WINDOWFARMS DIY: A step-by-step guide

A friend of mine has got me quite excited about windowfarming. You could say the idea is growing on me. I live in a flat with a poor excuse for a balcony and has these 'shiny' white tiles which I don't wish to get covered in soil. A windowfarm seems like the ideal alternative in such cases to introduce some greenery that is both clean and self-sustainable!

This particular 'windowfarms DIY guide' grows three plants and costs less than R300 to put together. The full DIY guide “How to make your own window farm” can also be downloaded at windowfarms.com

Windowfarm DIY - Materials Needed:

  • Windowfarms DIY Guide (image: www.fastcodesign.com)Water
  • 3 x Net Cups
  • Large cable ties
  • String or fishing line
  • 1 x 5 litre water bottle
  • Nail, screw or eyehook
  • 3 x 1.5 litre water bottles
  • 2 x tube / pump adapters
  • 3 x tree bark starter cubes
  • Duct tape, paint or thick fabric
  • 1 x bottle of hydroponic plant nutrients
  • 5 litres Hydrotron expanded clay pellets
  • 1 x two-way air pump (for 100 litre fish tank)
  • 3 x plants with all dirt removed from roots (or use seeds)

The 12-step program to building your own window farm:

STEP 1: Gather all the tools and ingredients you will need to make your own windowfarm. You will also need things like a permanent marker or felt-tipped pen and a sharp knife.

Windowfarms DIY 1STEP 2: Using the cap of one of the 1.5 litre water bottles, trace circles on on the bottom-centre of each 1.5 litre water bottle and cut them into holes.

STEP 3: Now we need to create a space for each plant. Trace and cut large holes on the bottom part of each 1.5 litre bottle as illustrated.

Windowfarms DIY 2STEP 4: Next we need to create an entrance in the 5 litre water bottle for the pumping tubes. Use the cap from this bottle to trace and cut a circle in the top shoulder of the 5 litre bottle.

STEP 5: We now need to cover the 1.5 litre bottles so that the plant roots don't photosynthesize. You can either use fabric paint to do this, or simply wrap them with thick tape. Cover two thirds of all three bottles as illustrated.

Windowfarms DIY 4STEP 6: Once wrapped up we need to stack the three 1.5 litre bottles by inserting the tops of the bottles into the holes cut in the bottoms as illustrated. Attach the bottle stack to the rod and air lift tube using cable ties.

STEP 7: Next we need to connect the pump to the air lift tube. Make two small insertions for the needle tips up from the bottom of the air lift tube. Place holes on opposite sides of the air lift tube so that the pipes do not overlap.

Windowfarms DIY 5STEP 8: Cut the adapter tubes and pump tubes to the appropriate lengths. Sleeve half of the adapter tube over the end of the pump tube as illustrated. Using tape, wrap the air pump needles until the threading is covered and sleeve those into the open end of the adapter tubes. Insert the needles into the air lift tube and secure these to the rod using cable ties.

Note: Make sure the mouth of the air lift tube is pointing straight down – flush with the rod. Ideally you want the whole tube to remain as straight and vertical as possible. Insert the rod with the tubing into the 5 litre base bottle. Make sure the mouth of the last plant-holding 1.5. litre bottle of the stack feeds into the mouth of the 5 litre base bottle.

Windowfarms DIY 6STEP 9: Bend the top of the air lift tube and insert it into the top of the first plant-holding bottle – forming a “U” shape inside the bottle, with the end of the tube pointing down. Attach the air tubes to the pump. Full the 5 litre base bottle with water to test your pump. Water should spurt out the air lift tube into the top plant-holding bottle and begin draining down through the other bottles. If everything is working, you can then add plant nutrient into the reservoir (5 litre bottle).

STEP 10: Place your plants into net cups and cover with clay pellets. You can either completely shake out the roots (to prevent dirt entering the system and clogging the pipes) or you can start your plants from seed by placing these in compost sponges.

Note: If you decide to start from seed, run your system without plant nutrients for the first week. If you start with adult plants, leave the lights off for the first few days. This will help the roots grow better and will help the plants recover from 'transplant shock.'

STEP 11: Place each plant of choice into the large openings of the 1.5 litre plant-holder bottles. Switch on your pump and viola! Adjust each bottle so that the plants are facing the light source from your window.

Windowfarms DIY Guide

Important Note: Take caution not to place your windowfarm too close to an electrical outlet. Loop your cords before plugging them in to prevent water from flowing along them towards the outlet.

STEPS 12 (OPTIONAL):

  • If there is not enough natural light for your windowfarm, check out windowfarms.com for ideas.
  • If you are worried about your windowfarm tipping, attach the rod to your windowsill with a nail and string.
  • There is also an option of creating a silencer for your windowfarm if the noise of the air pump is too much. Refer to the website for more.

I hope you found this Windowfarms DIY Guide helpful.

Happy eco-farming!

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Freelance writer, David Elliott, shares some financial advice on how to overhaul your personal finances in a single day!

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that if you find yourself with more money going out than is coming in then you’re going to start either building up debt or eating away at your savings, assuming that you have some. The crucial starting point for overhauling personal finances is to use a budget and stick to it on a daily basis. List clearly all the outgoings such as energy bills, money spent on food and other essentials and payments to insurance companies on the one hand - and your income on the other - and you’ll start to regain control of your affairs inside of a day.

Financial Advice: Cutting the Bills (image: intelcotech.net)Financial Advice: Cut the Bills

One of the best places to start putting your financial house in order is with reducing bills by going through every miniscule aspect of your outgoings with a fine-toothed comb. This applies to things like council tax and small daily purchases as well as to the more obvious mortgages and credit cards.

Financial Advice: Car Insurance

Car insurance can be very costly and the best way to reduce it is simply to shop around by using comparison websites and considering things such as cash-back schemes that some companies run. Never accept the annual renewal quote. If you find it cheaper you can always ring your current provider back and they’ll bend over backwards to reduce your premium and keep your custom.

Financial Advice: Credit Cards

Credit cards can be a real killer and you have several options here. You can lower the rate by doing a transfer deal or pay off the cards that carry the highest rate first, focusing all your resources on offloading these expensive cards before turning to the others. Of course you could stop borrowing on them. Credit cards can be very useful when used sensibly but are ticking time bombs otherwise. People have spent the best years of their lives paying for a few months of spending sprees.

Financial Advice: Energy Bills

With energy bills, again, these keep getting hiked up and you have to keep looking for better deals. Ring up your current provider and ask whether you’re on the cheapest tariff and they’ll immediately give you a better deal over the phone. The point is that you have to ask and they have to comply, otherwise you’ll stay on the more expensive tariff. This works with bank current accounts too. Often there are schemes available that give you a better interest rate, for example a few more percent if you deposit over £1000 each month, but you have to ask because they won’t volunteer such information.

Financial Advice: Techniques

Once you’ve decided on how to make savings on both bills and daily expenses like coffee and snacks, actually sticking to a budget you’ve already worked out can be the hardest part. It often helps to set up several standing orders with the bank so that each month when you get paid money gets automatically moved into different accounts to cover things like bills, holidays and shopping. If you decide you want to buy a new sofa or take a holiday, simply check the account and see whether there’s enough money available.

  • David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.
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ORAL CARE: Oral-B 500 review & some oral hygiene tips

Oral-B 500 Electric ToothbrushI treated my teeth recently with the purchase of an Oral-B 500 electric toothbrush. Coincidentally, September happens to be Oral Health Awareness Month, so I suppose I'm right on trend!

The reason why I went electric with my brushing is that my dentist mentioned that I brush my teeth too hard (a common practice). This wasn't news to me, however he was the first to vividly explain how rough manual brushing can whittle down your teeth drastically over time. When you brush too hard you are gradually filing away your precious enamel!

Switching to an Oral-B 500 electric toothbrush has done away with my fear of being 'all gums' when I'm an old man. It's also made me a bit more excited when it comes to brush-time. I never thought my teeth could be so clean! I wonder if they sparkle when I smile..?

If you're considering making the switch to a power or electric toothbrush, the Oral-B 500 is a great choice. My dentist attested to the fact that the Oral-B is the “most dentist-recommended toothbrush brand worldwide”. It's also German-engineered and has a 2 year (limited) warranty. It's very comfortable to use and offers more of an oral massage than a hard-laboured brush.

Oral-B also offers some useful oral hygiene tips for keeping our sparkly whites sparkly and white:

  • Do you chew on your pen? Not only can this bad habit also chip or crack your teeth, but pen chewing can also contribute to the spread of bacteria
  • Try avoid boiled sweets and candy such as jawbreakers. These contain a lot of sugar which can lead to tooth decay and they can chip or crack your teeth
  • The dangers of smoking should be obvious. Teeth-wise smoking can lead to yellow teeth, bad breath, receding gums, bone loss, mouth lesions and oral cancer
  • Research has shown that caffeine interferes with natural saliva production, causing a dry mouth, which can lead to tooth decay. Excessive coffee intake can also stain your teeth

I also have it on good authority that potato chips (or crisps) are one of the leading causes of tooth decay. I suppose it's because they really get wedged in there between the gaps in your teeth. Be sure to always give you teeth a good sprucing with your Oral-B 500 after indulging in anything sugary or starchy.

Brush Up on Your Brushing

The science behind tooth decay is quite interesting and is useful to know in order to prevent poor oral hygiene. Knowledge is power! The following is quoted from Dr Hoosen - a renowned Johannesburg dentist:

"Tooth decay is caused by plaque, which can be described as a think and colourless sticky film containing bacteria that forms on one's teeth constantly. The bacteria make use of carbohydrates (starches and sugars) to produce an acid that attacks the enamel of teeth. Repeated acid attacks of this nature cause a cavity to form and, if left unchecked, can penetrate the softer inner layer of the tooth and spread rapidly through the tooth's structure"

Recent research by the American Academy of Periodontology, suggests that there is also a link between gum disease and heart diseases and strokes.

You only have one pair of teeth, so look after them. It's a wise move switching to an electric toothbrush, and I can certainly recommend the Oral-B 500 as a good choice.

- Issued on Behalf of Oral-B &
Jenni Newman Public Relations

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SEO SECRETS: What you likely know already but will read anyway

Yes, it's another damn article on SEO secrets. I've been pondering this one for a while, but thought I might be able to add 1 or 2 useful SEO tips to the thought-pool.

For starters, I don't consider myself as an SEO guru or pharaoh, as I believe anyone can teach themselves how to do good SEO. It's not overly complex and shouldn't be thought of as such. It merely takes practice and a willing attitude.

Note: This SEO guide is largely intended for bloggers who use WordPress

An alternative take on SEO Secrets by www.qualitynonsense.com

SEO Secrets 2012

SEO Secrets with love from a WordPress snob

#1 What does help is a good understanding of how Google works (keywords, meta-data, indexing etc.) as well as a rough understanding of how human beings work. Put yourself in the mindset of someone actively searching for your content via Google. How would you search for content that you have to offer? Test it to see where your articles/posts rank and rework them – optimising each of them for search.

#2 This next point should be quite obvious to most people. Your blog posts/articles should have 3-5 main keywords as well as one focus keyword or keyphrase. These keywords should be used throughout your article. You should also try include them in your headline or post title (at least the focus keyword, e.g. "SEO Secrets"). It also helps if these keywords appear at the beginning and end of your post.

#3 Links. Google loves links. The more websites that point to your website or blog, the better – especially if they are high-ranking websites. But don't expect everyone to just link to you; have something interesting and unique to offer and make an effort to read other people's content and link to them. Think of it as "idea-sharing" rather than "content hoarding". On that note, make an effort to comment on and engage with other blogs if you expect others to do the same for you.

#4 There is a lot more you can do regarding link building. If you have a YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Facebook and any other social media account, make sure that your blog url is on all your profiles. Take this further and get your blog listed on directories and blog aggregators. Some of these include myScoop, Amatomu, Technorati, Blogs Avenue and Blogrollcentre. You might find it interesting to note that Google favours social media sites that are Google-owned (e.g. YouTube, Google+)

#5 Another reason why I feel that SEO doesn't necessary need to be taught is that there are so many fantastic SEO plugins available - for WordPress especially. To find them, log into your dashboard, go to “Plugins” and click “Add New”. Type “SEO” into the search box and search! Installing WordPress plugins is quick and paintless.

#6 Final SEO secrets: Keep articles between 300-500 words. Write simply and eligibly. Choose your keywords / tags carefully and don't use too many. Make sure your focus keyword appears in your title, meta description and throughout your article. Include at least one outbound link and remember to add metadata to your images.

I hope you find some of these SEO secrets useful!

Much Love,
Galen

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EASY GLUHWEIN RECIPE: Christmas in a cup

Glühwein - that magical elixir that seems to come around during the Winter months. It's Christmas in a cup – a real hug in a mug. I've been surprised to see that few pubs and bars in Cape Town serve glühwein. It's the perfect drink to have on a cold night – whatever the occasion.

Anyway, I decided to try make it myself and combined about five glühwein recipes I found into one, super recipe! It's cheap, tasty and very easy.

Gluhwein Recipe (image: recipes.vegsoc.org)Here's what you'll need:

  • One large pot
  • 1½ bottles of red wine (or box wine)
  • ½ litre of orange juice
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • A cinnamon stick
  • 2 x bay leaves
  • Cloves (around 10)

Method: Making Glühwein

Pour the orange juice into the pot. Dissolve the sugar in a cup of hot or boiling water and add this with the orange juice. Throw in a cinnamon stick and a couple of bay leaves.

Bring this mixture to the boil. While things are heating up, slice the apples into wedges and stick one or two cloves into each segment (use about 10 or so cloves in total). Add your cloved fruit to the pot.

Once boiling, turn the heat down to allow the scented mixture to simmer for about 30 minutes. (It should already start smelling like lovely glühwein at this point and should get a bit syrupy).

Add the wine and stir things up a bit. Once heated, turn the stove down to a low heat. Your glühwein should be steaming not bubbling.

Once the apples look cooked and start going mushy, your glühwein is ready to drink! Strain all the bits out (apples, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon) if desired; the longer you leave them in the spicier your glühwein will become. Serve hot.

Optional Gluhwein Recipe Extras / Alternatives:

  • Frost your glasses with sugar (as illustrated above)
  • Simply double all the ingredients in the above gluhwein recipe to make more!
  • One could substitute cheap red wine with something classier, but I find that this really makes little difference. It's cheapest to by a 3 litre box wine.
  • Apples can be substituted with lemons or oranges depending on your tastes. Cut into slices and insert the cloves into the orange or lemon peels if you decide to make your glühwein more citrus-like.

Interesting Reading:

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