30 June 2010

9 great green houses

Chrysalis Farm House

Chrysalis Farm House

Designed by Roland Gundersen at Whole Trees Architecture and Construction, a green design and natural building company. Located in western Wisconsin, this company incorporates carefully chosen, debarked trees into its structures. Each tree is chosen only when it will benefit both the building's structural integrity and when its removal will benefit the forest in which it grows. TheChrysalis Farm House is a passive solar guest house made of whole-tree columns and beams, along with walls made from recycled shipping palettes

Custom House

Custom House

Designed by Michelle Kaufmann. Kaufmann is well-known for her prebuilt and custom homes — all of which focus on sustainability and ease of use. Kaufmann homes, like theCustom Home seen above, use eco-friendly materials, low-energy lighting design, energy-efficient building systems and other green features. All of this along with unique and beautiful design elements come together to create a simple and sustainable way of life for each homeowner.

Lundberg Cabin

Lundberg Cabin

Designed by Lundberg Design. The Lundberg Cabin is eclectic, sustainable and beautiful. A perpetual work in progress, the Lundberg is a cross between a warehouse and cabin and boasts an overabundance of materials and components salvaged from demolished structures. Among other amazing features is a salvaged 50,000-gallon water tank turned into an outdoor, 14-foot-deep swimming pool, a 3,000-square-foot vegetable garden and large steel sash windows reclaimed from five different remodeling projects.



Designed by DeBoer Architects. TheGatehouse is not only curvy and dreamy in design, but also incorporates many sustainable design features. This one-bedroom passive solar straw-bale guest cottage features earth-plaster walls, radiant-heat floors stabilized with linseed oil, and a woven bamboo-mat ceiling with bamboo trim. While small in size, the open floor plan and rows of windows brighten the entire structure, making it appear more spacious.

The Remainder House

The Remainder House

Designed by Openspace Architecture. TheRemainder House was built in a tree-heavy area of British Columbia, but instead of merely tearing out trees to make space, architect Don Gurney built this home in a way that allows people and trees to live together. No trees were removed. This small house instead nestles snugly and naturally into the space allowed by the forest shape, which leaves the land virtually undisturbed. The home also boasts reclaimed Douglas fir wood and reclaimed materials from a warehouse that was already being razed.

Sonoma Coast remodel

Sonoma Coast remodel

Designed by Arkin Tilt Architects. This is an excellent example of how anyone can remodel green. Features in this Sonoma Coast home remodel include a renewable energy system that meets virtually all the home's needs and even provides emergency power during grid interruptions. New energy-efficient aluminum-clad wood windows were added to the home along with increased insulation levels throughout. Lastly, this remodel uses salvaged materials both inside and out, including the laundry sink, the range-top oven, interior doors and some light fixtures.

Mayne Island cob house

Mayne Island cob house

Designed by Cobworks and Cob Cottage Company. The Mayne Island house is the first fully permitted cob house in Canada. Built in 1999 for Hilde Dawe, the Mayne Island cob house is not only adorable and eco-friendly, but so is the back story. "The couple who bought this home had both seen a picture of the house [before they knew each other] and it motivated them to take a cob workshop," says Kit Maloney of Cobworks. "They met at our Baja project in 2004, married the next year and now own the cob house that brought them together."

Maryfield Home

Maryfield Home

Designed by Sparano + Mooney Architecture(John Sparano and Anne Mooney). This is a stunning example of green building. Shiny and unique, this home has great views and great green details, including a small footprint, recycled framing, low-VOC paints, concrete radiant floors, EnergyStar dimmable CFLs, Solatubes, and a high-efficiency boiler, among others. To learn more about this amazing structure, visit Jetson Green, which scored a Maryfield Home tour with plenty of pictures.

PCI Residence

PCI Residence

Designed by Pb Elemental Architecture. ThePCI Residence glows, literally — the home's exterior is made up of 100-percent recyclable polycarbonate walls, which illuminate the home from dawn to dusk, as well as a custom LED lighting system. Chris Pardo, cofounder of Pb Elemental Architecture, says the design "was based on the concept of interacting with and utilizing nature." Among other green building techniques, the home incorporates rooftop solar panels, in-floor radiant heat, a rainwater-harvesting system and low-impact materials such as raw concrete and raw steel.

29 June 2010

11 Best Tips for Growing Roses

 To thrive, a rose must like your climate. So you must choose a variety compatible with the particulars of your area. You need to know how cold-hardy the rose is and how much summer heat it can withstand. Also consider whether your climate is arid or humid. Consult a reputable nursery in your area for guidance on choosing suitable roses.

  • When choosing a rose, look for more than pretty flowers. Also look for low maintenance. Most shrub roses -- such as David Austin, Medilland, rugosa, and other so-called shrub or "landscape" roses tend to be more disease-resistant and cold-hardy. They also have an attractive, bush-like shape.

  • Choose hybrid tea roses only if a classic rose shape and excellent cut flowers are important. Hybrid teas, as a rule of thumb, tend to be more prone to disease and less cold-hardy. They also are leggier looking.

  • Check the bloom habits of the rose you have in mind. Nearly all roses have a flush of bloom in early summer. Some then stop while others bloom again, some just once and others so often they seem constantly in flower.

  • For the best display of blooms, fertilize roses at least every few weeks. There are special fertilizers for roses, but a general-purpose fertilizer will do. Using too much can result in lots of leafy growth but not many flowers.
  • Once a rose has bloomed and the flower is fading, clip it off just above the first five-leaflet leaf. This deadheading will encourage more blooms.

  • Roses need at least six hours of sun a day, and they like rich, well-drained soil that has been worked to a depth of at least 18 inches.They require 1 inch of water per week with as little as possible splashed on their leaves. A 1 to 3 inch layer of mulch around them conserves moisture and prevents soil-borne disease.

  • Stop fertilizing two to three months before the first frost. Fertilizing after that point only encourages tender new growth that may be winter-damaged.

  • Make all cuts at a 45-degree angle, slanting downward toward the center of the bush, and about 1/4 inch above an outward-facing leaf bud. This encourages new growth outward.

  • How far you cut back rose canes depends on the rose. Many climbing roses bloom only on old wood -- the canes that grew last season and earlier. Cutting them back too far would prevent blooming. If a rose blooms on new wood, cut it back by about one-third.

  • Protect most roses with a 4-inch layer of mulch where winters are mild. In colder areas, most roses need to be mounded: Put two or three spadefuls of compost or good-quality topsoil on the base of the plant to protect the roots from freezing.

  • Wrap tender roses with burlap, and tie in place with twine, in the coldest parts of the country. Remove the wrap in very early spring. Gently push away the mulch and mounded soil in mid-spring when new growth begins.

27 June 2010

Endemic species: Top 9 lonely animals

Lemurs of Madagascar

Lemurs of Madagascar

Madagascar, home of the lemur, is one of the global hotspots for endemic species. There are five families of lemurs with 99 species and subspecies. The smallest lemur would easily fit in your hand, while the largest can top 25 pounds. Many lemurs live in matriarchal societies where females call the shots. Most species spend the majority of their time in the trees and travel the forest canopy climbing and leaping — as agile as any monkey. Sadly, most species are also listed as endangered or threatened and some have fallen into extinction in the last few hundred years.

Hawaiian honeycreeper

Hawaiian honeycreeper

As their name suggests, honeycreepers are endemic to Hawaii. A beautiful bird with a distinct beak, the honeycreeper specializes in probing flowers for nectar, with a particular taste for the flower for which they are named. Some of the subspecies have developed beaks better suited for catching insects. Less than half of Hawaii's 51 historic species of honeycreepers still exist, having been driven to extinction by hunters, disease, habitat loss, competition from invasive species, and predation by human-introduced animals like rats, cats and dogs. Efforts are under way to protect honeycreepers by eradicating avian flu-carrying mosquitos, protecting their habitat and removing invasive species.

Formosan Rock Macaque

Formosan rock macaque

These macaques are a small (2 feet-plus in length) species of monkey endemic to the island of Taiwan. They are listed as a protected species because of over hunting and habitat loss. They are prized for use in medical experiments and have been hunted by locals because the monkeys damage crops. Their numbers fell to an all-time low in the late '80s, but the population has since rebounded thanks to stronger conservation efforts in the last decade.

Javan Rhinoceros

Rhinos of Java

Javan rhinos used to be the most widespread Asian rhinoceroses on the planet but have been hunted to near extinction. The best estimates put the remaining numbers at less than 100. The few Javan rhinos left in the wild live in two small and separate national parks — none live in zoos. The animals are valued by poachers for their horns which can fetch as much as $30,000 per kilogram on the black market. The future does not look good for this rhino — those that aren't killed by poachers can look forward to a uncertain future of disease and health problems caused by inbreeding. Rhinos don't do well in zoos in general, and the Javans have fared even worse; the last captive died in an Australian zoo in 1907.

Santa Cruz Kangaroo Rat

Santa Cruz kangaroo rat

This kangaroo rat lives in the Santa Cruz Sandhills of California and gets its name from its distinctive large hind legs. In the past, this rare animal could be found in the mountains south of San Francisco, but populations been pushed to a single parcel in the Santa Cruz Mountains. One of 23 subspecies of kangaroo rat found in California, the Santa Cruz variety is under a real threat of extinction because of dwindling populations and health problems stemming from low genetic diversity. Their loss would be a withering blow to Santa Cruz mountains — the kangaroo rat is known as a keystone species that support many other species; its loss would send a ripple of damage through the entire food web.

Sinarapan, world's smallest commercially harvested fish


The Sinarapan is the world's smallest commercially harvested fish, and is rarely longer than half an inch. They are native to the Phillippines and found in only a few freshwater lakes and river systems. They're prized as a food source in Asia where they are fried in oil, boiled with vegetables, or dried and salted. In addition to having to dodge the fisherman's net, Sinarapan are under threat from larger invasive species that find them as tasty as humans do.

Haast Tokoeka kiwi

Haast tokoeka kiwi

The Haast tokoeka kiwi is a beautiful, unique bird that lives in the foothills of the mountains in South Westland, New Zealand. It is critically endangered, with the number of known birds numbering in the low hundreds. This kiwi is a smart bird that uses passivesolar energy when nest building, choosing large flat sun-facing rocks to build its nests under to take advantage of the stored heat. Though once widely eaten by native Maoris and early European settlers, the kiwis are under threat today from loss of habitat and predation from invasive species.

Philippine crocodile

Philippine crocodile

This crocodile lives only in the Philippines. The animal lives in freshwater and is relatively small, as crocodiles go, reaching no more than 9 feet in length. It is endangered from hunting and dynamite fishing (that's when fisherman toss a stick of dynamite into the water and collect what floats up after the explosion.) Today there are only a few hundred known Philippine crocs in the wild.

Galápagos tortoise

Galápagos tortoise

Galápagos tortoises are the largest living tortoise — fully grown adults can tip the scales at over 650 pounds and grow to be 4 feet long. A long-lived species, this tortoise can live to be 150 years old. They are native to seven islands in the Galápagos archipelago. Though still threatened after a few centuries of over-hunting, Galápagos tortoises have been making a strong comeback in recent years thanks to the development of the Galápagos National Park and a successful captive breeding program. Unfortunately, one subspecies out of the 12 is functionally extinct — the last remaining individual lives in a zoo.

26 June 2010

How to eat more fiber at every meal

There's one ingredient that should be part of every meal. There's no need to make a trip to a special store to find it: Nature has already thoughtfully prepackaged it in a cornucopia of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and nuts. The special ingredient? Fiber.
It's famous for improving regularity and helping lower cholesterol. But dietary fiber also performs other key roles that might surprise you, affecting everything from your skin to your gallbladder, heart and immunity.
Here's how to add more of the good stuff to every meal.
  • Throw some frozen raspberries or strawberries and a handful of greens (spinach or mixed salad greens), along with half a banana, into your smoothie.
  • Instead of pairing your eggs with hash browns and toast, try adding a side of black beans and salsa.
  • Cook up a big batch of steel-cut oats over the weekend and reheat some each morning with a little chopped-up apple.
  • Seek out legume-based soups.
  • Look for healthy prepared salads at the grocery store that use whole grains, such as barley, and layer them over a base of mixed greens.
  • Eat at ethnic restaurants, such as Indian and Mexican locales, which are sure to give legumes a starring role.
  • Start out dinner with a bountiful raw vegetable salad.
  • Replace starchy side dishes with legumes.
  • Sauteing some veggies? Start out with a little garlic and onion.
  • Pack a small bag of nuts, such as almonds, pistachios, or walnuts or seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, in your bag or car.
  • Whip up a big batch of black bean dip to have on hand for tortilla chips and raw veggies.
  • Keep it simple: Eat a piece of fruit, like an apple, orange, or banana.

24 June 2010

5 Reasons Why You Should Respond to Every Comment

1. It Encourages People To Comment

People don’t leave comments just so they can be left unread. By replying, you’re not only letting people know that you’re actively involved in reading the comments, but you’re encouraging them to come back and comment again later.
Furthermore, people who don’t normally comment may be happy to do so knowing that their comment will indeed be read.

2. It Adds to the Quality of Your Posts

A reply can often lead to side conversations within the commenting area that add to the content and overall quality of your post. Your points will be explained further, new points will be brought up, and questions that people may have get answered.
Also, new people will join the side conversations and add their own comments that they wouldn’t have normally made otherwise.

3. It Helps With Search Engine Optimization

Comments on your blog posts do in fact help with search engine optimization, although admittedly in a minimal way.
More comments, including your own, usually mean more instances of the keywords that you used in your blog post, which means you’re more likely to be found in the search engines for those terms.
Additionally, new terms that you did not use in your blog post will be brought up and discussed, which could potentially help you for those terms as well.

4. It Adds More Social Proof

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when people’s decisions are influenced by making the assumption that surrounding people know more about certain situations than you do.
For example, if you’re at the mall and you see a huge crowd of people around a particular store, chances are that you’re going to walk over and see what the big deal is. In a similar way, you might be more inclined to follow a certain blogger in a niche just because they have more subscribers and followers than others.
In most cases, your own comments will count towards the overall comment count of your post. Respond to 15 comments, and you’ll have a total comment count of 30, which looks more far more impressive and interesting to your readers and any new visitors to your blog.

5. It Helps You Build Authority and Credibility

Finally, by responding to each comment, you’re establishing yourself as a go-to expert in your niche. You become more “real” and are seen as someone who actually takes time to care for your readers, which adds value to you and your blog.
Because responding to comments is abnormal, you’ll stand out of the crowd like no other. And if you can leave thoughtful, meaningful comments, you’ll make that much more of an impact on your readers.
It doesn’t take very much extra time, and the return on investment can be phenomenal. So why not give it a shot?
Try responding to every comment and see what happens.

20 June 2010

10 Fantastic Cat Facts

1. Ambidexer-Cat?

You probably never thought about a cat as being either left- or right-pawed, but over 40 percent are either lefties or righties. That means there’s quite a few out there who are ambidextrous. Luckily for them, they can probably operate the can opener with both paws…

2. Warm or Cold?

Food that is. Cats don’t like their food too hot or too cold. They like it just right. And for them, just right is room temperature, just like their prey would be in the wild. Cats are indeed the Goldilocks of the animal world.

3. In Living Color

Cats see in color, so your new paisley frock in orange, purple, and yellow won’t be lost on them. They also have fantastic night vision, and only need one-sixth of the light humans require to see. So don’t go getting your cat night-vision goggles.

4. What’s in a Name?

A group of kittens is called a “kindle” (yes, just like that fancy new electronic book device available now), while a group of adult cats is called a “clowder.”

5. Meow?

We all know the meow sound, whether it’s questioning, scared, happy, or imperiously demanding dinner. Curiously, cats only meow at people, not at other cats.

6. Four-Legged Mood Rings

Cats are highly intuitive creatures, and they are more than able to pick up your mood, especially from your tone of voice. They know when you’re yelling at them (though they often don’t seem to care). If you need your cat to calm down, try speaking to her in a soothing, loving voice. You’ll be amazed.

7. Lofty Beginnings

Ever wonder who invented the cat door? It was Sir Isaac Newton. Perhaps he was vexed by his cat wanting in and out all the time and disturbing his work, so he did something about it–much to the relief of cat lovers everywhere.

8. It’s All in the Fall

Cats really do land on their feet. In fact, they all fall in the same way. First they rotate their head, then twist their spine around, followed by a rear leg alignment and finally they relax into it and arch the back, thus lessening impact. But please, don’t experiment with this at home. Take our word for it.

9. Baby Machines

Unless you want a “clowder” of cats cluttering your home, spay, and neuter your furry feline. Just one pair of cats and their kittens can produce 420,000 (!) offspring in a mere seven years.

10. Individuality

Like human fingerprints, cats have their own built-in unique tag of telling them apart–their nose! The nose pads of cats are all uniquely ridged, meaning no two are the same.

19 June 2010

10 things you should know about fragrance

1. Fragrance is protected under trade secret law. That means the industry is not required to reveal what goes into its mixes. In its Cosmetic Labeling Guide the FDA states that fragrance ingredients “may be declared... as "fragrance." Now flip any bottle in your bathroom and peruse that list. Somewhere amidst the unpronounceable words is that familiar “fragrance”—but that alone represents an average of 10 to 20 hidden ingredients. The industry will claim that these protective measures are a necessary bulwark against thieving perfumers—but really? Just because I know what’s in theCaramilk bar, doesn’t mean I can duplicate it. These laws represent a significant deterrent, sure, but any hack can have a perfume analyzed in a lab and get the ingredient list that way. So who should get the protection: the fragrance business, or the consumers? Read on.

soap, candle, body wash2. Fragrance is everywhere. As already mentioned—from your lipstick, to your body lotion, to your scented candle, from your cat’s collar, to your Tide.

beaker on fire3. Many of its ingredients haven’t been tested at all. The industry likes to boast about its scientific review panels and its voluntary safety compliance, but a recent lab analysis of 17 perfumes, colognes, and body sprays done by the EWG and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reveals: “The majority of chemicals found in this report have never been assessed for safety by any publicly accountable agency, or by the cosmetics industry’s self-policing review panels.”

phthalates and hormornes4. Fragrance may be messing with your hormones. Of the ingredients we do know something about, on average, each of the tested products contained four potentially hormone-disrupting chemicals. J-Lo and Halle Berry’s scents were singled out for containing seven. Among most of the products were phthalates (see our previous entry on that subject), that ubiquitous group of chemicals suspected of causing deformed sex organs in baby boys according to this 60 Minutes report. Despite mounting evidence, the fragrance industry has argued for their safety in the past.

rat with myrcene5. It may also contain carcinogens. As one example (and there were more), the fragrance compound myrcene was detected in 16 of the 17 products. According to a two-year study conducted by the National Toxicology Program, this substance has shown “clear evidence” of carcinogenic activity in rats. Charming.

allergen6. You could be allergic to it. Twenty-four common allergens were found in the lab results. Sensitizations to fragrance are frequent, varied and, as you can imagine, notoriously difficult to diagnose thanks to the business-friendly laws mentioned above. For the book we spoke to a woman who spent eight years trying to track down the very common but “secret” chemical she was reacting to in fragrance.

nose7. It’s designed to linger in the air. Yet another major frustration for the sensitized. By design—and those ever-nifty phthalates help with this—fragrance is meant to stick in the air and on our bodies. So no matter who’s wearing it, everyone gets to breathe it—and we’ve all had some unpleasant, if not allergic, department store or elevator experience to substantiate that. The more extreme anti-fragrance lot feels that perfume in public is akin to second-hand smoke (PDF).

baby8. Moms and babies should avoid it. For obvious reasons already covered (like sons with small penises), expecting mothers should at least avoid using personal care products that contain fragrance on their bodies and in their environment. For starters, read your labels and ditch any cosmetics that feature the f-word. Blacklist nasty air fresheners and the houses of friends who use them.

essential oils9. The best smells come from nature. The upshot is that perfume has been around since the beginning of time, distilled from the incredible smells provided in nature. While some essential oils can also be allergenic, these are generally a much safer bet—and truly clean companies will list them as their fragrance source. If you’re very attached to your synthetic perfume, consider wearing it less often and switching out other products to limit exposure.

perfume in front of a courthouse10. Fragrance is going to the courts. Canadian cities like Halifax had the fragrance industry up in arms back in 2000 over its anti-scent campaign, and Ottawa proposed putting a ban into law in 2006. But it’s a recent lawsuit in Detroit (yep, Detroit) that should really get the fragrance industry nervous. City employee Susan McBride sued Detroit, claiming that she couldn’t work because of a sensitization to a co-worker’s perfume. She won a $100,000 settlement. Are we smelling a precedent?

17 June 2010

7 Surprising Uses of Oil


Humans have applied natural cosmetics on their lips, eyes and faces for centuries, but most of today's lipsticks and eye liners derive their visually-pleasing magic from petroleum products or byproducts such as crylates, coal tar colorants, and propylene glycol. Given that foundation, it's little surprise that many women also turn to the petroleum product known as Vaseline (petroleum jelly) as a simple eyeliner remover or base for lipstick.

Solar Panels

Solar panels may help homeowners and businesses usher in renewable energy by harnessing the power of sunlight, but most panels still rely upon petroleum-based resins and plastic components in their photovoltaic cells. That could eventually change as companies have begun rolling out new bio-resins and bioplastics that could replace the petroleum-based components.

Wrinkle-resistant Clothes

Cotton may represent the fabric of our lives, but polyester pants, shirts and other clothing items bring the benefits of wrinkle resistance, durability and shrugging off stains. Those special properties come courtesy of polyester's origin at the oil refinery, where several petroleum products are created to eventually form the synthetic material that helps clothe millions of people. But that's not all bad, because polyester recycling can produce new, high-quality polyester fiber.


People who enjoy the snap and long-lasting texture of their chewing gum can give a nod of thanks to petroleum-derived polymers. Today's gum bases can consist of both natural latexes and petroleum products such as polyethylene and paraffin wax, which also means most gums are non-biodegradable. But the firstchewing gums typically relied upon the natural latex known as chicle -- still the gum base of choice for some upscale gum brands and certain regional markets.


Oil has helped make many fond childhood memories of drawing inside a classroom or a home. Each and every crayon in a child's Crayola box consists of paraffin wax, a waxy solid made from petroleum. Paraffin wax also happens to help make candles, and may even provide the polish on an apple or the glossiness of chocolate.


Aspirin has proven itself one of the safest and most reliable medications over the past decades. People swallow billions of tablets per year for headaches, fever and as a preventative against heart conditions or stroke. The acetylsalicylic acid inaspirin shares the pain relief properties of the chemical salicin in willow bark. Yet most aspirin manufacturing begins with benzene, a hydrocarbon that is typically derived from petroleum products.


Call them leggings, hosiery, tights or whatever you like. Millions of modern women wear nylon pantyhose for both comfort and fashion, just as women decades ago latched onto the nylon stockings that became popular during World War II. They probably don't pause to consider that nylon represents a petroleum-derived thermoplastic invented in 1935 by Wallace Carothers, a chemist working at the DuPont company. Today, nylons help make products ranging from dish scrubbers to parachutes.

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