Monday, December 31, 2012

Review of 2012 Accomplishments

2012 was a busy year for us.  We accomplished a lot and blogged too little.  I have many posts in draft mode that I need to complete over the next few weeks.

Here are some of the things we did in 2012.

Fencing
Finished fencing our main area around the house, or Zone 1 and 2 in permaculture terms.  This area has a perimeter of over 425 feet which was fenced with field fencing.  This fence involved 26 cemented 4x4 treated posts for corners, bends and gates.  30 metal T posts were used for the straight runs.  This was a huge project that took most of the summer and fall.  I finally finished it off yesterday with the help of dad.

Food Production
Purchased 6 chicks in September which are now almost full grown and should began laying in March.  They are outside in a movable run and coop as way to chicken tractor them around the yard so they can eat grass along with their feed.  Big thank you to a friend at work who gave me his brooder since he wasn't using it.  This saved us lots of money or time.

Harvested over 40 lbs of blackberries and froze about 20 lbs.

Harvested over 100 lbs of squash and zucchini 

Harvested over 150 lbs of tomatoes.

Canned for the first time over 100 lbs of tomatoes and 30 lbs of zucchini.

Other items in small amounts, lettuce, peas, a few pumpkins, a few carrots, radishes, cucumbers, blueberries and some crab apples turned into apple sauce.

Brewed 15 gallons of beer

Plantings/Permaculture/Landscaping
Added 8 fruit trees
Added 4 black walnuts on lower part of property
Added 4 black locusts on lower part of property
Added 1 blueberry
Added 2 gooseberry
Added 1 hop vine
Added 3 kiwi vines
Added lavender and jasmine outside our window along with some flowers.

Cleared out section of popluar trees, mulched the branches and setup an area to plant in the spring for vine crops.  Chipping this wood was not trivial, ended up chipping about 5 cubic yards of wood.

Dug swale/trench from rear downspout around 1/2 of backyard.

Added 75 sq feet to the garden.

Energy Efficiency
Installed a Hybrid Heat Pump GE Geospring water heater last week.

LED bulbs - Replaced chandelier lights in the dining room with LEDs.  Replaced a main reading lamp with LED bulbs.

Using fireplace this year to offset a little bit of the heating costs.

DIY Projects
Huge Shelf in Garage
Cold Frames for Garden
Chicken Run
Fence
Towel shelf in bathroom
Put a TV antenna on the house and said good bye to Direct TV.
Replaced valve in master bedroom shower so the wife and I have our own shower.

New Skills
Brandi
Water bath canning
Butter making
Cooking Paleo

Adam
Situation handgun class

Adam/Brandi
Bee keeping classes
Speical New things
Ranger - our newest family member half Border Collie half Austrian Shepard
John Deere Gator XUV - thank you to dad, made a huge difference stretching the fence.
NATO Jerry Cans for fuel -- done with those stupid plastic cans
Chainsaw - which I fear more than a gun

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Second Year Garden

My wife took some pictures of our garden last summer.  Now that I am home on Christmas break it is time to get them posted.

Butternut Squash came up from seeds in the compost

Red Cabbage, only one that survived the bugs

Ripening Pumpkin

Corn that didn't end up so well this year, amongst the tomatoes


Squash over 75 lbs this year 

Cherry Tomatoes

Strawberries, an excellent 
year as they took over
Mutated tomatoes on left that sprung up from last years droppings.  Last year's grape tomato hybrids reverting back to their natural breed.  New heirloom plantings on right.

Heirloom tomatoes
Watermelon that didn't make it in time,
became good chicken feed.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Building Shelves for the Garage

Full shelf in garageHaving enough storage always seems to be an issue.  The last home we owned had a half dozen of those metal 6 foot by 4 foot metal shelves when we moved in.  We took them with us when we moved to our homestead.  The metal shelves just don't cut it for me.  Our garage has 10 foot ceilings and we have a lot of plastic tubs that are too big for the metal shelves.  I also would like a place to put large items like my table saw and generator.  If I put them against the wall, I loose the vertical space.  Therefore, I decided to build some strong shelves.

I went to Home Depot and bought the following:

  • 2 X 3/8"x4x8' composite board @ $10
  • 18 X 2x4 studs @ $2.15 - 8 for the legs, one for a support, and 3 per shelf
  • 5 lb of 2 1/2" gold screws @$10 (enough for two or three projects).

I had some 3" gold screws and 1 1/4" screws on hand, but I would recommend 1 pound of each.  I always buy extra screws so I have some for the next project.

In a few hours I built an 8' X 8' X 2' shelve that I attached to the studs in the garage.  All I needed was:

  • Drill
  • Stud finder
  • 4 foot level
  • 6 foot ladder
  • Miter saw
  • Skill saw

Building the legs:
  1. To make a leg, use the 2 1/2" screws, screw two of the 2x4s together so they make a right angle.  I screwed about every 18 inches.  Repeat for the other 3 legs.
  2. Find two studs located 8 feet apart in the garage wall.  
  3. Stand a leg up against the stud. The L of the leg opens inward to the direction of the shelf because the shelves will screw into the L.
  4. Vertically level the leg.
  5. Screw into one of the studs with a 3 or 4 inch screw.  You might need to drill a pilot hole.   I used a screw every 2 feet. My goal was to hold the leg during assembly and prevent possibly tipping if someone hangs on it; less to support the shelf like the metal shelves require.
  6. Screw the other leg into the other stud, make sure to vertically level again.
  7. Find a stud in the middle of the two legs.  
  8. Stand a 2x4 up against the middle stud.
  9. Vertically level the stud. 
  10. Screw it into the stud with the 3 or 4 inch screws.
  11. For the next part, I cut two 2 foot pieces of 2x4.  
  12. I then attached one end of the 2 foot piece to the leg that was attached to the wall at height of 44 inches and extended toward the front of the shelving unit.   I screwed in the piece with one 2 1/2 inch screws almost all the way. This board is just temporary. Repeat for the other leg.
  13. I then stood one of the other legs up and vertically leveled it.  Then attached the 2 foot 2x4 extending out of the rear leg into the front leg with the 2 1/2 screws.  I repeated for the second leg.
Build and attach the shelves  
  1. Cut 3X 8 foot 2x4s into 9X 21 inch lengths.
  2. Attach the 21 inch pieces using 2 1/2 inch screws between 2X 8 foot 2x4s, so the width across is 24 inches total.  3 per shelve,  one on each end and one in the middle.  I used 2 screws per attachment, one on top and one on bottom about 3/4 inch from the edge for 12 total.
  3. Using a skill saw, cut the 2X 4x8 sheets of composite board in half, so that there are 4X 2x8 sheets.  This doesn't have to pretty, the rough cut part will just go on the back against the wall where it will not be seen.
Attach the shelves
  1. Pick one of the frames and place it on the two temporary boards in between the legs.
  2. Before screwing this shelf in place, ensure that it is level for the length of the shelf.  It should be level from front to back because the temporary boards are level, but if adjusting for the length of the shelves these might have to be releveled as well.  I have shims on hand to wedge between the shelf and temporary board to hold it level while I screw.
  3. Screw in the first shelve with 2 1/2 inch screws.  I put two screws in each corner into the sides of the legs and one screw into the front of the legs.  I then put two into the vertical 2x4 that is in the middle back of the shelf for added support. 
  4. Take one of the 2x8 foot sheets and put it in position on top of the shelf.
  5. Screw it down to the 2x4x using 1 1/4 inch screws every 24 inches or so.  I like to put the smooth side up.
  6. Remove the temporary boards and reattach on the next level.  Because you are building the shelves you can decide the how tall each shelf is.  I would advise you to consider what is going on each shelf and measure it first, then set the shelf height to your needs.  Remember a 2x4 will shorten the opening in the front by 3 1/2 inches.  If going 24 inches for each shelf screw the temporary pieces 20 1/2 inches above the first shelf.  20 1/2 inches is then the opening width. These shelves are so sturdy, I was able to stand on one to do this step.  I weigh 185 lbs, try that with those metal ones.
  7. Now repeat these steps for the rest of the shelves.
I now have an insanely sturdy shelf that holds roughly 150 cubic feet of stuff.  I have roughly 18 inches above the top shelve to the ceiling.  Those metal shelves hold roughly 36 cubic feet of storage supposedly at about 80-100 lbs per shelf.  They also cost about $30 to $50.

Because you are building this shelf for yourself, you can make the shelves as tall as you want and add as many as you want.  I needed about 40 inches of clearance for my table saw which is why the first shelf started at 44 inches.  Remember though, the 2x4 and 3/8 inch composite board takes up 4 inches when doing the measurements.  So, in my example, I have a clearance of 44 inches, but the first shelf starts at about 48 inches.  Nothing is going to be super exact in a garage because your floor most likely slopes a bit.  Therefore leave another inch clearance for leveling.  I imagine using 2x3s for the shelves would provide solid strength, leave a bit more room and lower the cost by a few dollars.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

13 Skills for 2013

The reason my wife and I started our homestead in the country is because we want to walk the talk.  We believe that as a nation we are far too dependent on our systems of support.  We have become very specialized as a civilization and value entertainment more than anything else.  This throughout history has lead to a downfall of civilization.  For instance, we expect food to be in the grocery store and don't care how it got there.  It must taste good and look pretty.  We don't care how nutritious it is, just that the label says it is.  We don't question that even though we see our health declining as a nation.  Now as a nation we are slowly realizing the way food is produced puts toxins in our bodies and the ground.  The toxins lead to cancer.  The malnutrition leads to obesity and medical problems.  The raising of the food is inhumane to animals.  Most of all the modern farming practices in this country are unsustainable.  Unfortunately, we are addicted to the cheap food and cannot give up our comforts like cable TV to improve the quality of food we buy.  We can apply the above problems with the food system to all support systems like: energy, transportation, medical, financial, etc...

Our goal is to take back a little of the self reliance that our grandparents had.  My wife and I want to learn what it takes to supply some of our own systems of support.  This the reason my wife and I moved to the country and why I joined a site called 13 Skills.  The idea of the site is to log 13 goals for learning new skills for the upcoming year.  These are not supposed to be easy goals that require very little time.  These are not skills that have zero life meaning, like mastering a level in a game.  Instead, these goals need to venture a person into bettering oneself's life.  These skills require a new area of knowledge or fine tuning existing knowledge which takes education and practice time.  Our family always has goals to accomplish around the homestead which require learning new skills, but I rarely write them down.  I listed my goals on the site, but figured I'd explain them out on this blog.  This gives me some areas to blog on in 2013.  Instead of 13 goals we have 15.  Because some will be shared with my family, I figure 15 is perfect for 2013; it ruins the 13 in 13 thing I know.

About our goals:

Alternative Energy
This is my stretch project and requires a big budget.  It is really based on if we get a bonus at work and Obama doesn't kill me on taxes this year.  During the rainy season there is a stream that drops 50-60 feet on the property.  This is  on a 45 degree slope.  The rainy season in the Pacific Northwest is 8 months out of the year and is the coldest part of the year.  Since we heat the home mainly with an electric heat pump, this is also our highest electricity usage. 

My thought is to take a 55 gallon drum and set it up at the source.  The source is an 18" drain pipe that runs under a road on our property.  The drain pipe is feed by a seasonal creek.  From the drain pipe, I will run a 4" pipe down the drop to a micro-turbine.  The problem part is going to be running the wire back up the hill to the house.  Because of the slope and forested hill, I do not see how it could be buried.  Inside the garage I will build a battery bank and grid tie the system as well.  Grid tie is important because the power company will buy power back for twice what I am paying for it.  This turns my system into a pretty good investment, which I calculate will pay itself off in 6 to 8 years.

For skills I will need to learn about turbines, flow, batteries, and how the electrical components work.  In researching this area I found that the charge controller costs, wiring costs, transfer switch, meter and fees for grid tie and the turbine itself it ran a bit more than I was thinking.  Therefore, this goal didn't get started in 2012.

Instead for 2012, I bought some LED lights, cut down the dryer use and bought a Hybrid Water Heater on a great deal from Sears ($600 off for a total of $599).  If the bonus doesn't come through next year, I might still run all the piping and setup a small battery bank, but then look for ways to make the home more energy efficient.

Beekeeping
Because we are doing a lot of gardening, we were interested in providing our own pollinators.  More than pollination, fresh raw honey sounded like a deal.  Last spring we attended a Bee Keeping class by Jacqueline Freeman, she is local to our area.  She taught us quite a bit and sparked our interest in bee keeping. 

A few days after our second class, my wife was visiting her father's grave site and she came upon a swarm.  She walked right up to the swarm unafraid because we had taken the classes and were allowed to get close to Jacqueline's hives.  Unfortunately, we had no gear to collect the swarm and no hive built at home to put them in.  A week after the first swarm, my wife ran into a second swarm while on a walk with her son.  A few days later we got a call from Jacqueline asking if we would want a swarm she was collecting. I don't know if there is a clearer sign that we should begin keeping bees? Therefore, for 2013 I need to build a hive and get some gear so we are ready to begin our beekeeping adventure.  We will also take another class from Jacqueline to expand our knowledge.

Dairy
My wife and I have wanted to make cheese now for a few years now, but have no idea how.  My wife almost went to a cheese class last year but we couldn't make the dates and cost line up with the kids at home.  Next year we will take a local class and make our first bar of cheese.

Canning
This year we learned to water bath can, well my wife did.  We canned over 100 lbs of tomatoes,20 lbs of green beans and 20 lbs of Squash.  We also bought a nice pressure-canner, but it doesn't work on our glass-top stove.  My dad has recently retired and moved near us.  He has an electric stove with metal elements; therefore, we can try out the pressure-canner.  My wife makes a good chili  therefore, that is a great place to start learning how to pressure can.

Carpentry
I don't know when I am not learning something to do with carpentry.  Just last month I built shelving in the garage.  Unfortunately, most of carpentry is rough stuff where being precise is not that important.  I mostly work on things like fencing, chicken runs, shelving, dog houses, etc... I would like to start making some things that are nicer for indoor use, where things need to be routered, plained and sanded.

I will start with a simple towel rack, then a book shelf.  I keep looking for these things but they just don't fit or cost $100s.   Why pay that for something that can be built for $30? 

Finally, in 2013 I want to graduate to an under the bed storage system and a kitchen table.  I found a great site by Ana White for these designs.  We disparately need a new kitchen table, our table sits 4 is just too small for a family of 5.

Conceal Weapons Permit
With all the crazy stuff going on in the world I need to up my firearms training and start carrying my weapon.  The Clackamas shooting hit too close to home.  My wife was there the weekend before the incident with my stepson.  I have a WA and OR license but would like to get the Arizona license to cover a few more states. I also want to get my wife a WA and OR license along with some basic pistol training.

Cooking
I don't have a lot of cooking goals for this year other than to cook more.  My wife is really cook in the household.  I just want her to stop making fun of me when I cut stuff with a knife.  Therefore, I want to learn how to chop, mince and cut with a knife.  I was going to try some videos on ITunes U with some practicing to accomplish this.

Computer Skills
I'm a database administrator and developer by trade. My programming skills are pretty basic and outdated.  For programming languages, I normally program in VB.Net more than anything else.  Last year I was moved to the architecture team.  The new software my company is developing is in C# with a ORM tool on top.  To be more helpful on the project I need to learn C# and work with an ORM to meet basic utility needs of the team.  We have a training budget so I need to see if I can take a class on C#.

Curing and Smoking Meats
I like making Brisket and ribs, but I never smoke them.  I have only used our smoker for jerky.  I think it would be tasty to try smoking some ribs and brisket.  

Fruit Orchard
We already have a fruit orchard started on the property.  The last two years we have planted cherries, apples, pears, blueberries, kiwis, black walnuts and gooseberries.  I would like to add figs and pomegranates in 2013.  The main thing I need to learn is learn how to prune them.  We are coming up on year 2 and 3 with the trees and bushes so it is important to shape them now.  So, far I have just been trying to get a leader growing.

Foraging
Foraging is just a small goal for me.  We have some stinging nettles, wild carrots and currants on the property.  We would like properly identify 5 edible plants, gather them up and cook with them.  I just want to get used to getting a few things off the land.  This year I bought a book on plants in the pacific northwest.  I figure my wife, stepson and I could walk around the property and learn somethings.

Gardening
This year was a pretty good year for gardening.  I would like to expand a couple of beds in 2013 to allow for more area to plant some additional crops.  I would also like to figure out how to grow broccoli and cabbage without having the bugs chew it apart. 

Parenting
We have three kids in our household.  At times it can get quite hectic and as parents we sometimes resort to yelling.  I've been listening to a lot of Stephan Molyneux and I am trying to improve on non-violent communication, NVC.  Therefore, instead of yelling "because I said so," I want to explain and ask questions of the children and guide them on the right path.  We have worked hard on our 2 year old daughter showing love and treating her as a person.  She is very bright and very affectionate.  I have only come into my stepsons' lives in the last 4 years and there is a lot of damage to work through.

I want my children to stop trying to lie or make excuses and form valid arguments.  I bought a book on fallacies and want to learn with my wife and oldest stepson how to recognize them and form real arguments.  The more I work on this in my personal life the more upset I get with the mainstream news.  Everything is argued on emotion, half truths, or purposely manipulated.

With my nieces and step children we have seen all sorts of bad parenting.  This ranges from the parent being non-involved, colliding, and even violence.  We want our kids to be intelligent and free thinkers that will make good decisions in life.  We also want them to experience what the real world is like and not to present them with a fake reality, so when they leave the house they are prepared to succeed.

We have decided to homeschool my 2 year old daughter.  She is already learning to count and the alphabet.  She also likes to pretend to read.  I think by the end of 2013 she should be reading some basic level 1 books on her own.

Permaculture Design
On our homestead we receive about 45 inches of rain a year.  Most of the rain is during an 8 month period from October to May.  I would like to capture the runoff from the house into a pond and stock that pond with some small fish to keep down the mosquitos.

Also, with 45 inches of rain, there are some spots around the house that are low and get very moist.  I would like to use trenches to move the water away from the house into a swale system or the pond.

This requires me to learn how to build a pond.  I would like to finish a small pond in 2013.  I will probably dig and tamp this by hand with the kids, maybe 10 x 10 x 3 foot deep.  Obviously, I will not want it to be perfectly round or square.

Small Engine Repair
This is a personal stretch goal.  Since we purchased our homestead, we have purchased a generator, lawn mower, ATV and chipper shredder.  These engines require regular maintenance and it would be nice to know how to do that.  Along with the maintenance it would be a good idea to know how to fix them if something breaks.  My grandpa used to fix neighbors lawnmowers all the time; therefore, there is some sentimental tie to knowing this skill.

To learn the skill my only goal is to do the regular maintenance tasks such as changing the plugs, sharpening the blades and changing the oil.  The stretch goal would be taking a class on engine repair.  


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Trying to Grow Tomatoes through Winter

As I read more on Permaculture and play with its ideas, I explain them to my wife.  Last year she used one against me in the garden. My garden is no where close to a Permaculture food forest.  I am playing with some ideas of Permaculture such as hugelkultur, mulch, and companion planting, but have not created a sustainable eco-system.  A major principal of Permaculture is allowing nature to do what it does naturally, with the role of the human as providing guidance.  This means some plants will succeed and some will fail.  My job is to take notes and plant things where they do best while bringing in other plants and animals to increase productivity.

Last year a solider tomato started in one of my winter beds.  The tomato did not produce for winter, it is too cold here survive.  I was going to cut it and use it for mulch when the wife came out and said not to.  She likes tomatoes and used turned my teachings, "that nature wanted it to grow where it had started, so let it grow" against me.

Fast forward one year and I have this situation happening again. This got me thinking about how to ensure the tomato survives.  If I can make it survive it will have a head start in spring.  This could mean that early summer tomatoes.  This year I have cold frames I built for the garden bed, scraping the plastic draped over the beds.  My thought is to cut the tomato vine back so it stays within the cold frame, same with my peas.  When spring comes I will remove the cold frame and hopefully the plant will take off.

For the record, I am in the Pacific Northwest and our winters get down to about 20 degrees F on the coldest days.  The cold frame will keep the frost off the plants, but  I'm not sure it will add enough warmth for the plant to survive.  One thing is for sure, this is an interesting experiment.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Make Popcorn on the Stove Instead of in Microwave

We like to eat popcorn, especially our toddler.  For popcorn, we used to buy microwave popcorn when there were good deals.  Then one day we were at Costco and ended up buying a big 8 lb container or 128 ounces of kernels for less than $8.  Compare this to buying about 3 boxes for about 50 ounces of microwavable popcorn for about the same amount.  This is about 3 times as much.  Even better deals can be found on Amazon, such as a 12 lb bag for about $15.

Of course, microwavable popcorn comes with flavors.  To be exact, Whole Grain Popcorn, Partially hydrogenated, Soybean oil, Butter, cream, milk, Natural & Artifical flavor, Color added, Perserved with Propyl Gallate according Pop Secret Snack Size Homestyle, Microwavable Popcorn on Amazon.  We add butter and a little bit of salt to our kernels.

Making popcorn on the stove is actually very simple.  Just put a bit of oil, we use coconut oil, in the bottom of a large pot.  Then put in an 1/8 cup of popcorn kernels.  Put the lid on. Turn the stove a little higher than medium and slide the pot back and forth a bit for a few seconds at the beginning and while it is popping.  About 5 minutes later we have nice fluffy popcorn that tastes amazing.  For more taste all that is left is melting a tablespoon of butter and a few pinches of salt.


Monday, July 30, 2012

The Second Year Berry Area

I was looking through some old pictures on my phone yesterday and came across a couple taken from last year when I was building out what I call the "berry area".  About this time last year I had everything in the ground for about a month and was working on building some more raised beds.


I intermixed 5 different types of Blueberries: Misty, Bluecrop, Bluegold, Jersey, and Toro.  Being that this is year two of Blueberry season, I still don't have full mature bushes. Although, I did get a few berries this year and ended up with about a quart of blueberries.  Lately, I am noticing a lot of new growth happening which is a good sign for next year.

I originally planted 10 strawberry plants consisting of 4 types of strawberries.  I allowed them to send their runners out last year and again this year.  The results were amazing.  About 1/4 of the area has become strawberry plants.  I don't know exactly how many strawberries I have gotten this year but I would say well over two gallons and they are still producing a few a day.

Clover is my green manure, living mulch.  It has provides lots of bees for pollination and being next to the garden this is a great thing. Based on this years results, I believe the strawberries will beat it out in the long run because strawberry plants are growing in the middle of the clover sections.  With the heat of summer the clover is also dying back.

Unfortunately, my wintergreen is not doing much.  It looks like it will be pushed out by the strawberries and clover.  It is green but just not spreading out.  I will have to see how it does in the fall, that is when it produces its berries, which I might try to seed on my own or transplant the plants to a different area.

The black tarp around the bed is weed control.  I plan to bring in some rock to finish off the area's pathways, but this is for another post.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Starting Seeds In Eggshells

This is my post from LowerTheBills.org, but it also applies to my Homestead Blog.

Spring is here and it is time to start those early seedlings to give them a head start.  I have used recycled containers, such as Yoghurt containers, in the past; but I recently found a better idea on Mother Earth News.  The idea is to reuse eggshells to start seedlings.  This makes perfect sense since I am always adding eggshells to my garden to increase calcium in the soil.  When the seedling is done, the goal is to crunch the eggshell in hand before planting.  This way the roots can escape. Finally, the whole broken shell is planted in the soil.

To get an eggshell that is worth using, my whole style of cracking an egg had to change.  Instead of cracking the egg on a bowl, I used a steak knife to saw the top off.  To start I sawed about a 1/3 of the way through the shell.  Then with my finger nail I pulled back the top like opening a pop can.  Once the top was off, the egg was dumped out into a bowl. The top was then discarded to the compost pile.


Planting pots need a way to drain so the seeds are not flooded with water.  To accomplish this with the eggshell, I grabbed a 3" screw and pushed it down into the egg.  Then I turned it until it poked through the bottom.  The screw must go through the opening at the top off the egg or else the curvature on the outside makes poking through without shattering the eggshell very hard.

Next, the eggshells were set back in the tray.  Having a plastic egg tray works best because it will not fall apart if it gets wet.  On my plastic cartons, there is about a 1/4 inch of space between the bottom of the egg and the bottom of each egg holder.  This allows excess water to sit in the bottom and drain out of the egg.  Of course, this space will still fill if over watered.  I normally just water my seedlings with a spray bottle so as to not flood them.


Once I had a full tray full of empty shells, I brought in a compost and peat moss mix.  Filling the eggshell with a spade is difficult; therefore, I used my hands to fill the egg shell with the mix.  I left about a 1/4 inch at the top of the shell.  Next, I placed the seed on top of the mix and added a few more pinches of soil to cover it.



The great thing is all the seeds are packed tight in the egg carton.  I also filled some reused Yoghurt cartons with soil for other plants.  They aren't as tightly packed in my Sterlitte bin.  In case you are wondering, I put a growlight over the top of my bin so that my seeds have proper lighting to get started.

In a few weeks I will try planting my eggshells in the garden which should be fairly easy.  By then my next set of seeds should be ready to start.