Monday, May 28, 2012

How To Make A Compost Heap

Illus. by Marc Brown
Super Soil, from Marc Brown's Your First Garden Book (ISBN 9780316112178) (the author of Arthur series which is also PBS kids' show), is how I plan to do my compost heap from now on:
"Compost is rich organic matter.  When you add it to the soil it helps plants grow.  Use it for your gardens indoors and out as an extra boost.
1. To recycle waste and make compost, or super soil.
2. Dig a hole about 3 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet deep.
3. In the hole make layers of plant matter (vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and leaves) and soil.  It will become rich compost as the plant matter decays.
4. Check the hole now and then.  When the leaves and grass clippings have completely disappeared, dig in with your shovel and mix up the layers.  Your compost is now ready to use!

photo from Southern Living
You can get fancy with compost heaps, but it shouldn't keep you from composting.  I've had no problems just heaping my compost in a pile out of the way but not too far from the kitchen.  Living in the country, I take advantage of being able to burn trash such as boxes food comes in, I take plastics and metals to a recycling center, and I compost all my kitchen scraps.  This leaves very little for the trash man to carry away.  My daughter recently informed me that her carbon imprint at home was practically nothing, but is pretty bad at the dorms.  I'm not into "carbon footprints" but I like the way they recycled everything during World War II, had victory gardens and composted to enrich their gardens.  In fact, you can actually just place your scraps in empty garden beds over the winter and till over with a hoe.  It's pretty well decomposed by spring.

from Southern Living
Compost heaps should be placed somewhere out of the way and shady.  Mark a 6 x6 foot area.  I pile kitchen scraps, especially egg shells (not meat or grease), raked-up leaves (even better if you chomp them up first with a mower), grass clippings, wood ashes from the fireplace, and garden refuge.  Cover with an inch of soil and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of lime to keep odors down if necessary, but I don't have a problem with odors.  Add 2 cups of garden fertilizer and keep layering up to several feet.  Water often in dry weather conditions.  It helps to leave an impression on top to catch rain water or snow.  Turn pile with a pitch fork occasionally.  Add more soil to keep the heap from looking unsightly.  I read in article in Southern Living magazine where a man grew cucumbers in his compost heap, (it was surrounded by a circle of chicken wire that the cumbers trellised up).  Now that's something I've got to try!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Deep Cleaning Kitchens and Bathrooms

Kitchen should be completely cleaned every six months because cooking spreads greasy dirt on everything.
Lemon juice will clean laminate counter top stains: soak stain with lemon juice for 1/2 hour, then sprinkle with baking soda and scrub with a piece of terry cloth and wipe dry.
Club soda in a spray bottle will make dingy chrome or stainless steel surfaces sparkling clean.
Clean sink with baking soda to scrub it clean.  This is a good use for boxes of soda you're discarding from the fridge.
Clean under the refrigerator using a yardstick with an old stocking secured on it with a rubber band and swish underneath.  Now's the time to dust off the top of the fridge too using the following formula.
For appliance exteriors keep a sprayer filled with this mixture to clean smudges on walls and appliances:  2 tablespoons non-sudsy ammonia, 1 teaspoon. liquid dish washing soap, 1 pint rubbing alcohol, and 1 gallon of water.   Just spray and wipe clean.
Vacuum the condenser coils on the back or the bottom of the refrigerator often.  This will add years to its life and help it run efficiently.
Check expiration dates on condiments and toss the ones that are past their prime.  Also, get rid of any outdated food in the freezer.  Clean the interior with 1 tablespoon baking soda in water.  To remove unpleasant odors, add 1 teaspoon lemon or vanilla extract to the water.  This is a good way to clean the inside of microwaves as well.
I use Murphy's Oil Soap to deep clean the outside of my wood cabinets (kitchen and bath).  Working on one cabinet or drawer at a time, I remove everything, vacuum out corners, wipe out all inside cabinet surfaces with Murphy's in warm water.  Let it air dry (use a fan to dry faster).  Then replace everything in an organized manner.  This is a good time to decide if you have too much stuff and to give away the extra--especially pantry nonperishable items that haven't been used within a year.
Disinfect the trash can.

Ovens and Stoves
Most ovens can be cleaned with baking soda on a damp cloth and scrub the interior.  If there is a spill, pour salt on it immediately.  When the oven cools, brush off the burned food.
If the oven is seriously dirty, put lemon ammonia in a spray bottle and spray the cool oven (avoid the heating elements, or if gas--the holes).  Close the door and let the fumes work for two or three hours (make sure the room is well-ventilated).  Using terrycloth, wipe the interior of the oven, including the door.  Scrub the oven with a scouring pad or stainless steel pad or Mr. Clean sponge.  Then rinse and wipe dry.
Clean the racks in a bath tub.  Put down a towel, then fill with tub with enough hot water to cover racks and add 1/4 cup ammonia (open a window).  Let them soak for 2-3 hours and scrub with a scouring pad or stainless steel pad or Mr. Clean sponge.
I like to put extra-wide, heavy-duty aluminum foil under the heating element at the bottom of my electric oven to catch spills and drips, and replace when necessary.
I've found using a Mr. Clean sponge doused with a little lemon ammonia will clean the reflector pans and under the stove.  For stubborn stains I use baking soda.  Sometimes it has to sit a while.  Wipe clean with a dry cloth.
Aluminum foil can be placed under many stovetops to protect it from boil overs.  Wet this area and place the aluminum foil over it so it stays in place.  Throw-away pie pans can also be placed under the eyes to catch spills.  They can be washed and used again.
Don't forget to clean the hood (ammonia diluted in water) or use baking soda to scrub off tough spots.  Rinse well and dry with a clean cloth.  Be sure to clean the floor under the oven, the sides and back, and the drawer underneath.

These need to be completely deep-cleaned every six months if there is a problem with mold and mildew.
Mildewed sheet rock- to prevent mildew, remove source of dampness and thoroughly air out the affected area.  Open all windows and doors to provide ventilation and to remove musty odors.  Wash areas with a household detergent and rinse with clear water.  Rinse all surfaces with chlorine solution.  If odors persist, sprinkle bleaching powder over the floor, then sweep.  Place several lumps of dry charcoal in tin cans in room away from sources of heat or fire, (this is great for clearing the smell of paint from a room that's just been painted).
Use rubbing alcohol to clean bathroom fixtures: pour on with a cloth, scrub, and wipe dry.
 Never spray the mirror itself with cleaner; instead, spray a clean, lintless cloth, wipe down the mirror.  To avoid streaks, dry immediately with another clean, lintless cloth--an old T-shirt will do.
Remove shower curtains and launder according to instructions.  Wash or replace plastic liner with a new one.
Clean walls and using a solution of Murphy's Oil Soap, wipe down crown molding and baseboards.
Clean out medicine cabinets.  Do not keep leftover prescription medicine or give it to someone else--throw it safely away.  Do not keep medicines that are past their expiration dates.
Wash bath mats each time the bathroom is cleaned.
Clean the bath exhaust fan at least once a month.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Scrapbook Layout: The Balance Game

I really struggled so much when I began creating layout pages for my Creative Memory albums.  This was before Idea Books, before the internet, before scrapbooking really caught on.  I can't tell you how many pages have been disassembled and put back together again--sometimes over and over!  That is when I learned you really have to have a plan (or copy someone else's idea!).  I'm sharing information from a handout I received when I first started scrapbooking with Creative Memories in the early 1990's.  It has helped me so much in planning my layout pages so that I get it right the first time.

"When you are laying out your photo's for your page, remember that it is your balancing game and you balance according to your visual likes.  Some people like a symmetrical look--same sizes, same spacing.  Other people like a more abstract design with flowing patterns and color."

Put your visually heavy picture down first, then start balancing.'s just like hanging pictures on the wall.

You can balance with stickers or colors...You can balance with words.

Work with your page in 1/2's or 1/3's.

(Layouts by Homemaker's Journal.  "The Balance Game" source unknown--circa early 1990's)


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