How to Get a Wheelbarrow Out of Your Living Room

MOM’s employees tend to be do-it-yourselfers. In my case, when my wife and I purchased our first home, we took on a fixer-upper. Alas, mumble-mumble years later we’re still fixing it up. Late last summer my darling wife lovingly mentioned that it was time to get the wheelbarrow out of what should be our living room. It was time for a garden shed.

How big should our new shed be? It needed to fit a ten foot ladder, a lawn mower, a wheelbarrow, garden tools, miscellaneous lumber, and full sheets of plywood. A barn style roof would help with the lumber storage, and we figured a floor plan of eight feet by twelve feet (some might call it half the size of a living room) would fit everything nicely.

The kits and pre-built sheds we saw all seemed to cost too much, and weren’t very well constructed. After drawing up some detailed plans, we figured out that I could build something of better quality for a more affordable price. I ordered the materials, and scheduled a full week off work.

Pic01 - CopyI started by pouring concrete footings, and building the platform.

Pic02 - CopyAfter four days, I began to realize I may not have allotted enough time for this project.

Pic03 - CopyAfter the platform came construction of the wall framing and roof trusses. I built them atop the new platform, then moved each section over near the rain garden until they were ready to go up. I reused salvaged lumber where I could.

Pic04 - CopyMy photographer (a.k.a. bride) lent me a hand getting the walls up, and throughout the construction.

Pic05 - CopyAfter the fourth wall was up, I started putting roof trusses into place.

Pic06 - CopyI finished the trusses as my week of vacation ended. Next came roof sheathing and siding … on my days off.

Pic07 - CopyI fully admit, there were a few “do as I say, not as I do” moments during this project. Never stand on the top step of a ladder. Also, never smash your finger really hard with a hammer.

Pic08 - CopyNext I applied trim along the roof line, roofing paper, and shingles. My wife began the painting. The shed’s window is one we replaced from our kitchen.

Pic09 - CopyTrim boards went into place next. Then I used the cut out sections of siding to build a large entry door, and two small doors for the overhead lumber storage.

Pic10 - CopyThe last warm days of the season allowed us to finish the first coat of paint, and to apply caulk along all the trim boards. The next coats of paint would have been barn-red, but cold weather precluded them. A mere two months after beginning my one week project, I set into place a salvaged railroad tie as the shed’s front step.

I wish I could tell you our living room now sports a comfortable settee and coffee table. However, what you would actually find are boxes of flooring, long pieces of crown molding, numerous tools, and of course several gallons of barn-red paint.

Roland works at MOM’s in Rockville, MD

Posted in Gardening, Reuse | 3 Comments

We can Adapt to Anything

Humans can get used to just about anything.  Isn’t that amazing?  We are great at hedonic adaptation – also known as “getting used to stuff.”  After an adjustment period, we can recalibrate our happiness even in unfortunate circumstances.  We adapt when a family member becomes ill or when we move to a new place.  We can adapt to budgets, exercise routines, less money, new diets, etc.






Studies show
that after a number of months, lottery winners and people recently paralyzed by accidents rate their happiness about the same.  THE SAME, people!  Mr Money Mustache explains why,

Well, it turns out that when a person jumps to a new level of material convenience, he loses the ability to enjoy the things he previously thought were pretty neat. A cold Bud Light was once a true delight after a work day for the lottery winner, but after the win he quits the job and takes up high-end scotch, poured by a personal butler. Both serve the same purpose, and the pleasure is about the same. Similarly, when moving down the hedonic scale, either voluntarily or involuntarily, we can learn to appreciate simpler things with just as much gusto as we would have appreciated more expensive things. I truly love the sound of the wheels of my bike slicing through the quiet wind on an open road, just as much as I enjoyed the whirring sound of the gear-driven camshafts and the rich tuned exhaust note of my old VFR800 motorcycle.

There are tons of things over my lifetime that have changed for the better of our environment: people use reusable bags, bring refillable water bottles, drive smaller cars, drive electric cars, buy more organic foods, and more.  Ten years ago, would you have shaken your at the idea of carrying reusable bags or a refillable water bottle?  A habit that once seemed like a burden is now normal, and we’re happy to bring bags or carry bottles.  I’m getting myself in the habit of reusing produce bags.  What’s the point of grabbing a new bag for lettuce each time I’m at MOM’s, when the bags I got last time are practically good as new?

bikegasIn general, I think we underestimate our adaptability.  How often have you balked at the idea of changing your habits, routine, or lifestyle?  We’re used to doing things a certain way, and we don’t always question the why.  Why do people commute many miles in expensive cars by themselves?  Why do we buy new clothes each year?  Why do we throw so much away?

What are some ways you’ve changed, that 5 or 10 years ago would’ve seemed impossible?  What purposes do your habits serve?  How could you change them to something simpler with less impact on the environment?

I have a few personal examples… and I want to hear yours!  What environmental lifestyle habits can we adapt to?

It’s Screen Free Week – how hard would it be to adapt to a truly screen free week??

Eva works at MOM’s Central Office

Posted in Energy Resources, Family, Water | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day On The Bay

A great deal of my childhood was spent on the Chesapeake Bay, netting crabs (or trying to), collecting oyster shells, and waving at passing sailboats. My great grandmother would steam blue crabs and we’d sit in the sunshine and talk about small town stuff. A recent visit showed me that the bay is healing after decades of pollution and neglect. I like to remember that every little act of conservation and responsible waste disposal (recycling, repurposing, reusing) is aiding the bay’s healing.


A live owl hosts the MD Park Service tent at a neighborhood festival.


Solar panels on a roof.


Oxford-Bellevue Ferry

photo-75 photo-76 photo-78 photo-79 photo-80 photo-82 photo-73 photo-72 photo-70 photo-71 photo-65 photo-67 photo-69 photo-64

Signs in this area once warned against swimming in polluted waters, now signs boast a wetlands conservation area.

Signs in this area once warned against swimming in polluted waters, now signs boast a wetlands conservation area. Please note: sailboats pollute much less than motor boats.

Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay at!

Alyssa works at multiple MOMs locations.

Posted in Ecology, Local, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Majestic Creature in its Natural…WAIT.

giraffen-suedafrika-5gWhat natural creatures do you see every day?  I see squirrels and deer pretty often.  And insects!  Stink bugs are common in my house, and I’m starting to see bees and moths regularly.  Occasionally I see a chipmunk or rabbit, too.

I have a good friend who has family in South Africa.  When her cousins visit the U.S., they marvel at the squirrels and deer we have everywhere.  My friend and I always find this hilarious because in South Africa seeing giraffes, elephants, monkeys, lions, zebras, and hippos is no big deal.  Really!?  A giraffe is a thousand times more interesting than a squirrel!  It’s all what you’re used to….

Which brings me to this little creature.  It’s pretty common in most of the world, and most of us are used to seeing it in our daily lives:

Pretty well done, don’t you think?


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Eyes On Your Kids

You’re the parent. You’re the boss. You make the decisions for your family. Right?

Well, food marketers have noticed that there’s a very influential lobbyist, of sorts, in your midst: Your child.

photo by Mike Mozart via flickr CC

photo by Mike Mozart via flickr CC

Children have an impressive repertoire of tactics to convince their parents to make purchases, including whining, crying, pleading, arguing, pretty-pleasing. Even the most stalwart of parents become weathered and worn down by these tactics at times.

The problem is, children aren’t choosing their preferred products based on what’s good for them, or even based on what tastes good. Food marketers have realized kids can be “bought” by their emotions.

When a child watches a movie or a TV show with an admirable character in the lead, they identify, emotionally, with that character. The character becomes a part of their lives, someone they adore, someone they imitate, and someone they trust.

Who better to help your child decide how to make life decisions, right? [I hope every parent is thinking “WRONG – that’s my job!”]

A Cornell University study is exposing just how carefully marketing executives are designing product packaging (specifically cereal) to make absolutely sure your child gets the message they want them to get (usually: Buy me!).

The study shows that cereal marketed to kids dons characters with large eyes that are pointed down, towards the eye-level of your child, and perhaps more alarming – that it works. The practice is seen to build brand trust and loyalty.

“Findings show that brand trust was 16% higher and the feeling of connection to the brand was 28% higher when the rabbit made eye contact,” says an article from the Food Psychology Department of Cornell University.

Some healthy food manufacturers are interested in using the same tactics to sell healthier foods to kids. Problem is, if the practice is acceptable in the healthy foods aisle, it will be acceptable in the chips & dip aisle too. What we create is a thick, nearly impassible wall of marketing to kids. On the other side of the wall, is our ability to teach our kids healthy eating habits based on nutrition, calorie needs, and taste (not just artificially-enhanced flavors, but the taste of an actual whole food!).

photo by Renato Ganoza via flickr

photo by Renato Ganoza via flickr CC

We don’t accept manufacturers using cartoon characters on cigarettes, alcohol, or power saws. Of course, we can tell our kids “No” and we can explain why they can’t play with a circular saw, and we can teach them that cigarettes are unhealthy. But, we don’t accept marketing these products to kids because it’s just wrong. We should be less accepting of these methods in food marketing as well, no matter the food.

You might already know that MOMs has a policy against carrying products that are marketed to kids using branded cartoon characters (note the Barbara’s cereals missing from the shelves currently), but you can read more about the dawn of this policy here:

Additionally, you might consider supporting this organization: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Follow them on twitter: @commercialfree and Like them on facebook!


Alyssa works at multiple MOMs locations.



Posted in Children, Family, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dandelions Are Our Friends

dandelion1Dandelions contain protein, calcium, iron, Vitamins A & C.  There are uses for almost every part of the plant.  The roots and greens can be used to make a tonic that promotes digestion and acts as a diuretic.  Dandelions are also known for their liver support.  You know that white milky stuff that comes out when you puncture the bud of a dandelion? Apply that to a wart several times a day and the wart dissolves!

Not only are dandelions edible for us, they are edible for animals. Small birds eat the seeds, pigs gorge themselves on dandelions, rabbits thrive off of dandelion and you can even sneak dandelion into your dog’s food for smoother digestion.

Just remember, when considering foraging for wild dandelion, be sure to gather from unpolluted and chemical free areas!

Below are some awesome uses for dandelions:

1) Dandelion Wine

2) Dandelion Root Tea

3) Sautee’d Dandelions 

4) Boiled Dandelions

5) Fried Dandelion Fritters

6) Dandelion Salad


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Lawn Lunch

dandelionsYou may have a salad growing in your yard.

There are lots of reasons not to treat your lawn with chemicals and pesticides, and one of them is that your yard may be edible!   You may find your relationship with pesky weeds changing once you realize that they are also tasty greens.

As a kid, I remember eating salads with dandelion greens harvested from our yard, and seeing home-grown pansies as a garnish on dishes.  I felt a little weird eating them at first, but “weird” is usually adjustable.

However, don’t go out today and start gnawing on your ivy.  Always check an unfamiliar plant with someone from your local Native Plant Society or by careful research.  And try just a nibble first.  Best to find out if you dislike something or it doesn’t agree with you before you make a plateful for dinner.

Here are some of the many options!

Lamb's quarters

Lamb’s quarters




Curled Dock

Curled Dock

Lamb’s Quarters – a relative of spinach which raw actually has more iron, protein and b12 than spinach or cabbage!

Green Amaranth – mild-tasting with a hairy stem, these are a great veggie side-dish.

Purslane – a ground-hugging, purpleish-red green rich in iron and calcium.

Curled Dock – this guy can grow up to five feet tall with small, green blossoms.  Rather strong tasting, but delicious creamed or double-boiled.

These and many more wild edible plants could be growing in your yard!

Eva works at MOM’s Central Office

Posted in Ecology, Gardening, Lawns, Native plants, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments