New Record: 92.8 miles per gallon!

Now I am as competetive as the next guy-and the fact that I sold my race car for a hybrid didn’t change that fact. Now, however, instead of trying to break a 12 sec qtr mile I am shooting for a more lofty goal… 100 miles per gallon. Much as the turn of the century auto enthusiasts strived and innovated for the 100 mph mark-just alot more ecologically friendly.

A month ago I achieved 90.1 mpg on a seperate commute-shorter (only 11 miles) and much flatter than my typical drive-but my usual commute I was still at 79mpg due to the hills. The trick to any record mileage commute is 1) prewarming the car with another errand to get the ECU out of ‘warm up mode’ and reduce the viscosity of the engine/tranny oil 2) full battery pack to reduce drain thru charging 3) no wind. Yesterday I had hit 80.6 mpg going IN to work-typically 10% worse than coming home when the car is warmer so I figured the stars might be aligning in my favor or that the new uber low friction synthetic oil I just put in was working. Tonight I had to stop at the grocery store a mile the other way from work-this is a perfect record run scenario as when I leave the store for my run the car is warm. Pushing the envelope of ‘acceptable’ driving on a county road and driving 45-55mph I achieved a mindnumbing 97.5mpg at my half way mark!! Despite being crowded by some Full Ton pickups with “Redneck and Proud” stickers on them, ahem, encouraging me to go faster than 55mph over my last 3 miles which are hillier, I still ecked out 92.8 by the time I pulled into my drive-that’s 50% better than the EPA estimates and tantalizingly close to my goal!

My trip included 2 main highlights. The first consisted of smiling wryly while listening to a radio commercial touting the new Dodge Caliber as ‘incredibly fuel effecient’ at 32mpg while looking down at my real time mpg gauge reading 130mpg. The second was giving my wife a play by play over the cell phone of my last 2 miles as I tried, in vain, to keep the trip over 94mpg despite coming thru town. Thanks for putting up with a dorky husband Mia!

Counting the Sparrows

So coming into work this morning I was feeling the groove-nice colorful sunrise thru the mist, warm still morning air. Very picturesque and I was looking to repeat the Insight’s record 81 mpg inbound commute from yesterday. I get onto Cnty B and see a Sandhill flying to the north off on my left. I sigh and think how lucky we are in that we live in the country; reveling in seeing cranes weekly. Then I get to F, cross the freeway and get back onto B. Rounding a turn I see a doe running North thru a field not 75 yards to my left. I have never seen a deer on my commute in 2 years and I pondered the serendipity of that occurrence. Then not 2 miles later I see a fox, a black fox infact, running north-the same directions as the others and again to my left. In my almost 32 years on this great Earth this is only the second fox I have seen. It was the fox that put me over-that is too much wildlife for one morning, and a black fox (it was not a dog) is just weird.

Now we are prone to interpretation in my family-seeing signs as it were. Anyone car to take a shot at interpreting this?

Success and Failure

Sorry about my 2 week hiatus-between the flu and too much to do I got a little burned out…

So, time for an update! 70′ of the back 100′ of fence line is completely done: I have 15 Green Thuja Arborviate’s planted in a zig zag spacing on 5′ centers, and then to guild it, I planted Prairie Nursery’s Wildlife Mix Prairie as the groundcover. The Thuja’s spacing is a little tight (they get to 50′ with a 15′ base) but I am going for a tight sight/wind break within 3-5 years. The zig zag means that viewing from the house the spacing will only by about 3′. The trees look a little spindly, but 18″ tubelings were cheap and if I can get them established they will hopefully double in size this year and almost double again the next. The purpose of the praire planting is pretty straightforward-provide low maintenance beauty to us during the summer, nitrogen and biomass to the cedars, maples, and sycamores, and introduce some ‘wild’ into our backyard by attracting birds and small mammalls-hopefully even some snakes. The Wildlife Mix is already pretty legume intensive, but I still added more Blue False Indigo, White Prairie Clover, and Purple Lupine to ensure that the n-fixing is in Full Effect. So: Prararie Restoration, trees to block the freeway, and 5% less lawn-not bad for one bed and 2 weeks!

Speaking of the lawn. We had planted a Care-Free seed mix from Olds Seed Co in the hopes of drastically reducing the maintenance, and environmental impact, of our .25 acre back yard. The grass came up great last year, but even with diligent applications of organic weed preventer the weeds were winning with some very large areas 50-75% filled with dandeliones and broadleaf plaintain due to the really poor quality soil that we had brought in (bait and switch by our contractor). No Problem, right? I don’t mind pulling weeds and it gets me outside with the kids. So for 3 weekends I pulled literally 50 gallons of weeds a day until I filled my 1 cu yard compost bin. The front yard looked great, but the plaintain was almost impossible to pull even with my great new Fiskar’s weedpuller and even devoting 10+hours a weekend to pulling weeds it would be July before I got thru the backyard with the dandeliones going to seed infront of me to reseed the large holes in the turf I was making trying to get my lawn weed free. I had no doubts that I was losing this battle.

To back up I would like to explain why I want a weed free lawn to begin with-I love clovers and sporadic dandelions add interest to a lawn for me, but the larger weeds were forcing my ‘care free’ fescues to stand up… so I had large sections standing a foot high instead of falling over beautifully as intended. Standing up like that puts me in direct violation of both my Home Owner’s association (not good for the President!) and the city (really not good for a member of a city commitee!) codes for grass length. So I had either get rid of the weeds of buy a real mower to replace my reel mower. I had given pulling the College Try and, at least in the back, failed. After some agonizing discussions Mia and I decided the lesser of the evils was in a one time general herbicide to knock down the plaintain and quack grass back to manageable levels vs buying even an electric mower. So I bought some Preen (poison without the fertilizer) waited until we had a 5 day stretch without rain and did it. Over the past week the plaintain has withered, the fescues are rebounding and some of the clover appears to be surviving. I am not over it yet, but the deep depression following the application seems to be abating. Compromise can be a bitter pill to swallow, but as Toby Hemingway says in Gaia’s Garden-sometimes you have to break some eggs to make an omlet.

Other bright news-I have all 25lbs of Sunchokes planted, the shade garden is done and we added another 50sq feet to our front perrenial beds. Rasberries are growing well, the 125 stawberries are in full bloom, and I will be eating a few handlfulls of currants within 2 weeks! Yes!

Next project is the Big Rain Garden, planting the hazelnuts, and getting the veggie gardens up and running!

It’s Easy Being Green

So in between my lightning assault on the Back 40 (I am a week behind due to the rains last weekend and the trees are in the garage), planting 50 new perrenials with Mia, and teaching the kiddos about worms and beetles I took a break (actually it was becoming hard to hold the shovel from fatigue) ended up surfing ways to make my own biodiesel out of vegetable oil (sunflowers work well) and ended up discovering two fantastic sites that have little to do with biodiesel. One, Journey to Forever is right up my alley-very, very well researched and thier mission is awesome-sounds like a movie plug. It seems every other line has a link to something else that is just as cool or is an original report backing their claims. These folks are all Function over Form-my kind of people! It will take my weeks to digest their site. Good, good fun from Good People.

Off of their site I found a more glitzy site that Mia had also found when we were tracking our ecological footprint. New American Dream is dedicated, much like one of my new favorite magazines, Plenty, to Green Living without going psycho and forming a new religion on your own compound in New Mexico. I was pleased to know that we are already doing 7 of New Dream’s 9 things you can do to Turn the Tide (we need to work on our Junkmail), so we need to focus on evalgenlism-much of the reason I started this blog. My incessant prattle about 80mpg commutes have convinced two of my peers to sell their full size trucks (the $3/gl gas helped too)and purchase more fuel effecient autos.

Be the Change.

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