Waste Not

attempting to waste less and live more deliberately


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Spiders In Our Garden

About a month ago I planted a new crop of Arugula. Every morning and every night I check on the plants (proximity is a great benefit apartment gardening); sometimes checking under their leaves for bugs, sometimes just watching and enjoying the moment, and sometimes witnessing something amazing!

Case in point, my new favorite gardener: The Spider!

ImageSpecifically, the Jumping Spider!

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A closer look. So cute!

One day while watching the Arugula plants grow I spotted a very cute spider sitting on the edge of the planter, staring at the plants just as I was.  I got my camera, snapped a photo and went inside to show Sam. What did I find when I came back? That same little spider with a bug in its tiny mouth; looks like an aphid! I left the camera inside with Sam so I couldn’t get a photo, but it looked something like this:

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Spider and Arugula: 1, Aphid: 0

This makes me happy for a number of reasons.

1.       Aphids are the bane of my existence.

2.       We have created a healthy ecosystem that attracts beneficial insects like spiders.

3.       This spider is adorable and a pleasure to watch.

4.       Reinforced my decision to not use chemicals in my garden and to continue buying organic.

I am sure I will get into why aphids are annoying and why a healthy ecosystem is imperative another day, for now, let’s talk beneficial spiders!

Spiders are master predators feeding on insects such as aphids, leaf hoppers, caterpillars, and so on. However, you should be aware that spiders do not discriminate. Though you may be saddened to find a honeybee or butterfly caught in a web, it is up to you the gardener to weigh the costs and benefits. If it eases your mind Professor Susan Riechert of University of Tennessee reassures that spiders prey more on harmful insects than beneficial ones. She also states “The more spiders you have, the less problems you have.”

 Attracting Spiders

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Did you know spiders eat more insects than both lady bugs and praying mantis?

Spiders like to hide, they like to spin, and I have found they even like to jump and ambush.  Because of this, a super manicured garden is not an ideal spot for a spider! A super manicured garden is just asking for a bug problem; and with no spiders around, I am sure those pests will enjoy eating your garden clean.

Try these tips to attract spiders to your garden:

  • Grow tall plants on which spiders can cast their webs.
  • Plant lush bushes in which spiders can hide.
  • Avoid pesticides which are lethal to spiders.
  • Give them a home by placing over turned pots throughout the garden.
  • Designate a small are of your garden to be mulched with dead leaves or grass clippings. This will provide moisture and cover for spiders to lay their eggs.
  • Create a lush and diverse garden. Even spiders like flowers!

In addition to spiders managing harmful insects, they also attract beneficials like Birds, Lizards, and Bats who view them as a tasty treat. Nature is so cool ☺

Getting Over Fear

Know your spiders! There are only a handful of spiders in North America which are truly dangerous. Here they are:

  • Brown Recluse
  • Black Widow
  • Hobo Spider
  • Yellow Sac Spider

(If I am missing any, please let me know.)

Get to know these spiders; learn to ID them, learn their habitats, and learn what to do if you come across one. If you can easily identify these spiders, you can also easily determine the spiders you have nothing to worry about (most of them)!

Knowledge is power!

Spiders do not want to hurt you!  “When spider bites do happen, they tend to occur because the eight-legged beasts are surprised — for example when a person reaches into a glove, shoe or nook that they are occupying at the moment” –Buddle  Read more about that here: Live Science

These cuties may also help alleviate your fears…

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Image In case you have not noticed, I like bugs! 

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Can spiders be found in your garden?

♥ali


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The Best Coconut Olive Bee Balm

Inspired by the wonderful Crunchy Betty, today I set out to make a simple three ingredient balm. But first, a little back-story.

Making the balm only took about 10 minutes, but the process actually began several months ago when I started collecting leftover beeswax candle bits.

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This little one still has a few burns to go, but soon it will no longer light. Rather than pitching the leftovers, why not salvage that leftover wax for  fun and thrifty projects?

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After you have saved enough beeswax bits, remove the old wick and anything else that is not beeswax.  Chop up the bits and melt them down using a double broiler. Once liquefied, pour into a mold. I used an oiled cupcake tin.  Once dried pop them out and day dream about what you want to use your beeswax for! You can even turn them back into candles ☺

The Best Coconut Olive Bee Balm

Ingredients:

Double Broiler or Makeshift Double Broiler

Cheese Grater or Knife

1 Cup Beeswax

1 Cup Coconut Oil

1 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Some sort of a container. I opted for some old glass jars.

Yields about 2 and 3/4 cups.

Step One: Grate your beeswax for quick melting OR use a knife to chop into small bits.

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Step Two: Prep your ingredients.

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Step Three: Start melting and stirring. Beeswax first, then add coconut oil and olive oil.

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Step Four: Pour into containers. Don’t make my mistake, use a funnel if you need to!

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Step Five: Let solidify and enjoy! This balm will last about 12 months.

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Why Make Your Own?

Three safe ingredients means no second guessing what you are slathering on your body.

Use a fancy jar and you just made an inexpensive homemade gift.

Great full body balm, even your lips!

 ♥ali


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The French Press: More Than Coffee

This is the story of a kitchen gadget superstar who is highly under appreciated (until today), the french press!

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I have not always appreciated my french press, until recently it was hiding in a cabinet, covered in dust behind a pound of stale coffee beans.  However, one day after experiencing significant annoyance with my old tea ball strainer I had an ah-ha moment: “Hold on now, I can make my loose leaf tea in a french press! I can make several cups of tea in my french press at once! I am finally going to be able to drink all the cups of green tea every health guru tells me I need to drink! Hurrah!”

It get’s better, after making several cups of tea and enjoying them thoroughly, I went to clean my french press out and it was easy! Perhaps it was the health effects of the green tea working their magic or perhaps it was just a good day, but after that I thought of many more uses for my french press. So, here they are:

Coffee, obviously.

Why its great: With no filters, pods, or cones to mess with this option is very low waste! Also, you have the option to make a cup just for yourself, or for a crowd. Not sure how to brew by this method? Check out this video:

Tea

Why it’s great: Again, very low waste; no tea bags or filters to worry about. It also may encourage you to develop a great loose leaf tea stash! After brewing, tea leaves are easy to remove for composting. Make sure not to over steep! If you are making a steep time sensitive tea pour out all tea from french press at once to avoid a bitter tea.

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brewin

Rinsing Dried Grains and Beans

Why it’s great: After rinsing them with cold water in your french press, simply press your strainer down, pour out the water (you can totally use this water to give your garden or house plants a drink!), and start cooking! This method beats using a colander, running the water continuously, and loosing some beans down the drain!

Water Pitcher

Why it’s great: Not only is it beautiful, it will help you drink more water!

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Make it Frothy

Why it’s great:  A daily coffee shop latte can cost you nearly $100 a month and waste a whole lotta paper/plastic cups! Save some money and reduce waste by using your french press to incorporate some air into your milk or milk alternative of choice. Check it out: Life Hack

Strain 

Why it’s great: You can strain nearly anything using a french press! What comes to mind for me is if you want to enjoy a sangria without all that healthy fruit in your glass. “Just the booze, thank you.”

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In closing, here is what we have found:

Multi-Use Items = Low Waste, Low Stress, and Money Saved!

Have any more ideas for the noble french press?

♥ali


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Gardening and Failure

I have spent the majority of my life avoiding failure. Failure feels bad, can keep you from reaching certain goals, and serves as a reminder that you, in fact, are not perfect.

Until recently, this understanding summed up my entire experience with failure, often causing me to give up whatever I was attempting, because after all, why bother?

Through gardening, this understanding of failure has changed quickly and radically. I have learned not only to accept failure, but to embrace it.  

Imagenot exactly the crisp lettuce I was hoping for

Why has gardening taught me something about failure that other activities have not?

1. I am quite new to gardening; I believe this is why I am more comfortable failing at it. While it is disappointing to find my lettuce has gone limp, my newness allows me to be understanding of my limitations. 

2. The successes and failures of gardening are dependent on a number of defined conditions (sunlight, water, soil conditions, etc). Rather than ruminating on my shortcomings and feeling bad about myself, I can just go figure out where my misstep occurred and what I can do to fix it.

3. When gardening you are not creating something. You are providing conditions so that something can come into being. My lettuce did not fail because I created limp lettuce, it failed because I didn’t provide the ideal conditions. I believe this perspective allows one to view the situation more objectively.

My Garden Failures

Less Than Leafy Parsley

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looking a bit sad

Failure: Parsley is not thriving.

Lesson: Parsley and other leafy crops need occasional nitrogen rich fertilizing.

Growth: Discovered DIY Nitrogen Rich Urine Fertilizer (check it out HERE)

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progress!

Sun Starved Veggies and Herbs

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very leggy!

Failure: Broccoli, Bok Choy and Chard are leggy.

Lesson: Part shade doesn’t mean full shade. Because we are surrounded by tall buildings and trees, we only get 2-3 hours of dappled sun. Unfortunately, not enough to grow even part shade veggies and herbs. This lack of sun has caused leggy growth as the plants are stretching in search of light resulting in thin, weak stems.

Growth: It is important to choose the right plant for the conditions you have to offer. While someday we hope to have full sun where we can grow tomatoes to our hearts’ content, that time is not now. Now, we get to explore the wonderful world of ferns and helleborus!

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right plant, right place!

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an eerily beautiful helleborus flower. beware, they are toxic so watch out pets!

Limp Lettuce

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“I’m melting, melting! Oh! What a world, what a world…”

Failure: Our lettuce was right on track, beautiful, bright green, crisp. Then one morning I found our lettuce in a limp, melted, soupy mess! 

Lesson: The verdict is still out on this one. I suspect it has something to do with over watering, poor drainage, and inadequate spacing.

Growth: I am determined to grow great lettuce. Stay tuned!

Failure is a Great Teacher

1. Failure provides us the opportunity to learn new things. Had my parsley thrived right away I would have never learned that nitrogen promotes leaf and vegetation growth, or that urine makes a great fertilizer!

2. Failure teaches humility, allowing us to recognize that which is greater than ourselves. 

3. Failure means you tried, accepting vulnerability.  

4. Failure encourages us to seek help from those more knowledgeable, thus growing community. 

5. Failure opens the door to perseverance and growth.

Perhaps rather than exploiting the failures of those around us, its time we start celebrating failure as we do success. To fail is to be human and that is exactly who we are. 

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and perhaps the best part of garden failures….

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pesto!

 

How have you experienced failure in your life, gardening and otherwise?

♥ali

 


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a VERY diy plant fertilizer

While tending the teeny tiny porch farm, we have found the plants are growing, but not thriving. They are provided with water, sunlight, fresh air, and love, but they still don’t seem happy.

I know what they need, but I’m not ready to face it…

IMG_0311However, the sad state of our limp parsley has finally pushed me to explore the realm of plant care that I had always avoided, fertilizer.

The idea of fertilizer draws up memories of miracle grow and other bottles of synthetic chemical nutrients. For our plants, I am not looking for a man-made miracle; I just want happy, healthy plants, naturally.

So here goes, time to learn.

What is fertilizer? Is it the same as plant food?

The terms “plant food” and “fertilizer” are often used interchangeably. Indeed, it’s true that home gardeners use fertilizer to help their plants get the essential nutrients they need to grow and bloom properly. Scientifically speaking, however, fertilizer is not the same thing as plant food. Most plants get hydrogen, oxygen and carbon from water and from the air, but plants also need other nutrients that they usually get from the soil. The most important of these are nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. These are called macronutrients. Fertilizer contains these and other nutrients for plants, as well as fillers. Plants use these nutrients in fertilizers (and in the environment) to produce their own food. – April Sanders

(Love the bit about “but plants need other nutrients that they usually get from the soil”. While we are currently growing in containers, this is a good reminder that healthy soil is of vital importance! We will explore healthy soil another day.)

Balance

Just as we require a balanced diet, it is equally important to feed your plants a balanced diet.  Do you recognize the numbers below?

20-20-20, 20-5-5, etc.

If you are like me, the moment you see a sequence of numbers it’s all over, pass.

Turns out, it’s not all that complicated.

The first number represents nitrogen (N), the second number represents phosphorus (P), and the third number represents potassium (K). These are the important macronutrients mentioned above.

N – Nitrogen helps plant foliage to grow strong.
P– Phosphorus helps roots and flowers grow and develop.
K– Potassium is important for overall plant health.

Upon reading our seed packets, I find both the parsley and chard need high nitrogen fertilizing once a week. Perhaps this explains why both the parsley and chard have been lagging, sigh.

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A quick “diy natural plant fertilizer” google search results in a number of options; compost tea, fish emulsion, seaweed, and so on. We opt for the cheapest, lowest waste option; however, you may find it a wee bit disgusting. I urge you to keep an open mind.

Pee-Cycling with DIY Human Urine Fertilizer

Urine has been used as a valuable plant food for centuries in many parts of the world, particularly in the Far East. It is surprising therefore that nearly all the urine produced in the West and in Africa goes to waste and is lost to agriculture. Each of us passes about 1.5 litres of urine every day – and almost to the last drop, it is either flushed down a toilet or enters a deep pit latrine. The fact is that urine is a very valuable product – in several ways. It contains a lot of nitrogen and also phosphorus and potassium in smaller quantities, nutrients which are very valuable to plant growth. Simply put, urine is too valuable to waste – ANALYSIS OF NPK IN HUMAN MALE AND FEMALE URINE, Morgan, 2004

 Why Choose Pee 

In addition to being free and low waste, urine has an incredible composition that rivals blood meal as a fertilizer. Human Urine NPK average 11-2-1, Blood meal NPK average 12-2-1. Pretty impressive! Even cooler, the NPK changes depending on our diet! The more protein you consume, the higher the nitrogen.

It also should be noted that taking advantage of homemade urine fertilizer will save some toilet flushes, thus saving clean water!

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You will need a jar, tap water, and a full bladder!

How:

Urine is high in both nitrogen and salt, for this reason it is important to dilute the urine before use on plants. If you have a dog, you are aware that direct urine causes patches of dead grass all over your backyard; let’s not do this to our plants.

Step 1: Pee into a jar.

Step 2: Dilute urine with water; 10 parts water, 1 part urine.

Step 3: Use your “liquid gold” to fertilize plants as you would with any liquid fertilizer.

 Note:

Use only fresh urine (within 24 hours).

Don’t over fertilize plants; be sure to read your seed packets.

Don’t use urine as fertilizer if you are on medication, have a UTI, or are sick.

Made by a healthy person, urine is sterile and should stay that way as it leaves the body. If you are having fecal cross contamination issues, don’t use the urine on your plants and perhaps work on your bathroom skills a bit.

Gnomeo

While it may take some serious deprogramming to stop being so disgusted by our bodies natural functions, I encourage you to look at this in a positive light. How amazing that our body can produce such a healthy fertilizer. It seems we are all connected in this harmonious cycle.

Not ready to use urine as a fertilizer? Try pouring urine on your compost pile as a compost accelerator; men, knock yourself out and deposit directly!

♥ali


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Apartment Gardening: First Harvest

If you have ever worried your space was too small to grow food, think again!  Our first harvest/thinning produced some wonderful dishes!  If you would like to see where we started just a few weeks ago, check this out: Starting Small, Apartment Gardening.

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Green onions made for a tasty miso soup!

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 Herbs from the store are so expensive; growing them is an easy way to save money! Rosemary roasted potatoes, yum!

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The thinned seedlings of our Bok Choy, Broccoli, and Butterhead lettuce made a wonderful micro-greens side salad!

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In addition to tasting great, growing even a small amount of your own food can help save money and fuel!

Do you small space garden? What are you growing?

♥ali