Earthtainer – use it to compost too!

I’ve had a niggling thought in the back of my mind for a while, and it finally came into the light recently.

It seems a bit of a waste of space to have both the Earthtainer and a compost pile. Don’t get me wrong, having a separate compost pile is great if you’ve got a lot of waste, or even a lawn to mow, but what about those that lead smaller-scale lives? The people who live simply and don’t create a lot of waste over time.

My thought: Collect ingredients for the compost, but put them in the dirt section of the Earthtainer! If you grab a few worms while out for walks on rainy days, you’re set!

This is also ideal for tomatoes – when you plant them you’re better off half burying them a few weeks later (they put out more roots from the buried stem), and when veggie waste breaks down it shrinks.

Here’s the how-to:

Create the Earthtainer’s bench (the platform that has the wicking basket in the middle and holds the earth out of the water) like normal and put in the landscaping fabric like normal (keeps the dirt out of the water). Then put a big mound of dirt over the wicking area and surround it on all sides with compostable material. Repeat until the Earthtainer is 1/2 to 2/3 full, then top it off with a layer of dirt and toss in some worms.

The core in the middle will wick the water like normal, the worms will go into the scrap veggies and gorge – creating compost (vermicompost, technically).

EarthTainer – my customizations

The EarthTainer is a wonderful idea, but over time I think the Rubbermaid totes in the stores will get thinner and thinner (and less and less opaque) as the corporation cuts costs; this may make my tweaks required instead of preventative steps.

1.) After the main tub has been prepared (holes drilled and such) use the landscaping fabric to make an inside curtain from the top of the tote to the bottom in a full circle (if you like the look, feel free to do it on the outside – the black will absorb the heat from the sun).
This curtain should slow the sunlight and algae growth.

2.) Put in your support bench and cover all inside surfaces with the landscape fabric – much like a fabric cup. This should make it easy to pick up the soil as a package (no digging in the fall) and may keep most of the roots out of the water.

3.) Do NOT drill a hole for the feeder tube but cut an upside down U just below the bench level – best on the side facing away from the sun to slow algae and evaporation. This stiff flap stays closed until top up time.
Random tip: drill the ends of the cut so the cut doesn’t turn into a travelling crack as the plastic gets more brittle.

I plan to use a flexible hose (that’s stored away from the sun) to top up the water. I will probably have rain water in a large bucket and use a simple syphon to move the water.

Also: the second cup-like wrapping of landscape cloth will come in handy shortly… I forgot to drill holes in the bench for drainage into the water section. Heh, oops.

Dollar Store Gardening

I’m an avid fan of dollar stores, and with good reason: the ones in my area ROCK.

Here are some of my plans for uber-cheap gardening:

1 Plastic window box (these come in 1/4 round, square or long. I prefer the long ones – they disappear fast, though.)
1 nylon scrub pad cut in 2 pieces (the ones that don’t include soap)
1 packet of nasturtium seeds
1 packet of lettuce seeds
1 packet of calendula seeds
1 kid’s watering can
1 sheet of emergency blanket (the thin reflective kind. cut into smaller pieces – this is to reflect the sun back onto the plants)
1 package of bamboo sticks (the long ones – to support climbing plants OR to hold the reflective blanket)
And if I wanted to I could buy the soil in the dollar store too, but it’s cheaper in big bags.

Assembly:
Take the window box, flip it over and gently carve the recessed O’s out for drainage.
Flip it back to right side up and place the halved scrub pad over the holes; this acts as a filter to keep the soil in.
Fill with your choice of soil
Water with kid’s watering can (if you can’t get one with a sprinkling head, place a small square of scrub pad on the surface of the soil and pour on / into it; it absorbs the force of the water.)

Let your box drain for 5 minutes and then plant the seeds.
Put the box in a WARM place until the seeds germinate – the lettuce should pop out in a day, the nasturtiums shortly behind them.

Or: keep in a dark spot to encourage root growth (a day or two), then harden off or just stick them in the window.

My only concern is that the plastic may contain something that should not be in food / has chemicals the plants will absorb.

Bees may be affected by solar flares

The Bees Who Flew Too High

Bee ImageHoneybees and Sunspots may be interacting in one of the most unwatched ballets since television was created. Metaphorically speaking of course:

Imagine an aquarium containing a fish. Imagine also that you are unable to see the aquarium directly and your knowledge about it and what it contains comes from two television cameras, one directed at the aquarium’s front and the other directed at its side. As you stare at the two television monitors, you might assume that the fish on each of the screens are separate entities. After all, because the cameras are set at different angles, each of the images will be slightly different. But as you continue to watch the two fishes, you will eventually become aware that there is a certain relationship between them. When one turns, the other also makes a slightly different but corresponding turn; when one faces the front, the other always faces toward the side. If you remain unaware of the full scope of the situation, you might even conclude that the fish must be instantaneously communicating with one another, but this is clearly not the case.1

If there are processes in this universe of which we are unaware of the full scope, perhaps the only way to observe them is using the multi-camera metaphor. In this ballet – which has the tragedy of the prospect of agricultural collapse, the triumph of the idea of biological interaction with quantum processes, and the drama of far away forces dancing within our presences – we can become part of the dance as we expertly shift our camera views like an experienced television producer. In the process, a mystery may be solved, one making many of us (and perhaps not enough of us) nervous lately.

Camera One: Honeybees

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Egg shells as mini plant pots