March 19, 2017

Weather: 40s  with slight showers

We had an ice storm. At the most two inches of ice in my part of town, and maybe two inches of snow in others. There might be another frost coming, but at this rate, no.

I need another rain barrel. Correction I have needed another rain barrel and need to get one before the end of spring, because without the snowfall, we have massive run off and there will be a small drought this summer.

A frugal way to avoid this would be to save all plastic milk jugs. Go on Freecycle, get some with lids (you must ask them to be rinsed. You do not want that nightmare.) and the fill them 3/4s with water. Then put them in your freezer.  I like milk jugs versus soda bottles because there is a handle, which makes it much easier to carry when frozen. You can fill them with some liquid plant food as well.  Then at night in the warm summer, you can uncap them and plant them spout down in the garden to melt and water the plants without burning them.  For a 10×10 spot I’ve used 10 gallon jugs in a rotation. This is the same theory as the Aqua Globes. If you want it to look nice, I’d suggest either painting the jugs or putting some tissue paper on them for a cool stained glass look (from a distance at least). The important part is, of course, that the plants live.

Don’t have the freezer space? Deep freezers and even dorm fridges are on craigslist and freecycle a lot. Sometimes they will last a season, sometimes more. If they break quickly, look around for a metal recycle center and see if you can get a few dollars for it.

If neither of those options will work for you there is always ice cubes. Either invest $10 at the local thrift shop for ice cube trays or just gather all of yours nightly and spread them in your garden. If you use this method I would dig little trenches an inch or so wide and put the ice there so that it doesn’t shock the roots. If using the trays you can prep the ice with plant food or just put some in the trench before you put the ice in.

If anyone else has suggestions for this, I would love to talk about it. I am always on the lookout for new ideas.

While still on the topic of watering….I love the fancy watering cans that they sell in the store, but they do tend to wear out a lot. If you have a cat living in your house or know someone who does,  why not use the litter jug? Some brands, like Clean Cat, or Fresh Step, come in heavy plastic jugs with handles. If you air them out, you have a sturdy handled watering can that you can easily screw on a sprayer attachment for fertilizing.  I have used them before for mixing fertilizer and having a cap helps with shaking it to make sure nothing settles in the bottom. Also, they are normally white or clear-ish so you can easily judge how much liquid is in them.  I like using them as they tend to hold more liquid, are easier to hold in my hand, have a large bottom so the don’t tip easily and, since I live with cats, I have already paid for them and don’t have to fill up my recycling with them. The only problem is that you do have to remember that a large one can hold a lot of water and it might be too heavy for you to trek around. On the other hand, this counts as weight-lifting. WORK THOSE ARMS!

Another problem that is starting to come up due to the weather issues involves my compost. It is very important to keep the compost at a warm temperature. Warm temperature is decomp, uneven temperatures create rot. Some of that involves what you put in them. Now, in my county, there is a rat problem. It has been a problem for so long now that the city near me has capitalized on it by selling bumper-stickers with rats on them and the city name. I think some tourists are confused by this, perhaps thinking that they are the mascot for a sports team, but no. This creates an issue. Rats, once they are in an area, are hell to get rid of. So while the county wants people to garden and be green, they don’t want a rat problem. The county I am in is going broke, and most of the people living here are also lower middle to lower income. The county will sell rain barrels and composters at discounted prices, but also have A LOT of restrictions. For example, you can be taxed for collecting rainwater if the barrel is connected to your gutters, but not if it is free standing in the yard. You can have a compost pile, if you only use what is from your yard and it does not smell. Once the neighbors complain, you can get fined almost to the point of your rent.

I am walking a fine line here.

I grow vegetables, so technically putting the peelings and unusable bits in the composter isn’t illegal. But putting coffee grinds and egg shells is.  BUT, and here is where this gets tricky, putting coffee grounds and egg shells in my potted planters is legal. Apparently, rats cannot climb into potted plants. (Not true.)

This means that in the next few days I need to raise the temperature of my compost. The plastic tarp worked a bit, as did the layers of newspaper shred. But the constant drastic degree changes are not helping. The best thing I have found to do is have a grill out.  As long as you do not use lighter fluid, you can dump the ash from your charcoal and paper into the compost. All you need to do is dig a hole in the middle of the compost, put the cooling or cooled (gray not red or reddish) briskets in the hole and then keep it uncovered for 1/2 hour. Then using the compost, cover the ash filled hole, sprinkle the rest of the ash over the top, then put the cover back on the composter. Keep an eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t catch on fire, but to be honest, if it is rotting, it will be very wet and slimy. Still a good idea to keep a close eye on it.  Doing this a few times until the winter is done, will prevent the rot from smelling and cut down on it too. Just remember to turn the compost a few times before you put the ash in.

Another good thing to burn is dryer lint, cotton rags or socks. Organic material works well, burns cleanly and honestly who darns socks anymore?

Well, I do, but that’s beside the point.

If you are a bit squeamish about burning clothes, just remember that sock burning is a sailing tradition (Found this out a few years back, myself) and, if your nosey neighbors ask, you can say you are keeping a tradition alive.

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