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TAGRO: Great for your garden, the earth, and Tacoma.

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Maybe you have used it.  

Maybe you have wondered if you should.  

Maybe the idea of using it makes you squeamish.

Maybe you have seen the name but have and wondered what it is.  

Maybe this is the first time that you are hearing of it.


TAGRO, short for Tacoma Grow, is a garden aid produced by the City of Tacoma.  TAGRO MIx is designed to enhance the soil in lawns, flower beds, trees and shrubs. TAGRO mix can be used the same as you would use steer manure. TARGO Potting soil is for the use of both indoor and outdoor flower and vegetable gardens.  TAGRO is a blend of “Tacoma Class A Biosolids” (sewer and drain waste), “screened sawdust”, and “other garden elements”.  The result is a very inexpensive (free when you shovel your own mix) source of nutrients for your plants.  TAGRO provides phosphorus, nitogen, magniseum, potassium, sulfur and more.  Studies at WSU and UW have shown that things planted in TAGRO grow “taller, faster, greener and produce more blooms then those in commercial or chemical products”.

In addition to helping the land in your yard, using TAGRO also helps the environment.  The city of Tacoma describes how:

  • TAGRO’s nutrients are released slowly. Plants use more of the nutrients and fewer are leached or run off into the environment.
  • Soil conditioned with TAGRO retains water better. The more water the soil retains, the less you have to pull out the hose or sprinkler. And that leaves more natural water flow in our rivers.
  • Plants and trees grow bigger and better in TAGRO. More vegetation means more shade and less soil erosion near creeks and rivers, making for healthy and clear water—for fish and people to enjoy. 

The City of Tacoma recycles 4,000 dry tons of biosolids each year.  

TAGRO and Tacoma:

TAGRO and Tacoma has been recognized Nationally as having the best biosolids program in the country.  Our support not only helps our gardens and the environment, it helps our city to maintain it’s status as a leader in inovative, environmental programs.  

Do you still have doubts about using biosolids?  

To learn more about TAGRO visit:, and join us for our tour of the TAGRO facilities on Saturday, July 11 2009.

Food Challenge Week #2

Friday, March 13th, 2009

I just finished logging my receipts and happily report that I am at $234.55 after the first two weeks. Unfortunately, my quest to limit my kitchen time has not gone so well.  While I have made some good, and very affordable meals.  Some days  I have paid for our food with my time.  Here is what we have been eating this week:

Sunday was a “kitchen” day.  In attempt to break my older two children of there “Annie Macaroni” preference, I tried, yet again to get them to eat the homemade version.  Using one bag of the six I purchased last week at Costco ($1.33) and $2.00 worth of pre-shredded cheese from Trader Joe’s I was able to make to meals worth for about $3.75.  With it I served organic California broccoli ($2.27) from last weeks SPUD delivery with homemade balsamic dressing. I spent roughly $4.40 for this dinner.  While the kids still prefer Annie, they did eat it and 2/3 of the children ate the other pan for lunch during the week. Not my personal favorite, but it was easy, affordable, fairly healthy and no one screamed when it was served.

I made up for my lack of kitchen time on Monday when I decided to make tamales.  These were fairly labor intensive (especially because I haven’t made them successfully before), but inexpensive.  Masa flour can be picked up inexpensively at most supermarkets.  Using Masa, olive oil, a washington onion ($.83) Earthbound Organic baby spinach from Costco, and the reminder of my shredded cheese from T.J.’s I made 25 tamales for under $5 or $.20 each.  I served our Tamales with Earthbound Organic salad greens (also from last weeks Costco purchase)  and black beans.  This meal cost under $5.00 and I put the many tamales that were left over in the freezer for a future meal.

On Tuesday, I made pieogi’s, another cheap but more labor intensive meal.  Using flour, organic potatoes from Trader Joes, more california onions, and organic tofu from T.J.’s( only $2.38 for 14oz.), I made two meals worth for under $5 as well.  Thanks to a tip from Allison I picked up $13lbs of organic apples from Fred Meyer for $13.  I used this to make stewed apples for the side paired with sauteed cabbage ($.50).


Tofu and Potato Pierogi with Savoy Cabbage and Stewed Apples

Tofu and Potato Pierogi with Savoy Cabbage and Stewed Apples


While making a good, healthy meal completely from scratch can be time consuming, it has been great to be able to put meals in the freezer for busy days.  Having those to fall back on at the end of a busy day will certainly save me time and money in the future.

March 2-6 (Food Challenge)

Friday, March 6th, 2009

My SPUD order did not come until the evening on Tuesday.  If I was almost completely out of fresh produce (among other things), this wouldn’t have been such a big deal.  But, by 5:00 pm I was worried that I would have to completely start my weekly shopping over.  Again, no big deal if I hadn’t spent many, many…many moments of my free time logging back in to the site to fine tune my order to get it near my budget goal.

I have gotten over my snobby ways this week.  I went to Safeway to buy Quaker Oats (on sale 2/$5) and to the Orowheat outlet on 6th for buns (8/$1.25) to accompany my homemade veggie burgers.  This week I am starting to learn when it makes sense to make my own from scratch (granola and veggie burgers) and when it doesn’t (buns for the burgers).  Being at home a good portion of the day helps too.  Waiting for bread to rise and bake takes some scheduling, but it isn’t such a big deal for me since I am often  home anyhow.  For those who work, it obviously is not so simple.

On Monday I spent about 1/2 hr. preparing two loaves of bread.   Since I would have bought high quality bread if I were to purchase it, I figure that it saved me about $8.  For me saving $8, serving hot bread with dinner and having quality bread for sandwiches was worth my 1/2 hr.  However, if I worked outside of the home, it would not have been possible

On Tuesday Jack and I made a big vat of granola.  This has been a fun activity for the two of us to do while his big sister is at school and the baby naps.  Jack gets to help create and name the recipe. For about $3.50 we made enough cereal to feed us all breakfast for two weeks (not that we care to eat it everyday for 2 weeks).  Actually, Jack and I send the bulk of it to work with my husband (who does care to eat it everyday for 2 weeks).  Jack, Amelia and I will use it for snacks with yogurt and for the occasional breakfast.  Granted, we would not have bought this much normally, but we would have spent money on cerealor other snacks instead. It should last us for a while.



Cost: $3.50 and 45 minutes (with a 4 year old)

Cost: $3.50 and 45 minutes (with a 4 year old)

On Thursday, I created 3+ meals worth of lentil and okra veggie burgers all for about $3.00.  If I would have bought them it would have probably cost about $12 for the same amount.  The added benefit was the lack of questionable or unrecognizable ingredients found in most mainstream versions.  The freshness doesn’t hurt either.
I am pleased to see that as I write this on Friday morning, I still have food in my refrigerator.  I am now optimistic that I can get through week 2 on $125.  Maybe even less???

Frugal Feeding Week #1, March 1

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009


By the end of the first day of the first week I have already used up $118.00 of my $125.00 goal.  While the goal is monthly, I was hoping to at least have a little wiggle room.  Things are already looking tight.  

Last month I began planning out a dinner menu for the week to help me stick to a strict grocery list. Although it was a pain to do this every Sunday, it was really nice to know what kind of preparation I would need to do each day.  It also eliminated multiple shopping trips to grab the last minute item….that often turned into more money spent on nonessentials.  This week I made my first order with SPUD (   SPUD focuses on local and organic products.  I love that the miles traveled by each item is noted as well as links to all of the company/farm info.  I plan to buy my most eco-conscious purchases here and supplement with more affordable alternatives elsewhere.  I love that I can order everything online, and adjust my meals based on local availability and price.  It is nice to know exactly what I am spending before I get to the checkout.  I also made a tedious trip to Costco. It is always a challenge to get out of Costco without spending at least $100.  But I did!  Among other things,I picked up a giant bag of almonds (non-organic), NW blueberries (also non-organic), Earthbound organic salad greens and baby spinach and a box of cherry tomatoes (non-organic).  I left having spent only $65 on food.  Most of this should carry over at least until the second week, the almonds will last for more then the month.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: February Discussion Notes

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

I have yet to speak to anyone who was not impressed with Michael Pollan’s book.  To me, the reason we have been so affected by the information in his writings is largely due to the lack of access to such elsewhere.  A lifetime of corporate and government marketing informing us about what our food choices should be has left impaired our judgement.  We are left alienated from what producing and consuming food is really all about. Many thanks to Sandy and Kyle for sharing your thoughts and insights and inspirations.  Here are some major points and ideas that arose during our discussion this month:

Corn, corn, everywhere:

It was shocking to learn that on average 1/4 of all food sold in a super market contains corn.  Why?  The government has created, sustained and managed a surplus.  Sometimes the motives have been good, sometimes questionable (or worse).  Regardless, now our economy is tangled in it.  We all pay the price, farmers and consumers alike.

 In the United States, Pollan makes clear, we’re mostly fed by two things: corn and oil. We may not sit down to bowls of yummy petroleum, but almost everything we eat has used enormous amounts of fossil fuels to get to our tables. Oil products are part of the fertilizers that feed plants, the pesticides that keep insects away from them, the fuels used by the trains and trucks that transport them across the country, and the packaging in which they’re wrapped. We’re addicted to oil, and we really like to eat.

Oil underlines Pollan’s story about agribusiness, but corn is its focus. American cattle fatten on corn. Corn also feeds poultry, pigs and sheep, even farmed fish. But that’s just the beginning. In addition to dairy products from corn-fed cows and eggs from corn-fed chickens, corn starch, corn oil and corn syrup make up key ingredients in prepared foods. High-fructose corn syrup sweetens everything from juice to toothpaste. Even the alcohol in beer is corn-based. Corn is in everything from frozen yogurt to ketchup, from mayonnaise and mustard to hot dogs and bologna, from salad dressings to vitamin pills. “Tell me what you eat,” said the French gastronomist Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, “and I will tell you what you are.” We’re corn.

Each bushel of industrial corn grown, Pollan notes, uses the equivalent of up to a third of a gallon of oil. Some of the oil products evaporate and acidify rain; some seep into the water table; some wash into rivers, affecting drinking water and poisoning marine ecosystems. The industrial logic also means vast farms that grow only corn. When the price of corn drops, the solution, the farmer hopes, is to plant more corn for next year. The paradoxical result? While farmers earn less, there’s an over-supply of cheap corn, and that means finding ever more ways to use it up.(taken from

 What can we do?  Read labels, if there is no need for corn in the product that you are buying, don’t buy it.

 The American Feedlot:

In taking a closer look at where most meat comes from, one cannot look away unchanged.  Pollan purchases and follows the life of a feedlot cow.  In the process, he uncovers the environmental and ethical horrors of the process.

 What can we do?  Know where your meat comes from.  If cost is a factor, eat it less often, but buy the good stuff.  Buy from local, trustworthy sources such as Dave’s Meat and Produce on I St.  or The Meat Shop of Tacoma (, or my personal favorite option: don’t eat meat.

Know Your Alternatives:

The picture isn’t entirely bleak.  There are farms and communities that are getting it right.  Call it the slow food revolution, the organic lifestyle or living locally, there are many names for bringing food back to the basics.  Pollan closely follows farmer Joel Salatin to see farming is it was meant to be.  At Polyface Farms in Virginia Salatin follows the Principle “All Flesh is Grass”.  Joel considers himself a grass farmer or even more appropriately a sun farmer.  Ultimately, this is where all energy and life that grows for consumption is created.   To learn more about these amazing, pure and commonsense practices visit their website at


For most of us, other then picking blackberries from the roadside during the summer, the idea of foraging for food isn’t practical.  However, Kyle came up with a great idea for urban foraging. During the warm weather months, we all pass homes in our neighborhood (or elsewhere), that have saturated fruit trees that appear to be unattended.  Why not approach these home owners?  Maybe even offer to harvest their crop in exchange for a share.  In addition, plan a swap or share with friends and neighbors that you already know.  To take it one step further, contact a local farm and offer a work for food exchange.  There is free food to be found!

November 2008 News

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

As we quickly approach the winter and all of its festivities it is easy to get carried away in the spirit (and spending) of giving. I hope that we can inspire and support each other in keeping our focus on those things we hold dear and creating less waste as we celebrate with our loved ones. I am in the process of compiling a list of experience and earth friendly gift giving ideas and internet sites. Please pass along any ideas or information that you can share with the group.

Things to check out this month:

If you are looking to get an early start on your Christmas shopping while supporting local artists and a worthy cause check out the following event at Kings Books ( this Saturday:


November 15 * 12 – 4 pm. Artist Craft Fair and Fundraiser.

Tacoma is for Lovers presents the Artist Craft Fair with over 20 artist booths! Paintings & drawings, jewelry, letterpress prints, clothes, glass, and collectibles. A raffle and a silent auction further increase your chances to come home with something wicked.. The event is also a fundraiser for former Tacoman Colleen Malone. Part of Art at Work Month.


Omnivore’s Dilemma
by Michael Pollan


In this groundbreaking book, one of America’s most fascinating, original, and elegant writers turns his own omnivorous mind to the seemingly straightforward question of what we should have for dinner. To find out, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us—industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves—from the source to a final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating.


Green Mama Jamie and I are eager to discuss this thought provoking book (I still need to read most of it first!). If you are interested in joining the discussion, even if you haven’t read it, I would love to schedule a kidless discussion and the Mandolin in late Novemeber or early December. Details to come….

Greenopia’s Energy Star Virtual House

Visit: and find suggestions on how to be more energy efficient in each room. Since this is sponsored by Energy Star, some of the recommendations are self-serving, but it is a fun little toy with some nice suggestions.

Healthy Meal Share

I would like to organize an organic and vegetarian “Dinner’s Ready” style cooking session. Everyone would be responsible for bringing one or two ingredients, and a container to bring there meal home in. If things are all measured out before hand, it can be quick and easy enough that we can get the kids involved. I would be happy to host this, however, if someone has a large kitchen that would work well for the event that would be ideal. Please let me know if you are interested.

Online Christmas shopping?

Check out the National Green Pages at

Non-Toxic Cleaner Recipes

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Thanks to all who contributed the recipes bellow.  I have found some additional recipes that I thought looked worth trying as well.

Holly’s Happy Bathroom De-Funker:  Mix 2 teaspoons Tea Tree oil with 2 Cups water to kill mildew and mold and adding a fresh and invigorating scent.

Sandi’s So Strong Soda Scrub :  Scrub baking soda on counter tops, tubs, and sinks.  For extra strength add some borax.

Meghan’s Mighty Disinfectant:  Add 2 quarts of apple cider vinegar to 2 handfuls (each) of dried of lavender, rosemary, sage, rue, and mint.  Allow the mixture to sit for 4 weeks then strain and pour into spray bottles.

Other recipes:


Wood floor polish

What you’ll need:

 What to do:

  • 1/8 cup of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp vodka
  • 10 drops of lavender oil (or other essential oil)
  1.  Mix the ingredients together and apply to your wood floor with a soft cloth. After rubbing it in, buff with another clean, soft cloth.

Glass Cleaner 

What you’ll need:

 What to do:

  • Club soda
  • 8 or 16 oz. spray bottle
  1.  Fill the bottle with plain club soda, spray and wipe.


Simply pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda into a bowl, and add enough liquid detergent to make a texture like frosting. Scoop the mixture onto a sponge, and wash the surface. This is the perfect recipe for cleaning the bathtub because it rinses easily and doesn’t leave grit.

Note: Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin to the mixture and store in a sealed glass jar, to keep the product moist. Otherwise just make as much as you need at a time.

1/4-1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups water
Spray bottle

Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and use as you would a commercial brand. The soap in this recipe is important. It cuts the wax residue from the commercial brands you might have used in the past.

1 cup or more baking soda
A squirt or two of liquid detergent

Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with enough baking soda that the surface is totally white. Sprinkle some more water over the top. Let the mixture set overnight. You can easily wipe up the grease the next morning because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven. If this recipe doesn’t work for you it is probably because you didn’t use enough baking soda and/or water.

1/2 teaspoon oil, such as olive (or jojoba, a liquid wax)
1/4 cup vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Mix the ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces. Cover the glass jar and store indefinitely.

Thyme Cleaner – Disinfectant

2 1/2 cups water
1 handful thyme (fresh or dried)
Liquid castille soap (squirt)

  • Boil water, add thyme. Simmer for several hours over medium-low heat, covered. Cool, then strain. Pour the water into a spray bottle, top with white vinegar and squirt of soap. Use as needed.

Herb Disinfectant Cleaner

This spray cleaner disinfects surfaces, kills mold, and discourages its return. Eucaplyptus, lavender, and tea tree are all known for their antimicrobial properties.

1 tsp. sodium lauryl sulfate
1 tsp. borax
2 Tbs. white vinegar
2 cups hot water
1/4 tsp. eucalyptus essential oil
1/4 tsp. lavender essential oil
3 drops tea tree essential oil

  • Mix all ingredients together and stir until dry ingredients dissolve. Pour into spray bottle. To use, spray as needed on any surface except glass. Scrub and rinse with clean, damp cloth.

*Source: The Herb Companion, September 1999

Herbal All Purpose Cleaner

1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
2 tsp liquid castille soap
25 drops essential oil of thyme, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavendar, sandalwood, lemon, orange

  • Add all ingredients to a large spray bottle (about 22 ounces) and shake before using. This formula disinfects and can be used on any washable surface in your home. Naturally antiviral and antifungal.

*Source: The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier

Lavender Soft Scrubber

3/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup powdered milk
1/8 cup (one-eighth) liquid castile soap
5 drops lavender Essential Oil

  • Combine all ingredients in a squirt-top bottle and add enough water to make a smooth paste. Shake or stir to mix. Apply to surface, then wipe area clean with a damp sponge or cloth. Rinse well.

*Source: The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier




Non-Toxic Home Cleaners

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

In the past months, we have been discussing the many ways to avoid putting toxins into our bodies through the foods that we eat.  Unfortunately, when choosing non-toxic foods we usually must spend more.   This month, we are discussing how to reduce toxins in our homes while we save money.  In doing a bit of research, you will easily find that making our own home cleaners is much more cost effective.  The benefits are numerous.  Herbal and non-toxic cleaners are:

  • Safer home for our children and pets
  • Kinder to the planet
  • Eliminate the need for plastic packaging
  • Customized to include your favorite herbal fragrance
  • Family Friendly:  Involve you children in making the solutions.  In addition, children can help clean with out being exposed to harsh chemicals

I hope that many of you will join us on Thursday as we make our own herbal all purpose cleaner.  The recipe that we will make includes fresh or dried thyme.  If anyone has any thyme growing in there garden that they can spare to add to my supply, please let me know.

I hope to discuss the use of Borax  in the home.  I have not yet used it myself, this is my first try at making any home cleaning products.  I have found lots of recipes including borax, but also some strong statements on why we shouldn’t include it.  I know that Sandi mention that she has liked including it when baking soda doesn’t do the trick.  Anyone else?

Open Space Community Meeting on 6/12

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

The Open Space Community Meeting will be Thursday June 12 at 6 pm at UPS, in the Murray Board Room at the Student Union Building.  1500 N Warner

For background reading, check out or

This will be a discussion of the city’s approach to managing, acquiring and restoring habitat areas as well as parks and trails, etc..  A little talking and a lot of milling around looking at maps, providing input, and supporting green city planning. 

Consumer Power (topic for June, 2008)

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

In June we will be discussing Consumer Power.  It is easy to feel that we, as individuals, have no way to take a stand against some of the troublesome practices of corporate America.  Whether we find fault in buying cheep clothing and toys from China,  food made with GMO’s, or objectionable marketing campaigns we do have a voice.  This month, let’s share our idea’s in how we can practice using our voices and wallets to bring about the change we deserve.  Please post your ideas for conversation, references and opinions.