Shawna Coronado (Gardening Nude) wrote a really lovely review of my books.  Read it here:

“Green” is the word we see in all the advertisements and media right now. Over-used and confusing – this word puts most people in a frozen state of undecided-ness. What do I do? What product do I use? What IS green anyway?Happily, Ellen Sandbeck, self-professed worm-wrangler, has rescued us from the confusion. She knows “green” inside and out and has written a great variety of books to help the everyday person put the “green” in everyday living.

via Books That Help You Learn About Green and Eco-Conscious Living and Save Money – Gardening Nude.

I have gotten quite a bit of feedback about my post, “Applied Primatology,” which was based on work done by the behavioral economist, Dan Ariely. Positive reinforcement works upon me in exactly the way it works upon all animals; therefore I have decided to write again about Professor Ariely’s work. I am rereading “Predictably Irrational,” and this time I will be writing about Ariely’s research into the allure of “free” stuff.

via Green Barbarians: Applied primatology, Part Two: The Power of Freebies.

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Coal Ash Purgatory

Yesterday I had a heartbreaking exchange with a young woman who asked for my help in researching the health effects of coal ash. This morning I asked her permission to post our correspondence on the blog. She very graciously assented.

Here is our correspondence, with her name removed because we are dealing with such tragedy. Empty parentheses ( ) indicate deletions made in order to remove identifying details :

via Green Barbarians: Coal Ash Purgatory.


It’s Like Butter

I grew up eating margarine rather than butter because my father was on a “heart diet” after suffering a major heart attack at age 45. In retrospect, it becomes quite obvious that the cause was the 4-pack-a-day cigarette habit that my Dad kicked immediately after his heart attack. His doctor said, “Well, you could keep smoking…” The rest of the sentence didn’t need to be spelled out. It was: “and die.”

via Green Barbarians: It’s Like Butter.

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While I was writing “Green Barbarians,” I researched the legal hotwater that some people have gotten themselves into simply by line-drying their clothes. Many homeowners’ associations (HOA’s, ain’t that appropriate?) ban, among other things: suffering a dandelion to live; flying the American flag; installing curtains, siding, fences and doormats of unapproved color and style; and hanging out laundry of any color at all.

via Green Barbarians: Line Drying Clothes–Across the Great Divide.

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Let’s ask Walmart to stop selling Genetically Modified Foods – start by signing this petition.

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Dear Ellen,

What do you use to clean out your sink after you wash off poultry?

Sue and Gary, Duluth, Minnesota

Dear Sue and Gary,

When I clean out my sink, I use the same environmentally friendly method that the USDA has approved for decontaminating beef carcasses. This method utilizes hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and distilled white vinegar, and is actually more effective than using chlorine bleach. Hydrogen peroxide and white vinegar can also be used to decontaminate delicate fresh produce such as lettuce, fruits, and vegetables.

Here’s how to get started: buy two spray bottles. One of the bottles must be very dark and opaque because hydrogen peroxide breaks down when it is exposed to light. Fill the dark bottle with H2O2. If you cannot find a dark spray bottle, search for a spraybottle-nozzle that will screw into a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide. (Hydrogen peroxide is usually available in drug stores and in the pharmacy section of supermarkets.) Fill the other bottle with full-strength distilled white vinegar. (Vinegar is usually located in the pickle section of your local supermarket. I buy distilled vinegar by the gallon, it’s cheaper that way).

Utilizing this system is easy: after you rinse off a chicken carcass, wipe the interior of the sink down with a damp cloth and dish detergent in order to get rid of the schmaltz (chicken fat), then rinse the sink. Next, spray the entire surface of the sink with hydrogen peroxide and with vinegar. The order in which you spray these liquids does not matter. Your sink is now free of live bacteria. If you are decontaminating produce, you might want to spray the vinegar first, so the hydrogen peroxide can wash away the vinegar.

The dual-spray system can also be used to disinfect bathroom surfaces as well any other hard surfaces that may be harboring bacteria.

Environmentally yours,


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First Flight

The Day Before the Empty Nest

The Day Before the Empty Nest

WE HAVE FLEDGED! Four baby phoebes!

When I was coming in the back door with Maisie this morning, I noticed a baby phoebe perched on the edge of the nest, looking rather competent and alert, and I thought, “I should take a picture of them before they’re gone.” So I went in and got the camera, and when I held it up to take the photo, four little feathery rockets launched off the the nest and sailed over to the vegetable garden. I guess they’ve had enough of me. I have, admittedly, been absolutely the worst sort of stage mother, and they’ve obviously had enough!

So, here is a retrospective of our little darlings’ careers to date. If I knew how to add music to the blog, I would add something maudlin and sickly sweet. Imagine the Carpenters singing “We’ve Only Just Begun,” ** as you view these adorable baby pictures.

**My junior high school Home Ec teacher played “We’ve Only Just Begun” during the fashion show featuring dreadful sewing projects that we were forced to put on (in all possible permutations of that phrase) for our mothers. I have practically broken out in hives every time I’ve heard that blasted song ever since.
I always referred to this class with great resentment, as “Home Ick,” and I begged and pleaded to be allowed to take shop or mechanical drawing or art instead. My pleas went unanswered, because it was the 1970s; girls were forced to take Home Ec, and weren’t allowed to take shop or mechanical drawing. (We were also forced to wear skirts or dresses, and the allowable height above the knee was strictly regulated by ruler in the principal’s office. Offenders whose skirts were too high above the ground were sent home to change. The bra regulation was also strictly enforced, whether a girl actually needed one or not (many of the girls did not–this public school housed grades 6-8.). A suspected offender would be sent to the principal’s office and forced to jump up and down while the male principal stared at her chest in order to determine whether or not she was wearing a bra.)  Thank god(dess) for the changes wrought by the Feminist Movement!

But I digress. Now, to the stirring, imaginary strains of “We’ve Only Just Begun,” enjoy the our baby phoebes.

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The baby phoebes are growing rapidly. They now have feathers and are starting to look like respectable birds. The harried parents dart back and forth carrying insects, in a desperate attempt to assuage their youngsters’ ravenous appetites.Walt and I are still amazed that our fairly constant , noisy use of the backdoor right under the nest has been so well tolerated by the phoebe family. Apparently, a secure, warm, dry location for a nest more than makes up for the constantly slamming door and the exuberantly noisy young dog. (Actually, once she is done announcing her presence, Maisie spends quite a lot of time quietly lying on the back stoop right under the phoebe nest. I think she considers the phoebes her friends.  She pretty much considers everything and everybody her friend. Read the rest of this entry »

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