Sunday, February 28, 2010

Silent Sunday

Friday, February 26, 2010

Green blogger on the loose

Yipee! There is an app for that!

I went into town this week to get a cell phone upgrade. Steve at the AT&T store was so helpful. He listened to all of my needs and concerns with finding a phone that would beable to do everything or nearly everything that I was doing from my desktop. He quickly realized that the iPhone would be most functional for all of my online applications. I expressed how much difficulty I had with another type of touch screen phone that I had tried in the past so he pulled out his own iPhone and let me try that out. It was suprisingly easy! I also tested a display model for blackberry. We talked some more about my business and the amount of time I spend online and I made the decision to go ahead with the iPhone. I am so glad that I did!!

The last couple of days I have been playing with apps and features on it have shown me a preview of what my life can be like unleashed from the old desktop. Oh the possibilities!

This is even a plus for Ben as now I can't use my "I've got computer stuff to do" excuse when he wants me to tag along on one of his frequent trips to town.

So good-bye gloomy computer room and hello beautiful world! I'm a blogger unleashed!

Photo + text test4

See is it going to. Work this time

Photo or not??? Test3

Test 2

That pile of dirt that ben is shoveling will become my new garden beds :)


This is just a test to see if this app will work for me to update the blog from my phone

We have a winner!

First off my apologies for posting this announcement so late in the day.  I've been in touch today through my fabulous new tech toy, my Iphone, but I wasn't able to log in to my blogger account, probably just because I'm still on a learning curve. 

I'm so impressed with all of you wonderful creative and generous entries!  What a generous and thoughtful bunch you are.  In fact with so many wonderful ladies doing great things to improve the world I couldn't choose a favorite.  Instead I had Ben choose a random winner after all. So without further ado, the winner of the Pay It Forward Giveaway is Courtney from Tizzy Dee on Facebook

Not only did Courtney and her husband start a non-profit group to help her communty to increase cultural and economic diversity through hosting quarterly community conversations but she is working toward a goal of helping minoity students at a local university with a home-away from home program.  Hard to believe she still has time to make these adorable Sesame Street inspired hats and other crocheted items she sells at her Etsy Shop

Thank you Courtney and everyone who entered for all you do to make our world a better place!

Just goes to show my motto is true because when we all do our small part, we really are changing the big picture!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spring Work Out

It feels so good to be outside in the sunshine and I'm already feeling my muscles growing too!
My easiest compost ever bin last summer
Remember my post about the easiest compost ever?  I swear by this method!  Everything from fern fronds & grass clippings to egg shells & cilantro stems make it into my compost bin and magically with no mixing or moving, I get a tube full of black gold each spring! 

Now that my tube of compost is ready for use, I just pulled off the wire frame to harvest my black gold. Theres always a layer at the top that is only partially decomposed, but that's ok.  This layer along with all the worms inside of it is removed and placed in the bottom of the empty wire bin where it will jumpstart this years compost.  All the enzymes and microbes that aide in decomposition are already in that partially done layer.

I'm thrilled that I wound up with a lot of ready to use compost!  It was about 8 wheel barrows full of 100% free organic soil amendment! And with no backbreaking work or constant turning.  I just stack it in, water it when it's dry and let mother nature do her thing.  You just can't beat that! Composting is the epitome of the old saying "waste not, want not".
Beautiful black and rich.  Last years waste will
feed the plants that will feed us this year!

If you've been following my spring garden frenzy, then you know that I've run out of room in my garden beds for planting anything else.  Soon Ben will be building me some more recycled beds and bringing home a few yards of 4 way organic soil to fill them, but the sun is shining and I just can't wait.  So I took a look around the yard to see what I might repurpose for planting in some odd shaped areas of my garden where buiding beds would be difficult.

First I found the top half of an old plastic compost bin.  The bottom section had split open and was not really good for anything (that's why I'm not using plastic for my bins).  It seemed like a great candidate for a garden container.  I drug it down to the garden and found a spot for it, next to my ugly but useful recycled laundry bin planter.  I filled it with compost, leveled it out and planted another type of carrots inside.  It might not be pretty now, but it will be gorgeous when those carrots come up!
You never know what might make a good garden bed. 
This container lived it's first life as a compost bin,
now it will get a second life as a carrot planter!

I still had loads of compost, so I took the wire mesh tubes from last years failed potato tower experiment and carefully cut them in 1/2 to form 6 good sized containers.  These would fit perfect in the sloped corner of my garden.
This wire tube tower for potatoes was too tall last year.
That's more like it!  Now these shorter tubes I can work with. 
Each tube became 2 - 18" tall planters.  These are perfect for this spot because I can mold the shape a little bit before filling them.  Then I found some old plastic woven bird seed bags I've been saving for a project and cut those down to line the bottom of each of these new planters.  I cut drainage slashes in the lining and got to work filling each plant tube with compost.
8  loads full!  I highly recommend a 2
wheeled barrow like mine for ease of use.

Eight trips to the back yard with my wheelbarrow and I had created a whole new planting area from recycled and repurposed items I already had!  I love recycling in the garden!  
The mesh planters are full and ready
for seeding.  And now a wasted space in my
garden is going to be a productive.  Yay! 

I decided to go ahead and try potatoes in these again now that they are a bit smaller.  I have several different types of spuds that have sprouted in my cupboards that should work. I placed 3 little papita starts in each tube.  I don't know if they'll all grow, but at least some of them should.  I know potatoes grow in compost bins all the time.

Red, white & russet potatoes from the kitchen get
replanted here  along with an onion and some garlic
centers that need planting.

Oh I almost forgot, each day when the sun is out I'm opening up my boat/greenhouse to get some direct sun on the soil and the plants.  I've also placed my jugs of water strategically throughout to absorb the heat of the sun durring the day.  In the evening I'll recover the boat and those recycled containers of water will radiate the warmth back into the greenhouse. 
Those empty jugs from our ceasars and screwdrivers
become passive heaters in the greenhouse

I bumped into my neighbor Leslie as I was out enjoying the sun. She's also been hard at work cutting back her fern fronds and generously offered them to me for my garden mulch. Thank you Leslie! I think I may have enough fronds to fully line the non-growing areas of the garden now! It sure makes the garden area look nice too. A few hours of work in the sunshine and what a payoff!  I love it! 

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Beating My Basil Blues

I'm a green gardener.  I have a green thumb.  I can grow anything! Well truth be told, almost anything. 

For some reason I can't seem to grow basil?!?  I've tried from seed (nothing germinated).  I've tried from nice healthy starts from the nursery (they withered and died).  I've tried from starts from friends (they grew fine until I pinched some leaves to make pesto, then they just croaked!)  I'm almost ready to throw in the proverbial towel, but being determined and a bit stubborn, not to mention loving fresh basil, I'm going to give it one more try!

So this year I found a different type of basil to try.  It won't be the same in pesto, but if it will grow, I'll use it for something!  This basil is a Thai style basil.  It's called Purple Ruffles it looks gorgeous on the seed packet, but who knows what will happen once I get my hands on it.

Dear Basil, please grow in my garden!

I decided to try starting this indoors and then transplant it in the garden when (IF) it gets growing.  So I pulled out my seed packet and a peat pot jiffy start tray.  They say you can start anything in one of these.  We'll see if that's true. 

I soaked the jiffy pellets in water and they puffed up with their own built in opening for placing the seed.  Cool!  So I planted 1 seed in each pellet and added this tray to my sunny window. 

Maybe a little early season love will convince this basil to grow?

I'll keep you posted on the progress.  If anyone has suggestions on how to keep my basil plants healthy and growing, I'm really open for advice on this one. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tic Tock It's Time To Start Your Seeds

This blog is dedicated to all you gardeners who are still looking at snow on the ground and wondering when you'll get the chance to dig in to your own garden and get a little dirt under your nails.

Have you started any seeds indoors yet?  It's time! 

Reusing those nursery pots is a great way to go green in the garden!

After transplanting my new starts in the veggie plot, I had a few of those nursery pots left.  In my area, we can recycle them by taking them into Bellingham Tranfer Station at 1001 Roeder Avenue (Corner of F & Roeder Streets) M-F 8-5.  I'm sure I'll need to make a trip in there at some point this season, but why not first REUSE them.  These little 4" pots are exactly what they use at the nursery to plant seeds for starts.

I gathered my 7 little square pots along with some round ones I had left over from last year and grabbed some of my own saved seeds from last year too!  Then I grabbed my favorite potting soil and  got to work.

13 pots ready for seeds

First I filled the pots with organic potting soil and placed them in a plastic nursery tray that I had stored last year in the garden shed.

I was gifted some yummy squashes last year.
They were so great I saved some seeds for my garden!

Next I grabbed my saved seeds.  Each pot got 1 seed planted in the center.

That's alot of squashes for a small garden.  If they all germinate,
I'll pass them out amongst my gardening squash loving friends.

Then I lightly covered the seed with soil and moved the tray into a sunny window where I can watch as my new plants sprout to life. 

Doesn't look like much yet, but in time these will grow into great starts!

Now when these little seeds grow to be a few inches tall, I'll set them out to harden off and then transplant them into the garden.  By starting these seeds indoors, I'll have a headstart on my future harvest and because I've planted seeds I've saved in recycled containers, it's nearly free!  Can you imagine, free organic produce!  What a deal.  The only cost I incurred was for the potting soil and I buy that anyways. 

So if you're feeling blue, burried in snow or other harsh weather and have been feeling jealous of my early spring garden adventures, go ahead.  Start some plants indoors!  You'll feel better and your garden will be getting a head start on spring. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Joe's Gardens comes to my garden

On a recent trip to town for provisions, we decided to drop in at Joe's Gardens in Bellingham and see what was growing on.  Joe's is a longtime local nursery and produce grower here in Whatcom County.  They've been growing wonderful produce and plant starts in Happy Valley for over 70 years!  We've always had great luck with plant starts that we purchase from Joe's in years past and I highly recommend buying your plants there if you live in this area.

Normally not open until sometime in March, we were thrilled to see the doors open and a few racks of starts ready for purchase, along with a rack full of new seeds from Ed Hume.  Another Northwest favorite!  The staff was busy working in the greenhouses, but one gentleman took time out from his work to come talk garden with us. 

We raved about the weather and the early spring and he advised us that Saturday would be their first planting day.  According to their testing of the soil temps, we were advised that plantings of beets, carrots and radishes were good for direct seeding now, just be sure to plant in the top 1/4" of the soil where its being warmed by the sun.  Great news since I'd already done some of my planting.

We went through the few racks of plants and chose a number of new starts that would be nice additions to this years veggie patch.  The peas they had started were so beautiful!  Even though I've already planted some peas in my organic garden, I just couldn't resist these lovely 2" starts.  I purchased both sugar snap peas and oregon pea pods.  Along with that impulse buy, we chose garlic chives, globe artichokes, leeks, walla walla sweet onions, leeks, and italian parsley.  I also grabbed seed packets for parisian market carrots and easter egg radishes.

A box of starts from Joe's Gardens.
A sure sign of spring in Whatcom County!

With good weather in the 5 day forcast and sunny days, I once again set aside my recycled bag project, threw on a hat and boots and got to work in the garden.  With only 1 bed left unplanted it was going to be tough to find spots for these wonderful new starts, but I was up for the challenge.

I started off by pulling back the plastic cover from the boat garden to allow some direct sun on the plants I've got going in there. I have limited space in my garden, so I try to practice space saving methods I learned from the Square Foot Garden.  I found a nice hole in the strawberry planting and popped in 1 of the 2 artichokes and placed the second start in the center of the boat amongst some fennel and lemon balm already growing there.  Then I planted about 30 radish seeds in another area of the boat between some garlic, found another spot for the garlic chives and parsley, and squeezed in a row of parisian carrots next to my previously planted lettuce.  I think I've can find room enough for one or 2 future salad plantings in here too!

This old boat has served us well for growing produce.

Next I popped the leeks into a large pot.  I'm going to let them develop a bit more and come back and transplant them a bit later.  That left me with 2 containers of peas and 1 of walla wallas. 

What a great day! Echo the Eco dog found a nice sunny
spot to bask up some warmth.

I still had 1 unplanted bed in the garden.  I had planned to let this bed rest for another week, but with these new starts I bumped that idea.  Hopefully my recent addition from the worm bin is fully composted!  I made a nice row down the center and added the oregon pea pod starts.  They look fabulous.  Along one side I planted a row of the walla wallas.  This bed is going to make for some great eating this year! 

How nice do these peas look?!?

Now what to do with the other peas?  Oh my, I'm really running out of space in here!  Ok, so I checked on the bed where I'd planted my fall planting of strawberry starts.  If I moved a few of these berry plants, I thought I could fit a row of peas down the backside of this bed.  Easy enough.  I transplanted about 12 berry plants into spaces deeper in the bed and added a row of sugar snap peas down the back even with the garlic and celery already growing in here, there was enough room!  Yay! 

The fern fronds as mulch around my garden beds.

With the veggies planted and the sun still shining, I grabbed the wheelbarrow and went back to cutting on my ferns.  Don't worry though, the daylight hours are still short, so I'll be getting some recycled bags done this evening.

Oh and by the way, don't forget to enter to win your own FatBottomBag in the Pay It Forward Giveaway.  I'll be choosing 1 winner on Thursday, so there's still time to share how you are making the world a little bit better.  I'm so impressed with the entries so far!  It's wonderful to hear how each one is making a difference in the world and community.  It's going to be really difficult to choose just one!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Another sunny Saturday

Well it's Saturday, the sun is shining and the coffee is fresh.  It looks like another great day to throw on my work wear, grab my clippers and trowel and head out into the garden! So this will be a Silent Saturday.  Here's a great photo I took yesterday while waiting for the ferry.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Winter wonderland?!? It's more like spring has sprung

Ok I have to start with an apology.   If you are burried under a foot or more of snow this February, I am sorry to tease you with the joys of spring here in Washington.  If your in the other Washington (DC) you probably hate hearing about our early west coast spring weather, but think of it as a preview of days to come. 
The cherry trees down at Beach School
 are awash in pink blooms

For the last several days we've had daytime temps in the high 50's and low 60's here.  The sun has been shining and the plants around here are starting to burst with spring color. It's glorious to be able to pull on my boots and head out into the garden to tend to chores that normally wouldn't be done until Mid-March at a time of year is usually filled with longing looks through seed catalogs and garden magazines with anticipation of the garden season ahead.

Home made scalloped potatoes with
cheesy spring chive topping

Instead, this year I've already used fresh chives to cook with and we've even given the back lawn it's first mow and spring fertilizing!  I've been hard at work cutting back last years growth from my ferns.  It's not absolutely neccessary to cut back your ferns, but I like to do this each year (usually in March) so that as the new growth occurs I can watch the caterpillar like fronds climb up from the base and open into their beautiful chartreuse green glory.

Last years growth is here

Now it's gone but it'll be back!

In years past, I've always added my fern fronds to the compost pile.  They are a great early spring "green" addition to the pile and will heat up the pile as they break down.  This year I've decided to try a little something different.  This year I'll use the fronds as a mulch in my veggie garden.  

My vegetable patch is strategically placed in the front yard along side of our driveway.  This is the one spot in our yard that sees sunshine morning through afternoon.  Because we live on a rocky hillside, all of our soil has been imported into narrow raised planting beds that Ben made for me.  Each bed was made from off cuts from our friend Scott's sawmill, so nearly everything is reclaimed and recycled. 
1 of 3 loads I cut back so far. 
There's lots more to be done.

The only problem with the location of our beds has been that originally this was just a weedy parking area.  Each year new weeds are springing up between the beds.  To counter this, I've been laying down newspaper layers and cardboard between the beds and then covering those with straw that we have to purchase.  This is where the fern fronds come in.  This year I'm taking those old fern fronds and using them in place of the straw between the garden beds.

This is experimental as I've never done it with the fern fronds before, but my thought is that they will make a nice walking area between the beds and as the cardboard and fronds break down, they will amend the soil in this area.  Plus having all the area mulched helps to conserve water evaporation from the soil and will encourage worms and other good life in the soil too!  I'll let you know how it works out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Recycled bags need recycled tags

I've been wanting to have some garment tags made for my FatBottomBags, but after searching the internet for an option I found it is extremely expensive to have custom tags printed and it was impossible to find a recycled material option.  So after some struggle, I've found a way to make my own recycled tags to mark my bags as original FatBottomBags!

You might use this shrink plastic method to do a quick and fun recycled project with the kids *remember shrinkedinks*, or to create your own tags, beads, charms for a bracelet or necklace or even buttons for a sewing project!  

Here's what you'll need for this project:
  • Cookie sheet lined with paper
  • #6 plastic containers
  • Sharpies or other permanent markers
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Oven
Step 1:  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Step 2:  While oven is heating, begin to cut out shapes from your plastic container.  These will shrink significantly, so cut them about 3 - 4 times larger than you want your finished item sized. 

Step 3:  Using your regular hole punch, punch holes in the plastic.  For mine I put a hole on each end so I can sew the tags onto my FatBottomBags. 

Step 4:  Decorate with sharpies.  I just added the name FatBottomBags to mine. 

These large thin pieces will become smaller thick tags

Step 5:  Lay your decorated item on a lined cookie sheet.  I used regular paper to line mine.  Leave some space between each piece.

Step 6:  Once you've completed all of your designs and have your items on the cookie sheet, place in preheated oven for 2 to 3 minutes.  Be sure to run your vent fan to ventilate any fumes.  (I didn't notice any bad smell when doing this project)

Step 7:  Remove from oven.  Allow to cool on a flat surface.  Once your items are cooled they are ready.

Fast, fun and recycled!  I think these will look nice on my recycled FatBottomBags.  :0) 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yarn vs Plarn (plastic bag yarn)

Ever since I discovered plastic bag crochet, I've sort of put my yarn projects on hold.  I spend most of my craft time sorting plastic bags, cutting plastic bags and crocheting with plastic bags.  I need to make time again for yarn.  Here's a few projects that I've been working on with yarn.

A rastaman hat I'm working on for Daniel

A cute baby berret

A newborn hat for a baby boy

I think I'll try to start working yarn back into my routine again. Don't get me wrong, I love working with plastic bags and recycling gives me a thrill. There is something about the feel of yarn though that I've been missing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Of Gardens, Garbage & Goo!

What's up with those worms? 
I've had bloggers block. I try to post a new blog each day (sort of cheating a couple days a week with simply a photo). Today I'm back. :0)

I'm taking a break in the midst of my Monday chores to share a bit more about my dirty life as an organic gardener. We've been really lucky with a mild winter this year and I've been working in my garden for the last few weeks when the weather is dry enough. Today is a day like that. High cloud cover but no rain so far. It seemed like a good time to check in on my worm bin. 
Seperating the trays 
So the way this system works is the worms should be actively eating in the top trays of the bin and the finished compost should be in the bottom trays.  First I removed the top few trays and set them aside.
Then I'll take the bottom few trays down to my veggie plot to amend my soil in an empty bed.

These worms will ride in style in my custom garden wagon! 
No one said this would be pretty! 
Now I'm going to drain the "worm juice" or "worm tea" into a watering can.  When I get down to the garden I'm going to water my celery plants with this nutrient rich, all be it, smelly juice. 
This bed will be ready to plant after a small resting period.
A quick trip to the garden and I added the worm compost to my only currently empty vegetable bed.  I just dump the trays in and pull out any "clumps" of worms that are in the mix.  I'll return them to my worm bin.  Any others that don't make it back to the bin will be just fine in my garden bed.  They'll continue to work for me by aerating the soil.  I then mixed in the new compost into the soil and I'll let this bed sit for at least 1 week before adding any seeds or new plants.
I noticed this new shoot coming up in the garden. 
It's either a garlic or onion?
After a quick look around the veggie patch, I'll returned to the worm bin to finish this project.  I replace the trays from the top.  They will now be at the bottom of the stack. Reserving the very top bin to the side.  I'll add one of my now empty trays to the top of the stack.  This is a good time to add some bedding for the worms and I've saved just the thing inside.
A pressed paper egg carton is great for worm bedding
To use a paper egg carton for bedding material in the worm bin, I'll first wet it down from the top and bottom side so it absorbs some moisture.  This helps to tear it up and makes it more appealing for the worms in my bin.
Tearing the carton into smaller pieces will allow it to break down faster.
I return to the wormbin and tear up the egg carton into the top (now empty) tray.  Then I'll add in the worms that I pulled out in the garden.
OOOwey Gooey!  That's a whole can o worms!
Yuck!  This ugly garbage will become beautiful soil amendment in no
time thanks to my hard working worm bin!

Now I add the "orignal" top trays contents to my new top tray.  These little worms have been munching away in my bins for 2 years!  They breed when there's enough food (which is always the case in my bins) and any that die are eaten by the living worms and turned into great compost too! 
Here's the bin after the project is complete with 3 working trays
3 empty trays ready for the next run of kitchen waste

So that's it!  That's really all there is to running and maintaining a worm bin.  It's so easy and the reward of "free" soil amendment and fertilizer is great in my organic garden.  My yeilds are up and my plants grow quickly and healthy.  Another plus, it's as green as you can get and keeps all those lettuce centers, broccoli stems, cabbage hearts and other scraps out of my trash can and out of the landfill.  Yes they will decompose there too, but this way they get a second life, from a single resource as a natural organic garden additive!

No one said gardening was for the squeemish!  It's a dirty job, but I love it!  I enjoy the time outdoors and love growing my own produce knowing that no chemicals have been added.  Joy, dirty joy!


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