Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yatta and collection of the week

If you want to dance yatta and need to grow suitable leaves I do recommend monstera deliciosa - a hardy houseplant. An added bonus is that anyone well endowed will have no troubble finding the right size. (In case you wonder; this is a parody of japanese boy band made by some of the most well known japanese comedians under the name of Happa-tai (leaf squad). The dance have become an internet phenomena and I publish it on this blog because... because... there are green leaves involved?)

This week I choose to promote Urban Farming on Indoor Gardener (the swedish motherblog Parkettodlaren features VI-skogen, an NGO that has been successfull in planting trees around lake Victoria in Africa). The NGO aims at planting food on unused land in cities, and have around 600 gardens around the USA (2008). I'll let them introduce themselves via the vid under the link.

Urban Farming donation page

Friday, November 28, 2008

Just a test...

Today I parboiled red borecole (kale) and when I poured off the hot water I could see that it had turned smurf blue. I guess my reaction tells quite a lot about me.

Did I scream? - No.

Did I curse those organic methods that clearly had gone too far? - No.

Did I think that the farmer had used smurfs as fertiliser? - No.

Instead I pondered over those blue streaks in my sink "probably the red colour of the leaves turns blue when diluted with water - I wonder if it works as red cabbage too?" If you didn't know it, red cabbage can be used as pH indicator: when the cooking water is basic it turns blue (however not smurf blue), and when the cooking water is acidic it turns red. I found some vinegar and dropped a drip on the blue floods on my chopping-board. Bingo! They turned barbie pink.

I've sometimes pondered to use red cabbage when testing my soil. True, you don't get that colour scale with a head of cabbage like you do when you buy a lithmus paper or one of those kits Patti Moreno is using. On the other hand it's cheap and you can bask in that warm and fuzzy feeling of using only natural stuff.

If I ever run out of lithmus paper I'll try the cabbage method, and I will use borecole. Say watever you like about smurf blue and barbie pink - the colours do cheer you up.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A few facts about grow light

Today's work was to empty the container I filled with water yesterday. My plan was to save it for the flowers, but the 'bath tub' prooved irresistible for the younger generation and when I found the cans for flowerwater already filled I gave in and fetched a siphon.

To get you something to read I tracked down a good page about grow light on the net. Little Greenhouse sell greenhouses (surprise) and have put some facts on their website. It's a clear and consise overview.

Indoor Plant Grow Light Guide

If you want added light and can't afford the lamps described you can use ordinary cold-white fluorescent tubes as bright as possible. They work almost as well and are far cheaper. I use them myself.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Decisions, decisions

I felt better today and we went on a trip to IKEA. May not be the wisest thing to do, but I have spent days staring at walls and wanted some change, and the furniture mall do have the best restaurant for our budget.

Our goal was to buy the plastic container on the picture above. We've finished our sketches on aquaponics and are due to make some tests. The test of today was to fill the box SAMLA (64 liters) with water to see if it could take it without distortion. It did, almost. Now we have to agree on what to do about it; should we build a support or use double boxes?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Impressed by the vermicompost

Things works at a slower pace right now, and this has been the case for a while (I wonder how long I've been ill). A couple of days ago we finally fed the worms. I've invested in a tight tin for vegetable scraps so we don't have to disturb the vermicompost with every other hour. The plan was to empty it every third day...

When we finally emptied the tin I had lost count on how many weeks it was since last. It STUNK! I'm not a squeely person, but I couldn't clean it out afterwards, even at a second try. The only thing I could think of was
"Bokashi, I'd rob a bank to buy a bokashi!"

Of course the vermicompost started to smell once we'd fed it and the odour spred far beyond the understairs cupboard where the wormsies live. I passed it several times agonising on our resale value since I was convinced this stench would dig itself into the walls. At the same time I noticed it was diminishing, but attributed it to the nose getting used to it.

The next morning the odour was gone - completely. To be sure that my senses didn't play tricks on me I stuck my head into the cupboard and took a deep breath through the nose. The only thing I could smell was wet leaves. I asked the hubby to do the same, and he didn't feel anything either. In a few hours the wormsies had devoured all the stinky stuff - and I have a feeling they found it delicious.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How to test your garden soil (GardenGirlTV)

My plan was to write about soil this week, but since I'm ill I have to "hire" a substitute. There are a lot of interesting stuff in this vid where Patti Moreno analyses the soil in her raised beds with the help of an expert, Mark Highland from Organic Mechanic Soil.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I went to the doctor today

The Cold From Hell turned out to be pneumonia. May seem to be bad news, but it is a jackpot to me; at last I can get medication and heal! My lifelines have come to good use today too, and tomorrow an exciting event will take place here; the hubby (age fifty) and the son (age three) will harvest wormfluid and feed the worms in the vermicompost - after my instructions.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

If you can't do it all do some of it...

My lifelines came to use this day. I've caught the Cold From Hell and hardly have the strength to think. Still I (finally!) brought down the lamps I use to give the seedlings growlight. You fight to the bitter end...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Things you don't do...

Today I had lunch with a friend who grew up on a farm, running around the barnyard, driving tractors and everything else included in the concept. I, on the other hand, grew up in the city close to cars and heavy traffic. To this day my friend doesn't walk close open water (they had a well and a river on the farm) and I was twenty before I realised that the street beneath the sidewalk won't give you a electric shock and kill you when you step on it.

We had some fun over our respective hang ups, and then I said
"But sometimes you get odd knowledge: My father taught me well and hard that you don't plant fir trees on good arable land..."
Before I could finish the sentence I saw her shudder
"No," she said, "you should not plant fir trees on cropland."

It's true. I go nuts if I see fir trees on good soil (for example as a living fence around a house), and apparently I'm not alone disliking the sight. But what's the problem with it? Well, fir trees depletes the soil and acidify it. If you have a good ground you should take care of it!

I have to think in a similar way when I grow stuff indoors. At least one of the plants I've grown poison the place where it stands. The ice plant can grow in salinic soil, and that's why it sees to make its environment more salty. In short it gathers salt in stems and leaves, and when the mother plant rots it releases the mineral into the ground making it unusefull for any other plants but the seedlings from its own seeds.

Well, you don't need to let the plants wilter (hard) or rot (haven't tried yet) in the container, but ice plants are among the vegetables I don't put in my vermicompost. I feel the salt from foodscraps are enough for the wormsies to handle. Moreover, everything that goes into the compost travels on to the soil, the plants and then into me. As to salt I suspect that the plants are worse off than me, on the other hand there are other things that will have their impact on me. Used tea leaves and coffee grounds are banned from the compost, eventhough they are said to make a great end result. The coffein would soon end up in a tomato close to me, and even if coffeinated vegetables may appeal to some I have my doubts if it's good in the long run. After all, I will feed these vegetables to my three year old.

I've weighed myself for the first time after joining One pound lost on one week, wohoo!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lemon Tree Animation (with Subtitles) + collections

This is an animated video for Fool's Garden's "Lemon Tree". It's far from Pixar, but I fell for the clever adaption of limited possibilities made by mikemillenium17.

I take some liberties on Sundays, and this week I decided to add weekly collections to my funday. The background is my discovery of Fundable where people can start collections for any cause. CD recordings, fundraising for birthday gifts, help with vet bills - you can find anything. While browsing the website to find out how it works I found this. In short a mother (?) ask for help paying a second co-pay to the insurance company billed to her since her daughter had to spend 36 hours at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) when she was born. And it's not peanuts to pay, it's $1,500. (I'm not bragging, since the swedish social security system has it snags and malfunctions, but we had to pay $50 when I delivered our son, which included two days at hospital - meals included, and two doctors, a nurse and a midwife assisting through a somewhat troublesome event.) Since I'm broke I can't afford to give ten dollars, but I decided to post a link to the collection at my blog.

Please give, and if you are as broke as I am forward the link to more people instead.

Our Hospital Bills-NICU

Since you're giving on trust at Fundable I decided to add a weekly 'collection' for a well known NGO too - they must have a long history of being trustworhty and have a 90-postal giro in Sweden (swedish authorities check NGO's collecting money in Sweden and gives the reliable ones a special postal giro number starting with 90). Since I've heard about at least three catastrophes while browsing the news the last month (flooding in Yemen, forest fires in California and conflict in Congo) the first one out is the Red Cross. Catastrophes happens, and they are among the few who always are there to help. The link is to the donations page of the American Red Cross, if you live elsewhere you can find your country via their international website here.

Red Cross donate online

Saturday, November 15, 2008

FRESNEL LENS SUN COLLECTOR Heating a Swimming Pool...

I like GREENPOWERSCIENCE. Dan Rohas makes interesting demonstrations of solar power using fresnel lenses (flat magnifiers - the size he uses is normaly used in phares) and parabols. For some reason things often bursts into flames, even when he's demonstrating how to heat your pool with solar power.

Of course you can boil water this way. Take a look at the sequel:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Didn't do much today...

Today I moved one of my seedling nurseries to a brighter place.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I finally came around to do it!

Today I 'shifted' my vermicompost. After spending weeks trying to make middle walls for the containers I happened to read in "Worms Eat My Garbage" (the vermicompost standard work) that a barrier wasn't necessary. Duh!

A compost with a pierced middle wall will probably be more tidy, but if the process works without it I'm ready to let my composts (they're two now) be as they are for a while. Perhaps I'll even get around to make barriers some day...

Digging around in that brown goo was quite fascinating. I found a mass of worms, big and small ones alike. They do thrive. But they hadn't finished their meal and their leftovers stunk when I moved them around. Perhaps the containers have too few air holes - I need to look this up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Rats! Today I took a quick look on a job I was planning to apply for, and realised that the deadline was today. Instead of building stuff for my worms I wrote CVs and personalised letters and clicked through web forms.

Days like this comes every now and then, so what do you do if you keep your entire garden indoors? Eventhough I'm trying to devise this system to be as lowmaintenance as possible I currently have to check up on my plants and water them once a day. This is why I've put up a few lifelines.

The first one is a recycled plasticbottle in my fridge labled "diluted worm pee" (gross, I know, but at least I don't mix it up with something edible). Whenever I have access to "worm pee" (the fluid that pours from the bottom of the vermicompost) I mix a tad into the water when I'm watering the plants (one half deciliter of fluid to fifteen deciliter of water). Of course I don't do this when I have Importent Things to Handle (tm). In these situations it's good to have some premixed solution to pour over the tomatoes, the hugriest plants in my 'garden'. Perhaps it's not good to chock the roots with cold water, but the plants haven't complained so far.

The second lifeline is to leave the watering can at least half full. This way I can just grabb it and rescue a plant that's started wiltering. In this case I can congratulate myself on using room tempered water.

The last life line is our own water carafe in the kitchen. The water is hardly demineralised, but it works when the ever thirsty basils are drooping. I guess they're happy we've not fallen for the trend with carbonated water.

Oh, and I've joined Sparkpeople to loose weight. It's a pretty fun program actually, easy to handle and completely free. Yesterday when I weighed myself I was clocking in at 88 kilos (194 pound), my aim is 60 kilos (132 pound) by february 2010.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The battle against murphy

I've demolished a plastic lid today. I was trying to make some barriers for my vermicompost and the thing didn't cooperate. I blame the fret saw! I'll make another attempt tomorrow, this time with the jigsaw. Battle continues...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Muppet Show - English Country Garden

Another version of "English Country Garden" with muppets. Wonder why I fell for this one...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

TreehuggerTV: Urban Homestead

I wonder if I'll end up like this some day...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Seedlings and fishes

You know, sometimes I surprise myself. Last week I sowed some seeds, and now I'm panicking because the seedlings are starting to surface. That's one thing I should've forseen. And now I'm frantically looking for a preliminary seedling nursery somewhere. My babyplants are placed in a eastern window and are already too outstretched to be healthy. They need light! I would like to place them on the windowsill in my study, but that room is filled with rubbish and the area in front of the window is blocked by a pile of pallets.

The seedlings are not the only things destinied for my study once everything else is carried out of it. The study is also the room where I'll place my first aquaponic systems. Yesterday I printed a very good manual on "barrel-ponics" ie. a system made of barrels invented by Travis W Hughey. Together with hubby (chemical engineer and old tropical fish enthusiast - sometimes I'm more lucky than I deserve) I modified the system into two even simpler systems for indoor use.

If you are interested in aquaponics I rekommend starting with the barrel-ponics manual. You can download it for free and it's quite good. If you can afford it I ask you to donate to the author, though, anyone giving away things should be encouraged. If you'll find you want more I recommend with informative articles and a book store that makes me drool...

My first systems won't be that remarcable. Hubby and I decided on goldfishes for the first tries. Today we went to one of the local petstores to check out the current prices. A small goldfish cost thirtyfive kronas (about five dollar) a neon tetra five kronas (about seventyfive cents) - hm I may use tetras instead. A sixtyfive litre (seventeen gallon) aquarium would cost me close to sixhundred kronas (about seventyfive dollar). Interestingly enough a plastic box of the same size is sold at IKEA for seventynine kronas (ten dollar) and I know that members of our local tropical fish association use them for nursery tanks. I have tough decisions to make.

And speaking of tough decisions, Just a short thanks to my US readers that you voted last night. No matter who you voted for the action in itself counts. Thanks.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Chris Elliott and Gerard Mulligan's Tips For Green Living

This is humour on compost level, so you may want to avoid this vid if you have a week stomach. Since I met hardcore enviromentalists and garden enthusiast I still have a kind of "but it is just like that" feeling.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sustainable Dave Explains Vermicomposting

Time for the Saturday vid, once again we are watching an tutorial in vermicomposting. Worms make you a bit nervous, especially before you've started the vermicompost and I liked the calm attitude of Sustainable Dave, so I thought a small repetition was appropriate. It's true what he says - it's fairly uncomplicated.

The links flashing at the end of the vid are and Both are blogs about sustainable living and seems to be nice reading.