Lively up your Place with Houseplants!

IMG_0649Hi all,

Hope everyone is enjoying the summer! Things are quiet out here in State College, Pennsylvania, and when I am alone in my apartment things can get well…a little lonely! Although I enjoy spending time with my good friend, Django (meet him here!), I also take enjoyment in my houseplants. Houseplants are a great way to lively up your indoor environment year round. Not only that, but plants absorb air pollutants! This is particulalary useful in new buildings where the fumes from construction may be trapped in tight. Consider using house plants in your new (or old) home or workplace to keep yourself feeling fresh and eliminate unpleasant fumes for you and yours.

You might be asking what sorts of plants do well inside. After all, the indoors usually does not provide an ideal environment for most plants. The best place to start is know your indoor environment. I face the Northwest, a direction that is poor for direct sun exposure. Therefore, I avoid plants that require a lot of direct sunlight, such as the jade plant or devil’s ivy. If you have this same problem, consider plants that thrive in shade, such as Chinese evergreen or various palms and ferns (note: not all palms and ferns do well in low light, but many do). Note that many indoor plants are either from tropical and arid regions that maintain consistent temperatures throughout the year (like your home more or less should).

The Aloe vera plant is always a classic that doesn’t need too much direct sunlight, although more than some of the plants named above. It is hardy and can grow for many years and even decades, creating some monster plants! Other environmental factors to consider are humidity, temperature inside (such as if your home has problems with drafts in the winter), etc. Remember, no plant is meant to be indoors, but some can do very well and can really add a lot to where you lay your head. House plants are also generally low maintenance and do not need to be repotted regularly unless the roots are outgrowing the pot, in which it is time to upgrade to a larger pot. Do not top off soil if it is getting low, which results from decomposing and absorption of the soil. Topping off soil can bury the roots too far below the surface, causing the plant to struggle for oxygen. If the soil level drops significantly, just repot the plant with fresh new potting soil. In terms of water, pruning, and other care, seek out information on your specific plant.

Below are photos of a few of my own plants. Happy potting!

The famous Aloe vera

The famous Aloe vera




My roommate planted the remnants of his green onions on the left. Try this to grow yourself some new ones!


A newly propagated succulent


Source: Michigan State University Extension Master Gardner Manual. For more information about MSU Extension’s Master Gardener Program, visit:


Visit to the Matthaei Botanical Gardens

I wanted to share some photos from my first visit to the Matthaei Botanical Gardens Conservatory this month. It was a warm escape from the bitter cold weather. The conservatory displays plants from three major biomes around the world: tropical, temperate, and arid. I learned about plants that I take for granted, (did you know that black pepper grows on a vine?), and found artistic inspiration from the natural patterns in plants. I also found inspiration from a unique sculptural planted kaleidoscope in the gardens. The incorporation of plant growth into the kaleidoscope ensures that you will only see that geometric image once and it will always be a fresh experience. Such as great reminder of how substantial moments are. This was a peaceful one for sure.

Your Warming World – Climate Change Map

New Scientist’s Your Warming World uses data from NASA’s surface temperature analysis to illustrate climate change around the globe. Explore where you live to see the pattern and compare it to the overall global analysis. You can also compare the shift in temperature to other time periods of a 20-year duration at the same location. Most importantly, make a point of sharing this map with any climate change denying friends and family. This is a great tool to visualize abstract statistics!

Source: New Scientist, Your Warming World

Inspiration – Einstein & Compassion

Einstein Quote - Urban Hermits

Design by Lauren Korany, Urban Hermits, 05 January 2014.

The Ojibwe Creation Story: Turtle Island

Creation Story - Urban Hermits

Hi all,

I was recently introduced to the Ojibwe creation story and was fascinated by its contrasts, as well as similarities to the christian creation story. Thus, I thought I would share a little bit about it. The tale is often referred to as “Turtle Island” and consists of a flood that destroys a previous land. The animals, along with a human, are aware of a need for a new land to survive and thus come together to create a new world, thanks to various creatures and a turtle, in particular, who bears the weight of this new land. Here is a quote:

Nanaboozhoo took the piece of Earth from Muskrat’s paw. Just then, the turtle swam forward and said, “Use my back to bear the weight of this piece of Earth. With the help of Kitchi-Manitou, we can make a new Earth.” Nanaboozhoo put the piece of Earth on the turtle’s back. Suddenly, the wind blew from each of the Four Directions, The tiny piece of Earth on the turtle’s back began to grow. It grew and grew and grew until it formed a mi-ni-si’, or island in the water. The island grew larger and larger, but still the turtle bore the weight of the Earth on his back. Nanaboozhoo and the animals all sang and danced in a widening circle on the growing island. After a while, the Four Winds ceased to blow and the waters became still. A huge island sat in the middle of the water, and today that island is known as North America” (The Grand Council Treaty #3)

I found the theme of creatures coming together very interesting and contrasting to the theme of a god creating a world to be dominated by humans. The altruism of the turtle is also inspiring. It makes me contemplate how fundamental beliefs such as these can affect how we perceive our surroundings and our role as stewards to the earth and its inhabitants. I encourage you to take a look at the complete story, by clicking this link. It is brief but interesting.

To go along with this story, our own Lauren has created an illustration of the turtle. Thanks to the Grand Central Treaty #3 website, the government for the Anishinaabe Nation #3 of Canada for hosting the story.

Illustration: Lauren Korany, Urban Hermits, September 2013

Hermit Tools: Ka-Bar Hobo Utensil


This baby I like to call the hobo companion, and man let me tell you, if you are a person concerned about our throwaway society, this thing is going to appeal to you.

I bought this guy at a Cutco store I worked at a while back. It sat in a drawer for three years, no one ever knew it was there because no one actively made an effort to display it. When my interest in environmentalism and sustainability came around to my daily life, I knew I had to have this thing.

You start to think about the practical applications of it; if you are always on the go like myself, chances are you will occasionally stop at places that only have plastic utensils. Shoot, there are businesses that give you plastic utensils even if you don’t want them.

If there is one thing our society clearly does badly, it is the production of plastics, a material that is not chemically reducible.

And I no longer had the desire to participate in that aspect of our society. I wanted this to help me curb that.

The thing I love about it, is while at first glance it appears to be nothing more than a hobo Swiss Army knife, it actually comes apart into separate utensils, not just for ease of use but also so you can actually wash and clean.


The knife itself is lock back, and the utensil is made from stainless steel. While certainly something can be said of the process used to physically produce this item, it is incredibly useful if you make the effort to carry it around with you. And at only 30 bucks, it’s a very low cost kind of investment you can feel really good about.

You can purchase the hobo tool at Ka-bar

Inspiration – Make a Better Future

Urban Hermits - Noam Chomsky Quote

Design by Lauren Korany, Urban Hermits, 20 August 2013.

What are we eating? What are we growing?

Hey all,

Check out this great info-graphic from the Union of Concerned Scientists that displays what Americans are missing in their diets and what our farms are actually producing. I found it really interesting. Also, check out the Union of Concerned Scientists website for other interesting topics.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, posted by Rajiv Narayan of

Amazing Timelapse of Plant Growth

Macro Timelapse from Daniel Csobot on Vimeo.

Source: Daniel Csobot, Vimeo, July 2013; FLORATUBE, 3 July 2013

All About Bats!

As you know, we here at Urban Hermits are fascinated by our fellow creatures. One creature is an important pollinator and the only mammal that can fly (the flying squirrel does not truly fly): the Bat! Unfortunately, loss of habitat as well as a lethal fungal infection known as White-Nose Syndrome have seriously threatened the U.S. population. While some people find bats creepy, they provide benefits to humans by keeping the insect population in check, which I am thankful for during this time of year. Below are some interesting links about bats.

Penn State University’s Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center has recently seen a collapse in their bat population due to White-Nose Syndrome. Here are some interesting details about this problem.

Centre Wildlife Rescue in Centre County, PA provides information on rehabbing bats HERE

Finally, BBC Nature has a great article about “giving nature a home”. This includes tips about building your own bat box!

Sources: Barr, Bianca. “Shaver’s Creek witnessing collapse of Pennsylvania bat population”. Penn State News. 11 June 2013.

 “In pictures: giving nature a home”. BBC Nature. 11 June 2013.

Strohmier, Matt. “Rehabing bat with Centre Wildlife Care”. 14 June 2013.

Image: Cici, Caitlin. Penn State News.