Recycling to help fed the squirmers & feather the nest..
Paper is one recyclable that most folks will quite happily pop in the recycle bin along with bottles & cans but lately we have been using it for other purposes.. We started to think about all the paper that we receive in the form of bills, junk mail, cardboard packaging, toilet rolls, free "newspapers" as well as scrap paper generated by children & we decided that we could be using a lot more of this resource on site.. I don't recycle the glossy magazine style papers or cardboard boxes as I have read that the chemicals/inks used can potentally leave toxic residues in the soil..
The best way I have found to shred the paper (after experimenting with the lawnmower & mulcher) is with a cheap $20 paper shredder we purchased a few years ago..
It has shredded hundreds of old bills, working sheets from the girls school work, old seed catalogues & many, MANY of the discarded "newspapers" left on the train by folks on Bianca's evening commute home..
So far we have come up with more ideas than we have paper for ;)
We have been feeding soaked and shredded bills & scrap paper to the squirmers for quite a while now.. They really do hook right in & make very quick work of it.. Dry shredded paper can also be added into worm farms if they become too wet to help soak up some of the excess moisture.. We have also used 4 dampened down sheets of newspaper as a covering for the top of worm farms to help keep the bedding moist as well as keep the light out.. It normally doesn't last long as the worms will quickly start munching on it if there isn't enough food around :/
I started to use shredded paper for the girls nesting box after the old bedding got saturated during a heavy storm.. There was no fresh straw on hand & figured that the worms wouldn't mind sharing their paper & have been using it ever since with no complaints from the girls as of yet ;)
The compost pile is another place in the yard where paper/cardboard can be helpful for some.. While we urban gardeners have access to a lot of nitrogen based composting ingredients (food scraps, lawn clippings & maybe poultry manure) we don't all have yards that supply us with a lot of organic matter high in carbon (dried leaves & branch trimmings).. Paper is essentially pulped timber which is very high in carbon & an essential part of the composting process.. It's also a lot cheaper than popping down to the produce (if you have one nearby) to buy a bale of stray (our last bale cost us $10)..
Making up a cheap, dirt free chicken waterer..
I blogged on a very basic waterer made with one of these nipple drippers a while back but though I would do a quick little "how to" post on it, as well as an update on our watering system.. These nipple feeders are a great way to keep the water clean & fresh for your flock as they are a closed unit and dirt can't get in.. Our chickens have had theirs for a while now & it has been a great success.. So I thought I would show you how cheap & easy it is to make one up for yourselves..
These little units work on water pressure.. The water in the reservoir keeps the valve shut until the bottom pin is moved dislodging the tiny ball & allowing water to drip through for the bird/animal to drink.. Once the pin is back in place the water pressure forces the ball down stopping the water.. They can be bought from stock & pet supply stores for $3-4 each or for around a dollar if purchased on the internet in bulk..
To install the drippers all you need is a container to hold water, a drill & drill bit.. For plastics of different thickness I tend to use different drill bit sizes.. For really thin plastics (like in the small bucket above) I used a 8mm drill bit, 8.5mm for plastics up to 2mm thick & 9mm drill bit for thicker plastics like PVC pipe..
The first thing to do is to drill the hole.. I find that you need to be careful with the thin buckets as the plastic can rip if the drill catches..
Next you need to clean the swarf that is still attracted to the hole.. For this I use a utility knife being careful not to cut into the hole itself or otherwise the seal around the dripper won't be water tight..
The drippers can then be screwed in until the washer is tightly pressed against the base of the bucket..
All that's left to do now is to add some water, check for leaks (which can be fixed with a few wraps of white plumbers tape) & hang in the chook pen :)
It won't take any time at all for the chooks to work out how to use them.. It only took 5-10 min before our girls had the feeder figured out..
The feeder we use has been expanded to include another water station in their day pen.. Both water feeders are now fed by 2 large reservoir tanks so the daily task of checking the girls water now involves making sure a simple float valve works.. Here's a clip on how ours is now set up that might help give you a few ideas..
Tasty harvests from the tank & the patch...
Harvested 8 of the Jade perch from the aquaponic system a few weeks ago.. Must say that I was mighty chuffed with the size of most of them with only one being a tad smaller than I would have liked.. The largest fish weighed in at 855g/1.9lb with the smallest being 453g/1lb, about 50grams lighter than I would have liked..
I have been asked a few times about how we dispatch the fish, so I did a bit of a clip this time round just to give folks some idea.. I use a method called iki jime which is endorsed by the RSPCA as being one of the most humane ways to dispatch fish.. The clip was filmed after the fact but still contains blood for those that are a tad squeamish..
All the Glass Gem/bead corn has been picked from the bed out the back.. Didn't yield as much as the Aztec corn out the front but I think I can partially put that down to the bed not being fed up as well.. The corn itself is just as pretty as the Aztec with a few more of the lighter kernels being dominant.. All the corn from the best looking cobs will be saved for next year's crop with the rest going in with the Aztec kernels to be used as flour or for popping..
Managed to save one pineapple from the bugs & grubs.. Not the most impressive fruit but it will go into the freezer to join some of our frozen mango & become a yummy sorbet at a later date..
One harvest that we didn't eat but am very happy for was th3 last 2 Black Russian tomatoes from the vine down the back..
I realised the other day that I had given all the seeds for this variety away so decided to sacrifice one of the last fruits so we could collect seeds.. Nothing went to waste as the flesh went into a bolognese sauce.. The Tomato next to the seeds made a great breakfast & is currently residing in my belly as well ;)
Harvested the 3 last Mini Lee & the only Star & Moon watermelon today.. This is the first year we have had so many fruit from the melon vines & will be growing a few different varieties next season.. When it came to harvesting, I waited until the tendril closest to the fruit had dried up... This method appeared to be one of the most popular & was recommended by a few local old timers as well.. Will be saving the Star & Moon to share with some visitors on Sunday methinks :)»
I had been watching the fruit on the volunteer rock melon vine ripen over the past few months & was testing it every few days to see it it was ripe enough to pick.. For rock melons I use the smell method which is as easy as sniffing the melon to see if you can detect the fruity sent.. Unfortunatly I missed it & the fruit split allowing bugs & fruit fly in :( We did manage to salvage some of the fruit & a fair amount of seed but most ended up as a treat for the chooks.. It wasn't the sweetest fruit but will be saving some seeds just for the size & rich flavour..This beauty weighed in at just over 3kg/6.5lb & am not too upset as we still have 2 fruit left on the vine :)
That's about it for now.. Have been flat out of late so the fish farm isn't quite finished as of yet.. Am fairly sure that you will get to see it up & running in the next blog though ;)»
Hope you all have fun in the patch & until next month, Cheers..