[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Sunchips has this "greening the world" thing going on. They are very proud of their extra crinkly bag, because it's "100% compostable".

I'm not sure what sort of composting they used to make this claim, but I use chickens.

more on chicken compost ability )
That's right, six weeks it has been in there, and the pieces are big enough I can pick them all up....and is that, a plastic lining under the foil type surface layer? The bag is almost all there, front and back. There is one corner I can't find, but I didn't look hard.

This is garbage, pure and simple. I'm going to keep letting them try, unless the plastic bits start breaking off and threatening my chickens, but you can bet I won't be buying the chips again, and Sunchips will be getting an email from me...with pictorial evidence.

I am not impressed with their lies....or, at best, their misleading advertising. Click pic to see larger:

Sunchips, at six weeks of chicken composting. Yup, still all there.

and no, that isn't a missing corner down at the bottom, that's chicken poop.

I am not impressed, Sunchips.

ETA: and despite the new info I'm getting, which is totally fascinating, thanks, ya'll!...further research into it online is not making me think it's any better for the environment (or us) than any other plastic.
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Environmental consideration is a learning curve...even after all these years of practice. :I

I just asked Monkey to help me move the futon pad to the curb for bulk trash. He said why...I answered that it was ruined by the cat pee I've been unable to remove, and it needed to go to the dump because it stinks to much to keep using. What happens there, he asks...Well, in theory it should rot, but really they just bury it....uh...wait a minute, mommy needs to think.

Wonder what the stuffing is made of? Oh, look...cotton.

Well, heck. I'm slow. Let's just go empty it into the chicken pen...to...ya know...rot. ~facepalm~

Habits, they will sucker punch you.

ETA: Turns out there were two layers of foam, three of cotton stuffing, plus some cotton string. We saved the cover to wash (should work as a cover if we get another futon pad), dragged the pee pee stink foam to the curb, and threw all the cotton padding into the chicken pen. They say this is NOT good bedding thank you, where are their leaves, dammit.

But the boy child thinks the fact that the chickens will turn all of it (eventually) into garden dirt is WAY cool.
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
er...food.

I just wanted to note here that I attended a four day retreat this weekend, and came home with four 5 gallon buckets of food scraps.

Four big buckets packed full of food that would have ended up in the landfill, wrapped in a plastic bag, that will now be fed to chickens/composted instead.

My point is: don't be afraid to ask.

I find, over and over, that if you show up at a birthday party, at a potluck, whatever, and say: "do you mind if I put this lidded bucket here for food scraps?" people say "sure!" and tend to co-operate really well with it.

I was really pleased with the reception the idea received at the retreat this weekend, and more than 50 people (everyone there) spent the whole weekend dutifully scraping plates into the bins before heading to the kitchen to wash up. Heck, they even dragged the buckets into the kitchen during meal prep so they could put the food scrap results of that activity in there.

I came home with 20 gallons of food.

It turns out some of them were even grateful for the opportunity. Pleased to be able to send the food somewhere that it wouldn't be wasted.

So invest in some lidded paint buckets (we had the handle break on a full one during the process of loading the truck. Those lidded 5 gallon paint buckets seal really well. It hit the ground...and stayed closed) and don't be afraid to take one with you to the next food oriented event you attend. Chances are good, if you check with the event's host, you can set up an easy way for people to be a bit more environmentally friendly, and end up with food for your compost  pile (or chickens). :)
[identity profile] gryphynshadow.livejournal.com
I have to say, I love our houseguest! If I had known exactly how willing he was to just get in there and rip out vines, weeds and small trees, I would have taken before pictures, so you could see in the after pictures, exactly how much has been done. It looks really fabulous in the backyard now! Dead trees are gone, large swathes of the Virginia Creeper have been torn off of the fence, great sections of dead leaf and obnoxious weed have been pulled from the beds...

AND!

Thanks to all his hard work, the compost pile is actually HOT! I though it was a holy grail, unattainable and distant, but no, it turns out you just have to pile up an unholy amount of yard refuse, get it wet, and then let it do it's thing. (I think, because I started it in the early spring, late winter with mostly dead leaves, it didn't have enough green stuff to get properly cooking.)

Since he's been working so hard, getting so sweaty and bug bitten, I've been inspired, too. Today I went and looked at all he had done, nodded my head approvingly, and then got to work.

I broke up a few empty sections of the beds along the side of the house, where I had previously had the broccoli. Then, I scraped back the mulch from the beds, added fresh compost, put the mulch back, and then put a top layer of fresh mulch on top of all that. I added about, oh, four to six inches of organic material to the beds.

There's a half circle bed that was home to some random ornamental things and weeds, which our lovely houseguest ripped right out. So, I half-ass broke that up (stinking hard soil, man!) and added both a layer of compost, and a layer of mulch. I think I'll let that sit a bit, and in a couple weeks, I'll try to work that mess in. That's going to be a winter veggie bed in a couple of weeks. :)

I direct seeded one hill of cucumber (Straight 8), two hills of zucchini (Black Zucchini), one hill of spaghetti squash (not labeled with variety), and two hills of cantaloup (Minn. Midget). I also started, in peat pots, three Cherokee Purple tomatoes (the last seeds! oh noes!), four Arkansas Traveller tomatoes, and three Yellow Monster peppers.

I am so excited for the seeds we ordered to come in, I can't hardly wait! eee! The garden boxes have all been moved from the side yard into the driveway, along the side. Since we only have one car now, it makes sense to use the side of the driveway that is unoccupied for gardening, since it's in full sun all day long! Oh, yeah, and in one of the boxes, two pepper plants are coming back! New leaves, and signs of new growth. Very promising.

A couple of days ago, I was struck by curiosity, and so I went digging in those garden boxes. I'd planted onions, way back at the start of the year, and they hadn't done much growth, and then had (I thought) all died. Ditto with some potatoes. So, I dug around in there, and guess what I found?

The potatoes had done their thing and created more potatoes:



(that image is ready to be made into an icon, and if you want to, go for it! it's a 350X350 pixel image right now, just shrink it down!)

The onions, while yeah, they didn't make the giant onions I was kinda hoping for, did create these:



I cooked with four of them today, in a dish of alien guts. (okra, yellow squash and mushroom, sauted and then allowed to steam themselves in their own juices. mmm, slimey.)

Now, I'm tired out, and ready for a nap! Aaaahhh... gardening...  :)

[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Ok, update: we ate our first strawberry out of the garden last week, and this week we had our first harvested broccoli. Apparently there are little grub worm things that like broccoli, but [livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow  managed to pick them out when cooking, so I don't think we got too much extra protein from that. She has planted the heirloom tomato seedlings she started, 7 of them (I'll let her update you on the varieties and which are doing better or worse) and has shared a bunch of them with [livejournal.com profile] laughingturtle  as well. LT reports that something is attacking said tomatoes and is planning on spraying them with a soap nut mix to see if that solves the problem.

We have the chicken pen almost finished enough to bring the chickens over (taking long enough, isn't it?), we just need to add the roof. Then it will be time to find some food-grade DE to paint the wooden parts of the will-be-a-coop and treat the litter with. We are planning to try the deep litter method, so I'm on the lookout for side-of-the-road plywood to add an edge to the coop area to contain the litter. We still haven't figure out how the best way to add a rain barrier roof over the coop area, but we have some ideas we are bouncing around, so hopefully we will solve that one soon.

Progress in the yard has been slightly delayed by the Evil-Cold-of-Neverending-Lethargy that is making it's way through the family, and by us taking a weekend to work on our yurts for Flipside with [livejournal.com profile] errantember , but we hope to have at least the chickens moved over before we head out to that in May.

The spinach apparently either went in too late to take advantage of the cool weather, or needs to be planted on a side of the house that isn't quite so sunny and warm, as it has all gone to seed.[livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow  dutifully saved the seeds when it bolted, so while we didn't get edible spinach, we did get the beginning of future spinach out of them.

The peppers lost their blossoms to the last cold snap, but those that had already set are doing their darndest to become peppers we can eat. And the accidental-pumpkins are blossoming as well.

The compost is doing better, and our daughters were absolutely enthralled to learn what our son already knew; that when you play outside, the mommies LIKE it when you pee in the compost.

[livejournal.com profile] goudananda  has offered to be on the lookout and try to get a hold of some barrels for us to use for rainwater catchment, so hopefully by the end of the season we can get a hold of a few of those and go about converting them to harvest rain off the roof.

Chicken pen progress, this pic is slightly outdated, as I have actually taken the pile of salvaged brick from the garden-bed-against-the-house removal and placed them inside the pen around the edge to discourage chicken digging of holes beneath the fence.

future peppers! Our first strawberry! wheee!! It was delicious...we shared it between [livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow , myself, and our friend [livejournal.com profile] tazfromtx  who was over at the moment of harvest (clever timing) and all agreed it tasted far superior to store purchased strawberries.

Pumpking blossoms! Broccoli! They got slightly larger than this, but not by much, and then we harvested....I don't remember if GS said that was because she couldn't wait, or because they were starting to open up and preparing to bolt, but either way, it was tasty.





[identity profile] gryphynshadow.livejournal.com
I turned the compost pile today. Ahhh... smell the dirty nutrition!

I really do think I'm getting the hang of it. Over the weekend, we added quite a bit of stuff to the pile, including a fern, some of the neighbor's sod (she dug it up, it's not like I snuck over there to steal her grass or something. don't look at me like that.), and miscellaneous leaves, vines, weeds and yard stuff.

So, today, I turned that over, spread it out, and layered the old compost on top of it. Mixed it, as'twere. What was on top, is now on bottom. The sides are in the middle, and the bottom is on the top. As I worked, after each layer, I watered it pretty well. You see, I'm tired of my compost being dry in the center.

The very center middle of the pile was looking very nice! I'm starting to see some definite decomposition, the leaves are starting to loose their shape, woody stems are softening up dramatically, and it's got that good compost smell going on. mmm... Stirred up quite a few little bugs, but it looks like the ants have moved on. Too bad, the chickens would have loved to have eaten them.

:P

Speaking of chickens... All that's lacking on the pen is the roof, and plugging holes. We need to chicken wire over the corners, cause there are gaps, and put bricks and paving stones around the inside border to keep the chickens from digging out (and other critters from digging in.) I figure, one good long day of work on it will do.

I've started cleaning up the pathways and patio areas in the backyard. You see, the previous owner massively landscaped, including flagstone pathways through the plantings. These pathways have become overgrown, and so need to be hacked out of the jungle. Talk about a work out! I'm about a third done with that chore.

We've started dismantling the ex-fountain. So far, there's a giant pile of rocks that used to be fountain stuff in the middle of the patio. In the process, we found a really cute garden snake; black with green and yellow longitudinal stripes. He was about 2 1/2 feet long, 3/4 inch in diameter at the thickest. Cute little fella! Still needs to be done on the ex-fountain: pull out leaves, any stones not mortared in place, remove garden hose fragment (?!), put in some soil, add low growing plants (moss, alyssum, creeping herbs, etc...), and decorate to create a faerie altar.

Also still needing to be done:

*knock out remaining bricks from raised foundation beds
*take out sod from random rectangle in backyard, front yard next to tree
*tamp soil in each of above
*add sand
*lay paving stones
*finish weeding established beds
*pull out partially rotted timbers and raised bed in corner
*take out honeysuckle and pole it's on
*fill hole under patio where it's caving in (oh, did I not mention that? well. Like the description says.)
*build, fill and make use of raised beds in front yard, side yard.
*fall over

Since that's a really long list, how about something uplifting to finish this off?

We've got 6 broccoli plants producing flower heads! The cherry tomato isn't totally dead, and is in fact producing little tomatoes! All three of the pepper plants have teeny tiny peppers on them! The potatoes are coming up! I've harvested some of the onions, they're yummy!

Oh, and yet more of the to-do, but in a happy way with not too much labor and more immediate results:

*start herb seeds
*transplant out tomato plants
*prepare curved bed for herbs

A lot has been going on this spring, which would be why, at the end of the day, I'm usually too tired to give a blow by blow of what we did. In the next couple of days I'll post some pictures from the backyard, to show you all what we've been up to.

In the meanwhile, happy spring gardening!!!
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
We have had a busy week, (there are two toddlers jumping on my bed as we speak, and [livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow  is off to pick up the 5 year olds from school) but we haven't been entirely idle, just not out in the yard.

I found and purchased a cold water bath, tongs, and a ton of mason jars along with some rings and lids off of Craigslist. This involved listing what the lady had for Miss J, having her look them up on the internet, proclaim us interested and then contacting the woman to arrange to goink her canning stuff. Our dining room has a big pile of boxes in it now, and eventually we are going to have to figure out where to store them. We don't need them now of course, but I'm told that at the prices one can pay for canning supplies, keeping an eye out now is a good thing. :)

Miss J has been working her laptop into a lather, visiting a permaculture forum, finding sources of heirloom seeds, and I don't even know what else. She's been happy as a pig in manure, so one assumes she is learning nifty things and lusting seeds and will remain content until next weekend when we go to put in the chicken pen.

The plants she put in are doing well (I'll try to add a picture when I'm not supervising bouncy children). The red onions are happy, though the yellow seem to be less enthusiastic. The broccoli is getting taller, we have a....something...growing from a seed that J thinks may be a pumpkin and is therefore letting get large enough to be identified before removing or relocating. The brussels sprouts seem less excited, but haven't died either, so that's ok. And we've quite a bit of rain, so the compost is no longer pathetically dry.

I don't have an update on the strawberries, believe it or not I haven't been over there and I don't remember if J gave me an update on those.

It was suggested (via internet searches) that to jump start our compost pile (one just needed water and is heating up now, but the other is being stubborn) one should save human urine. This led to an interesting realization that I actually don't know if I can do that. I'm on blood-to-brain barrier crossing drugs. I know they pass into breast milk, but I don't know if they would pass into other bodily fluids, and until we do some research, we can't risk contaminating the areas ground water with my partially processed pharmaceuticals. Hey, it's possible I'm a bio-hazard! wee!

This conversation came on the heels of an online discussions with [livejournal.com profile] laughingturtle  about humanure and composting toilets. Now, I personally think it's despicable and gross that we use drinking water to remove waste from our homes. I fully intend to install a humanure toilet in my home at some point. I also am realistic enough to say that sometimes one has to compromise one's ideals to compensate for living in the suburbs and not the country. When I do convert one of our bathrooms, I intend to leave the original plumbing (minus the toilet) in place, use a composting bin that allows me to capture the compost 'tea' for disposal down the remaining black-water toilet, and NOT use the resulting compost on our edibles, only on the ornamental sections of our garden. After all, what is the point of organic gardening if I then put drugs on it? Plus, of course, there is the issue of "if we don't do everything safely, how do we expect the movement to get outdated laws about grey-water and humanure and other things overturned"? I firmly believe everything we do has to be to a level that I would be willing to have it put in the paper for local lawmakers to use in making their decisions. If my lot is an example of why permaculture and all it's attendant projects should be legal, I'm doing it right. :)

The modern day permaculturist has some interesting conundrums to deal with.
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
I want to put this here so we can find it later. This is going to be an important formula. :)

To calculate cubic yards of (whatever) needed: Area length (ft.) x width (ft.) x inches high, divided by 324 = cubic yards

This has helped us determine that we will need approximately 5 cubic yards of peat moss, 5 cubic yards of vermiculite, and 5 cubic yards of compost to do the 505 sq ft of beds in the front yard. (eep!)

I have no idea yet where we will get the peat moss and vermiculite, but the compost is available from the city of Bryan composting facility. At $28/ton (ton= approximately 2 cubit yards) I'm not too worried about that part of the expense. :) Anyone know where we should be looking for a source of the other stuff?

Hey! Looks like they will deliver for $60 as well. Wonder if they would be willing to deliver the free bark mulch and how much that would cost. Think we could piggyback em on the same delivery charge? (I doubt it, since it would need to be separate, but it can't hurt to ask!)

[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Progress is slow so far, but we have accomplished a few things. Since they happened before we started the blog, let me catch you up. :)

We have put in a compost pile. When I say "we" in this instance, what I mean is that I helped weed to provide things for the compost pile and [livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow  did all the rest of the work. There was some confusion for a while as to why it wasn't heating up (the germinating pumpkin seeds in the middle were sort of a clue we were doing something wrong). But G got on the internet and discovered that one of our problems is that (duh!) bone dry stuff does not rot. She has begun watering it, and we are getting some heat in one, though nothing in the other. Still not sure what the problem is there.

compost-stage one

We also (and again, I mostly mean her, I bought the plants though! lol) planted three strawberry plants,  a row of broccoli, and a row of brussels sprouts on the south side of the house. Then, with some help from the visiting [livejournal.com profile] errantember , we (and I actually do mean "we" this time) put in three Earth Boxes worth of onions. The Earth boxes are left over from my container gardening era before I had a capable human to live with and could contemplate other methods of growing food. I've had good luck with them in the past, but this will be the first time I've tried them without their plastic cover (which I don't have any more of now) so I'm curious to see if they perform as well as they did with all their intended pieces.

brussels sprouts & broccoli, stage oneonions-stage onestrawberries-stage one


Oh, the red thing in the photo? That's the painted stump from one of the four trees we had removed before we installed the privacy fence.

So that's where we stand right now; couple of rows of plants put in at the tail end of the recommended planting season, a stubbornly cool compost pile, and big ideas!

The next step will be putting in the chicken pen.....



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