Finally. FINALLY. I think the day has come. Our 10 day forecast is showing temperatures ranging from the 60s to the (wait, can it be?!) mid-80s with lots and lots of rain. These are happy conditions for newly planted fruits and veggies and so, today, one day after the recorded "last frost date" for my area of Pennsylvania, my little guys are getting their permanent home in the wild outdoor soil. 

For weeks I have been nurturing tomatoes, squash, cucumber, melon and sunflower plants indoors. They've been growing and waiting and growing some more, spread out across a sunny windowsill and slowly taking over my living room, patiently awaiting this day. Meanwhile, I have been waiting a little more impatiently

I have to wonder how many people were duped by the flash of warm days we were graced with early on in the season. It proved to be a false sense of planting security, as cold temperatures moved back into the area, bringing with them a few nights with frost warnings. I hope the local garden centers are stocked with plenty of extra plants! 

I am happy to report, though, that my lettuce, kale, beets and carrots that were planted early handled the cold weather well (they are little troopers, aren't they?) and are coming in nicely. 

Happy planting, friends!
With temperatures near 60º the past few days, I must admit I'm getting a bit of Spring Fever.  Every morning when I take the dogs out, I look at the weed covered garden plot, wondering if it's too early start tilling the soil. After all, we've had such a mild winter. It's practically been Spring since December. I'll be patient. 

While I'll let the garden stay as is, this year I'm on a roll to start my seeds indoors - on time, for once. I hope the ever-fickle Mother Nature doesn't come around with a late cold snap to bite me in the butt...the one time I am proactive in my planning. 

I have never tested the soil where I plant my vegetable garden, but I know it's an important part of the process. Just like for us, the right nutrients are essential to the growth and development of your vegetable garden. For under $4, I bought an at-home kit to test the nitrogen, phosphorus, pH and potassium of the soil. It contains 4 test tubes for the soil, and a capsule to break into each tube. Then add distilled water and wait for the color to adjust. The kit comes with a color coded chart so that you can match your results and know the levels of your soil. Pretty cool. There are certainly more thorough tests that can be done if you are worried about lead and other heavy metals - in Pennsylvania we are able to send them off to a local university, something I learned through the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Garden Tenders workshop I participated in a couple of years ago. 

I also purchased a self-watering seed tray for 36 plants. I've decided to go for quality over quantity this year. I always purchase heirloom seeds, so there's no issue with quality there, but I have been known to let my garden get a tad...unruly. There. I said it. In fact, last year it was complete chaos. My dinosaur kale was enormous and there was way too much of it. My lettuce was in a perfect spot to be constantly pooped on my the lovely resident mourning doves. My tomatoes were akin to Goliath and were coming up not only where I planted them, but where tomatoes fell into the garden last year and were never pulled out for composting. Oh and I can't forget the forgotten squash, which I didn't check on until they were the size of a caveman's club, at which time they became dog toys. What a mess. 

This year, I will keep things simple. Only the varieties of tomatoes I know I will eat in abundance - which means mostly cherry and pear tomatoes. Move the lettuce away from the favorite bird perch, go easy on the kale seeding and cut back the number of squash plants, which will allow a little more room to plant more beans. This will make a more manageable garden, and won't allow for as much waste. Despite the constant picking and sharing of garden bounty, it seemed as if there were always vegetables being missed, and then rotting. 

I'm always daydreaming about the day I can have my own yard, complete with an abundant seasonal vegetable garden, chickens and the like, but for now I must remind myself to take advantage of and appreciate what is available. There aren't many renters out there who are fortunate enough to have as cool of a backyard and I do, and especially not in a city. 

So with that, my friends, I leave you with thoughts of gratitude and a little hop in your step as we get another day closer to Spring. 
Who doesn't love trees? Odwalla sure does! That's why the company is donating trees to be planted all across the USA. All you have to do is visit the website and click the interactive map to get started. Enter your Facebook login or your birthday and email address, and a tree will be planted in the state of your choice Want more trees? Enter codes from visitor brochures at participating California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Virginia state parks.

At the time of publishing, my state has earned 1764 trees - the second highest in the country! Go PA!
This Sunday (May 2), spend your day strolling up and down Germantown Avenue in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. Why? The streets will be packed with representatives from area businesses, food vendors from local restaurants, live bands, fun activities for kids and a whole lot more, all for the Chestnut Hill Home and Garden Festival!

If you're late starting seeds for your summer vegetable garden, you'll be able to choose from a wide assortment of local, sustainably grown and organic starter plants from area farms and nurseries. You can also bring a little spring cheer to your yard or home with hanging baskets and other beautiful, flowering plants.

New this year is Eco Alley, a section of the festival with 20 vendors offering lots of great, sustainable products and services. What better way to get all the information you need to live a more locally, sustainable lifestyle?!

Also very exciting for the community is the approaching opening of the Chestnut Hill location of Weavers Way Co-op. While the store will not yet be open by the date of the festival, curious visitors are invited to take a sneak-peek at the inside of the store. For those who have hesitated becoming a member due to the crowded Mt. Airy location, be sure to get your membership information when visiting the new store. Co-op memberships are another great way to incorporate more sustainability into your current lifestyle.

The Chestnut Hill Home and Garden Festival is sponsored by Subaru and B101.
For the average citizen to get more in-depth information on environmental issues, reading books and watching documentaries is a great starting point. Below you will find a list of some great examples of both. I have read and watched much of what's on this list, and highly recommend them. If I had to pick a favorite of each, Go Further is my top documentary and In Defense of Food is my number one reading choice. If you have read any of these novels, watched any of these documentaries or have further recommendations, please leave a comment to share your thoughts with others!

Movies/TV Series

  • No Impact Man: The Documentary (2009)
  • Go Further (2004)
  • Food, Inc. (2008)
  • King Corn (2007)
  • The Beautiful Truth (2008)
  • Eco Trip Series – Sundance Channel (2009)
  • The Garden (2008)
  • The Lazy Environmentalist Series – Sundance Channel (2009)
  • The Future of Food (2004)
  • Fast Food Nation (2006)
  • Super Size Me (2004)
  • An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
  • When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006)
Non-Fiction Books

  • Cradle to Cradle – William McDonough and Michael Braungart
  • Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of our Environmental Future – Mark Hertsgaard
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed – Jared Diamond
  • Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment – James Gustav Speth
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals – Michael Pollan
  • In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto – Michael Pollan
  • Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser
  • Food PoliticsMarion Nestle
  • Poisons on our Plates: The Real Food Safety Problem in the United States – Michele Morrone
  • Troubled Waters: Religion, Ethics and the Global Water Crisis – Dr. Gary L. Chamberlain
  • Boiling Point: How How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists, and Activists Have Fueled a Climate Crisis--And What We Can Do to Avert Disaster – Ross Gelbspan
  • Diet for a New America – John Robbins
  • Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating – Jane Goodall
  • The Ten Trusts: What we must do to Care for the Animals we Love – Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff
  • The Environmental Predicament: Four Issues for Critical Analysis – Carol F. Verburg
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver
Classic Non-Fiction Books

  • Sand County Almanac – Aldo Leopold
  • Silent Spring – Rachel Carson

Tuesday, April 20th @ 7 p.m.

Greener U Presents: Home Energy Efficiency Workshop. During the FREE workshop, Greener U Consulting ( will show you how to rate your home's energy usage, and they will reveal the building structure issues that cause loss of heat and energy. The whole house strategy of a BPI home performance audit to address health, safety, durability and energy efficiency will then be explained. Finally, Greener U will explain the status of the "Cash for Caulkers" program and educate you on the existing rebate and financing options available through the utility companies, state and federal. Please bring your gas, electric and oil bills to the event! RSVP at 215-844-1870; space is limited to 20 people.

Big Blue Marble Bookstore is located at 551 Carpenter Lane in the Mt. Airy community of Philadelphia.
I'm very excited to announce the winner of my first giveaway, generously sponsored by Amazing Grass, an awesome San Francisco-based company.

Congratulations to Lisa Sharpe!

There were a total of 9 comments for entries, and the random generator from chose lucky #3!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered. Lisa, I will be in touch with you so that I can get your mailing information to send to Amazing Grass.
The first day of spring has come and gone, inviting our sleepy world to start blooming once again.

For anyone planning a vegetable garden this season, it's time to start the seeds. With so much concern for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) ending up in our produce aisles and on the grocery shelves, this is where you can take control. Choose a seed company that is reputable and aware of the issues. Companies that sell heirloom seeds are often good choices because they are preserving the diversity of the plants. Rather than selling 5 popular tomato choices, they may offer 15 varieties of seeds. A little searching can go a long way when it comes to choosing your seed company. I have personally chosen Happy Cat Organics this year - a company local to my area and dedicated to sustainable heirloom seed production. More on Happy Cat later!

Starting seeds can be a tricky task. Go into any garden supply store and you will find all sorts of trays and heaters and watering systems promising a successful start to your seeds. Buy those, reuse items at home (egg cartons are great) or find something creative in the middle.
A trip to the hardware and garden store resulted in two 1-square-foot tiles and a seed starting kit. This is the simple version - no heating pad or self-watering tray. Just 72 peat pellets, a tray and a lid. With a large enough radiator in front of a sunny window in the living room, I created my own heated base. The tiles provide a level surface on top of the radiator while still conducting the heat to the tray. The peat pellets are clean and simple, and with 72 spaces, there is room for lots of seeds!

Not only is this innovative set-up saving space, it's also sparing the budget. Together, the tiles and starter kit were less than $9 and can be reused for many years.
You've read my review of Amazing Grass Berry Green SuperFood, and now it's time for you to get some of your own Amazing Grass products!

You can enter to win an incredible sample pack that includes one of each of the following Amazing Grass items:

8gm pkt of Wheat Grass Powder
8gm pkt of Green SuperFood Powder
8gm pkt of Chocolate Green SuperFood Powder
8gm pkt of Berry Green SuperFood Powder
6gm pkt of Kidz Chocolate SuperFood
6gm pkt of Kidz Berry SuperFood
22gm pkt of Amazing Meal Original
29gm pkt of Amazing Meal Pomegranate Mango Infusion
32gm pkt of Amazing Meal Chocolate Infusion
1 bar of each, Green SuperFood, Chocolate, Berry and Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein

There are three ways to enter this contest:
One comment per person for each type of entry, please.

+ 1 entry: Leave a comment telling me why you want to try Amazing Grass products, or why you already love them!
+ 1 entry: Announce this contest on your own blog, and leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
+ 1 entry: Tweet "I want to win Amazing Grass from (anne)vironment" and include the link to this entry. Leave a comment on this blog entry with a link to your Twitter profile.

It's that easy! The contest is open from Monday, March 22 to Sunday, March 28. All contest comments may be posted beginning at 12 a.m. EST on March 22 and must be posted no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on March 28. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday, March 29. Be sure to include a valid email address when leaving your comments(s) so that you can be contacted if you are the winner. Email addresses will not be visible to others. The winner's prize package will be shipped directly from Amazing Grass in San Francisco, CA.

Many thanks to the Amazing Grass company for generously supplying the items to sponsor this giveaway.
This is Wheeler, my nearly four-year-old American Staffordshire mix. Going to work at a City of Raleigh lake on a summer day in 2006, I heard a jingling behind me while I walked across the parking lot. Turning around, I saw a cute little dog running around my feet. She had a shoelace tied around her neck, and clipped to it was a short metal leash, dragging on the ground. After an unsuccessful search for an owner or information, Wheeler came home with me and she's been by my side ever since.

This past Friday evening, I experienced perhaps the biggest pet-related scare of my life when Wheeler began having a seizure. I heard her walk through the living room with a strange rhythm, and as I turned to look, she came walking around the corner glassy-eyed and with her front right leg stiffened up. She began collapsing on herself. Thinking she may have been choking, I took off her collar and began rubbing her neck. It wasn't helping, and she was getting worse. More of her body began seizing and I was terrified. I picked her up and ran downstairs to a friend's apartment for help. She was unable to hold herself up due to the spasms in her legs, so I sat on the ground holding and rubbing her while phone calls were made to get some information. Since her body was so tense from the seizure, there were not any visible signs that she was breathing, as it was probably nearly impossible for her to take deep breaths.

After a couple of minutes, she came out of the seizure. Muscles in her hind legs continued to twitch a little longer, but she was standing up, drinking water and saying thank-you to friends by licking their faces. I was so glad she was okay.

The experience left me with a lot of questions - mainly, what would cause such a thing to happen to my young, healthy dog? After talking with a friend who had two similar experiences with her dog, I learned about the severity of canine epileptic seizures. I've never experienced such a thing with any other dog I've had as a pet. In addition to ways to help the dog through the seizure, what to do afterward, what sort of information to take to and get from the vet, we discussed diet. Little did I know, there are so many potential seizure triggers in your standard dry dog food.

After searching several websites (links provided below), I found out that many of those potentially hazardous ingredients were in Wheeler's food - a dry dog food I'd expected to be a medium-grade choice. After carefully reading the label, I found that it contains the preservatives BHT and BHA, both of which can cause seizures, among other severe health issues. Food dyes, particularly reds, can also contribute to seizures, and that is in her food as well. It is a good idea to avoid other chemical preservatives and just for good measure, animal by-products. According to some sources, wheat, barley, rye (the gluten grains), soy, corn and dairy should be excluded as well. The top choice for feeding dogs prone to seizures is a home-prepared food; recommended next is a premium dry food that is free of gluten, dyes and animal by-products.

A big lesson to link this to environmental health is that we are so often concerned with what we are feeding ourselves, but what about our pets? When it comes to our diet, we ask questions such as: Is is organic? Will it benefit my body? Is there potential of genetically modified organisms to cause allergies or other, possibly more severe, problems over time? How often do we stop to think about what we are feeding our pets in such a way that we begin reading the labels of their food and treats as well?  

I am happy to say that Wheeler has been back to her normal, spunky self the rest of the weekend. We've been playing with toys, wrestling and even found a break in the rain to get outside for a walk and to play fetch. Now that I am aware of this health issue and the potential hazards, I have been doing my research and shopping around for healthier food and treat options. There is now a slight fear in my mind that this may happen to her again (and how scary, if I am not there to help her!), so I want to be sure I am doing what's reasonably possible to keep her in good health and prevent future seizures.

For more information about canine epilepsy, including recommended diets, visit the following websites: - Home of the G.A.R.D.
Canine Epilepsy Guardian Angels
The Role of a Natural Healthy Diet in the Management of Canine Epilepsy
Canine Epilepsy Resources