Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Friday, December 21, 2018

Garden Friday

Welcome Winter Solstice!

It seems like winter has been here already for weeks,
with freezes, snow and ice frequenting our area.

For the next week, we expect daytime temperatures in the 50's,
which will be a welcome change.
We might actually be able to get something done outside!

There were two small projects I wanted to tackle before winter officially hit,
and I made it in under the wire.
The first was turning our leaf pile.
This has been on my project list since we moved into the house,
but other things just took a front seat.
It felt great to get out there in the brisk air
using a pitchfork and shovel to get air back into the pile.
Happily, a treasure trove of earthworms were found,
so I know that this heap will eventually aide in the garden's health.

With a neighbor supplying us with bags and bags of leaves,
along with our own stash, there should be a great foundation
of leaf mulch ready to add to the veggie beds in the spring.
Leaf mulch adds nutrients, suppresses weeds,
helps retain moisture and aids in soil fertility.
It's an easy way to give the garden a boost.

The second winter project was to remove castings from our worm bin.
Earlier this year,
we put together a worm bin out of a few simple materials.
You can find that project here
We ordered our worms online,
after failing to find a local resource.

The castings are the waste product that these workhorses leave behind
as they digest coffee grounds, eggs, kitchen scraps, paper and cardboard.
In theory, the bedding material (shredded paper) and food are placed on one side of the bin,
and when it comes time to remove the castings, 
the bedding and food are moved to the other side of the bin,
thus encouraging the worms to move toward the food source.
The castings can then be removed from the opposite side and placed in the garden.

 It didn't exactly work out that way with this homemade bin.
Although I did move the bedding and food to one side,
the worms just stayed in the castings.
Maybe there were still tidbits of decomposed food there
and they didn't want to leave.
In any case, I just decided to take some of the worms out with the castings
and place some of them in the compost pile and some in the leaf bin.

As you can see, there were enough to go around.
I couldn't believe how much the population exploded in that bin
over the last 6 months.
And just thinking about all that food and paper that didn't end up in the landfill
does my heart good.

I'm giving it another go with the remaining population,
and the castings I collect come springtime will go directly in the veggie garden.
I'm also considering purchasing a 3-tiered commercial bin,
to make it easier to collect the castings 
and keep the worms better corralled.
A friend has one of these type and I will try to get an update from her.
In the meantime, let them eat scraps!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Zero Waste Gift Wrapping

 Last week, we showed how to make snowflakes using only 2 materials:  paper and scissors.
In keeping with our penchant toward less waste, 
 our gift wrapping practices have changed.
For many years, I made my own gift wrap,
reusing the butcher paper that came in packages
and stamping or adding embellishments to the plain brown wrappers.
It all got recycled after the holidays,
but I wanted to do better.

 While visiting the ReStore recently,
I was looking for fabric to use instead of wrapping paper for our gifts.
I came upon two holiday-themed tablecloths, and
they were just the ticket!
They were easy to cut,
and since they were both rather large pieces,
I was able to wrap every gift on my list, with some left over!

I've already decided that I won't be going back to paper.
Even though paper can be recycled,
we don't know how long recycling will be around.
These wrappings can be used over and over again,
or the fabric donated to someone who sews,
so that something functional can be created. 
The tag you see here came from one of the Christmas cards sent to us
over the past few years.
And although it can't be reused, it can be recycled, or put into a compost pile.
The peppermint-patterned twine can be reused by the recipient for so many things!
I may have to start looking for thrifted holiday fabric for next year.

One of my focuses in the new year is to do better
with sustainability.
This is a great jumping off point and
it inspires me to streamline in so many areas of my life.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Garden Friday?

Greetings from the frozen Piedmont!
It's Garden Friday.
Well, kind of.

This is what the garden looked like after our big snowstorm.
Here in Pumpkin Center we got between 7-8 inches of snow.
So far, that's the most snow we've had since we've been here.

With no prayer of these cabbage and broccoli plants getting a leg up,
the pots sit in stunned silence.
We do have some kale, lettuce and Swiss chard growing,
although it is at a snail's pace.
There's been no sun to speak of for the last week,
and I'm starting to think the best strategy is to get some sprouts going in the kitchen.
A hoop house is sounding mighty good about now.
We still have a week of autumn left,
but that's a technicality.
We went headlong into winter about 2 weeks after fall began.

 We compost on.
The inside of this bin is about the only thing
that didn't get covered with a heavy blanket of snow.
It's still pretty toasty in there.

The remaining lemongrass is crying "uncle".
It doesn't like the cold one bit,
but I love the way this grass adds some texture to the garden.
We'll see come spring if it bounces back.

Seed catalogues should soon be arriving.
There will be a lot to tackle in the spring garden,
like adding berry bushes, extending the raised bed area,
and creating a more efficient watering system.
Winter is a great time for planning,
and if we're in for any more of this weather,
then planning it shall be.
Enjoy your weekend, y'all!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Zero Waste Christmas Craft

Remember making snowflakes in elementary school?
It's such a simple idea,
but wow, what an impact they can make!
They are easy, quick and quite relaxing to create.
It took a bit of research to get the process down pat,
but after a while, 
I could see them improving with each attempt.
The best part of this craft is that 
it produces very little to no waste.

The only supplies needed are 
paper, scissors and your imagination.
This is a fantastic project to do with kids,
especially a big group!

 Two different sizes of triangle pieces were made.
By simply folding a standard piece of computer paper
so that the bottom right corner is brought up to the left side edge and creased,
it forms a triangle.  The excess is cut off (we used the extra pieces for scrap paper.)
For the smaller triangles,
fold a standard sized piece of computer paper in half width-wise,
and follow the same process, creating the triangle.

 Once you have the triangles completed,
the magic begins!

 Regardless of size, fold the triangle over onto itself,
so that you have a smaller version of the original triangle.

 It should look like this.

Then open up the fold,
so that your triangle has the point facing down.

 Take the right side of the triangle
and fold it so that the outside edge
lines up with the center crease.

Crease it well, so that it stays together
and flip it so that the point is facing up,

like this.
Someone said that it should look like the Star Trek logo.

Cut off the bottom part of the new shape,
so that the bottom edge is completely straight.

Even these tiny scraps will get used-I'll tell you how.

Let the design begin!
There are a few ways to do this part,
but what you need to remember is not to cut all the way through the thinner side.
If you do, your final product will be in pieces, instead of one stunning snowflake.
I experimented with many shapes and I found the designs I liked best
were made by cutting from the bottom up into the center.
The more detail you add, the "flakier" your finished product will be.

from this

 Here's one design that I did,
and once unfolded, you'll see the results.
This part is free-form, basically just let your imagination go wild!

to this

almost there

eh, voila!

The feeling of joy comes over you
as you unfold each masterpiece,
never knowing what it will look like until the very last moment.
It really is magical!

And just like real snowflakes,
each one is absolutely unique.
This is a no or low waste project, 
depending on what you do with them.
We created one feature wall in our living room
and covered it from floor to ceiling!
All scraps will be either used for scratch paper
or used in our worm bin as bedding.
The snowflakes themselves make a great addition to any gift
and can be reused each year until they fall apart.
At that time, they can be composted or used in the worm bin.

It was so much fun reliving childhood memories
and relearning a simple and fun craft.

What are some of your favorite holiday crafts?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Going Local Series-Grace Tree Farm

With C at home with a cold,
Big K and I went in search of a Christmas tree.
Our traditional choice is a Frazier Fir,
and we were excited to head to a local tree farm to gather our treasure.
Grace Tree Farm is owned by local residents Krista and Doug,
who happened to be in the same Master Gardener class I took last April.
This family endeavor started a few years back
with their relocation to quiet Denver, North Carolina.
Six years in the making,
they opened for business for the first time last holiday season.

This is a choose-and-cut farm,
allowing customers to pick and fell their own tree.
Potential lumberjacks can opt from a variety of trees, 
including Carolina Sapphire, Leyland Cypress, and White Pine.
Saws are provided, along with instructions
and unbridled enthusiasm from this dynamic couple.
(Pre-cut Frazier Firs are also available,
but not grown on site.)
On the day we ventured out,
it was a mess of muck and mud,
but you'd never know it to talk to Krista and Doug.
Even in the miserable conditions,
they were so excited to see folks coming out and taking part.

Six acres of trees awaited our perusal,
though not all trees were ready for harvesting.
Designated trees were tagged with different colored ribbons,
with each hue corresponding to a particular price point.
The smaller trees seen here will be ready in a few more years.

Doug's background in forestry lends itself well to his chosen profession.
Once the decision was made to open a tree farm,
the planning began.
Years of learning about the business is paying off,
as the farm is becoming well-known in these parts.
Although Doug works full-time as a real estate broker,
he still puts in full days at the farm,
tending the trees and taking care of clients.
Krista is equally as busy,
nurturing their two children, keeping the home fires burning,
and interacting with customers.

In addition to trees, 
holiday shoppers can pick up one of the gorgeous 
handmade festive wreaths.
Even those who don't want or can't have a "real" tree
can enjoy the scent of the evergreens with these beautiful embellishments.

We surprised ourselves by deciding against a Frasier Fir this year.
In keeping with our earth-friendly philosophy,
we opted for a live Christmas tree
that can be planted on our property later on.
These Norway Spruce trees should do well in our area,
and we plan to make this a yearly tradition.
It's a wonderful option for folks who want a more ecological choice,
or for whatever reason, choose not to buy a real tree for the inside of the house.
So grateful to be able to shop locally for our holiday tree!

Grace Tree Farm is located at
 1292 Beth Haven Church Road, Denver
Phone: 704-794-8740.
Their facebook page can be found here.

 Go Local!

More in our Going Local Series: