Rocket Mass Stove for Greenhouses

I recently came across a video for using a rocket mass stove to heat a greenhouse, and I thought it was a fascinating idea.  A rocket mass stove uses vertical piping and thermal mass to heat a space with five times less wood than a traditional wood stove, and virtually no unhealthy exhaust.

This particular rocket stove is built under a greenhouse, and the pipe is laid beneath what will be a raised bed within the greenhouse, which will provide the thermal mass to transfer the heat.  The bed will stay nice and warm; an ideal place to start plants or grow tropical plants. 

A rocket stove is much more efficient, but one of the best parts about it is that the smoke is literally burnt up inside the pipe, so the resulting exhaust is steam and carbon dioxide, instead of carcinogenic wood smoke.

Some people report that they can heat their home using just the sticks that fall from the trees in their yard – that’s how efficient a rocket stove is.  It makes perfect sense in a greenhouse, because it is very inexpensive to build and maintain, and does not pose the fire risk a wood stove left alone might.

You can use scrap wood that would be wasted in larger wood stoves, such as blow down from storms, and all the dead sticks and twigs a tree normally sheds, which means you do not have to harvest anything living to provide fuel for your rocket stove.

If you are looking for alternative heat sources with renewable energy, look into the rocket mass stove for both your greenhouse and your home.

Selling Plant Starts as a Side Business

People love to grow their own flowers and vegetables, but in some climates, those plants need to be started early indoors to get head start on the growing season. Many people don’t have the time or the inclination to start plants indoors themselves, so those who do can turn selling plant starts into a profitable side business.

The nice thing about growing plants is that they require relatively little in the way of upfront cash.  You need pots, which can be recycled from toilet paper rolls, milk jugs and other consumable items, and you need the soil and seeds, both of which are inexpensive.

The biggest investment you will have is your time, and while they say time is money, they probably did not have a shortage of money and a little extra time.  With proper management, you can care for a large number of plants in just a little bit of time every day.

If you can grow plants, garden vegetables like tomatoes and peppers usually need to be started indoors, except in areas with long growing seasons.  There are people who make a very good income selling those seasonal plant starts at farmer’s markets.  That extra cash can be a big boost toward a vacation fund or paying down debt.

So if you like to grow things, consider selling plant starts as a way to supplement your income.  You may find that, over time, you can grow your business into something that supports your family, while providing you the opportunity to work from home and spend time with those you love.

Books on Medicinal Gardens

If you’re going to have a garden, a medicinal herb garden is a great addition.  Not only can you learn to treat your own minor ailments, but also improve your health through preventive treatments by using herbs to boost your immune system.  The following books will help give your medicinal herb garden a great start, showing you what to plant and how best to grow it.

The Complete Guide to Growing Healing and Medicinal Herbs
This book details everything you need to know about using and growing healing herbs, from the right herbs for your region to cultivating, storing and using herbs for various healing applications.  Learn how to companion plant with herbs to maximize growth and health, as well.

The Medicinal Garden: How to Grow and Use Your Own Medicinal Herbs
Touted as a “must-have” by one reviewer, this book will teach you about various herbs, as well as common substitutes that can have the same effect, so you can learn the options that will work for your geographic region.

The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm
For those interested in traditional Chinese medicine, this book is your go-to guide for how to grow and use herbs in time-honored methods.  It also provides scientific data to back up the long understood healing properties of Chinese herbs.

Whether you want a window box with a couple healthful herbs or an entire garden dedicated to healing herbs of all kinds, these books are sure to give you the information you need to make knowledgeable decisions and grow a wide variety of herbs.

Medicinal Herb Gardens

If you have a hankering to create a beautiful flower garden, filled with colors and textures, while still having the benefits of plants that are productive, consider creating a medicinal herb garden.  Information abounds about the healing properties of different herbs and how they work together in a garden, so you can carefully plan a garden that will provide your family with all the healthy, helpful herbs you need.

While medicinal herbs can be used to treat illnesses, they work best as preventive treatments to gradually build up the immune system and help our bodies fight off the many attacks we face in our modern, polluted world.  Planting herbs that not only treat but also prevent will help you make the most of your medicinal herb garden.

Even if you don’t have room for a formal garden, herbs are very hardy and can grow in many different places.  Shade loving herbs can be planted around the base of a tree where grass doesn’t grow anyway, creating a beautiful contrast against the trunk of the tree while providing you with healthful benefits.

Herbs also grow excellently in containers, so scatter them around your patio, porch and fence edges, or even bring them indoors to add greenery to your home.

Growing your own medicinal herb garden allows you to create a custom health plan with herbs grown fresh and organically, so you can have the healthiest, most potent herbs possible.  Since herbs are so easy to grow, you can grow them even if you are a beginner.

Dry Those Valentine's Day Flowers

The best place to dry your flowers is in a dark, well-ventilated room, but if you don’t have that, you can dry them anywhere that is dry.

It always makes me sad to receive cut flowers and think of just tossing them in a few days when their beauty isn’t as fresh.  Another option that works for almost any cut flower is to dry them, preserving them as a precious memory for years to come.

Drying flowers is not a difficult undertaking at all.  If your flowers are wrapped with a ribbon or rubber band, the task is even easier.

Don’t wait until your flowers are starting to fade to decide to dry them.  You can get away with keeping them in a vase for a day or two, but if you want them to look nice dried, you need to dry them while they are still looking their best.

The best place to dry your flowers is in a dark, well-ventilated room, but if you don’t have that, you can dry them anywhere that is dry.  If you want to keep them together in a bouquet when they are dried, leave them that way and hang them upside down in a spot that is out of the way.  If you want to have perfectly preserved individual flowers, you will need to dry them individually, making sure they are far enough apart to not knock into each other, because they can break toward the end of their drying time if they get hit.

Once they are fully dry, they can be used in decorations, placed in a pretty vase on display somewhere, or laid flat in the lighted shelves of a curio cabinet.  Drying is a great way to preserve your Valentine’s Day flowers, reminding you of that special day while providing pretty decoration.

Squash is Ornamental and Practical

I love squash flowers.  They are so bright and cheerful; almost like a surprise gift when you visit the garden.  Their big leaves are pretty to look at to, with unique shapes and fun patterns.  As far as vegetables go, squash are some of the most prolific to grow, so you can create a very productive yet ornamental area in your flower garden by planting them.

Squash can be eaten in so many ways – it truly is one of the most versatile vegetables.  From chocolate zucchini cake (one of my favorites) to a healthy veggie stir fry with fresh crookneck squash, you can fill your sweet tooth and make a main dish, all from this humble little plant.  There is even a variety, the loofah gourd, that can be dried out and used as a loofah in the shower.

With dozens of varieties, you can combine different types to make a brilliant display garden, and when the fruits come in, it looks even nicer.

With the cost of groceries constantly increasing, you can help control your own grocery budget by growing some of your food at home.  Squash is an excellent beginner’s vegetable because it is so easy to grow.  They need a decent soil and plenty of water, but do not require a lot of maintenance and are not as prone to pests as other vegetables are.

So if you have a place to put a new plant, experiment with growing squash to take advantage of its tasty bounty, along with the unique beauty that squash plants display.

Grow Your Own Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is great for soothing skin, but those big bottles at the store are costly and are way more than a normal family needs.  If you like growing plants indoors, you can grow your own aloe vera plant to provide your family with instant access to the freshest aloe vera possible.  When you have a need for it, simply snip off part of a leaf, squeeze the juice out and apply it like normal.

Aloe vera is a soothing, healing gel that can be applied for sunburns, chafing, insect bites and many other external applications, and can even be taken externally for some afflictions such as heartburn.  You can mix it with other ingredients for a soothing face mask, or make it into caplets to take as a supplement.

Not only is growing your own aloe vera plant practical, but also can be a beautiful addition to your home.  Aloe vera plants are quite striking, with long, pointed leaves and gorgeous patterns.

Aloe vera plants are also very easily propagated by transplanting the little offshoots, making sure to leave as much of the delicate root system intact as possible.  Place the baby in a new pot and watch it grow.

As far as plant care goes, aloe vera plants are quite easy to care for.  Let the soil dry out between watering and be careful not to overwater.

If you have a green thumb and use aloe vera gel, growing your own aloe vera plant is a great way to save money and enjoy the beauty of this useful plant.

Mulching with Peat Moss

Canadian sphagnum peat moss is an excellent soil conditioner that helps balance out the soil’s moisture balance while retaining and releasing valuable nutrients back into the soil.  As a mulch, it can add new life to lawns, flowers and vegetable gardens, and at the same time help keep the moisture down in the soil, where it belongs.

Peat moss is a sustainable soil amendment that is harvested in Canada.  Currently, less than .02 percent of the peat bogs in Canada are being harvested for horticulture, and it grows back at a rate of 60 times what is harvested.  That makes peat moss a guilt free mulching option.

Peat moss is also quite inexpensive.  You can buy a large bale at the garden supply store for about $10, and it will go a very long way for most home applications.  The bales are very tightly compressed, and expand to about twice their size when opened, so you get a lot more than it seems at first glance.

Peat moss can be applied liberally as a top dressing to any soil, or tilled in if you prefer.  Using it as a mulch means layering it over the top of the soil, which helps it to do its job of gathering and releasing existing nutrients in the soil, while helping to retain valuable moisture.

Combining peat moss and organic compost will create very favorable soil conditions to help you make the most of your lawn or garden.  You will also get the benefit of needing less water, because the peat moss will help prevent evaporation.

Why Flowers Should Not Symbolize Love for Some Couples

The first year we were married, my husband surprised me with a miniature rose plant.  I still remember how beautiful it was, with its delicate white petals and the simple elegance that defines roses.  How I treasured that plant, placing it in the windowsill of honor – in the kitchen – so I could look at it frequently.

Unlike our love, that plant lasted only a few short weeks before the spider mites that moved in with it completely destroyed it.  I was heartbroken, and joked with my husband that I hoped it wasn’t an omen of things to come in our relationship.  Fortunately, that was many years ago and our love hasn’t had any run-ins with spider mites.

Since then, my poor husband has tried on many occasions to bring me home more green symbols of his love.  Each time, I am delighted by the beauty he chooses to bring home, and later appalled by the sad fate it inevitably meets.

Now, not every plant dies.  I have two plants I inherited from my mother that are probably almost as old as I am, and there are a handful of other plants around the house that manage to thrive despite my black thumb.  For some reason, though, those plants my husband brings home always end up dying.

What do you think?  Is it a bad omen when plants bought in love all end up dead?  Should some couples refrain from showing their love with living plants?  Having accepted the likelihood that I will kill his plants, my husband has wised up and instead brings me cut flowers from time to time.  I think he is smart.

Dried Flowers

How to Dry Flowers

Tips on How to Dry Flowers

If you have received a flower bouquet and love it so much that you want to keep it, you should consider preserving the flowers by simply drying them. You can dry flowers in a few short simple steps, so that you can keep them with you for many years. There are many different ways you can dry flowers, and you can even dry them using your microwave.

Air Dry Flowers

Cut the flowers once all dew is removed from them and they are completely dry. Remove the leaves from the flowers. Hang the flowers in a ventilated area using wire, a string, or even pipe cleaners. Hang the flowers upside down to allow them to dry straight and to stop the flowers from wilting. Dry them in a dark room to preserve the color of the flower. If you want to dry only the flower heads, lay the heads of the flowers on a newspaper or a sheet of paper, and then place them in a dark room. It can take the flowers 24 hours to dry, or it could more than a week. When the flowers are completely dry, the petals will feel like paper and should not be damp or limp.

When the flowers are completely dry, do not put them near sunlight or they will fade. You should also not place the dried flowers near any type of forced airflow or they will become brittle and break. You can dust the dried flowers very gently using a feather duster. Wrap the dried flowers in newspaper, and then store them in a dry cardboard box. Do not place the box anywhere near damp or dry air. It is best to store the dried flowers outside or in a garage type setting.

Use a Microwave

If you need a quicker way to dry your flowers, you can use your microwave to do the job. In some cases, flowers may not dry as well using a microwave, but you can test a flower out and experiment with it to see if this method will work for you. Cut the flower until there is approximately half-inch stem left on it and place it in a drying agent. Spring a little more drying agent on top of the flower. The drying agent should be at last one-half inch deep. Put some water in a small bowl and place it in the microwave close to the flower. Should be rotate the flower every minute or so if your microwave does not automatically rotate. It should take approximately three minutes to dry the flower, but in some cases it can take less or more time. Watch the flowers closely as they are in the microwave. When it is finished, remove the flower from the microwave but leave it in the drying agent. Allow the flower to sit in the drying agent for several hours before you remove it. It can take eight hours for some flowers, and make take up to 24 hours for others.