Friday, September 14, 2012

Old Science Fair Project - Composting

I've always been an advocate of the 3 R's - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, as some of my old classmates may (not so fondly) remember.  Three months ago, while we were packing for our move, I found this old book I made about myself for a school project.  

I showed it to KT and he said, "so you've always been like this; you really haven't change one bit."  HAHA!

For one of the many science projects I've done for school, I had decided to make my own compost.  If memory serves me correctly, I built a monstrosity in the backyard.  Now that I'm older and wiser, I'll start with a smaller compost pile.  

Since we've been so busy in the house, we haven't gotten around to doing anything in the backyard.  There are three projects that are on the top of my list for the backyard.  First, make a rain barrel.  If you look into buying one, then you would know how insanely expensive they are - especially one that is not an eyesore.  Second, harvest grey water.  Not too sure how I'll be doing this yet.  And Third, make my own compost.  

In the last week or so, I've been really itching to get my compost started.  I started putting aside strawberry heads with stems, banana peels, and laundry lint.  KT saved his peanut shells for me.  As these items started to really break down in their temporary containers, KT donated one of his plastic bins for me to finally start the compost pile.  

I used the the US Environmental Protection Agency's website for reference to Create Your Own Compost Pile.  I decided to go with the 'Backyard Composting Approach Two' from the website.  


KT helped me drill some holes in the bin to help with aeration.  

To make sure the compost doesn't smell or attracts pests, I have to make sure the composition is the right balance of brown materials, green materials, water and air.  

Brown materials are items that provides carbon to our compost while green materials provide nitrogen.  Water is necessary to help break down the materials.  

Here is a Compost Info Guide I used for a list of brown materials.  I had plenty of newspaper to use so I started with that.  Other brown material I would use in the future are leaves, eggshells, and teabags.  


I shredded about six inches of newspaper and put that in the bin first.  


Three inches of green materials and a little soil.  I didn't have three inches of green material so there's more soil.  For green materials, I have peanut shells,   banana peels, laundry lint, strawberry heads... then I threw in rice.  That was a mistake.  Here on this list from Mother Nature Network of what NOT to put in your compost is rice.    


Lightly mix the two layers of brown and green materials.  I made sure to ONLY lightly mix the newspaper from the bottom because it is important to leave enough loose material at the bottom so that air can flow in from the previously drilled holes.  Turning the compost pile regularly will also help distribute air and water.  


Top the mixture with another three inches of brown material (in my case, newspaper) and moisten with water.  

Now I just need to turn the pile every week or so and hopefully, it'll be ready for Spring!  

Thursday, May 31, 2012


Two and a half years later, here I am again - plus one man and two dogs.  We are glad to finally be moving back to this house. 

Since the last post, we laid down landscape fabric on the exposed dirt, topped it with mulch, and place a cement bench on it.  Everything else remained the same. 

Goals for the year:
Goal #1 - Paint the wooden fence a dark brown. 
Goal #2 - Dog proof the backyard.  a) lay down cinder blocks all around the perimeter of the yard to prevent digging under the fence.  b) replace the two gates on both side of the yard.
Goal #3 - Set up the buddha fountain and patio furniture I bought a few years ago.
Goal #4 - Plants some dwarf fruit trees in some really big pots along the right fence.
Goal #5 - Plant some flowers in wooden planter boxes to flank the sides of the center patio.
Goal #6 - Build a permanent planter along the left fence for my herb garden. 
Goal #7 - Tear down the shed in the back left corner.
Goal #8 - Do something with the dirt area along the back fence??

Glad to be back. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Perhaps a Pond?

Thinking Out Loud:

A plastic tub or pond liner?

Pros and Cons: Need to dig a bigger hole for the tub and then need to pack the dirt tightly around the tub (if not packed tightly, rain water can fall under the tub and raise it up from the ground). Tub can crack in cold weather and cause a leak. Liner requires that all side are perfectly level around the edge or else it can leak. Also needs underlayment or sand to cushion the liner.

Pond Kit?

Ponds should be two feet deep for fishes and plants.

Waterproof pump? Solar pump cannot run a biological filter that is needed for a live pond. Maybe purchase a separate electrical pump for the filter?

Filter? Some pumps come with a built in filter down fish waste. (Need to put in bacteria?)

1" layer of coarse sand at bottom of pond

1" of fish to 1 sqft of pond surface area. Feed fish once a day to minimize fish waste. Don't feed fish when water is under 55 degrees. Put fishes in 3-4 days after pond is running. Fish eats algae and mosquito larvae.

Plant - 30-50% of pond surface area, mix of marginal, oxygenators, and lilies. Plants can be planted directly into the gravel.

Maybe no fish and no plants. Just pebbles? Then I might not need a filter...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Back from Vacation!

After three weeks of vacation, here I am again. I came back to having to pick up dog poop in the backyard. It was really stinky. Imagine having to cook dinner and smelling that stench.

Anyhow, on Monday, November 2nd, pavers started going down in the backyard.

Tuesday, November 3rd, I was not happy with the work so I had it all ripped up and redone. End of day, the pavers in the center of the yard was done, and the two gravel pathway on either side of it was put in.

Wednesday, November 4th, pavers on either side of the concrete patio was put in. Lava rocks went down.

Thursday, November 5th, the paver pathway between the concrete patio and the huge paver patio was laid.

Coming up next, mulch!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Free dirt! And Free Delivery!

So this morning, I was up early awaiting the delivery of free dirt to my driveway. I asked for four yards of dirt, hoping to fill up all the crazy holes in the backyard.

These pictures do not do it justice. This pile of dirt is much much more than it seems in the pictures. If you compare it to the size of the lawn behind it, then maybe you just might get an idea of how big this pile really is.

9AM, I start shoveling dirt

9:45pm, two hispanic men in a truck drives by as I was observing the monstrosity in front of me. The man in the passenger seat gets out of the car and walks up my driveway. He offers me their labor. I decline. He looks at me, then at the pile of dirt and said, "that's a lot of dirt just for you."

12pm, three hours later of muscle-aching labor, I shoveled and wheelbarrowed a quarter of the dirt into the backyard all by my lonesome

1pm, an extra pair of hands from the neighborhood offers to help, free of charge

3pm, we gave up for the day, with a third of the dirt left and half of the holes filled

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Stage 1 - Just Muddling

When I first bought this property a couple years ago, this entire backyard was a green lawn.  My beloved dogs have managed to kill all the grass by digging holes everywhere.  Can't really blame them - there were gophers and my bloodhound has a nose that just wont quit.  This is how the backyard currently looks. In the past couple of weeks, we cleared out some of the dead grass and weed. It actually looked a lot worse before, especially during the rainy season when three feet weeds covered the entire backyard. The scorching heat from this summer has helped killed most of it.

These are some of the holes that the dogs dug up in the past two years.

Section 1 - This is the section to the right of the patio that we'll be concentrating on first. I will post more pictures to show the progress of this area.