Monday, April 18, 2016

Seed Starting

I've got spring fever here lately,  even though our winter wasn't particularly cold, it was still too cold to do the things I really like to do.  Woodworking, fishing, gardening, and foraging.  I did spend some time trying to figure out how to get my seeds started early for my gardening adventures.  I've wanted to do square foot gardening for a long time, but I always seem to get really small seeds, and I just scatter them in place.  I figured this year, I would start my seeds early, and the plant them in a square foot combo.  Here are a few of the ways I've found of trying over the winter.  I always like to experiment, here are three methods, I wanted to try this year.  You may remember the blog on using plastic coke bottles as a way to start seeds.  And if not here is a link Coke Bottle Seed Starters

Egg Carton

Egg Carton Method
This method is pretty easy. Get an egg carton, I try to buy the papery type egg cartons.  Add some dirt, and plant a seed in the middle.  This method I think may be best if you buy the egg cartons that are not plastic.  That way you can just cut the carton apart and plant it in the ground.

The plastic egg cartons can potentially be reused.  I think my wife actually bought some eggs in this carton last week, so I'll see how it does.

Update:  The egg carton method didn't seem so promising at first, but as of today I have quite a few seedlings sprouted.

Plastic Bags
I really like the plastic bag method.  You take a paper towel, wet it down, place your seeds on it, and then put the paper towel inside a ziploc bag.  I like doing this, I can make a ton of these very quickly, they are relatively cheap, and they can be stacked in a warm dark place out of the way.  I've had good luck with these in the past.  The bags can be reused for years, and they take up no storage space.

Toilet paper rolls
Toilet Paper Roll Method
This is a method, I've wanted to try out for a few year, but every time I try and save the rolls, some one always throws them out.  Well, this year I finally found a good spot to save them that won't let them get lost.  This also seems like a good way to start seeds, cut the rolls down, add them to a cheap plastic container, add some dirt and a seed and let them go.  One nice thing about this method is that they are very stackable, but they do take up more room than a plastic bag.

Bonus: Potting Mixes
A long time ago I used to keep various species of Reptilia in terrariums, and one my of my favorite seed starting mixes comes from this era.

1 part ground coconut husk
1 part partially composted leaves

Just mix it thoroughly together, and add water.  It will hold moisture for days.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Money Making Apps, part 2

Last week I wrote about apps that I use to make extra money on the side.  While none of these apps will make you rich, they can help to pay off debt, start an emergency fund, or just buy fun stuff you won't spend "paycheck" money on.  Another way I make some extra money is through survey sites.  There are lots of good and tons of bad survey places.  I have accounts with four of them that I like an use.  Each has it's pros and cons, but by using all of them, I can generate some extra cash as needed.

SurveySavvy has some very nice rewards, but they can be few and far between.  Even when you get a survey, they are very hard to qualify for.  The plus side is they usually pay very well.  All the rewards are paid out as a check that is mailed to your home.  I usually wait until I have at least $25 in my account to cash it.  One nice thing is that you can refer other people to the site, and get rewards from when they complete surveys.  I've never really used this feature, but it could generate a nice income if you have a lot of friends that are willing to take surveys.

SurveySpot has been mostly miss for me lately, I've found it very hard to complete a survey and get any points.  Each survey is typically worth 75 points (which translates to $.75 cash)  The rewards can be paid out in Gift Cards or Paypal.  I personally like Paypal.  I can pay for things like Netflix and never have to worry about spending any real money on it.   The nice thing about SurveySpot is that if you have time to kill, you can click on a link to take multiple surveys in day.

I've used Toluna for a long time now, and recently I feel like it has gotten a lot better.  The surveys pay out less in points, but they seem to be easier to qualify for.  Surveys vary from anywhere from 1,000 points to 3,000 points.  3,000 points seems to equal about $1.00.  I like Toluna because of the sheer number of rewards.  You can get gift cards to Sears, Walmart, they will mail you a check, they will pay you in Paypal.  You can even get merchandise from the site.  

Harris Poll has one very nice pro.  Whether you qualify for a survey or not, you will almost always get 15 points.   Every 125 point is worth $1.  So every ten days, just for clicking on a link and answering a few questions you could potentially make $1.00.  Not bad for not doing much.  Most surveys are worth between 50 and 125 points.  The only payment methods I've ever used were the gift cards.  They can be slow to arrive, even though they are all digital.  No worries though, I've always gotten my gift cards.  One thing that they do every once in while is send out special community invite surveys.  If selected for the community, you take at least 4 short surveys every month, and they reward you with a $10 Amazon gift card.  

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Foraging: Morels

Warning: Never, ever eat wild mushrooms until you have had an experienced guide help you positively identify them.  Mushrooms are never to be taken lightly,  they can and will kill you if you do not harvest them correctly, do not cook them correctly, and do not identify them correctly.  While some species are considered "safe" (meaning they have no poisonous ones that are very similar), it is still not safe to consume them until you have had them identified.  

Spring time means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but here in the outdoor community in Arkansas it means at least one very important thing.  Turkey hunting and Morel Mushrooms.  There are lots of turkey hunters in the spring woods, looking for a big old tom turkey to harvest.  When that turkey doesn't want to cooperate, those same hunters will start to look for morels.  They are considered a delicacy of the mushroom world, and what's more, to my knowledge, they are almost impossible to grow commercially.

Morels are one of the "safe" mushroom species.   There is a poisonous look-a-like, the main difference being that the Morel is completely hollow inside, and yellow or black, while the poisonous ones are usually brown, and are not hollow inside.  Never eat morels raw, morels contain chemicals that are used in jet fuel.  This can be safely cooked out.  

Morels only grow in the spring, and they are here today and gone tomorrow.  There are two species, the yellow black.  The yellow ones seem to grow mainly on deciduous trees, while the black seem to prefer evergreens.   Here in Arkansas, I suggest looking for Elm or Ash trees.   The yellows seem to prefer them.  

I took my son out this morning, we had some serious rain, but I regret to inform you we didn't find any morels.  You will have to use your favorite search to get some pictures of morels, ash and elm trees.  We did get us some wood for making our own primitive bows and arrows, I'm looking forward to working on and writing about this. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Money Making Apps

I am obsessed with finding new ways to earn money with little effort on my part.  Right now, I've got a few different ways that I use to make money.  I'm never going to get rich with apps on my phone, but I can use the money to help in other ways.  Last year, I saved as much money as I could with apps, and was able to buy a Playstation 4.  This is a greedy use of "my" money.  After that purchase, I decided to start using the money to pay down my debt.  Basically, get all the money I can in either Paypal, or Walmart gift cards.  Use the money at Walmart instead of cash, and put the cash towards a debt.  I'll write about paying down debt in another post.  So far this year, I've made almost $200.  It's not a ton of money, but by the end of the year, I will have made at least one extra car payment.  On to the apps.

The best way to make money on Swag-bucks is by watching videos on your computer.  Just click on the Watch link, and start watching videos.  You can earn up to 500 points a day, which equates to $5.  You can redeem the money by purchasing gift cards to Wal-Mart, Bass Pro, and a bunch of other places.  I personally like the Wal-Mart gift cards, simply as a way to pay off debt.

Receipt Hog & Receipt Pal
These two apps are very similar.  You take a picture of a receipt, and you get points.  Receipt Hog pays out in Paypal and Amazon, while Receipt Pal pays out in Amazon gift cards.  It takes a while to earn any money from either app, but it can be a good way to bank cash for a large purchase.  Or you can just use Receipt Hog to pay for Netflix.  I haven't had to spend a single dime from a paycheck on Netflix in several years.

Walmart Savings Catcher
This app is genius idea for Walmart.  You take a picture of your receipt, they price match and give you the cash back on a gift card to Walmart.  Some weeks, I get no money, some weeks I've gotten back as much as $8.00.  I've manage to make over $300 since the app was launched almost a year and half ago.  Again not a ton of money, but every little bit helps

I've got a few more apps, and sites that I like to use for making money.  I'll post them up soon.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Foraging for Spring Edibles

Spring time.  If there is a better time for foragers, I'm not sure when it is.  Everything is starting to green up, and there are so many wild edibles.  The other nice thing is you don't even have to travel far to find them.  Just today, as I was taking the garbage down to the street, I found several different plants.  Dandelions, docks, pennycress, and more.

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
Dandelion Flower
Almost everyone knows what dandelions are.  Large yellow flowers, and green leaves that have look like teeth.  Uses are varied, from the flowers you can make wine and jelly.  The leaves can be eaten raw in salads, sauteed, or boiled.  It possesses a long taproot, that can be dried, ground up, and used as a coffee substitute.

Dandelion Plant
Dandelion Leaf

Curly Dock, Rumex Cripsus
The docks I'm looking at right now have a stem, and curvy, curly (probably why they are called curly dock) green leaf.  They grown from a central basal rosette (leaves are all similar in height, grow from a central location).
Curly Dock Leaf
Basal Rosette
Curly Dock

Wild Onions, Alium ...
There are several different kinds of wild onions.  The most popular right now are probably the leeks.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  They don't last long, but they are delicious.  Also available are the regular green wild onions.  Steam them, cook them with some fresh caught wild fish, or use them in your salads.

Pine Tree, Pinus...
And of course spring is a great time to harvest from pine trees.  Yes that's right, I said pine trees.  If the cattail is called the supermarket of the swamp, the pine tree should be the supermarket of the woods.  So many edible parts.  Right now, you should be looking for the pollen, male cones, and freshly grown needles.  The pollen is a great energy booster, and contains androstenedione, which can help the adrenal gland raise testosterone.  You can make a tea from the needles, or eat them raw, or probably just about any other way you would eat a green vegetable.  One thing I am interested in trying this year is to make some pine jelly and pine syrup.  

There are tons of more edibles available right now.  I'm hoping to get a chance to get after some spring mushrooms next week or the week after.  Right now, the most popular are the morels.  Hopefully I can find some in the coming weeks. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Garden Plants: Snow Peas

I am a huge fan of snow peas.  In all my experience with plants, they are one of the easiest to grow.  I've tried several different brands and varieties.  The germination and harvest rates are amazing.  I can find nothing bad about growing snow peas.

Snow peas are a vining crop, therefore they benefit from some type of trellis system.  I've grown them successfully without any trellis, and they seem to grow fine.  They are just harder to harvest this way.  I have tried several different trelllis' in the past, but I found that using some type of string allows to them to hang on tighter.

The thing I really like about snow peas besides the ease of growth, is the rapid rate of growth.  After a long winter of not being able to work in my garden, seeing the fresh growth of snow peas is exciting.  I usually plant mine in early February, or right after I think the last frost has come and gone.  I have planted them, and the weather has gotten cold and nasty.  They still seemed to do alright.  I'll also plant them again in the fall.  The timing depends on how everything else in my garden is going, and what space I have left.  I've successfully planted them in last August, and again in September.  It all depends on your climate.  They will die quickly once the it starts to get hot. so getting them in the ground as soon or as late as possible is the only way to do it.

Snow Peas after two weeks
One last thing about snow peas, one thing I love about growing them is the benefits in the garden, besides the food that is, they are great at fixing nitrogen.  They don't need a deep root system, and I feel like that is beneficial if you are trying to create a garden spot out of clay.  I've never had to fertilize them, and they seem to have few pests.  Plus, I feel like since they are vining plants, they are easy to bury right back in the soil.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Year, New Posts

Since it's been over a year since my last post, it's time to get back into writing.

In the last year, I've had a lot of changes, but I think I've gotten things back to stable point where I finally have time to start working on projects and writing about them.   One of the biggest changes of the last year, we finally bought a house.  It was a long drawn out, annoying process, but we finally moved into a house that we love.

While the inside is almost perfect, the outside leaves a lot to be desired.  Our backyard is spacious, but has a hill that really ruins the usual space.  I've considered trying to fill it in, terrace it, and possibly turning it into a huge compost pile that will eventually fill it in.  I'm still deciding on the best idea.

I do have a few projects on the burner for the next year.  A list of projects for the back yard in no particular order: Build a pergola, plant grape vines around it, add flowers.  Build a small pond (with or without stream) and landscaping around it.  Add a fence.  Plant some fruit trees (I'm leaning to apples and peaches geared for my climate).  And of course the hill, I'm really considering building a terrace garden on the hill, but we will see how far I get with the other projects.

And of course my garden.  I planted a few sunflowers and cucumbers last year, but they didn't grow well in my terrible soil.  So I started added all my grass clippings and killing the grass in my new garden plot.  I also started adding a border with landscape timbers to help delineate where the garden lives and the yard starts.

Inside we do have one major project that we want to add, we want to add a backsplash around the entire cabinet space.  I also have some things I want to do to the garage to add storage space and to fill the need for more wood working tools.  

Of course, I will also be discussing hunting, fishing, trapping and foraging.  One thing I'd like to add this year is some electronics projects using the Arduino and the Rapsberri Pi.  I think it's going to be an exciting year, and I hope that I can learn a few things and pass them on to you, the reader.