Make Your Own Easy DIY Scrap Wood Potting Bench

Easy simple pottery bench.

Everyone with a house seems to have a pile of wood that stacks up over time. Odds and ends, maybe some pressure treated 2x4s or one too many fence boards. What better way to use this wood than using your imagination to create something useful.

Anybody can make one of these simple potting benches with a saw, drill and some extra wood lying around. I’m not going to lay out exactly how to make the design I made because you may have different scrap wood lying around than I do. What I will do is show you some pictures of what I came up with, some general tips, and encouragement to get out there and try!

What you might need:
Scrap wood
2 1/2″ self drilling screws.
Impact drill (standard drill works too)
Circular saw (or a hand saw if you’re looking for a workout.)

I added some hooks and nails to hold scissors for harvesting greens and a spot to hold my hori-hori.

I suggest looking at a few designs before starting out. I searched google for simple designs and modified the design to fit my needs and work with the materials I have on hand. I wanted a shelf so I chose to run the 2x4s up the back. I also wanted a place to store soil underneath so I installed a shelf. The bench can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. There’s something magical about creating something of your own design then putting it to use right away. Happy Gardening!

upgrades to the toyota camper van conversion (vol. 2)

It was a busy winter filled with camping and fishing, just the way I like it. While going on these adventures I was able to continually add to a list of modifications I would like to perform on the van. There’s so much joy in using something and making tweaks to better suit your needs. The only constant is change, it’s cliche but it’s true. Let me not get stuck on how the way things are now but what they can become. Below is an incomplete list of modifications I’ve done on the van since the last update.

Went here:

Processed with VSCO with 4 preset
random free camping in the forest.

Got rained on. My ARB awning was stolen so my solution was to grab what wood
I had and attach it the racks. It protects the inside of the van from light showers. If it’s heavy sideways rain, it’s not going to work as well. Total cost $0

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Since you’ve been following so close attention, you may have noticed the new cargo rack on the top. It’s the one offered at harbor freight. I think it’s around 50 bucks. It’s pretty useful although it does make this van that much of a kite in the wind. I took off sticker and painted the wind deflector all black.

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Oh, well, will you look at that. I just gave away another modification. LED lights in the front now. No longer does it feel like an oil lantern in front of my van. I can now equally blind the other drivers who happen to enter my path. Jokes aside, the wires needed modification and my mechanic removed some of the working LEDs when the lights are in low. He said you would likely get pulled over if you kept all of the LEDs working on lo beam.

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Added this sick sticker, added at least 10HP. Contact Aaron Morrell.
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Got this console from my mechanic for free. Came through in the clutch, thanks Gustavo!

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Back up light installed. I drilled a hole in the side of the solar panel rail and ran the wires to a switch under the hatch. Below is a video of the light in action.

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switch for reverse light. will consider moving this switch up to the dash.

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Side light for the porch. Bought these lights off amazon for less than 20. They’re pretty bright and contain six LEDs.

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here’s the switch for the porch light.

My Lagun table mount, those things cost a fortune but I’ve seen some blemished ones on eBay at a discount. The table top I made out of sanded 3/4″ plywood. Came out real nice with two coats of stain and two sprays of marine varnish.

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surface is now covered by plexiglass.

I covered the folding table in the back of the van with plexiglass that was leftover from a project. This table typically gets covered when cooking multiple meals. The plexiglass make it really easy to wipe. Be careful when installing the plexiglass, it cracks easily. I used screws to hold it in. I drilled pilot holes and went until firm but not overly tight.

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phone holder for my toyota van.

I held off because I didn’t want anything on the vinyl or the window but I finally added a phone holder. Cheap one off eBay for six bucks. It holds well, I just hope it doesn’t ruin the vinyl.

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usb outlets installed on my 1985 toyota van.

USB ports installed behind the couch. If running usb ports from 12v, you need to have a converter that converts the power to 5v.

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painted toyota van step.

Painted the step and installed the metal frame.

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LED light bar in the back of the van under the shelf.

I removed the old bright white light and replaced it with two warm white led bars. Having one below the shelf and above really helps when cooking. A lot of the light was blocked with only one light on the roof.

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light bar in the back on top.

TO BE CONTINUED…

I want to write a short post about my new layout for sleeping and lounging.

vermicomposting (composting with worms) diy

Do you juice a lot? Drink coffee? Use a lot of vegetables and fruits? Where does your “waste” go? If you’re in some states, you can throw that stuff in your green (yard waste) bin and save it from going to the landfill. Vermicomposting is a way to use that “waste” which call a resource, at home. This is especially useful in areas with no yard waste bins. I see a lot online about people juicing and lining their pulp trays with plastic bags then throwing it out.

Red wriggler worms (Eisenia fetida) work great at breaking down fruits, vegetables, juice remnants, coffee grounds, and more. These worms are extremely efficient and relatively fast at breaking down these fruit cores and lettuce ends to a very rich nutrient compost for your garden. You can sometimes find  these red wriggler worms at bait shops, online, and soon through me! You can farm these worms at home with a rubbermaid container, a few pieces old wood constructed into a box, a five gallon container, a purchased worm farm kit, etc.. I find the more wide and shallow the structure, the better the environment for the worms. These worms generally live in the top 12″ of the soil while night crawlers can go much deeper into the ground. These bins for the worms must be aerated. At the very least, you want drainage holes on the bottom and a loose fitting lid for the top. Worms need oxygen too!

Here is a list of what you’ll need:

  • Newspaper
  • Sticks
  • A box for your worms
  • Worms!
  • Some soil
  • And some leftover food waste (no meat or oils)

Step 1-
Make sure your box is well ventilated. In my case, I drilled hole on the bottom and sides of the rubbermaid container with a 5/16″ drill bit.

diy worm compost vermicompost bin tub

Step 2-
Layer sticks in a crossing pattern. This will help the bin drain.

aeration worm bin vermicompost sticks twigs

Step 3-
Tear newspaper length wise and lay that over the sticks.

newspaper bedding worm bin compost vermicompost

Step 4-
Put an inch of soil in the box over the newspaper.

Step 5-
Lay worms on top of the soil.

Step 6-
Chop of the food waste into small pieces and lay on top. Tip: Don’t overload the bin with food scraps at first. They take a while to get going and giving them too much food may kill them and make your bin stinky! They generally take a month to get used to their new home.

Step 7-
Shred more newspaper length wise and lay on top.

Step 8-
Moisten the newspaper and attach the lid. You do not want an airtight lid.

Tips:

  • The worms don’t want to be soaking wet but they despise being dry. Think of a wrung out sponge!
  • You can replace the newspaper with leaves too. Make sure not to use conifer (redwood, pine, etc.) leaves because worms do not digest those. Those leaves and needles require fungi to break them down.
  • Do you juice a lot? That pulp is excellent worm food, you’ve done have the work for them by grinding it up like that.

I will be selling worms in about two months, ready for spring time!

how to sprout seeds for eating (simple and easy)

Sprouts, so healthy, so good. That sprout needs a lot of energy to start growing, so, mother nature packed seeds full of nutrients. When you sprout a seed, you increase the bioavailability of those nutrients. That’s where you come in. You get to chow down on these delicious little buggers. They are tasty on their own, but they also make a great addition to many meals. Here’s a quick, simple, easy to follow guide to sprouting your own seeds. Today, I will be using alfalfa seeds as an example but this method can be applied to all seeds that are edible such as broccoli, sunflower, mung, and adsuki beans.

alfalfa sprouts diy

Step 1…Cut a hole in the box! Just kidding, I regress.

You can get started with any glass jar but I choose to use canning jars. The wide mouth version of canning jars are able to fit a variety of sprouting lids. The lids can be purchased online, or at local hardware stores and some groovy garden centers such as Harmony Farm Supply. If you don’t want to use a lid, start with a rubber band and some mesh or cheesecloth.

Step 2….Obtain the seeds, preferably organic (you don’t know what yucky chemicals the conventional ones have been sprayed with). Some conventionally grown seeds are treated with fungicides, definitely avoid those! Put a couple tablespoons at the bottom of the jar.

Step 3…Fill with water and let sit overnight.

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Step 4… Empty jar of water then rinse seeds and leave jar upside down at angle to drain.

Step..5 Repeat step 4 every morning and night until the seeds have sprouted and are a good size. Overtime, you’ll get better at determining when the best time is to stop rinsing and eat.

Step 6 (optional)… Put sprouts in a bowl of water and scrape the hulls of the seeds off the top of the water. This is easy to do with bigger seeds like mung beans.

Step 7 (not optional)… Eat those sprouts and store the leftovers in an airtight jar in the fridge. The canning jars are great because you can throw a canning lid on and be done with it.

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P.S. I will soon be starting a youtube channel and will be posting a video of this process! Thanks for reading.

when is the best time to purchase and plant fruit trees on the west coast?

Gardeners often mistake spring and summer for the best time to plant fruit trees. But, deciduous fruit trees are often better purchased and planted during the winter months when they lie dormant. Part of the reason this is true is because the fruit tree doesn’t go through as much shock when being planted. It is not actively growing therefore the growth is not being disturbed. Also, nurseries often have a better selection and broad range of varieties that you may have thought never existed. The trees range in age but most are between 2-3 years old. That fruit tree that you buy in a pot in spring and summer is sometimes the same tree you could have purchased for half the price in winter because wholesale nurseries will often plant them in pots to sell them for a higher price later on.

There are a few things I look at when selecting a tree. First is the graft, often they are not completely callused over but there shouldn’t be any space between the rootstock and the grafted variety. Second, make sure there are no gashes, stripped bark, or oozing sap. Oozing sap is usually a sign that a canker is developing which can result in the whole tree dying. I see cankers mostly in apricots, plums, peaches and nectarines. Nurseries check for cankers but sometimes a few will be missed.  If you’re looking to grow a smaller tree, try to select one with lower branches. Sometimes, this isn’t possible and the tree will have to be cutback without any branches being underneath the cut. Don’t worry, those dormant buds should break underneath the cut and you can select your main branches from the shoots that appear.

Many people have small backyards and want smaller trees so they can have a range of fruit. Often, I get asked at the nursery for miniature or dwarf trees. From my experience, the root system is sometimes dwarfed as well, the tree is a little more finicky (resulting in dropped fruit) and the quality isn’t always there. I would much rather keep a semi-dwarf smaller by pruning and making a low initial cut when planting. Farmers sometimes use the knee rule, which means cutting the tree down to knee level. This can be done with smaller diameter trees but with larger diameter trees, I would make the cut higher than knee high.

Another option to have more varieties in a smaller area is to select multi-graft fruit trees. These trees are grafted with sometimes up six different varieties. One fruit tree that is commonly referred to as ‘stone fruit salad’ contains a peach, nectarine, plum, and apricot all on one tree while others will contain 4 varieties of one type of fruit. You can also try planting multiple trees on three-foot centers. This would look like a triangle when planted, one tree on each corner of the triangle.

Make sure you’re selecting fruit varieties that will do well in your area. Ask a nursery person if you’re confused about what ones will perform best in your location. Keep an eye out for chill hours; chill hours are the amount of hours below 45 degrees needed for optimal production. There are maps and charts online (here is one by UC Davis) that will give you an idea for how many chill hours you get in your area. If you’re in a low-lying area, you may get more chill hours than your neighbor who is up on a ridge. The chill hours don’t necessarily need to be reached to produce fruit but you will get much better production if the chill hour requirement is met.

Last but not least, when planting a bareroot tree, it is better to error on planting the tree too high than too low.  The tree will naturally pull itself down by a process called centrifugal force. If the centrifugal force is not enough, you can always add soil to cover the visible roots. Where as, if you plant a tree too low, you will make the tree vulnerable too crown rot and it will need to be completely excavated, often resulting in damaging the root system.

persimmonAfter the tree is planted, side dress with a good amount of rich compost. Do this several times during the year as the compost breaks down. In addition to adding compost, you can put a nice layer of different size wood chips to help conserve moisture and provide a slow release of nutrients to the tree.

Remember, as long as you follow a few rules, shopping for fruit trees in the winter will save you money, you’ll have a bigger selection to choose from, and the trees will be happier in the long run. Happy New Year everyone!

making an infused oil

infused oils small shot

My last post was about making a basic tincture. This post will address how to make an infused oil. When I make an infused oil, I use the folk method. I don’t measure anything. All I do is dry the plant material and cover with whatever oil I choose. You can weigh your herbs to be more precise about how much herb is in solution with the oil. When weighing the herb, I usually do a 1:3 ratio. 1 part plant material, 3 parts oil.

Different oils are better for products that will be applied to the face like almond and sunflower oil (lighter oils). Use these lighter oils especially when dealing with eczema or acne.  If applying to your lips or on other body parts, organic extra virgin olive oil works great and is not very expensive. You can use the oil directly or you can add beeswax to make a salve. The oil can also be used to make a cream which I will cover in a later post.

Here’s some of the plants I’ve used in oils: Calendula flowers, plantain leaf, comfrey root/leaves, cayenne, arnica, horse-chestnut, st. johns wort.

Basic steps to making an infused oil:

  1. Dry plant material (because if you don’t, the water will most likely spoil the oil)

  2. Put plant material in an airtight jar and cover with the oil of your choice.

  3. Either use a double broiler and heat the oil for a few hours. For most plants, I choose to keep in a warm place, out of direct sunlight. Sometimes when using the double broiler, you can cook the herbs causing a not so pleasant smell and the medicinal properties are diminished. You can also put the jar out in the sun but make sure to cover with a brown paper bag.

  4. After two weeks, strain the oil. I use a metal strainer instead of muslin because less oil is lost.  I do end up with some plant debris but that doesn’t bother me. The finer the strainer, the less plant material you’ll have in the oil.

Creating a wildflower garden

   

Habitat for native wildlife is diminishing across Sonoma County with development and conversion of wild lands into subdivisions, farms and vineyards. As wild areas continue to be fragmented, populations of wildflowers shrink, contributing to the loss of our native plants, pollinators, insects and birds. In urban areas, people can play a role in reducing the impact of development by planting and sowing wildflower strips.

Planting wildflowers alongside crops has become a renewed interest as a pest control method among organic and conventional farmers by attracting beneficial wildlife. Predatory insects (insects that eat other insects) feed off the nectar and pollen provided by the wildflowers.

This helps control outbreaks of certain pests such as aphids. Many farmers have explained that after planting these wildflower strips, also called “hedgerows,” they see a reduction in crop damage within the first few years. Hedgerows aren’t only valuable to farmers but urban dwellers as well.

By planting a diversity of native wildflowers, you can have continuous blooms through spring and into fall. This provides a constant nectar and seed source for bees, birds and insects. Additionally, the seeds of these wildflowers can spread throughout the county to start other local native wildflower populations. Hedgerows can also provide shelter for birds and create over-wintering sites (locations for beneficial insects to take cover from our winter climate).

You might be wondering how to plant your own wildflower garden. There are more than a few ways to grow wildflowers at home. Two common methods used to start a wildflower garden are by container planting or by using seeds, my favorite method.

Although plants may be the same species, wildflowers from outside your area may have different genetics than your local population. When possible, use plants and seeds that are local varieties.

These are often better adapted to your area and less likely to contaminate the local gene pool. Furthermore, never dig up wild plants for your own garden. Transplanting wild plants is against the law on most public land.

When preparing an area to be planted, it is important to make sure the area is free of weeds. If possible, pull weeds and water the area; allow another round of weeds to emerge again, pull and repeat if necessary. This will help diminish the weed seed bank that lies in the soil and allow for better success and weed control in the long run.

Most California wildflowers are best seeded in the fall. If you can’t wait for next fall, I have seen some people successfully sow seeds in winter and early spring.

By spring and summer, the flowers should be in full bloom. Certain wildflowers are sold in containers at nurseries, and those can generally be planted throughout the year.

Be mindful that some wildflowers do not flourish in pots and fare better by direct seeding (sown where they will permanently grow).

Planting native wildflowers has many benefits, including the enjoyment you’ll receive from watching the new visitors in your garden.

Whether you’re removing lawn or covering a bare spot in your yard, wildflowers are a great way to provide beauty while sustaining biodiversity, using less water and reducing pesticide use.

Helpful websites are California Native Plant Society (www.cnps.org) and

Xerces Society (www.xerces.org).

This article was orginally published in The Community Voice on April 5th, 2013.

Creating wildflower garden can help with pest control

 
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By Christopher Harrod  April 5, 2013 12:00 am

Habitat for native wildlife is diminishing across Sonoma County with development and conversion of wild lands into subdivisions, farms and vineyards. As wild areas continue to be fragmented, populations of wildflowers shrink, contributing to the loss of our native plants, pollinators, insects and birds. In urban areas, people can play a role in reducing the impact of development by planting and sowing wildflower strips.

Planting wildflowers alongside crops has become a renewed interest as a pest control method among organic and conventional farmers by attracting beneficial wildlife. Predatory insects (insects that eat other insects) feed off the nectar and pollen provided by the wildflowers.

This helps control outbreaks of certain pests such as aphids. Many farmers have explained that after planting these wildflower strips, also called “hedgerows,” they see a reduction in crop damage within the first few years. Hedgerows aren’t only valuable to farmers but urban dwellers as well.

By planting a diversity of native wildflowers, you can have continuous blooms through spring and into fall. This provides a constant nectar and seed source for bees, birds and insects. Additionally, the seeds of these wildflowers can spread throughout the county to start other local native wildflower populations. Hedgerows can also provide shelter for birds and create over-wintering sites (locations for beneficial insects to take cover from our winter climate).

You might be wondering how to plant your own wildflower garden. There are more than a few ways to grow wildflowers at home. Two common methods used to start a wildflower garden are by container planting or by using seeds, my favorite method.

Although plants may be the same species, wildflowers from outside your area may have different genetics than your local population. When possible, use plants and seeds that are local varieties.

These are often better adapted to your area and less likely to contaminate the local gene pool. Furthermore, never dig up wild plants for your own garden. Transplanting wild plants is against the law on most public land.

When preparing an area to be planted, it is important to make sure the area is free of weeds. If possible, pull weeds and water the area; allow another round of weeds to emerge again, pull and repeat if necessary. This will help diminish the weed seed bank that lies in the soil and allow for better success and weed control in the long run.

Most California wildflowers are best seeded in the fall. If you can’t wait for next fall, I have seen some people successfully sow seeds in winter and early spring.

By spring and summer, the flowers should be in full bloom. Certain wildflowers are sold in containers at nurseries, and those can generally be planted throughout the year.

Be mindful that some wildflowers do not flourish in pots and fare better by direct seeding (sown where they will permanently grow).

Planting native wildflowers has many benefits, including the enjoyment you’ll receive from watching new visitors in your garden.

Whether you’re removing lawn or covering a bare spot in your yard, wildflowers are a great way to provide beauty while sustaining biodiversity, using less water and reducing pesticide use.

Helpful websites are California Native Plant Society (www.cnps.org) and

Xerces Society (www.xerces.org).

This article was orginally published in The Community Voice on April 5th, 2013.

http://thecommunityvoice.com/article.php?id=6269

Preparing medicinal mushroom extracts (a basic guide)

Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) growing on a dead log.
Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) growing on a dead log.

Mushrooms are not only a delicious food but have also been used for centuries for medicine. Reishi (Ganoderma l.), Turkey Tail (Trametes v.), and Cordcyceps are some of the most commonly used mushrooms for medicinal purposes. Most of the mushrooms used have anti-cancer, anti-tumor, and immune boosting properties. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done about the use of mushrooms for medicine. Although, there is some solid research being done, a lot of the information until now has been anecdotal.

One of the main molecules to have medicinal properties are polysaccharides. These polysaccharides must be extracted through hot water. Another molecule group that is beneficial are triterpenes and these must be extracted through alcohol. This means that polysaccharides are water-soluble (able to be extracted by water) and the triterpenes are alcohol-soluble (able to be extracted by alcohol).

When preparing the extract, please make sure to work in a clean environment and use clean supplies. The extract at the end of the procedure should not contain less than 20% alcohol and no more than 40%.

Ingredients:

Any medicinal mushroom

Water

Alcohol

Muslin

Airtight Jar

For the hot water extraction:

Break apart mushrooms if possible.

Cover mushrooms with water.

Bring water to a light simmer.

Simmer for 2-3 hours. (You can also use a crock pot set on low overnight).

Strain mushrooms, set water aside and transfer the mushrooms into a separate bowl.

For alcohol extraction:

Take strained mushrooms and add them to at least 40% alcohol.

For every 1 part of mushrooms, add 4-5 parts alcohol.

Keep this concoction in an airtight container in a dark cool place for at least two weeks.

Remember to shake the solution everyday.

After two weeks, strain the mixture through muslin or cheesecloth.

Combine this liquid with your hot water concoction.

If using 40% alcohol, add equal amounts of the water extraction and alcohol (1 part water to 1 part alcohol).

This will make the final tincture contain 20% alcohol.

Dosage

Three dropper fulls (2-3x a day)

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment or email me.

Related links:

Research paper on medicinal mushrooms

NAMA (North American Mycological Association) article on medicinal mushrooms