011 Summer Reading List: Here We Go!

    Today is my last day of the term. I give a final this afternoon, grade all weekend, and submit final grades on Monday. So, in the world of a teacher, summer starts next Monday. Woohoo! Although, technically, I only have a week break and then I begin a new term, which is actually more time and work intensive for me than my current class. And with Finn's preschool taking a break for the summer, I am a full time mama with no breaks, working more hours, and I seem to have about a million other things going on. So, this summer will be busy, but it is summer nonetheless, and I am excited. Just the idea of summer gets me a little giddy at times.
    Anyways, each summer I compile a reading list of books that I hope to read. My list for this summer was HUGE, but I narrowed it down to my top 9. However, even that is a bit optimistic, as I am currently in the middle of 4 books (not on my reading list) that I need to finish before I can even begin my summer choices. Plus, I am starting a book club next week which will add more to my reading pile. And, a few of my top 9 are pretty long and intense books.... So, I am going to do my best to tackle them all, but I will forgive myself if I don't complete all 9. (Actually, if I read 6 of them, I will be pretty impressed with myself. There is just not much time to read with 2 little ones at home!). And, to be honest, one of these books is straight from my reading list from last year that I still haven't gotten around to, and 2 of the 4 books that I am currently reading are also from last summer's list.
    Anyways, here is what I am hoping to read this summer. Do you have a summer reading list?

    Pin It Now!

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Yarn Along

    Joining in with Ginny at Small Things for this week's yarn along. My photo this week looks surprisingly like the last time I did Yarn Along back in June. That's because I am STILL reading several of the same books and STILL working on the same knitting project. I just haven't had enough "me" time lately to make much progress on either....
    This week I am still reading Gulliver's Travels, The Lacuna and The Northwest Nature Guide.
    I am also just finishing up Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline (yet another parenting book to help me deal with 3-year old craziness). This one seems to have some good tips, but I guess I will see how they work once I try to apply them to my situation! I also just started reading Calming Signals, a short read that explains dog "language". this one was recommended to me by the trainer who taught my dog obedience class. I am really trying to finish up all of these books by the end of the weekend. My spring term class I am teaching ends on Friday, with grades due on Monday, so my "summer" starts next week. I really want to compile and begin a summer reading list then, and would love to have these books out of the way first. We'll see........

    Now for my knitting.......I have almost finished the Stella Pixie Hat that I am making for Phoebe. I only have the strap left to complete, so it will be done in the next couple of days. The pattern can be found in Vintage Baby Knits.I can't wait to try it on her. I am also knitting her a quick purple cotton gnome hat for chilly summer nights camping.

    Last (but not least) I have finished 3 hats for Japan (check out the button on my sidebar for more info or to join in!). I am hoping to send these off to Ginny this week!
    Pin It Now!

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Is Your Sunscreen Toxic?

    Summer is just around the corner and sunscreen season is upon us. Choosing a sunscreen can be a difficult task, as most of them are loaded with chemicals and all sorts of things I can't pronounce. It always takes me forever to choose a sunscreen.. trying to weigh my choice between chemicals, sun protection and cost. Here is one more chemical to be on the lookout for when you are choosing a sunscreen: oxybenzone.
    Oxybenzone is a chemical found in many cosmetic products such as lipsticks, moisturizers, fragrances, and especially sunblocks and other SPF-products. According to the Environmental Working Group, oxybenzones have been linked to hormone disruption, allergies, and cancer. So, using oxybenzone-containing sunscreen to reduce your risk of skin cancer may actually increase your risk of cancer! Oxybenzone is also a penetration-enhancer, which means that it will help all of the other chemicals in the sunscreen penetrate your skin. Eww.
    Additionally, this chemical is poisoning our oceans. An estimated 6,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in the waters surrounding coral reefs. Sunscreen containing oxybenzones can cause viral infections in coral reef, resulting in coral bleaching (aka dead reef). When this chemical accumulates in fish, it has shown to actually change male fish into females (yikes!).
    This chemical was last tested for safety by the FDA back in the 70's. In the past 30-plus years, a lot more information has been learned about this chemical, much of which shows that this chemical may not be safe for us or the environment . So.... when choosing a sunscreen this summer, look for products that are oxybenzone-free. Your natural health foods store is probably your best place to look, but I know that Trader Joe's also has a oxybenzone-free sunscreen that is affordable.
    For some other factors to take into consideration when sunscreen shopping, check out an old post about how to choose a sunscreen. Pin It Now!

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Baby Poop Stains and How to Get Rid of 'Em

    Anyone whose ever dealt with children in diapers knows what a blowout is, and most of you have probably said farewell to a cute onesie or pair of pants that had the dreaded yellow poop stain...
    As an environmental advocate, I hate to see clothes get discarded because of stains, but those tell-tale poop stains are just, well, gross. I also refuse to launder my kiddos clothes with anything that could be toxic to them or to the environment. So, this time around, with Phoebe, I have been experimenting with different environmentally-friendly ways to get those poop stains out. I have found one method that has worked miracles, and I will share it with you now...
    First thing is to get the stain wet (cold water please) as SOON AS POSSIBLE after the explosion happens. The longer it sits, the less chance there will be of getting it out. Now I do what I call my pre-treat. I use an old yogurt container and fill it with about 2 Tbl hydrogen peroxide and a scoop (1 Tbl) of laundry soap. I use laundry soap, and not detergent. Laundry soap is supposedly better at getting out protein (read: poop) stains. For my homemade laundry soap recipe click here. Then I place the stained garment in the yogurt container and fill with cold water making sure the garment is submerged. Then I let it sit until I do a load of laundry and dump the entire contents of the container into the machine. It has gotten the stains out every single time (so far)! If a blowout happens right before I am about to do a load of laundry, I just rinse the garment, pour hydrogen peroxide onto the stained area, and wash with laundry soap. Now for the proof.....
    P.S.- Phoebe is currently only enjoying breastmilk. I have no idea how this plan would work for formula fed babies or babies that eat solids. I guess I will find out in a few month when she starts eating solid foods!
    How do you get out baby poop stains? I would love to hear other ideas, tips, or magical cures. Especially if anyone has a remedy for stains that have been dryer set.... I have quite a few old things of Finn's that I would love to make wearable again.. Pin It Now!

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    A Farm Field Trip

    This morning, with my son's preschool, we headed to the town of Corbett, Oregon, for a field trip at an amazing farm. We first had to make sure to wear our farm attire (straw hats of course!)

    The kids learned about some of the plants grown on the farm. Here they are looking at blueberry bushes. Yum!

    There may or may not have been some hand holding.....

    The kids had a tour of the farm and saw chickens (and baby chicks!), a peacock, goats, sheep and donkeys (and with dread locks no less!). I have never seen such cute donkeys before. Honest.

    And there were also baby goats to feed! As long as they didn't try to eat your hair...
    The morning ended with some gardening and the children planted pumpkins that they will harvest in October. This farm made me realize how much I want to have a little farm of my own one day.... with luck, it will happen! Pin It Now!