Monday, September 26, 2011

Free Admission Day Fun!

On our record-breaking hot day last Sunday, September 25th, Free Admission Day, John Janzen Nature Centre hummed with guests.

Mark Stumpf-Allan and I were kept busy talking to people touring the Composting Education Centre, showing them the composters, recruiting new wanna-be converts, showing them the "red wiggler" composting worms, the finished compost and the benefits of compost tea. They appreciated our information and the shade on the deck and under the trees. Plus when they found the porcupine damage to the larch tree, the metal square decal with the porcupine etching was right beside it - Clue #1 on their Treasure Hunt Sheet.

People had fun exploring the John Janzen Nature Centre site: participating in the Treaure Hunt, watching bird banding, finding water insects in the wetlands pond area, playing in the newly redesigned auditorium.

Mark also took some of the compost from the bins and spread it on the grassy area adjacent to the centre, which needed some care. He made a labrynth of it, and invited passersby to try to walk it.....Later he raked it in. All in all it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon!

One consistant comment from the visitors was that they hadn't known the Nature Centre was here, and what a lovely spot it was!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sherbrooke Food Rescue

Carol C. from Sherbrooke Community League has been working very diligently lately, both harvesting fruit and preserving it to make jelly, jam, and pie fillings with her team of community volunteers.

See more at the website:

Also, Canada A.M. had a very interesting interview with Carol that you might want to hear.

In Carol's words: "Just a quick brag. We were on CBC radio this morning and there was also a Shaw TV segment done that should be on TV soon. Check out:
See you all next week at the Telus Science Centre!"

Balcony Composting -- Give it a Try!

One of our master composter/recycler volunteers, Marilyn K., has been practicing composting on her balcony for nine years. When Marilyn moved from her house to her apartment, she looked at finding ways to continue composting without the space of a huge backyard. She soon developed an innovative method to compost in a small space.
She can produce four Rubbermaid totes of compost every year by using organic food scraps, coffee grounds, and some shredded paper. It’s easy to do, it doesn’t smell, and it doesn’t require too much effort. The end result is a lot of rich and healthy compost.

Here is Marilyn’s recipe for success:
2 Rubbermaid tote bins
2 containers (ice-cream bucket size, one for compostables, the other for dirt)
1 bag of leaves
1 small hand-held rake
1 pair of rubber gloves

Take the two Rubbermaid tote bins and drill holes in the lid.

- Collect kitchen scraps in a container that you store in your freezer. When the container is full, place it on the counter to defrost; then dump the materials into one of the bins .

-Cover the food waste (vegetables only) with a sprinkling of dirt, and then with a layer of leaves. Add water if necessary.

-Mix the layers often by hand (using the rubber gloves) or with your small raking tool.

- Monitor the moisture level. If there is too much water, add leaves and/or shredded paper, moistened cardboard or box board. Or take the lid off to let materials dry in the sun. If it is too dry, add some water or some more frozen veggie-mix from the freezer. Repeat until the bin is full and then start the next bin.

-In the spring, summer, and fall, with frequent mixing, a bin will turn into compost in two months. In the winter, the materials in the bin will freeze solid, so both bins will freeze solid. However, when the temperatures rise, composting will happen, the materials will break down and the volume will reduce.

-The more often you mix the materials, the faster it decomposes and the fresher it smells.

-Occasionally, when you mix the materials in your bin, you might smell a faint odour. Stir it up when escaping odours won’t interfere with people on their balcony, like in the early morning or late evening after supper. When the lid is back on there is no odour.

-Get leaves from a friend or relative, or visit a nearby park and help yourself. Marilyn cleans the park in return for the gift of leaves.-If you go on holidays, by layering the materials, your bin will still compost.

-Freezing basic materials helps them break down faster.

-Keep the contents as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

Use your compost as a top-dressing for house plants, lawn areas, or around shrubs.

Mix some in your watering can and let it sit overnight to make compost tea.

Fill a zipper-style storage bag with dry compost and craft a fancy package out of reuse materials for a wonderful and completely home-made gift.

When you are at the Reuse Centre collecting materials, say hello to Marilyn sorting in the volunteer room – she will be thrilled to share tips on her balcony composting techniques.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Plan today to park tomorrow

Tomorrow is Car Free Day. That statement may have bounced off you and you may not give it a second thought, but the reason we (as a global culture) do these little events is to remind ourselves that it may be easier than we realize to make that small change in our lives.

Sure, one day won't change the climate back to one with birds and frogs chirping instead of fierce winds, drought, and brown skies. But it is one step on that journey, and for some it may seem to be a pretty big step. Once accomplished, the next step becomes easier.

If you absolutely must drive your car, keep the Fuel Sense tips in mind:
  • drive at the speed limit

  • use cruise control on FLAT highway only

  • Don't Idle! Have you tried hypermiling?

  • Limit air conditioning

  • Decelerate gradually

  • Anticipate stops

  • Inflate tires

  • Plan routes to reduce drive time

  • Use lighter weight multigrade oil in the fall
Saturday's Moving Planet event is another opportunity to stand up and make a change on the local scene.

What are you doing this week?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Orange you glad you used compost!

More good news about the benefits of compost are coming out of Australia.

A South Australian Research and Development Institute study has demonstrated yield increases in orange orchards of 17 to 63 per cent. Fruit measured in the trial increased in diameter by 5 mm to 7 mm on average.

Why is this so exciting? People sometimes need to be hit over the head with a tonne of evidence before they will believe the simplest fact; sometimes we are too apologetic asking people if they wouldn't mind please trying to compost and grasscycle a bit. Every bit of good news helps clear up some confusion. Read the full article by clicking on the title.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wasp Season is here again!

Yellow jacket wasps can be problematic this time of year.

To help prevent stings remember:
• Be careful not to disturb nests
• Never strike or swing at a wasp
• If a wasp gets close to you, move away slowly
• Avoid heavy, flowery perfumes, colognes or scents
• Drink sweet drinks from containers you can see into. If something end up in your mouth, tilt your head back, open your mouth, be still, and cross your fingers
• If a wasp gets into your vehicle, stay calm and stop in a safe place with as few quick movements as possible - use your hazard lights.

If you find a nest in your compost, avoid disturbing the pile until after the night time temperature drops below -10.

If you notice a nest, like the one hiding in the foliage above, near your garbage put-out or other public area, take the time to put up a sign alerting your collector and passers-by to the hazard.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Autumn Campaign

This week we are launching the “Know Before you Throw” campaign, encouraging multi-family residents to recycle the right materials.

Radio ads will air on Sonic, the Bounce, Now and the Bear.

Also, watch for ads online, on the LRT, in bus shelters, and in the Metro newspaper.

Grads will be able to ACE THE TEST on Vovici and be entered to win a very tasty prize! If you don't get 100% you will be entered to take some follow up training instead. (kidding)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Patty's Leaving/ Welcome Laura!

Patty has left us to be with her newborn baby. I'd like to welcome Laura who will be taking her place for the next year.

Many of you have met Laura already at trade shows and in the 2011 Master Composter/Recycler class. She will be sending out the emails and be the one who schedules and communicates with you about your activities! She is a delightful addition to our team as you will find out if you aren't already acquainted with her.

Good luck to Patty, and a big welcome to Laura!

Brokeback Compost

This article on compost application on ranch land brings together some pure Alberta issues - cattle, carbon sequestration, and some mighty fine scenery.
It also demonstrates that compost land application has long term benefits.

This is the perfect time to add compost to your garden and fill up those cracks in the soil - the carbon will penetrate deeply into the clay and improve next year's tilth.

Before you core aerate your lawn, fill up those cracks by topdressing with Second Nature - it will keep the moisture in the soil and make the aerating easier (water a couple days before renting the aerator for best results). Your soil will be ready for over-seeding later this month.

The compost will also ensure a cozy rest over the coming (sorry) colder months.