The other day, I opened the door to my truck, climbed up into the cab and proceeded to experience what a Thanksgiving turkey must experience an hour after going into the oven, extreme, unrelenting heat. After burning my hands on the steering wheel I drove to the job site, got out of my rolling oven and darted around the property scurrying from shade to shade to try to protect my bald head from certain sunburn. As the sweat started to bead on my brow, I strained to remember the beautiful late winter and early spring days of only a few months ago. Needless to say, I am looking forward to those first hints of cool air that will come late this fall. Living in Texas you become accustomed to the extremes that our weather can bring. Extreme heat, cold and pure perfection can all happen in the span of a few short days. It's no wonder that the early settlers were such hardy souls capable of incredible adaption and creativity. They responded to the land and the extremes by creating structures that used the breezes at hand, created cooling shade and were often built near water and food sources. They created cisterns, built windmills, designed daylight lighting designs and were ever mindful of their loose grip on these resources and were therefore frugal and conservative with their use. As I stand sweating in the shade I can surely appreciate the tenacity and creativity those early Texans must have displayed.

On a daily basis I drive through neighborhoods where responsibility to the site and the environment goes unchecked; charcoal gray roofing, west facing picture windows, small overhangs, aluminum windows and large green garden hoses mindlessly overflow and run their contents into the street. Our Texas ancestors would have been surprised at our carelessness. We all should remain mindful of conservation and sustainability. Simple practices and thoughtful efforts can create the kind of homes where we can be frugal and efficient with our ever dwindling resources. Let us help you create that type of home today.

- J. Bryant Boyd

J. Bryant Boyd, Architect, Design-Build

The Natural House

Tips for Greener Living, fourth in a series of articles by Charles Munro

Tips for Organic Living There are many ways to improve our quality of life without destroying the environment in which we live. Usually, I write articles which educate our readers on the different facets of the natural house. These articles may concentrate on the use of indigenous building materials, or they may focus on the clever re-purposing of a common surplus item as a new form of construction.

This month I thought it would be nice to share some "recipes" and methods of using organic and natural materials to accomplish common tasks around the house. Some of the tips will save you dollars and some are just good substitutes for otherwise harsh and invasive chemical treatments that we have come to accept as everyday and normal practice.

All Purpose Cleaner 2 ounces orange oil 1 gallon water

Mix well and spray on any surface to kill germs and add a citrus scent. Also kills insect pests on contact.

Organic Pest Control 1 cup concentrated compost tea (recipe to follow) 1 gallon water 1 ounce molasses 2 ounces orange oil

Mix well and spray on plants and insects.

Laundry Detergent Stretcher 1 capful orange oil ½ portion laundry detergent

Add capful of orange oil to wash load and cut back to about 50% of the amount of detergent you would normally use. This recipe stretches the ability to clean your clothes and adds a wonderful scent as well.

Compost Tea (organic fertilizer) 1 five gallon bucket 1 aquarium air pump 2 handfuls organic compost 5 gallons water 2 ½ ounces molasses 1 nylon bag

To make quality compost tea, start with good fungus-filled compost that contains aerobic beneficial microbes, and then make them multiply by feeding and aerating them with a simple aquarium pump to increase the number of microbes including bacteria, fungi and beneficial nematodes. Typical garden soils are lacking in fungal species and this procedure helps them greatly. Buy a pump rated for a 50 gallon aquarium from any pet store. Provide enough oxygen to keep the tea from going anaerobic. Air stones, also available from the pet store, are used to pump air through the tea by creating air bubbles. Worm castings are one of the best forms of organic compost but any quality compost will work. Place a couple of handfuls of compost into a nylon bag and lower it into the water (just like making a cup of regular tea). Add ½ ounce of molasses per gallon of water to help feed the microbes. Too much molasses can destroy microbes in the tea. Turn the air pump on and let it run for about 6-8 hours. With molasses, the tea will have a sweet smell. Do not drink it though! When the molasses is used up, the aroma of the tea will change to a yeasty aroma. Remove the tea bags and continue to let the air pump run for an additional 16-20 hours. The tea will start to deteriorate immediately after the air pump is turned off. You can prolong the life of the tea for a day by leaving the air on. Never try to store your finished tea in a sealed container. It will develop pressure inside and blow up. Five gallons of tea will cover an acre of planting. As a soil drench, five gallons will cover about 10,000 square feet of lawn or garden. It doesn't matter how much water you use to dilute and spread the tea.

These are just a few of the different recipes you can try around the house. They are generally inexpensive and will not wreak havoc on your environment.