Blue Belldon Basement Grow Op.



Finally!  Had enough warmish days to not only get the maple trees tapped (next week’s blog, and Richard is excited!)  but to get enough earth moved in from the porch planters (permanent bricked-in wall) to mix with the  MINIMAL potting soil we purchased.

Now, lecture – time.  Earth day is in exactly one month, and there’s a world-wide campaign to BAN PLASTIC if you care about the land and forest, both of which, whether or not you homestead, SUPPLY US WITH OUR FOOD!   So, either you start being more conscious about every single thing you buy that’s just going to end up in a landfill (or worse yet – in a roadside ditch or waterway) OR you at least find multiple purposes for every shred of plastic in your possession. Because I’m bossy,  we do both.

The photos and stats below are just a few tiny examples of what plastic is doing to our world.  And it all makes me sick to my stomach.  But not as bad as that tortoise!

  • North Americans use more than 4 million plastic bottles every HOUR! Most of them are thrown away, not recycled.  Plastic doesn’t bio-degrade. It’s there to stay. Only around 27% of plastic bottles are recycled. Yet, when you DO recycle –  plastic can be then made into: clothing, fiberfill for sleeping bags, toys, stuffed animals, rulers and more.
  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures a year! Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s twice the size of Texas and is floating somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii. It’s also 80 percent plastic, and weighs in at 3.5 million tons.
  • When the small particles from photodegraded plastic bags get into the water, they are ingested by filter feeding marine animals. Biotoxins like PCBs that are in the particles are then passed up the food chain, including up to humans.
  •  Only  16 % of plastic packaging in North America (and much less on other continents!) was recycled in 2008.
  •  However, the total recycling rate of 32.5 percent overall in 2008 saved the carbon emission equivalent of taking 39.4 million cars off the road, and the energy equivalent of 6.8 million households’ annual energy consumption, or 222.1 million barrels of oil.  COME  O N !
  • 827,000 to 1.3 million tons of plastic  water bottles were produced in the U.S. in 2006, requiring the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil. 76.5 percent of these bottles ended up in landfills.
  • Because plastic water bottles are shielded from sunlight in landfills, they will not decompose for thousands of years.
  • Recycling one ton of plastic saves the equivalent of 1,000–2,000 gallons of gasoline.
  • 66% of energy is saved when producing new plastic products from recycled materials instead of raw (virgin) materials.                                                                                                                     *****************                                                                                 T H E R E F O R E :  The reasons I didn’t want to buy more potting soil than was absolutely necessary are three-fold:

a) I wanted to make sure that enough of our own soil, which is very gravelly, was
introduced to the seeds right away.
b) We are very careful with our expenses. Anything deemed unnecessary, we DO NOT BUY.
and most importantly,
c) What to do with those darned thick plastic bags in which the potting soil is encased,
which, once in our possession is then OUR carbon footprint heavy-treading ??????

I take the bringing home of ANY plastic item very seriously, and am trying to retrain the brains of Richard and Joy to do the same.  NO plastic bags allowed unless it’s just one or two per shopping expedition  (which is only once every week or even two weeks) and then those MUST be used for multiple times’ garbage liners, or food wrappers.  I do NOT use such horrors as saran wrap or tin foil, EVER.  So everything in the fridge is either covered with a  plate over the bowl, OR wrapped in a plastic shopping bag- the very few allowed in the house at all.  Same with things in the freezer, and now that so many of the commercial items we all buy  are being packaged in zip-lock bags, these are even BETTER for keeping and re-using over and over.  They are thick, and so great for freezing! Simply put masking tape on the bag and label it!  PLEASE don’t throw all this plastic out!  If you MUST have it in your home, then KEEP it in your home for forever or until it’s worn right out. And then, RECYCLE when it’s tossed, of course! It saves you buying and using such nasty stuff as saran wrap or (gasp) tupperware – (there are MORE than enough plastic containers that you’re buying anyway with other things in them! Just reuse those containers!)    Your pocket-book AND the environment thank you!

Why would you EVER buy saran wrap, tin foil or tupperware, when you have to purchase these things anyway?  (or we will, until I start making all our own dairy!)

A 1970s BBC popular show I watched on repeats when I lived in the u.k. in the 1990s is called The Good Life.  Although it’s a sit-com, it’s inspiring, and motivates one to think more and more about how to reduce and more importantly re-USE.  They give up their city jobs in London in the first episode :

and after that we watch most of them on Dailymotion, which is better for a variety of reasons.  Homesteaders or Dreamersof – do WATCH!  You’ll truly enjoy! (Yes,  you will recognize all 4 stars from their other BBC shows since then: Monarch of the Glen, Rosemary and Thyme, Yes Minister and A Fine Romance with Judi Dench). Here’s the link to the 2nd episode and you’ll find the rest there too:

So, back to why I didn’t want to buy a lot of potting soil. We have only purchased three bags, and then we had a number of squabbles over how to ‘line’ the bottoms of the seeding tables so that the wood (unfortunately NOT reclaimed wood, as it will take us 5-10 years to get enough of THAT sitting around the farm…) will not rot in a year or two.  I wanted to re-use the plastic  (oh, shudder! ) that we had to put on some of our north-facing windows in the farmhouse for the winter but Richard felt that was too thin.  Richard wanted to buy a roll of big garbage bags, but that made me see red, as I just explained that I can’t ABIDE buying plastic ANYTHING.  However, we came to a good compromise. As long as we promise that the garbage bags will later be used for garbage, so they will have had two purposes (and we don’t generate a lot of garbage as things are either composted,  burned, taken over to some recycling depots (rural N.B. does NOT pick up recycling blue boxes – grrrrrrr) , re-used for containers, taken for exchange/remittance, AND, will soon be being also saved for goat and chicken feed… So the 20 garbage bags I did buy yesterday will have been around here for a couple of years.  And the best part is, that THOSE POTTING SOIL PLASTIC BAGS WILL ALSO BE PUT DOWN AS LINERS.    A  N   D   – wait for it… instead of  burning the long boxes that the full-spectrum flourescent lights (replicating sun) came in, I’m also putting THOSE in the seed tables to help align the planters and keep the bottoms of the tables protected.

So, there’s the boxes AND the potting soil bags all going for another necessary purpose!

So, there’s the boxes AND the potting soil bags all going for another necessary purpose!

Let’s start back at the beginning of the seed tables, though – here we are building them, putting the finishing touches on, and hanging the lights (must be full-spectrum).  That was all done a few weeks ago, and again, if only the wood could have been recycled/reclaimed I’d have been so much happier. But we haven’t saved/collected enough yet for building extras, and sadly, N.B. is sadly lacking in anything like a RE-STORE (Habitat for Humanity building reused building supplies -check them out!) or equivalents.  As always, if you wish to see any of these enlarged, simply click on the picture.


Here’s one of me putting the finishing touches into a corner of one of the seed tables and one of Richard hanging all the lights.  We have 2 long (double) boxes and 3 regular-sized.


finishing touches – corner build



Someday, all the electric plugs (see in the following) will be joined to our solar panel system, but that’s many years away.  Right now, we just have a few things on solar, as we can afford the panels/batteries…


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The next step, then, was to dig up as much of our own soil (reasons at beginning of blog if you somehow missed the lecture!) and I did this yesterday and Sunday (as well as helping with tree-tapping and trail-blazing/maintenance in the woods – a warm day without yet-mushy snow is best for the forest work, and Sunday was ideal! We skiied and snow-shoed ’round the trails we’ve laid out, and back and forth to the sugar bush.)

So, the earth I brought in from outside looks like this:


Quite a lot! That’s why I was waiting for a few warmer days of it in the sunshine.

Next, I started lining with the bags, both garbage and potting soil, and then laying in the boxes from the lights.



We have saved (and even hauled from Ontario!) many little containers for planting seeds. Last year, of course, I just planted directly into the garden, as I didn’t get out here until the May 24th weekend.  But we really need to extend our growing time by about 6 weeks to 2 months out here, esp. if you want enough to live on all year, so we were planning ahead! Some of these are bio-degradable that I bought SECOND HAND. Some were actually cardboard packing from some car parts that Richard bought in Ontario, and I first used them piled up and turned upside down as an end table, but now they will be pots! Some old muffin tins because the teflon is scratched off and Mom/Joy is worried about health issues with that… And some – yes, that’s right – Richard had the possibly great (we will experiment and see!) idea of using all our loo-rolls instead of just burning them.

Richard has used all the ashes from our wood furnace and fireplace to either put on the garden, OR to use on the icy walks this winter. So this morning I took some from the old coal scuttle  we use for this purpose, and then mixed a very small percentage into the bin mixed with potting soil and our own earth. That should give it a touch more potassium, plus a titch more phosphorous and magnesium.



Next I began filling all the little pots/tins/rolls with the mix.

The loo-rolls were a pain.  More earth falling in between them rather than IN them.  So I remembered on my workbench something that might work as a funnel, with a bit of the ole Rustic Revivals repurposing:

I duct-taped the holes on the sides, leaving only the larger one (the perfect size for the rolls, as it happens!) open.  However, this involved more shaking to get the earth directly down.  So I gave up on that and ended up just picking up each roll and scooping the earth in, quickly putting my hand over the bottom until it got placed back in the box!



Finally, all the containers were full and awaiting seeds.  Remember, the following section is just one REGULAR box-size (under one light).  I have  FIVE MORE TO GO like this space, and then one table will be left for transplanting some of the quicker-growing plants.



Next, I had to read each seed packet to decide which needed planting now, which could wait a month, and which could just go directly outside.  One of the reasons (besides their plain brown paper packaging!) I love the Hawthorne Farm Organics (same as I used last year, from Palmerston, ON) is that the front of the package explains what the plant will look like and what it can be used for, but the back is detailed and BIG PRINT re: how and when to plant! When I’m planting directly outside, I can’t be bothered with too much of these  details (could be another reason we didn’t have a ‘bumper crop’ last year!) but inside, sitting comfortably, there was plenty of time to go over the info. they so kindly lay out for us.


Once I had the piles of seeds sorted and organized, I began meticulously planting.   That took close to two hours, for all those containers, in case you are wondering!  What we do to avoid buying store-bought produce!  Then I labelled the cardboard boxes, and watered. Seeds should really only be spritzed with a spray bottle, but I had so many I just turned the dial on the watering can to ‘light mist’ and hoped that wasn’t over-watering!  After today, I’ll just spritz and only when they seem dry.


The  final step after watering was to put the plastic I cut from the windows over the seeds (stretching from sides of table at back, to front, so not touching containers) until the sprouts start to show, then I’ll leave it off. (but of course, save it for the next planting!) The seed tables are right behind our furnace, so as long as we keep the room warm for the next 6 weeks (have to keep reminding Richard of this, as he’d rather turn the furnace right off at night to ‘save’) we should be doing well.  They also don’t need much light at first (some don’t need any!) but once they sprout, we have a chain system that will lower the lights to just 4 inches or so above the plant.



If I need more earth, (I don’t think I will) I brought in some weeks ago all the other planters from the falls’ pots of chrysanthemums.  They’d sat all winter in minus 20.  I just carelessly broke off the stems because the roots were still frozen into the earth, threw the old plant on the compost heap, and took the pots inside where they sat in the dark of the basement until I noticed them today.  Those hardy little buggers are growing from the ripped off stubs!  They’ve been warm, near the wood furnace, but had no light or water at all – total darkness for 2 weeks and dry as a bone! But there they are growing.  If I’d TRIED to restart them as plants, I guarantee I wouldn’t have been able to do it!  I haven’t the heart, after their effort to grow, to discard them, so I’m going to try and nurture them along and see what happens …


I’ll be spending the next week planting down there, and then fingers and toes crossed and lots of praying that we get healthy little sprouts coming along, of  veg., herbs and flowers (gotta keep those birds and bees happy for cross-pollinating!). That’s our groceries for the entire next year!  Should you want a list of all the basics we ordered from Hawthorne Farm, it is here:

Next week, be sure to ‘tune in’ for all Richard’s maple syrup adventures as he learns the how-tos and how-not-tos!  He’s been boiling away all day today (again, wish that was wood or solar powered, but it will be next year!) whilst I’ve been planting and writing and we just tried our first syrup poured over some snow.  mmmmmmmm-mmmmm!

Despite my having to, last month, ‘ draw his attention’  (that’s putting it tactfully!)  away from watching uneco-friendly drag races on Youtube and ordering more car parts for his uneco-friendly ’73 Nova, and ‘encouraging’ him to instead research how to produce our own maple sugar and syrup, I gotta say, he’s done INCREDIBLY well. He’s hauling in quite a loot!  In fact, he was so giddy a few hours ago he actually crowed “Wooo-heeee! Self-sufficiency! This tastes WAY better than any I’ve ever bought!”  He’s really surpassed my expectations for this year’s tapping experience.

But don’t tell him I said so.



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