What is Nephrite Jade? And Where are their Sources?

Did you know there are two different kinds of jade? There’s jadeite, which is a rare form of pyroxene that comes in a range of colors from pinks to purples to blacks, and then there’s the jade we know because of its use in tools, trinkets, and jewelry, and that is called nephrite jade. Nephrite jade was and still is an important part of many cultures in China, southeast Asia, New Zealand, and North America, though the high quality rare pieces that are the deep jade color are more expensive than the whitish green (called “mutton fat jade”) variety.

The nephrite variety (in any color) is comprised of the amphibole minerals actinolite and tremolite. There are also minerals present in the stone, including calcium and magnesium. These facts, once reflected upon, make it somewhat easy to understand why the stone was called “nephrite”, as it was believed to be helpful in relieving kidney pain. It was even called “kidney stone” for a while. Nephrite is made when oceanic and continental crusts brush up against each other, due to the amount of calcium formed by the reaction of the plates bumping into each other.

Though it was most often used in China, today’s high quality jade is actually found in Western Canada, in British Columbia, from which it is sent to international markets, like China. Mining for it is rough, however, due to weather constraints, which prevents all but a two-month mining season. Russia also has a stake in the market, and is known for its particularly bright jade coloring. The jade from Russia is also somewhat difficult to obtain, as it is mined in very remote, harsh areas.

Should you come across some jade, whether from a family heirloom or while trekking through some rugged terrain, you may want to know what it is worth, though this is a bit difficult depending on the quality and quantity of the jade, as well as where the market is going. With everyone clamoring for a piece, however, it is not unheard of to pay $1,000 USD for a single carat for a high quality, brilliantly colored piece of jade.

A 20-Foot INFLATABLE Speedboat

When you don’t want to have to store a huge boat in your driveway, and don’t want to have to tow a huge trailer for a boat down to the lake, or pay moorage fees to keep a boat there, there’s a new option! An inflatable boat!

The boat is actually made by a company that’s already had success in making giant inflatables, including the big unicorn and other animal inflatables. But those aren’t speedboats, and this one is… Sort of! It doesn’t obviously go at speed boat speeds. If you’ve ever been in a speed boat and experienced the kind of force and friction between the boat and the water, you’ll already understand why. You can buy these on Amazon, though, which isn’t the case for most speedboats!

It’s a big boat though, so you can spend time with a group of friends on a lake. It’s 20 feet long by 10 wide.

If anyone puts a motor on one, though, and makes a video, PLEASE share this! We would love to see what happens. (But be safe with the propeller!)

Backyard Guest House that Can be Built in 8 Hours – Amazon Brought it Back

So lets do a DIY project this weekend! What do you want to make? Oh, how about a guest house…?

OK! for those of us out there who love do it yourself, there is a little tiny home sized, but stylish, guest house we can buy as a package from Amazon (again, it was out of stock but they apparently got more) and set up ourselves.

We’ve talked about the Allwood company before, and you can find them Building Homes directory, which is a great resource for finding the type of house you want to build or buy, but this little DIY house project would be so nice. When guests come to town, they could have their own space, but when they leave, guess what? I’m moving in as a retreat-style office! Or maybe I’ll send the kids out there to stay for a few days and have the whole house just for adults for a while!

This guest house project can be set up in 8 hours, so either that’s one Saturday or a couple of half-days of work in the back yard. I bed you could also easily transport this, so if you ever have a property elsewhere and want to put a cabin there, this could work.

It’s Allwood’s Studio Cabin Kit, and costs under $8000. It’s 172 square feet (tiny house size). Of course, as a cabin kit, it doesn’t come with any extras, so if you want to add electricity and sewage, that’s another thing. But you can just run a power cord out from the main house, or install a simple solar power system.

You can find Allwood’s cabin (this one is called Solvalla) in the Building Homes directory. For more cabin kits, click here.

How Easy It Is to Eliminate Old Grease Accumulated in Kitchen Pots

Remember the last time you left a pot out and it turned into a biohazard, necessitating the use of a hazmat suit to remove it from the kitchen? Sometimes it seems like the best thing to do would be to simply throw the pot out and start afresh, only as time goes on you begin to forget what happened the last time you left something out and pretty soon you have another situation that requires a visit from the CDC.

All joking aside, it’s difficult to figure out how to clean a nasty, grimy pot, especially if it’s made of a special material like cast iron or copper. What works for one pot won’t work for the next, and may actually hurt it. Never fear, though, because we’ve compiled a simple list that will keep your pots shiny and clean, germ-free, and ready for use. Make sure prior to cleaning that you have all the proper materials.

For regular stainless steel pots, you’ll use scouring powder, dish soap, and a Brillo pad (not steel wool). You may want to soak the pots overnight before attempting this, depending on how much buildup is inside.

If you’ve got glass pans or casserole dishes that need an extra scrubbing, use a combination of baking soda, dish soap, and water to make a paste with which to clean out the pan.

Enamel pans are more difficult, though oven cleaner will get them squeaky clean. You might lose color and/or some coating, however, so depending how attached you are to the pot and its looks, you may decide to keep the pot and repurpose it as a planter.

Copper pots and pans can be cleaned with a variety of cleaning supplies, depending on whether you need the outside and/or the inside clean. For the outside, use a grease-cutting cleaner, one preferably with citrus. You can mix up scouring powder and dish soap to clean the inside.

Iron skillets may seem intimidating, but they are some of the easiest to clean. You can put it in the oven and set the oven on self-cleaning, the end result of which is that all the grime will turn to ash. Never let a skillet soak, as this will cause rust. Instead, pour some oil in the skillet and then add some salt and scrub with a paper towel.

Abandoned Village in Reclaimed by Nature

The effects of overpopulation have taken its toll on the earth for several hundred years, and while resources have dried up, people have been forced to move to find new ways of providing for themselves, and we continue to worry about global warming and pollution, nature has quietly been taking back areas that once belonged to her. From tiny fishing villages off the coast of China to remote areas of Europe to ghost towns in North America, these breathtaking reclamations have garnered appreciation and wonder from a worldwide audience.

The aforementioned islands off the coast of China were once a set of fishing villages, until the fishing opportunities dried up, leaving many without a living, forcing them to relocate to the mainland. While a few stubborn individuals have decided to stay, the rest of the village was taken over by ivy and other plants, creating a beautiful, eerie village that no longer has the sounds of humanity dampening its growth. This town is now visited by tourists, but otherwise, it maintains its quiet peace and gives us hope that one day we might be able to live more harmoniously with the Earth and its other inhabitants.

Will we learn from our mistakes? Will we be able to figure out ways to allow regrowth to happen in places where people will continue to live? Imagine what could be done in a world like that, with fresh green everywhere, better air to breath, more moisture for our own gardens, and a healthier, longer-living planet. It isn’t enough to let nature take over, though. She needs all the help she can get because we are nearing the point of no return. These few abandoned places are a good place to start studying how we can be more ecologically friendly, but without everyone’s help, we won’t be able to see any of it come to fruition.

If you’d like to gather inspiration for your own green initiative, you can find more photos of this abandoned village here.

Photo credit: Jane Qing

Once-In-A-Lifetime Photo Captures a Caiman Wearing a Crown of Butterflies in the Amazon

Nature is full of surprises. We keep learning and unearthing facts about the natural world that seem contradictory, strange, and unnatural, at least to our eyes. In reality, nature is much more communal, diverse, and fascinating than we often give it credit for, until someone shows us something like this, where we can begin to understand the interconnectedness of our universe. This caiman and the butterflies are cooperating in a form of community called commensalism – where one animal gains its required nutrients from close proximity to another. The other animal probably doesn’t need these hangers-on but they don’t seem to mind providing for their needs.

In this case, the butterflies require nutrients from salt water but can’t get their wings wet. By perching atop a caiman sunning itself, they can gather the salt they need from its skin. It isn’t known whether this helps the caiman, but it appears the butterflies are relatively safe in its company.

The photo itself is rather adorable, with the butterflies acting as delightful accessories to the caiman’s chic skin pattern. The backward glance of the caiman almost seems flirtatious, as if it knows how adorable it looks with a crown of butterflies. The photo was captured in 2016 as part of a journey through the Amazon by Mark Cowan, who was sent by the University of Michigan’s Herpetology Division to study reptiles and amphibian diversity. This photo garnered Cowan an award from the Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition the same year, a Special Commendation from the Ecology and Environmental Science Category.

The reason behind the award is linked to the grouping of the butterflies atop the caiman. If you study the photo, you’ll see that the butterflies are separated by type, with each group claiming space on the caiman’s head. This rarely seen phenomenon seems to indicate something of importance to the butterflies, although scientists will need to continue to study them in order to fully comprehend what this discovery could mean. Another little known fact that you might want to know if you’re interested in butterflies: a group of them is called a kaleidoscope.