Tuesday, August 03, 2010

DIY Recycled food dehydrator

Ok, first things first, humans have been using the sunshine to preserve foods for, well forever really.  Some of our modern delicacies like raisins and sun-dried tomatoes are still done in this manner.  Don't be afraid to try your own hand at drying food items.  It's fun, fresh from the organic garden and the power is free so it's an all around green living project.

I don't know what I was waiting for when I said last year that 2010 would be the year I'd actually go buy myself a food dehydrator.  Good thing I lacked follow through on that one. Instead I found out it's easy to dehydrate my food with no "special" plastic gadget.

This summer I'm working on some specialty items like a healing tea made from only the tips of my organic herbs and a special garden recipe Summer Sunshine beef soup mix.  In order to make these, along with some other items, I would have to dry and dehydrate some herbs, fruits and vegetables.  Of course being me, I tend to follow my whims and inspirations, I didn't really plan when or how I would do this.

One day last week we visited some friends on the mainland who have a HUGE garden.  It was the first time I was offered zucchini this year and I jumped at the offer. (Thanks Parks family!)

That night when I walked across the passenger only ferry (early dry dock for the Whatcom Chief this year) I was carrying 4 very nice zucchini in my bag 2 large and 2 mediums.

The original plan was to make zucchini bread but when I woke up the next morning it occurred to me that those zucchini would make a wonderful addition to my Summer Sunshine soup mix.

I had already been drying different herbs in shoe boxes and hanging them in bundles in the sunshine.  Why not cut up and dehydrate those zucchini?  But how?  My shoe box method wasn't going to do the trick for these fluid filled beauties.  That's when I began my recycling brainstorm.  Here's what I came up with.

Making a Recycled Food Dehydrator

  • A plastic flat from the garden nursery.  I have many of these because we can't recycle them here, so I am always looking for a way to re purpose them.
  • Wire mesh scraps.  Hardware cloth with a 1/2 or finer works great.  (Alternately you could use window screen)
  • Tin snips or some other metal shears
  • Sunshine and time
Step 1:  Gather your materials.  Measure or eyeball your nursery flat to your mesh.  Cut the mesh to line the bottom of the nursery flat.  If using narrower scraps, just cut 2 pieces that fit inside and overlap them inside of the flat

Step 2:  Gather the item you want to dehydrate and add to the tray on top of the mesh liner.  On a sunny day things like herbs generally are dry the very next day, but items with more water like my zucchinis take a bit longer.

1/4 " hardware cloth
Step 3:  Place in a sunny area.  Choose a spot where it will be protected from wind, animals and rain.  This spot should also allow for air to circulate beneath your tray, so you may want to set it on 2 pieces of wood to elevate it slightly from the table or other surface.  I placed mine inside of my garden.  The fencing protects it from curious critters and raccoon prowlers.

Fresh sage leaves set out to dry for winter
Step 4:  Check your items daily for moisture content. If they are still damp toss or stir them and leave in the sun another day.  For long term storage your dehydrated food will need to be VERY dry.  Moisture remaining in the food is problematic and can be a place for mold to occur.  If your items need to be left out over night and you are concerned with flies or other insects (particularly when doing fruits) cover over them with another piece of your mesh or with some screen.

Step 5:  Once dried, store your items in labeled mason jars and use in your favorite recipes.  I'm saving mine for those gray winter days so I can taste the sunshine!

Here's some more photos from my sun drying adventures, so kick back, put your feet up and enjoy!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Vacation check in

Hello from vacation-ville! 

I've been away from the blog and my bags for a couple of months now and I thought I better check in with a post to let all of you know what's been going on.

Mostly this vacation has been a working one.  My garden is growing and it's lovely, but there's always Lot's to be done to get the plants growing and then of course the harvesting and preserving of the herbs and vegetables as they come ripe.  This year I'm venturing into some gourmet preserves like pickled baby pea pods & Lummi Island Capers made from nasturtium seeds 
The TOOL show ROCKED!!!!

Not to worry though, I've gotten some downtime too.  Ben and I recently went to see my favorite band of all time, TOOL, in concert at Key Arena in Seattle.  What a fun time and a much needed quality time get away!

Sunset walks
We've also spent a lot of sunsets at the beach on the west side of the island and had some great visits with friends & family. 

Officially I'll be on my vacation until after Labor Day in September, but from now until then I will try to post once a week or so. As for new FatBottomBags, look for some posts in the fall with photos and fun recycling ideas too!

I hope you are having a lovely summer too! Enjoy!


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Summertime & the livings easy

Hi all! I haven't posted here on the blog or on Facebook much lately and after some careful consideration I've decided to make an official announcement.... I'm on vacation! With the garden, family, fun time and seal pup stranding season, I'm just not having as much free time to devote to my online activities. I may still post from time to time as I can but news will be sporatic.

In addition, I will NOT be posting new bags for sale until my return at the end of summer. I WILL still be making Mini-bags for the recycle exchange so keep saving those colored bags! http://fatbottombags.fatcow.com/fatbottombagsrecycledtotes/id15.html

Enjoy your summer & feel free to contact me on my email christi_spangler at yahoo dot com

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Missing Blogger

Well here it is going into summer time and my usual devotion to blogging, facebooking and other online endeavors has taken a back seat to my current lover..... my yard and garden.

Something happens to me when the weather finally clears up and the plants begin to grow again.  Some might call it an obsession even.  Whatever name it goes by, I just can't get enough time in the outdoors and my favorite place to pass the time is in the backyard.

Over the dreary winter, I often sat and day dreamed about the garden and projects I might try this year.  Now it's been all action.  Between the veggies, the herb beds and my flowers I'm so busy tending to the yard that I'm sorry to say I've neglected all you wonderful blog readers.

So here I am with a little check in to let you know I haven't dropped off the earth.  I'm still here and still trying to live green!  I promise, devoted readers, that I will try to post a little more often throughout the summer.  I have some great recycle garden projects to tell you about and of course I'll have updates on the garden and what's growing on.  In the mean time, here's some photos from the yard and garden where I've been hard at work.  Enjoy!

New Tomato bed interplanted with garlic.  The bottles are recycled into a watering system that takes the water to the root zone and avoids any water getting onto the tomato foliage.  This is good because water on the foliage can bring blight.
Nasturtium after the rain.

Flowers in the vegetable garden?  Why not!  They bring beauty and bees into the space and most importantly they bring me joy when I'm weeding :0)

Yes!  We've got raspberries on our bush this year!

Last winter I lost a beautiful climbing clematis that was here.  Now I'm using the support that was left behind and growing a native honeysuckle that I found started growing on the hillside in my backyard.  When mature, this will have beautiful bright orange flowers that are a draw for hummingbirds and butterflies.

I expanded the area between the fire pit and the native bed behind it by about 3 feet this year so we could set a bench there and roast marshmallows this summer.  From here you can look out the other way and see the water and the city lights from Bellingham at night.

Another planting extension.  I added about 2.5 feet all the way around this bed.  Yep, I moved all of those rocks again.  Rock work is like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle.  Finding the right stone to fit is half the fun!
Not to be outdone by Ben's new dahlia bed, I built one too!  Mine is the rock wall with posts and his is the cedar one.  Both will be equally beautiful when those flowers bloom!

My planting around the "stairs to nowhere" has filled in very nicely this year. 
Along the back stairs.  This bed is nice and lush this year.  Those irises in the front were a beach combing find after a storm 3 or 4 years ago.  I soaked them in fresh water for a few days and planted them.  When they bloom they're gorgeous yellow iris
The new earth stairs I built are now planted.  I'm hoping to have blooms going up both sides of the stairs later this summer

Garden view from our front porch.  I'm thinking of naming her "shipwreck garden".  What do you think?

Can you name this flower?  I've got this pink running all around the house and keep adding it to the new gardens.  It gives a lovely overall effect and consistancy to the yard.  But, I don't know what this plant is called.  It grows from chunky tubers about 1/2" thick and forms clumps.  Anyone?
A friendly frequent garden visitor.
This rocky outcropping is a challenge in the garden, but I'm pleased that this year I do have pockets of pretties growing there.  I'm trying to fill any of the crannies with sedums and such.
Dill weed and pickling cukes went in along this string line.
This year I'm using this fine net to protect things from the hungry birds.  Looks like we'll be the only ones eating our strawberries this year!
Another day in the sun for Echo and another day of gardening for me.
I added this terraced herb bed last year.  It's filled in beautifully.  Here you can see the old log stairs that are now just decorative.  I love the way the moss has covered them.

I built an "island style" flag pole from wood, copper pipe, rebar and aluminum & moved the flag back to our driveway enterance.  Then I spent a day clearing blackberry vines out of here.  OUCH!  Seems like most days I'm pulling blackberry thorns out of my hands lately.

Another feathered friend.  This little goldfinch suprised me when he chose this seed feeder over the thistle tube that is hanging about 2 feet away.
Moving rocks again!  I find it a lot easier to take small loads in my little wagon than to try to take large ones in the wheelbarrow.
Here's a full view of my herb bed.  See how lush!  this is 3 working terraces with a 4th terrace (in the back) that I put trimmings in each spring.  Thinks like sticks and brush.  This offers the birds some nesting material.  It also is where I allow some nettles to grow for the butterflies and it springs up with new ferns and native flowers.

These beautiful flag irises I've divided each year and scattered them throughout the yard too.  Most of the summer they just have long green leaves almost like clumps of grass, but at this time of year they're blooming and beautiful!  This year I top dresssed with alfalfa meal and I have LOADS more flowers than previous years.  Also great because the slugs seem to leave them alone unlike my large irises.

There's so much more I could share, but that will keep for a future posting.  I'm off to do some more gardening.  Oh and by the way, I saw my first pea forming on the vine today.  :0)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Planet Savers, Plant it Earth

Plant the whole world!
Isn't this just the cutest seed packet you've ever seen?

My step dad, Jim, gave this to me for Earth Day. It's handmade from recycled paper. Each little earth is embedded with seeds. Mine is forget-me-nots.

I'm going to plant the planet tomorrow. First you have to soak it in water. Then cover it with soil. As the seeds become flowers th fiber will break down in the soil.

I'm so excited by this cleaver recycle product from GP Green by design. That's why they're this weeks Planet Savers!

I love to see companies large and small making changes for a greener planet!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Shrink Plastic Project With Kids

In my post Recycled Bags Need Recycled Tags I shared with you how to use #6 plastic containers to make shrunken plastic tags.  At the time I thought this might be a fun craft project to do with kids.  Well I had my chance to try this project out recently with my 6 year old friend, Aubrei.

Hamming it up & ready for recycle fun!
Aubrei came to hang out with me one day while her daddy was at work.  Normally we like to go to the beach, playground  or just play outside in the yard when she visits. This time it was raining so that put a damper on our usual activities.  Time to get creative!

I took a look around the house for something fun we could do together and I found a clam shell container with the #6 in the triangle.  What luck!  I know just what to do with that.  We'll make some recycled shrunken plastic beads.

We had a lot of fun doing this project together.  Here's how you can too.

  • #6 plastic for recycling
  • scissors
  • permanent markers 
  • hole punch
  • scratch paper
  • cookie sheet
  • oven
  • string
  • beads
  • adult supervision
To start out, line a work area for the child with some heavy scratch paper.  I recycled a brown bag for this project.  Kids don't get to use permanent markers very often, so be sure to explain what permanent means or you may wind up with a "tattooed" little tyke or a redecorated work table!

Recycle artist in training!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line your cookie sheet with additional scratch paper.

Cut out different shapes from your plastic and punch a hole in each one.  These will be about 1/3 the original size after shrinking, so make them large enough for the child to draw on, but small enough to use for beading. 

While you are busy cutting out the plastic for the beads, have your child color a picture on the scratch paper.

All ready for the oven
Once the child has finished coloring interesting designs & pictures on the plastic, add them to the cookie sheet. Leave about 1/4" between each plastic shape.

When all your plastic shapes are decorated or you've  filled the cookie sheet, it's time to put them in the oven.  Be sure you run your range fan to ventilate any fumes.

Remove from the oven after 2-3 minutes and allow to cool out of reach of little fingers.  They will have shrunken down to about 1/3 of the original size and will have thickened up substantially.

Recycled beads make unique keepsakes
While your recycle beads are cooling, gather up your other beads and some string. 

For young children use large beads with large holes that are easy for small hands to work with.  Stringing beads is a good activity for developing  hand eye coordination.  

I like to tie 1 large bead to the end of the string as a stopper so they don't pull the string all the way through the bead.  Now just let them choose and add their own beads being as creative as they like.

Your homemade recycle beads will have holes too small for young children to string, so add a jump ring or string loop for them.

A special gift for Aubrei's special friend
You can make bracelets, necklaces and even sun catchers.

Aubrei decided to make a necklace for Bunny!

This project was a lot of fun!  We got to spend time creating together and we talked about recycling too.  Aubrei said her favorite part was using permanent markers! She was so proud of her finished necklace for her stuffed bunny too!

I hope you'll try this one with your children.  It's such a great way to encourage creativity and recycling. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Inspiration & Imagination

I stumbled across this video recently & I wanted to share it with you too.  This is why we must continue to encourage imagination in our children!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mothers Day

Me & Mom!
A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.  ~Tenneva Jordan

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful moms out there!  

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Silent Saturday

Don't forget tomorrow is Mothers Day

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Finds: Repurposing Empty Prescriptions

Over on my facebook fan page,  Shannon T asked me if I had any craft project ideas to use empty prescription bottles.  I'm working on coming up with a tutorial for another way to use these for crafting, but in the meantime I found these ideas on the web. 

Before re-purposing your prescription bottles, remove the labels and wash them out.  You want to remove any of the medication residue that may be clinging to the plastic bottle.

If you'd rather recycle them, check out Jacob Willard's project

Make a "Hide a Key" from Make Online

Blessings Overflowing blog will show you how to make them into decorative first aid kits

Families Online has a rain gauge tutorial

Craftstylish shows you how to make a thread keeper/cutter with a repurposed pill bottle

Pepper Paints will show you how to make your own watercolor paints which she stores in film canisters, but you could use pill bottles.

Make some noise!  WonderHowTo.com has an instructional video using a pill bottle to create an airhorn.  Could be fun for those sporting events!

Turkey Call? Here's the how to from Field & Stream
and here's a video of one in use:


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