Wild Gourd Farm

Organic Gardening in St. Louis City

Monthly Archives: April 2011

Frugal Friday: Vermicomposting

Worm bins are an easy and convenient way to compost kitchen scraps and organic waste without taking up too much space. For about $15, you can create your own continuous supply of rich compost.  Here’s our worm bin: The worm bin, in all of its glory The worms live in the top bin. We drilled air holes on the side along the top of the bin- you can drill them into the top lid too, but then you don’t want to leave it outside in the rain (we keep ours under our kitchen sink but wanted the option of keeping it outside). The environment needs to be moist but not too damp, so we also drilled holes in the bottom of the first bin for drainage, with a screen on the inside to keep any of our little worms from escaping.  We then placed the first bin inside another bin, putting bricks at the bottom of the lower bin to elevate the top bin for adequate drainage.

In our experience, though, you don’t need the holes or bottom drainage bin if you practice proper moisture control. We’ve found that periodically adding newspaper or extra soil helps prevent the habitat from getting too damp.

We started with 3 containers of red wigglers we bought from a local bait shop, as they are known as hardy and efficient composters. You can also buy them online, sometimes even on Craigslist. Red wigglers also reproduce rapidly, which makes it easy to increase your compost production.

To start we gave them a base of newspaper, dirt and leaf compost, then added diced vegetable scraps every few days. The smaller the food, the more quickly it is broken down.  We replenish the food regularly. Your compost is ready when there are no visible scraps in the worm castings.

You can harvest your compost by pushing everything to one side of the bin and then introducing new food on the opposite side. Most of the worms will seek out and migrate toward the food, leaving their castings behind, though you’ll need to pick out a few stragglers by hand.

Inside the bin

We use our worm castings to add nutrients to our garden soil before planting, as top dressings around seedlings that have been planted, and in the form of “compost tea,” sprayed on plants when watering.

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Wet Chickens

Fanny

Mother and Chica

Chica's crest

Close-up of Chica's waterlogged crest!

Yolko

Frugal Friday: Pillows and/or Dog Beds

With basic sewing skills and a little time, you can make most home furnishings and decorations yourself. Pillows are especially easy to make if you have a sewing machine. I make large pillows with removable, washable slip covers to use as dog beds around the house.

dog bed

Here’s how to make your own dog bed (or any other pillow with a slip cover).

Read more of this post

Half-Hoop House Update

We’re having the most spring-like Spring here in St. Louis this year! On warmer days we keep the hoop house vented, but temperatures can still surge over 100° in there.

Peas

The peas are loving the sun

basil

These basil plants were started from seed and had been under our grow lights until recently

perfect salads

The makings of many delicious salads: carrots, onions, romaine lettuce, bok choi and kale

nasturtium

These nasturtium leaves are a spicy, peppery addition to our salads. We also have some cilantro and echinacea sharing the pot

tomato

With such high temperatures in the hoop house, the tomato plants we started from seed have already begun to flower

strawberries

Outside the hoop house our strawberries are beginning to flower, too! They're in a separate bed with candy apple onion sets we planted

Frugal Friday: Dog Treats

First off:

Eggs!

We got three more eggs from our ladies (they’re no longer “girls”)! Now we know there are at least two of them laying, since the shells are different colors.

Anyway, back to Frugal Friday: dog treats are really easy to make, and you can usually throw them together with things you probably already have in your pantry. I use and build off of this vegan dog treat recipe, which uses flax seeds and oats as healthy additions instead of just flour:

dog treats!

  • 3/4 c. peanut butter
  • 1 c. oats
  • 2/3 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. ground flax seeds
  • 2/3 c. water

Preheat oven to 375° F and lightly grease two baking sheets. Mix together all ingredients and roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/4″ thickness.  Then you can cut out shapes using cookie cutters (or if you’re lazy like me, use a pizza cutter to cut squares or diamonds). Transfer treats to baking sheets and cook for 12-15 minutes- you can flip them halfway through, but you don’t have to. They’re done when the bottoms and sides are slightly toasted. They’ll crisp up as they cool down.

Alterations and additions:

  • Instead of the peanut butter, use 2 c. ground peanuts (raw or roasted, but not salted) and 1 T. canola oil.
  • Add shredded carrots, apple peels, or beet skins.
  • Add fresh parsley and mint to freshen breath.
  • Our dogs love 1 T. nutritional yeast mixed in.
  • Add an egg for binding, then omit some of the water.
Enjoy!

First Egg!

We let the girls free range in the side yard for about an hour yesterday.

Today we got our first egg!

First egg, cooking

First egg, cooked

Frugal Friday: Food Currency

Generally, in order to procure a product you must input time and/or money.  As you well know, Eric and I tend to spend more time than money by scavenging and buying things second-hand. We’re growing more food this year than we ever have, but we’ll still have to rely on other sources for food. At the farmers’ markets and grocery stores we focus on buying ingredients in their most whole stages, which lessens our monetary loss by taking on a greater commitment of time.

Popcorn is one of the best examples of reversed food currency. According to the EPA, the United States is the largest producer of corn in the world. I could write an entire book on the backward system of corn production in our country, but I’ll leave that for another time. For now, I’ll just say that you can buy popping corn by the pound (and organic, too) for about the price of a box of 3 microwave pouches.  Not to mention you can pop just enough for a single serving, and you’re not subject to all the added salt and fat in many commercial brands. 

All you have to do is heat up a little canola oil in a pan, add the corn kernels, then cover and cook over low-to-medium heat, moving the pan a bit to keep the corn from burning. Altogether, it takes less time than the 3 minutes it takes in the microwave, and you have a cheaper, healthier snack.

I’ve also gotten into the habit of making a tray of granola every Sunday to give myself a week’s worth of breakfasts, way cheaper than a box or two of cereal. I’ve posted my recipe here for anyone who’s interested.

Dave’s Place

We’ve had the great fortune of meeting Dave, a fellow St. Louisan who has a large backyard that he’s allowing us to garden. We decided to build raised beds from reclaimed non-treated wood.  We’re filling the beds with river-bottom soil we had  delivered along with soil amendments like worm castings, leaf compost, sand, decomposed granite, and alfalfa meal.

Before

During

We’ve just planted broccoli and kale seedlings and carrot seeds. More photos to come!

Frugal Friday: Dishes

Whether you have a dishwasher or wash your dishes by hand, it’s an activity that requires a lot of water, energy, and time. We have a shallow porcelain sink with no garbage disposal and a small dish rack. Instead of scraping remaining food into the trash, soaking and scrubbing dishes and utensils, and waiting for plates to air-dry, we’ve found it best to let the dogs clean our dishes.

No need to scrape plates clean, the dogs act as a pre-wash, happily disposing of our crumbs.

What we consider a chore, the dogs perform with gusto- never complaining about their household duty.

In the end, our dogs do a better, more thorough job washing dishes than we do!

Note: We don’t actually do this- April Fools!