Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Repurposed Wood into Compost Bin = Garage Project for a Rainy Day

In preparation for the rainy weekend last weekend, we decided to make a new compost bin.  I'd been aching for a re-purposed bin of some sort and finally had an idea of what materials to use.

First we measured the space next to the coop and cut some old fence boards from a fence we tore down. Those are the sides and supports. The bottom is made from an old bench we tore out. We figured it was rotting away anyway, and we needed something (preferably free) for a new, larger compost bin.

First we put the bottom on the ground. Then we attached the vertical supports at the ends and "toenailed" them into the bottom. This means the screws went in at an angle through the post and into the bottom.

We also attached a framing piece for the door to hang on. It was half-height, and sat half-way up the front side supports and is screwed in.

Next step was to attach the back and side boards. The sides butted up to the back. These all screwed into the supports with two screws on each board and space between the boards for air flow.

After that, we made the door by screwing three planks onto two smaller size posts, making sure it would fit into the space between the side planks so it would lay flat. The smaller posts were slightly smaller than the space between the cross piece and the bottom.

Then we attached the top three boards in front. The bottom of these was attached to the front cross piece in a number of places. Then we went and bought two hinges, a handle, a chain, and a carebeaner~ made of zinc to withstand the elements. The hinges were attached to the door and bottom front plank. The handle went on the bottom. The chain and carebeaner are for the handle to attach onto when cleaning out the compost bin from the bottom. The logic here is that we won't have to turn it if there is air circulating and we can get the finished compost out from the bottom.

Here it is, after being wheeled across the yard in the wheelbarrow and hefted onto the ground and shimmied into place.
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Goat and Beet Pizza (and my toddler and husband loved it)

It only occurred to me to take a photo of this after we had devoured some, because it sounds a little, um, odd. But it tasted great and my toddler and husband ate it and asked for seconds, and for leftovers the next day. It is also slightly lopsided because we ran out of corn meal for the transfer from the pizza peel to the pizza stone, and I substituted with flour. Next time I am out of corn meal, I will use a lot more flour, or run to the store for corn meal. But I digress.

The crust is Trader Joe's herb pizza dough that you let rise yourself and roll yourself. I let it rise for half a day instead of the recommended 20 minutes and was really happy with the result. The cheese is their four cheese blend, and the pizza sauce is also Trader Joe's brand, but only a light coating. The goat was leftover goat leg from our meat club box, cut into small pieces. Any leftover meat will work. The beets were fresh organic chiogga beets from our CSA box, cut small and sauteed with an onion and their greens in butter. The tomatoes were an assorted variety from the garden, and added last. It was cooked on a pizza stone at 425 degrees for 14 minutes. Delicious!

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Kids' Cooking Idea: Challah

The PJ Library is a non-profit organization in the Bay Area that sends Jewish kids free books that are appropriate to their age level throughout their youth. We just got a new book from them called, "The Challah Book." It inspired us to take out the cookbook my brother and I wrote called, "Marsha's Kitchen" which has my grandfather's famous challah recipe in it (the challah book also has a recipe at the end).

The whole project took an entire morning; it is no wonder my grandfather used to do one step, then take a nap, then the next step...

But the little guy got really into it. He helped crack the eggs, and measure out the yeast and flour, and mix everything together. He even helped knead the dough.

You see him here, after the first rising, rolling the dough into snakes to be braided.

He also enjoyed brushing them with egg yolk and sprinkling on the sesame seeds.

I don't have a photo of it, but he also enjoyed eating them, and asked for more (and to make them again).
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Let the Sheet Mulching Commence!!

Reading about Permaculture and Edible Forest Gardening has given us some ideas about how to help change our new space and outdoor living area into more of an edible paradise.

But it all begins with the dirt... er, soil. And a LOT of ours has been covered in red volcanic lava rock over black plastic for 30 years. So I let my fingers do the walking and craigslist has come to the rescue.

People have been showing up to rake our rocks into small piles, then shovel them into their trucks and give them life somewhere else. One guy landscaped his aging father/retired rocket scientist's back yard. Another backfilled a retaining wall. Another is giving them to a school for their yard. Some people have come once, and two have come four times. Even with all of these people lending us a hand and giving our rocks a second lease on life, we still have a LOT left. I think it may be slightly under half, but am hopeful that it is a steady stream of people. I am really glad I don't have to rake and haul them to the dump myself, or hire someone to do it.

We have decided that sheet mulching is the easiest way to make our soil friable and support our new ecosystem. We are doing a very simple weed barrier and mulch method. For the weed barrier, we are using old cardboard boxes and old shopping bags. The mulch has come by the truckload from local tree services with wood chippers. I found the first tree service online doing a search for "free wood chips" and my city name. I got myself on a wood chip list and it took five weeks of waiting for the load to arrive.

The next three (yes, three) loads came when I responded to a craigslist posting for free wood chips. Turns out, they have wood chips every day. Now I have three loads of wood chips on the front lawn (this photo only shows one load, actually) and was tempted to have another delivered tomorrow (my husband talked me out of it).

We have been moving the chips in as the lava rocks are taken away. In these areas, we are only using wood chips, since there are no weeds to shade out. We are doing about 6" deep. In the areas that are next to the house, we used a weed barrier and a 6" layer of chips. On the small piece of lawn that is being converted to farmland (see top photo), we used cardboard boxes overlapping by 6", then a 6" layer of chips. If all goes well, we will be able to plant it out in a year. Over the course of that time, the chips will decompose the weed barrier and it will attract bugs, worms, and microbes~ basically, composting in place while shading out the existing lawn and weeds.

One of the best parts so far has been the neighborhood kids coming over to run up and down the pile, or to grab a rake and help move chips until they get bored.  That, and the sweet smell of the chips.  This last load is pine and smells like the holidays.
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Patch Pocket T-Shirt Tutorial

These are super-easy and cute and my toddler loves wearing them. He notices all of the designs and really enjoys putting things into his pockets.
To make these, I got a bunch of t-shirts from cheaptees.com. Then I cut rectangles of coordinating fabric from my stash. These I folded in half, right sides together, and stitched around, leaving a 1-2" opening on the longer side for turning. I turned them right side out, and pushed out the corners (I used small scissors but you can use a proper turning tool if you have one). I topstitched along one edge, then pinned them onto the t-shirts with the topstitched side up. You can see that I did some in the middle of the t-shirt, and some on one breast. Then I stitched around three sides, closing the turning hole as I passed it and making sure to only stitch on the front of the t-shirt (duh). Oh, I also added my label (from worldwide label on eBay) before stitching the pocket onto the shirt. You can hardly see it in the photo, but on the red long-sleeve shirt, I added another lengthwise seam to the pocket to make it into two pockets. It was really long, and I didn't want any treasures to fall out!
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