Monday, July 13, 2009

Le Coop Du Jour....

Le Coop du Jour -

To the followers here.. I am moving my efforts to the sister site...

I am going to phase this one out.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Graywater Re-Use

Sorry I have not posted yet today, but I have been buried - in a compost heap of my own. So, as I was eating scraps for lunch... I stumbled on to an article written by Carol Steinberg and it is awesome. I assume since many of you read the drivel I write, you've probably already read the good stuff and this will be a repeat for you. But, I want to re-purpose it here for you and then link it to the site where I found it. Don't want to take credit for this - this is good work by Ms. Steinberg. What is it - Ms. or Mrs.? I always thought Mrs. meant married and Ms. was not. But if you don't know, what is the proper salutation? In this day and age nothing would be right. Mrs. would be offensive, Ms. is undoubtedly offensive and just shouting out her name like a football coach "Steinberg! nice article now drop and give me 20" is not cool. Carol is too informal. See where we are? NOWHERE'S-VILLE. We can't move in the name of offending someone. Anyway the article is on re-purposing graywater from our showers and laundry for use in the garden. And, she gives us some great ideas for gathering water which we would otherwise waste... Great stuff here. By the way - I am not putting in the entire article it is too long - This is an excerpt.

As many regions’ water costs rise, more people are asking if the water that flows down their drains after bathing and washing—known as graywater—can be used to water gardens. Increasingly, state permitting authorities are saying yes—with conditions.

In Arizona and New Mexico, homeowners can drain graywater right onto their lawns and landscapes. In states where laws are more stringent, especially California, underground graywater irrigation systems—some involving sophisticated water sensors that direct water to where it’s most needed—are popping up. You can help the earth and reduce bills by installing a system yourself. Though regulations vary by location, setting up a fairly simple water-reuse system in your home is becoming easier and more common.

More than soapy water: A graywater overview

Preparing graywater requires a few basic steps: draining it from the house to your graywater system via pipes kept separate from toilet drains; filtering out fibers and greases; then disinfecting the water and treating its carbon. You can take care of the last two parts—disinfecting and treating carbon—by setting up a system in which graywater drains under a few inches of soil, gravel and plant roots. The plants and soil will naturally treat the carbon and disinfect the water.

Though kept separate from what’s flushed down the toilet—called "blackwater"—graywater still can contain bacteria and pathogens that could cause illness, although the small amounts present in most graywater are a low risk, according to a University of Massachusetts study. Graywater also contains carbon from oils, soaps and skin. As in all organic compounds, that carbon will decompose, potentially causing odors and clogging the air spaces in the ground. Health officials advise draining graywater under three to 18 inches of soil, where soil bacteria decompose carbon and destroy pathogens—and where plant roots can drink it up.

State regulations for graywater vary widely, so check with your municipality to be sure your system is legal. Some states consider kitchen-sink and dishwasher drainage blackwater because it contains grease, nutrients and food bits.In most states, graywater cannot be used above ground without a special permit. In nearly all states, a graywater permit requires submitting results of a soils test and an approved plan

If you’re renovating a bathroom or building a house, consider installing graywater drainage pipes—even if you can’t or don’t plan to use graywater now. In the future, water recycling will likely become the norm as this resource gets too precious to throw away!

Three easy ways to treat carbon

Although plants can disinfect gray

water, pouring carbon-laden graywater directly onto your lawn can cause odors and clog drip-irrigation emitters. Avoid this by keeping graywater oxygenated so fast-acting aerobic bacteria can consume carbon and pathogens. Specialists recommend three ways to treat graywater’s carbon: (1) add an air diffuser to your surge tank, (2) design systems that cascade water, or (3) simply apply graywater only to gravel, course sand or well-aerated mulch, all of which have lots of air spaces for aerobic bacteria to work.

A typical graywater system includes:

A surge tank to which all graywater first drains. This tanks equalizes and cools graywater flow so it doesn’t inundate the system with a deluge of hot water. A septic tank or 55-gallon drum, this also serves as a grease trap if the scum is periodically skimmed.

A filter to remove clogging parti

cles such as hair. You can buy a filter (see "Resources," below) or make one with a nylon stocking. For grease and sludge, use a grease trap—essentially a box with a baffle that holds back scum so it can be skimmed out.

Porous substrate, fluffy mulch or aerated tanks to promote fast-acting aerobic biological decomposition.

Irrigation components such as perforated pipe and drip-irrigation lines that get graywater to the plants.

Thirsty plants to use up nutrients and provide root systems that support microbes, which decompose carbon and germs in graywater.

Graywater At Work
Several types of systems use graywater efficiently.

1. Shallow gravel or sand trenches: After filtering graywater in a surge tank, drain it into 18-inch-deep, gravel-filled trenches planted with water-loving species. This California-approved solution is relatively easy to permit in many other states.

2. Sand filter: Drained from a surge tank, graywater can be filtered through a basin full of sand before it’s piped to drip-irrigate an orchard or a greenhous

e vegetable garden. In winter, divert graywater to a below-ground leachfield to avoid freezing.

3. Constructed wetlands: Wet basins full of gravel planted with water-loving species such as elephant ear and papyrus can function as a treatment system before you apply graywater to gardens. Plants and roots should be removed periodically to clear the basin of carbon residue.

4. Drip irrigation: Dispersing graywater to an entire lawn via drip irrigation—usually small hoses or pipes perforated with holes—requires filtering and treatment to avoid clogging.

5. Branched drain system and other mulch-filter systems: Graywater can be dispersed underground via a system of pipes that branch out to holes filled with woodchips, which compost the carbon and particles. In rustic variations of this, perforated basins of woodchips and straw at the outflow pipe are used to filter graywater before it’s discharged to the landscape.

6. Surface drip and spray irrigation: Spraying or otherwise applying graywater above ground usually requires, by law, disinfection through either ultraviolet or ozone disinfection or a reverse-osmosis filter. This must be approved in all states except New Mexico and Arizona.

Super article and great idea.

Upon further research, the Aussie's are killing us in this. They are all over it. I need to look into this a little more

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Post and Beam Construction

When I get big and strong, I want to build one of these.

How cool is this? It is from a company called Sand Creek Post and Beam

Check out this website and dream a little.

I have a 10 x10 garden shed with a gambrel roof, which I am a little frightened of, so are my kids. But, if I had one of these I would have everything I need! Except HDTV, running water and some electricity. I can manage that though, so maybe I would have everything... I would need a refrigerator and somewhere to cook... and bath.. Well, I've put all that stuff in before, I can still swing this. Price is going up and my hopes are going down... but you gotta dream!

What a website address, a few more words and it would have been the first

Sunflower and Chickens

One of the easiest things to do and one that everyone enjoys, including neighbors, is growing sunflowers. Some of the giant ones can produce more sunflower seeds than candy sprinkles get dumped on the ice cream in the Verizon commercial. And, chickens love sunflower seeds, in fact you can buy sunflower seeds at the feedstore. I just buy the "David" brand since my chickens like "Ranch Flavored". Oh that is bad.....

Anyway, Sunflowers are worthy of planting, are killer to look at and make a great food source of the chickens.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Soil Test Kits

Are they worth it? Sure...why not?

I decided to try one of these out. I bought the one at ACE Hardware for $21.99, sure glad I am given to impulse, cause I could have saved $7.00 less shipping buying on the web. I.D.o.I.t.

So, Mr. Lollipop grabbed it and was so excited to test for phosphorus and potash you'd thought I was given a lead role in Rocky 8. I would have played the guy pushing the wheelchair back and forth as Rocky's fists of arthritis bruised some shill's kneecaps. Adrian would have been there at the ready with his defib device...

So, like Rocky I took a swing at the soil, knowing, if I did not test it and need to buy $150 worth of soil amendment swamp waste that Madonna uses, I was not "really" doing the right thing for the garden. Argh!

I bought the Rapidtest Kit (seen below) and well, it was so chemistry-looking and technical, I simply could not pass it up. The moment I saw it though, I KNEW, I was going to buy it and get results I could have predicted, yet, still had to spend the money. Cause! what if my soil was deficient. I would be terrified. In this economic climate why add another worry?

I get it home, quickly test for nitrogen and viola' - perfect!. I test for phosphorus and viola' - perfecto. I test for potash and viola' - perfecto!!! I threw the pH test away. My soil has proven to me over and over, that I could drop a meatloaf in the ground and out would pop a meatloaf tree. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmm, meeeeeaaaaaatlooooooaf treeeeee!

Have a ketchup tree next to it and when it was windy the perfect union of trees if there ever was one. Oh wait, and a well of beer too.

Conclusion - if you have land that used to be a Jiffy Lube, test your soil. If you look around and see a lot of nothing, growing in your area, I bet your soil needs help and your local nursery can tell you what to add. Otherwise, I am sure it is just fine. Buy a couple bags of Miracle Grow soil amendment, it will make you feel better and your younger plants might just like it - regardless.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Heirloom Seeds

I have read enough and tasted enough heirloom grown vegetables to know there is a huge difference in taste than those that are not. This year we've planted basic Roma tomato's along with cherry tomato's, but we also planted five heirloom varieties. I am anxious to see them and taste them...

I have been surrounded by farming my entire life. My family is from Nebraska, where we farmed hundreds of acres of wheat, milo and alfalfa. I remember as a young boy traveling back to Nebraska during the summers and my folks dropping me off at the homestead and saddling over to Estes Park, CO for time alone. My sister and I would stare at each other thinking; "As soon as I can, I am going to knock your block off" Sure enough, we did, then we settled in to farm-life. Up at 5am for and a snack and out to the Combine. In at 7:30am for breakfast. Back out for more harvesting, in for dinner at noon. Back out for harvesting and then in for supper at around 6:00pm. Hard living, but good living.

Once on the west coast we settled in Salinas and I worked in the fields for many, many summers moving sprinkler pipe in the fields. Lettuce, onion, cauliflower, sugar beets, broccoli... we grew many of the staples for large produce houses. Foxy Lettuce, Bunny, T&A... Antle... Getting dirty, planting seeds, watering the fields and harvesting has been apart me longer than I have been on this earth.

So, to grow food in your backyard is smart, honorable, healthy and, well.... just good for you. Plus it doesn't get any better. So, I want to grow food that when planted - on my table, people not only notice the difference they want it for themselves and go off and become gardeners themselves.

Which brings me back to heirloom seeds. Find them, plant them and enjoy them. Here are some links to various seeds companies...

I would push you to the last one... if I was shoved up against a wall and told to eat a tomato from Safeway.

Composting - Weird Dirty Science.

Now that I have chickens, I am composting, nothing like chicken manure to light up a compost heap. So... instead of digging a hole and tossing various waste items in it - rat magnet... I began researching compost bins. WOW.. they are all over the board and all over the map in regards to price. It appears right now the one I am choosing is called the Exaco Composting Bin. The reason: It make sense to me. Hopefully that reason is sufficient, but really here is my thought process;

1. Looks - It really needs to look decent. Garbage cans are, well, for garbage. People across the world see it and think "garbage" - usually followed by "Wash your hands" so to have something that looks like a dirty garbage can sitting in your backyard, where people will be BBQ'ing and playing, is not cool. Even the ones by Mantis (two people looking like they are trying to start a Model T) or Urban Compost Tumbler, which look like a concrete mixers is not something I want on display. The Mantis looks like it could be seen from space ( with the gentleman spinning it on its stout frame - can't you spinning this thing and it jumping off the stand and taking your garden, pets and children out with it?) . Our how about this one... the EcoComposter. Really? The Death Star of composters?
The idea is to take organic material and break it down. Whether hot composting or adding worms to get the chemical process to begin, it doesn't matter, the Exaco, also known as the WIBO... it a nice, square shape and will fit in nice clean spaces.
Operation - Exaco's operation? Pour it in the top, shuffle the drawers, and open the hatch - Viola' compost. Gravity at its finest. I don't need to start a car, build a feable stand which is precariously perched off the ground 4ft, carrying a couple hundred pounds of dirt. Nor do I need a big ugly orb sitting in may backyard scaring my kids and taking up space.
Price - Exaco's range from $99-$159... some of these others are $299-$499. UGH.! In fact the one with my folks in the picture is $499. That is a complete waste of your money.
Of course do your own comparing, but I would keep the Exaco on the short list.