Our fascination with composting started on a trip to Seattle years ago. We visited a relative there that had a composting barrel in the back yard and she composted everything possible. That was the first real interaction we had with the process and we loved everything about it.
About three years prior to the picture above we built our compost location. After talking about it for years we decided to just make it happen and started looking around at what we had to use. We used old wooden pallets, some misc wood boards and fence material we had in the shed.
It's amazing how the decomposition process beaks everything down into such small piles. We've never taken any of the compost out. After adding everything imaginable for three years you can see how much it breaks down. The pile on the left is where we started and are now working towards utilizing it with some planting this summer. The pile in the middle was started later and the pile on the right we just started this year.
Just about any food product waste from the kitchen, except meat and dairy, go into the compost. Over the last three years that is a whole lot of volume that didn't go into the trash can and subsequently a land fill. Fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, various leftovers, coffee grinds, paper towels, stale bread and just about anything else that goes bad is kept in a bin on the kitchen counter that we dump into the compost bin almost daily.
We also add weeds we pull, potted plants that die, some grass clippings, and the ashes from the barbecue grill. We don't have very many trees that drop big leaves, so I think we lack in being able to add an ideal amount of dead brown material. But that doesn't seem to affect how productive the compost piles are in breaking things down.
When the weather is dry we add water with the hose and we stir up the piles about once a week. A good quantity of earth worms have made a home over the years too. There is nothing fancy about it, just getting started and away you go. The microbes that break everything down are already in nature and they get started doing what they do best. Moisture and oxygen is what the microbial bacteria thrive on to decompose the waste. We don't over think it, we just do it!
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Installing a Rain Barrel Tied to Gutter Downspout with Rain Diverter - Watering Plants with Rain Water
Plants love rain water. The chlorine in tap water is a real stress on plants. We could tell a big difference in all of our house plants when we started using only rain water. Capturing rain water is easy to do and good for the environment too. The old way of trying to position a bucket under the rain gutter downspout just wasn't cutting it anymore.
We bought a rain barrel in late summer last year but didn't get it installed. With warmer weather upon us it was time to get it done. We first had to come up with how we would elevate the barrel. We decided to build a cedar stand to place it on. The legs on the stand come up higher on all four corners so that it provides extra support in high winds. The bottom of this particular barrel gets slimmer than the top, so we wanted to give it that little bit of extra support.
We got the cedar wood to build the stand at Home Depot. They cut the 4x4 cedar posts for us out of a 10 foot long piece, so each of the legs is 2.5 feet tall. The rest of the stand came from cutting two 8 foot long cedar 2x6's into the lengths needed at home with a circular saw. There was a couple feet of the 2x6 material left over. We used 3 inch long outdoor deck screws to assemble everything.
Once the stand was done we had to connect the barrel to our rain water gutter downspout. We used a kit from Earthminded to do that. The kit came with the hole saws needed for the drill. The kit we ordered had only the parts we needed. Since our barrel already had the threaded outlet at the bottom for a nozzle we didn't need to add that. There are kits that come with everything you need to turn an ordinary 50 gallon barrel into a rain collecting storage. You have to measure your gutter downspout to ensure you get the right rain water diverter kit. The typical gutter downspouts are either 2x3 inches or 3x4 inches in diameter. They also have the kit for round gutter downspouts.
Using the larger of the included two hole saw drills there was a hole put into the rain gutter downspout. The kit has a thick rubber diverter that slides in through the hole on the downspout and is attached with two self tapping screws that come with it.
Next we used the smaller hole saw drill to make the hole in the barrel. There is a rubber grommet with the kit that goes into the hole on the barrel to create the finished hole to hold the hose.
With the gutter downspout diverter and the barrel hole in place we connected the flexible hose between the two. The ends on the hose just slide into each side, kind of like a vacuum hose. The rain water was now set to be diverted from within the rain gutter into the barrel.
We sprayed water on the roof with a water hose to confirm the water flowed into the barrel. It worked great! The thick rubber piece that goes into the rain gutter doesn't catch all of the water coming down. Some of it still comes out the downspout. When your rain barrel is full all of the water will just continue down the downspout to exit just as it had before.
Job complete! We are all set to catch a significant amount of rain water for our plants each time it rains. We might do another one on the side of our detached garage using the used 55 gallon barrel full DIY method. Just have to see how well the one can keep up after a rain or two.
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About two weeks ago I mentioned that you never know about Texas weather and when the last cold snap might be. Well sure enough, we got down into the low 20's last night (3/3/19) and it looks like we will again the next two nights. The funny thing is we have highs in the 70's for the forecast four days from now. Looking forward to real spring weather!
It's winter in Texas and this is the first year we've had a great place to store all our potted plants!
We've had a very wet winter in the Dallas Fort Worth area. We've had quite a few cold snaps too, but no snow or ice as of yet (this is North Texas, so I won't count that out until at least mid March!).
Luckily we completed our new detached garage before winter set in. All of the outdoor potted plants are in from the cold and doing well in the sun of the east and south facing windows. I think the coldest I've seen on the thermometer in the garage is about forty five degrees. That's pretty good since we have had some nights down into the twenties.
We had kicked around the idea of a greenhouse in the past, but I'm glad we held off and integrated an area into the garage building for winter plant storage. It's nice seeing them every time we come and go from parking in the garage.
Can't wait until spring when we get to move them all back outside! Looking forward to posting pictures here of everything greened up and blooming! We have some great rich compost ready to kick start everything.
- The Bradens
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