Larraine Roulston

Magical Compost Tea      May 2022

By Larraine Roulston

The first week in May celebrates International Compost Awareness Week. This annual event helps to showcase the importance of returning organic matter back into the soil. The Compost Council of Canada’s Executive Director Susan Antler, stated, “The carbon sequestration alone, of what we have accomplished so far, is offsetting the greenhouse gas impact of about one billion kilometres of gas-powered cars driving annually. It is important to note that this is mostly voluntary work by citizens, done through municipal and private sector composting initiatives. By participating in compost programs, and by using compost to store carbon in gardens, lawns and on agricultural soil, we are helping to put the brakes on climate change.”

For those who backyard composted last autumn, your composter was probably full by early March. During cold weather, the process continues to work even though it becomes dormant. With the advent of spring, slivers of ice help break up the organics and the entire cycle speeds up again. The nutrients from the organic foods, once broken down, are held in the bodies of bacteria and other microorganisms that constitute worm and compost bug poo.

If you composted the previous year, you can utilize some of your mature heap to make compost tea. Compost will stretch further if you make a liquid that is loaded with soluble nutrients packed into living bacteria. To create a batch, place some mature compost into a cloth bag and suspend it in a barrel of water. Let it steep for 2 days. Stir frequently or give it a blast from the hose to provide air bubbles. Dampen the area where you wish to use the tea and dilute it if the colour is darker than amber.

Mindy Jaffe, Hawaii’s Resource Recovery Specialist, stated, “The real credit, however, belongs to the microscopic bacteria and microbes. We can’t see the heat-loving bacteria that make our compost pile heat up, but we certainly can feel that they are there, hard at work! Tea is loaded with soluble nutrients packed into living bacteria. When compost tea enters a plant’s roots, or is absorbed by a leaf’s surface, the bacteria arrive, live, reproduce and die, releasing the nutrients to provide a plant that flourishes.” Jaffe further explained that the plant actually tells the population of microbes exactly what it wants chemically through its exudate–a secretion similar to sweat–so there is communication between the plant and the bacterial population. These two very different living things establish a relationship which is the mystery and magic of compost tea. The results we see are robust, healthy plants and grass.

This liquid can be brewed to spray on public parks and sports fields. When kelp, molasses and oatmeal are included, they feed the microbes so they reproduce. Sadly, most golf course superintendents rely on pesticides. These are substances meant to control pests and weeds. The suffix ‘cide’ on words indicates ‘a killer of’. When pesticides are sprayed, only a few molecules are absorbed while the remainder is washed away and pollutes the soil and water.

Related Link:

http://www.compost.org/compost_week/

Larraine writes children’s books that highlight the joy of composting and pollinating with the adventures of Pee Wee at Castle Compost. With illustrations, songs and poems, the stories unearth the miracles of nature’s cycle of life. Fun & factual for all ages. To order, visit www.castlecompost.com

Protecting Our Precious Rivers      April 2022

The Ottawa River’s polluted condition caught the attention of Melanie Abdelnour, a grade 1 teacher for the Ottawa-Carleton School Board. In 2020 she helped introduce ‘Seabin’–a small bucket-like innovation equipped with a mesh filter catch bag that gathers surrounding water along with litter, then pumps the water back into the river. Originally designed in Australia, Seabins exist in waterways of yacht clubs and marinas in more than 50 countries. Presently, one floats at the Nepean Sailing Club’s dock from May to November where it filters out diesel oil and traps an estimated 5,600 to 9,200 pieces of debris, including seaweed, that contains microplastics.

Local engineering firm Geniglace Inc. and Deep Blue Cleanup partnered to acquire Seabin for use in the river. Research on this summer’s debris is being analyzed by Carleton University student Vanessa Fioré. Information is also being shared with the University of Toronto’s trash team, a science-based community outreach group.

Abdelnour also sees the amazing little bucket as an educational tool. “This is the first trash-trapping device in Ottawa and it gives us an opportunity to see what’s happening in our water,” she said. “If kids come and see for themselves, they’ll be more likely to take care of their waterways. Next spring we hope to have field trips three times a week and get students to analyze the pollution. If kids are not involved, we’ll keep putting garbage in our water.” Abdelnour is aiming to encourage more Ottawa fellow educators to get on board with the project. Teachers in all cities with harbours need to push for community partnership to maintain their life-saving waters.

Floating debris in Toronto’s Humber River was tackled by A Greener Future that partnered with Thurso Surf and Lake Surfistas when they hosted a paddleboard litter clean-up last summer. With twenty-five volunteers diverting 186 lb (84 kg) of litter, this event helped raise awareness of what is floating in this city’s river.

A Greener Future’s founder, Rochelle Byrne, who first began a paddleboarding cleanup journey in July of 2020, stated, “It was amazing to see so many passionate volunteers come out to take part in this event. Many of them hadn’t tried paddleboarding before attending, so it was cool to introduce them to the sport in a way that also had a positive impact on the environment. I hope the next time they go paddleboarding on their own, it becomes second nature for them to pick up litter they may see.”

For testing water quality, the organization Water Rangers, is introducing its ‘testkits’ to children of all ages. In order to prepare for conducting spring water experiments, teachers can check out Water Rangers, a Canadian non-profit group that visits schools to provide educators with easy-to-use water testing and data sharing tools in order to help their students protect local rivers, lakes and city harbours.

Larraine writes children’s books that highlight the joy of composting and pollinating with the adventures of Pee Wee at Castle Compost. With illustrations, songs and poems, the stories unearth the miracles of nature’s cycle of life. Fun & factual for all ages. To order, visit www.castlecompost.com

Greening The Kitchen      March 2022

To green your kitchen area, purchase energy saving appliances as well as stainless steel and cast-iron cookware. Cover pots. Toaster ovens, small convection ovens and slow cookers use less energy than regular stoves. Horizontal style freezers are more energy efficient than the upright ones and should be placed in a cool location.

Choose local and organic food whenever possible; select items from bulk bins by filling your own reusable containers to eliminate packaging and have a supply of reusable bags to take shopping.

Greenwashing is no surprise; however, it has become even more common to meet public demand for earth-friendly products and services. As many people love their K-Cup pods, they’ll be interested to know that Keurig Canada was recently fined $3 million for its misleading claims that its single-use K-Cup pods can be recycled. Even inventor John Sylvan regrets inventing this pod system. The best choice for your morning coffee is the craft or drip style coffee maker.

Use a bowl of water to rinse vegetables/fruits rather than rinse them under a tap. To remove pesticide residue from non-organic produce, let these foods sit in a bowl of water with a tablespoon of vinegar or baking soda for several minutes, then rinse.

Keep a jar of drinking water in the fridge to avoid running the tap for cold water. Know what you have on those back shelves and be creative with leftovers so that you won’t be opening containers to discover moldy surprises. To help your fridge from working harder, let warm leftovers cool before storing them, and return cold items quickly. Your fridge’s cooling system works more efficiently when the shelves are full; therefore, add extra jars of water if your shelves are sparse.

While baking a casserole, maximize oven use by roasting vegetables. You may even have space for a rack of cookies. By turning the oven off 5 minutes before the recommended time, there will be enough heat to finish cooking your meal.

Say no to straws, bottled water, paper towels, plastic bags and food packaged in single servings.

Utilize vegetable peelings to create vegetable stock. Compost.

Rinse out food jars and bottles and flatten tin cans as well as boxboard to save space.

Run your dishwasher with a full load when hydro rates are lower. If you do dishes by hand, rinse them first in warm water to remove the chill from plates and keep your washing basin clean to complete the job. When small appliances with glowing lights are not in use, pull their plugs.

Use vinegar and baking soda to clean sinks, drains, counter tops and tiles. When cleaning your oven, place the racks in the bathtub to soak.

Larraine writes children’s books that highlight the joy of composting and pollinating with the adventures of Pee Wee at Castle Compost. With illustrations, songs and poems, the stories unearth the miracles of nature’s cycle of life. Fun & factual for all ages. To order, visit www.castlecompost.com

February 2022

Healthy Food Choices

By Larraine Roulston

Without a doubt, most people would agree that the North American diet is not as healthy as that of European or Asian countries. In general, many citizens consume a larger amount of refined grains, sugar, oils, meat, calories and processed foods while at the same time not eating enough vegetables. For the past several decades, theories have been debated as to what might be the attributing factors as to why we opt for less nutritious food. Is it cost, inadequate kitchen and pantry space, convenience, lack of cooking skills, being picky eaters or limited knowledge about nutrition? One theory suggests that a healthier based diet is more expensive while other theories underline living conditions and behaviour.

Many low-income families believe healthy food is unaffordable. Meat based meals with non-seasonal vegetables and fruits usually have a higher cost; however, in-season vegetable choices such as beets, carrots, onions, potatoes and cabbage can all be added to salads, cooked, as well as made into casseroles and soups. Also, beans, rice and grains constitute a nutritious source of food. Costs are kept relatively low by creating meals made from scratch. Poor diets are also a result of existing agriculture policy.

The constant marketing for sodas, chips and double patty burgers layered with bacon and cheese stimulates desire for more. Eating processed meats also increases the chances of getting cancer. When a population is regularly subjected to junk food images, whether it be in advertisements or in movie scenes, there is a tendency to believe that this is necessary in order to fit into society. Even fruit juices have proven to have a lower health score over soda pop beverages. People simply enjoy the flavour and, in general, are hooked on fast and sugary foods as well as its inherent convenience.

There are, however, individual solutions that we all can adopt in order to encourage healthier diets which will in turn lessen our obesity and diabetes rates. Plant a backyard, community or rooftop vegetable garden. Local grocery stores can set up a tray of washed fruit to offer a free choice for children. A cashier from one grocery store that set up this practice stated, “Displaying fruit has become a popular feature. As kids leave, they delight in showing me their apple cores or banana peels.”  When teachers, parents and grandparents promote fruits as a treat rather than sugary donuts, we will begin to make progress towards mobilizing a healthier generation of children.

This Valentine’s day, present your sweetie with a fresh fruit basket or sprouts and a bean sprouter rather than candy. For an added benefit, fruit peelings and cores can be composted rather than trashing non-recyclable plastics as found in boxed chocolates. Generally, candies are individually wrapped.  

Related Links:

https://www.crownsprouts.com/our-products/

Larraine writes children’s books that highlight the joy of composting and pollinating with the adventures of Pee Wee at Castle Compost. With illustrations, songs and poems, the stories unearth the miracles of nature’s cycle of life. Fun & factual for all ages. To order, visit www.castlecompost.com