About Me

Someone who fell in love with the natural world early on and has been smitten ever since. A blade of grass, a mighty mountain, a tiny raindrop, a roaring waterfall, all fill me with awe and wonder. Nature feels home, filled with warmth and love. It pains my heart to see this home being ravaged. This blog is an effort to find tweaks in modern living to preserve the sanctity of this home. I sincerely hope that you join me in this green karmic journey.

Friday, 22 October 2021

How to Cook a Mean Compost

Equipment: 
  • An old bucket, bin or container with a lid
  • Drilling machine
    Or
  • A composter 
Ingredients:

Greens:

Vegetable Peels
Fruit Peels 
Egg Shells
Corn Husk
Coffee Grounds
Tea Bags(take out the stapled pin)
Rinsed tea leaves (leftovers of the much-loved Indian drink)
Peanut Shells
Corn Cob
Mango Pits
Watermelon Rind
Pineapple Crown
Pistachio Shells
Grass Cuttings
Twigs, Stems

No Cooked Food
No Dairy Products
No Meat
(They attract animals and rodents)
No Pet Waste
No Waste from Diseasedor Infected Plants


Browns:

Dried Leaves 
Brown Cardboard
Bagasse Packaging or Plates
Newspaper
Paper (No glossy paper)

I like only dried leaves as my browns because they are totally natural.
Brown cardboard might have the least amount of chemicals but I feel that it still has a few chemicals, which I can avoid in my compost. Newspaper and any other printed material has ink, which is not the greatest addition to compost. 

Accelerator: 

Garden Soil 
or
Cocopeat 
or
Ready Compost 
or
Sour Yogurt 
or 
Store Bought Accelerator

Method:

1. Drill holes on the sides of the bucket and on the lid. This is for aeration. 

2. Put an inch of soil in the bucket. Cut greens in small pieces. This helps in a faster decomposition. Remember, the smaller and softer the stuff, the faster it's going to decompose. Put greens in the bin. 

3. Crush leaves for faster decomposition. Add double the quantity of these leaves which will act as browns

4. Add accelerator. 

5. Mix well with a shovel. Cover.

6. Keep adding greens and browns to this mix everyday and keep turning. I also add a bit of soil every now and then. 

7. When the bin gets full, let it rest. I poke the mix every day for it to aerate. If you're using a composter, turn it every couple of days. The compost will get ready in around 1-3 months, depending on a lot of factors, including weather.

8. While the first bin rests, start the same process in another bin. 

Where to place the bin:

In a cool, shaded place, away from rain.

What should be the consistency of the mix?

It should be like a moist sponge. When you pick a handful of this mix and wring it, water shouldn't drip out of your hand. The mis should be moist. Too wet, and the compost will start smelling. Too dry, and the compost won't get decomposed well. 

Common Issues:

1. Smelly Compost - If you've added too little browns, it would start to smell bad. To rectify this, add more browns, get the moisture level right and aerate the compost well. 

2. Wet Compost - Again, add more browns and aerate it well. There have been times when I had to spread the whole mix in the sun to dry it out to the right level. 

3. Flies in the Compost - Make sure that the top level of the compost is covered with browns or with soil. If there are fruit peels like banana or lemon peels, fruit flies get attracted to them. The easiest way is to cover the mix with the soil.

4. Maggots in the Compost - Add more browns and get the moisture level right.

Cooking Time:

If the temperature is in the 70s and you've cut the greens to small bits and have been diligent with the balance of greens and browns, the compost can get there in 3-4 months. You'll still find some stuff that hasn't been decomposed like pistachio shells, mango pits etc. Let the stuff rest for another couple of months. Let nature take its course. When you pick a lump of compost and it crumbles well in your hand, congratulations! You've done it!

Compost smells sweet and fresh, like the earth.

Why Compost:

1. To save organic matter from going into landfills: 

Organic matter doesn't biodegrade in a landfill but emits methane. 

Methane is a greenhouse gas which is 100 times more potent than carbon-di-oxide. 

When you compost, you reduce greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere. 

Imagine that! You would be reducing global warming single-handedly. Feel the green cape fluttering around the super you?

2. To slash your garbage bag  content by half or more:

Look into your filled trash bag. 

How much kitchen waste is in there? 

If you cook most of your meals, the proportion of organic waste would be quite high. You can divert all this organic waste to your compost bin. 

3. To reduce the number of garbage bags you use: 

Less waste in trash bag means less number of bags used. 

Gardening waste bags will also get reduced because you can divert leaves and garden clippings to the compost bin as well. 

More bags saved, yay!!

4. To enrich your garden soil:

When the compost is ready, you can mix the compost to your garden soil. 

Even if you don't grow anything in your garden, it's good to return the goodness of the earth to where it belongs - back to the earth. 

If you grow vegetables and flowers, this nutritious compost is like manna from heaven.

5. To witness a beautiful natural process: 

Just give it a little time. Nature shows how beautifully things are interconnected and work together. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Don't Waste The Seed - Eat Or Treat!

Since last few days, I have a little, restless investigator visiting my compost bucket. She relentlessly pokes and turns the compost, spreading bits and pieces all around, messing up my balcony!

I wondered what she was looking for in the compost. Was it something to build her nest with? Was it food? I think, it was a bit of both!

Then I had an idea. If she was looking for food, I could offer her something better. I had saved a few cantaloupe seeds from the last time I relished the melon. I thought of offering these seeds to the little birdie. 

Musk melon seeds are loaded with vitamins (A,C, E and K) and minerals like zinc and magnesium. 

It was such a delight when she pecked at them. There was another bird following her. Anya told me that was the baby. Soon, the Mom was feeding her baby with the seed too!

That was my aha moment. I had been discarding all watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkin seeds. I did wash and dry them occasionally, but not always. Every time I threw them away, I remembered my childhood. 


The goodness that you throw away, if you don't use the seeds!

Summers meant vacations and melons. We would wash and dry the seeds of musk melons and watermelons and spend lazy hours chatting, peeling and relishing those seeds. 



Watermelon seeds are rich in magnesium, iron, folate and fiber.

The white and delicate seeds of musk melons were easier to crack than the black and hard seeds of watermelons. Both could be cracked by pressing between teeth in a certain manner.

I remember liking musk melon seeds better than watermelon ones. 
It was hard and slow work to peel those seeds but quite rewarding. 

Later, I got to know that these seeds are packed with nutrition.You can buy these kernels off the shelf. They are quite a delicacy and quite expensive too. 


Don't throw in landfill what you can share with your winged friends. 

We all know the nutritional benefits of pumpkin seeds. They are packed with micro nutrients like potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper. We literally throw away nutrition when we don't use these seeds. 

Even if we don't use them for ourselves, we can offer them to our winged friends. 

Birds would relish both the seeds and the stringy pulp.

If you've a yard or a balcony, you can make a corner for birds. They love eating different fruits and berries. You can also offer them the whole gut of cantaloupe, pumpkin, squash etc. There's no need to separate the seeds out. They'll eat the pulpy strings and thank you for the treat. 

Birds  also love to peck at the leftover flesh of cantaloupe rinds. After they've cleaned the rinds, you can always toss the remains in your compost.

I've now decided never to throw away seeds or pulp of a melon, a pumpkin or a squash in the compost. If I want to use them for myself, I can dry the seeds. If I'm feeling lazy, I can leave the whole pulp and seeds for the birds. 

Thank you little birdie and my compost, for the lesson of the day!

This lesson also subtly highlights the issue that we have with modern lifestyle. 


We chuck away stuff (seeds) that come naturally packed (in a melon) to landfills (which emit methane) and then buy the same stuff (seeds) off the shelf (packaged in plastic) and again throw away the packaging in landfills (which cause leachates).

Just because we don't have time or energy to do the former. 
Just because we have a choice and can afford the latter! 

Just sayin'!

Leaving you with that thought! Ciao!

Image Credits: www.pexels.com

Monday, 11 May 2020

Guess What!



Guess What!!
I had made this shampoo with amla, reetha and shikakai (gooseberries, soap nuts and Acacia concinna).


On a whim, I took a picture and asked a 'green' friend to guess what it could be. I generally share all green news and views with this friend and wondered if he would be able to guess it. 

He couldn't. And just for the fun of it, I thought of asking all my friends. Here are the answers: 

Most Popular Guesses:

Jaljeera 
Keri Panna
Kaadha
Kanji

Also Rans: 

Jeera- Ajwain Water, Apple Juice, Apple Cider, Banana Stem Juice, Amla Juice, Pumpkin Juice, Lauki Juice, Sugarcane Juice,  Tamarind Water, Avocado Juice, Kale Juice, Toddy, Barley Water, Oreo Shake, Chamomile TeaLemon Water,Boiled Chickpeas/ Kidney Beans Water

Frustrated Tries: 

Mud Water
Gutter Water
Moraji Desai Inspired Drink ;)

Favorite Answer:

Compost Tea

I was surprised that nobody could guess it right. I thought that a few would have definitely used it, at least in their childhood. 

I guessed that the froth at the top might be a give away. But yeah, even sugarcane juice has froth:) Also, if you've not used soap nuts ever, you wouldn't know.

Now, if you recollect having used this shampoo, do let me know your recipe and experience. 

Ciao!! And thanks a ton for your answers:)

Saturday, 2 May 2020

How To Make a Natural Shampoo


Right: Soap Nut and Shikakai powder. Left: The mix with water

Nature is one stop shop for all our needs. It's a grocery store, a cosmetics shop and a medicine cabinet - all rolled into one. 

Seek and thou shalt find!

Growing up, I always washed my hair with a concoction of amla, reetha and shikakai (gooseberries, soap nuts and  acacia concina). Mom kept a powdered mix of this lovely trinity in a jar. 

I would soak a handful in an iron vessel overnight. The next day, it would be my natural, herbal shampoo with free hair color thrown in! Gooseberries soaked in an iron vessel gave a solid black color to the mix.

As life got busier, I started reaching for the bottled shampoo more often because I would forget to soak the mix overnight. 

Slowly, the switch to bottled shampoo was complete and the herbal mix retreated to the depths of the toiletries cabinet. 

In time, as I got more aware of the harmful chemicals in the shampoo, saw people with greying hair at a young age and the waste that a plastic shampoo bottle created, I decided to switch back to the trusted, old formula. 

About the ingredients:

Coarsely grounded Shikakai, Amla, Reetha - my holy trinity for hair care


Acacia concinna or Shikakai: Shikakai grows as pods on a medium sized tree. It is rich in antioxidants and is a great natural cleanser. Shikakai softens and thickens hair, reduces hair loss and slows graying.  It also brings shine to them.

Gooseberry or Amla: Rich in vitamins and antioxidants, amla is a superfood. Amla works wonders for both hair and skin. It has been a popular ingredient for hair care in India - be it in the form of shampoo or hair oil. 

Soapnuts or Reetha: Reetha contains a chemical called saponin which is a surfactant. A surfactant is something that helps remove dirt and grime from any surface. 

No surprise, sopanuts can be used as detergents, dish washing liquid, mopping liquid, body wash, hair wash etc. 

In addition, soapnuts have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties too. What's not to like about them!

How to buy these lovely ingredients for your hair?

If you want to buy dried pods and nuts, they are available online. Try to buy the one with minimal packaging. In India, you can buy them at a grocery store from a bin and can do without the packaging too! 

In case you are short of time and don't want to go the whole nine yards, you can buy a ready powdered mix. Like the one below. 

The powder can be soaked overnight or steeped in warm water just before use.

The froth in the solution is due to saponin of soap nuts.

Or you can make the shampoo on your own!!

I take 1:2:2  ratio of that coarsely grounded reetha, shikakai and amla. Soak the mix overnight in an iron wok. Next morning, mash the mix thoroughly and bring it to a boil. When cool, strain. 

Your 100% natural, full-of-goodness shampoo aka hair tea is ready!!!

I can't make it from scratch each time!

You can make a large batch and store it in a glass bottle in the refrigerator. It can easily last for a month. 

If you want to store it for a longer period, freeze the mix in ice trays. Take out required number of cubes and voila! You are good to go in a jiffy!

How to use?

Apply the tea to the scalp and gently massage it in. Leave it for 15-20 minutes before rinsing with cool, plain water. 

Avoid getting the mix in your eyes. It will sting! 

If you do manage to get it into your eyes, just wash the eyes with plain water. 

Customize the recipe:)

Every Mom and Grandmom has her own version of this concoction. 

My Mom occasionally added dried orange or lemon peels powder. I've heard people adding curd, fenugreek seeds etc. according to their type of hair.

Go ahead and ask your Mom, Grandmom or Aunt about your family's traditional recipe. 

This is the perfect time to do it:) Share your versions in the comments below. 

What to do with the leftover fibre?

Well, add it to your compost pile, of course, you Green whiz! 


From Earth. To Earth. Completing the Circle. 

Close your eyes, and be ready to get soaked in that awesome green wave of satisfaction that's going to knock you off your pretty feet!:)

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Locked Down? Green Up!!

So we've all been grounded for a while. 

As the planet gets time to heal, the lockdown period can be used such that when the ordeal gets over, we can look back and say - "We did good!"

Turn A New Leaf This Earth Day. Pic courtesy: Pixabay
Here's a collection of ideas to get you started. Do let me know how many of these could you implement.  

1. Start Composting-

Composting takes care of almost all your organic kitchen waste single-handedly and leaves your garbage bag light and less icky. 

It keeps organic waste away from landfills. This is the top reason I started composting. I feel so happy that my contribution to landfills has been cut by more than half! Yay!!


 A Compost Pile. Pic courtesy: Pixabay

Get this straight once and for all - organic waste doesn't decompose in landfills. Period.

Even if you choose a biodegradable trash bag, neither the bag, nor the organic matter, gets decomposed. 

Landfilled organic waste just emits methane which warms up the atmosphere 50 or 100 times more (depends on how it's calculated) than carbon-di-oxide. 

The best thing about composting is that you just can't go wrong and you don't need any investment, if you so wish. 

Once you start, you're bound to learn and tweak and get there in time. 


Composting Raw Material in Buckets in an Apartment Balcony.
I'll be doing a separate blog post on how to compost. Keep reading!

2. Install Health Faucets or Bidets-

Toilet paper madness, seriously? I had read that future wars might be fought over water. Hardly did I know that they could be fought over toilet paper!

No, I'm not telling you about where you can lay your hands on some fresh stock. I'm dispensing some wisdom on how to get off the toilet paper madness altogether.  

These alternate systems in your bathrooms are easy to install, are eco-friendly and will leave you with better hygiene. 

Instead of standing in a queue for toilet paper, get one of these.  There are two popular types of these systems:

I. Bidet Attachment -

A toilet seat bidet system sprays a jet of water to clean you-know-what and where. You don't need a toilet paper to wipe yourself. The water jet will clean you up instead. And it will do a better job.

A bidet is very easy to install and turns out to be economical in the long term.Bidets are available in different varieties. They also come with temperature settings. 

You can learn more about a bidet and its installation from this video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juilRGZXLwM

II. Hand Held Bidet Sprayer -

This sprayer does the same job. The only difference is that you can hold the sprayer. 

Comparing it in terms of a shower head, think of this sprayer as a hand held shower while the bidet is like an overhead shower. The first can be moved around and the other is fixed.

Do watch the following video to know how to install one: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fbl4pvoXfr0

Bidet attachments (starting at 50$) and bidet hand sprayers (starting at 30$) are available in any hardware store - Lowe's, Home Depot, Costco and of course Amazon. 

Remember, giving up, or even reducing the use of toilet paper means saving trees. You'll save money and environment. It's a win-win! 


3. Install Water-Saving Aerators in Taps- 

An aerator is a mesh like device that can be installed in a water faucet. 

It reduces water usage by introducing air into the water stream. Water gets atomized or divided into multiple streams, without compromising on the water pressure. 

This leads to a huge reduction in water usage. The savings depend upon the current faucet you have, and the type of aerator you choose. The starting price of aerators is 5$. Fixing aerators in old faucets can lead upto 80% water savings. 

Saving water means saving money. Educate yourself on the kind of faucets you have and the kind of aerators suitable for them and just do the needful!

4. Install A Drinking Water Filtration System-

Bottled water is not necessarily better than tap water. Many companies sell tap water in bottles. 

Enough has been written about the negative impacts of bottled water on environment, so I'll not touch that aspect.

Take this time to evaluate your reasons for buying bottled water. Read your county's water report. Then think about installing an appropriate water filtration system. From water filter pitchers to tap filtration systems to RO, there's a lot of choice. You've enough time to figure out a system that suits your taste and budget.


Reusable Bottles Come In All Shapes And Sizes. Pic courtesy: Pixabay
If you use bottled water to carry to gym or outdoors, buy a good steel or glass water bottle for each member of the family. Fill it up at home and carry around.

Again, you'll save both money and the environment. 

5. Line Drying- 

This is another easy to install system. Just buy a rack or put up a line in your yard. 

It works better if you have the laundry room close to your line or rack. Even if it's not, the work involved in hanging and collecting the laundry can be counted as a part of your workout:)


Line Drying Uses Solar And Wind Energy Without A Solar Panel Or A Windmill :)Pic courtesy: Pixabay
Did you know that the sun naturally disinfects your clothes? It also helps to whiten them. Bonus reasons to sun-dry your laundry!

Line drying eventually leads to energy savings and you guessed it - money savings!!

6. Repair and Repurpose Stuff- 

One of the best ways to keep waste out of landfills is to keep using it. 

Now that you've time, take stock of your clothes, accessories, kid's toys, gadgets, whatever-you-have! 

Take out that tool box and sewing kit.


A Stitch In Time Saves Nine! Pic courtesy: Pixabay

Mend those stockings. Fix that leak. Repair that toy. Glue that shoe. If you can, involve your kids in these activities so that they learn these tricks early on.  

A Tool Box Is A Good Investment. Pic courtesy: Pixabay
7. Activism- 

This is the most important need of the hour. 

Think, speak out and take action-before it's too late. 

Know your national, state and local representatives. Get acquainted with town halls and agendas. See how you can best participate. Many cities have sustainability councils. Attend those meetings.

If there's an issue that's on your mind, engage in a conversation. Participate. Ask questions. 


Pic courtesy: Pixabay
It's imperative that you bring relevant topics to the forefront of discussion and agendas. You've elected those representatives. Now make them work. 

And yeah, don't forget to go out and vote!

Write to companies about the things that concern you. For e.g. excess packaging, environmental accountability etc. 

Use social media to take representatives and corporates to task. 

Last but not the least, if you figure out a green practice, encourage your friends to adopt it. Help them set the system up. Lend your hand and ear. 

We all share the planet. Let's share the responsibility  for it too. 

Do let me know what your plans are to mark the Earth Day. What green practice are you going to start today? 

Happy 50th Earth Day!!

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Time For Introspection



I used to have sleepless nights over the pollution that we human beings were inflicting on the Earth. I used to obsess over the waste created in everyday life. 

Once, while discussing my anxieties with a friend, his comments brought things into perspective. "Don't worry about the Earth. It will take care of itself. If you've to worry about someone, worry about the human race. That's the one to suffer by the changes it's creating.' Wise words, those!

I realized how vulnerable we are. If we don't understand the implications of our actions, we're the ones who'll suffer. The Earth will recover. It always has. We've to change the narrative. 
It's not the Earth that needs saving. It's us!

The Earth has always been there and will always be. 
With or without you. 
You need the Earth. 
The Earth doesn’t need you. 
You think you are high and mighty. 
Forces of nature are mightier than you. 
You think you are invincible.
Stop kidding yourself!
Act to save the human race.
Now!!!

Friday, 20 March 2020

Time Out!



Sshhh....It's the universe talking!
Only if we care enough to listen.

The earth is whispering,
“You're a part of me, 
Sweet child!
Don’t try to own me
I'm my own master
I hide mysteries untold.

If I cater to your needs,
Don’t assume I’m yours to exploit.
If I give you water, food, air
And nourish you with my body and soul
Don’t take that for granted.
If I bear the burden,
Of your desires and whims,
Don’t take that as my weakness!

I am a mother. 
Mother to you and all your siblings:
Trees, animals, birds, algae, 
Coral, fish, insects, worms,
Millions and billions of
Creatures big and small.
They all call me mother 
And I love them all,
Just as I love you.

If I can humor you,
I can discipline you too!
And its high time
For you to understand,
What you can and cannot do to me 
And to your fellow brethren
They’ve been telling me,
Of miseries untold,
And I hear their sobs,
Of pain and loss.
Of you crossing your threshold.

I myself have watched you,
Plundering my bounty,
Tainting my shores,
Taking more than you need,
Suffocating me with your greed.

So like a mother I've to say:
Time Out!!!
Go to your room 
And do some thinking.
Think long and think deep.
Know your place 
In my waft and my weave.

Learn to be,
With others around
Not hog my blessings
And cut others out.
You're sulking?
Take your time!
And when you're done
Come out with a plan.

More of kindness,
Less of greed,
Will leave enough,
For everyone's need.