Author: mkhuber

Where Does that Water Go When it Rains A Lot?

I did something super nerdy yesterday.

I had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago‘s McCook Reservoir and Mainstream Pumping Station.

 

MWRD

The circular entrance of MWRD is approximately the same size as the tunnels

 

Have I bored you already? Just wait.

The Mainstream Pumping Station is one of three stations designed to capture combined sewer overflows (where both sanitary and storm flow go through the same pipes) from an area of 375 square miles. Remember when I wrote about all the poop in the Chicago River? This would help alleviate that from happening.

When it rains a decent amount, all of the impervious surfaces of the city (roads, sidewalks, buildings) keep the rain from seeping back into the ground, causing it to run off into the city’s combined sewers.

The station is part of the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan which is designed to eliminate waterway pollution caused by combined sewer overflows and provide an outlet for flood waters. Phase I of TARP, intended primarily for pollution control, is made up of four distinct tunnel systems including Mainstream.

It consists of 31 miles of tunnels 240 to 300 feet below ground.  Sewage and stormwater entering the tunnels are carried to the Mainstream Pumping Station, where it is pumped to Stickney Water Reclamation Plant, the largest wastewater treatment plant

IN THE WORLD.

The McCook Reservoir is currently under construction and, when completed,  will have a total capacity of 10 billion gallons. It will be as long as 17 Soldier Fields stacked side by side (or it was 11, can’t recall exactly what the tour guide said!). When fully completed in 2029, the McCook Reservoir will provide more than $143 million per year in flood damage reduction benefits to 3,100,000 people in 37 communities.

MWRD2

McCook Reservoir will be ready to handle stormwater by the end of 2017.

 

So here is an easier explanation of how this works:

  1. It rains a lot
  2. The rain runs over sidewalks and roads and into the sewers
  3. When enough stormwater enters the sewers it can combine with the sewage sewer, resulting in a combined sewer overflow
  4. To prevent this, the stormwater drops into deep underground tunnels
  5. The water travels to a reservoir like McCook
  6.  The reservoir acts as a giant holding tank where stormwater is held until the water treatment plant has the capacity to handle it
  7. When it does, the Mainstream Pumping Station will pump the water to the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant
  8. The water is treated
  9. The treated water is released into the waterway
  10. Flooding and CSOs are prevented

That’s it!

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Doing Fall Differently

It is finally starting to feel like fall.

Finally.

It has been a bit too warm for a bit too long (climate change cough cough).

Now that there is a chill in the air, I can finally fully embrace it.

When the stores become inundated with “Happy Fall Ya’ll” pillows and pumpkin spice candles in August, it can be hard not to go overboard.

I have been trying to keep decorations to a minimum and keep them secondhand, handmade, or natural.

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Both of these pumpkins came from garage sales.

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Last year I knit this fall themed banner with leftover yarn.

fall banner

Halloween can also be celebrated without having to purchase a brand new costume each year. In college, I went as a Jedi solely from stuff I found at Goodwill.

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So go enjoy the season, but do it wisely!

 

Buying Local: Week 22

Thank goodness apples keep for a long time because we are overflowing over here. I already gave some away to friends on Saturday and am even considering bringing some in for people at work.

This week is the end of the sweetcorn, which I am kind of happy about because I am corned out. Too much. And we still have some in the freezer…

csa week 10

What We Bought:

  • Green Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Empire and honey crisp apples
  • Arugula
  • Red mustard
  • Yukon Potatoes
  • Kalettes  (Kale sprouts)
  • Sweetcorn
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Apple cider
  • pumpkins (for decorating, not eating)

What We Learned:

  • K pickled his first batch of green beans, we shall see how they taste
  • I think I said this before, but omelets are great ways to use up some produce, paired with some homemade home fries

 

Buying vs. Renting Wedding Stuff

There comes a time in the wedding planning process where you realize how much all that fancy, cute stuff costs from the rental company.

This is a very contradictory situation for me. I want to save money, but I also don’t want to be wasteful.

There were two main pieces I wanted for the reception: cake stands and lanterns.

I checked around at some vintage rental companies and found that renting a single cake stand can range from $15-$50.

For one cake stand!

 

Nimble Well at Indie Wed

Nimble Well vintage jadeite, gold, and pink milk glass cake stands and vases, photo by Amanda Megan Miller.

 

Overall, it is cheaper to buy a couple cake stands, and then re-sell them as a set to another bride, all while keeping my favorite(s) for myself.

So, that’s what we did. We scoured garage sales and Homegoods to come up with our own set of vintage looking cake stands.

We did the same thing for the lanterns. The perfect lanterns happened to be at Target and all on sale as outdoor summer items were moved off the shelves to make way for fall. These lanterns were only on sale in stores and in small quantities, so there were plenty of trips to Targets all over the Chicagoland area. (Sorry you got roped into that dad!)

Once the wedding is over, I plan to keep these items in the wedding rotation by re-selling them to another frugal bride. There are a couple options for that:

Here is more information on where to buy and sell used wedding materials online.

The whole thing definitely is more work on our part, but I am okay with that. I know my purchases will be put to good use.

 

Buying Local: Week 21

We are in the middle of a CSA box from last weekend, and it is one of the last boxes we will receive. Our CSA ends at the end of October. 😦

Some homemade chili tied us over for most of the zombie jetlag last week and we did not eat at home a couple nights.

Now that we are a week and a half out from vacation, we are fully back in our regular schedules, and getting back to eating regularly and normally. Eating 6 large pretzels over 3 days is not normal (I am looking at you Munich and Oktoberfest).

 

DINNER

Our first real homemade meal back. 

 

What We Bought:

  • From Local Foods
    • Whole chicken
    • Milk
    • Sausages
    • French bread
  • From Nichol’s Farm in Marengo, IL
    • Carrots
    • Broccoli
    • Green beans
    • Mixed Greens

What We Learned:

Inspiration

This blog does not get an unreal amount of traffic.

My page views are not off the charts.

And I am totally okay with that.

That’s because I love hearing from friends and family (and those on the internet) about what they have learned from my blog. It makes all of it worth it.

I have had friends in Washington reach out about recycling questions. I have had family friends in Maryland send me food waste articles. Followers now know what to do with their old running shoes, their old Apple products, and their old jeans.

 

I had a friend from DC message me the following:

“I love following your blog and seeing all that you do to help the environment. It really inspires me to do little things to do my part. I realized how awesome cloth napkins are for EVERYDAY!”

So much excitement about cloth napkins!

compost bucket7

Another friend has started composting, like real composting in her backyard. I am so proud!

Just being able to make one small difference is really what this blog adventure is all about.

So thank you.

The Great Compost Fiasco of 2017

With all of our CSA produce, we have been producing a lot of food scraps that we toss in our compost bucket. So much so that the bucket is totally full before pick-up time.

The first time this happened, I tossed some compost extras into a double lined paper (compostable over plastic) grocery bag, folded it over tightly and left it in the space between our fire escape’s door and the screen door. When pick-up day came, I just put the paper bag out with the compost bucket.

It all worked out just fine.

Before we left for vacation, I tried this bit again, putting the paper bag of food scraps in between the doors. I kind of forgot it was there and we jetted off to Europe for 10 days. Little did I know that it was going to basically be 90 degrees in Chicago the entire time we were gone.

Thus it was a recipe for disaster.

When we got home, the apartment had a little bit of a funk, but I did not think anything of it. I went to put our shoes on the fire escape to air out and a flock of bugs spewed into the apartment! Quickly shutting the door, I came to the terrible realization of what had happened. Unfortunately,  I was not able to actually open the door for confirmation unless I wanted to be assaulted by insects.

So I had a hot, smelly, rotten, bag of food scraps sitting in between our doors.

Great.

The only way to clean up this mess without letting all the bugs in the apartment meant I had to climb up the fire escape and open the screen door from the outside.

Armed with a trash bag, I took a deep breath and opened the door to free the insects who made their home in my bag of bug food. I scooped what I could into the trash bag before the soggy paper bag ripped, spilling old peppers onto the vestibule.

I plucked them up from the decaying food slime that had oozed out of the bag and shoved them into the trash bag. I propped the door open to air out the stink/bugs and ran back down the fire escape to the trash can.

Once inside, I filled up a pitcher of water and poured it over the ooze layer between the doors. Finally, I sprayed some Lysol over it to maybe make it less smelly.

So I tried to keep some organic matter from a landfill and failed miserably…

I won’t be trying the paper bag bit again anytime soon.

 

Getting Back on Track

We got back from our European jaunt on Saturday and I am still recovering from jetlag and getting back on track with work and life.

That means I have not had time to blog, so for now, I leave you with two pictures of recycling we encountered on our travels.

recycling in France

Paris, France had corner recycling centers

recycling in austria

Recycling in Austria at the train station has bins for metal, paper, plastic, and other waste.

If you are disappointed that all I am going to post of my trip are of recycling, do not fear. Keep scrolling!

eurotrip1

Paris, France

eurotrip2

Paris, France

eurotrip3

Paris, France

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Paris, France

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Paris, France

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Munich, Germany

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Munich, Germany

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Munich, Germany

 

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Hallstatt, Austria

 

 

Au Revoir & Auf Wiedersehn

Or in basic English, Bye!

I am going to be on break for a bit because I am going to be out of the country!

That’s right, I am leaving this continent of the United States and am traveling abroad.

To France, Germany, and Austria that is!

My next post should be Monday, September 25th, but I cannot promise that jet lag won’t take over.

Buying Local: Week 19 and 8th CSA

This week we had to do a lot of cooking, storing, and preserving of our CSA box. That is because we are going to be out of town (and the country) for the next 10 days. More on that tomorrow.

Once we got home from the farmers market with our box, K got right to work making a pepper sauce and a tomato sauce. We sliced the corn off the cob and froze that for later.

CSA week 8

What We Bought:

  • From our CSA in Marengo, IL
    • Honey Crisp apples
    • Mixed Cherry tomatoes
    • Roma beans
    • Sweet colored peppers
    • Eggplant
    • Korean or tropical melon
    • Mirai Sweetcorn
    • Leek
    • White kennebec potatoes
  • From Local Foods
    • Bread
    • Chicken
    • Sausages
    • Sprecher’s root beer (yum!)
    • A soft pretzel
    • Onion

What We Learned:

  • K is really good at accidentally making tomato soup. He originally was going for making a sauce with all the tomatoes we got, but it ended up being really amazing.
  • There are still some veggies we have to freeze or give away!