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April 23, 2008
If we had a green roof, we would be doing our part to reduce rain run-off and the flooding it causes. Moreover, our house would look pretty, with the flat portion of the roof in front crowned with flowers. Of course, people who need everything to look alike might not enjoy it, but most of them are probably fed up with us already: I think we lost them when we had our house painted five different shades of purple. You know how these things go: we just couldn't choose between the beige and the ecru, so we went with the purple.

A green roof must be flat. You cover it with a waterproof membrane and then with flat containers for lightweight soil, and you plant succulents up there: juicy fat-leaved plants that store water in their leaves, so they can handle the hot sun and don't need to be watered a lot. Your green roof catches water and also insulates beautifully, helping your house stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter. And it probably makes your house look a little like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves live there, and who wouldn't want that?

Around back, there's another flat roof. We could put solar panels on that part. We could heat all our water with it, and maybe other things, too. This is New Jersey, not Key West; it's not sunny every day here. So we would keep our expectations modest. But our solar panels, as expensive as they are, would eventually pay for themselves.

We could get a rain barrel or two and catch water for the garden. We can do that now.

And we could put up a clothesline. The people who want everything to look alike haven't gotten much of a toehold in Metuchen, so there's no law against clotheslines. We'd grandfather ours in -- there's hardware for it out there already: I've been hanging plants and bird feeders on it for years, but it could easily revert to shirts and underwear.

We could do all of these things, and I'll bet we will: some now, some a little later. That fine, calm feeling will kick in that a person gets from having made a pot of wonderful soup from a leftover chicken, or a cake with no eggs in it. I am self-reliant, it says. I can manage. I can make do. I'm creative enough not to have to be wasteful.

When God gave us the earth to care for, it was with the understanding that we'd be creative like that. Careful like that. I think we're built to be that way -- lots of other animals are, and we're supposed to be smarter than the other animals. God is like that, in fact -- careful, reusing things. In God's elegant world, nothing is ever wasted; everything is used up completely, one way or another. So when we act like that ourselves, with care and restraint, we are godly. And, because godliness carries with it its own delight, we are deeply satisfied.
A Cake With No Eggs ( Also called "Depression Cake")

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13" baking pan.

Combine in large saucepan:
1 cup shortening
2 cups water
2 cups raisins
1 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
2 cups sugar

Bring to boil, reduce heart and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 30 minutes.

Whisk together:
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda

Stir into raisin mixture. Do not beat. Pour into baking pan. Bake 45 minutes. Serves 12 or so.
Want to see a green roof in action and read more about them? Visit Sustainable South Bronx at
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