Gardening with a (Re)Purpose

April 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Front Page, Gardening, Repurposing, Slideshow

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Starting a backyard garden doesn’t have to involve spending a lot on containers, watering systems and soil additives. In fact, you could probably plant a rich, healthy and visually attractive garden right now with what you have lying around your house. Everything from that pile of recyclables to the yard waste sitting at the curb can be used to build a low-cost, low-maintenance source of kitchen herbs, vegetables and day-brightening flora. Following are a few ideas to get you started and to spur on your gardening imagination.

Consider using all those leaves, sticks and pine cones you rake out of your yard every couple of months as free and effective mulch in your garden. Leaves and pine straw are a great finishing touch to your garden beds as they help your soil maintain a consistent temperature and moisture level as well as help to keep out weeds.

Planters with a New Purpose

Instead of asking yourself, “What can I repurpose and turn into a planter?” you should be asking what you can’t, because just about anything that can hold soil and drain water can be used for your planting purposes. Assorted old coffee tins make great containers for flowering gardens and the two center holes of stacked, staggered cinder blocks can be filled with potting soil for a unique wall garden.

Have an old wooden wine box? Drill some holes in the bottom, fill with a short layer of gravel, top with potting soil and hang from sturdy eyelets screwed into the four corners for an intriguing and useful kitchen garden ….

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3 DIY Ways to Save Energy Dollars in the New Year

January 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Energy, Front Page, Slideshow, Tips, Weatherizing

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  While the products you read about below will save energy and money, some contain highly toxic materials. Be sure to look for the most environmentally friendly brands you can find. — Julia Wasson, Publisher Want to make some room in your budget for next year’s holiday shopping? Here are three steps to earning up […]

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DIY Natural Cleaning Products for Your Home

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Take a stroll down the cleaning supply aisle in your local market, and you’ll find no shortage of ways to polish and shine your home. You will, however, find a shortage of chemical-free, unscented supplies that promote healthy cleaning and no ill-effects. When it comes to making your home sparkle, most commercially available cleaners will do the trick, but when it comes to your health, homemade cleansers are the best choice for safety and shine….

Natural and inexpensive, a mixture of one part vinegar, one part water provides a gentle cleaning solution for the hard surfaces of bathrooms and kitchens, including stoves, countertops, tile, and floors. Simply spray the solution on, allow it to sit for a few minutes, and wipe it down with a cloth. For more difficult cleaning jobs, heat the solution until warm or use undiluted vinegar.

TIP: To make sure you’re starting out with the cleanest solution, use filtered water in your mixture to avoid spreading chlorine, sediment, and other pollutants found in water around your home….

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Install a Dimmer Switch: DIY for Earth-Friendly Savings

November 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Electricity, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow

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Remember the “clap on, clap off” jingle for clap-sensitive lights? For years, we’ve been honing and perfecting our lighting systems, including finding ways to control a room’s brightness from bed.

These days, the truly devoted can hook all of their lighting (and even the coffee maker, for that matter) into remote systems controllable from a smartphone. Apart from switching to more efficient bulbs, however, the simplest and most affordable way to take a big bite out of your lighting energy usage is simply to install motion-sensitive light switches.

Who hasn’t opened a closet, bathroom, or guest room door to discover that a light has been left burning unnecessarily for hours, days, or even weeks? That wasted power costs us on our monthly bill, and it unnecessarily draws from an electric grid that, depending on where you live, may still rely on carbon-generating coal as its source.

Automatic sensor switches turn on when a person enters a room and off soon after they depart. Many are programmable to allow a manual override or to set the amount of time without motion before turning dim. These switches range in cost from around $20 to $50 models with elaborate programmable settings.

Making the ‘switch’ will require a small upfront investment, but you’ll end up saving money in the long run through the power you save. …

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3 Creative Party Ideas for Kids (That Cost Almost Nothing)

October 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Art, Blog, DIY, Front Page, Kids, Repurposing, Slideshow

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What parent among us hasn’t scratched our head wondering what to do for our child’s next birthday party, Scout meeting, or club activity? Here’s a collection of simple projects that will spur kids’ creative juices to flow, save you money as a host, and teach both the value and fun of repurposing….

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting by Chris McLaughlin

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Maybe you’re already a gardener, ready to plant some vegetables to reduce your grocery bill and gain some peace of mind about what additives you will not be putting into your family’s bodies. Or, maybe you secretly yearn for a yard filled with colorful flower blossoms from early spring until late fall.

If you see yourself in either of these scenarios, then The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting: Turn your organic waste material into black gold, is for you. No, this isn’t a book about planting a garden. It’s about how to nourish the soil you will use to grow amazing veggies and posies. And, I have to say, it’s even fun to read….

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Green Cleaning for Every Budget

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Since World War Two, more than 80,000 new chemicals have been introduced to the market. Consumers come in contact with about 3,000 of these chemicals every day in the form of cleaning products, such as air fresheners, dishwashing detergent, and floor cleaners. These products can be accidentally ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through skin contact. Unfortunately, cleaning your home with harsh, chemical cleaning products often fills it with more toxins and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than were there to begin with, making your home even less healthy than before you “cleaned” it.

Luckily, there are several ways to ensure that your home stays clean — the green and natural way. It can be difficult to comb through every ingredient on a product label, and it can be expensive to invest in a green-certified vacuum and other cleaning items. Hiring a cleaning service is sometimes the best route to take if pressed for time. Look for a cleaning service that offers an eco-friendly option, which means that they will clean your home with green-certified products and methods….

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DIY: Hang a Clothesline in 10 Minutes

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There are lots of reasons to hang your clothes outside to dry, including saving energy by not running your dryer. If you’ve been putting off setting up a clothesline because you thought it would be too much trouble, put it off no more. We found a simple, do-it-yourself clothesline that took less than 10 minutes to set up and get started.

We had been talking about hanging a clothesline for a long time — years, actually. When we finally got around to it, it was a snap. (Easy for me to say, because Joe hung it. But he swears it’s true.) We bought a Sunline retractable clothesline at our local hardware store for $13.78 plus tax. The only tools needed were a power drill, an extension cord, a hammer, and a starter nail….

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9 Months – 11 Buckets of Dirt

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There are many things in life that require patience: the growth of an embryo into a full-term baby, the long slog through a school year, the development of seedlings into luscious tomatoes … and the turning of garbage into rich, healthy soil.

In July of 2009, Joe built a compost bin in our backyard. It was a relatively simple structure that cost less than $100 (it could have been nearly free, if I hadn’t Freecycled the “extra” cinder blocks we thought we wouldn’t need again). We started dumping our food and garden waste — along with contributions from close neighbors — and didn’t give it too much thought.

When the pile grew to the top of the bin, we kept throwing in food. Mysteriously, all summer and into the fall, the pile never grew higher than the lid. We never stopped adding food and leaves and such — even paper towels and toilet paper rolls. We were careful, though, not to add newsprint or any paper with ink on it. Ours is an organic garden.

It wasn’t until winter set in solidly that we had to add more cinder blocks. That’s when the mass froze, and the pile stopped sinking down. (Thank you, Freecycle, for providing more blocks for the extra height.)

Spring finally rolled around, and, as our thoughts turned to gardening, Joe decided to dig out the pile.

Wow! …

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