Archive | March, 2008

Use it Up

March 30, 2008

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With spring just around the corner here in New York State (we STILL have SNOW around here, folks! grrr), our thoughts are turning toward the great outdoors again. I’d heard about the Lights Out campaign through the Internet grapevine, but I didn’t turn my lights out. I forgot. I would love to see our community do something like that, though, so we could all go gaze at the stars without the light pollution.

As the snow melts, I am seeing a TON of litter– especially those nasty plastic Perrier bottles– strewn all over the neighborhood. Holy cow, don’t people through their trash away?! You’d think if they spend their money on “natural” water products they’d help reduce litter and waste by dumping the bottles in a recycle bun or something. Anyway, so the kids’ chores– once the snow is finally all gone– is to collect the litter and bottles, and rake the yard (it helps to aerate the grass).

I am getting more “green” as I get older. I have been looking for ways to reduce waste, spend money and energy wisely, and recycle as much as I can. Recycling and thrift are modern “trends,” but the Yankees of old are the ones who really invented it. There’s an old Yankee proverb that goes, “Use it up, Wear it out, Make do, Or do without.” Love it! It’s not easy coming up with creative ideas to use junk or used stuff, but once the ball gets rolling, it becomes a bit of a game. How can I use this piece of junk in a useful way, rather than just toss it in the trash?

Of course, there are some things that we can’t use and must dispose of. Did you know that a lot of our plastics can be reused? I had no idea. I thought they melted the plastic bottles and made more bottles. They do, but first the plastic waste (the most common is called High Density Polyethelene) is chopped up into tiny bits HDPE Granules):

HDPE is one of the more commonly found plastics, you’re probably familiar with it even if you haven’t heard of it before, because HDPE is the plastic that Tupperware is made out of. You will also find HDPE in plastic bags, water pipes, folding chairs, and plastic refillable bottles. HDPE resists chemicals well, and is a very effective barrier against moisture, which means that it can be used for the packaging of household chemicals, as well as foodstuffs.

…An extraordinarily versatile product, it is easy to see why HDPE is in such high demand. It originated as a modification of Polyethylene, which was a plastic invented in 1898 by a German chemist named Hans von Pechmann. Like many scientific inventions and discoveries, polyethylene came about by accident whilst the scientist was heating diazomethane, a toxic explosive. It was then rediscovered in an industrial accident at ICI works in Northwich, England in 1933 when high pressure was applied to benzaldehyde and ethylene tainted with oxygen. Between 1951 and 1953, a range of processes for reliably creating large amounts of polyethylene were created by Robert Banks, Paul J. Hogan of Phillips Petroleum, and Karl Ziegler, another German chemist. Polyethylene has grown hugely in popularity since its invention, and it is now estimated that over 60,000 tonnes of it are produced annually.

HDPE is simply a denser form of polyethylene that is suited to many commercial uses because it remains a solid at room temperature, and is stronger than standard polyethylene. In order to make one kilogram of HDPE, about 1.75 kgs of oil is needed, however due to its high recyclability, HDPE can be used again and again. Because of its strength, products made of HDPE can be reused many times, and are popular with manufacturers and consumers alike.

I am pleased to see more of a trend toward making do, using what we have at hand, and recycling materials. The landfills are getting pretty full, wouldn’t you say?

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Making Water Problems Good

March 29, 2008

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For several years now, my husband and I have discussed various ways to use all our storm runoff/high water table problems here for something positive. The local and state government is starting to clamp down on the water runoff into streams and creeks. Most of our runoff goes right down into Sauquoit Creek, which flows into the Mohawk River and down to the Susquehanna, etc. I am expecting the DEC to clamp down even more, with burdensome regulations.

I would LOVE to prevent all this moving water from going into our streams. But I have no where to put the water! This is a dilemma for many of us in these valley towns and hamlets. Everything around us is developed, and this development is becoming more so. Unfortunately this exacerbates the stormwater problem!

Some of the better home and garden magazines are chatting about controlling water runoff and drought. “Going natural.” I’ve ALWAYS been in favor of native gardening, because I hate pruning, fertilizing, and babysitting non-native plants that only poop out after one of our winters, anyway. I love native perennials, and it’s all I plant around here.

Well, there’s a website address I found, if you are interested in the same thing. It looks great! It’s run by Kansas City (they experience flooding from runoff to, and a lot of it is due to extreme development). It’s something the landowners can do that is positive.

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Quick Tip: Camera Batteries

March 28, 2008


I bought fancy NiMH batteries for my battery-eating digital camera. I expected these expensive batteries to last longer than the cheaper alkaline batteries I’ve bought in the past.

I was floored and mighty disgruntled when my camera displayed the “low battery” light! I had only used these NiMH batteries a few days! I was floored, I tell you! These NiMH didn’t even last as long as the cheapo WalMart batteries! Grrr!

Then a light bulb went off, you could say. You know where you insert the batteries? In that small compartment? Inside the compartment door are two small metal tabs. These tabs make contact with the batteries when they are inside the compartment and the little door is closed. I wondered if perhaps the tabs (which are easily bendable) had been pushed back the slightest bit, and therefore not making full contact with the batteries inside? Very carefully with my long fingernail, I gave the metal tabs a wee nudge forward. If I prodded the tabs too strongly, I risked bending those tabs or perhaps breaking them off, and then I would be out of a camera all together.

I inserted the NiMH batteries, and voila! We’re back in business! Try it at home! And it works!

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No No No No No!

March 28, 2008


I CANNOT believe that people in Georgia and Texas have outright, blooming flowers and trees right now! CANNOT believe it! Less than a week until April, and this is what we have:

Nothing but brown scraggly trees and brown mud. Lots of mud.

Worse, I looked at the weather station, and…

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Home Inequity

March 27, 2008

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Thinking about a home equity loan? I have been. So I have been very keen on the market trends. Here’s something interesting from the New York Times. at Equity Loans as Next Round in Credit Crisis

Americans owe a staggering $1.1 trillion on home equity loans — and banks are increasingly worried they may not get some of that money back.

To get it, many lenders are taking the extraordinary step of preventing some people from selling their homes or refinancing their mortgages unless they pay off all or part of their home equity loans first. In the past, when home prices were not falling, lenders did not resort to these measures.

Such tactics are impeding efforts by policy makers to help struggling homeowners get easier terms on their mortgages and stem the rising tide of foreclosures. But at a time when each day seems to bring more bad news for the financial industry, lenders defend the hard-nosed maneuvers as a way to keep their own losses from deepening.

It is a remarkable turnabout for the many Americans who have come to regard a home as an A.T.M. with three bedrooms and 1.5 baths. When times were good, they borrowed against their homes to pay for all sorts of things, from new cars to college educations to a home theater.

Now is that stupid or is that stupid?! Don’t these folks know the horrible risks of borrowing from your equity to pay for a home theater?! And I’ve seen those banks’ and credit companies’ ads, enticing you to buy a new barbeque or a new car with a home equity loan. Shameful!

Lenders also encouraged many aspiring homeowners to take out not one but two mortgages simultaneously — ordinary ones plus “piggyback” loans — to avoid putting any cash down.

The result is a nation that only half-owns its homes. While homeownership climbed to record heights in recent years, home equity — the value of the properties minus the mortgages against them — has fallen below 50 percent for the first time, according to the Federal Reserve.

Lenders holding first mortgages get first dibs on borrowers’ cash or on the homes should people fall behind on their payments. Banks that made home equity loans are second in line. This arrangement sometimes pits one lender against another.

The equity on your home goes up and down as the market value of your home goes up and down. It shouldn’t vary too much, and in the past it almost always has increased. So this news story is one sign of extremely shaky times. Our government– and the public– had better wise up fast. The days of profligate spending and excessive materialism is going down the drain. I’m glad to see it. Unfortunately, the swirling sewer water tends to take everybody along with it.

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The Grow Challenge

March 26, 2008

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I found an online gardening group (doesn’t that sound weird?!) that I’m going to join. Since I have a lot of gardening friends who visit, here’s a heads up:

The Grow Challenge is to grow at least one plant from seed this year that you did not plant from seed last year. And once a week, you post about gardening on your blog. (if you don’t have a blog, you can email your progress to the website). It sounds like a wonderful idea! I have no idea what I am going to start… I want to start a few things in posts, indoors, as I have always been pretty lazy when it comes to planting seeds in pots. I have always sown things in the garden bed directly. Although, I did grow basil in a bucket last year– yum!

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Coping With a Wet Basement

March 25, 2008


There are so many different reasons why a basement might be wet. I’m not going to even pretend I know about them all or can answer them all. The Internet is the best source I’ve found for finding solutions to specific problems. It has helped me immensely.

We have what could be classified as a “wet basement.” There’s a sump well in our basement, with two sump pumps in it, and these pumps run regularly day and night. If they didn’t we would be inundated with water in our basement. We suffered several years of severe flooding, with the worst experience in 2003. Several times that year (summer and winter), we had three feet of water in our basement. We believe the water comes from underground– the water table. The water table problem (which is high in this area) was made worse when our neighbors installed a pipe system under their new parking lot. One end of their pipe was by a pond and the other end faces our property. Essentially, when the pond gets high, the water goes through the underground pipe and fills up our land, underground. Our property is now developing a pond at our side of the property near the neighbor’s pipe. From what I know now, our neighbor’s did this illegally, but we’ve been informed that “there’s nothing we can do now” because water movement problems are hard to prove. Hm.

Anyway, we’ve had to come up with various, creative ideas to divert water and get it away from our house. The sump pumps, up until last summer (2007), had only barely kept up with the water. During heavy rains, we experienced major flooding.

Now, our house is 150 years old. So, the foundation is 150 years old. The basement walls are the old cut stone and limestone mortar. Amazingly, I have never seen water leak through the walls until last autumn. I think the water table is rising and the underground water is shifting. I’ve had to be very attentive to ponds, pools, and stream flow on my property. I am dealing with the water problems on a case-by-case basis right now.

The house also has no gutters. The eaves are shaped in such a way that they cannot hold them. and the 150-year-old wood is so soft that the wood cannot hold screws or nails anyway. So a lot of water comes off the roof. We are in the process of building dry wells in the problematic areas. Just one drywell has alleviated some of the moisture problem we were having. See here for a post on our drywell construction.

Because terrain, precipitation, water tables, foundation structures, and water movement differs from place to place, your own water problem is especial.

For us, I have more plans. I intend on building low berms around the perimeter of the property, to prevent runoff water from the street from coming into our yard. More drywells in the corners of the home will help. Eventually, we hope to dig down to the foundation footer (or thereabouts) and install perforated piping and gravel. I also am going to plant some water-thriving plants in our new “pond” in the yard; perhaps I will make it into a dry creekbed kind of thing, with river rocks to aid drainage. All this is in the works.

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Ugly Mailboxes

March 22, 2008

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I a post several weeks ago about curb appeal. For some reason, I never mentioned the mailbox as a component of that which contributes (or detracts) from pleasing curb appeal.

Many of the featured mailboxes are from Upstate NY. I like a creative mailbox as much as any other gal, but some of these are truly downright ugg-a-lee! I think I have seen one or two of these around the area…

lol. Go check the website for more! Photos are from

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On a Pedestal

March 21, 2008


I wandered through my local improvement store last week. Well, honestly, I wandered through three of them! (Yes, we have loads of home improvement stores around here– five at last count and that doesn’t include the hardware and specialty tool stores). I was looking through the dishwashers and washing machines. My eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw that pedestals for those new-fangled front-loader washers and dryers are $180. ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY BUCKS for a plastic box with a drawer! And that was just for one box! You needed TWO if you were to have one for your washer and one for your dryer. So that would be $360 for the two pedestals– you could get a top-loader washing machine for that price!

So the cost-saving way is to make your own wooden pedestal. As with anything, do your research– use 2x10s and 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch plywood for the boxes, as a washing machine filled with water is very heavy. I also plan to install brackets that hold the machines on the pedestal (my house is so crooked that our appliances just bounce away when they run). Of course, this means that I must buy a front-loading washer and dryer… all in good time, heh heh.

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Blind-ed By the Light

March 20, 2008

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As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I’m mulling over my windows and window covering choices. We still have the 100-year-old windows, and I’m hoping these can all be replaced this year. I also need to replace the window treatment style for the living room. Since we restored the room and gave it a different style, the old country-look colors look awful.

Yeah, pretty bad, huh? Remember, we haven’t installed the window trim yet! But the style is completely off.

I do like curtains with my blinds. I have always sewn my own curtains, and probably will do so again with the living room curtains. But blinds are another matter. For years, I’ve bought those cheap little Chinese-made vinyl blinds. Yeah, the ones that fall apart every couple of months. (I just found out that they contain lead, so I’m not getting them any longer). We are considering our options for blinds. My husband loves wood blinds, but I have always balked at their prices. But I promised him I’d look around for pricing.

I came across a blog the other day while looking at websites, and was so impressed by what I saw that you might want to check into it if you’re looking for window blinds. It’s a! The information is outstanding. I’ve seen a lot of home improvement and housewares sites, but I’ve never seen a blog where you can actually interact with the company. The company is out of Colorado. They are very up-front with their business– there’s a telephone number on the home page, always a good sign– and they have a listing of products made in America. 🙂 That makes this patriot very happy. This is a good website to bookmark.

So I did some “window” shopping, lol! Tell me, what do you think of these blinds? Wouldn’t this go perfectly with my new laminate flooring?

Or this style? I just love sage green.

Verrrrry classy.

The Hunter Douglas stuff is gorgeous. I’m very, very impressed. lol!

The cellular shades are very nice, too. A fellow blogger friend of mine just filled her new house with them and says they are marvelous. But I think I prefer the faux wood blinds.

Anyway, now that I am making all these plans I am very excited about starting again on the house in the spring! My goals: deal with the windows and finish the final touches to the living room. And finish wiring the house. Planning helps to make the completion seem more realistic.

exp. 4/18

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