Build Your Own Dog Poop Composter

Yep.  I am really writing about this.

So having two big dogs has always produced more waste than I like to deal with.  Or throw away.  Especially in plastic bags.  So I did a little research and found a product out there called the Doggie Dooley- a septic system meant for in-yard use and disposing of dog waste in a “green” manner.

Doggie Dooley

So I bought and installed the Doggie Dooley as pictured above.  Technically, it was a little small for two big dogs but I decided I would simply not put all the waste in there until I knew what it could handle.  Plus it was only going to have to deal with what was in our yard as anything that happened on a walk would be bagged and thrown away.  And we walk our dogs every. single. day.

So I installed this contraption, bought the special enzymes, flushed it with the hose everyday as recommended and guess what?  The thing sucked.  Badly.  It smelled horrible, it didn’t seem to be doing anything to the poop, and it was kind of cumbersome to use.  I only used it for part of a season, then winter rendered it useless, and the next spring I decided not to add any more waste to it and simply flush it until it was in good shape.  I did that for the entire spring and summer, then gave up completely.  We ended up selling the house where this was installed, and I tried to uninstall the thing as a courtesy to the new owner but its design held a couple of gallons of water, and I couldn’t get the thing to budge.  There was no way I was going to siphon or spoon out dog waste sludge, so I just buried the thing.  Sorry new home owner.

But I still liked the idea of having a dog poop composter and had come across another solution that seemed more reasonable after my Doggie Dooley experience: using a large 50-gallon plastic trash can with holes drilled in the bottom: you simply add water (and septic enzymes) regularly, but the water is always allowed to drain out the bottom.

But first, you have to dig a really big hole:

Make Your Own Dog Poop Composter: the Hole

Then you simply insert your trash can, add dog waste (and septic enzymes and water) and you are set!

Make Your Own Dog Poop Composter

Of course, you need to keep things wet to help with decomposition, so I hooked up a drip line from our automatic sprinkler system and the waste gets watered everyday.  We’ve had some flies, but amazingly there has been almost no smell!  And once the regular watering started, decomposition happened rather quickly, too!

But some things to keep in mind: since dogs eat meat, it is good practice to keep this composter away from areas of your garden where you grow food- I believe a 10 ft radius is recommended.  I placed mine under some decorative trees and I am hoping the water and nutrients are helping those trees grow.  In the very least, the trees haven’t shown any signs of stress and I’ve had the thing up and running for a little over a year now.

Much better, and much cheaper, than the commercial dog poop composter I tried!  Now if only I could figure out how to deal with the cat’s litter….

Addressing Solar Heat Gain From Windows

We have some beautiful windows in our house that face directly west.  In a scorching desert like the one we live in, this spells trouble for solar heat gain from the setting sun.  The previous owner obviously faced this issue and tried to deal with it by installing new, insulated windows, as well as installing an external sun shade.  Unfortunately, the sun shade resulted in this view:

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We were hoping to improve on this situation and eventually remove the sunshade.  We bought double-cell light filtering and insulating shades (with the optional cordless and top-down bottom-up features) and then also installed heat control window film:

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In the photo above, window film has been applied to the right window panel and not the left.  As you can see, the window film does tint the window slightly, but it also works to keep the heat out!

So far, we are very happy with this solution and plan to remove the external sunshades in the near future.  Only problem?  Window film is not a pleasant thing to work with if you DIY.  But it can be done.

So here are some tips if you decide to install window film yourself:

  1. Get the installation kit with the solution.  I tired it without and it is just not worth it.
  2. This really a two person job so make sure you have someone around to help.
  3. Clean the windows, cut the film to approx. the right size, etc, as per the instructions. Have one person hold the film as the other pulls off the backing but as you pull off the film backing, leave the backing attached to the bottom couple of inches to hold the film straight.  Spray the film with the solution at this time- this will help keep the film from sticking to itself.  Then remove the backing the rest of the way and apply the solution to the remaining couple of inches.
  4. As you squeegee the film into place, always work from the center out.  Keep reapplying the solution and re-squeegeeing until you are happy with the bubbles being removed.  If there is a tricky bubble or fold, let the film sit for a few hours and come back to it- some solution will have dried off and the bubble may flatten easier at a later time.  But- make sure to do any final adjustments within a 24 hour period.

That’s it!  Window film is definitely not my favorite thing to work with, but it is totally worth for windows that get a lot of sun.

5 Easy Ways to Reduce Plastic

Reduce your plastic consumption

image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sheasphotos/2833119425/

A lot of emphasis has been placed on recycling these days, which is a very good thing.  Unfortunately, not all recyclables are created equal.  Glass, most metals, and to some degree, paper are part of a ‘closed loop’ cycle in recycling- which is the good kind of recycling.  What this ‘closed loop’ means is glass can be used as glass again, metal as metal, and paper as paper (although most papers require some new content for strength).  Plastic, however, can rarely be recycled into the same plastic and instead is downgraded each time it is recycled, if companies are willing to use recycled plastic at all.  This ‘downgrading’ is why plastics have a little number inside their recycle sign- it indicates what ‘lower’ plastic it can be recycled into.  So while there should always be a push to recycle items, there is also a benefit to avoiding products that can’t be recycled, or are harder to recycle- such as plastic.

So how do you reduce the amount of plastic you use?  Here are some simple suggestions:

5.  Use cloth shopping bags:

We’ve all heard this one, right?  And we all accumulated several cloth bags, right?  The problem is actually remembering to use them.  If you already have several cloth bags, leave some in your car so you can run out and get them when shopping.  Try collapsible bags that you can carry in a purse.  Write “bring your bags” on the top of each grocery list. ‘Punish’ yourself when you forget your bags by not using bags and carrying the loose items out to your car- next time you might be more prone to remember your bags!  And most importantly, get cloth bags that you love and want to use and don’t buy more unless you need more.

4. Switch to bar soap:

I didn’t used to like bar soap.  I thought it left a slimy feeling on my skin that wouldn’t wash off.  Turns out, I just needed to try a few more brands to find one I liked.   It also turns out liquid body wash was not designed for our convenience- it was designed so we would use more product than is needed and, ultimately, buy more because we’re using more.  It also costs us more in the long run because you are paying for a bottle that contains roughly 90% water, and all the shipping costs associated with shipping the weight of that water.

3. Switch to a local milk delivery that reuses glass or plastic bottles:

Google makes this easier than ever before- just google ‘milk delivery’ and the name of your city.  I’m sure this service isn’t offered everywhere, but don’t assume it isn’t available in your area just because you haven’t heard of one- a little bit of research and you may be surprised.  As an added bonus, you’ll likely be supporting a smaller, local farmer, and most bottle places I’ve found offer hormone-free, grass-fed, humanely raised products- a win, win, win.

2. Drink (tap) water instead of Soda:

Do you really need another reason to give up soda?  Not only will this eliminate plastic waste but it will also save you money and possibly reduce your waistline.  And don’t use bottled water as a substitute.  Bottled water is not regulated and often comes from a tap anyway, just with an up-charge of bottling it and maybe filtering it.  Even if the water is filtered, that doesn’t mean it is an improvement.  Tap water is regulated and most places have things like fluoride added to drinking water meaning filtered water could prove to be more detrimental than using tap water.

1. Use glass or reusable packages for leftovers or packed lunches:

Saran wrap, aluminum foil, and styrofoam take-out packages do not keep food fresh.  The gaps left in these packaging techniques cause the food to dry out, not to mention saran wrap makes items hard to access, aluminum foil makes things hard to see, and do you really want your food sitting in styrofoam?  Instead use something like reusable glass containers– they seal tightly, the food can be seen, the food is easy to access, they are microwave and dishwasher safe, and they’re stackable.  They also make for easy packed lunches.  If you prefer plastic sandwich bags for lunch or midday snacks, consider these reusable alternatives.