Thursday, January 31, 2013

We Put a Deposit on a Nissan Leaf...

4 days ago (on Sunday) we decided it was time to look into replacing our old but very trusted Toyota Corolla.  We'd surpassed the 200,000 mile mark on the odometer, and that dear car had been nothing but good to us, but it was time.  Instead of putting more money into repairs it was going to need, we decided to go shopping.

It was at our 4th dealership that hubby came practically running back to the car where I sat with the children who were tired of car shopping in the freezing cold, and gasped something along the lines of, "You have to come in the showroom.  I've just found our new car!"

There it was.  A 2011 previously-owned but hardly used, fully-loaded and looking brand-new Nissan Leaf.  (You know, the fully electric car.  I wrote about it back in 2010.  Funny that this one was the same shade of blue as the one I pictured here on the blog!)  It even had solar panels on the spoiler.  We were instantly smitten.  Seriously, we were making goo-goo eyes at the car... THE perfect car for The GREEN CT Realtor.  We were practically doing cartwheels in the showroom.  We put down a deposit because we would need to come back on Monday for a test drive - we had friends coming over in 40 minutes and had to get home.

Monday we had a snowstorm topped off with freezing rain/sleet so we rescheduled for Tuesday.  Hubby cleaned out the Corolla for a trade-in and left early for work because the roads might be icy after the storm on Monday.  Turns out they weren't icy at all, but that wasn't the reason why hubby called me just 15 minutes after he left for work.  He had been in a car accident - a woman had pulled out right in front of him here in town, and he'd been too close to stop in time.  Our car was totaled.  (So much for the trade-in!)  The other driver was at fault.  I had to pick up hubby from the emergency room.  (His back & neck are hurting.  Hopefully that passes.)

So after hubby spent the day on ice packs and taking the meds prescribed at the hospital, we went back to the dealership for the test drive thinking we were going to be driving home the new car.  The test drive went really well, but the salesman wasn't able to answer the questions we had about some of the technical aspects of the car, questions about the batteries and mostly the electrical questions.  OK, so we had a lot of questions, all very reasonable.  We're actually great candidates for an electric car because we generate our own electricity with our 40 PV solar panels.  Also, when hubby built the carriage house garage he ran a dedicated 240 line with the intent of an electric car in our future.  Smart guy, right!

Turns out, we had a LOT more questions than they had answers for, and the cost of having to replace the cell batteries under the car when the warranty ran out could potentially be as much as the price of a whole new car.  It also took much longer to charge than we initially thought, and the lack of infrastructure to support electric cars in our area could be a concern.  The perks like the tax credits that came with buying it new didn't apply to buying it pre-owned.  We started to doubt.  As much fun as the car was to drive (and it is super peppy!) and as much as we love the GREEN aspect of the Nissan Leaf, we just didn't feel secure in our decision to buy it.  There were too many uncertainties, and we don't have the luxury (and by that I mean money) to take a chance on losing money that quickly.  So even though the car that had been $40,000 fully-loaded in 2011 was now $24,000 we went home without it.  Even though it can go about 100 miles per charge and hubby only drives about 30 - 40 miles per day, and even though we'd never have to buy gas for it, we went home without it.  Even though it has an app for our iPhones called CarWings that could start, heat & cool the car from our phones and give other real time information about the car - how cool is that? - we all drove home in my Mazda.  I'm still a little sad.... the way you're sad after a breakup when you know it wouldn't have worked out but you're sad just the same.

Will there be another electric car in our future?  Perhaps.  I hope so.  We just need a better understanding of what we're getting into - and we weren't able to get that in this experience.  Perhaps the technology is still too new for those answers at this time.  Perhaps we look at the hybrids, but find the same questions come up when it comes to the battery/electric aspect.

If you happen to own a Leaf, I'd love to hear your experience with it!
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

On My GREEN Nightstand...The Seed Underground - A Growing Revolution to Save Food

Although I don't plan to put in a big garden this year since I won't be home to maintain it for a while, I can't help but do the same thing my fellow gardeners are all doing right now.... reading seed catalogs and gardening books!  (I'm aware that there's a big question mark out there as to whether or not I'll return to the garden after finding snakes in my garden last summer.  I know they're not a bad thing to have, but my irrational fear of them led me to abandon the garden for a while.)

It used to be that I didn't give all that much thought to the seeds I choose, but I knew they had to be either: organic or not genetically-modified, and that they be appropriate for my microclimate.  Unless I'm growing from seed, I can't always know for sure that the plants I buy from my local nurseries meet these criteria... especially the GMO part.  Actually, unless I know where those seeds are coming from, I still don't know if they're GMOs.  (After seeing the documentary Food Inc. I spent more time researching this.) Every once in a while I Google "companies owned by Monsanto" and read the lists that come up, and use that as a guide.  I also appreciate the statements in the seed catalogs on their stances on GMOs. 

Last week I picked up a book which I am enjoying so much I felt the need to share it with you.  It's by author and naturalist Janisse Ray, called The Seed Underground - A Growing Revolution to Save Food.  The book goes in a few directions - some parts are very educational, some are political, some philosophical, and throughout there are charming stories & anecdotes, and at points it's like reading poetry.  Definitely one of the more interesting gardening books I've ever read!  (Also I really enjoyed Prince Charles's The Elements of Organic Gardening.  Say what you will, I'm a fan of a prince who gardens!)

While it does cover, briefly, the art of seed-saving, it does list many helpful resources, and explains why you can't just plant the seeds you kept from the food you buy at Stop & Shop and expect the same plants to grow from them.  Janisse even goes into hand-pollination, and shares stories of pollination contamination struggles of innocent, hard-working farmers sued by corporate giants like Monsanto.  She writes of seed banking, of saving bio-diversity, of corporate agriculture, of varieties of so many plants that I've never heard of but might want to try.  For example she wrote about this exquisite French heirloom pumpkin called Musquée de Provence (which she won by guessing the number of Hershey Kisses in a jar!) and the next day I found the seeds in a catalog and was terribly excited over it.  The book also taught me more about heirlooms, which I hadn't give much thought to in the past.  Now I think I'm more likely to choose those.

A small pumpkin in my garden
My favorite chapters are probably the personal stories of the meeting gardeners & seed-savers, or how the author couldn't help but harvest some seeds from the hollyhocks growing near the tombstone of Emile Zola in a Paris cemetery.  The Realtor in me loved the story of how she and her family finally found the perfect farm they'd be dreaming of for years.  (I LOVE getting to experience that with my clients - that moment when you see the realization strike that THIS is home! That might be the best part of my job - my "raison d'être" for being in real estate.)

What I'm gaining from this read is that the seed is a powerful thing.  It is life.  I've said it before, it is important to me, at least, to know how to grow my own food, and to pass that knowledge on to my children, as my parents passed it down to me.  It also gives me a certain level of comfort knowing that there are people out there who are looking out for biodiversity and helping to save seed culture.  I am happy to do a small part by supporting those farmers & seed growers, and maybe in turn help save some of those seeds and pass them on to others who may do the same.

Scarlet Runner beans add color to my little garden
Artichoke grown at the Florence Griswold Museum garden