Archive for March, 2010

The Many Lives of an Orange

Friday, March 26th, 2010

A few weeks, I picked a bunch of lovely oranges from an orange tree in my garden. Just picking them off the tree was enjoyable.

freshly picked oranges

I brought them into my kitchen, sliced them in half and made the most delicious glass of orange juice.

a most delicious glass of orange juice

Afterwards, I put the orange halves on my windowsill to dry.

sliced oranges drying on the windowsill

Once they are dry, which takes anywhere from one week to two, depending on the weather, I bundle them in comic strips from the Sunday papers and use them as kindling in my fireplace. They smell great and burn slower than newspaper.

dried orange peels

oranges reborn as natural fire starter

Oranges are among the top 20 foods in which pesticide residues are most frequently found, so buy organic whenever possible.

The Win Win part II

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

What is Compost?

Compost is the process of recycling your kitchen or yard waste and turning it into rich organic soil conditioner. This waste* is put inside a Composter, a brilliant contraption designed to facilitate the process of composting or decomposing.

compost pail

*The waste: egg shells, banana skins, coffee grinds, fruit, vegetables, shredded newspaper, cardboard, and leaves are excellent waste materials. I recommend that you chop, slice or shred everything before adding it to your compost pail, the transit station. This ‘transit’ state is while you fill up your compost pail. When it’s filled up, you take it and empty the entire contents in your outdoor composter.



What to put in the composter:

**F R U I T

**V E G E T A B L E S

**E G G   S H E L L S

**C O F F E E   G R I N D S

**L E A V E S

**G R A S S   C L I P P I N G S

**S H R E D D E D   N E W S P A P E R

shredded newspaper

everything should be chopped, shredded or torn into smaller pieces.

No meats, salad dressing or syrups…you want the waste to be as close to what grows in nature as possible. Newspaper and cardboard are useful because they are the ‘browns’ you need to keep your composter from getting too mushy=stinky=yucky.

THE COMPOSTER: directions based on the Valentina Composter.

Valentina composter

Your composter needs to be prepared to receive the materials. Start by shredding 4 pages of a newspaper, and covering the chicken wire, for example. That is what I have in Valentina. Then add a layer of soil. The next best thing you should add are: WORMS. They are brilliant at breaking up the waste. You will be amazed by the speed they can eat and break down all the materials with such admirable swiftness and discretion. If you are WORM sensitive, have a friend add them.   WORMS are the unsung heroes of our gardens! With or without WORMS, add all your ‘green’ items, which are your rotten lettuce, mushy banana’s, inedible strawberries, forgotten moldy and decaying somethings, your coffee grinds, leaves and grass clippings (only if you do not use pesticides).


The time to be patient…..

It can take up to 8 months for a composter to really get going and be active. Make sure you check on it regularly, turning the materials with a hand trowel, hand rake or barbecue fork. If it’s looking dry, spritz it with water. If it’s looking too wet and soggy, add some shredded newspaper and stir. If you see maggots, which I have, just look away and stir the compost. It’s actually a good sign if you spot any bugs, tiny worms or beetles. That means that you have a happening composter. If the bugs like it, it means it’s working. Keep the lid closed at night and when it rains. I leave the lid open on my Valentina during the day, if it’s looking a little too wet. It’s best to keep the lid closed so the inside gets nice and warm. If your composter ever smells, it’s because it’s too wet inside and you must add some shredded newspaper to dry it up a little. Spread the rotting materials around will help as well.

Once the materials have fully decomposed, they will drop down through the chicken wire of the Valentina and you can open the door to the lower chamber and scoop out the earthy gold, a pile of dark brown, well rotted, fabulously organic material.

My compost

It’s a home chore that has effortlessly become part of my lifestyle and a new topic of conversation in my family : So, how’s Valentina doing today? She’s busy, very busy…

The Win Win of Composting

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Ready for the Composter

Composting is one very satisfying activity because it’s a win win situation. I love a win win just like anyone else. How fabulous it is that you are creating very nutritious garden “food” from what is usually considered waste and destined for some monumental trash heap. This waste, like egg shells, banana peels and all manner of shredded paper and egg cartons, magically metamorphosizes itself over a few months into dark rich nutrient rich compost, which you can then use in your garden beds, add a little to your potted plants or as the latest in cool hostess gifts, a jar full of your own homemade gold. I have done this and it was a very popular gift that keeps on giving to the recipient.

To be honest, I came rather late to the game and have only been composting for 4 years now. My children were a bit appalled by it all at first, finding it unattractive, and even a bit embarrassing especially if they had friends over. A few years into, and times have changed in my kitchen, as I have witnessed my own flesh and blood dropping their strawberry stems or old lettuce leaves into our compost pail, as if it was always part of their life. I couldn’t be prouder.

Composters and Compost!

Spring into The Warehouse Sale

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 Warehouse Sale Warehouse Sale

The calendar says Spring is just days away but I bet many of us would beg to differ. Yes, the sky is brighter but there’s still a shocking crispness in the air and snow in many parts too. Regardless, we do know Spring will come and until and after then, it’s a good time to give a full fluff to the hibernation lair and start airing out, dusting, wiping, washing and preparing for the change of season.

To this end, PRISCILLA’s Warehouse Sale offers a variety of discounted items and cleaning packages, to inspire and refresh you, your home and its contents. Available are sponge sets for scrubbing or wiping jobs in your home or office using non-toxic cleaners paired with biodegradable sponges. Now that’s what I call stepping into Spring with effortless ease.

Need a little cheering up?

Saturday, March 6th, 2010
African Plastic Kettle

African Plastic Kettle

Here is something that will make any dreary kitchen look brighter: a colorful African Plastic Kettle. I have one by my kitchen sink which used to be the dreariest spot in the room, until I placed the Kettle there and it cheers me right up when I see it. It sits next to my beloved but plain Olive Soap and to the right of the sink is a most fabulous Stainless Steel Compost pail.

When I saw one of these African Plastic Kettles years ago for the first time, it was when I was leafing through a French design magazine and there it was, looking so attractive and so odd as well. I couldn’t tell what it was made of at first, and just stared at it for a bit, all the different elements it could be made out of rushing through my mind. I gave up and moved on, until I spotted one for real. It’s made from plastic! Gasp! The one thing I hadn’t considered as I am very anti plastic. It turns out it is made in Africa from recycled plastic products that had been discarded after use (therefore kept out of landfills and the ocean) and sold back to the factories that are producing plastic products (cradle-to-cradle* and then downcycled*).

I use my African Plastic Kettle for one purpose and one purpose only: to collect the water from unfinished glasses, and the sandy water left from washing my lettuce or just water used to rinse fruit and vegetables. I re-use the water on my potted orange trees or other potted plants that need more water always than ones in the ground. And then you need the Moisture Meter to check if your potted plants are getting too much or not enough water… next blog.

* cradle-to-cradle design: Is the concept where there is no waste. Products that have finished their useful life (laundry soap containers, for example) are recycled into something else useful, therefore reducing waste in the massive landfills that are a blight on our planet.

If you are interested in reading more about this, there is a great book out “Cradle to Cradle” by William Mcdonough and Michael Braungart.

*downcycling: (according to Wikipedia) is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality. The goal of downcycling is to prevent wasting potentially useful materials, reduce consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution and water pollution, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin production. A clear example is plastic recycling (my African Plastic Kettle!), which turns the material into lower grade plastics.