Mar 312015
 

A wheelbarrow full of nutrient rich soilAn organic garden is one filled with naturally grown plants or those grown without the use of chemical fertilizers. Many home gardeners prefer this method to using toxic poisons and pesticides, especially since they hope to eat the organic herbs and vegetables that eventually grow from it.

That said, trying to get an garden to flourish is not an easy task. This is even more true when no poisons or “shortcuts” are used. Many people would like to have their own little piece of earth growing healthy and delicious produce, however often they have no idea where to start. For those who find this initial step a bit over their head, hiring a landscape or gardening expert to create the initial garden bed is an idea worth considering. Since you’re here on our blog though we assume you’ve got the initiative and tenacity to take on the job yourself, which is great. Building the garden yourself will eventually prove to me much more fulfilling anyway.

With that in mind, a good starting point towards building a healthy garden at home has to do with getting the soil prepared. Assuming that the area for the organic garden has already been chosen, the next thing to do is to get the soil of the area tested. Obviously, this will involve some expense since a garden testing kit will have to be purchased. Also at a fee, a soil sample can be taken to the nearest local agricultural agency to determine its nutrient levels. Treatment recommendations can also be found there, and additives to the soil may be required if it is lacking in any particular areas.

An alternative to the purchase of soil additives is to mix in some humus, organic matter composed of animal manure, grass clippings, leaves, or compost. In keeping with the goal of building an organic garden, artificial or chemical additives should not be included. Compost can be made easily at home to save money. The most common means of making compost is to combine carbon-rich materials like green leaves with nitrogen-filled items like manure and kitchen scraps.

A pile of soil measuring at least six inches should serve as the topping of the compost preparation. This should be turned each time new layers as well as water are added onto the pile. The addition of water is crucial, not only to keep the prepared compost moist, but to promote microbial action which conditions the soil further. Compost preparation takes time, but if you make it yourself you can be sure that it is 100% organic. If your compost pile or bin starts to smell too strongly, add in more dried leaves, sawdust, and other carbon materials.

two piles of compostTo help the compost become nutrient dense soil faster, make more frequent turns of the pile. Some people choose to mix their compost inside a rotating bin for easier and faster turning. Depending on the temperature and microbial action the compost should be ready for use in around 2-3 months. Once it is ready it can be mixed in with the existing soil on the ground or used in pot plants to give seedlings and smaller herb and vegetable plants or trees a boost.

Compost is essential to any sustainable organic garden. It serves as food for trees, plants and shrubs. It also helps to retain moisture in the soil and helps to stop weeds from growing near your plants. Most importantly however, compost is a great way to turn food scraps, garden debris and other organic waste back into something valuable and useful.

Once you have conditioned your soil you should be ready to start planting! Make sure you purchase seedlings from a local farmer or organic seedling store or nursery to ensure they are well suited to the theme of your garden. We use The Herb Store for all of our Australian herb, seedling and plant purchases. Many farmer’s markets are known to offer these types of seedlings as well, and may even have recommendations on the best plant varieties to raise depending on your location.

Feb 192015
 

Although some plumbing jobs might be too tough and/or unsafe to take on yourself, there are some plumbing problems that must be handled immediately. Many plumbing problems are caused by leakages or blockages. Leakages can be easy to deal with because you can shut off your water valves, but blockages can be frustrating especially if you can’t point out the main reason why water won’t go down the drain.

cloggedpipePushing a plunger up and down in a toilet bowl helps unclog a toilet. However, this only works with blockages that are not too serious. If plunging fails, try using drain cleaning agents. Although these products are pricey, they can save you the expenses that comes with hiring a plumber to clean our your blocked drain for you. Since these products usually contain chemical components, you should ensure that it’s legal and safe to use them in your locality before pouring them down your pipes. Pouring boiling water  through the drains sometimes dislodged debris or flushes it away, but it can melt your pipes too, so should not be done for prolonged periods.

Using a drain snake is another approach towards eradicating clogged drain problems. There are different brands of pipe cleaners on sale, but before buying any, ensure that you are getting the correct one for your types of drainage systems. We spoke with one of the experience drain unblocking experts from Drain Cleaning Brisbane about what to do before calling a plumber to fix your drainage issues. By following these steps you will reduce the amount of time that any plumber will need to be on site, and save yourself money in the process.

Calling the plumber

If your ‘do-it-yourself’ efforts haven’t worked, it is time to call a professional plumber. Prior to dialing your your local plumber’s number, you should do the following:

Prepare for questions

You plumber will ask a number of questions about your problem. You ought to examine everything carefully and take note of anything unusual that you see, smell and hear etc. In this age of technology, it is possible to take pictures of your systems and message them through to the experts. It is advisable to take the photos early. Preparing comprehensively in this manner saves you money because the professionals will spend less time diagnosing the problem.

Uncluttering is important

If your plumber bills clients per hourly basis, any time they waste physically getting to the problem will cost you money. If the sink is the problem, you must ensure that there is space under it. Clear stairs and all areas that might need to be accessed. Since professional plumbers will also come with their own tools, there should be space available for them to put it. Eradicating hazards and obstacle can save your plumber time, and you, money.

Where are the parts?

It is important that you keep all fixtures pieces handy if you have disassembled anything. Asking your plumber early on for recommendations on what to buy can also help you save time and money. Generally it is a good idea to find a reliable, reputable plumber so you can always call them for advice whenever you need it, regardless of whether or not you will require them to help you with the job.

Lastly it is important to remember that any professional can make a mistake. Your choice plumber could make a mistake that exposes you to huge losses. This is why the expert you choose must be licensed and insured.

Jan 062015
 

While the name hydro-mechanical grease interceptor makes it sound high-tech and fancy; the more commonly known “grease trap” is a mainstay of many Australian kitchens and a necessity in most restaurants. Usually found under the kitchen sink, a grease trap is a container or a vessel that waste water must pass by before flowing through to the sewerage system. This receptacle literally traps any grease such as oils and fats from being flushed out into the municipal waste water system.

a kitchen greasetrapThe mechanics of an interceptor is really simple. As water flows down any given sink, it will come face to face with the grease trap. Because grease and fats  stays on the surface of the water they can easily be captured by the trap through baffling and regulation. The fat and oil remains prisoners of the trap, while the cleaner can freely proceed in the sewers for waste water treatment. If you try to peek inside a grease trap, you will see a dense gloop of thick grease which have accumulated. Over time the efficiency of a trap is lowered when it is filled up with lumps of fats. When this happens an interceptor cannot separate the water from the grease.

As you do not want to odour of rotten accumulated grease dominating your kitchen, it is always a good idea to regularly clean out your trap. Aside from maintaining a pleasant smell in the kitchen, an unmaintained grease trap also contaminates the waste water systems by allowing oils and fats to flow out. This can clog pipes and also impair the water treatment. While not the most pleasant of jobs, cleaning a grease trap is a necessity and should be done on a regular basis to keep the interceptor working optimally.

Here are the steps required to maintain the efficiency of your grease trap from the plumbers at Citi Plumbing in Brisbane:

  • Melt some ice – lots of it. Before you commence with the cleaning, leave a some considerable amount of ice in the sink which is directly connected to the grease trap and let it melt. By doing this, the smell is greatly reduced and at the same time the lower temperature will cause the lumps of grease solidify. It is much easier to remove congealed grease than to remove sticky or viscous gloop.
  • Scoop it out – after the ice process, scoop out the hardened grease.
  • Inspect the clean out – check the clean out and clean it as well. Remove it and thoroughly rinse it off.
  • Don’t forget the pipings – inspect the pipings too and remove the accumulated grease on there as well.
  • Do it often – consistent removal of grease is important. You should schedule a fixed time to clean your grease trap on a regular basis. The more frequent, the better. This routine cleaning schedule will ensure that the receptacles will function properly and will not release any foul odor or clog up your pipes with an overflow of grease.

If you follow the above steps your grease traps will function efficiently and effectively. Also point to remember is that “prevention is better than a ton of cure”. By this we mean it makes sense when cutting slabs of fatty meat or working with large volumes of oily stuff in your kitchen, can catch the grease before it washes down the sink and throw it in the garbage to minimize grease deposits. Less oils and fatty deposits will mean you won’t need to clean your trap as often.

Sep 272014
 

Prevention is better than a ton of cure. We’ve all heard the saying, but how many of us actually put these wise words into practice? You may look into preventative medical and preventative dentistry and the majority of us do preventative maintenance on our motor vehicles, but what about when it comes to maintaining our homes?

No TermitesAs with maintaining anything, a small expense and a bit of effort can save us from taking a bit hit in the back pocket later on. Preventative maintenance on your home is no different. Today we’re going to talk with you about preventative pest control and why you should consider having a pest control expert visit your residential dwelling to check that you won’t be wake up to a nasty surprise anytime soon.

We spoke with Pete from Pest Control North Brisbane about what to look out for and why. This way, even if you can’t afford or be bothered to get a pest controller out to check over you home, at least you can look for the most obvious signs of an impending disaster. Pete gave us a rundown of the most common pest control problems that can be solved by preventative maintenance, here is a shortlist of his main points.

Termites

If you’re home is made from wood than it’s a good idea to get it checked for termites every year. This is the recommended time according to Australian Standards for termite management AS 3660. Termites eat timber from the inside out, and leave a paper thin veneer where the solid wood use to be. This often causes the timber to appear spotted with mud, and crinkley or wrinkley. Take a look at your door frames, skirting boards, framing, and subfloor timbers for signs of a termite infestation. If you suspect you might have one, contact a termite control professional immediately. Early detection can save you thousands of dollars in replacing the timber the termites have consumed.

Rats and Mice

Rodents are often found where there is easy access to food. The best preventative maintenance for keeping away these vermin is to keep you home tidy and keep all food locked away where it is inaccessible to hungry rats or mice. If you leave food in accessible areas a few rodents may move in, and as long as there is enough food to nourish them they will multiply extremely quickly and soon you will be forced to hire a professional to clean up the problem. Keep this in mind when leaving dirty dishes in rooms or around the house or not washing up immediately after meals.

Cockroaches

Similar to rodents, cockroaches love it when people leave out food for them. They also love rotting, wet wood and other organic materials, so if you have dripping taps or leaking pipes under the house or sink, you could be asking for trouble. Keep all your plumbing in check and clean up after your meals to keep plagues of cockroaches at bay.

Possums

A common household problem in suburban Australia, possums love living in the crevices in ceilings and dark spaces in outside garages etc. Keep a lookout for loose or cracked tiles on your roof that may act as an entry point for possums, and ensure any other cracks they could use as an entry into your roof cavity are sealed up. Another way to keep possums away from your roof is to cut back tall trees that are close to your home. This makes it difficult for them to access your roof even if there are entry points from there into your ceiling (which there shouldn’t be). Take these steps and save yourself from having to hire a possum removal expert to catch any possum invaders that will urinate and defacate in your roof and keep you up at night with their scampering and squealing.

Even better than doing it yourself however is to hire a local pest control expert to come and do a full review of your home every few years at a minimum. They will know how to spot the telltale signs of trouble and will help you catch any potential pests before they become a full-blown nightmare.

Jun 242014
 

Get Rid of Roaches without any Toxic Chemicals, Pesticides or Insecticides

CockroachThere are a number of ways you can prevent and destroy cockroach infestations without the use of a contract pest controller. You don’t even need to use toxic chemicals to do so, there are plenty of natural methods that are just as effective if not more, and will keep your home safe for you and your children.

Take a look at our list of natural cockroach pest control methods below and stop the cockroaches from turning your house into their home.

  1. Sprinkle boric acid, sodium bicarbonate of diatomaceous earth in areas where cockroaches may hide. These powders are safe for humans and pets but are deadly to cockroaches and other insects. Look for dark crevices where cockroaches might like to hide: behind your refrigerator, under stoves, behind cabinets etc. Don’t forget the bathroom! Cockroaches love dampness so around bathtubs and laundry sinks should also be places you powder.
  1. Running fans and dehumidifiers continually will keep cockroaches at bay. They dislike dry conditions and moving air, so leaving fans on and keeping the air dry will force them out of your home in search of a more comfortable environment.
  1. Remove all food sources that may be attracting the roaches. These pests love foods containing high levels of starch and water. Potatoes are a good example of this. Keeping your home or office sanitary is 85% of the work required with cockroach pest control. Ensure you store all your food out of reach of the roaches and keep all garbage wrapped and unaccesible to them.
  1. Seal all visible cracks in your home. If the cockroaches can’t get in in the first place, they can’t take up residence. Check around your windows and doors and look for other gaps in your floorboards etc. by minimizing the areas they are able to enter your dwelling you can greatly reduce their numbers. Make this even more effective by sprinkling some of the anti-cockroach powders from Tip #1 at any gaps you are unable to seal.
  1. Maintain a clean and sanitary dwelling. A small about of food and water can supply a very large colony of cockroaches. Make sure you clean up spills, wipe down benches, repair leaking plumbing, and properly store food for humans and pets in sealed containers or the refrigerator.

If you follow the above tips you will greatly reduce the number of cockroaches in your home. Cockroaches that survive, will look for more hospitable places to live and you won’t need to bother with toxic pest control methods that may have dubious effects on your health and the health of those around you.

Jun 242014
 

If you’re planning on doing kitchen renovations then something you’re likely to come across is the need to fit a sink into a bench top. Many people will hire carpenters to handymen to do this for them, but the job really isn’t that difficult if you’re half-smart and willing to have a go. You do need to be careful however because if you mess things up and accidentally cut too far into your bench top, you’ll need to replace the entire thing, which can end up being quite expensive.

Step 1. Draw Around the Area you need to Remove

Brand new kitchen sinks will come with a template on the box to guide you on where to make the markings. If this is not the case carefully measure your sink and make your line markings slightly smaller than necessary to ensure you don’t cut out too much. It’s much better to cut things slightly too small and then adjust them outwards than to make them too big.

If you have a template, make sure you mark the sink in the correct position aligned with the front edge. Make the job easier for yourself by ensuring there is nothing around you that might get in your way when doing the line markings and cutting.

StainlessteelsinkStep 2. Drill Holes in Concession to Mark a Starting Point for your Jigsaw Blade

Drilling multiple holes next to each other will give us a place to insert our jigsaw blade to start cutting. Make sure the holes are on the inside of your line markings so you don’t accidentally remove too much of the laminate. It may be necessary of easier to drill through several sets of holes for your jigsaw to slot into depending on the angles and size of the sink.

Step 3. Cut Out the Laminate

Follow along your line markings with your jigsaw, being careful not to venture far off the path. You may wish to line the bench top on the outside of the template markings with scotch tape to ensure you don’t scratch the kitchen bench top in the process. Once you have cut all the way around, remove the piece of laminate to make room for the sink.

Step 4. Place the Sink in the Hole in the Bench Top

Put the sink in the hole you just cut and make sure it fits nicely. Remove any excess laminate to get it to fit perfectly if it is not sliding in all the way. Once the sink fits into the bench top, clamp it together and use some sealing tape to ensure water doesn’t leak down around the edges of the sink into the cupboards below.

For our kitchen installation we used:

  • A custom Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink from 3monkeez
  • 400 Series Open Cell Urethane Tape from Husky Tape
  • Our clamps were included in the kit with the sink.
Jun 242014
 

Using colourful lights throughout your home is a great way to turn any space into a cool feature and with the decreasing price of reliable LED lights, it’s now even cheaper than ever. If this is your first light renovation job, it is a little more technical than simply running some LED strip lights in the recess of your skirting boards but the end result is outstanding and definitely worth the effort.

Obviously the size of the job is going to depend on the construction of your house and how easy (or impossible) it is to gain access to certain points on your staircase. So before you start make sure you have access to a power supply and are able to drill in key points along your stairwell.

What you will need

  • LED Strip lights 3528 in your choice of colour
  • Electrical wire
  • 2 motion detectors
  • Control circuit
  • Hot glue gun
  • Soldering iron
  1. Measure and Cut

Cut the LED Strips to the appropriate length to fit the width of your stairs. Make sure you measure every section that you wish to place the LEDs. Most LED strip lights come with double sided tape backing however if you are unsure about the resilience of the tape, a hot glue gun may come in handy. We chose LED strip lights over LED downlights as we felt the lighting angle was more suitable.

  1. Solder the LEDs

Next up you are going to want to solder the wires to your led strips. It will pay to do this in a logical manner so you use less wire. Be sure to text all the LED light strips at this point to make sure you have soldered them correctly.

  1. Setting up the Control Circuit

If you want all the lights to go on and off at the same time, the diagram below highlighting the required features of the circuit will be sufficient. It may also be handy to add in some extra features including an override switch so you can keep the lights on if needed and a daylight regulator so the lights do not come on during the day. Our microcontroller used was a Piccolo brand, and had all the functionality we required for our circuit.

LED Circuit

  1. System Block

Put simply our setup was constructed in this format:

Motion detector/daylight detector/override switch > Control Circuit > LEDS

Our experience was somewhat minimal when it came to circuit board layouts so we ended up using some free layout software available here. It was a massive timesaver and made the job of laying out the circuit much easier. To protect our circuit we bought a plastic electronics housing from masters for a couple dollars. Once you’ve wired up the circuit, it’s time to test!

  1. Installing the Lights

Measure and cut any cable cover you are planning on using and stick it in the required areas. Next you will need to lay out your LED strips one at a time, we suggest starting at the top. Use the double sided tape on the back of the light strips or secure with the hot glue gun if required. Then stand back and admire your work!

Additional Improvements

  • Don’t skimp on the LED drivers. Use constant current LED drivers for better effect.
  • Add a second override switch at the top of the stairs (duh!)

End Result

We were quite happy with the way our new automated LED lighting setup turned out. We would like to thank LED arts for their amazing service and supplying our LED lights. Visit their blog for more ideas on how to best use LED lighting in your home.

LEDendresult