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!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Start Your Starts!

It's February (for one last day!) which means that you should have already or should be planting all of your garden starts! Peppers, tomatoes and anything else that needs some indoor-love before it can be planted into your garden need to find a warm, soil-filled place in your home.
How about re-purposing a cardboard egg crate to plant your seeds in? You can even break the individual cells apart and plant them directly in the ground when the time comes! Pin It Now!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Rainy days can still be fun! Find some puddles and stomp, stomp, stomp!
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Garden Tunnel

This past weekend, with the help of my hubby, I made a garden tunnel in our backyard. It was actually really easy to do-- once we got everything we needed together. We just hammered some rebar into the ground and used 6-foot sections of 1/2 inch PVC pipe to create the shape. I know, I know, PVC is TERRIBLE for the environment and those who make it.... we looked at 2 different re-use stores to try and find some used, but had no luck. So, I gave in and bought new piping, but I have promised myself that when it is retired from the garden tunnel, I will re-purpose it to create a cloche for overwintering vegetables.
Once the rebar and piping was in place, we just used twist-ties to attach some garden netting around the frame. Finn helped me plant some snow peas around the edge, and with any luck, his garden tunnel will be covered in yummy peas in a couple of months. Unfortunately, the only place we had for the tunnel is fairly shaded and doesn't have the best of soils..... so we will be hoping for success! Pin It Now!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Addicted to Plastic: A Review

I just watched the film Addicted to Plastic for the 3rd time, and decided it was time for write a review about it. This is a great film that sums up plastic from every angle: from our plastic dependence to the plastic pollution that is plaguing even the most remote areas to innovations for recycle plastic and creating earth-friendly plastics. The producer, Ian Connacher, takes the viewers on a trip around the world to visit areas of pollution and to talk to people who are making changes in the future of plastic. You get to travel out to the ocean and check out the plastic that accumulate in the gyres (see my older post on ocean plastics), view the inside of a bird's gut (and all the plastic in it), see a man who makes railroad ties out of unwanted plastic, see microbes that turn plastics into oil and other microbes that turn that oil back into plastics, meet inventors who have made plastics so safe that they eat them (on camera!) and much much more.
Plastic does make our lives much easier, but the way that we deal with plastics across the globe is turning into a travesty. Plastic doesn't biodegrade and it is becoming a huge threat for our wildlife, especially in our oceans. This film is a great introduction to plastic problems and solutions and is definitely worth watching (at least once!).
The one problem about this film is that it can be tricky to get your hands on- it not available through netflix or many chain video stores. I have rented at my public library, which is probably your best bet. Read more about the film at Pin It Now!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Recycled Crayons

Here is a great way to use all those small bits of crayons that you have no use for: make new (and better) crayons from your old scraps!
Remove ALL wrappers from crayons and cut into small pieces (1/2-inch long segments work just fine). Preheat oven to around 200 degrees. Coat a muffin pan with a LOT of olive oil spray. Even better choices would be to dedicate a muffin pan to crayon-making (but still spray it!) or using cupcake liners if you are worried about damage to your muffin tin. Fill muffin tins approximately 1-inch deep with crayon pieces, and feel free to mix in colors any which way you choose! Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until all crayon chunks are melted. Remove from oven and let cool COMPLETELY (I know, it is hard to wait, but just do it). Once cool, tip muffin pan over and bang underneath each mold. Alternatively, you could put the tin in the freezer, which makes it easier to remove crayons, or use a utensil to loosen crayon at edges.
I decided to use Finn's favorite dinosaur muffin tin and sprayed it before putting the crayon pieces in. The crayons came out pretty easily, but there were a few spots that the wax just stuck to, even though I had thoroughly prepared the tray. It took me about 5 minutes of cleaning to get all of the melted wax out... this is where it would be really nice to have a muffin tin just for crayons, and you wouldn't have to sweat the missed wax here or there.
Now you have a quick and easy way to turn your crayon-yuck into crayon-hooray! Pin It Now!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review: Polar Obsession

Polar Obsession is a photo story of the wildlife of the Arctic and Antarctic, and the story of how their lives may change if global temperatures continue to rise. This book is definitely an attempt to grab attention through the plight of the well-loved polar bears and penguins, along with some less known animals like the narwhals and elephant seals. This book has very little writing... most of what there is is simply a narrative of the photographer's story, as well as the repeated theme that if global warming doesn't stop, these polar creatures are all in doom.
This book isn't really about the science-- it is about the absolutely amazing photographs. The beautiful scenery, the glaciers, the up-close with the wildlife, and the story behind it all. In all honesty, I am not sure how many minds will be swayed in regards to global warming policy, but this book is well worth checking out for the amazing photography. Pin It Now!

Monday, February 15, 2010

How to Compost Part 2: Composting

Now that you can have your own bin, how do you compost? Well, the rules are pretty easy-- you need "greens" (nitrogen) and "browns" (carbon). Anything that was recently alive (like your food scraps or live plant material or fresh grass clippings) is a "green". Anything that was not (like straw or dried leaves or dried grass clippings) is a "brown". Every time you add greens, you need to add browns as well, otherwise your organisms that are breaking everything down will go out of whack and things will get slimy. We save our scraps in a bag in the fridge and take them out every week or two. When we dump kitchen scraps in in the bin, we add some straw (or other brown) and call it good. Don't compost meats or cheeses (eggshells are OK) unless you are going to let your compost sit for a year... also, these items make your bin more attractive to wildlife, so beware!
If your compost bin ever gets slimy, you need to add more browns. During the summer, you may have to spray it down with water occassionally if it looks too dry. You can turn the pile, but honestly, it is just more work and if you are not in a huge hurry to make compost, you don't need to bother. It will speed things up a bit though!
Now you can reduce your waste and turn your trash into fertilizer! It is almost like magic.... Pin It Now!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

How to Compost Part 1: Building a Compost Bin

Composting is easier than you think and if you have a little bit of backyard space, you too can have your own compost bin!
So, there are all sorts of compost bins on the market that vary in price from reasonable to a whole lot. If you are set on a specific type, then feel free to get whatever suits your needs. If however, you just want something that will get the job done, then you can make a quick and easy and almost free compost bin. All you need are 4 wooden pallets of similar size. If you live near a city, you can usually find these free on or just by driving around and finding ones tossed out with the trash. Worst case, you could probably buy some used ones for a few dollars each. Once you have your pallets, connect them together (as shown in the photo above) and viola! - you have a cheapo compost bin. Ideally, you would have another 3 pallets (to make 2 square chambers)-- this way you can stop adding materials to side A and let it finish. While it is finishing, you can add material to side B. Once you use the compost from side A, then let side B sit, and add to A again. Easy, right? Pin It Now!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pet Loss and Toddlers

Last weekend, after a short battle with cancer, we had to put our old dog Sam down. We lost a dog last spring as well, but our son was only about 18 months at the time, and wasn't too phased by the situation. Sam however, is a different story. Finn is 27 months now, and explaining this process to him has been nothing short of heart wrenching. I was hoping to share my experience with pet loss and toddlers in hopes that what I have learned may someday help someone else. And, I am reaching out to anyone who may read this who has any advice to give to me!
When Sam's time came, we had a vet come to the house to euthanize him. We allowed Finn to be there and watch the whole process as we felt it was important for him to know what was going on. The vet gave us some good advice, which we have taken to heart. Never explain death as "going to sleep". This can cause horrible problems with toddler not wanting to fall asleep anymore, and if your kid is anything like mine, more sleep problems are the last thing you need... So be honest, tell them the dog died and will no longer be with you. But, reassure them that they are somewhere safe.
Finn tells me at least once a day how much he misses Sam. This has been really hard on me, but I use these opportunities as a time to talk about how sad it is and to remember all of the fun that we had with Sam . Sometimes I will ask him to draw a picture of Sam (a scribble-version), or I show him a photo. It seems to reassure him to know that even though he is not with us, we have not forgotten him.
Reading childrens books about pet loss has helped as well. A couple that have been helpful for us have been The Forever Dog by Bill Cochran and Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant. The latter is a bit on the religious side, and since we are not, we simply change the words to something that better fits our spiritual beliefs. Pin It Now!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Plan Your Garden!

Spring is just around the corner (phew) and it is time to order your seeds and plan your garden! Us Portlanders will start putting seeds in the ground in just a couple more weeks, so our house has begun preparations! Hoorah! Pin It Now!