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Thursday, February 26, 2015

All About Compost for Your Urban Garden

There was a lesson in gardening that I learned later in life, friends. That lesson has to do with compost, and the essential role it plays on our urban homestead.

Composting is important for a few reasons. First, the more yard and kitchen waste that goes into compost the less that takes up space in the landfill. Second, compost is black gold for a gardener. That finished compost is a valuable addition to the soil quality. Let's talk about the essentials of composting, and how to get the compost cookin' on your urban farm, in your backyard garden, or for your beautiful flower bed.

There are five basic ingredients in compost: 

  1. a carbon source, like leaves or straw
  2. a nitrogen source, like grass clippings or pulled weeds
  3. water
  4. oxygen
  5. microorganisms, like worms and bugs

Compost cooks. Literally. An ideal compost pile will be between 90 and 140 degrees. It will be warm in the center, even in the wintertime. However, anything above 140 degrees will kill the working microorganisms in your compost. Just turn your compost every 10 days or so to regulate your temperature.

Ready to build or buy your compost bin? Awesome! You can do like us and score a used bin from Craigslist, or you can buy one, or you can build your own. A simple Google search will yield dozens of plans that can incorporate lots of building materials, like pallets, wire fencing, concrete blocks, etc.

An ideal compost set up will be at least 3'x3'x3', but no more than 5'x5'x5'. This provides optimum decomposition that is fast and uniform. Select an area that is convenient to access and where water is readily available (yes, you'll have to water your bin on occasion). Some say to keep your bin out of direct sunlight, but ours is in a very sunny location and does very, very well.

After you have your compost area established, you can begin tossing in just about any organic matter, like:

  • Aquatic weeds
  • Bread
  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Evergreen needles
  • Fruit
  • Fruit peels and rinds
  • Garden wastes
  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Paper
  • Sawdust
  • Straw
  • Sod
  • Tea leaves
  • Vegetables
  • Wood ash
  • Wood chips
  • Non-shiny newsprint (that is torn into small pieces)

However, do NOT compost the following:

  • Dairy products
  • Bones
  • Cat, dog, or human manure
  • Any meats (chicken, fish, beef, etc.)
  • Lard or oils
  • Mayonaise
  • Peanut butter
  • Salad dressings
  • Diseased plant material
  • Weeds that have gone to seed

How long will it take before you have finished compost? 

If you have a fancy compost bin that you can turn, you might have compost in 2 months or less! The standard compost time frame is 2 to 4 months. If you have a bin like ours, it will take a while, friends. A good while. From the first time to establish your pile to the time you spread it on your garden, it could take at least 6 months to a year.

It's also possible that there will be compost at the bottom of your pile or bin, and uncomposted products at the top. That's ok. Use the stuff at the bottom and keep cookin' the stuff on the top. By the time you've turned your bin 3 times, much of the matter should be unrecognizable from it's original state.

Backyard chickens can contribute to your compost!

Our chickens eat up a lot of the table scraps and garden waste from our urban homestead. This doesn't leave a lot for the compost bin. This is just fine, because while those chickens are taking products away from our compost, they are giving us something in return.

Their poo.

About 2 or 3 times a year we shovel out the coop and their attached run. All of the bedding and waste from the coop and run go into the compost bin for cookin' and are turned into compost a few months later. 

Do you have a compost bin at your place? Share your tips and thoughts with us!

AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mostly Homemade Mondays - Week 121 + URBAN HOMESTEAD MEAL PLAN!

Are you ready for this week's meal plan and blog hop? Remember, in the meal plan some items are bolded, which indicates a homegrown or local item from our urban homestead. We have leftovers for lunch, and we rarely have desserts. Many times on weekends our lunches include eggs from the ladies. We've given red meat up for Lent, too. *le sigh*
  • Monday - Oven roasted, marinated chicken breasts and honey-glazed carrots
  • Tuesday - Beer brats and frozen sweet corn
  • Wednesday - Spaghetti with meatless marinara sauce (I'll throw in a lot of veggies, though)
  • Thursday - Monthly dinner out with my teacher friends. John is on his own tonight, or he might eat at the soup dinner at church before Lent service.
  • Friday - Pepper, onion, black olive, cheese nachos and salsa
  • Saturday - Chili (with pork sausage) in the slow cooker
  • Sunday - Family dinner with the in-laws. We'll hash out a potluck menu via text.
Anyway, on to the party:

Mostly Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle. We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that. Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts:

Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. 
  • What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well.
  • Follow our Pinterest board. Remember to check out our Mostly Homemade Mondays Pinterest board where we're pinning some of our favorite posts from the week.
Here was our favorite post from last week: 

A special thanks to Naptime Warrior for linking up Make Your Own Sweetened Condensed Milk to Mostly Homemade Mondays! Feel free to grab this "I've Been Featured" button and share the great news with your readers, family, and friends: 
<a href="http://s1333.photobucket.com/user/TheSustainableCouple/media/TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1333.photobucket.com/albums/w637/TheSustainableCouple/TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg" border="0" alt="I Was Featured button for MHM photo TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg"/></a>

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Iowa's only float tank supports deeper, total relaxation. #RESTtank #isolationtank #float

I chugged my way through the after-work traffic (the day after we had 11 inches of snowfall) to head to Jackie's house to check out Iowa's only float tank. I knew I was going to be seeing something cool; something brand new to me. Except, on that drive over I couldn't focus on Jackie or her float tank.

I was concentrating on the traction control light on my dash that kept going off on my icy drive to her house. I got hung up on finding the right address, but made two wrong turns anyway. I parked next to Jackie's house, then slipped on the ice and landed on my hands and knees right in front of a busy intersection.

Needless to say, when I rang Jackie's doorbell I wasn't in the right frame of mind to hear about a float tank. My knees hurt. My brain hurt. My pride hurt.

Then she opened the door and welcomed me right in.

"Are you OK with dogs?"

Uh, psh-yeah! Things are starting to look up.

It was when Jackie started telling me about how she and her boyfriend, became intentional with their time that I knew I was meant to have this conversation with her. On this day. Right after I worked a long day with my teachers and finished mountains of paperwork and struggled through the traffic and slipped on the ice.

"We are dedicating time to make sure we're happy with our careers and each other. It's deliberate and mindful and intentional," Jackie said. "It makes life easier when we aren't fighting everything."

You're right. You're so right.

And that's where the Samadhi float tank, or REST tank, comes in. This is, after all, the whole reason why I was visiting Jackie today. This is a tool that helps 'floaters' stop fighting with everything around them.

According to the Samadhi website, a float tank is a tool "allowing the body the freedom of zero gravity, the mind the absence of external stimuli."

Jackie even sets up her tank room to to get a person prepared for such an environment. Take a look at her room, both dimly lit and with the lights on: 

Honest Floating, a branch of Jackie's health coaching company (Honest Living), is the only company in Iowa that offers a float tank. The nearest tank to Eastern Iowa is about 4 hours away in Rockford.

Floating in a float tank is a unique experience. There is no light, no sound, and the temperature of the air and water is regulated to be the same as the skin. Essentially, the float tank eliminates all stimulus from a person, so the floater can be perfectly suspended for optimal relaxation and meditation.

"The brain needs relaxation, and it's a different sensation than being asleep or relaxed," Jackie said.

Jackie's first experience in a float tank forced her to relax.

"The experience was a powerful insight. I was able to unplug my brain and realize I really am sane and will be OK [after a personally challenging year]."

It was earlier when Jackie found herself with high cholesterol, insurmountable stress, and a very demanding professional life. Her body ached, her head hurt, she was exhausted. She soon found her path to health and wellness and began a successful catering business with her late father. After abandoning "the idea of 'People Magazine healthy', where keeping up with mainstream ideals of what we think healthy looks like", and passing on her catering business to a new investor, Jackie refocused and started Honest Living; her health coaching business.

Jackie and a small group of coaches guide their clients through a variety of avenues of healthy living, depending on their goals. You can read more about the health coaching part of her business here.

Soon afterwards came Honest Floating; Iowa's only float tank.

Currently Honest Floating hosts 2 to 3 floaters per day, Tuesday through Friday during normal business hours. To contact Jackie and learn more about Honest Floating's tank, visit her website or go here to learn more about her float tank.

"I encourage everyone to be an investigator of their own interests to make a better life for themselves," she said. "There are so many options for living a healthy and happy life."

In the spirit of that investigation, you can watch a short documentary about floating here.

Are you a floater? Have you ever thought of floating before? 

AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.

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