March 27, 2009

Join The Global "Earth Hour" Event Saturday Night

Tomorrow night, at 8:30 pm (your time), people around the planet will switch off their lights for one hour. What began in Australia in 2007 has grown to be a world-wide movement for people who want to express their concerns about global warming and support sustainability. This is bigger than just households, landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the Colosseum in Rome, Sydney's Opera House and the Coke billboard in Times Square all went dark in 2008. Earth Hour organizers have set a planetary goal of 1 billion participants for 2009.

What I like about Earth Hour is that, finally, all of the AWB readers scattered around the world can do something together!

To learn more about Earth Hour and to pledge your support, click here.

Image from Dreamstime

The White House is Doing it: Start a Garden

Michelle Obama made headlines recently when she and a bunch of helpers dug up a section of the White House lawn in order to plant a vegetable garden. Gardens at the First Home aren't new (Eleanore Roosevelt had one in the 40s) but the Obama garden reinforces the idea that growing your own food is an economical and healthy option and, well, it's fun!

If you're new to gardening, I have a great link for you. Gardener's Supply offers six pre-planned 3x6 kitchen garden concepts. Start by clicking on options like "Salsa & Tomato Sauce," "High Yield," or "Plant it and Forget it." Up pops a garden plan where the garden is divided into 18 1-foot squares and you're told what to plant in each block. For example: The Salad Bar garden has 3 squares for tomatoes, 2 for peppers, 2 broccoli, 2 cucumber, 1 basil, etc. You are also shown the number of plants for each square (1 tomato per square vs. 8 peas), and then you get lots of tips for getting each little plant off to a good healthy start. If you don't see a concept that meets your culinary tastes, try the "design your own garden" section where you drag veggies onto the garden grid. You can get started here. BTW, Gardener's Supply emphasizes raised beds but all of these gardens can go into a regular garden plot as well.

Don't have space for a garden? Not a problem. Click here to read about community gardens on Green Daily. When I lived in an apartment and didn't have access to anything bigger than a flower pot, I used a community plot. I raised a bunch of veggies and met a bunch of great people.

Image credit: FRUIT AND VEGETABLE2 © Dragan Licina |

March 25, 2009

Anne's Training Journal: Week 8

Anne lives in Missoula, Montana, and is training for the Grizzly Triathlon in April. Believing that she is not the typical triathlete, (age 49 and not a regular competitor) Anne feels that if she can pull this off, anybody can. This is her training journal:

The growing realization that I only have three more weeks to go before the race is motivating me to be more diligent about my workouts. My swimming times are still my nemesis. I can do lots of distance, but I can’t seem to speed up. I’ll continue working on it.

To get more road riding in, I’ve started riding my bike to work when the weather and my schedule permits. It’s about a 5 mile ride. From my house, the first 3 miles are mostly downhill and much of the last two miles is along the Clark Fork River. It’s a really enjoyable ride in. On the other hand, it’s uphill most of the way home. I haven’t managed to ride all the way home from work yet. I’ve had my husband meet me for dinner or at the grocery store instead.

On Saturday, my husband and I took the dogs on a 3-mile hike in the hills above our house. We saw the first wildflowers of the season—buttercups—and heard meadowlarks. I would have liked to be able to run some of the distance, but there’s quite a hill. Later, we rode our bikes to the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner. The ride felt great. Now, I’d better get to planning my week in exercise.

March 19, 2009

Adventurous Woman: Sarah Outen to Row Across Indian Ocean is reporting that a British woman, Sarah Outen, is attempting to cross the Indian Ocean under her own power. One of my very first posts was about Roz Savage's attempt to row her way across the Pacific. Reading about Roz's progress week after week, I realized that the journey was not only physically difficult but the endless days alone, the assorted mishaps and the harsh weather made the adventure a challenge for the spirit as well.

We'll all be able to track Sarah's progress for the next 100+ days via her web site and her daily blog posts. To learn more about Sarah, her charity and her efforts, click here. Also, I've added a link to her site under "Good Places to Visit." (Psst, it's on the right side of this page...about half-way down.)

March 18, 2009

Anne's Training Journal: Week 7

Anne lives in Missoula, Montana, and is training for the Grizzly Triathlon in April. Believing that she is not the typical triathlete, (age 49 and not a regular competitor) Anne feels that if she can pull this off, anybody can. This is her training journal:

End of week 7--Less than a month to go!

Please stop me before I sign up for another event! When I try -- and succeed -- to get a slot in one of these coveted athletic events, I feel like I've won the lottery, but then I start thinking about what I just agreed to do.

My latest event is STOKR. STOKR stands for Scenic Tour of the Kootenai River. It's a two-day bike ride in the northwest corner of Montana in early May. Usually, most of the snow has melted by then. The first day of the ride is 95 miles, and the second day is a much easier: 35 miles. My husband and I both got in.

Yesterday I rode the 12 mile course that's part of the triathlon in less than an hour. I felt like I was going pretty fast. 95 divided by 12 equals around 8 hours of riding. Adding in rest time and meal stops, the STOKR ride will take around 10 hours. Did I mention the 2,000-feet of elevation gain?

I've heard it's lot of fun, and the ride will be beautiful, but I must be crazy.

Training this week went well. I'm doing the mileage suggested, but I haven't added much speed. I have to remember that it's an accomplishment to complete the race.


March 17, 2009

Fix A Leak Week

The EPA's WaterSense Program has designated March 16-20 to be "Fix A Leak Week." Sure, you could call a plumber but where's the adventure in that? The EPA's site has some tips on fixing leaks yourself (yes, you can!). As a woman who has replaced many a flapper, I'm telling you that this is gonna be fun: save some water, save some $$, and pick up a new skill. Go grab your wrench and then click here.

March 16, 2009

Learn to Shoot

One of my Adventure Club's favorite activities was the firing range. Several in my group grew up in hunting families or have had military training with firearms but for me, this was a first. I found the challenge of learning to control a deadly explosion to be intoxicating.

Our evening began when we made a group reservation at a local indoor range. Seven of us arrived, signed in and were led into a room lined with gun cases. Behind the locked glass were firearms of every size and type -- antique pistols, police handguns and hunting rifles through military weaponry. There, we watched a safety video and took a written gun safety test. Then we were lead to a case with 9mm handguns, Glocks, (the 9 millimeter refers to the size of the bullet) and each woman received a surprisingly heavy weapon and an unloaded clip. Up to this point, the experience had been a little intimidating. I'll admit that most of us were uncomfortable with our firearms. Many of the women held their guns like they were holding a dirty diaper -- with three fingers and at arm's length.

Leaving the gun room we were given safety goggles and ear protection (think '80s stereo headphones) and escorted into the firing range itself. The range is so loud that it's behind two sets of glass doors. In fact, once you've passed through the second set, conversation becomes very difficult.

The range is set up a little like a bowling alley for individuals: station at one end, long "alley" and your target at the opposite end. Just like in bowling, you DON'T enter that alley area.

We began by choosing a station -- each person had her own firing area that was separated from the others by a floor-to-ceiling wall and separated from the target by a small counter space. A paper silhouette of a man hung from track that ran along the ceiling. The paper silhouette -- the target -- could be positioned at any distance chosen by the shooter. We reviewed how to load a single cartridge into the clip, how to hold the gun correctly, how to use the sights to aim, and then we fired. I was expecting the kickback but was surprised by the blue flame from the end of the barrel and the force with which the spent shell was ejected from the gun. After the first few rounds, the surprise wore off and we were filling the clip and filling our targets with holes. One member traded in her Glock for a Smith & Wesson revolver (think Old West). I tested that one myself and didn't want to give it back.

By the time we had each finished a box of ammo we felt comfortable and much more confident. No one walked out of the range holding her pistol diaper style! (Though we were cautioned to wash our hands thoroughly-- to remove all the lead residue.)

All told, after we paid for instruction, range time and ammunition, the cost was about $75 per person. I don't want to own a gun and I don't want a gun in my house but the I loved my time at the range and the experience was totally worth the expense.

To find a shooting range in your area, click here for the NRA's National Registry of Places to Shoot.

Image credit: K. Briggs / P. Farrell

March 13, 2009

The Great Sunflower Project

There's been a lot of discussion in the last few years about the disappearance of bees. Because our food supply relies so heavily on pollination by our tiny friends, this situation is serious. The Great Sunflower Project aims to help scientists track bee populations by enlisting citizen scientists (you) and lemon queen sunflowers.

Here's the buzz (honestly, you knew that would have to creep in here somewhere). There are four easy steps:

Register yourself and describe your location here. You will receive a packet of lemon queen sunflower seeds -- organizers plan to start shipping this month -- to plant in your newly registered space.

Plant your seeds. If you don't have a garden, no problem. Lemon queen sunflowers can be grown in pots on a deck or patio.

Observe bees. Twice a month the GSP will ask you to spend a bit of time bonding with your sunflower and recording how long it takes for five bees to visit your plant. This won't take more than 30 minutes because if you don't have five bees in 30 minutes the project wants to know.

Submit your data online. Easy.

I can't think of a more pleasant way to celebrate summer and do a community service project at the same time.

Image: courtesy of Ginny Stibolt

March 11, 2009

Anne's Training Journal: Week 6

Anne lives in Missoula, Montana, and is training for the Grizzly Triathlon in April. Believing that she is not the typical triathlete, (age 49 and not a regular competitor) Anne feels that if she can pull this off, anybody can. This is her training journal:

I’m more than half way towards my goal—only 5 more weeks to go. This week has been an interesting one for training because I was traveling. On Sunday, all I did was drive from Denver to Breckenridge and drink beer.

Monday was scheduled to be a downhill ski day, but I had trouble finding boots to fit. I barely made it down the second run. I traded the boots for different ones, but my calves hurt too badly to ski for the rest of the day. I did work out on the bike and the elliptical trainer for a half hour on each.

Tuesday I tried downhill skiing with a different pair of boots. This time I was able to make it for at least half the day before my feet went numb. On Wednesday, I gave up and went cross-country skiing and had an excellent day. This skiing experience was disheartening. I expected to be able to ski really well because of all the training, but the combination of boots and altitude kept me from doing my best. I was really frustrated.

When I got home from Colorado, I hit the gym again on Friday. I biked for 25 minutes while talking to a friend, and then I ran 4 miles. It felt really good. It might have helped to be at high altitude for a week.

I took Saturday off, and I went cross-country skiing with my husband and dogs on Sunday instead of training with my Women’s Club group. It was a good day.

March 9, 2009

Become a Citizen Scientist

Here's your vocabulary word of the day, "Phenology: the study of recurring plant and animal life cycle events." This spring, the U.S. is getting serious about phenology and the USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) is looking to citizen scientists (you) to supply the data.

Many other countries around the world have been tracking the dates of first bloom, first fruit, first frost, etc. for decades so it may seem odd that the United States is only now officially getting into the act. Nevertheless, USA-NPN and its many partners including the US Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation, Project Budburst, and the University of Arizona, are making it easy for us to help gather data and record it online. This year USA-NPN is limited to plants but there are plans to include wildlife in the future.

Here's what you need to know to be part of USA-NPN's data gathering force:

Click here to visit the USA-NPN home page. Then click on "Participate."

Sign up to become an observer (a bit of a nuisance but not too difficult--just follow the directions in the e-mail they send you).

Select a site and plants you plan to observe and register them online. Name your site then type in its address. As you do this, a satellite image of the area and the latitude and longitude will pop up. You can click on the blue box at the bottom of the page to answer five quick questions about your observation site. Next you type in the plants you plan to observe or you can click on the list of plants USA-NPN is particularly interested in following. I picked the forsythia in my backyard.

Observe your plant often (at least once a week) and record your observations online. I couldn't record any observations immediately. I had to log out and then log in again. I guess they figure you'll need time to go look at your plant before writing anything. The form is easy. Just enter the date at the top of the data column then click on Y (yes) or N (no) for each of the questions about your plant. Then click submit.

For more information, click here to listen to Project Director Jake Weltzin on NPR's Science Friday.

Image: YELLOW CROCUS© Serghei Starus

March 4, 2009

Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

A book review by Lorna Harris

Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach

I think I’m the sort of person to take myself off to Paris on my own, stay in a hotel and explore. I think. I’m not sure though. Maybe I’d think about it too much, worry about safety and loneliness and not take the adventure.

Alice Steinbach abandons her life as a journalist to spend several months journeying through Europe on her own. I thought Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman would offer practical advice and tips mixed in with her adventures but it reads far more as a romantic view of the trip. It’s an emotional adventure for Alice. As she tours art galleries, gardens and museums, she reflects upon her divorce, the death of her parents, her children and her work as a journalist.

The author starts her trip in Paris and part of me wished that she’d just stayed in one city, really got to know it and become one of the locals. She’s not a tourist, not a local but somewhere in between. Getting to know the local cafes and shops but not quite a part of it.

In one chapter of the book, Alice meets a big group of Americans traveling together. Which is my idea of hell. We’ve tried weekends away with groups of friends. I always struggle with the dynamics of all the different personalities wanting to do different things. I would much rather explore a city with one other person or on my own. This book really made me think about that. Although being surrounded with a great deal of people sounds great fun, in reality, for me, it’s not enjoyable for long periods of time.

But I’m not very good at being alone either. I loved Alice’s description of London on a Sunday and how lonely it is. I’ve lived in London and felt that. It’s a strange feeling to be in a city jam packed full of people, not know a soul and feel the loneliness deep inside you.

If you’re debating such an adventure, this book is your treat. It’s not for practical advice. Read this is to inspire you and take it along with you on your trip. It may even encourage you to write down your experiences or just be able to relate and understand your feelings.

I truly admired Alice’s ability to make friends and acquaintances wherever she landed. Many of her adventures stemmed from starting in conversation in a café and then developing a friendship. I’m terrible at that. I assume people aren’t interested in meeting me. Alice boldly strikes up conversations and is then invited to various outings and restaurants, a character trait I truly admire and wish I had. It’s so much more fascinating to explore a city with the people who live there rather than following a guidebook. Perhaps that’s my next adventurous move, reaching out to strangers and making friends. Then I can head off to Paris.

March 2, 2009

Follow the Baffin Babes: 80 Days in the Arctic Circle

Vera Simonsson, Emma Simonsson, Ingebjoerg Tollefsen and Kristin Folsland Olsen -- four women calling themselves the Baffin Babes -- are setting out this week on an 80-day ski trek around Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. Covering 1200km, and visiting only three towns, the women are prepared to face the elements, and the occasional polar bear while enjoying the Arctic wilderness. Why? According to their web site, it's because of, "their great love of nature and the feeling of freedom from living such a nomadic life out in the snow. It's pure, its simple, and its satisfying!"

You can check out the Baffin Babe's site and track their progress here. You can sign their guest book and leave a message here or contact the Babes directly here.

Good luck ladies, we'll be watching!

Anne's Training Journal: Week 5

Anne lives in Missoula, Montana, and is training for the Grizzly Triathlon in April. Believing that she is not the typical triathlete, (age 49 and not a regular competitor) Anne feels that if she can pull this off, anybody can. This is her training journal:

This has been a tough week. Last weekend we did our time trials, which left me very tired. So I took Monday and Tuesday off. I had a compressed week since I was leaving home on Friday to travel to a conference. Despite the time constraints, I was committed to getting some exercise. I biked on Thursday night between 9 and 10 pm on the trainer in my family room while I watched ER. After that I finished packing. While I was in Denver for my conference, I used the workout room at the hotel. It was a nice facility.
I skipped the social hour to get in a work out.

I am getting into the habit of working out again, but it's still not easy. There are a lot of days and nights that I would rather just go home and read a book or watch TV. I do take one day a week off completely.

This week I'm skiing in Colorado. I don't expect to get too much running, biking or swimming in. I haven't been downhill skiing in years, and I'm hoping that it all comes back to me. I grew up in Colorado so I skied quite a bit when I was younger, but I haven't done it in many years. My
newly developed leg muscles should help a lot.