Valient Viewers of Braver Homes and Gardens

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Still No Spring

Well, spring still hasn't come to Wisconsin. 

In my Magical Garden, Veronica here is looking over dirt and mud as if to say, "For the love of God, grow!!"

Gabriella has simply given in to despair and collapsed in grief.

But there's some hope that Spring is on the way.  Some tulips poking out:

Some crocus emerging amid the snow:

The irises my friend The Gardener gave me last year look like they were a successful transplant.  They're out by the curbside so, hopefully, my sloppy neighbors don't squash them:

And finally, I left these nurserty pots of sorrel on the side, too lazy tired at the end of the season to dig a hole and throw them in anywhere.  Sorrel is a perennial and it looks like one of the two survived.  Hopefully they'll last enough so I can plant them for real:

Since spring clearly doesn't want to come to Wisconsin, I continue to try and cure my cabin fever indoors.  This past weekend, I tried a new pattern, Simplicity 2615.

I've been in search of a blouse with either kimono or raglan sleeves because I am sick of setting in sleeves.  I also wanted one that had no buttons down the front, since my bustiness makes positioning buttons a real chore.

I'm not sure I completely love it becuase the tie, combined with the gathered fabric might, I worry, create a maternity top effect over my potbelly.

But the fabric I used is a bit stiff.  I'm going to try it again with a more drapey fabric and see how the effect is.  I really like the pattern since it was incredibly easy to work with.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Curing Cabin Fever: Compst Bin

Well, I'm still stick of winter.  After another 1/2 inch of snow yesterday, I am really missing my garden. 

The Sunday paper today featured a recipe for soup with root vegetables.  I am SICK of soup.  I am SICK of stews.  And I am SICK of root vegetables.  Root veggies are what you eat in the dead of winter when there's no vegetation in sight. 

I am SICK of not seeing any vegetation.

So, to help cure my cabin fever, I started my compost bin.  I usually start one about this time every year.  Right in my kitchen. 

I just take a regular houshold garbage can.  Make sure to use one with a lid.  Things happen inside a compost bin that you won't want to see when you walk past it.

Flip it upside down and drill several small - and I mean small - holes.  The holes allow the air to circulate.   I also put a disposable tray underneath (just 'cuz I don't have anything prettier) since compost sometimes makes juice. 

On the bottom you spread a layer of shredded newspaper and a little bit of dirt or potting soil. 

Then you go visit Joe at the bait shop and buy a package of these:

Worms!  I keep my compost bin inside, so I use red wigglers.  They are tiny - whch is why you need to drill very small drain holes.  I came home my first year doing this to find the worms tried to make a run for it.  They failed.  But sweeping them up was kind of ick. 

SIDENOTE:  Which meant I had to go back to see Joe and explain that the worms made a run for it.  Now, Joe already thinks I'm weird because the first time I walked in I was eating ice cream and wearing my business suit.  In a bait shop.  He probably thought I lost my way to the mall or something.  When I told him I was composting, he looked at me like I was even weirder.  Only hippies compost.  Not girls in business suits, you see. 

So having to go back and explain about the runawayt worms to Joe and have him harumph under his breath that I should have drilled smaller holes was kind of annoying. 

Anyways, red wigglers work better for compost but they cost more.  The timid soul that can't stomach the idea of compost inside and who would rather keep their bin outside can use regular earth (fishing) worms because they can tolerate cold. 

Plop them on top of the dirt/paper and shut the lid.  They'll burrow down to the bottom.  After that, you can start tossing your plant-based scraps into the bin.  Coffee grounds are also an excellent addition.

Some rules to remember: 
NO ANIMAL PRODUCTS - That means no oils, no meat, no bones or skins.  Eggshells (but not eggs themselves) are the only exception. 
NO GARBAGE - Compost is plant matter that is broken down so the remaining nutrients can fertilize your garden.  Garbage does not break down like plant based materials do.  Would you bury cans and bottles all over your garden?  No?  Then don't toss them in the compost.

I also don't put in FUNGUS material.  It probably has to do with the biology of mushrooms or something but I threw in some old 'shrooms one year and had fruit flies for ages. 

So, as you add your plant matter, the worms will break it down and turn it into lovely fertilizer like this:
Yup.  You will see fuzz.  You will see mold.  You will see rot.  And you might think, "why on earth would anyone want this in the same room that they cook and eat in?"

Well, I assure you, you will not SMELL anything.  The picture above is from two weeks of composting and I have yet to smell an odor.  As long as your worms are alive, they do their thing which keeps the smell down just about nothing.  Periodically spreading another layer of shredded newspaper or a thin layer of potting soil also keeps odor down.  I find that dumping my coffee grounds in on a daily basis does wonders. 

You might smell a slight grassy smell.  I LOVE that smell. It reminds me of the scent of being outside with my hands in the dirt.  It's the same smell I get when I twist a squash off the vine, or snap a pea off the bush, or rip a weed out of the ground.

In other words, it smells like LIFE happening.  Right there in your kitchen.  By the time spring comes around, I will have a full bin of this stuff ready to pour into my garden for the first spring planting. Can't come soon enough! 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Oh my gosh!  I never win anything.  Until now!!

I stumbled upon a great health blog called Living Healthy in the Real World written by a Canadian gal named Sagan.  She writes on a wide variety of health topics - everything from nutrition methods, ingredients, fitness, healthy recipes, you name it.  She recently had a giveaway for a sample of Tropical Traditions Household Traditions Dish Liquid.   

Times are pretty tense at work right now.  I work in local government and,thanks to our dictator of a governor, thousands of dedicated public servants like me are on edge wondering if they'll be put out of work soon.  Things are really gloomy.  So I was just elated to open my mailbox and read that I WON THE GIVEAWAY!!! 

Sagan's message was the silver lining of an otherwise cloudy day!

I'm thrilled because I really want to transition away from using harsher chemical based cleaning products in my home toward using more all-natural products.  According to Sagan's review, this stuff only has deionized water, coconut and sugar based sudsing agents, surfactants, and emulsifiers.  There's no fragrances or dyes which is great, since I wash dishes without gloves.

I'm eagerly awaiting delivery in the mail.  In the meantime, check out Sagan's blog by clicking the link above.She writes in plain English - you don't need to be a health expert to understand what she's saying and  I'm sure you'll learn some new things and get some great inspiration for how to live healthfully in the real world.

Thanks Sagan!!