Archive | June, 2009

Parging The Foundation Walls

June 29, 2009


I have been in the process— oh, for about THREE years now!! — of parging the foundation walls of my home. Most new homes since the 60s and 70s have concrete block or poured concrete foundations. But waaaay back in the olden days (as when my house was built), foundations were built from field stones or cut stones. My home has cut stones. Over the 150 year span that my home has been standing, the field stones are still in excellent condition– it’s just the mortar that stinks.

Stone foundations have limestone mortar. It is water-permeable and over time and rodent-chewing (chipmunks are notorious for chewing away the mortar to build nests between the stones), the mortar begins to fail. In severe cases, this can cause foundation failure. In less severe cases (such as mine) this can mean a pocked, ugly appearance and some water leakage. Parging is the application of a thin coat of sticky cement over the wall surface. I’ve got about half of my interior basement done– what a job! My basement is huge and has 6′ high walls– and about 1/3 of the house’s exterior foundation wall (about 2 feet high).

Dig Down

The mix you use for parging must be special– it has to be sticky (that is, it must stick to a vertical surface without plopping down and off) and must remain stuck to the walls after it is dry. I had one dummy at Lowe’s tell me I needed mortar mix for the job, and me- being the dumb homeowner– listened to him and bought $200 worth of the stuff. Only to find that this is the WRONG stuff and crumbles off over time. :-p What you need to use is something call Sand Mix. It’s a combination of sand and portland cement. It should not crumble off if applied properly. There are even some acrylic additives you can add to the mix to make it even stickier- the additive is a lot like Elmer’s glue and comes in tall bottles. You pour it in to your Sand Mix mix. I didn’t use it. I’m too cheap (the additive is very pricey). I mixed up the Sand Mix and so far, it’s been working well. This is what I did about four years ago, and it’s holding up great:

Older Parging Job

To make the mix, you add water to the Sand Mix. You should only mix up as much Sand Mix as you are going to use in about 30 minutes. Otherwise, it will start to harden and won’t work anymore. Here’s what you will need for parging your walls:

  • Sand Mix
  • a bucket
  • water (hose or watering can)
  • spray bottle filled with water
  • cement trowel
  • cardboard or kneeling pad for your aching knees

It’s important to mix the Sand Mix *just right*– not too soupy or not too crusty. When mixed properly, you’ll be able to make M’s or S’s in the mix and they will stay in shape.
Mix Sand Mix

Before spreading on the stuff, make sure your wall is free from crud, like spiders’ webs, frass, and loose mortar. You will also want to dig down in the dirt a little, so that your parging line will not be seen should the soil shift around your foundation. I usually dig down about 3 to 6″, depending on the soil and the wall itself. Some folks go much deeper down.

Now, get your spray bottle and moisten the wall. This helps the parging mix to stick onto the wall. Don’t saturate your wall with loads of water– just get it wet.

Spray the Wall

Now lay your parging mix with your trowel, in 1/4″ to 1/2″ thickness.

Parge It On

Corners and around windows are the hardest, so take your time. Parging isn’t a difficult job, it’s just tedious. While parging, I found a few areas where moles and/or chipmunks had chipped mortar away. Grrr. I filled these holes in, to keep them out. Parging helps keep out water, too.

Parging Progress

Click to enlarge any photo.

Parge Progress

I am not too fussy about how smooth my mix goes on. Just laying on the mix is a 100% improvement!

Wall Parged

Allow to dry for 36 hours before moving the soil back into your trench. The parging mix will change color as it dries, to a light gray. You can leave it this color, or paint it with some waterlocking paint, or exterior concrete paint. This job is so easy that you can even have the kids do it. You just have to make sure that they are consistent with the thickness and apply it so that everything is covered completely.

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Outdoors with North Face

June 29, 2009


Well, it’s FINALLY getting to be good weather, people! After a soggy, cloudy winter and a soggy, cloudy spring, summer is finally here. And… it’s been soggy and cloudy! :-p I have very high hopes for July and August. And I have promised that I will take the kids camping sometime in the fall (maybe even late fall). I like the cooler weather (but not soggy cool weather) and for me, camping in October or November is the best time. I would even be willing to do some winter camping sometime (there’s a group here in Upstate New York that goes winter camping in the Adirondacks, all winter long).

Of course, camping in the fall or winter calls for better gear and clothing than the usual cheapo-Chinese made Walmart brand plastic pup tent and flip-flops. Some of the highest-rated yet still affordable gear I’ve seen is the North Face line. They have some outstanding travel and camping supplies. North Face offers one of the best and most popular hydration packs in the market (North Face is known for its quality). These are perfect accessories for hiking the high hills of Central Europe, or the Alps, or the lofty Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York (something we are going to accomplish sometime soon!). They are so stylish that I am sure I could get the kids to carry mine so I wouldn’t have to. šŸ˜‰

North Face also has some very nice fleece jackets. I love fleece during the cold months– quilted coats and laminated fabric coats are too restrictive to me. Fleece is great, because it’s soft and very flexible, but also very warm. North Face has those, too, for travelers and campers of all ages. Check out the Webtogs website where North Face is sold– I’m sure you’ll find something that makes you go “wow!” North Face is known for it’s versatile, athletic, high quality products. And right now, Webtogs is offering free shipping across the EU. And this is on top of the excellent deals and sales already going on. Check it out!

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My Chili Recipe FINALLY!

June 26, 2009


With hat in hand, I offer my sincerest apologies to those of you who have asked for my Chili recipe and I have neglected to send it to you. I FINALLY posted the recipe on my cooking blog, Wow Chow Cooking. (My daughter made up that name for the cooking blog, isn’t it catchy?!). Sorry it took me sooo long, but I finally took a photo while making it this time, and finally remembered to do it! Enjoy!

Chili con Carne

(You may notice that the photo watermark has the wrong blog on it. :-p I wasn’t paying attention when I was cropping and editing the photo, as I was also helping one kid with phonics, another with bar graphs, another with Kepler’s laws of motion, and another with laundry at the same time! lol!!)

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Flower Spotlight: The Torch Lily

June 25, 2009


Also called the Red-Hot Poker Plant, the Torch Lily is a pretty nifty addition to my garden. They originate from South Africa and Madagascar. I bought some rhizome-type bulbs on a fluke several years ago, from a catalog store. These perennial plants are hardy to Zone 5 (I am in Zone 4). They are heat- and drought-tolerant (but need water during their growing time), and require full sun.

Torch Lily1

These had a rather shaky first year, but after that, they have been incredible, easy-care plants. My plants get a lot of abuse, too. My property is situated in a marshy area of the town (there’s a muddy, murky, burgeoning swamp in the neighbor’s back yard); my land rests at the bottom of a very steep hill, and rests in one of the lowest spots in the area. We get a lot of water. As a matter of fact, we are convinced that there is a powerful stream or creek that flows beneath the surface of our land. When digging post holes, we reach water at two feet. Plus, the topography of our land changes dramatically every year. There’s SOMETHING going on under our turf, that’s for sure.

Well, my Torch Lilies are planted in a small strip of soil between the house foundation and the driveway– an area of about 3 feet wide. The ice from the eaves crashes down in that section all winter long, and the plow mows the snowbanks right there, too. Plus, there’s the salt and dirt and movement that attacks any plant next to a driveway. The Torch Lilies continue to shine. šŸ™‚

Torch Lily 2

I do not fertilize them, I don’t deadhead them after blooming, I don’t do anything to them! The soil they call home is graveley and not very nutritious, either. But they bloom every year. I love these things!

The Torch Lily grows to about 3 or 4 feet high. They have lots of sword-shaped leaves. The shoots pop up sometime in early June, looking a little like light-green Grape Hyacinths (but much taller and larger). After about a week or two, they burst in color of yellows, oranges, and a dash of light red at the tops. My Torch Lilies always get comments from my visitors– these are quite showy and are rather rare for an Upstate New York cottage garden, I suppose.

Eventually I plan to move these to a larger, more showy part of my garden, but the Torch Lilies seem so happy here right now. I’ve read that they don’t like being disturbed (which is why they took a year or two to establish), so divide them sparingly.

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My Talking Kitty

June 20, 2009


My daughter put together a collection of clips where our kitty, Livvy, is talking to us. Actually, the video clips don’t do it justice. Maybe she gets camera shy, but Livvy clams up somewhat after we break out the camcorder! She can carry on some really neat conversations. One night we discussed the repercussions of the string theory and quantum mechanics on time travel and… well, I’m pulling your leg there. Ha ha.

So she meows. But she meows with STYLE, people. šŸ˜‰

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The Stink of Buying Ink

June 20, 2009

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We homeschool, so it goes without saying that we use our computers a lot, and we print a lot of documents. HOLY COW what IS IT with printer manufacturers and their outrageous cost of ink?? It’s evil! A printer may be $40 or so, but then the cost of ONE box of ink is $50!!! I bought a very nice Canon Pixma All-in-One a few months ago (it was a clearance model, what a steal!). I have already paid 6x the cost of the printer JUST to load it with ink four times. That’s ridiculous, really ridiculous.

The Big Box stores are (so it seems) in cahoots with each other. I mean, shall I pay $60 for a set of cartridges, or $58.99 for a set of cartridges? :-p The selection is just stunning.

Weeeellll… seeing as I have to buy the ink (we just can’t print without it!), I’ve been shopping and shopping around for the best deals. The best price I have found is– you guessed it– They have the printer ink I need for just under $43 (with free shipping). It’s STILL a lot of money for a month’s worth of printing jobs… but every single penny counts, and has the best deals around!

I do love I’ve gotten various electronics and accessories for my camera from them, and after seeing their prices on everyay stuff (vacuum cleaner parts, cookware, small and large appliances, tools, and health and beauty aids), I’m definitely a devoted shopper. has free shipping on a lot of stuff, charges no sales tax for me (in NY), and has superior customer service. Plus, the prices are GREAT! has a weekly sale page and it’s worth checking out every week. And they offer daily deals as well as the general, everyday savings.

It’s worth going to for your stuff– big stuff or small stuff or stuff inbetween. Check them out! I love!

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My Secret Garden Update

June 14, 2009


I just love this garden. I’ve been slowly adding to it for the past few years.

Secret Garden Update 2

It’s been a soggy spring and start to summer, so I’ve had to work on it between raindrops this year. It’s a perennial garden with many native shrubs. I always plant vegetation that is native to the area (because I just hate babying plants). I’ve got Mugo pine shrubs, a Dwarf Alberta Spruce, some lilacs, blue Rose of Sharon, Scotch Rose, Bridal Wreath Spirea, Potentilla, Arbor Vitea, Mock Rose, White Azalea, and purple Butterfly Bushes for shrubs. For plants, I have Echinacea (Purple Coneflower), Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan), Hostas, Day lilies, Gerbera Daisy, Stargazer Lilies, Tulips, Stella D’oro lilies, purple Bearded Iris, purple Salvia, Purple Chrysanthemums, Blue Anemone, Pink Turtleheads, Pink Monarda (Bee Balm), Daisies, and Astible. And then I have Periwinkle and English Ivy for ground cover. For filler, I add a few annuals like Impatiens and Petunias, but that’s all the annuals I do.

Secret Garden Update

I have plans to eventually fill this entire side of the yard as a cottage garden, with native shrubs and perennials. It’s so easy care that it’s ridiculous. I send the kids out to weed it about 3-4 times a year– but once the ground cover really kicks in, we’ll weed less. The real benefit is not having to mow this section of the yard. And it looks lovely! Eventually, the lilacs and the Rose of Sharon will grow taller than the arbor, creating a green passageway down the side yard. Mmmmm.

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Feline Bliss

June 12, 2009


I haven’t had a cat update in quite some time. My Tabby Point Siamese, Olivia (Livvy for short) will be one year old next month!! I cannot believe it, I just can’t believe it. Like all youngsters, Livvy is rip-roarin’ and ready to bound into adulthood; but like most parents, I am missing those adorable, cuddly, kitten days. It’s hard to believe that it was only a short time ago she went from this to this:

Olivia the Cat

Livvy 1

She’s a striking cat, resembling a snow leopard or a Siberian tiger. (Yeah, and sometimes she THINKS she’s a Big Bad Tiger, too!). She also *talks* to us with little kitty sounds (more like pulses, but sometimes they erupt into meows). She’s definitely more like one of the family than *just* a pet; Siamese are bred to be family members. She’s not terribly high strung like her fellow Siamese are, but she does get grouchy when we have visitors. I got her a padded kitty cube to hide in for those times. šŸ˜€

She has 6 toes and a kinked tail, which makes her unique all the more. […]

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Progress, Sweet Progress

June 8, 2009


Our growing season is so brief here in Upstate New York, we tend to get exuberant over seemingly small things. Such as, MY PEAS ARE NOW ONE INCH HIGH!!!!!!!! Look!

Peas N Weed

Pushing Up Peas

Aren’t they beautiful?! šŸ˜€ (Ignore the weed).

The grapes are also doing very well. I am really enjoying watching these things grow.

Grapes in Hand

And our lettuce is doing well. I have to get in here and thin the rows, though. We eat a lot of lettuce and fresh spinach during the summer, so I have five rows of this stuff planted!

Little Lettuce

The only thing not doing well is the cantaloupe. It’s been a very chilly and cloudy spring, and looks like the summer is starting off that way, too. It is unusually cool. So I don’t think my melons are going to do so well. It’s a good thing I never got around to planting the watermelon; I would have wasted my seeds.

My apple trees have dozens of tiny little apples on them! This is the first year we’re going to have a real harvest. I just hope I can keep the flies and caterpillars at bay… I may spray my trees to keep the bugs away.

How is your garden growing?

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For the Dad (or the Tool-Crazed Mom) :)

June 6, 2009

Comments Off on For the Dad (or the Tool-Crazed Mom) :)

It’s hard to believe that it is JUNE already, people! Father’s Day is just several days away. If you’ve been scrambling for ideas for gifts for the Dad of the family, maybe I can lend some assistance. —> Men love their power tools. Take your pick:


-OR- […]

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