How to Start a Simple Compost

For those of you that live under a rock, composting is an easy way of creating your own nutrient-rich soil while simultaneously saving your yard & kitchen scraps from ending up in a landfill (or burn pile, if you’re from the country).  This method requires minimal effort and creates excellent soil for your gardens, planters, pots, ect.  Composting isn’t rocket science, but there is a little more to it than just tossing your scraps in a pile.  Here’s the simplest way you can create your own compost.

compostbin2 A great way to start a simple compost operation is to –

1. Get yourself a big rubbermaid container and a lid or two.  This size is perfect for one household and also small enough that it can be indoors if you choose.  Drill small holes in the bin and one of the lids, 1 – 2 inches apart.  If your bin is inside make sure to put it on top of the second lid or something else to keep the bin from leaking gross things directly on to your floor.

2. Dig up some dirt.  There are also several great activating products you can buy and mix with the soil to give it a running start.  These products are not totally necessary, without them the decomposition process will take longer initially but will be just fine.  Before you dump your dirt in add some branches to the bottom to create good air flow.  Fill your bin no more than a little over half way.  You will need the room to mix your compost up and eventually it will get fuller.

3. Purchase tome tiny & slimy tenants for your bin.  I just buy the same worms from the hardware store that you would use for fishing.  I honestly can’t think of any other place you could buy worms.  You could dig them out of the ground if you’re feeling ambitious. Also if your bin is indoors and you don’t want worms in your house, I understand. You don’t have to. (But they help and they also reduce the smell.)

SIDE NOTE: Think of how awesome it is for those worms when they figure out they get to hangout in your compost bin instead of dying slowly on the end of a fishing hook and possibly being eaten.  Heck ya, little dudes!
I might be on my second glass of wine right now.

4. So that’s pretty much it.  You can now add scraps to your bin at will.
It helps to add some brown stuff (leaves,grass) whenever you add some green stuff (kitchen scraps).  It keeps the moisture balance in check.
ALSO shake your bin up or mix it with a hoe or shovel or something after you add scraps OR at least once a week.
When it gets full, shovel some into your garden.

You CAN actually keep your compost bin outside all year round.  If you keep adding to it even when it’s frozen it will kickstart itself in the spring.  Turns out the thawing & freezing it will go through in the fall and spring is great for breaking down materials and will make for speedy decomposition when the temp. is right.

That being said, here are some things you SHOULD NOT put in your compost:
Meat, fat, grease, oil, bones.
Lime.  It will bring your operation to a screeching halt.
Poop. Any kind of poop.
Anything that isn’t biodegradable.
Colored paper. For some reason.
Anything toxic.

For an enormous list of things you CAN put in your compost, click here.

It’s extremely hard to screw up composting.  Just give it a shot and your planet, more specifically, your garden will thank you!

How to Start a Simple Compost

The Most Eco-Friendly Way to do your Laundry

The biggest change in my living since moving into Casa Container has been the transition into being an environmentally safe & water conservative being, and therefor creating a living space that reflects those values.  Being responsible for a (tiny) household ( & a tiny septic tank) makes you extremely conscious of every litre of fresh water that moves through your pipes.

Since the move I’ve employed many simple ways of conserving/reusing/reducing my water consumption.   Read about all of them here.

I recently revealed on my latest snapchat tour that I hand wash my laundry with recycled greywater.  In doing this i’ve cutback significantly on my water usage & electric bill and extended the life of my clothes by not subjecting them to the roughness of a washer & dryer.

Interested? Learn how below.

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Personally, I use shower water (provided being absolutely filthy isn’t the reason for the shower).  Shower/tub water actually contains minimal organic matter, which means this water is totally fine to wash your clothes in.  I just plug the drain & let it fill up while i shower.  The soap & shampoo i use is also 100% natural and environmentally safe ( most of my products come from a local company purejoynaturals.ca ).

If you don’t want to use greywater you can still use less water than a washing machine by filling a rubbermaid bin (or other bin) with fresh water and using the same process.

I add a few scoops of PJN laundry soap and dump my clothes in.  With this method, I find it’s best to do small loads frequently and not to wait until you have a heaping basket.  I do mine every few days because
1) Water stays cleaner with less clothes
2)I have limited drying space
3)Leaning over the bathtub can be strenuous, and you don’t want do have to do it for a long time.

First, I let everything soak for a couple minutes, then i swish it around to mix with the detergent water, so the soap gets at every part of every garment.  After that I pay any special attention needed to stains, spots, ect.

When you’re ready to take your clothes out, pull them out one at a time and squeeze as much excess water out as possible without wringing them.  Wringing the garments will stretch, weaken and wear down the fabric.

Like i said earlier I have limited drying space because I use one of those wooden drying racks.  Ideally (in the summer) the drying rack is outside on the deck when i lay wet clothes on it because fresh air, breezy, dripping, blah, blah.  In the winter i set up in my living room and put a towel underneath.

Once all your clothes are out and drying, consider bucketing the water for your lawn or non-food garden before you drain it.

And voila! Perfectly clean clothes using NO electricity & NO extra water!
100% doable and you didn’t even have to bring your old Columbus Co. washboard down to the river.

 

 

The Most Eco-Friendly Way to do your Laundry

Make the Most of your 3am Wakeups

All my life I can remember being plagued by irregular sleep patterns.  Naturally I like to stay up late and sleep in late.  I go through short cycles where I’m motivated to wake up early and go to bed at a decent hour.  But it never lasts.  After a few weeks I’m back to my old night owl-ing ways.

Because night owls tend to sleep in to account for the hours they don’t sleep during the night, they can often be accused of being lazy. People can also use being a “night owl” as an excuse for laziness but let me tell ya.  For the true members of the B-Society (what Scandinavians call night owls) laziness is not the issue.  Late night productivity is something myself and, i’m sure, many others pride themselves on.  I can get more than enough done between the hours of 11pm -2am to make up for the morning hours I like to opt out of.

Another curse of having irregular sleep patterns is waking up at any and all hours of the night.  We’ve all experienced the “3:23am and your wide awake” sensation.  My own such experience is what inspired this blog.  I’ve been driven to research as to why this happens and how to make the most of your own sporadic wakefulness

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Scientists say that 2 – 6 wake ups during the night is normal.  Many occur for a biological reason such as you have to pee, or you’re too hot, or indigestion.  Others are for no reason at all, these ones you don’t often remember because you just roll over and go back to sleep. But what about when you cant fall back asleep?  What do you do?

If you can’t fall back to sleep within 20 minutes it’s actually best to get out of bed.  The awakeness (probably not a word, dont care, you know what i mean) you feel is a weird random burst of energy,  Your body doesn’t feel like it needs to sleep anymore and sometimes you need to get up to show it the difference.

The first thing you should do when you get up is make your bed.  Odd as it seems, this will benefit you when you go back to it later.  This will subliminally tell your brain that it is going to bed AGAIN (as if on another night)  instead of going BACK to bed.  It will look at it as a new sleep instead of resuming a crappy one.

While you are up, as tempting as it may be DO NOT turn on your phone or computer.  The light from the screen (yada yada yada you’ve heard this before, but it’s true!!) messes with your melatonin levels and you will make going back to sleep much harder.

The best thing you can do is a relaxing activity such as stretching, reading, or just sit in on the couch and listen to quiet music (but don’t fall back asleep there). Or engage in a rather mundane task, like assembling your breakfast or lunch, folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher.  This will put your brain into autopilot mode and eventually make you ready for bed again.  I like this idea in particular because it means one less thing you will have to do during the day.  You can make your day a little easier by compensating for the awkward sleep you had.

Next time someone gives you flack for sleeping in, tell them about all the things you got done before 6am.

Make the Most of your 3am Wakeups

How to Clean a Bear Skin Rug ( & Other Taxidermy)

I was recently fortunate enough to give an old black bear rug a new home.  I don’t think i would ever order such a thing on my own but this one already existed and had belonged to my parents.  They used it for a while but the dogs didn’t like it so it was put away and forgotten about for years.  It came into my possession this passed Christmas and has since made a beautiful addition to my little home.

It was not so beautiful when I first received it however.  It was dusty from being discarded in storage for many years, the paws had come off the felt mount and it needed a little love and a new environment.  Which begged me to ask the question, “How the heck do I clean this thing without totally destroying it?”

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General Maintenance

You will need to use a comb (not too fine) first to get out dust bunnies and debris and other foreign particles.  For best results do this while quietly chanting “Nice bear… soft bear…clean bear…”.  Comb with the direction of the fur, so you don’t create any breakage.

Next mix up a bucket of mild, eco-friendly soap (or 5% white vinegar/ 95% water solution) and use a sponge.  Wring the sponge out as much as possible so it is just bear-ly (AHahahaha…) damp, you do not want your rug to be wet at any point.  Gently wipe the bear in the direction of the fur. Rinse and ring out the sponge as you collect yuckies, so you don’t just spread them around and mix new water if it becomes to cloudy.

Allow it to “dry” (it shouldn’t be wet) for a while (few hours or overnight) and come back with the comb (all cleaned out of course).  Comb through it again, this time to break up any clumps from being damp, and too smooth the fur and make it look nice, remember to follow the natural lay of the fur.  

Do this once a month or more often in high traffic areas.  Rugs will collect more dust and dirt than wall mounts (and endure more wear and tear), so they will require more attention to keep nice.

Spills

If it is a wet spill, just dab with a towel or cloth and try to soak up as much moisture as possible.  Use a damp cloth but do not make the rug any more wet.  Moisture and heat are the enemies of your bear rug.

Note that my rug is a black bear, and would not show dirt or dust as evidently as a polar bear or any animal hide of a lighter colour. For stains or damage to a polar bear rug I would only recommend having it cleaned by a professional.  I’ve seen images of people trying to fix theirs by bleaching it or using other solutions, only to damage it further.

How to Clean a Bear Skin Rug ( & Other Taxidermy)

Reuse Grey Water, Save Water, Save $$$

Maybe my late blog gives me away, but 2016 has started out a little rough.

My first night in the container house was December 23rd…. my first day of running water was 2 days ago.  The 2 weeks in the middle were a little more like squatting in my own house than living in it.  I had been hauling water by the bucket (which I understand is a reality for many people) and showering at my parents’ house.  It wasn’t luxurious, but i gained a lot of perspective in that time.

The majority of us, in the western world, have ample access to clean, running water, mostly right in our very homes.  This is a privilege I can honestly say that in the past, I have absolutely taken for granted.  This experience has prompted me to do some research and look into all the ways we can better use that water, and waste as little as possible.  By doing this we can be respectful of our planet, the global water crisis and communities without such luxuries, as well as being humble first world citizens.

A large portion of unnecessarily wasted water is “Grey Water”. It is the water from our sinks (including dishwater), bathtubs and laundry machines that is not totally unsanitary and could be used again for purposes other than direct consumption.  Think of the places where we use fresh water where it is not required, toilets and gardens for example (these are the big ones in my house).

Disconnecting the j trap under the sinks and allowing the water to run into a bucket is an easy way to save your grey water for repurposing.  It may require a watchful eye to make sure your bucket doesn’t overflow, but being mindful is the name of the game, non? From there you can dump that water in the tank or bowl of your toilet to flush it.  Toilets are responsible for 31% of overall household water consumption.  You could stand to save 31% of your water bill, couldn’t you?

Plants and gardens are also a big one for me.  I love gardening and have many houseplants that at one point i was watering with fresh water until i learned about the grey water method.  As long as you are using environmentally-friendly soaps, dishwater and bathwater are perfectly fine for your plants and gardens (actually they might even be better for them!).  I found a great instructable that shows the easy way that the author rigged her laundry washing machine to drain out to spaghetti lines that water her garden.
But it doesn’t have to be a plumbing project, saving grey water can be as easy as showering with the plug in and scooping it out later.

Besides grey water, the same methods can be used with harvested rain water or snow melt.  If you were raised at the lake, like me then these are probably all methods you have used or at least heard of before.  I didn’t, but could have mentioned the old, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow…”…

Reuse Grey Water, Save Water, Save $$$

Tree Stump Tables

It’s the last post of the year! I just want to make a short note of thanks to everyone who as supported me and S&S during the last 6 months of tireless construction and blogging.  2015 has been a year of learning and new experiences and I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store!  Thank you everyone, Happy new year!!!

 
Ive been feeling crafty!  I stumbled upon an awesome side table tutorial and decided to raid my wood pile and make my own!  I made the one below for my bf for Christmas. Here’s how:
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1. Aquire stump.
Any old stump will do.

2. You will have to allow the stump to dry out for about a month or so.  Then the bark will be easy to remove and it will be significantly lighter.  You can tell it is dry enough when you can see the bark separating, like below:20151214_191441

3. You will need a hammer and a chisel thingy.
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Hammering the chisel thingy into where the bark and stump have begun to separate should make it easy to remove the bark.  For me it peeled off without too much difficulty.  It will take a little extra work around the knots, you will have to come at it at different angles with the chisel thingy, or use the prying end of the hammer.
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4. It will look like this.
Sand the crap out of it.
Decide which end will be the top and sand that end as well.  Try to get all the sharp or splintered edges, ends of the knots and all the little wood hairs off.
Use a variety of grits.
20151214_1902425. Wipe it down.
Use a damp rag.
This will get all the dust from sanding off.

6. Put legs on! (Or don’t)
I used  3 inch “Capita” legs i found at IKEA.  I also used longer screws than IKEA gave me due to the big heavy stump i was attaching to them.
A standard side table is about 25 inches tall. If you’re stump doesn’t need legs (or you dont want them, consider putting those little felt stickems on the bottom so the table doesn’t scratch your floor.)
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7.  Seal it.
I used this stuff.
I did 3 or 4 coats on the sides and 5 or 6 on the top, let it dry in between coats.
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Annnnd voila!!
Stump table.
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Tree Stump Tables

Fave Holiday Bevvies 2015

Merry Christmas readers!

It’s been a crazy and exciting passed week.  So many Christmas parties and gatherings and finishing up house things as well!  Spent last night moving furniture into the container, maybe I’ll move in for Christmas?! Eeeeek, exciting!

Because we’ve had so many Christmas parties this year, we’ve fallen victim to alot more boozing than usual…. But ‘Tis the season!  My boyfriend and I have decided we’re doing a “sober January” coming up.  So in honor of that i’ve compiled a list of my fave boozy Xmas bevvies,  that i’ve got just over a week to enjoy!

 

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Cranberry Mimosas (recipe)
Super easy to make. Personal fave.  Down for mimosas anytime really…

 

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Granville Island Winter Ale
Who said this had to be just a cocktail list? I’m loving these brews this year!  I believe they’re in liquor stores Canada wide.

 

321428Gluehwein (recipe)
Tummy-warming spiced wine.  This one is a favorite because it reminds me of last Christmas in Vancouver with my Austrian roommate.  As you can tell by the name it’s an Austrian/German traditional beverage.

 

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Whistler Chestnut Ale
This was my ABSOLUTE fave seasonal beer when i was on the coast, I could drink 4 shamelessly… but it’s only sold regionally and I can’t get it here in Manitoba 🙁

No Christmas drink list would be complete without…

12.09.11_FA_Eggnog

Eggnog (recipe)
This recipe is from Martha Stewart and is like rum and eggnog on steroids!  It takes a little more time than your classic R&E but is sooooo yummy. I had one (or two..) at a rather uppity Xmas party once, made them once myself, Always delicious!

S&S wishes you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Fave Holiday Bevvies 2015

Chewbacca (2001 – 2015)

A few weeks ago i said goodbye to an old friend. Someone i have only fond memories of. Someone that has lived so much life and contributed to the lives of others until his very last days. The only Pontiac that will ever have a place in my heart, Chewbacca.

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Chewy, as he was known to friends, got his name from an unfortunate and persistent power steering fluid leak. But Chewy continued to be reliable through that and other ailments. He had the experience and the kilometers to drive to the moon if he wanted to (True story. Over 400 000 kms) but chose to spend his life here on Earth, with us.

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The time he contained my entire life, on the move to Winnipeg.

Chewy has held and transported a lot of people and things that were important to me over the years. Shared a lot of good times. Facilitated many a camping trip, housed me for summers spent at the lake and helped us to farmer’s markets everywhere. We’ve shared crazy nights and sleepy days and coffees and sunsets and friends.

Chewy ‘s last days were trying but he did not suffer. He literally went out with a bang, I would expect nothing less from such a fiery spirit. He was worth much more to me than the $250 and the hubcap we got from the wrecker. I know he will go on to make an excellent pop can or bicycle, whatever this Earth has in store for him next he will no doubt go above and beyond the expectations. Because that’s just who he was.

Adventures were the norm.
Adventures were the norm.

Here’s to the memory of Chewbacca, a loyal minivan, anyone who was lucky enough to know him would tell you that although he had the body of a Montana, he had the spirit of a wild horse.

 

Chewbacca (2001 – 2015)

December 10/15 Build Update

December 10/15 Build Update