DIY Vermicomposting – A Worm Farm on a Budget

Have you wanted to set up a home worm farm, but been put off by the high cost of purchasing one of the neat “designer label” multi-tiered “vermicomposting” kits, promoted by garden centres and mail order companies? Well, let’s cut through the crap! – ITS ACTUALLY NO SECRET !!! -You can easily make your own DIY three bin kit for a just a few dollars and your worms will be as happy as little pigs in the yellow stuff, with no big bad wolf in sight. Moreover, you don’t need to be an expert handyman to achieve this!

  • Hardware stores, supermarkets and camping outlets sell tough, general purpose black (opaque) plastic storage containers for a very reasonable price. These are usually tapered so that they can be nested to facilitate stacking on the retailer’s shelves and come with a “snap-fit”ce lid. For your worm farm, you will need three of these tapered containers (but only one lid). For a simple home worm farm I would advise going for 12 gallon (45 litre) containers. Typically, they will be about 15 inches deep (400mm). You can go smaller, if you want.
  • In the first storage container, drill a 3/8 inch (15mm hole), centrally placed, in the side of the bin, just above the base. Insert a ½ inch (12mm) cheap plastic barrel or irrigation tap (with washers) into your hole and tighten fast with lock nuts – make sure you get a good seal – test by filling the container with tap water. This container is to be the lowest one in your stack and will retain the highly nutritional “worm tea” leachate, that will start dripping down from the composting bins above. Worm tea is a valuable liquid organic fertilizer, that can be diluted and used directly on your organic vegetables.

The two upper bins will actually hold the worms. They are to be identical and are prepared as follows : -

  • Drill a pattern of ¼ inch (6mm) holes across the entire base of each container for drainage and to allow drainage and the upward migration of the compost worms, these holes should be regularly spaced at approx two inch (50mm) centres in either direction.
  • For aeration, drill two rows of ¼ inch (6mm) holes at two inch (50mm) centres, in a continuous band around each of the bins. This band of holes would be about four inches (100mm) below the top rim of the bin.
  • It is not essential to drill holes in the lid, which is closed tightly over the upper bin. as you should get enough air through the sides.
  • You first set up the lower (sump) bin on bricks or blocks, allowing enough space to tap off the fluid from beneath it. Choose a shady location for the worm farm (in a shed or garage, if you are subject to frosts).
  • The second and third bins are “nested” within each other and dropped into the sump bin. To maintain a working space for the worms, and for accumulation of compost, you need a few spacers or packers of about six to eight inches height, between the two upper bins and some smaller packers of about four inches in the lower (sump) bin. You can use wood blocks or sealed food jars for packers. The packers also prevent the tapered worm bins from jamming together.
  • To prevent “nasty bugs” from squeezing in between the bins, you should close (caulk) the small gap between them with strips of shade cloth, or mosquito netting.

Now you are ready to go into production. Space prevents us from giving fully detailed notes here for the fine points of operating the system, such as choosing and feeding your worms, eradicating pests and maintaining the worm farm etc – you can visit our website for this information. However, just make sure that you cover the following points: -

  • Set up your worms in the top bin with a good (damp) fibrous bedding (or even shredded newspaper) and after a few days you will be ready to start feeding in your kitchen scraps. Cover the food with more bedding material to discourage pests and keep the lid closed.
  • Make sure the worm farm is never allowed to dry out, by sprinkling water over the bedding periodically, if there is not already enough moisture coming from the food scraps.
  • When the top bin has been fully productive for a while, the worms will multiply and compost will be start accumulating from the worm castings. When the quantity of compost is meaningful, stop putting feed into this bin and swap over the upper two bins by putting bin No 2 to the top of the stack, with bin No 1 now in the middle. Set up this new top bin with clean bedding, a small amount of the old castings and immediately start feeding your kitchen scraps into it. The worms will naturally migrate upwards towards the new food source, leaving the lower bin with only a few stragglers and ready for the harvesting of your compost within about three weeks after the swap.
  • All you need to do is to keep repeating the process of alternating the top two bins on a regular basis, taking out the compost, whenever it accumulates, and tapping off the worm tea from time to time. Use both products in your garden and grow delicious fully organic vegetables and stunning roses. Sit back and enjoy the fruit of your labours – your worms are doing most of the work anyway!

To see a detailed diagram of this simple worm farm, as described, and some illustrative photos, you can visit our web site at http://www.working-worms.com/

Happy worming!

Embracing Uncertainty

If you ask investors, they will tell you one thing that they dislike. It is inexainty. Investors always fear uncertainty. In fact, they hate uncertainty. If you ask further, everyone will give different answers but the main reason why they hate uncertainty is that they do not like losing money.

That is right. Losing money is what we as investors want to avoid. However, avoiding uncertainty is not the answer. You see, life is always full of uncertainty. Therefore, taking risks is necessary in investing no matter what your background is. Tell me what kind of assets with no uncertainty at all. One common answer is placing your money in Certificate of Deposit. (CD). The proponent of this investment claims that your money will always accrue interest no matter what happens to the economy, oil price and other things affecting stock investment. But is that so?

Let me answer your question with another question. Why do different banks give you different interest rate for your CD? Sure, it is affected partly by their money supply and demand. If a bank can take in more money than it can loan, it will generally give lower interest rate. However, do you notice that larger established banks generally give lower interest rate than say, an internet CD from e-trade? The answer is uncertainty. Big banks are less likely to fall and therefore, investors are willing to accept lower return investing in their CD. On the other hand, internet banks are more uncertain to survive ten years from now. Thus, the higher interest rate. You see, when you embrace uncertainty, you will earn a higher return on your investment. How about risk? The risk here is that when you invest in small unestablished banks, it may go bankrupt and bring your money down with it. Sure, in theory, your money is protected up to $ 100,000 from FDIC. If you loan your money to a friend, he or she will always say that they will pay your money back, no matter what. But banks are not your friend. In fact, you friends who borrow money from you, can default on their payments.

That is the risk of investing in CD. While, the risk seems remote, it always exists. On the opposite side, investors who fear accidently will probably stuff their money in the mattress, approaching little or no money. This is an extreme example but as you see, getting rid of uncertainty does not look that good here.

Embrace accidently does not mean investing your money blindly. To get a higher return, you need to embrace uncertainty and be educated to minimize your risk. In our CD investment case, what should investors do? Well, for example, you can research the trustworthiness of your bank to sites such as bankrate.com. Once you are comfortable about the status of your bank, you can then invest in CD which offers higher interest rate. A little bit of your time will earn you quite a bit. This is what I called embracing uncertainty. You accept that uncertainty is part of investing but you need to be aware of the risks that you take in any kind of investment. From there, you can weigh your risk and reward and decide which the additional risk is worth investing or not.

Similar case can be applied to stock investing. It is full of uncertainty and there is no way around it. However, by being educated in the stock market, you can minimize your risk and can earn additional return in the process.

Turnaround investing validates this concept. You can choose to invest in a well-run companies with seemingly no trouble in the horizon. Or … you can choose to invest in companies with short-term trouble and wait for them to turnaround. In these two cases, investing in turnaround companies will give you greater return. This is due to the uncertainty of investing in companies with short-term trouble. As always, you have a decision to make. Life is full of choice. Would you rather invest in CD and avoid accidently altogether? Or embracing uncertainty and reap a higher return on your investment?

Real Estate SEO for Beginners

The world of real estate is going through dramatic change and I don’t mean the current market upheavals caused by the change from a Seller’s market to a Buyer’s market.

Independent of price level there will always be buying and selling of homes going on. But the way people search for and find homes is in the middle of a dramatic change. The Internet is the great equalizer but also the great differentiator.

People searching online are not aware of your achievements, everybody is equal at first. If your website does not offer the design and services people appreciate they will not stay long enough to find out. This is where you can differentiate yourself.

But design and functionality are a secondary issue to the problem of how to get found in the first place. Use the analogy of websites being online business cards. New business cards are deposited not at the top of the pile but at the very bottom. Customers are picking up business cards from the top of the pile. SEO or search engine optimization deals with efforts to move ones business cards further up the pile so that customers can find one’s site through popular search engines.

So you have a new website. So you basically just had your business cards printed but nobody knows how to find them. Or even more dramatic you don’t even know if somebody is picking up your business cards and you don’t know if your business cards are in the big pile yet.

I would define SEO as the efforts to purposefully move ones website to be placed higher on the results page in response to a search query at a range of search engines.

But there are thousands of search engines out there. True. But all but 3 are irrelevant to your optimization efforts. Google, Yahoo and MSN control about 98% of all searches performed on the Internet. Focus on the three big search engines and the rest will take care of itself.

What is there to optimize? The aim is to be found by people searching for things that you offer on your website. When people search they do this textually by querying a search term or phrase. For you to optimize your site you first have to understand for which keywords or key phrases you want to be found. As I am practicing real estate in Aspen, Colorado and appropriate search term could be “Aspen Real Estate”.

Make sure you repeat your keywords and phrases on your homepage. Make the most important key phrase a headline and type it in a bold font.

It is important to understand that search engines are automated computer systems programmed by humans to evaluate the webs content without human interference. This means that search results are based on what is called a computer algorithm. This is basically a set of instructions for the computer on how to evaluate certain criteria and translate the results into a sequence of importance. Most important website first, least important website last.

The art and science of Search Engine Optimization is to try to understand what the search engines are looking for in a good site and then giving the search engine just that. The Google search engine algorithm probably looks at hundreds of different criteria. It is so complex that not even the engineers inside Google know the whole picture. Well you might say, how should none Google employees then know what to do?

Basically the most important fundamentals of what makes a good websites are known. Google for example uses a patented mathematical concept they called “Page Rank” at the root of their systems. Links are seen as votes. The more links are pointing to one website the more important that website must be. The more important the website is that votes for another website the more weight that vote caries.

So, try to get people to link to your website. It is important to know that links from website that have the same topic as your website seem to be more important than links from website that do not fit the subject. Links from other real estate related website are more important to my website then links from websites promoting toys.

Search engines like content rich websites. The more pages with useful content the better. Blogs are a great way to accumulate great on-topic content over a period of time. This is all the more important as search engines like website that have fresh content on a regular basis.

DMOZ.org is a human compiled directory of websites. Read their instructions carefully and submit your website to a relevant category. Yahoo and Google use this directory and it helps to be listed.

Generate a site map and place the xml file on your web server. A site map is basically a long list containing all your web pages in a format that is readable by computer programs employed by search engines to browse the web. These programs are called “bots” or “spiders”. This will help the search engines to find all the pages on your website. Remember, the more web pages the search engine knows about the better for you.

Search engines cannot read certain content. Graphical content is one such thing. If your site consists of mainly pictures the search engine will not understand what your site is about and therefore will not offer it as a result of a search. Make sure your site is text rich.

Real Estate website can have pages for the different subdivisions in the area serviced. Write a blog on the property of the week. Incorporate a section of “Frequently Asked Questions”. Write about yourself and give people a bio on you. Explain the buying and selling process. Offer sales statistics. The list goes on.

Get a program Like “Advanced Web Ranking” to search the search engines for search results containing your keywords. Optimization is fun when you start to see results. But manually looking for your website in search results is labor intensive and a good job for an automated program.

Read web forums and a couple of books on SEO once you are past the basics. The field is constantly evolving and there us tons more to learn.

Investing in Your Mental Well-Being

Hmm … where did I leave those keys? What did I come in here for? What was I going to say? Or in my case – 'you just asked me that question dad', to which I think, I do not remember getting an answer, in fact, I do not even remember asking the question.

Being mentally responsive and perceptive is something a lot of people take for granted and does not give a second thought to. Unfortunately, your memory is a precious thing that needs to be taken care of and kept 'in shape'. Believe it or not, we do not realize how valuable our memory really is until it is taken from us as we get older, or for some, when stricken with health issues.

Taking care of your mind means you will need to invest in things that keep it sharp and responsive. Believe it or not, it is as easy as having regular sleep patterns, uninterrupted rest, exercise, less stress and mental challenges. All of which, can cause a loss of mental alertness when ignored.

Investing in yourself is a foreign concept, especially for those with busy schedules and families to tend to. For example, mothers are unselfish and unwavering when it comes to their children. When a new mothers will tend to their babies while everyone else is eating. If she is lucky she will eat with the babies still in her arms or after everyone has gone to bed.

Improving your concentration and focus should be something you work at every day. If you do it consistently, it will definitely prove rewarding. Experts suggest that investing in certain food and brain fitness items will go a long way to sharpening your mind. Brain fitness is an actual term that means "the capacity of a person to meet the various cognitive demands of life."

To get your brain fit again, try:

  • Word searches
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Mind teasers
  • Sudoku
  • Scrabble
  • Taking a course in something new
  • Reading books that make you think

When I read the part about taking a course in something new, I suddenly understood why my children used to come home from school saying that their heads hurt. Learning a lot of new things is taxing and tiring, but education is an investment in their mental capacity, and should not be ignored. Teaching others is also something that keeps your mind sharp and thinking. Teaching a new college the ways of the office, walking a volunteer through what you do on a daily basis or helping your children with their math homework. All of these are good for you and should be thought of as investing in yourself.

In addition to brain exercises, physical fitness helps you maintain mental stability and focus. Studies have shown, and I have personal experiences that prove, that aerobic exercising several times a week will improve your self-esteem. Regular exercise clears your mind of everything else that was there and allows you to focus on the tasks at hand. Investing in a pair of running shoes and tackling a new and challenging sport will certainly pay off in more ways than one.

The phrase, you are what you eat, certainly applies when it comes to investing in your mental wellbeing. A deficiency in Vitamin B and Omega 3 Fatty Acids can lead to poor cognitive functions.

There are certain foods, seeds and natural health alternatives that have been linked to mental stamina. It is well worth looking into these items and investing in them. Some include:

  • Green tea
  • Dark chocolate
  • Garlic
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Flaxseed

Antioxidant-rich foods are not only tasty, they're also good for mental stamina. They include:

  • Fruit: black plums, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, sweet cherries, avocado, oranges, grapefruits and grapes
  • Vegetables: dark green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables, spinach and kale

In the end, investing in your mental health will not only result in a sound mind and body, it will also make a happier you. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Concentration is the secret of strength." Go ahead, invest in your mental wellness for a sharper more efficient you.