Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Growing seeds-Built a light stand

The house I am living in is typical for the US that it is not situated on the lot for using the movement of the sun in consideration for optimal light in the house or solar gains. Typically they seem to plot the houses on the land just to be able to have the front door facing the street. At least it seems like that to me.
In Germany, no matter where I lived we always had large windows with deep windowsills, facing south or southwest, just the perfect place for your house plants or starting your seeds.
I never had a place in the US where I had a window with the proper lighting for house plants or window sills which actually can fit a planter. It is hard to grow your vegetables in such conditions.
In North Carolina we had a laundry room/mud room which had a long wall. To grow my seeds we put wire shelving on the walls, attached shop lights above which worked pretty good and it kept the dirt out of the house.

This house I have now has no room inside the house to grow my plants and no window which lets the proper lighting in. But I have a sun room that even it faces the wrong way, (only the small side faces partly to the south) at least it has room for my plantings. Unfortunately it also has old single pane windows, which let all the cold air in, so during the winter it does not warm up very much, only in the afternoon it starts warming up a bit, but then later in the day the sun is again on the wrong side of the house. The first year I moved in here I got all excited about finally having a sun room that I bought a bunch of  house plants just to have them all die on me when the winter came, when it went below freezing outside, it can get very cold in there.
It is not a good place to start seedlings, with no warmth and not proper lighting.
Sometimes you wonder why people bother to built a sun room if you can't keep hardly any plants in it and it is too cold or too hot most of the year, even for people, to sit in there.

I needed more light in there but light tables, the ones you can start seedlings on are a bit expensive.
Years ago I saw in a magazine a table built with PVC pipes, so this is what I decided to make. It was easy to built, most of the material I already had and I could make it myself, and because it is made with cut pipes I could make it any size which fit my space and needs.

I made the lower part double wide, to be able to fit more trays on one level. This way I can move the plants better around as they are growing. The trays sit on Plexiglas shelves which just are laying across the pipes. They could be screwed in to be more solid in place, but I never bothered with that. It works fine as it is it is easier to change my setup. The upper part I made extra high, to be able to keep the plants longer under the lights as they get taller. And the bottom shelve, even it is double wide I am using only single wide Plexiglas sheets. This way I can put big pots on the floor, which would be to heavy for the Plexiglas sheets.
You can glue the pipes together, but I never did myself and it is holding up fine. Even if you decide to glue the pipes I recommend not to glue the upright longer pipes in, this way you can always take the table apart for storage, or if you decide to make a section higher you can switch out pipes. 
The beauty of working with the PVC pipes is that you can make it as big or small as you want it too be and as long you don't glue together it is always changeable.

My table is about 4 feet wide x 18 inch deep and 6 feet 5 inch high and to make my table this is what you need:
You will be using 3/4" PVC plumbing pipe
Material list. 6 End caps, 48 T connectors, 19 4-way connectors,
8 Elbow connectors
Pipe lengths of upright pipe sections:
You'll need 27  3-1/2" length pipe sections, 9  12" length pipe sections,
9  19" length pipe sections,
6  30" length tube sections
Pipe lengths for the depth of the table:
14  3-1/2" length pipe sections, 12  7" length pipe sections
Pipe lengths for the width of the table:
28  2 feet length pipe sections

Then you also need either a hack saw or a PVC pipe cutter, PVC glue (optional), 4 Plexiglas shelves 24" x 20" deep, 2 Plexiglas shelves 24" x 10" deep, 4 shop lights with the light bulbs and chains with S-hooks you use to hang the lights up with.

Now all you have to do, cut and assemble your growing table, start with the bottom and work your way up to the top.

                       Here you can see how the light tables leg part is assembled.
                      See how the plexiglas shelve is sitting only on the back side
                      of  the table.
                      This way I can put larger pots on the floor in front.

Notice how the PVC tubes the shop light is hanging from are set in a bit from the front and back.This gives the table more stability and also positions lights just right above your plants

                              Another view for the lower part of the table

Here you can see a bit how the next level of the light table is put together. If you wanted to, you easily could add another light to the front of this table or even make bigger plexiglas shelving for the bottom shelf.

Here the plexisglas sheets are sitting across the whole depth of the table at the middle level.
Again notice how the pipes the lights are hanging from are set in from the front and back a bit.
The chains to lower or shorten are just simply wrapped around the pipes.

Here you can see the lamps suspended from the pipes.The plexiglas sheets are laying again across the full depth of the light table

The upper part of the table. Here I use only one light. If you wanted to, you
could make it as deep as the lower part of the table. I have two pipes
connected together for the height of the upper part, because after I wanted
to keep my perennial chili peppers overwinter on this table I found I
needed the light to keep them happy, but I did not have the height.
So I just added some more pipe to it.

A view of the middle part with the 4 way connectors.These are the pipes the lights are suspended from.
These pipes make a great storage area above the lights for the unused planting trays.

                       View of the left side of table.
                      Light suspension pipe and shelf supporting pipes

                               Another closeup of the middle section

                             So here is the whole table again.
It really is quite easy to built and so easy to customize to your liking. It is just like building with the kid toy 'Lego'. Make it bigger or smaller.
The whole table without the shop lights which I still had from my previous light table probably cost me about $30 to $40, quite inexpensive compared to the light tables you can buy.

Maybe I should have washed the dirt off my table before I took the pictures, as I looked at the pictures I could see quite some dirt on there. But hey, it is a planting table it will get dirty. Right?

disclaimer: Not to be shared with the Dervaes Family of Path to Freedom Website. Thank You 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

'No Pasaran!' - 'They won't get through!'

Something very exciting has happened in Germany.

For the first time a coalition of Anti Fascists group called
“Nazifrei – Dresden stellt sich quer!”
(Tranlation 'Nazi free - Dresden is standing square!')
formed from the two grassroots groups
'No pasarĂ¡n! – they won't get through' – and
'Dresden nazifrei! - Dresden without Nazis',
were able to prevent the biggest European neo-Nazi March through
Dresden, which the neo-Nazis have been doing since the fall of the
wall on the same date of the Dresden bombing by the Allies in
Worldwar II on February 13th.

The Nazis calling it a mourning march to memorialize the deaths of these
bombings but instead are using it as a rallying point to rewrite the history
of the 2nd World War, calling the bombing a 'Holocaust' for the Germans
and spreading their propaganda of hatred and violence.
The city of Dresden and the majority of it's residents, have had enough of
this political fringe which every year converges on the city for the annual
memorial ceremonies defining Dresdens image as a hot bed of Naziism.
Even tough the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), which
practically is an offshot of the former Nazi Party, holds eight seats in the
Saxon parliament, representing 5.6% of the population and is a major
contributor of Nazi demonstrators at this yearly march, the majority of
Dresdens don't want to be defined by these right Wing elements.

After the city hall was unsuccessful preventing the Nazi march by
trying to enforce them to a stationary assembley, with the appeals court
ruling it unconstitutional against the right of freedom of assembly but in
it's ruling moving the start of the march to the other side of the river at
Neustadt and giving the police permission to take steps to stop the march
if it threatened public safety, the population of Dresden cried for help and
the help came from Anti fascist -, Peace - and Human Rights groups,
including members of the German 'The Left Party',
The German 'Green Party', the 'Social Democratic Party', local politicians
from all parties, well know activist Musicians, Religous leaders, Unions,
Conservatives and liberals and 15000 -20000 ordinary citizens from all
over Germany and Dresden.
All working together to rid the city of the Nazi elements. The amazing
solidarity of all the different groups, from the conservatives to the
progressive left was what made this organized blockade and counter
demonstration successfull.

Under the Initiative of the Dresden Mayor Helma Orosz, under the slogan
“For an open-minded city. Against violence and xenophobia,”
which was displayed on a huge banner hanging from the city hall, a wide
coalition of counter demonstrators organized a human chain which originally
was planned to connect the old Synagoge and Old Market to close off the
Dresden Old Town symbolicaly against the Right Wing but because
many more counter protester came then expected the human chain ended
up surrounding all of the inner city with about 15000 people holding hands
ringing the city center.
Dresden became a "Fortress against Intolerance and stupidity' said Helma
Orosz the mayor. 'For the first time we have been sucessfull to bring
together many Dresden Organizations and Institutions.'

Meanwhile across the river at the Neustadt Railway station where the march
was moved to, neo-Nazis gathered at the station (It was surprising that the
court moved the Nazi march to this spot then the Neustadt Railway station
is significantto the neo-Nazis because during the war, it is the train station
where the Nazis sent off trains full of thousands of Jews and other people
to Auschwitz.) 
The organizers of the counter demonstration when the word came out that
the march had been moved to this spot, had to quickly reorganize their
blockades, now trying to keep the Nazis from leaving the area of the rail
way station.

Already in the early morning, thousand of, especially young people blocked
critical exit points around the station mostly peaceful. They were sitting on
isolation mats, shivering in the wintery cold, in the middle of the streets
and railways determined to not let any Nazi through or let them march.
"No Paserane!-they won't get through!"
could be read on many of the signs.

It was a long, cold day for the counter demonstrators, some trying to keep
warm by dancing and hopping, Music was playing from small, live,
orchestras or from speakers. On Albertsplatz some of the participating
musicians sang their songs of encourage and wishing the participants a
'good Blockade'. Ordinary citizens using their right of civil disobedience,
peacefully assembling, protecting their city from xenophobia and
intolerance. "Today, no Nazi will walk here!" calls a woman,
everyone cheers to that.
The protesters were in a good mood, it was almost like a party
atmosphere. "Dresden is colorful!" a sign says referring to the
Nazi nick-name 'Browns'and colorful it was.

The left wing's approach according to the deputy head of Germany's
'Die Linke -The Left' party Katja Kipping was to compel police to
cancel the neo-Nazi march for security reasons.
By law the police has to be able to keep the two factions apart from
each other, keeping them from harming each other, securing their safety.
"Feb. 13 should not be used to distract from Nazi crimes.
Germany started the war --it just came home on Feb. 13." she said.

Even there was a huge presence of police of around 5600 police, they
were not able to prevent some escalations from the Nazi marchers. As the
Nazis became more and more frustrated with the situation, groups of them
broke out and became violent, people started getting hurt.
There also were clashes between police and neo-Nazis, resulting in injuries,
barricades were lit on fire.
As the violence became more spread the police with counter-protesters
ready to move nearby, contained the neo-Nazis in a barricaded area outside
the train station, where an estimated crowd of 6,400 Nazi listened to
re-enactments of the Dresden bombing.
Ultimately, the police concluded the left-wing blockade to be intractable
and they could not guarantee the safety of the Nazis and ordered the
neo-Nazisto disburse the area by train. Ending the march before it could

An anti-fascist leader, speaking on a stage shortly after the neo-Nazi
gathering ended, announced proudly with a satirical tone:
"The Nazis are being deported, destination unknown" --
an allusion to the fact that the Neustadt train station had been used
by the Nazis to deport Jews.

The blockades of the access roads as a means to civil disobedience
worked. "We hindered the March of the Neo-Nazis" said the speaker
of  the coalition 'Dresden Nazifrei' Lena Roth later that evening.

When the news emerged that the march had been canceled the
Dresden Mayor Helma Orosz preclaimed:
"Dresden doesn't want them and these groups do not belong here," -
"I am proud of you."

After the Nazis were sent home on their buses, large groups of them
with covered up faces, against orders stopped on their way in small towns
got out of their buses causing trouble. Smashing Cars and Windows,
vandalizing, attacking people and police. Marching through these towns
waving their flags and yelling paroles like "We are the national resistance"
"Fame and Honor to the Wapon-SS", Showing their real face.

They knew, they had lost a big fight this day.

But nothing could put a damper on the happy celebration,
They Nazis were shown the way out of Town.
They were kicked out of Town.
They were not welcome!

The praise for this successfull action came from all over Germany and

From the local Saxon Newspaper:
"February 13th belongs to the Dresdeners again."
For eleven years, the Neo-Nazis defined the image of Dresden on this
date. Today, the city was defined by the people who formed a human
chain through the historical center.

Stanislaw Tillich, the CDU governor of the state of Saxony, said:
"Dresden has stood up to the neo-Nazis."
And Andrea Nahles, the national general secretary of the
Social Democrats, said: "the integrity of our democracy depends on
our ability to combat right-wing extremism."

Former German Interior Minister Gerhart Baum, who as a 12 year old boy
experienced the bombing of, said: "We are deeply committed to making
Dresden an example of peaceand understanding, of democracy and
human rights."

Politicians across Germany were praising Dresden's response to the planned
neo-Nazidemonstration on Feb. 13. Police prevented far-right protesters
from marching on the 65thanniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden -
a victory for the city and Germany's far left.

This police deployment also drew wide praise across Germany. The state's
police president, Bernd Merbitz, said Monday that the decision not to move
against the counterprotesters so that the neo-Nazis' march could go on was
the correct decision.
"Where would we be today if the police had cleared the march route on
Saturday?" he asked.
"We were forbidden from using violence against children and older women."

The Counter Demonstrators were braving the snowy, cold weather that day,
it did not keep them away from this important day. Some Demonstrators
got hurt, a few very badly but the common message was:
"It was all worth it!"

It shows what groups of people, even they hardly agree on most
philosophical and political points, can do if they stand together, work
together to get something done, what needs to be done. This day,
people from all walks of life, old people, young people, children,
conservatives, progressive left, people in the middle of politics came
together to give this city back to it's citizens.
To define Dresden not by it's Nazi past but by it's courages citizens
standing up against xenophobia, hatred and violence.
And to rid the city of the Nazi elements once and for all.

What is possible there, can be possible here in the USA.
Now my ending question is:
"Why are we not standing together, working together on issues
which effects us all?"
"Why are the Americans, fighting each other over small issues instead
banding together, fixing the problems what ails their country?"
"Can we not find a common ground?
Why we need Health-care for all people?
Why we need a good education for our children?
Why we need to take care of our world, planet?"
"Is money really the only thing we care about most?
More then Health, Education, our Environment, our Neighbor?"

"And why are the progressive groups in this country not working together,
railing their supporters to work together, to tell the politicians in the
White House, in the Congress that we have had enough of the status quo?"
That we are tired of our children loosing their health care because they
turned 19 and are not enrolled in school anymore.
That we are ashamed of our neighbor loosing their home and becoming
destitute only because they got sick.
We are worried about our children not being able to make it in this world,
because they can't compete with the low grade education they are getting
and because most of the good jobs are gone overseas and anyway their
planet is dying right in front of them because their elders are not caring
enough about them to stop the dying.

The status quo is, because we let it be. Because nobody works together.

"Together we stand!" Yeah, Right!
The standing together in this country has been forgotten, for a long,
long time.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Taking care of your worm bin

 The only worms you should use for the worm bin are the 'Red Wiggler' worms or also called 'Eisenia fetida' which are native European worms, all the other worms will not eat your garbage.
Red Wigglers thrive in organic waste and because they live close to the surface in their natural environment they can't really take colder then 40° F and not hotter weather then 90° F.
You still probably should try to avoid adding the Red Wigglers to the outdoor environment or compost pile, even the possibility of them surviving outside is rather rare but in mild winter areas there is a slight possibility they could survive in compost bins.
The worms are actually a bit sensitive to the cold or heat and you should take them into the house or garage if the outdoor temperature drops below 40° F or you might loose them. They also will stop feeding if they are too cold or hot, so keep them in the shade during the summer.

There are many places you can get Red Wiggler worms, you probably can even find a local person raising worms near where you live, the best time to get your worms are supposed to be spring or fall, but where I live we have cooler summers and I got mine in early summer and had no problems.

Before you put your worms in your newly built bin, you need to prepare your bedding. You need enough bedding to fill your bin 3/4 full with bedding, leaving the 1" louvered vents exposed.
Worms need damp but not wet bedding, a good and cheap worm bedding is a mixture of shredded newspaper and wood shavings. You will get less of crawling/flying critters that way. Stay away from Cedar bedding, which is toxic to many animals and it is advisable not to use colored print paper or office paper, because those inks are often toxic. Newspaper nowadays is printed with soybean based ink which shouldn't cause problems. I even would stay away from bleached paper I just don't think that will be good for the worms. Other bedding possibilities are sawdust, cardboard, straw (chopped into small pieces), shredded fall leaves, compost or aged manure or a combination of those. A variety of bedding material will give the worms more different nutrients, but they will be fine just with newspaper shreds and wood chips.

You have to soak the wood chips overnight in a bucket of water to make sure they can take up the water. Shred the paper into 1/2"-1" strips, put it into a 5 gallon bucket or garden tub and carefully wet the paper, turning it frequently until it is moist but not dripping wet. Then mix the drained wood chips with the paper and fill your bin #2 (the one with the drainage holes), to below the vents with the mixture making sure not to cover the vents. The worms need the air in the bin. Don't pack the bedding in, fill it loosely to add air spaces for the worms it also helps control the odor.
If you think your bedding got a bit to wet, you might want to let it drain for a few hours before you add your worms to it.
It is beneficial for the worms digestive system to add a hand-full of garden dirt or sand. Now you are ready to add your worms. Just spread them with the dirt they came in over your bedding, they will crawl in on their own.
So now your worms are in the bin you need to feed them, but you do not want to feed them too much or you will get a huge smelly mess and the worms might die.
The formula to figure out the pounds of food per week you size bin can handle is:

Width of bin x length of bin (sqft) is equal to pounds of food per week.

So if you have a bin that measures 1' wide by 1 1/2' long it can handle about   1 1/2 lbs of food per week.
When you add the food try to create a pattern by burying the food in a new place every 4-6 times. Avoid disturbing the bedding when you bury it, because it might make it heat up like compost in your compost bin and the worms will have no place to escape the heat.

What can you feed the worms? If it is vegetative matter you pretty much can add it all. Potato peels, vegetable scraps, fruit scraps and peels (including from citrus peels in small amounts), coffee grounds (paper filter included) or tea leaves/bags, and pulverized egg shells. You should not add meats, dairy, fatty food. Some say no grain, because of problem with flies or rodents, but I don't think a bit of old bread, Corn meal or oat meal here and there causes much problem, just don't add too much.

Drain the compost tea liquid often, check it daily after you add new bedding, less frequent later. You can pick up both bins and shake them back and forth, if you hear a sloshing sound you should drain some of the liquid. I use mine mixed half with water to water my house plant, but you could also use it full strength to give it to your vegetable plants outside. If the liquid smells foul, like very rotten food don't use it and flush it down the toilet.

As the materials in the bin break down into compost, you need to add more fresh bedding on top. You need to be able to bury your food under the bedding, so it is important to keep adding as it decomposes.

You can harvest your compost when the bin material looks brown and crumbly, similar to coffee grounds. It should smell like nice forest floor. It probably will take about six months from the time of bin set-up until you can harvest the worm castings
To harvest you can empty the contents of the bin on a plastic sheet or tarp (you need to drain all the compost liquid first) remove all visible food scraps which you set aside to add later to the new bedding. Worms avoid light so they always will burrow down into the compost. To separate them  from the bedding you just have to wait a short time, then remove the 3"  top layer of the compost without the worms. Wait again until they burrow down and repeat the same every 5 - 10 minutes. In the end you have very little compost with a pile of worms. Re-bed Bin #2, add worms with the little compost to the bin, reassemble the bin setup and bury the leftover food scraps inside the new bedding.

You also can gently move the worm compost to one side of the bin, fill the other half with the fresh bedding and wait a day or two until the worms have moved to the new bedding, then remove the worm compost and fill the bin up with more of the new bedding. This does work much better if you have a larger bin, but it still is worth a try for the much easier and less messier technique.

Now you can use the harvested compost in your vegetable garden, or add it to your house plants as fertilizer.

If you have a problem with little flies inside your bin, which might be fruit flies, this can be prevented by laying a piece of cardboard over the bedding, inside the bin. Fruit flies don't like to lay their eggs on the smooth surface of the cardboard so this breaks their life cycle.
You might have Fungus gnats which are attracted to moist organic matter, like found in worm bins. They don't respond to the same technique as with fruit flies but can be trapped with a sticky trap made for gnats inside the bin. Sometimes if you get gnats in your house plants putting sand on top of the soil is supposed to prevent them laying their eggs, the same might work in the worm bin.

What could cause your worms death?
1)Bedding too dry, which leaves no moisture for the worms can cause them to die. Bedding needs to be moist like a wrung out sponge.
2)Too much water, causes them to drown. Use the spigot to drain the liquid more often. A layer of coco peat fiber at the bottom of the bin can absorb excess moisture.
3) Not enough air, will suffocate the worms. Keep the bedding fluffy and keep vents clear of bedding.
4)Too much acid is toxic and can burn the delicate skin of worms. Avoid adding too much citrus scraps.
5) Digging to much around in the bin will cause the food and bedding to heat up like a compost pile, heat will kill the worms.
6) Sun will heat up the box and kill the worms. Keep the box out of the sun. In hot climates it is advised to keep them out of over 90° F temperature.
7) Too cold. Worms start dying off in temperatures under 40° F.
8) Harvest compost when ready, the worm's castings are toxic to the worms.

So, this is all the information you need to keep your worm bin going and your worms happy.
I promised it won't be hard.

Part one: How to build your worm bin