The Green Johanna Chronicles

The story of hot compost and a rain barrel

Composter Completes a Cycle: Amazing Results

Well, it took longer than I thought, but Green Johanna yielded its first major harvest in April, 2010.

I could have used it sooner, but decided that it was doing just fine sitting around in the composter.  My guesstimate for how much I got: 4 cubic yards.  It was enormous. 

I augmented the soil of 1 large raised bed, all of my 7 artichoke plants, a small raised bed and a good portion of an ornamental section of my yard.  My camera has been on the fritz, or I’d have pictures.

Johanna produces its compost slowly, but the yield is impressive!


May 9, 2010 Posted by | Composter Review, composting, Composting 101, gardening | , , , , | Leave a comment

Funny planter: Old Shoes!

I was out walking in my neighborhood (Noe Valley, San Francisco) and I saw a gorgeous house with a beautiful stairway leading to the front door. I saw that the owner had used the steps to leave their shoes laying around…or so I thought!

Upon closer inspection, I realized they were old shoes: cowboy boots, running shoes, loafers etc. that had been turned into planters! How funny and how green.

Here’s how

May 9, 2010 Posted by | conservation, gardening | Leave a comment

New Gardening Method? Straw Bale Gardening

We are getting ready to tear down (or perhaps just move) our raised beds in order to build a retaining wall garden and some decking. In the mean time, I am wondering what to do for a summer garden this year. Straw bale gardening might be the thing.

Here is the basic idea: get a bale of straw.  wet the straw.  treat the straw with fertilizer.  do this for about 10 days and the bale is now ready to house your plants.

If you have poor soils, small spaces or just want to add variety to your garden, I think this might be a good option.

April 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My First Green Johanna Compost Harvest

I harvested finished compost from the Johanna, nearly 11 months after I first got it.  I could have done this sooner, but have been distracted by family issues.

So, here it is, spread out around my fruit trees.  I like to put this down and then a layer of mulch on top for winter.


It wasn’t much.  Perhaps 1/2 cubic yard.  But it is at least enough to feed the trees. 

Some observations:

1. the compost became very compacted under

Undigested items

Bones, wine corks, bio bags all had a difficult time breaking down in the Green Johanna

the weight of the stuff above it.  It took me nearly an hour to dig it out.  Not so good

2.   there were lots of roots in the compost – so apparently, I didnt’ get it hot enough.

3.  Harvesting from the bottom is difficult.

4. bones did not break down, but I don’t think they would attract vermin in the state they were in (see picture left).

5. bio bags do not break down entirely.

6.  wine corks don’t break down at all. (see picture left)


This harvest has only bolstered my opinion that the Johanna works, but it is not the beginner’s composter.  I still love mine, but I’ve had to invest a lot more time and energy into composting than the marketing materials would have you think.  My bottom line:  the ability to put “no-no”s in the composter still outweighs the drawbacks.


November 9, 2009 Posted by | Composter Review, composting | , , | 1 Comment

Garage Sale Update – ALL DONE!

UPDATE:  7:19 p.m.

All done, not everything sold, but a surprising amount did go on both days.  CD’s were the big seller, and I think I made the mistake of selling them for 50 cents each.  Both computers sold in addition to a fancy dollhouse, vintage motorcycle gear, kids toys and books and clothing. 

In all, we cleared $460 dollars!  I was a lump the rest of the day and finally have the energy to write this down.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone who bought something, donated something or even just sent us good vibes!

So far, it’s a success.  We sold the laptop, lots of toys and shoes, a dvd player, tools, books, some clothes.  Most people were generous and a few made additional donations. 

Thank you to all the people who donated items to sell.  We all really appreciate this generosity. 

The most positive event today:  a sister from the convent attached to St. Brendan’s walked by and asked about our event.  Later, she returned with another sister with clothes to sell and a nice cash donation.

Negative, but ultimately forgettable event of the day:  a woman saw fit to steal an expensive velvet scarf and antique beaded evening purse.  How awful.

We’ll be back at it tomorrow, and we still have lots of things to sell!!

October 24, 2009 Posted by | Miscellaneous | 2 Comments

Amazing accomplishments – Rebuilding in Satalo after the Tsunami

My cousins Loudeen and Tony spent 2 weeks in Samoa, taking time from their jobs and lives in New Zealand and Australia, respectively, to help my family rebuild. Tony’s friend, Steve even came across and the two men took on the daunting task of fixing the main house on our property. There are a few pictures, and I really believe that our home was miraculously spared.  What I’ve written is in blue, Tony’s is in black.

BEFORE:Fales before the tsunami  

This is what is left of the lovely fale in the other picture
From Tony, here is an accounting of what he found:


Verandah completely-just twisted post and reinforcing remaining-Vaetala errected temporary tarps overe the area to prevent rain from going directly into the front of the house and provide temp outside shelter.

No time to replace unfortunately-job for later

Vitalas ghouse at the beck was washed away completely – nothing but some framing anchored to the concrete base.

Outside toilet/ shower gone

Outside walls of inside toilet block gone along with tapware etc

Water pipe torn away and water running uncontrolled at rear of external toilet block.

Matresses/pillows water logged

Inside toilet area/shower walls wiped out and just toilet pan left thankfully so we had a base to work from.

Side wall of house beside toilet shifted outwards and posts rotten / termites.

Aunties bed missing slats

All grave sites scoured out and sand/soil eroded

Uncle Filos gravetop (concrete) missing.

White painted stones/largestones marking graves widely spread at least 50m away

Washing area water supply gone.

This house survived well, except for the front porch, which was new.  Windows and doors are gone.

This house survived well, except for the front porch, which was new. Windows and doors are gone.


Large quantities of glass from broken glass louvres spread throughout the land area -potential for ongoing injuries

Several cleanups organised and ongoing pickups needed.

Large quantities of damaged tin/runsty tin everywhere-potential for ongoing injuries.

Several cleanups for this and more cleanups needed.

Rubbish-Large quantities of rubbish from emergency bottled water and household rubbish/tsunami debris accumulating.

Sewer=No issues. Appeared intact and able to process waste immediately on connecting

Laundry-large quantities piled up due to no washing facilities.

Jagged reinforcing steel present

This is the back of the main house.  There was a bathroom/shower structure where the tent is.

This is the back of the main house. There was a bathroom/shower structure where the tent is.

WHAT WE COULD DO/DID.With the tremendous help of family and village workers who volunteered or were paid by us.

Put up new walls for inside toilet including partition between both.
Installed new plumbing for shower/toilet/toilet sink
Install new shower
Installed new cistern and vent.
Water run to house and toilets etc
Put in sink/bench beside house
Install sink waste
New insect screens sea side of house
New lino in both rooms
Replace posts and straighten/replace wall of house
cut off reinforcing steel
Replace roof over toilet
Install new toilet roll hold-very important
Install plumbing for waste beneath sink/bench
Install handbasin in toilet/connect water=couldnt fit waste due to time constraint
Put new light in toilet
New curtain wire purchased
Patch hole/broken concrete in verandah – 1.5m x 1m
Cut insert new washing area tap in concrete base
Obtain sand fill in graves area
Collect rocks / stones and return to graves/remark graves
Lay out new grave in cement for Uncle Filo
Reline damaged wall with hardboard
Fit new external side door including lock=no time to screw on plywood to door to reinforce door
New Fale Umu set up
New tarped area over former family fale site for kids play area
New soak pits/drains for kitchen waste
New soak pits/drains for washing area
Lights reinstalled and working-except for one mentioned earlier.
Reline outside of wall bathroom

Waste for toilet sink to go outside
Light switch dodgy
Verandah to be rebuilt traditionally
Hotels to be rebuild
Resite Vaetala’s fale inland.
Rebuild toilet/shower/sink outside with water/power
Plumb in water/toilet outside
Shade over outside bench

In discussions with Lood we are thinking of going traditional re fale rebuild with modern consideration regarding materials used,heights etc.Lood will discuss this at a later date when appropriate.

I and Steve have also given money directly to people of the village.We also brought 10lbs of roofing nails and 10lbs of framing nails for others to use to rebuild. People in the village can use the handtools to rebuild. I even gave instruction on the use of some powertools and had them wear safety gear 

It was a rewarding but very flat out experience and my friend steve enjoyed it even more. I got sunburn and badly infected blisters through rushing and not preparing-A LESSON TO YOU ALL.


October 21, 2009 Posted by | climate change | | Leave a comment

Garage Sale Details



Save and



Garage Sale

Who said garage sales can’t be fun?

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m Having a Garage Sale

First, there are so many generous people out there! I got so many clothes and shoes donated (some of which include flannel pajamas and business suits) that I quickly realized that many items would be unsuitable for a hot tropical island. I tossed and turned last night worrying about how I honor the generous donations, but maximize what my family actually needs, plus, the shipping costs are exhorbitant! So, I settled on a Garage sale on the 24th! If you are interested, please stop by 861 2th Street x Douglass in San Francisco. Plenty of free street parking. Rock bottom prices!!

October 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Small Satalo Update

Heard thru the grapevine the following:

My cousin Loudeen has amassed a team of about 23 people to do the following work:

1.  Cousin Tony and friend have brought tools with them from Australia and have quickly repaired/rebuilt the bathrooms that were attached to our house.

2.  Other friends of hers with a counseling background have converged and are working with Samoans to work through the trauma so that they can return to some semblance of normalcy

3.  They are based out of Nofoali’i Village (on the other side of Upolu) and traveling nearly 2 hours each day to get to the village.

4.  Another cousin, Sasae, based on the island, has also been in the village daily to assist in clean up, rebuilding etc.


Stateside, my cousin Tom and his wife Tu in Washington D.C. have raised some funds to send to Loudeen, and I’ve been blessed with donations from my extended American family to send.  We’re blown away at the generosity and selflessness of these donations.  Thank you!

October 12, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Video Before and After

Here is some silly video from our July vacation, driving on the coastal road:

And this is from the Samoa Red Cross – a slightly different point on the road, but very similar terrain.  At the beginning and again at the end, you can see how normally green and vibrant the countryside usually is.

October 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment