Indoor dirt alternative

Last year I separated a bunch of my indoor plants and I found that the dirt that I had gotten was infested with gnats. So I went and got all new indoor potting soil and of course the gnats came back.

Just so we are clear I re-potted over 40 indoor plants. I washed all of the roots and pots. The gnats came back. Eew. I then started putting colored cups of soapy water by every single plant. I would change the water twice a day. I could catch about 300 gnats a day. Then I started watering my plants with soapy water, which I had read that it would kill the eggs. This did not work with killing the gnat eggs but it did kill off 5 of my more sensitive house plants.

It was the beginning of summer and unfortunately I had lost my patience with the gnat situation, all of the indoor plants went to the front porch.

I was saddened because both my husband and I really love the look of plants throughout the home. But I could also tell a difference in the air quality of inside the home, it was a bit mustier. The main reason why I had gotten indoor plants was to improve the air quality, I have a great deal of allergies and the air cleaning plants also help us sleep better.

I did a bunch of research on different types of replacements for soil. What I have found was floral water pearls. We have purchased them from amazon. They come in many different colors, we just got a multicolored pack of 20,000 to give them a try. They are so tiny when they arrive. You will need to let them absorb water to their full size before transplanting your plants. this process may take about 4 hours. When they arrived the pearls were in very bold colors but once they were full sized and ready for plants they appear pastel colors. We decided that if we were going to get fancy dirt we wanted to get containers that I would be able to see through in order to watch and see if any problems arise such as bugs or mold.

They arrive very small.

We have slowly reintroduced the plants after transplanting them again. We are quite happy with the transformation. We have slowly purchased more and more multi color floral water pearls as well as taking advantage of 50% coupons at various craft stores in order to have clear glass containers.

partially hydrated

Slight problems we have found include: If your plant is very large above the root base such as our snake plants you will need a taller container in order to stabilize the plant. The first very tall one we did fell over and the bottom slid right out of water pearls and out of the container. It was a bit of a very funny mess. This situation was incredibly easy to fix.

fully hydrated

A different problem was watering. I was very excited about the fact that I would be able to see when to water the plants because the pearls would shrink up a bit. What I didn’t realize is that it would not be universal throughout the whole container. The water sits at the bottom of the container and keeps the bottom and middle pearls at the nice stable size enough for the roots. The pearls at the top is a completely different story. They dehydrate at a much more rapid pace because they are next to the open air. I thought that if I just poured water into the container in such a manner that I used to do with dirt it would re-hydrate the pearls. Nope, the water goes straight to the bottom of the container. So I have had to improvise. I now once a week scoop out the smaller pearls on top of all the plants and re hydrate them and then pop them right back in later in the day.

I have come to realize that having to pay more attention with the watering process of each plant helps me to be more aware of each plants’ overall health. I will take the time to cut off dead leaves on a more regular basis. I have also been able to find mold in one of the containers.

Mold in the plants

This brings me to the next issue. Mold in the plants. The nice side is that I can see the mold in the plant containers right away and can take care of the issue right away. I use a clean spoon and scoop out the floral water pearls, usually they are in need of re-hydrating so I will let them soak for a few hours and then I will put them into a large mixing bowl with soapy water for about an hour. I will then put them into a clean strainer and rinse them until no soapy water runs out. I will toss them very gently while rinsing them and look for any permanently contaminated water pearls, they will look foggy the whole way through. I pluck them out and they go into the trash, usually it’s only one or two water pearls, out of the 5,000 that are in the container, not bad.

Overall we really like how it has changed our indoor plant dynamics for our home. They have gone from the background to the foreground and have turned into a really great conversation topic with guests. It is wonderful for the plants in my home to be able to be a topic transition to enable me to have thoughtful discussions about such issues as our environment, sustainability and technology.

Floral water pearls as an indoor plant substitute RickabaughReviews highly approves and recommends!

Bathroom Cleaning Trick

Having multiple jobs can be tricky for the normal cleaning of the household. Luckily my husband and I work together on the day to day maintenance. I have learned that using towels is less wasteful and much easier on the budget than paper towels. I found when tracking my budget closely I was spending close to eighty dollars a year on paper towels. I invested twenty dollars into some inexpensive hand and dish towels and I have paper towels for emergencies. In the last two years I have saved $140, just in paper towels.

Friends and family comment about how clean and tidy our home is. Well first, everyone in the household is on board with a clean and tidy home. Second we both work very hard in multiple jobs and we don’t like to waste our time or money to have nice things so we work hard to keep them nice.

The key is having a daily routine which includes cleaning every day. I use the hand towels in each bathroom every day to wipe down the sink, the tops of the toilets and the floor. Every day, every bathroom. That hand towel then gets put into the laundry and is replaced. There is a stack of hand towels under the sinks. It is a five minute routine that keeps my bathrooms in shape for any unplanned company. This every day trick doesn’t replace my weekend deep clean, but it makes it much more manageable with my busy schedule.

The bonus besides saving money and time in my cleaning is that my husband and I have felt that we don’t get sick as often. The common cold rarely hits our house and when it does we have found it doesn’t stick around.

I love my simple little cleaning hacks. RickabaughReviews approves.

The importance and impact of dead heading your flowers.

This summer we received a new hive of honey bees for our property.  We have a very nice friend of ours who just happens to be a bee keeper. My husband and I have been aware of the environment and its needs to survive. One of these needs is honey bees. Our new home has a great deal of flowers of many kinds, and most of them are perennials.

The soil is mostly clay and so the plants and flowers are of very hardy varieties.

I remember walking around when I was a little girl with my gramma and she would name all of her flowers for me. And we would smell them, and deadhead them. I have told friends in the past few years that deadheading helps for a year round continuous blooming of their flowers depending on the flower. Most of the time the question I get is “what is deadheading?”

Plucking off the dead blooms of the plant. With my research of plant care I have learned that if the dead bloom is still on the plant the roots are still gathering nutrients and sending it to the dead blooms. So if you trim ( with roses because of thorns) or pluck which is easy enough when talking about marigolds,  the dead blooms off the plant it can then send its nutrients to the rest of the plant where it can form new blooms. Thus a consistent bloom of flowers all summer long.

Consistent blooms all summer long means a consistent food source for the resident honey bees all summer long  to stock pile honey so that when winter comes they are prepared to weather the cold and lack of food.

Rose bushes are an incredibly good example. Their response is within just a few days. Marigolds are also incredibly responsive. I also have cone flowers and lilies that love to be trimmed. Another great example which I don’t have and are an annual is petunias.  My gramma would buy a flat or two of petunias every year.

In my constant “save money” frame of mind I have found that marigolds are super easy to save seeds for the next year and do amazing! You just save the deadheads that you pluck off. This does not even include the wonderful addition with color and low to the ground covering.  They do great in the heat and sun. My favorite part is they really help to deter predators from my garden veggies. They have a strong sent and are very bitter to eat.

The one plant that I wasn’t sure if it was helpful to dead head was the many many Hosta’s that I have all over the property. I would like to confirm that my little science experiment of trimming the Hosta’s immediately after I find that every bloom is dead on the very tall stalks that they send up, will force them to grow a new tall stalk with all new flowers on them.  And the bees and butterflies absolutely love it!

I will admit that deadheading a half an acre of landscaping is a huge task, but I have found that if I do just a little bit every day, 20 minutes early in the morning, it is not too overwhelming. Am I able to keep up with all of what the previous owner had, nope. Not when you work two jobs, but the neighbors are not complaining.

Deadheading is great for the local bees and great for the visual aesthetics of the plants, which is why people usually have them. Deadheading is hard work but worth it in the long run. This summer RickabaughReviews is gardening a lot but also approves!

Bee keeping take 2

Last year we were given a honey bee hive. The queen flew the coup with most the hive and didn’t leave a new queen to take her place.

We were very sad when the hive then died off. Last week a new hive was brought by our sweet friend to house in our back yard. He is very knowledgeable and very good with bees and people as well as educating people about the importance of honey bees for our environment.

We have named this years hive Queen E and her attendants.

As you can see they are loving the flowers in bloom here in Manchester, PA.

Stay tuned to RickabaughReviews for updates on the Queen E hive😊

Herbal Tea Struggle

It can be a struggle to find consumables that I do not have an adverse reaction to, because of my allergies, which is a lot. It is very difficult to find in my busy life, time to read every single label, every time I go grocery shopping. If a product changes its ingredients it is not responsible to give me a call and say “Hey, we changed our ingredients so you can’t have this anymore.”

One of my favorite beverages is hot tea. Hot tea on a hot day, hot tea on a cold day. Hot tea in the morning and hot tea in the evening. Love it!! There are less and less I find that I should be purchasing because they can and do cause allergic reactions.

My fix to this is to grow my own ingredients! I sure do love mint. Calming, soothing, refreshing, relaxing mint. Especially with upset tummies. Lavender, chamomile and Echinacea have also been in my top picks for their properties. Lavender helps calm and relax as well as lull one off to sleep. Chamomile helps reduce anxiety as well as improve sleep. Echinacea is an immune booster for your body. I add honey to help reduce my allergies and it does the job.  I specifically choose these ingredients because they can be grown in my back yard, and are perennials for my growing zone.

How I make my home made tea:

I wash off my 4 plant ingredients-Put 4 plants into small pot with water on stove and let simmer for 10 minutes.  I put the used plants into the compost bin and then pour the tea water into my tea pot and then am able to easily pour into tea cups to sweeten with honey and enjoy.

Island of Berk Birthday cake!

Need an idea for a little kids birthday cake- dragons can be a simple win and unique as well. Step by step instructions on how to wow the party kids and parents!

My good friends son was turning 6 years old and I wanted to get him a few small toys. He recently saw the new How to Train your Dragon-The Hidden World movie in the theater,  and he loved it! Target has pocket sized dragons at a very reasonable price. One type has a baby dragon you can see and then a mystery baby dragon in a box next to it. I got three, one of each type of dragon they had available.

Birthday boy was not having a party, just a friend and family and us two went to the Laser dome for the day. I asked if it was okay if I make a cake. Permission granted, just no nuts due to allergies.

We got a chocolate cake mix and two medium vanilla icing containers.

Edible decor such as Swedish fish are always a great cake topper when working with an ocean theme.

The only tools I used to decorate this cake were a fork and knife.

I always lay down two pieces of wax paper onto my finished plate before I place the cake to decorate. The wax paper should just slightly overlap in the middle. This will allow me to have a clean plate for presentation by gently tugging the wax paper out after completed.

Two cake pans at the dollar store are perfect for a small stacked cake. Be sure to let the two cakes completely cool before decorating. Otherwise you will have a big sliding melted mess on your hands.

In order to have the layers stack nicely I needed to slice just a bit off the top of one in order to make it flat. Don’t throw this piece out, I will be using it later for the island.

I have to take this cake to a party so the end location of the cake is the cake carrier.  Notice how I placed two sheets of wax paper to gently tug out later.  Right now it is my crumb catcher. A bit of green icing for in between the layers.  I will be using more blue icing on the outside, so green goes into the middle.

Top layer on, flat in the middle, round on top.

Remember that spare piece of cake top from the bottom layer.  Here it will be used as the Island, giving the cake dimension.

Here you can see that I am using the green icing on top of the addition.  I will smooth on the icing first and then add the texture to make it look like grass.

I liked using the extra piece of the cake because it gave me a clean and clear picture of the area in which will be the island. Also waste not want not! You can see in this photo that I am using just the tip of the fork to create the grass look. I am pressing down very gently into the green icing and pulling straight up.  Not deep enough into the icing in which I will reach the cake, which might pull up chocolate cake bits or pull the icing up off of the cake.

Here the Island’s grass is complete.

Now comes the harder part, the blue ocean.  I am starting off with a lighter blue because I will need to darken up the color as I add to the cake.  We start with lightest blue next to the island.  When at the beach the water is lighter closest to the beach. The water is shallow and you can see the bottom, which is usually a light tan, sand color which makes the water look a lighter blue/green color.  As you move away from the island the icing should be tinted darker to give the illusion that the water is getting deeper- thus darker.

A nice light blue ring of icing around the island.  The icing doesn’t have to look perfect yet. you will be blending and creating waves after it is all on all over the cake.

Add a few more drops of blue food coloring to the rest of the container of blue icing. Then mix in to give a slow and gradual darkening of the ocean.

Slowly the blue icing is going on. I added blue food coloring to darken the icing about 4 times. It looks like slight waves in the blue already.  I am practicing with the knife with adding the icing to the cake in order to have the technique of wave making with a flip of the wrist and knife for the end result. A light slow flip of the knife, no one needs icing all over the kitchen.

Here you can see how the knife strokes ended up blending one shade of blue into the next very gently. Also it shows the close up of what your waves might look like. Remember it does not need to be perfect, it just needs to be edible.

Here is the cake on the carrier. Notice how I slowly slid out the wax paper. The back piece has not been taken out yet and you can see were the carrier bottom would have been a disaster.

Fish, dragons and candles are last and right before the kids arrive.  You are sure to get all the oohh’s and wow’s you need to over come the anxiety from the night before when decorating is a challenge. I know I sure did, and the employees of the pizza shop came to check it out too. Delicious and fun! RickabaughReviews Approves!

Seed Starting is Hard

I am pretty average when it comes to keeping house plants alive.  A few die and most survive.  I greatly enjoy the over all look that it gives my home, as does my husband. I have worked hard at finding plants that help clean the air in our home without flowering aspects with pollen due to my allergies and to help us sleep better at night. My husband and I have had a smaller vegetable garden for eight years and this past summer moved in order to have more garden and running space for our Shepherd mix dog.  It is working out great for the dog. We on the other hand are having much more trouble with the garden. The soil here is completely different, mostly clay and with not being in the city with a privacy fence, we are fattening up the wildlife. I recently posted starting my seeds in small windowsill green houses. I have found we keep our house too chilly in the winter and none of the windows that are available to start seeds in get near enough light or heat.  So, if you first do not succeed, try, try again.

We just happen to be looking for different light bulbs when I came across a light bulb type that is specifically made to help your seeds start growing indoors. The aspects that we greatly like are that we could put it in a regular desk lamp. It is LED, so it is energy efficient. It also gives off a very low amount of heat which greatly helps the seeds in our chilly home.  We keep the house at about 67 degrees in the winter, we don’t mind wearing sweatshirts. We asked an employee if she knew of anyone who has tried this light bulb.  She herself uses it in her home and gave it great reviews.  We decided to give it a try. For just over $13 with a 22 year life if it works, it will be a game changer.  We liked it so much we now have two!

I was using dirt from the back yard and baking it to kill mold and bugs but it just wasn’t working and it was frustrating me. We were visiting family and my cousin said they sell dirt at the store.  My frustration came with I just purchased an acre of dirt, I don’t want to buy more dirt. Well I thought about that for a good week and we bought a bag of indoor potting soil.

My reasoning for buying potting soil is this: our dirt outside is mostly clay- not awesome for veggie gardens. The way to change your soil is you have to add good soil to the bad soil. Yes I compost, and it was the perfect amount for the old garden. Not enough for the new garden, so If I start the seeds indoors in good soil, transplant time they go outside with their potting soil, they have a good start for the growing season. Also I am slowly, very slowly adding good nutrient rich soil to my clay veggie garden.

I always have spare flower pots somewhere in the house, shed, or garage. And our Aunt and Uncle when they moved south left us a bunch of small decorative flower pots behind. So with seeds and spare flower pots, new dirt and light I got busy planting and documenting in my garden journal. I started new seeds on January 27th. our success rate in sprouted seeds so far is anywhere from 95% to 100%. Every single lettuce seed I planted sprouted. We started with Lettuce, Beets, Cactus, Coleus, Yellow Bell Pepper and Marigold seeds. Lettuce, Beets and Pepper seeds have sprouted. We have been so happy with our second try results we went out and got more soil and more seeds and the second grow bulb.

The six new pots that we planted yesterday under the new bulb contain Carrots, more beets, more lettuce, more coleus, green onions, and spinach. The coleus that we are planting are not a veggie but a flower. My husband liked how beautiful the two that we had in the backyard last summer that we are giving them a try from seed to transplant in the spring. $1.78 for over 50 plants is a much happier price then for one plant. For the cheaper price I have zero problems putting in a little effort.

The lettuce packet has around 200 or more seeds and it suggests that if growing in containers to start new plants about every 4 weeks in order to have a continuous harvest. $1.96 for fresh lettuce for an entire year compared to $1.96 every four days at the grocery store. I am really saving some money!

My husband and I are also super excited to be able to have a year round supply of beautiful leaves from all sorts of plants in order to continue with my hobby of concrete leaf casting.

LED grow light-RickabaughReviews greatly approves!