Happy Halloween

From Garden Spiders

Spiders can evoke nightmares and cause many people to pause or scream.  For us, they are friends.  We have plenty of them in the garden and some in the house which we don’t mind as long as they stay in the corners.  I should point out that they keep the house flies in check for us.  The webs they create always fascinate me especially when there is dew on them.

I don’t have to waste words extolling their natural beauty…

Spiderweb
Who knew a deadly trap could be this beautiful
Spiderweb
A crystal necklace
Spiderweb
Even a deer fence looks nice with the web on it
Spiderweb
Crystal monkey bridge

More spiderwebs and dew at Amazingseasons

Happy Halloween to one and all

Composting

Right In The Kitchen

People start projects for various reasons.  I know many people raise vermicomposting worms to be used as bait or to sell their casting, a technical term for worm poo, or just to compost.  Why do I raise worms?  Convenience and a little bit of laziness.

We have a large compost bin at the corner of our property where we dump a lot of thing in there: leaves, grass, discarded plants and kitchen scraps.  It works well for us. We fertilize the garden with this compost and use the semi-composted material as mulch in autumn.

From spring to autumn it’s easy to take the kitchen scraps to the compost area after I finish cooking and rake it with leaves and whatever is already in there.  It wouldn’t be pretty and it would draw critters in if I just threw it in. However, I have to bundle up in winter to go out there, making it more of a chore.  It’s even more inconvenience if there is snow on the ground since I have no way to cover it up.  I can’t leave it in the sink and have it become a malodorous fruit fly farm.

So, the worms come to mind.  I set the homemade box right in the kitchen. One additional thing I have to do is add bedding for them once a month. Otherwise it’s a very convenient way to get rid of organic kitchen garbage.

Given the chance, I prefer to construct things myself.  The way a commercial compost bin works seemed easy enough to make and won’t cost me an arm and a leg.  There are also plenty of ‘How to’ websites that I can learn from. So I set out to make one and it worked out well.  Here’s an amateur way to make a compost bin at home:

Materials:

  • Two plastic boxes that are big enough to house the worms for a while.  The box used for the bottom should be slightly bigger if the boxes are not tapered in. I used semi-clear boxes.  Many websites suggest a dark color box to keep the light out.  I put a dark cloth around the outer box instead. I use the semi-clear boxes because I want to be able to see how deep the compost is and how the worms are getting along.

Optional: If one of your boxes is bigger than the other, you will need two pieces of wood or brick that are short enough to fit inside the larger box. These are used as spacers between the top and bottom box.

In the smaller box, drill two rows of holes on all four sides, close to the lid: size .25 inch, and about 2” apart.  These are ventilation holes.  Drill a few of the same size holes at the bottom. These are for drainage. There shouldn’t be any liquid in the bin but just in case.

Drill 1/4 inch holes around the box, near the top

Insert the drilled box inside the other box, if they are tapered boxes you should have a few good inches between them at the bottom.  If it smaller than the outer box, put two pieces of wood or bricks inside at each end of the larger box to provide space between the two boxes.

  • Dry, old newspaper, NOT magazines or anything with a shiny texture or vibrant colors, NOT office paper either as it’s been bleached with heavy chemicals.  Brown cardboard box with no printing on it is also good. Tear or shred the newspaper into small pieces.  Leave some larger pieces to use as top cover.  Wet them then wring out excess water.  Fluff them up then spread in the top box.  This is the worm bedding and should be three to four inches deep.  It also has to be just damp, NOT soaking wet.
    I shredded newspaper and put it in the kitchen sink to be soaked
    Quantity of wet newspaper will reduce down to less than half of its volume when dry so shred more than the quantity you need to put in the bin.

    Wring the water out then fluff them up. The paper has to be damp not wet.
  • A little bit of good old dirt, half a coffee mug should be enough.  Mix the dirt with the damp paper.  This dirt is to add some microbes and grit to help the worms digest and break down food.
  • Kitchen scrapes. If it too wet, I leave it on a paper towel in the sink and let the liquid seep out a little. When I have time, I chop them into small pieces which helps the worms to devour it faster. If not, I just add them in the box.  Cover them with a thin layer of bedding so it won’t attract flies. The worms also prefer to work in the dark.
    I put discarded vegetables, banana peels, coffee grounds, crushed egg shells and spoiled fruit in for their food.

    If I have time or I know that I will cook a lot this week, I chop them up. The smaller bits help the worms to get rid of it faster.  Note: above photo, food is mixed with coffee grounds.
  • Vermicomposting worms; Worms that are used inside the compost bin are the Red Wriggler worm (Eisenia foetida) which tend to stay put in the bin. There are plenty of websites that offer them.  I purchased mine from Uncle Jim‘s. I derive no commission here.  They shipped promptly and their worms are healthy and work well for me.
The worms that are use for composting bin are much smaller than the common garden worms

Feeding: I feed them every time I cook.  If I’ll be away, I add new bedding and more food to last them until I get back.  I don’t chop food so it will take them a little bit longer to digest larger pieces.

Peel away the cover sheet: newspaper sheet or cardboard box
Rake up part of the bedding and old food. A small garden rake comes in handy for that.
Spread the food around
Cover the food with the old bedding. If new bedding needed, this is the time to add it. I add new bedding when I note that 85% of their bedding is gone (yes, they eat the newspaper too)
Put the top layer of newspaper or cardboard back so the bin won’t draw fruit flies and will keep the worms in darkness.

Close the lid and leave them alone until the next feeding.  If balanced correctly, the box should not smell rotten or rancid.  A good functioning box should smell like warm earth.  If the worm bin works as it should, you should be able to harvest the casting within a few months.

Happy composting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frozen Bubbles

Fun Thing To Do

If it’s very cold in your area now, here’s a fun thing to do. Let’s see what we can create.  Thank you Rambling ratz.

rambling ratz

I have always loved blowing bubbles. I had a great excuse to continue buying bubble blowing kits for kids, as my rat pals liked to play with them. Well here’s another great excuse; frozen bubble photography.Photo of frozen bubble

I took advantage of another frosty night and blew a couple of bubbles onto the the frozen lawn. The bubble freezes and pretty patterns are created. It seems as if the best results require temperatures of around -15 Celsius. It was probably around -2 C here. Most people in the UK will get very few chances to practice this technique.Photo of frozen bubble

I played around with red and white torchlight. Then I got very cold and came indoors and played around with photographic software filters.

Later on the sun rose and the bubble was still there!Photo of frozen bubble

Night fell and the bubble, looking rather tatty but with extra frosting, was still in existence.Photo of frozen bubble

If you want to…

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Sunrise & Sunset

The New Year Breaks

In the last couple of years I have made it a point to capture the January 1st sunrise and this year I managed to capture sunset as well.  It’s nice to wake up to a new year dawn albeit a moody dawn this year.

The sun peeking through the wood at 7:00 am, under a moody sky.
The sun peeking through the wood at 7:00 am, under a moody sky.

It was a little too cold to wait out in the garden so I went out every 30 minutes.  The new year starts with a gold swash across a blue sky.

At 7:30 am, the golden light start pushing out the cloud
At 7:30 am, gold light starts to push out from the clouds

Then blue sky by 8 am.

Finally the blue sky of the new year
Finally the blue sky of the new year

I don’t remember who said that we ‘can’t appreciate the light without the darkness.’  After hours of daylight, darkness comes to visit at 5pm accompanied by a sliver of moon.

The sun set at 5pm, however there was still some light at the horizon. The moon has already rise
The sunset at 5pm, though still some light at the horizon. The moon has already risen.

Nature is true to it course: sunrise and sunset everyday…never to fail.  If we could only apply this knowledge, this lesson, to life, our society, humanity.

 

Happy Earth Day

Respecting Mother Earth

This is the only home we have.  Mother Earth gave life to us.  She was here millions of years before we were.  The Earth is kind enough to provide all that is necessary to allow us to exist, but if we keep destroying her, she may not be able to continue supporting us.

Blade of grass encased in ice with a blooming dandelion in the background
Blade of grass encased in ice with a blooming dandelion in the background

She can create and she can destroy.   The picture above was taken on April 5th when we had rain that turned to an ice storm in the  night. That was after we had a couple of weeks of warm weather when everything was sprouting and beginning to bloom.

We need our Earth to live, but she does not need us.  We owe it to her and to ourselves to respect her kindness, her gifts.  After all, she breathed life into us, not the other way around.

 

Yellow Winter Butterfly

The Guest Who Came To Breakfast

I came out to make coffee in the kitchen this morning and found an unexpected guest resting on the kitchen sink.  I can’t really say ‘unexpected’ since I expected him to show up sometime in the near future but not this morning.  He has been lounging in his chrysalis next to our kitchen sink for the last couple of months, a totally different outfit.  This morning he came out fully dressed in bright yellow and just sat there staring at me.  I have no idea how long he had been there, in his new outfit.  Here he is…

Resting on our kitchen sink
Resting on our kitchen sink

I found him a couple of months ago when I picked some Swiss chard from our cold frame.  I didn’t want to put him in with the stuff to be  composted because I know that he’ll transform to a butterfly one day.  I set the Swiss chard stalk by the sink where it dried out and shrunk.  Every time I had to do something at the sink, I checked on him.

I didn’t expect him to come out this morning but it’s a great thing to wake up to.  Really made our morning.  I have no idea whether he is  a Sulfur or a Cabbage butterfly.  It didn’t matter what he is, I offered him  breakfast anyway.  I dropped some sugar syrup that I made for our honeybees for him and left him alone.  I came back a few minutes later and found he had moved to it.

Try sugar syrup
Try sugar syrup
Closer look
Closer look

And, his old cloth that he discarded

An empty chrysalis he left behind
An empty chrysalis he left behind

I went out to the garden for a while to do some pruning and to feed our honeybees and when I came back in, he was nowhere to be found .  He didn’t show up for dinner either.

 

Winter Storm

Surviving ‘Jonas’

Winter storm ‘Jonas’ hit us last weekend.  It crippled New York City for a day and dumped over two feet of snow in Central Park at the end.  All above ground transportation was shut down and non-emergency vehicles were not allowed on the road.  We ended up staying in the city over night and, I admit, it was fun.

I ended up walking around midtown during the blizzard.  A rare moment when New York City was dressed attractively.  No cars and not that many people around, the tense and busy city, for once, became serene.  I had taken a few photos during the walk before my fingers and toes felt numb enough to retreat back inside a warm building.

There was a flock of Robins on the cherry trees outside my office.  They were all puffed up against the wind and snow and were picking cherries off the trees.  I think they have a high survival chance since it’s usually warmer in the city and there are plenty of cherry trees along the city streets .  They also have a taste for bread crumbs.

Two Robins on a cherry tree in NYC
Two Robins on a cherry tree in NYC

We didn’t get much snow up where we live, only eight inches.  Luckily, the snow was still light and fluffy when we got home so it was easy to clean up.  Checking up on our bees we were heartened to see signs that they were still alive.  As long as there are dead bees on the snow, then we know there are live bees in the hive.

Jonas came and left and our lives go on.  I keep searching catalogs for new additions to the garden but won’t get too hyped up until the middle of next month.  Hopefully, Nature will keep her schedule.