Thursday, April 29, 2010


This is the aquaponics post! I finally (not really) finished the set-up.

Aquaponics is very interesting to me because we are always, or almost always, under, or going to be under, water restrictions. We were having a severe drought and at one point Death Valley received more rain than we did here.

I'm not going to get into all the scientific information because it would probably put us both to sleep. Let's just suffice to say that aquaponics is recycling water. If you are recycling water, then you are using less water.

This was the beginning set-up. See the fish that are still alive? I've changed a few things. First, the plants on top are not there now. I had them in dirt and dirt is not to be used. You can use things like pebbles, aquarium gravel, or vermiculite. I also added a longer hose to the pump.

I decided I needed to build a structure out of PVC to hold the plant light. These are the two things you need to glue PVC together. Easy to use, wear some rubber kitchen gloves, and do this outside.

This is what I built. If the experiment fails, I now have a stand alone clothes rack or a walker if I put a couple of wheels on the bottom. That's pathetically awesome that I can make my own elderly/disabled equipment.

Now here it is in action. The plant light is attached securely with 22 gauge wire. There's a screen over the tank so no problems with the light falling into the tank and making fish fingers.

This is the final product so far. Let me take you through the process. Fish get fed and then they poop. Ammonia builds up in the water and (good) bacteria hanging around the gravel on the bottom convert it to nutrient rich water, which is also toxic to the fish. The water is pumped out through the tubing attached to the pump into the plant pot, or grow bed. The plant filters the water and then the water drains back into the tank as clean water.

So you've lost a minimal amount of water and you don't have to dig around in dirt. Win win.

Backyard Aquaponics is a good place to see some bigger set-ups. If mine works then I'll be either moving to a big one outside or have several small ones inside to produce vegetables year round.

All supplies were obtained at Walmart and Lowe's for around $50. I think it could work for one of those science fair projects, too. I'll post updates.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Today I checked out this book from the public library. I skimmed through it at the time and thought it could be useful. When I got home and took a good look at it...Wow! This is a great book. While loading the dishwasher Jace asks, "oh yeah, does it have a dishwasher soap recipe?" "Why yes it does. And we have everything for it." So we tried it. 1 Tablespoon Washing Soda and 1 Tablespoon Borax. Worked. Washing Soda, Borax, and vinegar are my new best friends. This book has recipes for foods, beauty products, home remedies, pet care, cleaning products and gardening. It can be found on Amazon by typing the word "Homemade" in the search box. I will be getting this book.

The fun of doing things yourself is that you get to cuss a lot feel proud of your accomplishments. With Rowan's party coming up I figured I should build a screen type thing in front of the compost pile or the little vermin will no doubt want to play in it. It has child drawing magnetic powers.

I highly recommend drawing out plans on paper first. The second thing I usually do is sleep on it. Not the paper, just think over your plans.

And by some dumb stroke of luck your finished product will look exactly like your drawing. I will get teased about how OCD this picture is.

Here is Rowan convalescing on her last day home with strep throat. I'm an evil mother who made her get fresh air. The next day we kicked her out of the house and made her go to school.

Here we are playing "let's have the same hair style."

Another homemade thing happening is Jace made soap. It's still in the drying (curing) stage. We have 17 bars of soap now. A couple of lucky peeps here are going to get to test some soap for us. Jace is really happy about his soap...but he's gonna be in a LOT of trouble if he doesn't quit bugging me with the WifiTouchpad app! Ahem.. (big trouble Jace)

Here is a picture of a sunflower we're growing. It's now over 3 feet tall. It's taller than Rowan, which boggles her mind. She's amazed. Jace tells her he's going to feed her to the sunflower if she gets in trouble one more time. I think it's supposed to grow to 6 feet tall.

(I'm still setting up the aquaponics so I'm postponing that post a little longer.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How Hard Is It To Get Fish?

I’ve been working on my latest project called aquaponics. One of the components of aquaponics is fish. I’m making a small system with only a 10 gallon aquarium. I needed some goldfish because they’re cheap and I might not be very good at keeping fish alive. So how hard is it to get fish?

It was a bright, clear, beautiful day. I had my list of things to buy. I needed an aquarium, a pump, fish, and a plant. I had looked on Craigslist but no luck. I was going to have to rely on…the retail world.”

My first stop was Goodwill. I didn’t have any luck there and I noticed that they have gone way up in price. Things aren’t such a bargain there. I know this is not true at all Goodwill stores. Time to move on.

Next stop is Walmart. They have everything I need. However, the bargain hunting side of my personality kicked in and I just wanted to look at one more place. This is where the day goes downhill.

I went to PetSmart. Not smart. Oh, they have everything one needs to set up an aquarium and fish. But they won’t sell it to you. The prices were just about the same as Walmart and I decided to just get the stuff at Petsmart since I was there. I picked out the aquarium, pump, and fish food. Now I just needed to get the fish. I ask the girl for 20 goldfish. Her reply, “I can’t sell you fish if you’re just setting up a tank.” *silence* And she had that tone in her voice. The I’m-in-high-school-and-I-know-it-all tone. Did she ask if I had fish before? Did she ask if I had a pond? Did she ask if I had the dechlorinating drops that “makes the water safe for fish immediately?” No. She didn’t ask any background questions. She just assumed. They won’t be getting my business again. Thanks PetSmart, for not selling me a pet.

Good thing I didn’t tell her they weren’t going to be pets, but farm animals. I’m hungry. Think I’ll stop at Chik-fil-a. It’s a new one and I’ve never been there before…

First red flag. There’s workers standing beside the intercom to take your order in the drive-thru. I give my order to the girl and she professionally calls it in over her headset. I ask her if I can drive around the car in front me because I can see the person reading off a list of orders. She tells me, “No, they’ll be done is just a second.” O.k. I wait patiently. Another high-school student comes up to my car. “Can you please pull around this car in front of you.” “I asked the girl that and she told me no.” “Oh, it’s o.k. It’s all good.” No it’s not all good. In fact, it’s getting real not good.

The line is finally moving and I’m at the window now. First, they charge me the wrong amount. They have 2 more girls standing outside the drive-thru window to pass things to the car because…the person inside can’t reach out the window 2 feet? The girl says, “here’s your sweet tea.” “I didn’t order sweet tea.” “You didn’t order blah blah blah?” “No, I didn’t.” I can hear metal gears grinding to a halt in my head. I realize their smooth assembly line had just turned into a traffic jam with like ten cars tangled in a car wreck.

All of a sudden the girls are walking away from the window to other cars and the manager is screaming out the window at them and they aren’t listening. And he can’t hand me my food 2 feet away. Because that is thinking outside the box. Apparently, I was supposed to drive around that stupid car way back at ordering and now every order from that point on is messed up. I did ask.

I finally get my food. This is after I tell the girl that this is my first visit here. It’s made quite an impression and I’ll be sure to tell everyone I know. She hands me my food and coupons for some free food and says, “ok. Thank you.” It’s in that weird voice of “why are you still here?” I say, “drinks. Where’s my drinks? Y’all aren’t making this any better.” Got my drinks. Drive off shaking my head. Thanks Chik-fil-a.

Now I’m headed back to Walmart because I haven’t forgotten about the smug little twit at PetSmart. I’m going to go to Walmart, where they don’t care what you’re doing with fish as long as they can sell you something. And I’m going to show her. This will be quick. Run in. Get fish. Back in car. No, no, no.

“Can I get 20 goldfish please.” “Well, the vendor is putting fish in the tank right now and they will have to acclimate. So, I can’t sell you any fish right now.” *silence* “I can’t buy fish anywhere in this town.”

Back in the car. I’ll stop by the fancy pet shop. They’re out of goldfish. What a surprise. I’m depressed. I’m going home. Everyone is against me. Jace calls. He’s in town and will give Walmart another try. Here’s his version of the story.

“I want to get 20 goldfish.” Guy walks over to the tank, dumps the fish out of the bags, and puts 20 in a bag for him. No questions asked. No acclimating bull talk. Is this a guy thing? Ugh!

I’m back at the house getting the tank ready and my hero comes home having vanquished the enemies and brings me fish. I acclimate them and set them loose. And guess what? They didn’t die. They’ve been alive all weekend. So in your face PetSmart girl.

Next time I’ll tell you about the aquaponics setup.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Strep Throat and Other Diseases of the Mind

It’s been a difficult few days around here. Rowan is sick. The doctor confirmed that it is strep throat. And if you know Rowan then you know that she is not the typical sick child. She is amazingly…energetic, except for every 4 hours when the Tylenol or Motrin wears off. (please don’t write and tell me Motrin is every 6 hours. I know. Blogs are not always completely factual)

Rowan and I went to CVS and picked up her medicine. She literally jumped around the store. Boing boing boing. While I tell the employees that she is deathly ill and highly contagious, please do not get near her. Boing boing boing. (I also bought 10 cans of tuna fish because it’s on sale for .49!)

I called my Dad to let him know we won’t be having lunch tomorrow. And if he gets sick in the near future it’s because he came over on Sunday. He probably hung up and asked himself, “why is she doing this to me? Every time I go over there I get sick from that child.”

We’re home now and she can’t go to school till Thursday. What will I do with all that time? A) Go out of my mind because she’s going to drive me crazy. B) Do housework. C) Mow the yard, again. D) Watch hours and hours of The Office. E) Come up with new projects. F) Drive my friends crazy.

Now you’re asking yourself what other diseases of the mind is she talking about? Soap and candles. Whenever Jace goes to a farmer’s market or craft fair he brings home these. And he says they are for me. But they’re not. He brought home one that has cornmeal in it and the label says, “for those that like it a little rough in the bath.” Hmmm…

We read a book about making your own bath soap. Glycerin soap is really easy. You can get everything at Hobby Lobby. It is another area I don’t really have an interest in, though.

An activity that I do like is mowing. Something about being outside and all the grass is uniform in length. Orderly. Anyway, if you remember there are rocks in my yard. Some of them stick out of the ground just enough to hurt a lawn mower. So that and the past week’s rain caused the untimely death of our lawn mower. Maybe just the rain…

Off we went to Walmart, where I got…a self-propelled mower. I love these. I had one before. They are heaven. (I had a picture but I was having blogging issues this morning thanks to probably not getting enough sleep because of the diseased Snoreblatt) Let me put it this way…You start it up, put it in drive, and just walk behind it. The motor will drown out any annoying noises, like “Mommy get me this. Mommy get me that. Mommy mommy mommy.”

I will get at least an hour of “quiet time” while mowing, which I will definitely need during this trying week.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Miss Organization

Keeping up with things in my neck of the woods is a tireless job. Or tiresome, daunting, but someone's gotta do it.

* Googled and found that people are using 1/4 cup of white vinegar in the rinse cycle for fabric softener. You know I did it. It works. Freaky! I noticed a very teeny tiny faint whisp of vinegar smell when the wash was done. Or maybe my brain just said there was a tiny smell. Anyway, no vinegar smell after the dryer. I think the heat dissipates it. Awesomely strange. Try it. You know you want to. So far Jace isn't scared of my experiments because I haven't tried to make our own toilet paper.

* Rowan's party is almost through the preparation stages. The Disney Princess and Pirate Ship invitations are filled out, because she had to have both. The Spongebob Squarepants ice cream cake is ordered. I am making copies of a flier tomorrow because you know there's at least 50 people invited. At least 50. Invitations go out Sunday. I still need to reserve a jumper thingy-ma-bob. One week before the party I will write out a food list and purchase said food. On party day Jace will pick up the cake or he will get to be a pinata.

* Medusa and Lucifer are being good neighbors...this week. No new sheds at the other neighbors.

* Hello, my name is Julie and I'm a podcast junkie. Radio? What's radio? I have so many podcasts to catch up on.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Making Your Own Laundry Soap

First, I just want to say a few words about experimenting. I've been doing a few experiments around the house, which you know about if you've been reading this blog. Most of these have changed our lives here, and hopefully for the better, if not just differently. I've been learning some new skills and I'm trying to keep cobwebs from collecting on my brain.

We're experimenting with new gardening methods. We did the t.v. experiment and haven't died. We've been switching to more organic/natural/nutritious foods. We stopped bringing soda into the house.

My friend is waiting for me to show up in an Amish hat but that would totally ruin my hair. She also thinks I'll start making those solid color sack dresses. I don't think the Amish have iTouches so it really won't work for me.

I wanted to try making my own laundry soap. After a bit of Google I had a recipe and a plan. I thought I would have trouble finding the ingredients but they were all at the local grocery store in the laundry aisle. 1 bar of Zote laundry soap ($.89). 1 box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda ($3.17). 1 box of 20 mule team Borax ($3.54). Total cost for these items is $7.60.

The first step was to grate 1/3 of the Zote bar. This is easy because it's actually pretty soft. Smells nice, too. Since I only used 1/3 this makes our cost for one batch $.30. This is then added to 6 cups of water and heated till the soap melts.

Next, I added 1/2 cup of the Washing Soda and 1/2 cup of the Borax and stirred til it dissolved. (1/2 cup of Washing Soda is 4.2 ounces which equals $.25, and 1/2 cup of Borax is 3.5 ounces which equals $.18.)

Once dissolved I removed from heat and added mixture to 4 cups of hot water in the container and stirred some more. Lastly I stirred in 1 gallon and 6 cups of water. All done. This took me 18 minutes from start to finish. Total amount is 2 gallons. It makes 64 loads of soap at 1/2 cup soap per load. Total cost per 2 gallon batch/64 loads= $.73. Total cost per load of laundry $.01.

The soap needs to sit overnight to "gel." It doesn't completely gel and actually has an egg drop soup consistency. I read that the ingredients can be changed up to reach the preferred consistency. Later we added .5 oz of lemon essential oil, although it smells great by itself.

We washed 3 loads of laundry with it today and I wore a shirt washed with it. 1) The kitchen did not blow up when I made it. 2) The clothes did not disintegrate when washed with it. 3) My skin did not burn off and I did not go blind wearing a shirt washed in it. No rash either.

I definitely encourage you to try some new things, even if your friends make fun of you. It's fun and it's NOT permanent. I did research on canning but I decided I don't trust myself enough to not give us all botulism. Just wait and see what I do if the HOA approves of residents having chickens!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hints of the next post..

I just ran out of time. I wanted to put up a post. At the time there wasn't enough information. As usual, the information starts running in a landslide and then I have too much information to put in under my dwindling time constraints. So here's a few snippets that will be expanded on:

* The neighbor's shed mysteriously disappeared into the night. They got rid of it. I hope they'll replace it with something more brilliant. I mean that sarcastically. Otherwise subject matter lags.

* The other new neighbors, Medusa and Lucifer, have been approached by the local HOA. The old man said he lets the dogs run loose because he's right there to get them. Mr. HOA says, "I don't think so. There's too many kids and you never know when one will turn (the dog, not the kid). They have to be on a lead or fenced in. Told you I was gonna win this.

* Finally, I have told Rowan she will be getting a party. We were going to have one before last year and let's just say there was some poor planning and it didn't happen. So this year I'm in charge. I decided this an hour ago and I already have the whole thing mapped out in my head. I've got price quotes, furniture placement, guest list, supplies, food, cakes, and fun. Total fun, right?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Homemade Granola Bars

I found a very nice recipe for these. I, of course did not have all the right ingredients and made substitutions. I didn't have peanuts but I did have pecans. I also did not have wheat germ. I still think it will come out o.k.

Things are growing...

Sometimes I feel like things take forever and no progress is made. Ever so slowly are our steps taken. Last October my Dad moved down here and Rowan was very shy around him. To the point of being rude. I thought perhaps she would always be distant towards him. We went to lunch the other day and I caught this pic. Her first time walking with him and holding his hand. So maybe that connection is growing.

Dad still continues to stress me out. For example...while riding in the car he talks about how he drove around looking for our old house and just couldn't find it. He tried on several occasions. Maybe 4. He still couldn't find it. Maybe it's not there. Oh alright Father! We'll drive by so you can see it does exist because I like to tell you about made up houses I pretended to live in. Sheesh. We drive by. Oh look, I'm not lying. This is where I get any OCD tendencies.

Here is Onslo my sweet, slightly neurotic, chiweenie. Tiny. Manageable. Runs like the wind. This is what happens to you if you stay still long enough. Rowan will come and cover you with dish towels and put you to bed. His patience is growing.

These are pics of the garden growing. Beans and peas.


Corn, sunflowers, and lettuce.

Water feature.


The end to this wonderul post. I went outside this morning. Think of cool air, birds softly chirping. The cat walking with me. The grass heavy with last night's rain and getting the edges of my pants wet. The wildflowers will not last much longer. The grass gets tall. They'll get mowed. I collected these beauties. Then I heard the neighbor yelling F this and F that. My understanding that they are morons is growing.