Archive | March, 2009

Please: Get Your Work Inspected

March 31, 2009

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One of my favorite blogs is Electrician’s Notes, and blogger Sparky has had some really good posts lately. He’s been showcasing some of the nightmares discovered in homes concerning their electrical wiring. I am closely associating with the posts (and photos), because my home is a nightmare, too!

My house was built in 1855, and has remained largely unrenovated since then. But there have been a few additions throughout the decades, one being electrical wiring installed in the 1930s. Believe it or not, until two years ago, 98% of my electrical system was running through those 80-year old, knob-and-tube wires. I had no idea how horrible the system was until 2006, when I completely gutted the living room. This is an example of one of the ugly blackheads I discovered when I pulled down the ceiling.

Bad Knob Wiring 3

Bad Knob Wiring 1

Close Up

Apparently, the previous owners had ripped up the floorboards on the second floor above, installed the wiring for most of the house in between those floor joists, and closed up the floor again with the old floor boards. (See how close some of the nails are to the wiring between the joists). The owners in the 1960s slathered the second floor flooring with glue and installed this disgusting-looking yellow lineoleum in the bedrooms, making it impossible to see the damage done.

So last year, when I pulled down the ceiling in the living room below, I found this massive wiring disaster: open wires, spliced wires connected ONLY with black electrical tape. A disaster. A lot of the “improvements” are disasters. The previous owners had insulated the attic floor in the 1980s, where more of this black-cloth knob-and-tube wiring was located (it’s against codes to insulate on top of this kind of wiring).

Actually, most of this house is completely against codes– not just the electric. The plumbing had no vent system, no u-traps or vent for the washing machine… no cold air return vents for the furnace…. fiberglass batting is stuffed in the kitchen cabinets to plug the gaping holes in the walls…. a true DISASTER. You can read some of my past posts about my venture into DIY electrical– what a harrowing ordeal! I have details here and here and here and here is my successful Inspection Day! I passed!

What blows my mind is that all this work was done without any inspection at all, obviously. I know the house is old, but… I’m stunned that all of this stuff was done without the homeowners consulting the codes and building inspectors.

I have had to disconnect a good deal of my electrical system– half the house– because after I saw the condition of the wiring and the way it was installed, I was absolutely terrified. So we are without electricity until I can gut the remainder of the rooms to wire them.

My plea to you homeowners is this: PLEASE get your work inspected. PLEASE resist the urge to slop something together just to “get it done,” and then seal up the walls. Do it the CORRECT way and the SAFE way– for your own sake, but also for the lives of the people who will live in the house after you.

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Renovation Inspiration

March 30, 2009

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I really, really, really think Spring may be here now! (In New York language, this means “I don’t think we’re going to have any more snowstorms! Wooo!”). I am starting to gear up for another spring/summer season of renovations. I have NO IDEA if this will be The Year of the New Kitchen. I sure hope so, Lord willing. But I do know that I have GOT to get some electricity in the house! Half of my house has no electric right now. I also want to get some ethernet installed when the electrical wiring is going in. I bit the bullet last year, when I gutted the living room. I scrounged some cash and spent extra money beyond my budget to install Cat5 wiring for our computers. WHAT a DIFFERENCE. It has been worth every penny spent. So, I’m going to install at least one modem in every room in the house.

I’m very keen for deals on supplies right now, and guess what?? I found some! Buy.com has Cat5 supplies– patch cabling, bulk wiring, RJ-45 modular plugs, couplers, and loads more. GREAT prices! Some of the stuff is free shipping. Buy.com is best know for their Weekly Sale deals on electronics but Buy.com has loads and loads of items, just about everything. Home and outdoor stuff, clothing, shoes, some books, housewares and supplies, DVDs, jewelry, cameras, vacuum cleaners- TONS of stuff. I love Buy.com and I think you should check the place out. I am absolutely sure you will find something you need at a good price. And they have terrific customer service, too. Check out Buy.com!

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I *Think* Spring May Be Here!

March 26, 2009

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Here in Upstate New York, we view March with a wary eye. ANYTHING can happen in March in the Northeast. A few years ago, we had a freak snowstorm that dumped a few feet on us. And we’ve seen 80 degree weather in March, too. So I’m still guarded about announcing that spring is officially here for March. But all the snow is gone (which is great).

Less than two months ago, the backyard looked like this:

On the Snow Mountain

Now it is this:

No Snow

The weather has been really nice– cool, but sunny, until today (now it’s overcast skies with rain expected). And usually, March is a soggy month; but it’s been drier than usual so far this year (no complaints from me!). Still, the melted snow has left great gobs of mud and sludge in areas. It’s really too early to pack up the winter coats and boots, too early to break out the t-shirts and Walking Boots. March is the month full of surprises.

Nothing is really green yet. And I have a ton of work to do. Last autumn, I did rake my garden beds of the billions of leaves that fell in our yard! But either they returned or new ones took their places. My yard is a leaf magnet, I tell ya.

Garden Rock

See? Here’s the evidence– we compost a lot of our leaves (not all). That’s about 10 cubic yards of compressed leaves there. And the town leaf patrol probably hauled off 30x that.

Leaf Compost

For some reason, the old wood pile looked like it needed a photo taken. We don’t have a woodstove, but the kids like to chop the wood from our felled trees. I do wish we had a woodstove, though.

Chopped Wood

I haven’t ordered any seeds for the growing season yet. I am so behind, it’s crazy! Usually I have everything assembled by the end of February. I have been visiting gardening blogs, and some folks have sprouted seedlings already! :S

I’m looking forward to being outdoors again, though. Campfires in the firepit… star-gazing… smelling the lilacs again… winter is worth it, just for the delights that spring gives.

How is your gardening coming along? Is spring weather more advanced where you are?

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I HATE Deer

March 24, 2009

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OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I hate deer! I hate them with a burning white hot fiery inferno of liquid lava-boiling anger!

YEAH, the nasty critters ate their winter through my trees and flower gardens again this year!!

They ate my baby Weeping Willow tree down to a stub. I nurtured that thing for TWO years, and it’s gone. šŸ™ They’ve eaten my Rose of Sharon, my hostas, my baby Redbuds… they also ate through some of my brand-new spirea shrubs, and I also just found out that they’ve been imbibing on my beloved grapevine!! Look at this!!!!!

Deer Ate My Vine

Deer Ate Vine 2

I don’t know what to do, I really don’t. I’ve tried leaving hair from the kids’ haircuts; bars of soap, cat litter, dried blood…. nothing has worked and THEY EAT EVERYTHING!

*sobs*

Besides maintaining a standing army with rifles, I don’t know what to do. Maybe I could get some motion detector lights that will shine bright lights when they sense motion? No, I’d need electric wiring for that. I think I may have to go high-tech with some deer fencing or deer repellant. Has anyone has any success with this?

Buy.com is having a great sale on the stuff right now. Buy.com is my new favorite store right now. I can’t believe all the stuff they have. It’s great, because they allow other, smaller stores to sell stuff, too, which increases the inventory and really makes it convenient to shop. I got hooked on them after seeing their Weekly Sale page online. The home and outdoor selection is great! I spotted this owl (no pun intended), too. I’ve been wanting to get one, to scare off the mice and the crows. My neighbors all have these owls on their fence posts; and so the critters have taken up residence at MY place because MY gardens seem to be the safe place for the drive-thru!

Check out Buy.com for loads of stuff– everyday living stuff, housewares, patio and outdoor stuff, summer apparel, loads and loads more! And don’t forget to bookmark the Weekly Sale page. If ONLY they came with deer-removal services, they’d be perfect! The repellant will have to do…

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A House Made From Garbage

March 20, 2009

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No! It’s not MY house I’m talking about.

Although it could be….

nah, MY house was made from good stuff. 150 year-old stuff. It’s actually turning into garbage now.

Anyway, this is about a rather cool and very eccentric house called the Nit Wit Ridge house. There’s a whole slew of photos on a Flickr page about it from someone who visited the place. It’s pretty wild– toilet seats for windows, a statue made from a chipped enamel bowl, a lovely metal chain-link fence that graces the, uh, beautiful front yard. Talk about salvage!

garbage house

The place was made by Arthur Harold Beal, alias Capt Nit Wit or Der Tinkerpaw, and it is located, unsurprisingly, in California. He started it in 1928 (I just KNEW it started during the Great Depression, even before I read that). For 51 years, Der Tinkerpaw has been collecting another man’s junk to build his treasure palace. Hey, must be easy on the budget. Some of the things are pretty inventive. I give him kudos for creativity!

Tours of the place are free (yay!). Check the news link above for more details, if this is a must-see place to go. If you go, be sure to take photos and send them my way. It makes me feel SO much better about my rickety old place! At least I have REAL windows and not toilet seats for my fresh air! LOL

hat tip to Just Cool Design for the story.

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Whistle for the Bissell, Baby

March 18, 2009

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To those of you who read my blog regularly (you two know who you are, HA!) , you are aware of my, um, STINKIN’ LOUSY experiences with vacuum cleaners. The sad fact is that they die after only half a year or so of use. Yeah, yeah, I know they have warranties… so called, anyway. I really don’t want to spend $45 shipping a defective vacuum cleaner to a company who can’t make them work the first time! :S

We’ve gone through quite a few vacuums the past few years. The most recent one, a lightweight (in more ways than one) GE Upright has expired. This one lasted about 7 months, so that’s a plus… Well anyway, we’re in the market for a new vacuum cleaner and after hearing some of your input across my various blogs, we’re going to go with the Bissell. I’m not 100% sure which Bissell I will choose (and BTW, why are there so many different versions?! That’s confusing), but I saw this one at Buy.com and was wowed at the specs and the price:

It’s the “Bissell 3920 Pet Hair Eraser HEPA Bagless Upright Vacuum.” Long name. I saw hearts when I saw the words “Pet Hair Eraser.” Wowwwwww.

As you two devoted readers can attest, I have a kitty, named Livvy. She’s a Tabby Point Siamese, a beautiful off-white color. She never shedded as a kitten, and I stupidly thought she wasn’t going to be a “shedder.”

Boooooyyyyy. was I wrong! Oh my gosh, we could have created another cat by now, with all this hair! It also doesn’t help that her favorites places to cuddle are my BLACK cloth-covered desk chair and my beautiful reclining wing chair (BROWN colored). Is she playing some horrible, terrible joke, or is this some feline freak of nature?!

ANYWAY.
We need a vacuum cleaner. The Bissell looks GREAT, doesn’t it? It’s selling for about $200 at Buy.com. I check their Weekly Sale page religiously every week. I’m waiting for this baby to go on sale. But still, $200 for a Pet Hair Eraser isn’t bad, not bad at all. What do you think? šŸ˜€

Buy.com is my new favorite store. They have really great prices, and lots of stuff qualifies for free shipping. They have a terrific electronics department, but also sell appliances, home and outdoor stuff, clothing, cleaning and appliances supplies, and etc. They have products from third-party stores, too, for even more selection and discounts. It’s definitely worth checking out. Give it a look!

In the meatime, I’ve got to make up my mind about a vac –pronto, before the cat hair takes over… I’ll let you know what we choose, and give *another* full-fledged review!

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Buy A House For $1?!

March 13, 2009

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And pay $100,000 to move it on a barge! Actually, it’s not a bad deal, and not too uncommon. Historic houses are often marketed as free or for a small sum if you pay to move it to your own plot. And even in my own neighborhood, I know of several houses that were jacked up to make headroom for poured concrete basements, and a few that were jacked up and spun around to make the back of the house the front. But I’ve never heard of moving the house by barge!

From the Associated Press:

BARNEGAT LIGHT, N.J. ā€“ Sure, housing prices are falling. But how’s this for a bargain for a Long Island, N.Y. couple: An iconic beach house, designed by a world famous architect, for just $1.

The catch? They have to pay at least $100,000 to move it on a barge from the Jersey shore to their home.

But that’s just fine with Robert Gotkin and Deborah Sarnoff, who run a husband-and-wife dermatology and plastic surgery practice in New York. They already live in one house designed by architect Robert Venturi, and plan to use the newest addition as a guest cottage.

The design is very cool– I love the sailboat-shaped window. The house was built in 1967 and sounds like it’s quite quirky. I like homes like that.

“This is a wonderful opportunity, that we can get it of the site safely,” said Denise Scott Brown, Venturi’s wife who designed it with him. “It became a campaign for a wonderful house that was designed with lots of love. It’s very unusual; it looks like a little radio rather than a house.”

…The house, which was removed from its original location several weeks ago and stored in a bay-side marina, was jacked up and lifted onto a huge marine barge Thursday morning. Work crews had hoped to have it on its way by 9 a.m., but they delayed the departure to take advantage of more favorable tides on Long Island on Friday.

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Buying House Stuff On the Cheap

March 10, 2009

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I recently blogged about my “I shoulda had a V-8!” moment (buying construction materials at salvage yards), and I just had another idea– buying refurbished or sharply discounted materials! I often go to Buy.com to buy my electronics stuff now (they have the best prices and free shipping), and I recently discovered that Buy.com has home and outdoor stuff, too. And actually, you can get building materials, tools, and household supplies at great prices there, too!

For example, check out this DeWalt replacement battery for my power drill. I’ve been looking for new batteries, but have been balking at the price at my local Home Depot: $100!! Guess how much this is at Buy.com? Go on, GUESS!

$57!!! That’s almost HALF the price!! Very cool.

I can’t believe I used to buy retail prices for all the stuff we need around here. šŸ˜ Holy cow, think of all the money I wasted! I love Buy.com– they are the only place I get my electronics from anymore– and they have a great variety on everything (stuff like baby items, jewelry, books, clothing, etc). The home products are at good prices, and they variety is impressive– spray paint, garbage bags, plumbing joints, glass cutters, sandpaper, smoke detectors, power tools, etc etc! Pretty neat! Check out the weekly sale page at Buy.com for good deals, too. I love Buy.com!! Before you buy anything retail, check them out for deals first.

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Buying Seeds Online

March 10, 2009

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I’m a little late in my garden-planning this year. I usually have the beds all mapped out by February. But it’s been a tad busy here and I haven’t even thought about gardening yet! :-O

But now I am starting to gear up. I’m going to keep things simple this year. Whereas I exprimented with some new varieties last year (like Adirondack red potatoes), I’m going to plug in good ol’ white potatoes, basic zucchini and yellow squash, leaf spinach, etc. All the boring but yummy stuff.

While I was thinking about buying my seeds, I figured I’d share with you some of my seed-purchasing resources. I usually order my seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, but due to budget constraints and no specialty gift cards this year, I’m going to go with bargain seeds. Here’s a listing of some good seed companies to buy seeds.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds (they tend to be a little pricey, but they do have sales– and their quality is amazing)
Burpee (I’ve never ordered from them online before, but I’ve purchased them locally; I’m going with Burpee this year)
Henry Fields Seeds (I’ve never ordered from them, but they look good)
National Arbor Day Foundation (they have trees and shrubs, fruit trees, etc)
Park Seed Company (new to me, but they look good)

If you know of any great seed/plant stores, please feel free to share in the comments section!

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Using Salvage For Your Renovations

March 6, 2009

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I was reading the blog Back2theLand, in which Bonnie discusses all the great deals she finds for her home on Craigslist online, for her local area. It was a “I shoulda had a V-8!” moment! What a terrific idea!

When we first bought this house, there were a few salvage stores in the area. They have since closed. The nearest one is in Madison, NY– a long haul if we’re getting large stuff like doors, porch posts, etc. It’s not unusual to be driving down rural roads (like I did recently) and see something like this:

Salvage Barn

There’s a lot that can be found at a salvage barn, I think. And it’s kind of fun sorting through things. It’s like walking back in time. I wonder how old this sink is, and where it was used? It’s still in good shape.

Sink Salvage

Well anyway, because the salvage areas nearest us had closed, I pretty much gave up on finding anything recycled for our house. But after reading Bonnie’s post, it was like “Oh yeah!!” There’s a LOT to be found online, at Craigslist or with online auctions. So I’ll put that bug in your ear, too– if you’re looking for cheap materials and don’t mind cleaning it up or hauling it home, check out the many places online to find salvage materials. Oftentimes, the salvage stuff is in excellent shape for a tiny fraction of the cost of new stuff. It can really help the budget!

So thanks, Bonnie! I’ve never tried out online auctions or anything– I think I will, now!

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