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Compost Bowl

March 21st, 2009

I really enjoyed all of your comments yesterday about your compost bins & systems. Bridgett asked, “I am wondering if you all have ever seen the kitchen compost containers? You keep them in your kitchen and use it to collect your cooking scraps for a few days and then transport it out to your compost pile later. I love the idea (especially in these cold Ohio winters) but am wondering if they smell after a day or so???”
compost-bowl-in-kitchen
What a great question. Composting is something I grew up doing, so having a bowl on the kitchen counter collecting food scraps is very normal for me. Just about everyone I know that composts has their own system for storing kitchen waste that’s waiting for the compost pile; some hide it in a cabinet, some us a container with a lid, some us a beautiful little crock or container like one of these, and I’m sure there are ways that have never crossed my mind.
compost-bowl
My compost bowl is an old bowl that’s cracked so I no longer use it for cooking, so it’s been demoted to compost duty. It’s always on the counter, I usually leave it there until it’s full. There are days I empty it twice a day, and some times it’s only a few times a week. I personally like having my bowl on hand right on the counter, I don’t mind it being in plain site. I actually like to advertise the fact that I compost to encourage others to do so as well.
crushing-egg-shells
There is one thing that I don’t throw in my compost bowl, and that’s egg shells. I put them in the toaster oven or oven and dry them out a bit, then I crush them in my mortar & pestle and add the crushed egg shells to my raised beds; I have found that they take too long to break down in my compost bin.
tea-bag-in-compost-pail
I should have cooked up a big dinner so I could show you a nice photo of my overflowing compost bowl, but alas we’ve been busy and only eating leftovers, so all that’s inside are a few tea bags.

Do you save kitchen waste & compost? What container do you use for this task and how often do you empty it? (take the poll)

Three-Bin Compost System

March 20th, 2009

I spent the day yesterday moving my compost piles. I have the wire compost bins from Gardener’s Supply and I really like them. They are super easy to use, I especially like the ease of taking them down to move or turn my pile.
compost-bin
I actually have 4-5 compost piles. I have one for pine straw that I use for strawberries, blueberries, hydrangeas and other acid loving plants. I have a big brush pile that is for animal habitat, I have 2 regular compost piles and I have yet another that’s finished compost ready to be used.

When we were at Longwood Gardens I saw a wonderful three-bin system that I would love to have in my garden!
three-bin-compost-system-at-longwood-gardens
It’s a three-bin system, which if you use it properly will make compost faster than my way of just piling it up for a year.
compost-bin-sign
We took a lot of photos of it because we really liked the design and I’m hoping to have one here at Chiot’s Run someday. The details are fantastic, like this lid that hinges in the middle for ease of use. They thought of everything!
hinged-compost-bin-lid
Notice how they even extended some boards up the back of the bin to hold the lid when it was open.
compost-bin-hinged-lid
Someday I hope to have one of these in the gardens to make my composting system much more efficient. But until then, piles on the ground will suffice.

What kind of compost system do you have? Do you compost?

Square Foot Gardening Templates

March 19th, 2009

A few of you asked about the template I was using in my photo yesterday, so I decided to explain what they are and how we made them.
seeding-template
I use the Square Foot Gardening method in my raised beds. Which basically means that I break my raised beds down into square foot sections for planting.
raised-bed
I don’t plant each square with something different as other people do, I usually plant large sections of different types of plants. This is how I like my beds organized. On Monday I planted a bed full of beets; 2 different kinds, Bull’s Blood Beets and Crapaudine Beets. I had Mr Chiots make me these squares for quick and easy spacing of seeds.
planting-seeds-in-cold-frame1
Basically these are a square foot piece of some scrap plywood we had laying around. We measured and drilled holes for 3 inch and 4 inch spacing of seeds and plants. Mr Chiots even routed the edges to give them a nice finish.
planting-beet-seeds1
I contemplated having him make ones that had dowels or small squares of wood nailed for spaces so I could “punch” the holes into the soil with them, but we didn’t have any dowels and these were much faster (I think they’re 2 inch holes).
square-foot-gardening
You could drill smaller holes in these, but I decided I wanted larger ones to have room to work and so I wouldn’t risk getting any splinters or anything. This also allows me to plant small plants through the holes as well. I like to plant my seeds in vermiculite so these allow me plenty of room to punch the hole, drop the seed in and cover with vermiculite.
square-foot-seed-plates
I sanded and painted them yesterday to help protect them while using them in the garden. I had some spray paint sitting around that I needed to use up and I figure it will help protect them if I accidentally leave them outside sometime.

What method do you use for planting? Anyone else using the square foot method?

Quote of the Day: Frank Hubbard

March 18th, 2009

In order to live off a garden, you practically have to live in it. ~Frank McKinney Hubbard

flat-of-lettuce
I thought this quote was very fitting as I sit and plan out my gardens for this coming season. I have spent many of my waking hours the last couple days working in the garden; I planted beets, peas and lettuce.
working-in-the-garden
I know I will be really busy this summer with my ambitious gardening plans, but it keeps me out of trouble. And who really needs to sit down during the day anyways?

Are you anticipating a busy season this year? Do you plan on growing more food that last year?

Sweet Success

March 17th, 2009

Our maple sugaring experiment was a success. We’re kind of sad we didn’t get started until the end of the season, but we learned a lot and we’ll definitely be doing it next year.
boiling-down-maple-sap-over-fire
We collected around 11 gallons of sap. Half of it was boiled over a fire and half of in on a propane burner outside. We wanted to see if the kettle syrup (which is what they call it when you do it in a kettle over the fire) tasted different.
reducing-maple-sap-over-fire
Since it takes about 40-50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, that’s a lot of moisture to boil off. We spent all day boiling it down, but it was a nice day sitting by the fire.
lucy-sugaring
Lucy was very excited because she got to sit outside with us all day while we were reducing the sap.
maple-syrup
We ended up with a little over a quart of maple syrup. The darker syrup on the left is syrup reduced over the fire, it does have a slight smoky flavor and the lighter amber on the right is the propane reduced syrup. They’re both fantastic and we’re really looking forward to a pancake or french toast breakfast pretty soon to enjoy them!
sunset-on-sugaring
We’re now excited for sugaring season next year. It will be interesting to see how much we get when we do it the entire season. We’re hoping to buy some vintage taps and sugaring buckets to use in our sugaring efforts next year.

What kind of maple syrup do you use? Have you ever made your own? (take the poll)

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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