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February 25, 2009

Born Again Green


Born Again Green

By Elaine Viets

Recently, I converted to the green life. Like many new converts, my fervor knew no bounds.

I confess that I used to let the water run in the sink while I brushed my teeth. But no more. I will mend my extravagant ways.

I understood that I’d squandered hot water when I took a shower. I vowed to use that precious substance sparingly.

I now realized that all trash had to go to the dump – and I’d have to help carry it there.

Brothers and sisters, I repented my wasteful ways and promised to sin no more.

My conversion came when Don and I stayed with Marcia and Barry Talley on Dickie’s Cay in the Abacos. That island group is part of the Bahamas chain, about a hundred miles from Nassau. Dickie’s Cay is essentially a desert island. If Don and I had to be marooned on a desert island with anyone, it would be Marcia and Barry.

To reach this remote island, we took a nine-seater Cessna from Fort Lauderdale. I’ve been in bigger coffins. Seriously. I once had to get inside a casket for a television show (but that’s another story). The plane’s passengers were seated by weight, with the heftier passengers toward the front. Don and I were relieved to sit toward the back with the lightweights.

I now realize the tiny plane was ecologically sounder than those fuel-burning monsters I usually flew. I kept repeating that as we bounced through the clouds like a basketball. When the plane landed at Marsh Harbour, I pried my fingernails out of the seat cover. We took a ferry to Dickie’s Cay. More public transportation, but this time, the trip was easy and efficient. I was on the road to conversion.

Dickie’s Cay is breathtaking – a rocky ridge with palms, mangroves, bananas, Australian pines and other trees. There is no water source except rain, and it is collected in cisterns. The island had some six houses constructed by the Abacos boat builders. Ours, The Lookout, was like living inside an artwork. It has amazing built-in cabinets and an intricate dovetailed ceiling. The wood is a mellow golden brown.

The house was perfectly designed – if the temperature was above seventy degrees. Then balmy breezes circulated through the house, and the occupants never need air conditioning.

Too bad the islands were hit with a record-breaking cold front and it was fifty-six degrees. Our paradise had turned into the freaking Yukon with palm trees. We would have welcomed an angel with a flaming sword, if he’d held it near us. Might warm things up a bit.

But we weren’t complaining. We threw on all the clothes we’d packed (except our bathing suits) and added several layers of our hosts’ sweaters. We were determined to enjoy ourselves.

And we did. I began to actually like washing dishes while I chatted with Marcia after dinner. I learned to turn off the water in between rinsing.

In the morning, it was fun to take the bacon grease outside to feed the hermit crabs, who lived in shells they picked out themselves. As our visit wore on and the bacon breakfasts got bigger, the hermit crabs started coming around in Airstreams.

I learned to put my organic tea bags in the compost pile.

I skipped the outdoor shower for a week in the interest of saving water. Meanwhile, the men did their bit. They drank their bourbon neat to avoid wasting precious water.

For my birthday, we took a boat to the dump on nearby Man-O-War Cay. We must have had a good time – our garbage clanked. (Water might have been scarce, but booze was plentiful.) MOW has the world’s most picturesque dump. It even has a picnic table and landscaping.

We also went to Man-O-War’s only restaurant for a birthday lunch. The deep-fat fried conch was delicious. It’s probably the reason I sat in the front of the plane on the trip home.


NOTE: Photo by Marcia Talley.


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Relatives were in school in the Caribbean, and thought they were being conservative with water, but we in the midwest just don't understand drought. Their cistern was dry way before more rain would come, and they paid a pretty penny to refill it from the water boats.
I'm glad that, despite the cold, you still had a great trip.
We had great storytelling at Java G's tonight, so I'm off to bed -- happy!
. . .and my finicky frog was hiding out from the medium-large cricket, so I took it out of his habitat and replaced it with a small one. I'm such a sucker! He surely picked the right house . . .

heehee -- I just enlarged the photo and saw the name on the boat ;-)

How gorgeous!

Elaine - you may be going green, but blue is your color!

Can't wait to see you and Marcia at the Festival in May - please bring more photos!

I just thought of this blog when I saw this item in today's NYT:


Oh, to be that dog.

Anid it's a Boston Whaler, so that's the UNSINKABLE Miss Elaine!

Somehow, Josh, I get the feeling the current owners of that $2.5 house aren't quite as gentle on the planet as Marcia and Barry!

But it's a fabulous house, Josh. So if a million or so of our closest friends all bought a TLC book, we could buy the Barbados house and invite you as a winter guest.

I'd be happy to sleep where the dog is.

A friend's son bid on a trip to a vacation home in Barbados at a silent auction at his church. They got there, and the house was empty of furniture, and crawling with rats. They had to go pay for a hotel.

So the sweaters was a better deal!

It sounds like you had fun, Elaine!


Talk about green. I doubt any a/c would be needed for those St. Louis summers.

My mom's uncle would give newlyweds in the family a week at his house in the Virgin Islands as a wedding gift. Uncle Bob passed away before I got married so I missed out, but several of my cousins had a great time in a fabulous beach house.

And Happy Birthday!!

What a fun trip, Elaine. Paradise, only with sweaters. I'd take it.

We have city water at our farm, but friends "down the road a piece" have to truck it in, which is a massive pain in the patoot. It's amazingly cheap, about $3 for 450 gallons, but it takes about eight 450-gallon tanks to fill their cistern, which means a 14-mile trip each tankful. The road they have to take requires them to ford a stream both ways; if the stream is flooded, it becomes a 30-mile trip. Then they pull the truck under this ridiculous looking filler (reminds me of an old tin showerhead, but with a hose fitting on the end), put in their quarters, and fill the tank. The filler is hanging over the street, so the truck has to sit in the three-way intersection while the tank fills. Clearly, this is not a busy road.

Seeing what they have to go through makes me grateful that we have water we don't have to pickup or have delivered. Maybe we should all have to experience this, just once, to fully appreciate what we do have.

Interesting story, Karen. If Lake Okeechobee keeps dropping in Florida, we may be trucking in our water, too. It will be fun hauling it up to the seventh floor in our condo.
Pam, the Festus cave house gave me major claustrophobia. Festus is a pretty burb outside of my hometown of St. Louis, TLC readers, cursed by a dumb name.

Ah, but it is the name of Marshal Matt Dillon's sidekick in Gunsmoke. Ken Curtis, the actor who played Festus...is from Festus. That is where he got the name.

I can't even wear turtleneck sweaters, I'm so claustrophic. This place would send me over the edge, too.

I'm convinced that our global climate change is caused by two things: overpopulation and water storage. There are worldwide water shortages, which neatly coincides with the practice of the last 15-20 years of using bottled water, plus vastly more population (doubled since 1970). The population is an issue because of more buildings, both private homes and public buildings.

Consider the many, many ways we keep water out of the natural system of rainfall/evaporation: bottled water; bottled other liquids containing water; toilets (how many do YOU have? We have seven, between our two homes); water heater tanks; icemakers (in our homes and in office buildings, hotels/motels, schools, restaurants, and retail ice providers); car radiators; hoses; indoor pools (hotels, schools); and on and on. Then there is the issue of baby diapers. I know, ick. But they are generally discarded tightly wrapped in plastic bags. And you also have to take into consideration leftover fast food drinks/ice that are discarded in containers that are tightly wrapped and disposed of in landfills.

All that water is trapped away from the system, and cannot help but change how the planet "breathes". I don't know what the answer is, but I've stopped using bottled water, and have urged all my friends to do the same. It's not much, but it's something.

Well, I got that crap all wrong. Ya think of one thing then another comes out of your fingers. It seems a writer on Gunsmoke was from the Festus area and that is where they got the name.


Thanks Karen! These are important things. Let's also not forget that bottled water, in addition to being problematic in the greater scheme of things, is expensive, is often taken from municipal water supplies, and is sitting in bottles which may be leaching toxic chemicals.



You can buy a stainless steel water bottle and fill it from your tap, or from a home water filter.

Plus stainless steel bottles are shiny and come in fun colors.

I want more pictures!

I know all about water conservation. Travel in a motorhome for a while and I guarantee you'll learn about "navy showers".

I love the fact the men did their part by giving up water with their bourbons. Nothing like sensitive men! LOL

Looks like another great location for a TLC field trip!

When my daughter was born (she'll be 20 in April), there was a "BIG THING" going on about disposable diapers, and how bad they were for the environment, and how you're evil if you use them (similar to the current nursing/non-nursing argument). So I was a good soldier and got a diaper service, and dealt with the wet diapers and big pins and rubber pants.

Then it went away. Why is that?

I'd like to know the answer to that question, too, Laura. We had diaper service, as well, the only family in the entire daycare who did. Ohio health rules mandate that every single disposable diaper be tied and sealed in a separate plastic bag. How stupid is that? I used to save all my plastic bags and take them in to the daycare, for about 22 years. Now I use my own bags so I rarely have plastic bags around, but as far as I know the statute still exists.

If you saw Slumdog Millionaire, there is a shot of the waterway near Mumbai (Ganges River? My geography is pathetic), literally filled with plastic bags. It's wrenching. Plastic takes a lot of water and petro chemicals to make.

Our island house had a sensible "pedal" toilet, similar to the kind used on boats. No water tank. It only used water when we flushed.

The cloth diaper thing is still going fairly strong. I used cloth diapers for both my kids, and friends are currently using cloth diapers. But there are lots of cool new versions with covers and velcro and whatnot - no pins, no rubber pants.

Even when you try to be environmentally thoughtful, it's difficult. I saw a study that you actually use less water when you have a dishwasher. Go figure.

I'd like to see exactly how they came to that conclusion. The salesman also told me that I would use less water with the "rinse" cycle on the dishwasher rather than rinsing dishes before putting them in -- but are they really factoring in how many times that would be for a single diner over the days it takes to fill the dishwasher?
BTW, my morning service appointment yesterday was 2:30, and would have been later if the repairman hadn't forced them to change the order of calls. . . Customer service is dying and rare.

It was your birthday yesterday?
Well It is mine today!

At least you did not have Ash Wednesday to contend with!

Happy Birthday fellow Pices.

Happy birthday. but mine was in February. I'm an Aquarium.

Marcia here! We're just back from taking the sailboat across the Sea of Abaco to buy booze, beige thread and Columbian coffee in Marsh Harbour. Honestly, how can you not love a place where you buy lobster tails for $8 a pound at the hardware store, and conch ceviche from the lady at the Shell station?

Missing you, Elaine! You can come back now. It's way warmer!!

My daughter has embraced the cloth diaper thing bigtime! They are newly designed and much, much easier than they used to be. And cheaper by a long shot! They come with little rubber pant, and the cloth part is more of a liner. A better choice than the Huggies of old.

Marcia, can I come, too?

Well, of course you buy conch at a "Shell" station. Where else? ;-)

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