Saturday, April 30, 2011

Living Green in a Tin Can: #2 Making Compost

To make our compost bin we followed the directions, with a bit of ad libbing here and there, from an article in the current issue of "Edible Grande Traverse" titled Recycle: A Tomato in Every Pot and Compost in Every Backyard by Angela Stricker.  The article is about Robert Allen, gardener extraordinaire, who developed his innovative method for use on his property in Leland, MI as well as for use in the gardens at his local elementary school.  I have read about and used, in the past, many different methods for composting none of which worked as well as I would like. We will now give this method a try and see how it goes. I am planning to contact Mr. Allen as he, according to the article, willingly gives tours of his gardens, small orchard, and composting system.

In the first three pictures Doug is taking Mr. Allen's plan and changing it just a bit as he builds it into the ground rather than right on top of the ground.  Doug began by scraping and then digging the area where we will place the eight bales of straw.

Is the hole big enough for the eight bales?

The hole is just about right and so just before we put the bales in we covered the area with sheets of cardboard recycled from a few of the boxes left from our move.  As you can see in this picture, the space Doug dug out is deep enough so the bales of straw are level with the ground. Time will tell if this method will work as well as Mr. Allen's method of laying the bales on top of the ground. One thing for certain , digging a hole for 8 bales is a lot more work.

In following pictures I am adding the beginning ingredients to the brand new composting system.

Dumping the first load of veggie scraps and bits of paper into the compost bin.

Here I am adding a bit of damp sand to lightly cover the "mess".

A nice thick blanket of wet leaves which had been decaying under the snow since fall is layered over all.

It has been raining quite steadily and the compost and sand pile are very soggy at this point.  That's Daisy leaving the area following her daily inspection to see who might have visited during the night.

I will continue to add green (veggie scraps) + brown (leaf matter) material to the compost until the "bin" is full. When it is full it will hopefully heat up enough to turn this wet and soggy mess into a nutrient rich compost/fertilizer for use in our yet to be built gardens.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Living Green in a Tin Can: #1 Laundry Day

I've been trying to publish this post for days. The snow in the picture below is gone but the rain continues - and continues - and continues. The waterfowl are happy, our dogs even enjoy it. I've had enough but there is still more rain in the forecast and these weatherpeople up here seem to be at least 99% correct all of the time.

Here is the "tin can"

. . . and following is the "living green".

Full credit for the title of this series goes to Susan Tweit.  Susan had suggested this title as a blog series a few days ago and I have been thinking about it ever since. I love the title and it certainly fits.

One of my goals in this life is to live as "green" as possible.  Living in this Airstream allows for an even greater challenge to this goal.  Living in less than 300 sq.ft. produces amazing amounts of chaos and disorganization not to mention stress/tension.  Fortunately we had the pole barn (behind the trailer) built first; it is now filled with most of our earthly belongings, stacks and stacks of boxes piled high.  A bit of what we absolutely have to have for daily living has slowly been found and brought into the Airstream. The rest will just have to wait until the house is built, and yes, this includes all but a couple of my books.

One of my first "green" goals was to set up my laundry. Although we sold our washer/dryer with our house in AZ we had an old washer which we brought with us for use in the pole barn. The first thing Doug did was get that hooked up to a water source. Then came the clotheslines. We did not bring a dryer and do not want to buy a new set until the house is ready; thus waiting for sunny days and doing laundry in an old washer in cold water is our only option other than driving 16.3 miles into Traverse City to use a laundromat.

Laundry Day

Two lines strung between two trees and held apart with two poles = engineering Doug style :D 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Late Winter/Early Spring Snows Melting Quickly

This morning dawned bright with bright sunshine and cold fresh air. The 8" of snow remained intact. We pulled on our Sorrels and took the girls for a long walk around the field behind our land which Doug has guessed to be about 100 + acres. The girls loved playing in the snow. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera. :(   I need to attach that thing to me permanently.

This morning's walk required the Sorrels

By this afternoon the snow was mostly melted; typical springtime in northern Michigan.

A Very Wintery Spring

Eight inches of snow on April 21, 2011
Eight inches of snow fell in northwestern Michigan beginning early last evening and continuing through most of the night. This morning I awoke to a winter wonderland. I must admit to the beauty of the scene outside the window of our Airstream in spite of the fact we are now one month into spring. In a little while, after a cup of warming coffee, I will don my Sorrels and venture out to take some pictures of this amazing springtime scene. Right now my husband is out with the dogs and shoveling snow. I hope he takes some pictures of them playing in the snow.

Jeep and picnic table
Dogs' outside water bowl rimmed in snow.

IPR (Interlochen Public Radio) is reading of the names of schools closed today. I wonder why the announcer doesn't just name those schools that are open today - that list is much shorter as only a few schools are trying to open across the northern part of lower Michigan.

Our woods just behind the pole barn.

Our wheelbarrow, upside down and a bench next to Airstream

Molly and Daisy learning about snow.

I can't write today without talking a little about the Deepwater Disaster/Gulf Oil Spill - one year ago today and BP is still managing to escape taking full responsibility. While that battle continues and while Diane Wilson is arrested in London for protesting against BP BP is continuing plans to drill in tar sands.  Pictures, as grim reminders of the horrific devastation, are on the Internet for all to see, for all to remember.  We must not forget and we must not stop working for justice for our planet.  Ram Dass said it best many decades ago, "Never forget lessons learned".

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Wintery Spring in Northern Michigan

Today is Sunday, April 17, 2011. We are trying to keep the water lines in our Airstream from freezing in the below freezing temps which began with an early spring snow/sleet/tiny hail storm last night.  Propane is very expensive and we are filling our bottles a couple of times a week. We finally brought in an electrically operated oil heater (looks like a mini-radiator) from the pole barn to help. Electricity is much less expensive here than propane.  It is absolutely essential that we keep the trailer warm in order to help keep the pipes from freezing.

I took the above picture through the window of the trailer (you can see the screen in the pic) about the time the sun would normally have risen this morning. This weather is being predicted for the next 5-6 days. I hope it doesn't hold up the beginning excavation of the house - but it might.  BTW - I did not use a flash for this pic. as it would have created a blinding glare against the glass and thus the deep blue color. It is really a dismal gray :D  The clouds visible in the pic. are deep charcoal gray - the sky is completely overcast;  a good day to read, write, and/or knit.

Our dogs, Daisy and Molly, seem to love playing in this stuff. I'll have to try and get some pictures of them running, chasing each other, visiting the neighboring horses, rough-housing, and just generally having a good time.  In fact, I really have to keep my camera with me at all times as there are so many interesting sights and things going on. We've had hundreds of geese fly overhead as they return to their summer habitat on the Boardman River in Traverse City. I did not have my camera at the ready and therefore no pictures.