Person sorting through vegetables and fruit on a table.

How to Compost: Indoors

Short on outdoor space but still want to compost? It turns out, you can! There are two ways that you can compost inside. You can purchase a compost bin for your home, or you can do vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is composting with worms.

With Vermicomposting, the worms will breakdown your materials and do the work for you. It is surprisingly low maintenance to keep them and provides rich fertilizer once ready. The container typically needs cleaned every 3-6 months. There are products that you can buy to start up this process if you don’t mind a few hundred tiny roommates that may not pay their rent but will take out the trash for you.

Trash can in a kitchen island that can be used for compost.

If the idea of keeping creepy-crawlies in your house makes you feel uneasy, you can opt for a bin. You can purchase an indoor compost bins or you can make one of your own. To make your own:

  • You can drill holes in the bottom of a plastic container and put a drip tray underneath (to catch any liquid). Inside the composter you would add a layer of dirt and paper.
  • After you add your layer, add your cut up food scraps. With composting inside, you’ll want to avoid anything that will be stinky.
  • You’ll want to add materials like leaves or newspaper and mix your compost regularly. This process will continue until your compost looks and smells like dirt.

Keep in mind where you will be placing your bins. Some people opt for under the sink and others, right on the counter.

Why Compost?

With whatever route you should choose to take, you can take comfort in knowing you are bettering the world!

Landscaping outside of a home with a wheelbarrow and shovel.

How to Start Composting: Outdoors

We know why composting is important and what we can compost, but how do you start your own outdoor compost station?

To start, decide how much you are composting and if you need a bin. Benefits of composting with a bin is that it will keep it neat in your back yard and help to keep critters away. If you do choose a bin, consider the size of the container for how big of a space you’ll need.

Next is location, location, location. Find an area that is well-drained. If you live in the south, you may want to consider a shady spot so the moisture in the pile doesn’t evaporate too quickly.  In the north, you may want to consider a sunny area since it typically is cooler weather in the spring and fall.

Remember to consider the proximity to your house and garden. Since you will more than likely be making at least one trip (if not more) to it daily you will want it to be close enough to the house, but also close enough so you don’t have to make long trips to your garden.

Once you have decided what and where – it is time to start composting! Start off by having the pile touching the ground.

  • On the first layer, place brown items such as leaves, twigs, cardboard (torn up).
  • Then add green materials, such as food wastes or grass. Each layer should be around 5 inches, give or take.
  • Keep repeating layers until you run out.
  • Once you’ve added the layers, keep the materials wet, but not soaking wet.
  • Turn your pile to dry and mix the materials together for breaking down.

Soil and pots for compost gardening.

As time goes and the materials start to break down, you’ll notice the components of it starting to change. Once the materials look and smell like dark dirt as opposed to the items you originally started with, that is when it is ready to be used for your garden.

Why Compost?

Happy Composting!

Woman in front of a garden, tending to it.

What Are the Benefits of Composting?

Composting is a simple way you can better the environment (and potentially your wallet). If you aren’t quite sure how to start composting or if it really makes that big of a difference, then this is the post for you! Over the following weeks of this series we will be talking about the importance of composting and what you can compost, followed by making your own composter! So, let’s dig in!

Why Compost?

Composting has direct benefits for your backyard but also impacts the environment on a larger scale, too!

When you compost, your soil becomes healthier, which naturally promotes better plant health. Because compost adds organic materials back into the soil, it reduces your need for store bought fertilizer. An additional benefit is that soil will contain more nutrients and become more impervious to diseases. The EPA states that increasing organic matter in your dirt by just 1% can triple the soil’s water capacity!1 It’s pretty amazing what impact you can make for your own back yard.

What about on the larger scale though? Overall, composting will result in cleaner oceans and reduce methane emissions, just to name a couple of benefits2It also prevents 30% of all waste from ending up in a landfill3. Not only will you prevent compostable waste from ending up in the landfill you will also become more mindful of what is being thrown out, thus saving on your budget!

Now that we know why we should compost the question becomes:

What can you compost?

The answer… just about anything! But you will want to be mindful since some items may cause unwanted critters. That problem can be solved though by keeping your bin locked.

Easiest things to compost:

  • Leaves
  • Sticks
  • grass
  • Newspaper (black and white)
  • Saw dust
  • Vegetable food scraps

Items you’ll want to avoid:

  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Dairy
  • Fats
  • Diseased plants

If you are looking to compost something but aren’t sure if you can, check out this composting website! It will tell you whether it can be composted and how to do it safely.

Now that you learned (or maybe already knew) about how composting improves your soil/ plants, reduces waste in your home, and produces less landfill waste – you might be considering how to get started with your own compost! Stay tuned for our next post on the topic where I’ll teach you exactly that!

More Eco Friendly Ideas!

  1. Addison County Solid Waste Management District. 18 August 2021. Five Top Reasons to Compost. https://www.addisoncountyrecycles.org/food-scraps/composting/101/why-compost.
  2. Grow Ensemble. 18 August 2021. 20 April 2021. The 15 Benefits of Composting for the Environment, the Economy, & Our Communities. https://growensemble.com/benefits-of-composting/
  3. Green Philly. 18 August 2021. 21 May 2013. 5 Benefits of Composting for Your Urban Garden. https://www.thegreencities.com/lifestyle/5-benefits-of-composting/

Top down view of bee bath with marbles and water.

How to Create Your Own Bee Bath

Bees are essential for the world’s survival. They are a big contributor to plant pollination and without them, it is said we would not survive. So what can you do to help save the bees? Besides having wildflowers, dandelions, and other flowers in your yard, you can create your own bee bath.

The back of a bee flying onto an orange flower.
A bee flying onto an orange flower.

A bee bath is a little area with shallow water that allows for our little friends to come and cool off and get a drink of water. With the hot summer days, it could be treacherous for bees to find a place to stay hydrated. Most pools of water will be too deep and if they slip in, they will risk drowning.

All the things you need to make a bee bath: pots with trays, paint brushes, paint, marbles, and an area to paint.

What you need to make a bee bath:

  • A shallow plate
  • Rocks or marbles
  • Water
  • Paint (for decoration)

For our bee baths, we chose clay pot trays to use and marbles, but you can use any shallow plate. You can choose to paint or decorate it or just leave it as is.

After you decide on your plate, add some rocks and marbles to allow for a standing place for their tired legs. Place in your garden and fill with water without covering the rocks or marbles. And that’s it!

Painted terracotta pots with trays.
Painted terracotta pot.
Bee Bath made from Terracotta painted pots.
Check out this how to video for more!

Get Rid of Bugs Safely!

This simple and quick little project can go a long way for bee survival, especially during the hazy days of summer.

The Hidden Benefits of Houseplants

Houseplants probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind for most when it comes to home maintenance. Surprisingly, these little plants add more than aesthetics to anyone’s decor. So, what are the benefits of having them and how can they aide in home maintenance?

Houseplants have been found to reduce dust and mold in your environment, which means less dusting for you and better air quality! Speaking of air quality, house plants can purify and add moisture to your air.

Your home’s environment and air aren’t the only receivers of the benefits, you are too! Adding plants to your space can boost your mood, relieve stress, and help provide restful sleep. Adding plants to a variety of rooms in your home will expand the benefits you can receive.

If you are a beginner at caring for plants, you may need to do some research to find the right ones for you. It’s a good idea to factor in the time you have to care for a plant. For example, a plant that doesn’t need a lot of watering, like a cactus, would be ideal if you are busy, travel often, or tend to forget about plants. A snake plant would be a good option if your home doesn’t get much natural light.

Some great plants to consider for beginners and are easy to care for are:

  • Aloe Vera
  • Christmas Cactus
  • Lucky Bamboo
  • Succulents
  • Snake Plant
  • Spider Plant
  • Cacti

Certain plants can provide added benefits compared to others. For example, you can use the aloe plant to help with skin issues and sunburns. Be sure to research which plants work best for what benefit you are looking for!

All in all, incorporating plants into your space can offer more than just decoration by providing health benefits and improving your home’s environment. Who knew bringing a little outside to the inside of your home could provide such an array of benefits!

Keep Going Green!

Sources:

https://www.swansonsnursery.com/blog/health-benefits-of-houseplants

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/indoor-plants-can-instantly-boost-your-health-happiness-ncna781806

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-houseplants

My Go-To Way to Clean the Microwave

Cleaning the microwave is one of my least favorite tasks. Everything that splattered is stuck onto the sides of the microwave and is a pain to scrub clean. I needed an easier way, one that didn’t require a ton of elbow grease.

Then I came across this method. It’s super simple and allows for all the dried food to be effortlessly wiped cleaned.

All you need is the following:

  • A microwave safe bowl
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Lemon juice

In the bowl, add one-part vinegar, one-part water and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. Place the bowl in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes. (I typically use a cup each of vinegar and water, but you can decide what works best for your microwave.) When the timer goes off, carefully remove the bowl as it may be hot and wipe down the microwave with a damp cloth.

If you have a microwave with a rotating glass dish, be careful when removing, as it may also be hot,  and wipe down.

If anything is still remaining, place the bowl back in the microwave for another minute or so.  The steam can help break up the grease and dried on food.

Clean Your Oven, Too!

What used to be an exhausting appliance to clean, now is a quick clean up no matter how long you go in between cleanings.

5 Tips to Help You Clean Your Fridge

November 15th is National Clean Out Your Fridge Day. The thought behind this day is to clear the way for all those incoming leftovers that will fill your fridge after Thanksgiving. However, just as a rule I try to clean my fridge at least once a quarter. It is amazing how we don’t notice the little spills or reside from fruits and veggies (especially if you forgot about them in the drawer) until it gets bad.  If you maintain regularly though, cleaning your fridge can be a less bothersome task. Here are some tips to help make the process efficient and get you through!

Tip 1: Remove all your contents – don’t just work around them

You can do this a few ways. You can take everything out all at once, or shelf by shelf. As you remove the contents, take note to see what is expired and what is still good. I like to create two piles on the floor that way I know what I am tossing and what I am not.

Tip 2: Use an unscented, natural cleaner

To clean the surfaces of your fridge, you’ll want to use something natural and doesn’t have a strong scent. You can use a scentless natural cleaner you buy in a store, make your own, or even just wipe down the inside with some warm water and add a little dish soap for stuck on messes. Having a strong scent can linger in your fridge and cause your food to absorb the smell or using chemicals could be potentially harmful.

Tip 3: Get organized…again

When putting back all the unexpired foods, make sure to reorganize. It is so easy for things to get put back in different places. Having an organized fridge will allow you  find what you need quickly. It will save you time and money.

Tip 4: Don’t just focus on cleaning the inside

It isn’t just the areas where your food sits that gets dirty. It is the door, back of the fridge, top, and under the fridge too. Make sure to wipe down the inside of the door where it seals. Unplug your fridge and gently wipe down the coils with a dry cloth or brush and move the fridge out to clean underneath. You’ll want to make sure your remove all dust so it doesn’t harm the functionality of your fridge. Once done cleaning, remember to plug your fridge back in.

Tip 5: Keep it smelling fresh

Keeping either baking soda or freshly ground coffee in your fridge will help to absorb food odors. You can also crumple a brown paper bag and place it in your produce drawer to help absorb odors.

Freshen Your Fridge/Kitchen!

While cleaning the fridge is no one’s favorite task, hopefully these tips will help to improve your process to keep your fridge clean and smelling great.

How to Make Homemade Caramel Apples

Nothing says fall quite like pumpkins and apples. There are so many wonderful recipes that create great Autumn smells in your kitchen! One of my favorite things is caramel apples. Usually people will find them at fairs or if you are lucky, a good one in the grocery store.   You might not realize this is an easy thing to make right in your own home!

First, make sure you set all your ingredients and tools.

What you need:

  • Caramel
  • Apples
  • Sticks
  • Double Boiler/sauce pan/microwaveable bowl
  • Big Spoon
  • Cookie Tray
  • Parchment paper/Tin foil
  • Cooking spray/Butter
  • Crushed nuts or other toppings (optional)
  1. Prepare the apples:

Before you start anything, you will want to make sure your apples are ready to go.

Wash your apples thoroughly to make sure all the wax and dirt is removed. Once done, fully dry the apples. Any moisture will prevent the caramel from sticking properly.

The next thing you’ll want to do is destem the apples and add sticks to them. You can use which ever kind of sticks you like. Pointed sticks do make it easier to add the stick to the apple rather than a duller stick.

After your caramel is ready, you won’t want to worry about it hardening or burning depending on how you are warming your caramel.

2. Prepare your station:

After you prepare your apples to be dunked, you will want to make sure you have a place to put them once you are done covering them. Take a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper or tin foil. Since caramel can be so sticky, you will also want to grease the surface. You can spray it with a cooking spray or use butter. You can grease your cookie sheet directly, but cleaning up will be easier if you use some kind of liner in case any caramel does get left behind.

3. Warm up your caramel:

You can always make your caramel from scratch or you can use store-bought candies. This time, I used the store-bought candies. If you use them, you will want to follow the directions to add about 2TBS of milk, heavy whipping cream, or water (whatever the candy recommends) to the caramel and stir. If you are warming this on the stove top, make sure to stand by it and keep the heat low to medium to prevent burning.

When your caramel is melted, it should still be thick and gooey. If it is too runny, your apples won’t cover well. You will want to make sure that the caramel is smooth when stirring. If your caramel is still too thick after adding the 2TBS, you can add 1TBS at a time to have it get to the right consistency.

4. Ready to dip!

Once your caramel is ready, start dipping your apples! Submerge your apple as much as possible to allow for the best coverage. I like to use a big cooking spoonto add caramel to the top and then spin the bottom of the apple on the spoon to remove the excess caramel while keeping it coated. When dipping the apple, turn the apple in the caramel, this will allow for even coating.

5. Add toppings:

I prefer to add crushed nuts to my apples, but you can add anything you like. You can even drizzle them with chocolate. Whichever topping you decide to use, make sure they are small.

Immediately after coating your caramel apple, twirl the apple around in your topping and then place on your tray for the caramel to set.

6. Repeat:

Keep repeating this process until all your caramel is gone or until you have made enough caramel apples. Work quickly, but don’t worry, you can always warm your caramel back up if it starts hardening before you are done dipping.

Keep the apples refrigerated if you don’t plan on eating them right away. If you do keep them at room temperature, don’t place them in direct sunlight so the caramel won’t start melting.

7. Enjoy and share!

Once you are done and the mess is cleaned up, enjoy your fresh caramel apple and share with your family and friends (or don’t because they are just that good)!

Keep Celebrating!

Kid Friendly Activities From Your Backyard

With springtime here, the weather is getting warmer and people are spending more time outside, especially kids. Here are a few activities that you can have your kids’ help with that will engage them in hands-on activities and encourage their curiosity.

Plant a Garden:

Teaching kids how to tend for a garden is a wonderful skill. It encourages responsibility, while also creates reward as a result from their hard work. You could choose a vegetable garden or flower garden. Either way, your kids will be proud to see what they grew from a small seed. These gardens can be low maintenance and you have a variety of options to choose from depending on your space. You could make a raised flowerbed or have a garden in buckets. You can even get creative with your containers with a little inspiration.

Summer Lifestyle 2019 Kids and Chalk-1
Learning about gardening is super fun for kids – they are invited to get dirty!

Make a Bird feeder:

A fun outdoor activity is to make an up-cycled birdfeeder. There are the traditional bird feeders that you can build or buy, but you can also make one out of every day objects you would typically throw out. Create one by decorating an old milk carton, bottles, or cans. Once you have it made, learn what kind of birds are in your area and find out what kind of seed they like. When filled and hung, you can sit and listen to their songs and help your kids identify the different species right in your own backyard.

Make Wind Chimes:

Adding a little music to your yard is another simple craft for you and your kids. With this activity you can up-cycle a variety of objects from old toys, to cans, to silverware. Check out this article for some ideas ! Test out the sounds together to here how they clink together to find the right sounds. This fun activity will allow your kids to be creative and be proud every time they hear the wind blow.

Decorate your Pathway:

If you have a front pathway or maybe just want to add a little flair to your garden, you can collect rocks with your kids and then paint them. You can pick a theme you want to stick to for the ideas or just go crazy with it! Let creativity be your guide. Once completed, you can line your walkway or make a rock garden with your newly decorated rocks. You can also decorate clay pots and arrange them on your front stoop or porch.

Get Even MORE Ideas!

Whichever craft you choose, remember it will encourage creativity while letting their personalities shine through and create life long memories that you’ll kids will take with them as they grow.