Stone Rocket Stove Fun

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In Eastern Canada it's in the middle of the hunting season.  On Sunday, Seb and I took the dogs for a walk out the back... they were due.  Seb brought his new BB Gun and I brought my .22 inn case we saw any rabbit or partridge.  We didn't see or catch anything, but did have a neat learning experience... We had fun building his first stone Rocket Stove.

The back of our property used to be farm pastures, long since overgrown of alders and brush.  We were walking the old fence line and stumbled on a hill of rocks when the fields were originally plowed.  This was neat since we found other sorts of old tin items in the pile as well.  Since hunting was not very eventful, not even one piece of rabbit poop to be seen, I asked Seb if he wanted to learn how to make a Rocket Stove.

He was excited and so was I... We dug through the pile of stones and found 1 large flat stone for the base and started piling stones around it in a U shape.  On the second layer we put another longer but narrow flat stone and stacked a small chimney.  Kinda looked like a boot with an open toe at the end.

For those of you who don't know what a Rocket Stove is, it's a very efficient cooking stove using small twigs and sticks that burn at high temperatures due to small combustion area and heat convection that draws in air into the combustion chamber.  They have come a long way from their humble beginnings, but you can't argue with efficient design and use.

Unfortunately we didn't have anything to cook, but Seb had a blast building it and creating a nice little fire.  Next time we go out I'll be sure to pack some soup or beans and a small cast iron pot ;o)  I'll also bring our little flip video to capture his enthusiasm of the build!

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Homemade Self Watering Containers for Tomatoes

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Self Watering Container

Funny thing happened when my son and I went fishing... first we caught some lovely rainbow trout, next was we stumbled across eight 5 gallon buckets that are in great shape!  So in the "reuse/recycle" fashion, we brought them home and put 4 of them to use as Self Watering Containers (SWC), also known as SIP containers (Sub Irrigated Planter).

There are many names for these containers or method of planting, but the end result is the same.  I wish I'd have taken more pictures of the actual project, but I'll post a few links to great write ups already out there on the web, no need to recreate the wheel I guess ;o)  Items you will need to complete the project, or at least what I used, was two 5 gallon buckets, or the size of your choice.  A piece of PVC pipe about 1" in diameter, I used left over water tubing from when this house was built that was left in the basement.  A 1" hole drill, a sharp blade knife, a small drill bit like 1/8th and of course a cordless or electric drill.  Last piece you'll need is a small bucket or pale to be used as the "wick"... I used old 1L ice cream containers for this purpose.  I'll make a video and take pics on the next ones I put together.

I've never built or used SIP containers before, but it's been on my to-do list for a while as an option for herbs, tomatoes, green peppers and such in a temporary hot house.  They will be a great addition to any garden and are perfect for the Urban Homesteader, where space and water can be at a premium.

So far I'm very impressed with the results.  Since this was only a test, I put our poorest tomato seedlings in these and they are doing great!  Due to the rain we've had this summer, we only had to top up the containers once.

Here is a pretty good YouTube video describing the basics of building a SIP or SWC out of two 5 gallon buckets

Mother Earth News also has a pretty good writeup on Self Watering Containers which is an excerpt from an awesome book, another in our library actually, The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen of RootSimple blog.  On a side note we recommend you check out their blog... excellent stuff!

This is a work in progress and we'll update our progress as we test these 2 new containers and move on to others.  We'd love to see your container garden and share anything you've learned along your way as well.

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Homemade Compost Bin

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Homemade Compost Bin

At our old Urban Homestead I had made a Pallet Compost Bin out of some old pallets I got for free from my dad's work.  This was something we definitely missed when we moved and needed to be fixed cause I hate throwing away good compost!

We will be reconfiguring the garden and backyard area behind the house this fall and next spring so I only wanted to build something big enough to keep us through until things are finalized.  Being in the country we also could have more critter issues so wanted to make sure it was critter proof... well as much as possible.

I didn't have a plan or anything, just an idea in my head of what we needed.  I had some left over strapping so started with that and a few left over 2x4's from finishing our basement.  I think I ended up buying 2 more bundles of strapping to finish it off.  While I was at the hardware store I saw some 1" square metal netting, not sure what they called it, but it was perfect to wrap around the base and the door to hopefully keep the critters out.

Unfortunately I ony have the one picture of the finished bin behind our tool shed.  I totally forgot to take pictures as I was building it ;o(  I'll try to describe it best I can and hopefully you can visualize.  The top door is on hinges at the top and there is a bar so that you can lift the top with one hand and the bar will lock it open.  This way you can dump your compost with one hand operation.  The front panel is removable so you can lock the top door open and remove the front panel to turn the compost and at the end pull the black gold out for the garden.

We put the compost bin behind the tool shed, in the berry patch.  Placement of a compost bin is important as you want it to be in the full sun as much as possible and close enough to the house that it's not a hassle to use, especially in the winter months... Yes we still compost during the winter in Canada ;o)

Next year, when we finalize the backyard homestead plans, we will build a 3 bin setup for composting to make turning easier as well as handle more compost.  We're also going to try Vermiculture, the art of worm composting, over the winter as well so we have an indoor and outdoor compost running as well as getting some excellent composting tea.  Everything we will need to help with spring seedlings ;o)

We love seeing DIY Projects... Do you compost?  If so did you buy a bin or make it?

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