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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cow Mug

I love my cow mug! This little guy never fails to bring a smile to my face every morning! 

I am also in love with Italian Sweet Creme flavored creamer by Coffee-Mate.  I wasn't a regular coffee drinker before, but I am now. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Reduce Your Magazine Clutter

Photo: Magazine Binder

If you subscribe to several magazines like I do, you know that those magazines can easily pile up.  Perhaps this would not be such a bad thing if you actually read those magazines again, but let's be honest --- we rarely do.  So let's tackle that clutter in a smart way.

How to Create a Magazine Binder

  • large 3-ring binder (Note: You could always upgrade to a larger binder later, but I like starting big)
  • dividers with tabs/labels
  • ordinary binder paper (college-ruled or wide ruled)
  • scissors
  • Elmer's school glue or glue stick (Note: I prefer using Elmer's school glue)
  • Stapler (for keeping multi-issue articles together)
  • High-quality 3-hole punch (optional)

  1. I use a binder for each major subject that interest me.  For example, I have a binder just for "Home & Garden" related issues.  Then I use dividers to divide the binder into subjects.  For example, I have a section on each room in a house, and the front and backyard.  
  2. As I read magazines, I tear out images or articles of interest and just glue them (or staple them if it is a multi-page article) to a piece of lined binder paper.  You can also use a three hole punch on full page articles.  Sometimes I jot quick notes next to the item or article.  Then I file the paper under the appropriate section.  
  3. After I am done reading the magazine, I am left with a magazine full of advertisements or articles that did not interest me so I just put it in the recycling bin.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Apartment Gardeners Can Compost

Photo 1: Thick top layer of hand shredded newspaper

Photo 2: Shredded newspaper, egg shells, carrot tops, coffee grounds, and banana peel decomposing

Photo 3: Red worms working on scraps.

Photo 4: Finished compost ready to use directly in garden or to make compost tea.

For apartment gardeners and people with small gardens, I suggest trying a worm compost bin.  The bins are cheap (less than $10), requires little square footage of space, and are easy to make.  You will also have finished compost in less time than you would with a traditional compost bin.

Indoor Worm Compost Bin
I used to keep a worm compost bin under the kitchen sink in a small plastic container with holes on top.  I use handfuls of finished compost to make compost tea (i.e., mixture of finished compost and water).  Compost tea stretches out finished compost so I can provide nutrients to several plants.

For those of you who are hesitant about keeping worm compost bins indoors, I promise you my bin did not have any bad smells or fruit flies nor did any worms every try to escape.  The key is to keep the bins under the right conditions.  This may sound difficult, but it is not.  The environment must be cool or warm (but not hot), moist but not soggy, and not overloaded with kitchen scraps.  Note: I only fed my worm bin broken egg shells, fruit and vegetable scraps.  I also chopped or crushed scraps when I could to accelerate the time it took to get finished compost.  I also placed a layer of moist, shredded newspaper on top of my scraps to prevent fruit flies from discovering my bin.  If you notice the bin getting soggy, you can give the liquid to plants or place shredded newspaper at the bottom to absorb the liquid.  

Outdoor Worm Compost Bin
Now that I have more space, I created a large worm bin and placed it outside near the back door.  I love it!  The worms quickly break down all my scraps.  It is important to keep a thick layer of moist shredded newspaper on top of the scraps to keep the fruit flies to a minimum.  See Photo 1.  The fruit flies do not hurt the worm bin; They actually help break down the scraps.  I just try to discourage their presence because they are annoying.  Make sure you keep the medium moist or else you might attract ants. If ants ever attack your bin, just use a hose with a mister attachment and moisten the scraps and newspapers.  The ants should disappear in a day.

I am considering creating a second bin.  The bins are easily stackable because I drilled holes on the sides of the bin instead of on top.  My adult red worms have already produced several baby red worms so I will have plenty of worms for a new bin.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Harvesting Marigold Seeds

Photo 1: Dried marigold flower head full of seeds

Photo 2: Dried orange petal fluff removed.  Base of plant is holding a bunch of marigold seeds.
Photo 3: Base of plant holding a few marigold seeds.

Photo 4: Bag full of marigold seeds

My marigolds are dying back in the garden and the stems have turned brown, which means it is time to harvest the marigold seeds.  Collecting marigold seeds will take very little time and effort, and you will end up with an abundant supply of marigold seeds.  Share them with friends or grow them next year from seed.    

Marigolds are easy to grow from seed, are pretty, drought-tolerant, and are very hardy plants.  I plant marigolds throughout the vegetable garden because the roots secrete a substance that kills nematodes.  The smell of marigolds also deter some pests that munch on other crops (e.g., whiteflies).     

How to Collect Marigold Seeds

  • Plastic snack bag or other seed container
  • Small rock or weight if using a plastic bag
  • Scissors
  • Bowl

  1. Identify flower heads that have died back, and where 1 to 2 inches of the stem has turned brown.  See Photo 1.  Snip off these flowers (with the stems) and place them in a bowl.  
  2. Place a small rock or weight in your bag to keep it from flying away.
  3. Using your fingers, remove the "orange fluff" (i.e., the dry, brittle marigold flower petals) and discard them.  I throw the fluff right back into the garden.  See Photo 1 & 2.
  4. Several marigold seeds (i.e., black and tan slivers)  are in the base of the flower.  See Photo 2 & 3.  
  5. Remove the seeds and place them in the plastic bag.  Seal the bag when you are done.  If you used dried flower heads, then you should not have any condensation.  If you do notice condensation inside the bag, re-open the bag and allow the seeds to completely dry out before storing them.     

Monday, October 3, 2011

Harvesting Butternut Squash

Photo 1: Butternut Squash Flower

 Photo 2: Young butternut squash growing on the fence. 

Photo 3: Butternut squash almost ready for picking

Photo 4: Butternut Squash Harvested (unwashed)

I am a huge fan of butternut squash soup!  I planted 2 butternut squash plants earlier this year, and they have taken over the garden.  So far we have harvested 3 nice size butternut squash, and there are still more to come.  During the growing season, I snipped off any small, rotting butternut squash and threw them away to help redirect energy to the healthy butternut squashes.

The butternut squash are ready to be picked when there are no longer green streaks on the skin, and the stem has turned brown.  Cut the squash from the vine, leaving at least an inch of the stem attached.  Disinfect the butternut squash by dipping it in a weak bleach solution, and then dry the squash.  Store the squash in a cool, dark place.  When stored properly, butternut squash can last several months.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Seeds from Flower Arrangements

Photo: Flower from Flower Arrangement Setting Seeds

It looks like a flower in my flower arrangement produced seeds.  I can't tell if they are good seeds, but I decided to chuck them in the garden anyways and see what happens.  Maybe one will sprout!