Friday, April 29, 2011

Support for MoCo Bag Bill

Wouldn't it be great if you could change the local environment for the better with just a five minute email or phone call? Here's your chance!

We are down to the wire here in Montgomery County, Maryland, hoping for the county council to do the right thing and pass a local bag bill. Now is the time to call your council members and show your support of this legislation. They will vote early next week, so there is no time to waste.

The bill would essentially place a fee on the use of disposable bags in the county. A similar bill passed last year in neighboring DC was so wildly sucessful it even shocked the environmentalists.

Anyone who has ever walked a creek in this county knows the problem all too well; bags line the banks and clog the streams at each turn. Volunteers at some Anacostia Watershed Society clean ups have collected as many as 28,000 bags in the past in one day. Friends of Rock Creek (FORCE) say they collected more than 5,000 bags this month --just in Montgomery County!!

FORCE also notes that the revenues from a Montgomery County bag would probably garner an estimated $1.5 million in the first year. This money would be directed to the county’s Water Quality Protection Fund which pays for storm water management, watershed restoration, and litter cleanup. Additionally implementation of the legislation would save the county some of the $3 million that it currently spends on litter prevention and cleanup.

Want to learn more about the bill? Click here.

Contacting the council is easy. Your email need not be long, just a few sentences that say you support the bill will be sufficient.

Click here for the county council's contact info.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nature Fair on May 1 at ANS

One of my favorite local environmental non-profits, the Audubon Naturalist Society, will be holding a Nature Fair on Sunday, May 1 from 11am - 4pm.

This little fair is usually a lot of fun, with music, crafts and activities. This year they will also have visits from Scales and Tales and Wildlife Ambassadors, as well as a rock climbing wall, native plants and visits from some local authors.

For more info you can visit the ANS website or call 301-652-9188.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Locust Grove Nature Center to sell Native Plants

Locust Grove Nature Center is offering a wide variety of native plants this spring.

To see what they have to offer, stop by any of the county nature centers for a list or email and ask for a complete list. Geri will be organizing the sale.

To purchase you MUST PREORDER by April 26 with a full payment. Plants will be delivered to Locust Grove, which is located at 7777 Democracy Boulevard in Bethesda, Maryland, on April 30.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Gutters and Downspouts for My Rainbarrels

Friday was an exciting day here in my backyard, because the end of our long renovation process was finally at hand and the gutters were up and working.

I guess to a lot of people, the gutters are not very important. But if you have rainbarrels you see the arrival of the guy known simply as “the gutterman” as a rather major event.

My old rain barrel set-up had not been optimal. I had taken a rather dull hack saw somewhat sloppily to the old downspouts in order to trim them to the right height for the barrels. Have you ever done this? It is one of the loudest, most screetchy sounds around, what with the metal rasping against metal, and the tubes of the aluminum pipes acting like ear trumpets to amplify the sound up to the top of the house… really I’m surprised we didn’t have a pack of wild dogs show up in response. I actually had to put in ear plugs to survive the process.

Although the end product from the noisy sawing worked well, my cutting line across the downspout was a bit jaggedy. Also, I seem to get a bit lazy about my garden once it turns cold. I could have set it up so that I could take the barrels away from the spouts and put piping back up each winter I didn’t feel like bothering.

The huge snowamaggendon winter of 2010 made me think twice about this arrangement. Most of the time a barrel left in a sunny location will do okay in Maryland during the winter, one of my two barrels sits in deep shade on the northern exposure of the house, so it froze solid and stayed that way for about a month. When the ice and snow melted from the roof, it caused a major back up through the pipe. Nothing was damaged, but the whole thing made me kinda nervous. I began to wish I had a simple way to disconnect or turn off the downspout during the winter without moving the barrels to a new location.

So when I realized we were going to need new gutters due to our construction on the back roof, I began searching around for a more elegant solution for both the sunny and the shade side of my house.

What I found was a Y shaped downspout diverter which has a small lever on the front. When it rains, you can choose to send the water either down the traditional straight spout or into your barrel. It seemed like a good idea-- in theory. The foreman of our renovation project looked skeptical, however, and so did my friends with rainbarrels. I asked around on listservs… no one had used the diverters… so I couldn’t get any feedback on their reliability.

Then the gutterman arrived. I handed him the y-shaped diverters, he shrugged. “Oh yeah, I’ve put these on a bunch of times. I know what these are.” Whew, I thought.

Now, the diverters are in place and working fine. We had a nice big rainstorm on Thursday, and stood on the backporch listening to the lovely sound of the barrels filling up for the first time since last fall. So far, so good. Friday we went outside and peeked inside to find barrels full of lovely spring rain.

Looking back, I think someone with a sharper hack saw and better home repair skills might find the installation of the diverters a snap. In addition to helping us manage the winter snow storms a bit better, I think these will also provide a great “vacation setting” for our gardens. Now that I see how they work in real life I realize they are not that big of a deal. Just something new, not something radical. That pretty much describes rainbarrels in general, doesn’t it?

The picture above shows my barrel, in place and full of fresh water with the new diverters in place.

Volunteers Needed for Chestnut Project this Weekend

There are lots of ways to volunteer this weekend for both Arbor Day Events and Earth Day Events. Here's one that just popped into my inbox this morning: The American Chestnut Foundation's (ACF) has been developing a new blight-free American chestnut tree on a orchard that they are renting from Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. This Sunday, they need your help in measuring the diameter of these trees-in order to help move the goal of creating a blight-resistant strand a little farther. Join us this Sunday, April 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at ACF's orchard at Triadelphia Lake Road and Georgia Avenue, Brookeville. Park along Triadelphia Lake Road. We will provide all of the tools-we just need your help in saving the American Chesnut trees.    Kimberley M. Knox, Community Outreach Manager Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Office: (301) 206-8233 Cell: (240) 308-9134 For more info go to: