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Posted by on Dec 7, 2016 | 0 comments

Going Solar in Alexandria

Going Solar in Alexandria

Steve and Michele have joined a growing list of families in Alexandria by adding solar panels to their home last summer. It didn’t cost a fortune, and they’ve already seen an extraordinary drop in their energy consumption. I met with Steve and Michele the other day to hear about their experience. They told me they spent about $13,500 to purchase and install the panels, which is the typical price for the average size of homes in this area. But, they say that they decided on installing panels mainly to avoid wasting energy and to be more resource conscious in general, to make as they say, “an investment in our lives.” The roof attachments have rails that the panels sit on, as well as waterproofing in the roof shingles. They showed me their Dominion bill for September to October, 2016, which was only $15.36. What’s most notable is that when it’s common around here to run the A/C the most often, during August, they only paid $25. Virginia provides for...

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Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 | 2 comments

Meet the Maker: Mellenie’s Soap Subscription

Meet the Maker: Mellenie’s Soap Subscription

We’ve been big fans of Mellenie Runion’s eco-friendly soap business, Truly-Life, ever since discovering it a few years ago. In fact, her garden was one of the stops on this summer’s Urban Farm Tour. We love sharing news of local makers and Mellenie’s homemade business keeps getting bigger and better, now with a subscription service. Mellenie grows and creates her skin care products right here in her Del Ray home. The lavender that makes her soap and bath fizz so soothing grows in her backyard. The loofah grow on vines supported by a homemade trellis. It’s then dried and sliced and delicately tied with a ribbon on her packages (that little pot contains a bonus: seeds to start your own loofah plants at home). Her mud masks are made from coffee beans sourced from local coffee roaster Swing’s and the box is lined with, of course, part of a burlap coffee bean bag. Mellenie is now offering a subscription service where you can order — for yourself or as...

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Posted by on Apr 26, 2016 | 0 comments

Quick and Easy Raised Garden Beds

Quick and Easy Raised Garden Beds

Since the soil in our yard is pretty much all clay, I decided raised beds would work better than planting directly in the ground. I’ve seen a lot of raised garden beds in the neighborhood — some DIY and some store-bought. I contemplated building garden beds like these, but lacking the time or the tools to do the work, I opted to buy them. My friend Catherine told me about these cedar raised garden bed kits from Vermont. They are pricier than frames you might find at other online garden supply stores, but they are well made and should last a good 10-15 years. Cheaper versions would have to be replaced every few years and probably end up costing more in the long run. So I bit the bullet and ordered 3 raised bed kids (two 3 x 8s and one 4 x 8). I ordered on Monday and by Saturday morning they arrived at my door. It took about 5 minutes to assemble the beds — no tools...

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Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 | 1 comment

Simple DIY Scented Candles

Simple DIY Scented Candles

I got together last week with a few friends for a festive and hands-on holiday activity – making candles.  This was a perfect group craft project for the holidays. We had a lot of fun learning the process together and enjoying an evening of casual crafting. Everyone brought various heat-resistant containers from home. I opted for old jelly jars and reused mason jars. Some people used handmade pottery. We had sent around a list of supplies that we could gather from our homes, and one of the participants, Shelu, purchased a 10 pound bag of soy wax online and cotton wicks in bulk. Materials list: Soy wax Wicks Glue gun with cartridges Tape Heavy pot Heavy duty glass container to create a double boiler effect Candy thermometer Essential oils like orange, pine, cedar, cinnamon, and lavender Wooden spoons Making the candles was both fun and easy. We consulted these instructions every step of the way, but it really was not that complicated. We started off by gluing the wicks to the bottom of each container...

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Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 | 0 comments

JC’s All-Year Urban Farm

JC’s All-Year Urban Farm

We met JC last year when her garden was one of the standouts on our 2014 Urban Farm Tour. JC was gracious enough to invite us back for a fall gardening workshop for DIY Del Ray readers. Not only did we learn what vegetables we can grow in the fall, we also walked away with tips for how to keep our gardens going all year long — yes, even right here in Del Ray. Our tour started with the front of JC’s property where she grows enough fruit to satisfy her family of four. Strawberry plants create a lush groundcover in the fall, with delicious strawberries making an appearance in the spring. If you want to limit your amount lawn mowing, grow strawberries. Did you know birds have no interest in sour cherries? Apparently so, we learned. But they do love strawberries and figs, so plan to net those if you want more for yourself. JC admits she didn’t get to enjoy as many figs as she wanted this...

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