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We are preserving our planet with our lifestyles. We are creating sustainable communities for our children. We are living the lives we want to live. Please join us!

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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Our New Home

As many of you know, we’ve recently moved from a small 1-bedroom in a 1920s building to a brand new LEED-certified (green-built) 1-bedroom plus office.  We’re a bit closer to downtown, the space is twice as large as our previous apartment, it’s very energy efficient, we have a small balcony, plus access to 2 rooftop decks and a fitness room… We LOVE it.


We haven’t quite finished decorating, but here is a peek at our new home…

 

Living Room - Toward Window

Our Living Room/Dining Room

 

Living Room - Plants and Books

Our Living Room/Dining Room

 

Our Kitchen

Our Kitchen/Dining Area

 

Everything looks a bit compressed here, but these two rooms are the size of our entire former apartment.  Not that big is always good, but in this case, small was too small for comfort…

 

Bathroom

Our Bathroom

(You can see Raisin has found many new places to hide!)

 

The bedroom and office aren’t quite up to par yet, so you’ll have to wait to see those.  I’ll also show you our rooftop view later - it’s just down the hall, and I’ve found it is an absolutely perfect place to write.  So lastly, here is the view from our apartment:

 

Our View Looking North, to Lake Union

Our View Looking North, to Lake Union

(The crane is one of many building the new Amazon campus)

 

Our View Looking East, to Capitol Hill

Our View Looking East, to Capitol Hill

(Where we used to live)

 

Our View Looking Southeast, to Downtown and First Hill

Our View Looking Southeast, to Downtown and First Hill

 

And lastly, our two very happy animals…

 

Raisin and Ellis

Ellis and Raisin, who both love the new place

 

Garden Update: Mid-Harvest Tour!

My mom has done an amazing job of keeping up the garden we planted.  It has been a long time since I gave you a tour!  I encourage you to look back at the initial garden tour for a comparison between then and now…

 

Side Garden

Side Garden:  tomatoes, currants, peppers, grapes, echinacea and other flowers, and sweet potatoes vining from the deck

 

Side Garden

Side Garden:  Tomatoes, tomatillos, and currants

 

Side Garden

Side Garden:  Strawberries and tea (camellia sinensis)

 

Main Backyard Garden From Above

Main Backyard Garden:  From Above

 

Main Backyard Garden

Main Backyard Garden:  Deep within – apple tree, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, peppers, artichokes, flowers

 

Sea of Potatoes

Sea of Potatoes – several types

 

Squash

Squash:  white pattypan, tromboncino, and acorn

 

Artichokes

Artichokes

 

Sea of Garbanzos

Sea of Garbanzos (Aren’t they beautiful?)

 

Close-up of Garbanzos

Close-up of a garbanzo bean

 

Sweetpotato Vines

Sweetpotato Vines (Anyone know how to harvest them?)

 

And in case you’re curious, here is a sample daily harvest…

 

Late August Daily Harvest

Late August Daily Harvest:  Lemon cucumbers, tromboncino squash, green zebra tomatoes, cherry tomatoes (white, orange, and black), san marzano and japanese black trifele tomatoes, white pattypan squash, broccoli di chico, collards, rainbow chard, green pepper, purple podded beans, and pasilla peppers.

 

Not bad, eh?

Recipe: Mom’s Homemade Chiles Rellenos


Ingredients


  • 6 Ancho, Pasilla, or Anaheim Chiles
  • ¼ C Flour
  • 6 Eggs
  • ½ pound Monterrey Jack Cheese or Mexican Queso Blanco
  • Salt
  • Shredded cooked Chicken, Beef, or Pork if desired
  • 1 C  Canola oil (if you are using the frying method)
  • Your favorite Salsa 


Roasted Green Chiles by QueenieVonSugarpants on Flickr


Preparing the Chiles


  1. Rinse chiles and dry.
  2. Place chiles on baking sheet and broil until the skins turn brown (charred).  Turn and char the other side.
  3. Place the chiles in a plastic zip bag immediately after removing from oven.  Wrap the bag in a towel to keep heat in.  Allow the chiles to steam in the bag for 10-15 minutes or until skin start to loosen.
  4. Peel chiles under cold water.  If you have sensitive skin  where gloves for this step and for step 5.
  5. Remove stem end of chiles and make a slit down the sides.  Open chiles and remove seeds and membranes (this is where most of the heat is in chiles.  If you like things extra hot, you can leave the seeds in.
  6. Put a strip on cheese inside each chile.  Add some shredded meat to each if you are using meat.


Egg whites are beaten to soft peaks by QueenieVonSugarpants on Flickr


Making the Batter


  1. Separate the eggs.
  2. Beat whites into medium peaks.
  3. Mix yolks with 1T flour and about ¼t salt.
  4. Gently fold the yolks into the whites.


Cooking


There are two methods for cooking the chiles: 


Coating the Stuffed Chiles with flour by QueenieVonSugarpants on Flickr


Frying


  1. Put half the remaining flour on a plate.  Put the prepared chiles on the flour and sprinkle the remaining flour over the top.  Coating the chiles with flour will help the egg batter to stick.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan.  It is hot enough when a drop of water doesn’t sink to the bottom, but dances on top of the oil.
  3. Dip each chile in the egg mixture and coat thoroughly.
  4. When coated, place in hot oil and fry until golden brown.  Turn and cook other side until golden and cheese is completely melted.

 

Baking


If you don’t want to fry them, they can also be made as a casserole:


  1. Put half the egg batter in a greased baking pan.
  2. Add the stuffed chiles in a single layer.
  3. Then add the remainder of the batter.
  4. Bake at probably 375F for +/- 20 minutes or until it is golden brown and eggs are completely set.


In either case, serve covered in your favorite salsa:  Red Tomato Salsa or Roasted Tomatillo Salsa.  Quick and easy sides for this dish are black or pinto beans and rice.


The Growing Challenge: It’s Been A While – How Is Your Garden??

The Growing Challenge The Growing Challenge Advanced Edition:  From Seed To Seed

 

Check In

 

Welcome, everyone!  Appreciate your patience over the last few weeks – I’d love to know how you’ve been doing! Are you saving seeds?  Have you found any good seed-saving resources?  Is your garden becoming a jungle?  Are you having problems we all can help you solve?  Are you wondering what to do next?  Let us know!!

 

There are 158 participants signed up for The Growing Challenge: From Seed To Seed, and 202 participants in The Original Growing Challenge.  You can join either challenge at any time.

 

Together we’re an awesome support network for learning new things! Welcome, everyone who has recently joined. And if you haven’t already, please join us in taking a new step toward sustainability by growing your own food from seed. Participants of The Growing Challenge From Seed to Seed are listed below, and participants of The Original Growing Challenge are listed here.  Let’s visit, support, and learn from one another – visit each others’ blogs and ask questions!


  1. Jules, The Garden of Plenty, Melbourne, Australia – zone 9-10 (Aust. 3)
  2. Jena, Married To The Farm, Caro, Michigan – zone 5
  3. Amanda, You Reap What You Sow, South Central Pennsylvania – zone 6-7
  4. Jen, Toward Arcadia, Michigan – zone 5-6
  5. Deb G, Bee Creative, Pacific Northwest – zone 7
  6. Greeen Sheeep, Wisconsin – zone 4
  7. Kory, Kicking And Screaming, Central New York – zone 5
  8. Abbie, Farmer’s Daughter, Connecticut – zone 6-7
  9. Margaret, Margaret’s Ramblings, Nottingham, England – zone 8
  10. SusanB, Southern New Jersey – zone 6b-7
  11. Karin, Fleecenik Farm, Central Maine – zone 4
  12. Kelsie, Hobbit’s Feat, Kentucky – zone 7
  13. Monica, Northern Ohio – zone 5-6
  14. Jen, Aaron-N-Jen: Living Life Simply, Iowa – zone 5
  15. Di, Path To Greendom & World of Yardcraft, Southern California – zone 10
  16. TomB, My Simple Home Garden, Central Massachusetts – zone 5b
  17. Judy, My Freezer Is Full, East Central Iowa – zone 5a
  18. Julie, Towards Sustainability, Newcastle, NSW, Australia – zone 9-10 (Aust. 3)
  19. Dina, Hip Chick Chronicles, Portland, Oregon – zone 8-9
  20. Alana
  21. Milkweed, Milkweed Diaries, Swannanoa Valley, North Carolina – zone 6-7
  22. Melanie J, Ember’s Lighthouse, Jacksonville, Florida – zone 9a
  23. Risa B, Stony Run Farm, Western Oregon – zone 8
  24. Maureen, Fotos By Meg & Suburban Sharecroppers, Central Valley, California – zone 9
  25. Amy Crump, Crump Family Blog, Chapel Hill, North Carolina – zone 8
  26. Rob, Rob’s World, Burien, Washington – zone 8
  27. The Rachface, This Evolutionary Life, Virginia – zone 8
  28. Janice, Going Off Da Grid Janice, California – zone 8-9
  29. Green Bean, Green Phone Booth, Bay Area, California – zone 9
  30. Daphne, Daphne’s Dandelions, Winchester, Massachusetts – zone 6
  31. Briel
  32. Jimmy Cracked-Corn – zone 5
  33. Lisa, Domestic Accident, Southern Coastal Maine – zone 5-6
  34. Hannah, The Purloined Letter, Takoma Park, Maryland – zone 7
  35. Suzan, Scrub Oak, Rocky Mountain southern foothills (6,700 feet) – zone 4
  36. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener
  37. Onemotherslove, What’s He Up To Now?, North Central Texas – zone 8
  38. Red Icculus, Red-Icculus.com – zone 5
  39. Jocele, Knitting On Call, Idaho – zone 6-7
  40. Matt, Florida – zone 9
  41. Sara, Mama Craft, Canada – zone 3a
  42. Tyra, Tyra’s Garden & The Greenhouse In Tyra’s Garden, Vaxholm, Sweden – zone 6
  43. Inadvertentfarmer, The Inadvertent Farmer, Western Washington – zone 8
  44. Lauren
  45. Melody, Merrie Melody, Utah – zone 6
  46. Melinda, One Green Generation, Seattle, Washington – zone 8
  47. Michelle, Alpaca, Chook, Garden, Travel and…., Hobart, Tasmania, Australia – zone 9-10 (Aust. 3)
  48. Laurel, Nefaeria, North Bay, Ontario, Canada – zone 4a
  49. Mary, Freedom Gardens Journal: Mecar, Crete, Illinois – zone 5
  50. Susan, How Green In My Garden, Southern California – zone 8b
  51. Mary, Cat’s Fiber Adventures, Oregon – zone 8-9
  52. WIlla, Plants And Animals & Yumminess Ensues, S. Central Pennsylvania – zone 6A
  53. Jenn, Attempted Simple Life, Osgoode, Ontario, Canada – zone 5a
  54. Shibaguyz, Here we go! Life with the Shibaguyz…, Seattle, WA – zone 8
  55. Tina, Bee Content Ranch, California
  56. Cassandra, The Urban Trowel, Southeastern BC, Canada – zone 5
  57. Nico, Self Sufficient Life, North Germany – zone 8
  58. Sadge, Firesign Farm, Carson City, Nevada – zone 6
  59. Leanne, At The Good Life, New Zealand – zone 9-10 (Aust. 3)
  60. Jenny, Studio J
  61. Sarah S, Life At The Ranch, Northern California – zone 9
  62. Sarah Z, Ward Road Garden, Northern California – zone 9
  63. Christy O, Farm Dreams, Georgia – zone 7
  64. Jason L, Vegetable Garden Planner
  65. Annette, Ward House, Hot Springs, Virginia – zone 6
  66. Paige, Clausen In The Hausen & Out In The Garden, Saint Peters, Missouri – zone 5
  67. Rhonda, FarmHouse Style, North Georgia Mountains – zone 7b
  68. Kelly, Taurus Rising, Adelaide Hills, Australia- zone 9-10 (Aust. 3)
  69. Laura, Mas Du Diable, France – zone 9
  70. Christina, A Thinking Stomach, Altadena, California – zone 9b
  71. Latigoliz, Cowgirl Up, Enumclaw, Washington – zone 8
  72. Lisa, Natural Gardening, Upstate South Carolina – zone 8
  73. Chris, Chattagarden, Chattanooga, Tennessee – zone 7
  74. Mary B, Tampa, Florida – zone 10
  75. Kathy, Birmingham, Alabama – zone 7-8
  76. Kathy and Skippy, Skippy’s Vegetable Garden – zone 6
  77. Katrien, MamaStories, suburb of Boston, Massachusetts – zone 6-7
  78. Maggie, Mama What The
  79. Christa, Lazy Toad Farm, New Hampshire – zone 4-5
  80. Emma, The Berry Patch, Sydney, Australia – zone 10 (Aust. 4)
  81. Jenny, Seeded, Toledo, Ohio – zone 6
  82. Melissa, Rabbit Hill Farm, rural North Carolina – zone 7-8
  83. Jessie Earth Momma, Pacific Northwest – zone 7b
  84. Catherine, Love Living Simply, Texas – zone 8
  85. Ian, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada – zone 6b
  86. Christy, Growing Human, Coastal Virginia – zone 7b
  87. Amanda, A Homegrown Life, California – zone 9
  88. Robbie, Going Green Mama – zone 5
  89. Pamela, Suburbancrunch – zone 6-7
  90. Beth, Potager Gardening, Columbus, OH – zone 5
  91. Tammy (+ her 6 cherubs!), Simply Beck’s Bounty, SE Tennessee – zone 7
  92. Ottawa Gardener, The Veggie Patch Re-Imagined, Ottawa, Canada – zone 5a
  93. Laura Chandler
  94. Lisa Cohen, Life Is In The Details
  95. Darlene, Stover Lane, Kansas – zone 5-6
  96. Sherri M, Sherri’s Mad Blabber Blog, Erin, Ontario, Canada – zone 5a
  97. Chad M, Minnesota – zone 4
  98. Shelby, Eat Local Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM – zone 5-6
  99. Linda, Garden Girl, Chicago, Illinois – zone 5b
  100. Stacy, Canada – zone 5b
  101. Joan, Young Girl, Old Life, Northeastern Missouri – zone 5
  102. Kim & Victoria, Living And Gardening In Idaho, Boise, Idaho – zone 5-6
  103. Sinclair, Nature With Me, Oregon – zone 7
  104. Jenette, Sacramento, CA – zone 9b
  105. Jennifer, Jen & The Bean Stalk, North Idaho – zone 4-5
  106. Laurie and Tim, Golden Gaits Garden, Colorado – zone 5b-6
  107. Phoebe, Cents To Get Debt Free, Southern Missouri – zone 5-6
  108. Megan, Raised On Sunshine, Dallas, TX – zone 8a
  109. Crunchy Chicken, Seattle, WA – zone 8
  110. Jenn, Jenn’s Coop, central valley, CA – zone 10
  111. Veriance, Michigan – zone 5
  112. Sande, Sow This, Sew That, Southeastern Michigan – zone 5
  113. Jenn, Newlyweds!, Texas – zone 9
  114. Carri, Home Of The Petersonclan, South Central Kentucky – zone 6
  115. Amber, Cloud9 Design, Texas – zone 9
  116. Jo, Little House By The Railway Line, England – zone 8
  117. Andrea, Colorado – zone 5-6
  118. Kendra, A Sonoma Garden – zone 9
  119. Stuff, Proactive Bridesmaid – zone 7
  120. LiBBy BuTTons, US – zone 6
  121. Healing Green, Gaylordsville, Connecticut – zone 6
  122. Carpe Diem, British Columbia, Canada – zone 3
  123. Trish, The Promised Land – zone 8-9
  124. Diana, Backyard & Community Gardening, Northern Colorado – zone 4-5
  125. Tricia, Little Eco Footprints, Australia – zone 9-10 (Aust. 3)
  126. Juliette, Abielle A Miel, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – zone 8-9
  127. Ciera, Ciera’s Garden, Pittsburg, PA – zone 6a
  128. Kara, Garden of Eatin’, Canada – zone 4
  129. Vickie, In The Acorn, Winnetka, CA – zone 9
  130. Paula, Buckets Of Gardening Ideas, Idaho – zone 4-5
  131. Jennifer, Seeds In The City, Bay Area, CA – zone 9-10
  132. Anne-Marie, Cheeseslave, Los Angeles, CA – zone 10-11
  133. Shea, The Lion And The Little Red Birds, Australia – zone 4
  134. Vermontmommy, McKinney, Texas – zone 8
  135. Christina, Closer To Fine, Bay Area, CA – zone 9-10
  136. Transition Housewife, Suffolk, UK – zone 8
  137. Lori, Life In Webster Groves, St. Louis, MO – zone 6a
  138. Nature Deva, Colorado – zone 5-6
  139. Bettina, Unterm Walnussbaum, Alsheim, Germany – zone 7
  140. Kelly, Simply Dawson, Columbia, SC – zone 8
  141. Berryvine Farm, NE Georgia – zone 7b-8
  142. Plant Lady, Trillium Grove Farm, Southern Ontario, Canada – zone 5b
  143. Saara, Garden Journal, North Cascades, WA – zone 6b
  144. Melissa, Melissa’s Ramblings, Kansas – zone 6
  145. Cheap Like Me, Denver, CO – zone 6
  146. Maybelline, Maybelline’s Garden, Bakersfield, CA – zone 9
  147. Heather, Heather’s Homemaking, Massachusetts – zone 5-6
  148. Aimee, Project GROrganic, Ohio – zone 6a
  149. The Cottage Comtesse, River Rock Cottage, California mountains – zone 3
  150. Rodney, Rodney Harrington’s Blog, Warren, OH – zone 5
  151. Xan, Mahlzeit, Chicago, IL – zone 5
  152. Jude S, Greenhouse
  153. Kelly, Patio Farmers Guild, Oregon – zone 8a
  154. Wendy, Greenish Thumb, Maryland – zone 6
  155. Maria Hitt, Morgan Creek Chronicles, North Carolina – zone  7
  156. Lucky66, 240 Sutton.com
  157. Annette, Sustainable Eats, Seattle, WA – zone 8
  158. Dave Titchenl


I’ve added everyone’s name, blog, location, and hardiness zone. Please check your info to make sure I have it right as I had to guess on some of them.  And if I’ve left you off, be sure to tell me.  And again, The Original Growing Challenge participants are all listed here.


Chat Away

 

Question, vent, show off… or otherwise offer up some fodder for gardening conversation!

 

 

My Experience With Swine Flu (Novel H1N1)

 

After speaking with medical professionals we know, it is now becoming clear that I may have had swine flu (Novel H1N1) over the last several weeks.  My symptoms, duration, and severity have made this “highly likely.” 


So I thought it might be helpful for you all to know what the experience is like.  Not to scare you (seriously, it was not scary EVER), but just so you know and can take precautions if you or your family end up having it.


During the worst of my illness, I stayed home.  Had I understood what I was carrying, I would have stayed home more, but I didn’t know – unfortunately, there is no sign waved in your face that says “you have swine flu!”  


It began with heavy fatigue 4 or 5 weeks ago.  It was in the thick of the hot weather here (over 100F), and we were madly packing and getting ready to move.  While the fatigue was strange, I thought for the most part I was reacting to the heat and stress of moving.  The fatigue got steadily worse, and then subsided for a couple of days.  I also had some nausea toward the tail end of that fatigue.  


Soon after the fatigue and nausea subsided, I had a sore throat for a couple of days and then had symptoms much like a bad cold that would not stop.  That lasted two weeks, coming strong like a wave, and then lingering for some time in my lungs.  I did have a fever, but it never got high enough to worry.  Again there was some fatigue.   


I had a productive cough – with quite a bit of fluid in my lungs – something I haven’t had since I really worked to contain my asthma four years ago.  Had I not been managing my asthma with medications now, I believe I would have been much, much worse during this phase.  As it was, I felt at the time it was not quite severe enough to go to the doctor. 


As the coughing began to subside, the nausea returned on occasion and the symptoms moved to my intestines.  It remained this way for a little under a week.  I now am near the end of this phase, while the cough has all but gone away.  During this time, I’ve eaten a lot of yogurt and cottage cheese to put good bacteria back into my body, drunk lots of water, eaten only basic things like grains fruit and vegetables, plus I’ve slept an awful lot.  


I’m now nearing my normal self again.


All in all, it took a while to recover, but it was not in any way deadly for me.  It was not terribly different than any other flu.  Had I known, I would have stayed home so as not to infect others who may have chronic diseases that would put them more at risk.  I feel bad about that.  However, I did stay away from my grandfather and have not seen him for many weeks, I avoided public gatherings as much as possible, I was very careful to wash my hands after blowing my nose and coughing in public, and I took several other such precautions that I would have taken with any flu.


I am looking forward to having my energy back.  We’ve almost finished unpacking from the move , but I haven’t been able to take that to the finish line due to fatigue.  I have lost about five pounds – I needed to loose the weight, but I would MUCH rather have lost it by exercising !  So I hope to continue working toward 10,000 steps soon, and to continue to build our online community here.


If You Think You Might Have Swine Flu, What Should You Do?


Everyone’s symptoms will be somewhat different based on their own body’s reaction to illness.  And again, there is no red flag that says “this is swine flu!”


If you do get sick, don’t panic.  If you have a history of lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, neurocognitive and neuromuscular disorders, suppressed immune system – or if you are pregnant – make sure you see a doctor.  Otherwise, stay home and rest, drink water, stay up on your nutrition, and pay attention to your body’s needs.  Take special care of children and young adults if they get sick, and do not give them aspirin – it can lead to further complications.  (Note:  this is not official medical advice of course – please consult a doctor or nurse for any official advice, or if you have any doubts about your condition.


The CDC recommends that people with influenza-like illness remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100 F or 37.8C), or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.  For more information, visit  “Novel H1N1 (Swine Flu) And You.”


Also, from what I’ve learned from each of their sites, the CDC, NIH, WHO, and other health organizations are somewhat discouraging people without severe symptoms to come in to be tested for H1N1.  Because there are so many cases now, labs want to preserve that capacity for those who are more severely ill.  The only reason to know for sure is if you need treatment, and most people do recover fine without treatment.  Of course, when in doubt, give your doctor a shout!  Pick up the phone and call your doctor – it doesn’t hurt.


To learn more about seasonal influenza visit:


To learn more about H1N1 swine flu visit:


Returning To A Regular Schedule 


Thank you all again for your patience.  Assuming I continue on my current healthy trajectory, I am back to a normal posting schedule (5-6 days/week) as of today.  


I appreciate your readership.  Stay Healthy!  


Back on Monday – Please Feel Free To Post Thoughts & Questions!

Hey all, with the moving, being sick, a 20 year high school reunion, and a start-up in a growth spurt, I have been down for the count here.  But I miss you all and I’ll be back soon!  Monday I should be back up and running on a regular posting schedule.  Until then, feel free to use the comments here to discuss, ask me or each other questions, etc.  See you Monday.

Coming to Terms with Your Own Variety of Sustainability

We are in the final stretch of unpacking our boxes and arranging our household in our new home. I’ll be back soon with photos and more!


In the meantime, I’ve posted at the co-op and I’d love for you all to come read my post: Coming to Terms with Your Own Variety of Sustainability.

 

Matt and I at a friend's wedding

 

See you soon.