Can you believe how old my son looks?? Egads… he is getting this wide, strong jaw like his Dad and he is looking like a teenager!!! But… I am getting off track…
A couple weeks ago we welcomed some new “pets” into the house… Red Wrigglers (worms). They even have a posh new condo in the kitchen so they are getting royal treatment. They are of course expected to pay their way in the form of wonderfully rich and dark compost for our garden this spring/summer.
When we moved into this house it came with no composting area and we had other things on our mind prior to winter so we gave up composting for awhile. But I started to feel guilty about that as I saw scraps sitting in the garbage so I decided to try my hand at indoor composting for winter months. I started researching it and was intent to just rig up some sort of worm bin using plastic storage tubs we have in the garage but I saw there were some issues with doing it this way as well as it being really ugly.. and our worm bin was going to be in the kitchen, visible to all. So I decided that if this was something I was really going to pursue passionately I needed to go with an efficient and easy system. A commercial worm bin seemed the better option and after reading up the various ones and scouring reviews, I chose… The Worm Factory, specifically the Worm Factory DS5TT 5-Tray Worm Composter – Terra Cotta.
It came in only a few days (free shipping too) and I ordered my worms a few days after that. I tried to get them locally but the only source I could find wasn’t answering any calls so I ended up ordering from the go-to place for composting worms, Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm (via Amazon) where you can get a about 1000 Red Wriggler Worms for $15. They came from Pennsylvania, so almost local. We got them in a couple days and they moved into their new digs. I read several places that worms often try to escape and you should leave the lights on in the room where the bin is for a few nights so they choose to stay but my husband works second shift and gets in late and always turned off the lights. They chose to stay anyway… I guess they like it here.
Anyway the Worm factory we bought has 5 trays. You start by laying a few layers of moist newspaper down on the bottom of the first tray and then cover with the included coir (coconut husk fiber) and some sand or crushed eggshells. We didn’t have any sand so we went with pastured eggshells. Then we filled the remaining space with shredded newspaper (also included) and a couple whole layers of moist newspaper. At one corner we put some food scraps… onion skin, grated carrots, lettuce, etc. It sat like that for a few days before we welcomed our worms. They came in dry soil so we added them and used a spray bottle to moisten things up and after a few days I took this photo which shows they gravitated to the corner with the food (top right). I went ahead and added some more scraps to the lower corner as well.
When I add more scraps I do so in the corners, going in order. After about a month or so I will add the next tray and repeat the whole process. Gradually the worms will seek out new food and will move up to the higher tray (there are little holes for them in the tray bottoms). Or you can take the bottom tray and put in on top and the light will make them move to the lower tray. Repeat until all trays are full. By the time the top tray is being worked, the bottom tray is likely ready for adding to your garden or potted plants.
At the very bottom of the unit is a slanted collection tray for the compost tea. This was another reason I wanted this particular composter. I read several reviews from people who tried using storage tubs and they claim the amount of compost tea they got from the Worm Factory was double. It has a nifty spigot on the bottom so you can collect the tea easily.
We are still early in the game but so far there is no odor whatsoever. It looks good sitting in the kitchen (IMO) and it is soooo easy to use. I am glad we went with this system. There is also no need for guilt about buying new plastic because the Worm Factory is made from post consumer recycled plastic. Yeah! Plus it is also helping us compost and encouraging us to grow our own food.. which we plan to do on our backyard deck this year, since we have so little space. I am also collecting and using newspaper instead of sending it to the recycling center. We seem to have enough for composting and for my son’s Bearded Dragons (yes we have two now) just with the little junk papers and community news that gets put on our mailboxes.
If you want to compost but live in an apartment or a small space or you just want to keep winter compost going strong by doing it indoors I recommend this system highly. I will post regularly about issues we may have… like potential fruit flies and the like. We may even move this unit outdoors as the weather warms because it can go inside or out if left in a shady, cooler, spot. Either way I cannot wait to get my hands on some of that black gold this spring!
Also another recommendation is this wonderful book on composting with worm bins, Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System. I read it YEARS ago and never acted on it. Lucky for me I kept it in storage until I needed it!
Are you composting yet?
For hiking and exercising my favorite water bottle is the Intak water bottle by Thermos. You can beat the pop top IMO. For every day use I have always used Klean Kanteen… simple and functional. I pretty much stick with my favorites and thus haven’t bought any new water bottles in quite in some time. That changed a couple weeks ago though, when I saw some the above beauties at Resuseit. I am in loooove……
Who says being green is a sacrifice? I mean really, I will gladly sacrifice an ugly plastic water bottle for this deliciousness any day of the week!
Book: Natures Secret Messages: Hidden in Plain Sight
I shop at Reuseit quite often and when I saw these babies I hit purchase in 3.4 seconds. Obviously I love the idea of a resusable bottle but I am so happy that someone (in this instance a company called Blue Q) finally decided to marry the functionality of a stainless steel water bottle with pure gorgeousness. It is a marriage made in heaven if you ask me. And I am a sucker for the retro cowgirls and Dick and Jane stuff. I grew up reading Dick and Jane with my mom and I come from a long line of luscious cowgirls (my mom being one of them). The Boss Lady bottle has now been gifted to my mom in fact and the Dick and Jane bottle will likely be commandeered by my daughter. The Holy Water bottle I saw a few days after the other two and had to get it as well. It’s my fave!
After one week I am already taking them everywhere. Since my car has no air conditioning (broken for 2 years now) I fill them up with ice water for every outing. They go to the store, the park, the fair, the museum… everywhere I go. Already people ask about them and admire them. The water bottle industry should be quaking in their boots as reusable bottles become more and more attractive… even to people who might not otherwise consider them. I should ask Reuseit for some business cards and hand them out to people who admire my bottles. :)
Anywho… they are stainless steel bottles so they are BPA-free and phthalate-free. They are painted on the outside with lead free paints. They have a wide mouth, which I love because it allows me to add ice, and they have a leak proof cap. They should be hand washed with soap and water to preserve the lovely design but this is no biggie for me because I only use water in them. Every other day I wash with some warm, soapy water and let them air dry overnight. Easy peasy…
The company, Blue Q, is one I never heard of before these I saw these bottles but they too sound like a winner. They are one of the largest private employers of people with disabilities in their locale and they donate 1% of the sales for their bags and water bottles to the Nature Conservancy to help support global green initiatives. They are committed to a donation of at least $100,000 by April 19, 2013.
I for one, give their bottles a big A++ and tomorrow I will have to show you the new Blue Q reusable bag I got. ;)
Part of being a savvy mom means shopping for deals and buying in bulk. This can be especially true of certain health foods because they cost more, and buying in bulk may be one of the few ways we can bring prices down. That five pound bag of raw organic almonds is none too cheap but perhaps it is a bit easier to digest when you buy a 25 pound bag and do the math.
The problem with bulk buying and shopping for deals and sales is that you may end up with a fridge and pantry stuffed beyond their capacity. Things get shoved in the back and they go bad, you have no idea what you have to work with, and you end up not even bothering to take inventory before your next shopping trip… which only exacerbates the problem.
This is a problem we have been having and we decided to start a pantry eating challenge… to avoid shopping for groceries as much as possible and just eat what we have. It is amazing how much money and time you can save when you do this. Plus I think I Iost 5 pounds because we ran out of stuff to “snack” on, LOL. Our fridge is almost empty now too, just some jars of bulk nuts, seeds, and Quinoa. This will be a perfect time to clean it!
After a couple weeks of meals like beans and rice and buckwheat pancakes with goji berries and nuts I think we will be sooooo ready to buy some fresh fruit and veggies. Although we did use up our frozen fruit stash making various smoothie concoctions and adding a little bit of everything and those are always good. This week I need to find some creative recipes for Quinoa.. cause we will be eating a lot of it!
This little lesson also helped me prove to my husband that we do not eat out of cans! Every time he goes to the store he buys up canned foods in bulk, despite the fact that I almost never cook out of can. The kids wouldn’t even touch the canned fruit cocktail… blah! So I may cook up some of the MSG free soups and perhaps use the beans but the rest is getting donated to someone who needs bomb shelter supplies.
What say you? What are your favorite things to eat when you have to use what is on hand in the pantry? I would love some ideas!
Top Photo credit: vigilant20
Something miraculous has happened in our home. Every morning I get to wake up to a clean house and the feeling is sooooo nice!!
A couple weeks ago I bartered for house cleaning services and my house was whipped into shape. I absolutely LOVE getting up to sparkly floors and NO toys on the floor. Gone were the days of pretending that the kids toys, books, and clothing all over the floor was actually a burglary early warning system. BUT after everything was super clean I started to notice every little thing that was carelessly tossed or dirtied without cleaning up afterwards. I would seethe upon finding the sink full of dishes after dinner from the night before since we have always agreed to a “the cook doesn’t clean” policy. When someone “put away” the clean clothes from the dryer by throwing them on the desk nearby I thought I was going to implode soon. Rather than implode I opted to request… no, insist… I get help.
I have always loved that poem about letting things get dirty while you raise your babies because you won’t get that time back… you know the one I am talking about? But my kids are getting older and I spend all day with them already so now I got to thinking that it was time to start keeping things clean AND having them take responsibility for their own messes. But I have always resisted chores. I guess it is because I really only had one chore growing up (dishes) and the only other families I knew who had “chores”… well sorry but to me it looked like lazy parents who sat on their butts while the kids did all the cleaning. I remember being at their houses while the parents sat in recliners barking orders while kids scrubbed toilets and mopped floors, all the while listening to lectures about how they (the parents) have jobs and kids are leaches. I swore I would never do that to my kids.. that I would adopt a “get off your butt” style of parenting and not make my kids be my servants. And yet here I was needing their help.
I still think the best way to teach kids something is by modeling it. They have no idea how hard you work at your job they only know what they see when they are with you. So the solution to my problem was obvious. We would all clean together.
I sat everyone down and told them about a new 15 minute clean-up we would be having every evening. Every member of the family would have to pitch in and help, we would throw on some on groovy dance music while we worked, and the kids would be paid for their help. The result has been miraculous.
Each child has a specific area to clean up.. my daughter picks up in the living room and hallway and wipes down the kitchen table, my oldest son picks up in the den and vacuums or sweeps the den and kitchen, and my youngest is given random tasks. If I cooked than hubby cleans the kitchen while I dust the house and clean up desks, bookshelves, sort laundry, etc. We reverse that if he cooks. In the evening when they are in bed I usually mop the kitchen floor and the living room. Some nights they are grumpy or tired and ask why they have to do this and I just say that we makes messes together so we need to clean up together.
Every evening the house gets cleaned and I am so thrilled! If only I could find a solution for their bedrooms.
Do you have chores in your home? Why of why not? What works for you?
On the heels of my post on ethical toys and I wanted to post about cardboard toys. They are certainly not new… I remember I had a full size cardboard house that I used to play in when I was a little girl. It was very big, and it was black and white so that you could paint or color it yourself to personalize it. After many months of use, when it was starting to tear and generally look raggedy, we tossed it. Every year at Christmas time we would get another one from Sees Candy.
Cardboard toys are low cost and eco friendly. You can recycle them in your own backyard compost pile. They are also wonderfully creative toys for kids. Kids can assemble them and they can personalize them making the toy their own unique creation.
For the past couple weeks my kids have been playing with cardboard toys from the Creative Toyshop. They have TONS of awesome Calafant cardboard toys that go way beyond the simple house I used to play with. They have castles, tree houses, pirate fortresses, dollhouses, and so much more. They provide hours of open ended play and when your kids are done they can be folded away for storage or recycled if they are getting a little too well used.
My oldest son has the Calafant tree house. He was pretty much able to put it together on his own from looking at the pictures. The written instructions were kind of useless IMO but the pictures rocked. After putting it together he got busy coloring it. In true creative form he opted not to let the color photo on the box guide his color choices. I knew he would like cardboard toys because for years he has made his own creations out of leftover cardboard boxes. Creating a tree house of cardboard.. heck what could be better?
My daughter has the Calafant Rosegarden Palace. I put it together for her in about ten minutes and she colored it. She referenced the color picture on the box but more often than not chose her own colors… which surprised me since she is all about pink and purple. On a side note she complained that the markers that came with it stunk really bad, LOL. They just had a really strong marker smell which she didn’t care for (she’s a soy crayon girl)… we ended up donating them after she used them.
They both loved building and decorating these toys. My son now lets his sit in his room on display and my daughter plays with hers… putting her wooden fairy dolls in it. She plans on embellishing it with glitter and rhinestones… I just keep forgetting to check out the craft section of the thrift store.
I love that these toys are rather small since we don’t have a ton of room in our tiny 1000 square foot house. The child size cardboard house I used to have wouldn’t be practical but these are perfect. All pieces are pre-cut and pre-punched. They can be put together without glue and scissors thanks to the Calafant slot-system. They are creative, they provide hours of open ended play, they are eco friendly, and they are fun.
We probably all have memories of playing in cardboard boxes as kids. We too save any big boxes for the kids to play in before they get recycled. Cardboard toys take that concept and run with it. Calafant (German) makes small, medium, and large toys for all ages and interests. There are some larger ones that kids can play in too, just like I did. Fun!