Archive for the ‘Urban Gardening’ Category

Chickens & Quail

October 21, 2009

Our chickens, Millie, Henrietta and Esther.   What funny ladies.

Millie is a Barred Rock and the other two are Buff Orpingtons.  They are all loveable chickens, especially Millie. 

They all free range in our backyard and give us great eggs. Wherever we are in the back yard, the ladies want to be there also.  Right under our feet.   This is a form of slowing down, the need to be watchful of not stepping on any of them.

Being raised in the city and on a military base for most of my life, I never imagined the joys of having chickens.  They are quite comical creatures.  When my husband and I come into the backyard, they look up from wherever they are and run as fast as they can to us.  Watching a chicken run that fast always generates a smile and chuckle from us. 

Chickens love to free range and eat all the bugs, grasshoppers, slugs in the yard.  We use to have a nice array of bugs in our yard but they have taken care of those critters.  Our yard attracted all sorts of insects because we never used any type of insecticide and we try to keep things natural.  We had frogs too but I think the chickens got them too.  Now the only place that has insects and frogs is our front yard.  Which is perfectly fine with me. 

We have a rather large compost pile in the backyard that the “ladies” would love to have access to.  We went from three pallet compost piles to one large one, made also with pallets.  The ladies “assisted us” with this move.  While we were shoveling compost in our wheelbarrows, the chickens were scratching away also, eating all the worms, grubs, insects to their delight.  They would even fly up on the full wheelbarrow and scratch inside it to make sure they didn’t miss anything.

Chickens are easy pets.  My husband built them a nice coop and every evening they go into the coop without any prodding and go right to sleep.  They do not like being outside when it is dark.  The few times that we were “late” closing up the coop, they were looking out the window of the coop waiting for us.  I think they just feel more secure locked up at night because we all know most everything loves chicken.  🙂



July 23, 2009

You can find out quite a bit of information on this topic on the internet.  We are already really into recyling and composting but when we learned about this, we tried it out right away.  Like alot of people, we read the online book from Joseph Jenkins, The Humanure Handbook. 

We did the basic model of one five gallon bucket, another modified five gallon bucket and a toilet seat.  Total cost for two compost toilets was less than $20.  We have used them and added them to our compost piles and haven’t looked back.  We initially had a separate pile for our humanure but somewhere along the line decided that compost is compost and it all breaks down anyway. 

Regular compost takes us about 6-8 months before we can use it anyway so we just add it all together.  We keep adding to our pile and when the bin is full, we let it sit and then use it.  Everything just breaks down nicely.  Especially the compost on the bottom of the pile.  Works wonderfully.

What is humanure?  Well it is the result of decomposing or composting human urine and feces.  When we began this journey, we were using peat moss, but learned a little about that and now use sawdust.  We found a very cheap supplier that even delivers to us without a fee so we are very pleased.

It is amazing that there is no smell with this process.  Everything stays covered and there is no usage of water, except of course to wash your hands afterward but you do that anyway, right?

We have two bathrooms and there are two of us and we fill two buckets (one per bathroom) about once a week.   We then put it into our garage and let it sit (covered with a lid) and use a second bucket in each bathroom.  When the second buckets are full, we take all the compost materials and add them to the compost pile (one of three piles).  We are pretty active people and it only takes a few minutes to do this, clean it thoroughly with soap and water and in the summer we allow the buckets to sit out in the hot summer for a few hours for a more natural disinfectant and then set them up to be used again.

There is always a compost bucket toilet set up though.  We received many buckets from Craigslist for $1 each.  They each came with a lid.

My husband is already planning to remove the regular, conventional toilet from one bathroom completely because the bathroom is already small and having two toilets is taking up too much room.  We never use the conventinal toilets anyway.  It is on his to do list.  Just hasn’t gotten around to it yet.  I’m sure it will be done within the next month or so.

There hasn’t been an issue with guests.  None at all.  It just works.  After explaining to people how to use the compost toilets, they do it and that is the end of the matter. After all, we are not asking them to carry their waste out to the composter.

Just think about it.  It’s natural, uses no water, no smell, easy, super cheap, no plugged toilet isssues, no septic tank issues … what else could you ask for?

Rain Barrels

July 19, 2009

Rain Barrels help us to save money throughout the spring and summer seasons by not having to use any city water on our garden. 

We have set up a barrel on each gutter around our home.  There are six total.  Each morning we spend about an hour watering our garden.  An hour, did I say? Yes!  We do this by using buckets and watering pitchers.

Of course, there are much easier and less time consuming ways to water your garden with rain barrels such as using drip hoses, however we enjoy the time out in the fresh air and just taking our time in our yard.  It is a great start to the morning.  Plus we get to talk to our plants.

During the winter , we just leave the barrel spigots open all the time and attach tubing to the ends of the spigots and just let the water go into the yard.  No problems at all.

We aren’t big fans of our grass so we don’t water it at all.  Never.  🙂  The benefit of not watering our grass is that it grows very slowly and we don’t have to mow as often.  We are slowly converting the grass area to either parts of our garden, greenhouse or native plants.  Just taking our time.  No rush.  We are planning to be in this home for a very long time.

Other uses for the rain water that we collect is to clean our cars, wash our hands while we are outside, and add water to the compost piles.  All while trying to keep in step with our frugal, sustainable ways.

Compost Thermometer

July 17, 2009

Compost thermometers are absolutely not necessary.  It is just fun to watch the temperature of our compost piles to ensure that they stay at a good temperature. 

We recently bought thermometers for each of our three piles.  The piles stay about  125 degrees.

You can go online to buy compost thermometer or look for turkey thermometers.  You just need something with a long stem that will reach a decent depth in the compost pile. 

Although our thermometers start at 100 degrees, you might find it more useful to get one that starts at 0.  Especially if you are just begining to compost and want to track the progress of your pile.


July 15, 2009

A great frugal, sustainable, earth-friendly, activity!  Compost!

You have to believe me when I say, there is something natural and fulfilling about rotting, decaying matter.  Compost is a way of giving back to the earth in a healthy way. 

We have three compost piles in our backyard.  Two strictly for kitchen scraps and yard debris and the third one for the same items plus humanure (that will be discussed in a later post).

There are alot of reasonably priced and high priced bins out there for people to use.  We chose to use pallets because they are free and my handy husband is… well “handy.”  He used four pallets to make each compost bin.

What do we compost?  Just about everything.  Everything includes normal kitchen scraps such as fruit peels, bread scraps, vegetable peelings, leftover foods, coffee grounds, etc.  We go a step further and include all our meat scraps, oily items like butter, cheese, and all types of paper.  The only thing that is not included is plastic. 

We know alot of people suggest not putting meat items or oily items in your compost.  However, it all breaks down nicely and since we keep everything we add to the piles well covered, we have had no problems at all.  There are no smells at all.   No animal pest problems either.  We are very particular about keeping everything buried and covered with grass, hay or leaves. 

I like to go in the backyard after work every day (regardless of the weather) and just look at the piles.  Not that you can see much when it comes to decaying matter.  All I can really see is the level of the compost that shrinks each week.  It just makes me happy to go out there and look. 

During the summer, I love to put my hands on the pile of compost leaves and grass and feel the warmth of the pile.  It is truly amazing.

We have great compost!  We put thermometers in them recently to see about how hot the piles got.  You can read more about our thermometers later.

If you can find the space and time to compost, you should try it.  We went from a weekly garbage pickup to a  monthly pickup about ten months ago and haven’t looked back.  I think we could even get by with a bi-monthly pickup.  I will have to check and see if that is even an option.

Que’s Garden

July 15, 2009

When we bought our home a little over a year ago, we immediately started a compost pile. It took awhile for us to pay any attention to our yard (besides basic maintenance), because we just had other priorities inside the house.

What types of things do we like to grow? Anything with a seed! Really! While we are out shopping for groceries or eating a meal, if there is something that we think will grow for us at home, we try it. Anything! We  just disregard the gardening zone we live in (which is zone 8/9 by the way).

Here are some things that we have put in our garden:

  1. Aloe Vera
  2. Asparagus
  3. Avocado
  4. Basil
  5. Beans
  6. Bell Peppers
  7. Blueberries
  8. Broccoli
  9. Cabbage
  10. Chamomile
  11. Cherries*
  12. Chives
  13. Cilantro
  14. Coriander
  15. Cucumbers
  16. Dill
  17. Eggplant
  18. Elephant Garlic
  19. Fennell
  20. Garlic
  21. Ginger
  22. Grape tomatoes
  23. Green Onions/Chives
  24. Horseradish
  25. Kidney Beans
  26. Kiwi
  27. Leeks
  28. Lemons
  29. Lemon Cucumbers
  30. Lettuce
  31. Limes
  32. Marigolds
  33. Nasturtians
  34. Oregano
  35. Paprika
  36. Peaches
  37. Pears
  38. Peas
  39. Pickles
  40. Pinto beans
  41. Plums
  42. Pomengranate
  43. Potatoes
  44. Pumpkin, White & Yellow
  45. Raspberries, Golden
  46. Raspberries, Red
  47. Rhubarb
  48. Rice
  49. Roma tomatoes
  50. Rosemary
  51. Sage
  52. Spinach
  53. Strawberries
  54. Sugar Cane
  55. Sugar Snap Peas
  56. Sunflowers
  57. Sweet potato
  58. Tea
  59. Thyme
  60. Tomatillo
  61. Tomato (Roma, Yellow, Zebra, Grape)
  62. Walla Walla Onions
  63. Watermelon
  64. Zucchini

To grow later:

  1. Kumquats
  2. Peanuts
  3. Corn
  4. Carrot
  5. Persimmon