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.