Tag Archive | diy

How to build a compost bin for redworms (Go Green)

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This. Is my favorite book. There are many reasons why, but suffice to say, it’s an innovative approach to sustainable living in extreme urban environments. It’s one of the first books on sustainable living and urban homesteading that I ever read, and after reading dozens of others, it remains the champion. I strongly recommend it, and it is often available through library loan, though I encourage you to purchase it as a manual for the home. It’s available on Kindle!

This project that I’m about to introduce to you actually comes from this book. It is a worm bin for redworms, which make compost. Previously, I was hungry for the space that I needed to have such a large indoor composter. Our family requires one this size because there are three of us, and since we’re vegan, we have a lot of plant based kitchen scraps. If you are not plant based, you might find yourself with fewer scraps to put in a compost, since compost cannot have animal products. If you have outdoor space, you might find an outdoor compost a better option. We have limited outdoor space, and we do not have a considerate place to put our compost, so this was the best option for us.

If you are experimenting with minimalism, you might have a few spare totes kicking around. Simply take two of them with their lids for this project. You’ll also need some newspaper or brown paper, a handful of kitchen scraps, a drill with a 1/4in and 1/16in bit, a bit of soil, a bit of water, and something to prop your bin up.

And worms. Don’t forget the worms. Have this project ready before you get your worms because when the worms arrive, they’ll need tlc and immediate care. I ordered my worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. The product has excellent reviews and I was very pleased with it. The book recommends that you get 1000 redworms for this project, which are on sale right now!

This project is also messy. You’ll also want heavily tinted or solid bins because worms hate light and get hot easily. These bins aren’t for outside- worms get too hot and they get too cold. Stick this in your house or your basement.

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Begin by drilling 20 holes each in the bottom of each bin using your 1/4in bit. Let the drill do the work- if you push the drill too hard, you’ll crack the plastic.

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Then, using the 1/16in drill bit, drill as many holes as you see fit along the bottom edge and top edge of each bin, and in ONE of the lids (not the other). These are oxygen holes, so go wild.

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One bin is for your worms. The other bin is for when you want to collect your compost, so you can now nest the two bins.

Inside one bin (since it’s inside the other), put about 4in of moist shredded newspaper and brown paper. If you have a heavy hand, use a squirt bottle. It should be damp but not wet. If there’s dripping water anywhere, ITS TOO WET. Worms don’t swim. And dead worms die too.

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Now that you’ve got your paper in, add a handful of veg/fruit scraps and bury it in one corner.

Place your lid with holes on.

Place your bin over the lid with no holes. Prop the bin up over it using bricks- I used plant pot feet that you can get at the lawn and garden store. This is a drip pan in case your compost oozes (ew).

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Feed your worms as often as food disappears (it should be about a handful a week until they start breeding). Don’t put too much food because it will rot waiting for them to eat it.

When the worms arrive, dig them a bit in your paper and dump them in. Then cover them up and place the lid back. Worms don’t like light, so you can leave the light on for a day if you want them to bury in good and get comfy.

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If you notice worms escaping, they’re either too wet or hungry.

When it is time to collect your compost (3-4mos), simply fill the outside (second) bin with 4in of moist shredded papers and a handful of food and place it OVER (inside) the bin where your worms are. When they run out of food in their existing bin, they will crawl through the bottom holes of the new bin to get to the new food. Then, the first (outside) bin can be removed and emptied, and placed back underneath (outside) the new bin.

For more on troubleshooting your worm bin, check out this book, happy composting!

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A great spring toy for little ones, and learning about felt

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It is spring in Maine. As I have mentioned before, I have been reading a lot about Waldorf homeschooling my son to help educate him and tame his wild two year old behavior. After delving into minimalism for quite some time, we’ve gotten rid of all the toxic belongings in our home, and have started replacing them with more wholesome items. We have both time and space for crafting and imaginative play.

The problem with blending my Islamic faith and Waldorf practices is that Muslims are strict monotheists- that is, we believe in only one God. This means that anything that mimics another faith in spiritual practice is prohibited, especially if it’s a non-monotheistic practice.

Understanding the pagan roots in holidays like Easter and Christmas are an everyday part of our faith. In a lot of ways, it is like the Seventh Day Adventists, and other strict Christian sects. The reason this butts heads with Waldorf method is because of the ritualistic recognition of the seasons and the creation of chantings, songs, and alters through ritualistic practice. It’s borderline earth-worship.

Well, we’ve had no problem getting rid of those because they’re not a part of our everyday life, but what is left?

Symbolism and nature are left, my dear, and I’ve no issue with those.

We’ve kept our five daily prayers, which leave us with a pretty heavy sense of schedule and ritual, and I’ve added some nasheeds for us to sing by Dawud Wharnsby Ali (lovely videos online of course). Combined with playtime and art, it’s a full day.

So naturally, I am crafting up a storm to make my son some quality toys. I happened upon this blog from a genius mama, who had all sorts of suggestions. And I bootlegged her project for my son πŸ™‚ The link is here.

I am so new to felting that it’s not even funny. Why? Because I have ethical issues with wool. But, this wool was my mother’s, and it’s from local Maine, so I’ve naively allowed myself to think that these sheep are probably treated well by some small farmer. Ethical issues are a tricky one with veganism. On the one hand, you don’t want your kid playing with plastic and crap, but on the other hand, your natural fibers are wool, hemp, and cotton, and let’s face it- a great deal of natural child’s playthings are made from wool because it’s more useful. You can literally shape it into anything.

I should mention that I did not add a button to this one because my son cannot do buttons yet, and has had a bit of a time just putting the baby in and out of the egg. Someone mentioned on my last post about choking hazard, which is a legitimate concern if your child is still putting things in their mouth, and if that is the case, you could simply use a felted small animal to put inside, or even the original stone egg.

Without further adieu, here are the pics!

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EcoKidsTuesdays

DIY Waldorf and Montessori- Sorting Game

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Abe and I have been working on some learning. This was vacation week, and since we’ve pretty much gotten rid of 75% of our belongings, I decided that this was a good opportunity to start shaping the home into our Waldorf classroom. Waldorf toys are expensive- plastic crap that leaves little to the imagination is much easier to find, and cheaper. But the long-term benefits are lacking, and they teach children that it’s ok to pollute the planet. Not to mention the instant-gratification factor.

Reading up on the two theories is crucial. I read a book called Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard, and am currently reading Montessori: Her Method and the Movement by R.C. Orem, simply because they were the available books at my library. After reading through them, I realized that Waldorf may be more appropriate for us, though I will be adapting some of the Montessori model, especially for independence and self-care. For Waldorf reading, I’ve ordered Toymaking with Children by Freya Jaffke, Seven Times the Sun by Shea Darian, and Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, by Barbara Patterson. All of these are recommended reads on the subject, but two useful sites for anyone interested would be Waldorf Homeschoolers and Waldorf in the Home.

The Waldorf Method isn’t actually to go out and buy a bunch of expensive toys. It’s more appropriate to make classroom materials and toys- especially with your children. By using natural materials, you’re showing your children reverence and exploration of the natural world. We’ve done a lot of scavenging at yard sales, second hand shops, and Craigslist, and have had very good results.

I began by using what we already had. Montessori method gives children replicas of everyday things in child form, to foster independence. My child is already able to put himself to bed, dress and undress, comb his hair, and clean up after himself, so working alongside me has been his next step in development. Unfortunately, things like kitchens and washing machines don’t come child size, but when blended with Waldorf method, pretend replicas of these items are perfectly genius.

First, we moved Abe’s play kitchen to the kitchen:

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Remember when the dollar bins at Target were awesome? That’s where this came from!

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An old individual pie plate, and fake “tofu”!

This was a homemade kitchen by a loving father and I got it for $40 on Craigslist. If you want to spend $200 on one from a catalog, by all means, but the internet (and Pinterest) is FULL of hacks and mods for making homemade kitchens for children. Making a kitchen would provide your child the opportunity to state how they would like it designed, and to help. Additionally, fake food tutorials are also available online. No need to buy expensive sets unless you’re afraid to experiment with a little felt πŸ˜‰

Next, we moved Abe’s washer and dryer to the living area, which is around 2ft from the actual washer dryer, located in a hallway closet. You can also make your own washer and dryers!

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Just an old sorting bin, some receiving blankets, burp cloths, and his old tag blanket make perfect “laundry”.

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The graphic on he door spins when you shut it.

Then we capitalized on the toys we already had, which lead to a period of re-discovery. What I found is that the fewer toys my son had, the more interest he took in them. Here is my old post for toys you can find on the market, and an overview of our working inventory at home.

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But onwards and upwards- I wanted to make some learning toys. We’re in the process of projects, but this one was the first I completed.

I got six of these little wooden treasure boxes at the craft store for a dollar each:

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Then I painted the inside bottom and lid. I painted the inside bottoms so that the color could be seen when the box was open. In case you’re not familiar with color theory, primary colors are red, blue, and yellow, and secondary colors are violet (made with blue and red), orange (made with yellow and red), and green (made with blue and yellow).

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I live in a place where there are prevalent oak trees, so instead of buying wooden acorns, I just painted some that I had collected in the fall.

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The game, of course, is to sort each by it’s own box.

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There you have it! Stay tuned for more Montessori and Waldorf goodness!

farmgirl

DIY Toddler Gift Roundup

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My son and my nephew share birthdays that are a month apart. It’s great- they’re both the same age. I always wanted a sibling close in age, so I’m pleased that my son will have a similar experience. My relationship with my cousin who was close in age, was a part of my childhood that brings me some really heartfelt memories.

Being that I don’t believe in consumerism, I made toys for both boys. And while I don’t believe in gender grooming, these toys tend to be male oriented, but don’t let that dissuade you from trying your hand at them. One of my fondest memories growing up was opening up the homemade gifts my mother made me for holidays and birthdays. I especially loved homemade dolls and Barbie clothes.

This doll here is just a salvage Cabbage Patch, rescued from the consignment shop. It was naked with messy hair, but clean, so I scooped it up like an orphan. I made some clothes for it out of some old felted sweaters, and I’ve included instructions below!

To felt your sweaters, make sure they’re 100% wool. Wash them on hot, preferable with something like denim to agitate it more, and then dry it on hot.

To make dolly pants, the pattern is simple. Since most dollies don’t have much in the way of a butt, you simply cut off a sleeve at the end. I sewed up one side to make it more even, like a tube.

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Then I cut up the middle, and sewed around the edges to make pants.

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Tada!!!!! Next is the shirt. Cut off the end of another sleeve. Cut holes in the sides, big enough to accommodate the width of the doll’s arms.

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Cut two squares of fabric and sew them together on the side to make tubes for sleeves. You can simply measure around the dolls arms by wrapping the fabric around it and allowing for a small seam, or even cutting the sleeve length after the tube is sewn on. I cut along my seams to reduce bulk after stitching it.

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Then I turn up the sleeves on the ends, and turn up the armholes. This makes like two sets of lips touching, making a fabric seam to sew. It should look like this.

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Since my dolly has a short baby neck, and the cuff of the sweater I used was long, I folded it down, and blanket stitched it in place, like a turned-over turtleneck.

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I also blanket stitched around the cuffs. I like how it flairs the end of the sleeves.

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Lastly, I blanket stitched the bottom of the sweater and the bottom of the pants.

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The booties are stretchy fabric (knit would work, like an old t-shirt). I sewed it in the shape of a capital cursive “U” (that is, straight on one side, curved on the other), with a straight hemmed top. Infant socks would work just fine if this seems tedious to you. For a bed, I painted an old clementine box, and made some simple bedding from some fabric scraps and quilt batting.

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In addition to the dolly, I made a few other gifts. I made this bag with washable crayons and a tractor coloring book for my son. It’s a great little bag to bring for rides in the car, or appointments. There’s an entire post on how to do this one.

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Perhaps one of my most clever hacks was this wallet that I made my nephew. I used this pattern, and used old mail-offer credit cards and old gift cards. There’s also an ID card to fill out, which came from something my grandmother had on hand. The money is just a rectangle of felt, which has fancy stitching around the edge, and I used a fabric marker to write on it. I suppose that a Sharpie marker would work as well.

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Last, I also recommend this car cozy. My son has had a blast with it!

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barn hop

DIY Birthday: Cloth gift bags

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I love gift bags. Don’t get me wrong- I am a FANTASTIC gift wrapper. I’ve been an origami master since the age of 8. But gift wrap is really a cultural phenomenon that we need to grow out of. It’s a wasteful habit that harms the planet.

I have a collection of gift bags. In our family, there is no shame in reusing gift-wrapping materials, ranging from gift bags, wrap, tissue paper, bows, ribbons, or gift containers or sorts. It’s really so wonderful, because when I make a handmade gift, I just select from my assorted beautiful collection of wrappings.

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My absolute favorite are the cotton gift bags from my aunt, shown at the top. She had a special touch with everything she did. I attempted to make some cloth bags, and I thought I’d share my method. These two bags were from the dollar bins at Target. I have an unhealthy relationship with those bins. HA!

But first! Check them out…all made from waste fabric (scraps).

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So in order to make a simple bag, just fold a piece of scrap fabric in half and make sure it’s square. Then hem up the sides:

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Then hem the top of the bag. You can then fold it over to make a casing for a drawstring, or you can stitch down in the center, two parallel lines, and then fold it over to make the drawstring casing.

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Once you have sewn down the drawstring casing, you can cut between the two parallel lines to make a drawstring opening (I cut a little too deeply here, but no matter). You can feed the drawstring through, in this case, ribbon, by making a small knot and attaching a closed safety pin, which helps to have something to grab on to while feeding it through.

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If you have a light cotton or silk, you can even forgo the drawstring casing, and simply hem the top to make a sack, using a ribbon tied around the top to close the bag.

Other clever solutions to gift wrap that I’ve seen have been purses, hat boxes, self-decorated craft paper, and even an old mitten with a drawstring. Three of the bags shown above were made from an old shirt, sewn up the front and over the neck, with the sleeves also turned into sacks.

Breaking the boring: Sewing a coloring bag for my little man

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Ok, I’ll admit it- this blog was getting a little boring. I had a lot to say, and I let loose with a few rants.

But I’m here to break the stereotype that January is the month that you need to make yourself a list of to-do’s. For real, what is WITH that? Every site either has some challenge or to-do list, and honestly, it’s a pretty stressful way to start the new year.

I have been busting my hump since AUGUST! That’s right- harvest season went straight into crafting season, and I was hauling butt to get holiday presents completed, special dishes cooked to substitute things at family dinners, and attending get-together’s. Now I’m sewing gifts for my son’s second birthday.

From there, I have a few million projects to complete. There is no dead space between now and planting season.

On a side note, you should be saving your toilet paper tubes if you’re going to be planting alongside me. They can be cut in half and the bottoms folded to make seedling cups.

So here is the latest project. It’s a little bag with 8 washable crayons pouches and a small coloring book. My son LOVES to color, and I can name about a dozen places that he could bring this- there’s even a little extra room to sneak in some cars or some small dinosaurs.

I picked out this little book at Target, but a small notepad would work just as great. This one had stickers.

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For the sides of the bag, you’ll want 2 pieces of fabric, folded in half horizontally with the fold at the top. The fabric will be 16×8, to make an 8x8in square when folded (and ironed).

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You’ll also want 2 more strips of fabric, 7×8, and you’ll want to fold them the same way, to make a 3.5x8in strip, with the (ironed) fold at the top. These will be the crayon pouches.

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And you’ll also need two strips of fabric that are 11x2in. Iron them in half horizontally, then iron the sides horizontally towards the ironed middle. Iron the entire thing in half again. This should tuck your raw edges in to make a strap, like this. Sew these down the center to close them shut.

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Next your going to put the crayon pouches on the bottom of the big pieces (the sides of the bag). Measure half an inch from each side and place a pin. This will be your edge marker. From left to right, you should have 7in across the bottom. At the top of the crayon pouch, measure the middle (at 3.5in) and put a pin, attaching it to the larger piece. Then measure halfway (1 3/4in), and place a pin. This will create 4 pouches. Make the same measurements on the bottom of the crayon pouch, and also place pins. It should look like this.

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Double check your work by holding a ruler to it from top to bottom.

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Next, sew the pouches from the bottom up for the length of the crayon pouch. You’ll only sew three lines- don’t sew at the half-inch mark at the borders.

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Repeat this for the other side of the bag. Sew your straps to the sides of the bag at the top- I sewed mine using the strap as a guide- the width of the strap is how far from the side that I sewed it. Remember to sew them to the inside of the bag side (the side without the crayon pouch).

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Lastly, pin the two bag sides together with the wrong sides facing out. Sew on each side and bottom. Turn it right side out and give it a good iron. Wait until it’s cooled to put the crayons in.

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How to make a simple gathered skirt (and hijab with underscarf)

I made this for my daughter, for Eid. Eid al-Adha is the celebration of the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son. We celebrate a lot like Christians celebrate Christmas- we exchange gifts, eat special food, spend time with family, and go to the mosque to pray.

Naturally, I wanted my daughter to have something special to wear, but I don’t like the clothing available at our local halal market, because it’s very bright colored (think…orange), and because all of the children end up wearing the same thing (like Walmart). So I decided to make her an outfit!

The outfit is comprised of four components. First and foremost is the skirt and shirt. This type of assembly can be appreciated by anyone whose daughter dresses modestly, and even for play costumes. Little girls love long cotton skirts, and these instructions will work on ANY fabric. That’s right- ANY fabric (provided it’s not see-through). I made my daughter one of these skirts out of jersey knit, brocade (above), and cotton.

I would recommend you buy the shirt- this one is from the Children’s Place. The reason being, shirts are complicated and often not worth the work or the cost of the fabric.

And the last components are an underscarf and a shayla (rectangular scarf). The shayla can also be worn as a “fashion” scarf for those who are not Muslim.

In order to determine how much fabric you’ll need, I recommend you measure a pair of pants. I folded my daughters pants in half vertically and measured the length from the top of the waist to the bottom. And for width, I recommend you add 4-6 inches to the waist measurement of where the child wears their pants. My daughter, for example, has a 27in waist, and I added four inches. I bought the fabric so that it was wide enough to be folded in half, creating a back and front. For the brocade, I made the bottom on the salvage edge of the fabric because it was decorative. Here is my end result:

Then sew up the side parallel to the fold. The fold shown here is on the bottom, so I sewed the edge that is shown on the top. Remember to fold with the RIGHT SIDES of the fabric together, so that your seam is on the inside.

At this stage, I recommend you hem the bottom of your skirt if you’re using a cotton or jersey fabric. For stretch fabrics, you will want to do ample pinning when turning your fabric edges under, and to keep it from stretching and distorting, you can pin and sew it onto tissue paper, and then rip the paper off.

The salvage edge of the brocade

You’ll want to turn your seam over just once on the top of the skirt. I then sewed it. You can turn it over and sew along, or pin it.

Next, I folded it over, leaving a large space for my elastic. You can place your elastic underneath the fabric to see how much you’ll need to leave. When you go to sew this, I begin at the seam on the side of the skirt, being careful to leave an opening large enough to feed the elastic through. Do not sew it all the way around.

Measure a piece of elastic that is about 2in or so shorter than the waist measurement, depending on how tightly you want the skirt to fit. Leave about an extra half inch on top of that to overlap it for sewing.

Once you’ve left space, you can feed the elastic through. Veterans to sewing can sew the elastic at the same time they turn the fabric over, but I don’t recommend this to people who are new at putting in elastic. To feed your elastic through, I put a clothespin on the end of the elastic so that I have something large to help me.

When you reach the end, you’ll want to slightly overlap the elastic, pin it in place, and then close up the hole you left.

Turn your skirt right side out and iron it!

For the underscarf, there are two options. The easiest option is to sew a tube underscarf from a stretchy fabric. Do this by measuring around the head and cutting a rectangle the same measurement. Then you can sew it, wrong sides together, up the side, to make a tube. Then hem the edges.

The harder option for fabrics that don’t stretch would be to cut a rectangular or triangle underscarf. First I hemmed the edges. Then I made ties by folding under some fabric.

For the shayla, I simply hemmed the edges of a rectangular piece of fabric!