Friday, July 1, 2011

Hello again!

Hi, I haven't died. Everyone's fine. Just a bit overwhelmed with all I have to do around here.

Did anyone miss me?

Until I get back, here's a peek at my beautiful daughter.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

How does your garden grow?

A couple weeks ago I planted some seeds with the kids.

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Find the original post here.

And I thought I'd update you on the progress!

After planting the seeds in a mixture of potting soil and "starting mix" (just a bag purchased at the store) I put them under a florescent "garage light" in the basement. Mr. RBR claims you can just get these at a hardware store. It's a florescent light, but it just plugs in. No wiring.

I used twine to lower the light until it was only several inches above the seeds. Then I made sure the soil stayed damp by watering it every 2-3 days.

A couple weeks later we have sprouts!

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Radishes. I think.

It will be a few weeks until the threat of frost starts to decline, but unfortunately my side yard (where I plan to plant my little seedlings) still looks like this!

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Lots of work to do before it's ready. Any volunteers?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Special Delivery

If you've been reading the Room By Room blog, you might remember I started vermicomposting.

And if you're new here you're asking yourself, "What the heck is vermicomposting?"

Vermicomposting, is, in short, creating a little ecosystem in your home where worms eat your garbage. And it's very, very, very, very cool.

You heard me.

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If you'd like to know how to make your own vermicomposting bin, check out this post.

Because I am an impatient sort I originally went to a bait shop and bought...

wait for it...

72 worms.

72.

72 worms ain't gonna do nuthin'. The point of vermicomposting is to have a whole BUNCH of worms so that they eat up your trash right away. Like in a day or two. 1000 red wiggler worms = approximately 1 pound in weight. And red wiggler worms will eat up to half their body weight every single day. So 1 pound of worms will eat 1/2 pound of trash every day. Get it?

I needed more worms.

So I went to the website Uncle Jim's Worm Farm. On the site I noticed I could buy 1000 worms for $30 (including shipping), or 2000 worms for $40 (free shipping). I went with the 2000 worm (approximately 2 pounds of worms) option.

I thought this was interesting. The worms only ship on Mondays, so they don't get stuck in the post office over the weekend. I would have NEVER thought about that! Poor wormies. Don't want them to get stuck in the post office over the weekend!

Well today I got my worm shipment. It arrived like this.

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Well, this bag was in a little square box.

And this is what it looked like inside the bag.

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It is completely FILLED with worms. And it looks like a little peat/dirt mixed in.

They came with directions that said to put them in their habitat right away. Just set them in a pile on the top, covered with a sheet of damp newspaper and they'll disperse naturally within the next 24-48 hours.

So that's what I did.

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I'm trying to resist the urge to check up on them. Don't want to be a helicopter parent, er, vermicompost-ologist, er something.

Oh, what the heck.

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I even picked them up! Ewwww!

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OK, now I'll behave and leave them alone.

So, did you make your vermicompost bin yet? If you do, pretty, pretty please tell me about it!

Monday, May 2, 2011

DIY painting

Is it Monday already? I spent the whole weekend with my hands looking like this.

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I wish it looked like more progress had been made. Don't you hate that? Work your buns off all weekend and it doesn't look like much has changed? It's like, I remember painting, and doing all this stuff, why does it all look the same? Blah.

One thing I did finish, however, is a painting for the living room.

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Some day I'll get around to showing you the whole room. The only reason I haven't done it yet is because it's usually too embarrassingly messy to photograph. Some day, SOME DAY, however I will keep it clean enough for 2 seconds to make it photograph worthy.

Some day. Some day?

I'm liking the colors and the subtle textures and colors of my new painting.

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The canvas is homemade. It's a wood frame with drop cloth stapled to it. Next you use primer or gesso to seal the cloth. Let it dry. Then it's ready to create your masterpiece! ha!

I just used leftover wall paint and dabbed in on with a rag. Old fashioned faux painting style!

Use lots of paint and lots of colors. The texture creates interest. I used a blue-gray color, a green gray color, a green, a turquoise, white and black in this painting.

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Oh hang on, I gotta break up a fight.

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Ok. I'm back. Isn't he pathetic? Sweet, but pathetic.

Detail shot.

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Nice, right? Not hard. Give it a shot!

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Linking to some of these super, duper DIY blog link parties.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Slightly less sophisticated

Today we go from Candice Olson to the thrift store. Um, slightly less sophisticated.

I had a ball (really!) piling up the kids in the ol' mini van and making the trek to a few favorite thrift stores. On the way there I told my two boys if they were good (no screaming, no running, no fighting) then we could go to McDonalds. Worked like a charm--for once! ha!

I ended up spending $60 on this craptastic-ness.

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What did I get? Two upper cabinets ($30 for the brown one and $15 for the white one).

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A couple baskets ($2 each) and a frame ($4).

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A pretty little vintage rose painting ($2), a heavily tarnished silver dish ($2), and that white strip that isn't photographing well is vintage wallpaper (thrown in for free when I bought the cabinets!).

Here's a better view of the wallpaper. The outside is heavily battered, but unroll it a bit and it looks great.

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I think it's quite modern. I actually really like it! I won't be wallpapering with it, instead I'll use it to line cabinets.

I bought the baskets at a separate store than the cabinets, but was happy to discover they fit! WOO HOO

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Going to try to polish this dish. I thought it'd be a perfect spot to rest jewelry. Maybe even a soap dish? If it doesn't polish well I'll spray paint it.

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So what do you think? Trash or treasure!?

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PS. good thoughts to all dealing with the aftermath of the tornadoes. Be well.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Crush on Candice

I have a serious crush on Candice Olson, and it's not just because we're the same height with similar color hair. I looooooove her designs! And I don't even hold it against her that I probably am twice her weight.

I have every show she's ever been on saved on my DVR. I was thrilled when she came out with a new show, Candice Tells All.

More eye candy. And besides, now I wouldn't have to watch the same shows over and over.

Although I totally would.

Now I just won't have to.

When Candice revealed this room, my eyes completely bugged out of my head.

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It's hard to tell, but behind the sectional there's a wallpaper. It's like a giant gorgeous chrysanthemum line drawing. Of course I had to track it down.

It's called Chrysanth Neutral and it is made by a company in the UK. I have linked the website here.

Here are some better views of the wallpaper.

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It even comes in different colors, like red.

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Do you know where I'm going with this?

Thinking about DIYing it. Have I totally, completely lost it?

Possibly.

But I have a history of complex paint ideas that have turned out ok.




I'm thinking I could sketch it out, and then just draw it with a metallic paint pen, kinda like the mom cave.

Eek!

I can see Mr. RBR's sigh and his head shake already.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Vermicomposting for Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Here's a neat Earth Day project, vermicomposting.

It wasn't that long ago I heard about vermicomposting for the first time. What is vermicomposting? Well, in short, worms eat your garbage! How cool is that?

Do you feel as guilty as I do when I throw compost-able garbage in the trash? I felt like I was throwing away something that wasn't really trash. I knew that food scraps even had the potential for environmental benefits, if I only knew how to compost and turn it into fertilizer. The problem was I didn't really know how to start. And I was afraid of a big smelly pile in my backyard. I have heard if you do it right, it's not supposed to smell. Well, I didn't really know how to do it, so there you go. It seemed like a risky, long and smelly experiment.

Then I met someone who had a somewhat expensive store bought vermicomposting bin. She composted indoors, in a little compact area. No smell. The reason there was no smell is the food she threw in there would be gone--gone--in hours. And it left her with incredible fertilizer (humus). What is humus exactly? Well humus is technically worm poop. But it's not, um, poopy. It looks and smells just like soil. It basically is soil. Very nutrient rich soil. Some reports show plants grown with humus perform 126% better than those with commercial fertilizer!

Ahem, perfect for the seeds I started the other day!

I was sold! But I still couldn't justify the expense for a store bought system (about $80, plus shipping, plus worms. Probably $130 total). There had to be a way to do it cheaper.

Luckily I learned more about it at a free session at our local public library a couple days ago. I'll show you how to do it. It's very, very easy!

Supplies:
Container of choice
Drill, or another device to make air holes
Chlorine free water
Newspaper or computer paper
Handful of soil (from the yard is fine!)
Red Wiggler worms
Food scraps
Optional: Corn meal

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I found this bin at Target for about $5. You need about twice as much surface area as depth, and you can see this container is quite tall. No big deal, we just won't fill it all the way to the top. The reason is, these types of worms don't like to burrow very deep, so if you have a lot of depth it reduces the chances they'll get to all your scraps.

Worms also don't like light, so it's helpful if your container has a lid to keep out the light.

Worms breathe oxygen just like we do, so you'll have to make air holes. Using 1/8" drill bit, drill a couple rows of holes all the way around your bin, about 2-3 inches apart. No reason to measure or get uptight about it, just drill away. Avoid holes on the bottom, which will let moisture leak out. Avoid holes on the very top, which might let in light.

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Now you'll need to create the bedding for your new worm friends. Newspaper is cheap and easy bedding. Rip it or shred it. You'll also need to make it damp. Not soaking wet (you never want standing water in your bin), not too dry. But beware, the water you use to dampen your newspaper must be free of chlorine.

Municipal water systems use a lot of chlorine to get rid of germs in the water system. So if you have city water you can do one of two things. Let a container of water sit out overnight. The chlorine will off-gas and the remaining water will be chlorine-free. Or buy a gallon of distilled water.

Put the water in a bowl and dip in handfuls of shredded paper, taking care not to get it too wet. Alternatively, you could also dampen your paper with a squirt bottle. Whatever you feel is easiest.

Take your ripped or shredded damp newspaper and throw it in your bin. For a container my size, I added about 12-18 inches of newspaper.

Why shredded and why damp? Worms breathe through their skin. They need air pockets and moisture to be able to breathe. Why no chlorine? As I said, worms breathe through their skin. You know how your eyes get irritated if you open them in a pool? Yeah. Same idea.

Next add a handful of dirt.

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Dirt from the yard is fine. There are two things we're accomplishing by adding soil. One is beneficial microbes which aid in the breakdown of your scraps. Second, worms need the actual grit from the dirt to help with digestion.

This next step is optional, add 1-3 tablespoons of plain cornmeal (not a mix).

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According to the vermicomposting specialist at the library, worms love corn meal. It's a real "wake up call".

Of course no vermicomposting system is complete without WORMS!

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You'll need a type of worms known as Eisenia fetida. All of the sources I read says these are commonly known as "Red Wigglers." For the instant-gratification factor I went to a bait shop and asked for Red Wigglers. I was told this is a southern nickname, that we don't call them Red Wigglers in the North. Then he handed me a container of "Big Reds". So Red Wigglers, or Big Reds, you need a specific type of worm.

Red Wigglers are ideal because they do well in close quarters, don't burrow deeply and they eat a lot. If you use regular earthworms it may still work, but it will take a looooong time. Red Wigglers eat up to half their body weight every day. So figure it out with me. If you have a pound of worms (1 pound of worms = approx 1000 worms) in your bin, they'll eat 1/2 pound of garbage every day. SWEET, right? You'll be left with NO trash sitting around, getting stinky.

To get the worm/food scrap ratio right, you might want to keep track of how much food scrap you make each day for a week or so. Then you'll know exactly how many worms to buy. I didn't do this. I just winged it.

Also keep in mind that worms reproduce. Your worm population will double every 90 days or so. So it is possible to start small and work your way up.

The cheapest way to buy worms in bulk is online. Try redwigglerworms.com. One pound of worms (1000 quantity) will be shipped to your door for about $30 including shipping.

For instant gratification, nothing beats your local bait shop. I found one by googling "Live Bait" and my city name. However, you'll pay more per worm this way. I bought two packages of 36 worms yesterday for about $7. I paid approximately 10¢ per worm, when I could probably get them for about 3¢ per worm online. In case you wanted to know. ha! Plus I probably have about 1/10 of the worms I need to eat all my food trash. There are a couple things I can do about this. I can see how it goes and let them reproduce on their own, buy more worms at the bait shop, or buy a package of worms online. I haven't decided yet.

After all this explanation, go ahead and add your worms. Nestle them in all snug-like in their new home.

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All they need now is some food to munch. Add your scraps! Some people recommend putting scraps 1-2 inches under the bedding, so they are easier for the worms to reach.

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You can add pretty much any food scraps, but here are some things to avoid: meat, citrus, eggs (egg shells are fine), dairy, anything very oily or fatty. Pretty much anything else is fine! Even natural cloth like cotton can be composted!

All there is left to do is put the lid on.

It's perfectly fine to put this in the house, or leave it outside. However, worms do best in temperatures between 40º and 90ºF, so if you leave it outside, be sure to bring it in during periods of extreme temperatures. I put mine in my basement. My very own worm farm. Feeling very eco-friendly this Earth Day.

Wanna learn more? Check out this article from How Stuff Works.

Or buy the book Worms Eat my Garbage.

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I hope you give it a try! Still have questions? Leave a comment and I'll answer them.

I'm going to try to link to some of these link parties and hope I don't get kicked off! ha!


Update: I bought more worms! Read all about it here.
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