Archive | August, 2008

Working On the Yard

August 31, 2008


We’ve had three full days of sunshine and no rain! What a remarkable break. So i did what all the Upstaters did this week– scrambled to get my gardening work done before it rains again!

We have essentially completed the front section of my Secret Garden. We have finished the concrete walkway, and laid large stones on both sides and mortared between the walkway gaps. You can read about that here. It occurred to me that I haven’t really done a good job of helping you to envision the landscape of my property. It’s a rather large piece of land for being in the center of town– 1.25 acres. That’s larger than anyone else up or down the streets, I think. It’s a long and narrow lot, surrounded by businesses and parking lots. But the many Maple trees on my land help it from looking too industrial.

Here’s the front of the house, taken about halfway down my driveway.

House Front 2

A closer look. You can see the very old siding (asbestos tile, installed in the 1960s) and the older windows (from 1907).

House Front

The driveway goes all the way back to a large parking lot. This house used to be a parsonage, and the church owners before us had installed a huge tract of asphalt behind the house. Believe me when I say it gets BLAZING hot back there on sunny days.

To the side (north side) of the property is a narrow (only about 20 feet wide from house to neighboring parking lot) strip of land. I’ve been developing this area for a few years now. I call this area my Secret Garden, see here for why.

I’ll take you across the front yard over to that area. Here are my daughters helping me move stones, to complete our concrete walkway that we started.

To Secret Garden 1

Side Yard

To Secret Garden 2

To Secret Garden 3

Here’s the view from the other side of the arbor.

Side View 4

So eventually I want to fill in this entire section of the property with shrubs and perennials. A narrow, concrete walkway lined with stones from the property will cut through the tunnel of foliage. I can see it in my mind’s eye and it looks beautiful.

The installation of the concrete walkway went very well. We used a Quikrete form to make little footpath stones. I added sand mix to seal the gaps between the stones and it looks like a million bucks.

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Online Home Organizer

August 30, 2008


I am an organizing FREAK. But with all the stuff we have around here, it’s been hard to organize all my organized stuff, you know what I mean? I opened my file cabinet yesterday and was almost buried my the mountain of receipts and product information that spilled out. UGH. I have recently heard of a website called My Things, where you can enter stuff information like serial numbers, stuff from receipts and warranties and term life insurance quotes, product numbers, policy numbers, and more. It’s stored online at the website. I have been wary of things like this- I mean, what if all my information is stolen or lost? What do you think?

Anyway, it’s free to sign up, and there are bonus things at the site, like recall alerts, manuals, and tips. I suppose if you don’t put personal or important financial stuff there, it would be safe. It looks like a great site, and it is free– check it out if you’re interested.

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The Good Search

August 30, 2008

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Here’s a great cause! It’s I read about it in one of my numerous home magazines. It’s a Yahoo-powered search engine, and every time you use it, the site gives a penny to a non-profit organization of your own choosing. Looks really great! And it’s a great way to give the Google gods a run for their money, literally. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of financing the pool floats and massage parlors of the Google guys who have killed my Page Rank…

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A Little Reminder for Frugal Shoppers

August 29, 2008


Just a little reminder for you gardeners out there who are pinching pennies: many home improvement stores have slashed their prices on shrubs, trees, and plants right now. This is one of the best times to grab some discounted stuff. I almost always buy all my plants at this time of the year. Even if the plant is old and very sorry-looking, you can still cultivate it, as long as it’s alive and not diseased. I have nabbed plants for as little as $1, and they are thriving in my gardens.

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The Home Chopping Network

August 29, 2008

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ROFL! Yes, this guy IS for real. It’s Mucho Muy Caliente! It’s Muchos Fantastic!! He sells home products, specifically, toilet bidets. All kinds of bidets: installed bidets, portable bidets (?), bidet parts… arriba! Let’s all be grateful he doesn’t give demonstrations…. lol

This guy is for real because he really does sell home products. And he donates 10% of his profits to orphans. The video is a little thick with the Mexican accent, but the guy is really funny (and I confess that I talk that thickly when I imitate the accent, as well)! I hope he succeeds in what he does, it’s for a good cause. So… if you ever need a toilet bidet, see Mucho and the Home Chopping Network. He’s muy fantastico!

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The Mother of Wind Power Sites

August 29, 2008

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Ever since the kids and I saw the Fenner Windmill Project in Madison County, I’ve been interested in wind power; more specifically, in wind power for small farms or for families. I would LOVE to create my own energy with them. I doubt I’d get much wind power in town on my small property… maybe a little… anything would help at this point. We paid over $3000 in heating bills last winter, and “they” say they are going to jack it up even higher this winter.

Anyway, I discovered a great resource site on everything wind! Thought I’d share with you in case you’re interested. Lots of reading there, so curl up with a nice cup of tea.

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The Cranky Yankee

August 29, 2008

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Hahahah. I am not referring to myself there. I discovered a series of videos called The Old Crankee Workshop, which is of course, a spoof on Norm Abrams’ The Old Yankee Workshop. LOL!!! Here’s Nahm (Norm, in a Yankee accent) to tell you how these projects makes him cranky.

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Extreme Makeover in New York

August 28, 2008

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No it’s not for me! How I wish wish wish that it was! But some other Upstate New York family has been blessed with a brand-new home. I’ve never seen the TV show, “Extreme Makeover,” (no TV), but I would if I could. It sounds great! They build these houses, using local workers, in a week! Wowee!

This time it was a family in Geneva, NY. The Hill family went on vacation for a week, and when they returned, they had a new house! My local news outlet has the story and video here. When I read the Hill’s description of their old house, I empathized entirely:

“It was an old farmhouse, [it] had a barn in the back with a stall for a horse,” says Michelle Hill, referring to her old home, where her family lived for about 10 years.

“The roof was leaking, the basement would flood, and if we didn’t hear the sump pumps turn on, we’d have to go down there with buckets and boots,” she says.

There must be a lot of these leaky old houses around…

Mr. Hill is a great guy, too. He’s dedicated his life to helping kids from dysfunctional and troublesome homes, even adopting one of them. What a guy! I wish him and his family all the best!!!

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Finishing Our Concrete Walkway

August 27, 2008


In an earlier post, I blogged about our installation of a concrete walkway, using a really neat Quikrete form. I absolutely loved using the form– it was easy, neat, and fast. And the stones look great! I installed about 5 feet of the walkway last year, to see how they would weather our frigid winter. They did very well. The stones moved some, but it wasn’t bad at all. So we decided to finish the walkway on this side of the arbor, and seal the gaps with a sand/mortar mix to keep out weeds. Success!

Here’s a quick shot of the walkway after we laid down the concrete last week. You can read about how we did it, here.

Josh at Walkway

It’s very nice. However, I wanted to give the walkway a little more horizontal support, something to hold the mortar in and keep the walkway in place. Since we have a lot of stones around the property, we decided to use these, giving the walkway a more casual, “cottage” feel to it. Eventually the English ivy, vinca major, and other perennials will overshadow the stones somewhat, kind of like this:

Ivy & Stones

So here are the girls laying the stones. They were quite tired at the end of the day!

Walkway Stones

Walkway with Stones

Side Yard

Next thing to do was put the mortar/sand mix down. We got Quikrete Sand Mix because it is stickier then the mortar, and I think it does better in wetter conditions than plain mortar mix (doesn’t crumble as easily). One of the girls poured bowlfuls of sand mix between the cracks, and my other girl and I swept the mix between the cracks more.

Sweeping Sand Mix 1

Sweeping Sand Mix 3

After the sand mix was sufficiently in place, I took the garden hose and misted the mix until it was thoroughly saturated. The sand mix stayed in place just as I’d hoped (didn’t bleed out from the cracks).

Spraying Water

It looks SO GOOD!

Walkway with Mortar

Mortar Mix

Like high quality acne treatments, this mortar will keep the weeds from erupting between the cracks, whereas before we were constantly picking weeds from the cracks. And the ivy will grow over the stones a little, but won’t be able to take root into the walkway. I may add more sand mix to the areas around the stones, for added stability, but for now it is just fine.

I’d estimate and say that our walkway is about 20 feet. It took us 9 bags of regular concrete mix with two bags of regular mortar mix added to it, and then one bag of sand mix to fill in the gaps. And of course, the labor costs were free. šŸ˜€

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Everything and the Kitchen Sink

August 25, 2008


I must be one of the most tolerant homeowners on earth, or perhaps the stupidest, lol. You know how you get so used to something that you tend to not notice it after a while?

I went into the kitchen this afternoon, to fill the tea kettle with water for tea. I noticed a new leak spurting out of our 1970s faucet. sigh. It made me look at the sink area with new perspective. This backsplash behind the faucet is absolutely terrible. Disgusting.

sink back

Other areas of the countertop are peeling or warped. I don’t know how I can tolerate it. It’s been this way for about a decade, slowly rotting and getting worse every year. I guess I’ve blocked it out of my consciousness — probably for the retaining of my sanity– because the decay just struck me again as very repulsive. And for a fleeting moment, I wondered why I haven’t fixed it yet. What, am I crazy, letting this go on and on for years??

Then I remembered. Oh yeah.

We do want the countertop replaced, but I won’t do it. Know why? Because this crappy slab of 1972 orange laminate sits on top of crappy 1972 plywood cabinets. Almost all of the cabinets have either fallen apart or are warped. Now, why don’t I just get new cabinets, then? Well, the cabinets sit on top of a severely cracked and broken up 1972 tile floor. OK so replace the flooring, the cabinets, and the backsplash. Nope, because behind the cabinets are 1855 plaster walls, with most of their plaster behind the cabinets missing. In winter, when we open a cabinet door or drawer, the wintery outside air blasts into the room. Wild, huh? I won’t even mention the mouse problem we have here, lol…

OK that’s pretty bad, but maybe I could just replace the walls, the flooring, the cabinets, and then get the new countertops!

Um, nope. Because within the walls is 1920s knob and tube wiring, 1940s plumbing that is not properly vented, and there’s no insulation between the studs. Not to mention that the only kitchen window is broken. I’d have to entirely GUT the room before I could get new countertops. Otherwise, I’d be spending $800 on new countertops for nothing– a shaky foundation. I refuse to set a brand-new countertop on top of disgustingly broken, unlevel cabinets that rest on disgustingly broken, unlevel flooring and against disgustingly holey and broken up walls with disgusting and inadequate plumbing and electric.

So that’s why I tolerate it. Most people would have their moving boxes out already; but I do like the house and I’ve put my heart into my gardens. I just need to gut this ol’ house! Ugh!

So, how are my gardens doing this fine, sunny day!

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