Sunday, November 20, 2011

Back Down "Green" Memory Lane

With a smile on my face and in my heart this Sunday morning, I recall the very first "greenhouse" in my life. I grew up on the West Coast of Africa where Green Living was in effect well before I was even born. Organic foods, water and energy conservation, pesticide free foods growing in my back yard, hormone and drug free chicken and meats, natural clothing, coconut trees standing tall outside my window and coconuts lacing the grounds, fruits waiting to be picked. These were a few of my favorite green things.

I came on this planet through a "Green Birth". I arrived by way of a natural birthing process with the help of a midwife and I was transplanted near the Atlantic Ocean. I was the only child out of 4 daughters who's womb journey and live path would be natural, earthy and green. While growing up, I was teased here and there by my family. They would say that I'd one day become a Nun or that I should start my own church. I believe the Nun description came from a lack of title or words to describe me; the idea originating from our Catholic foundation that we grew up in. But I was and am far from being a Nun, although I was surrounded by them at school and church, there is no way that I would sacrifice the pure pleasure of intimacy and sex for anything or any one. My spiritual interests and practices have always been that of an eco kind, sensual, heart focused and experiential rather than religious. And being of a dominantly earth element (Capricorn/Taurus), my pathway through life has always gravitated towards the natural, the real, the earthy.

My first encounter with a greenhouse was when I was an adolescent. My mother's best friend was probably the only woman who owned and cultivated a "greenhouse" in my entire country. I was named after her. Angelique is our name. She was my beloved godmother. And I always looked forward to visiting her with my favorite part being the tour of the greenhouse and the German Shepards she owned. Aunt Angelique was married to a dentist - Uncle Jake. They had 5 children - two of the boys became doctors. Michael became a physician and Francis became a dentist like his father. The girls were Donna and Ann. And there was Samuel Jerome (SJ) and Jamie who were nephews that lived there. (Jamie used to be a boyfriend of mine. He once got bitten by one of the Shepards and instinctively bit the dog back.) My Aunty Angelique was as beautiful and graceful as the flowers she grew in her greenhouse. She was gentle and very feminine in nature with a soothing and soft voice just like the complexion of her milky skin.

I was fascinated by this glass house - open and visible on all sides - where very lush and green plants and flowers grew constantly. I would sometimes arrive and Aunt Angelique would be in her greenhouse with her gloves on. I'd find her squatting or kneeling on the ground with her hands digging in the soil, fertilizing, planting or with a water jug in her hand feeding and hydrating her babies - plants. To tell the truth, I had no of idea of the environmental or ecological value of this glasshouse called a greenhouse. Although, I also had those squirming moments of seeing creepy crawly creatures and an occasional snake, I grew up loving its spirit, its beauty and a growing desire to one day have my own. I still want to own one and can see it as an annex to my retirement property.

Until then, I love having plants in my home space. Houseplants improve indoor air quality. They add oxygen to the room’s air by the process of photosynthesis. They also add humidity to the air by the process of transpiration. Both of these factors make the air healthier for us to breathe. Indoor house plants remove toxins from the air given off by the materials used to build, decorate and furnish our houses and offices. These toxins include benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. They also help to rid the rooms of other pollutants generated by furnaces, stoves and smoking.
House plants make a beautiful addition to any indoor space. They add color and texture to the room. Attractive indoor house
create impact and give life to any home. So when I go to other people's homes and I see it laced with plastic plants and flowers it always tells of story of the depths of the individual's artificiality.

There are various types of greenhouses. A home greenhouse can be attached to a house or garage, or it can be a freestanding structure. The chosen site and personal preference can dictate the choices to be considered. An attached greenhouse can be a half greenhouse, a full-size structure, or an extended window structure. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type. My Aunty Angelique owned a freestanding structure. It stood on its own, detached and was located on her home property separate from her house. Find out more about planning and building a Greenhouse.

I have learned that much of the sun's energy reaches earth as visible light. Of the visible light that enters the atmosphere, about 30% is reflected back out into space by clouds, snow and ice-covered land, sea surfaces, and atmospheric dust. The rest is absorbed by the liquids, solids, and gases that constitute our planet. The energy absorbed is eventually remitted, but not as visible light (only very hot objects such as the sun can emit visible light). Instead, it's emitted as longer-wavelength light called infrared radiation. This is also called "heat" radiation, because although we cannot see in infrared, we can feel its presence as heat. This is what you feel when you put your hand near the surface of a hot skillet. Certain gases in our atmosphere (known as "trace" gases because they make up only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere) can absorb this outgoing infrared radiation, in effect trapping the heat energy. This trapped heat energy makes the earth warmer than it would be without these trace gases. This means that a lot of the light we see during the day is a reflection of the sun's light on the earth. Fascinating eh?

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