Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A whole month??

Wow--it's been almost a month since last I posted! In that time I've driven down to St. Louis with Photon and Kasey to do a program for St. Louis Audubon, then headed up to Duluth, still with Photon and Kasey, to do a program and field trip for the Sax-Zim Birding Festival, and then all the way back here to Ithaca. Then last weekend I drove, with just Photon, to East Lansing, Michigan, to do a couple of programs for a Michigan Audubon conference. On these long drives, I hit some of the worst winter driving I've EVER dealt with, and am absolutely sick of long drives. Kasey seems to prefer coming along on a long drive to staying home alone--she was literally falling all over herself to be petted when we came back.

I've gotten pretty settled into my apartment--I have plant lights now, and some plants, and more of my clothes and books. I haven't done much birding at all, but am signed up for the Lab's spring ornithology class, so I'll get to go out with Steve Kress and see where all the good local places are. I've had to invest way too much money in cheap rugs to cover my floor, since there is no insulation between the floor tiles and the unprotected slab my apartment is built on. I took the temperature between the tile and the rug, and it varies between 49 degrees and 51 degrees. My apartment is heated with propane which is VERY expensive. For next winter, I may have to figure out another way to heat it, because it's going to run a good $300 a month for just heat--and I only keep the thermostat at 60 in the daytime and 50 at night! Any suggestions about saving energy on heating without dying in the process would be welcome!

I figured out one way of saving electricity. Since I'm all alone and take three or (sometimes) four showers and (sometimes) one bath a week, and only need to run my dishwasher every five days or so, it's silly and wasteful to keep my 53-gallon hot water tank running constantly. So I turn it off at the circuit breaker box right before I take a shower, and don't turn it back on until a couple of hours before my next shower. Most of the light fixtures are charming but use odd-sized bulbs for which I can't find fluorescent substitutes, so I brought two fluorescent floor lamps and two smaller fluorescent lamps from home. Any other suggestions about saving electricity are also welcome.

The well water here is extraordinarily smelly and hard and so my apartment water comes through a water softener. I'm drinking bottled water for now, though I should be able to spring for a Brita filter eventually, but I'm also watering my plants with that--I have to figure out where to get a rain barrel so I can use that water for the plants. Any other suggestions about conserving water are also welcome.

I'm having lots of fun. Next week I have to drive to Syracuse and fly from there to Duluth for another program (for the Unitarian Church of Virginia). Then I'm done traveling until mid-May (unless I can somehow manage to scrape up money and transportation to get to that Ernie Banks event I mentioned in the last post). I'll be SO happy to settle in some!