Archive | April, 2010

Find the Kitty Friday 4.30.10

April 30, 2010

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This photo is from a few weeks ago, when we were clearing this room out in preparation for the renovation project. Where could she be?!

FTK 4.30

Livvy will be a bit of a problem when it comes time to rip out walls. She’s horribly curious; and with all the activity, I’m afraid she may hurt herself or escape out the door. We’re making plans to shift her living space to the upstairs for a few months. She won’t be a happy camper…

Oh by the way, Happy National Hairball Awareness Month, cat lovers of the world! I’ll spare you the photos of the hairballs, and just wish you a happy day.

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High Mowing Seeds Company is Totally Cool

April 28, 2010

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Whoa.

The folks at High Mowing Seeds in Vermont saw my post where I said that I was happy with the organic seeds, but I was not so happy with the shipping packaging. Guess what? They emailed me. I am IMPRESSED. In this day and age when many companies couldn’t care less about customer satisfaction, High Mowing Seeds actually LISTENED to what I said and then they go the second mile to make me happy.

WHOA.

This is what they said:

Hi, Rebecca:

Someone here at High Mowing came across your recent blog post and brought it to my attention. First of all, thanks for your seed order and for making the commitment to supporting an independently-owned, 100% organic seed company! Second of all, I’m really sorry that you weren’t satisfied with the shipment of your seeds.

We have two goals in selecting the packaging we use to ship you seeds. One is to make sure the seed is well protected and gets to you intact. The second is to select packaging that has a small environmental footprint. We are proud to say that the packaging we use to mail you your seeds is made from recycled content and is itself completely recyclable. However, from your description, it sounds like our shipping staff may have put a few too many seed packets in the envelope and we didn’t quite meet the first of our shipping goals. Our customers’ satisfaction is important to us, and so I’m happy to offer you free shipping on your next order. [they sent me a promo coupon]

Also, please let me know if any of the packs of seeds were damaged in shipment, and we’d be happy to send you a follow-up item.

Our shipping and handling rates are based on the dollar amount of your order, which is the best way we have of estimating the cost to process and ship an order (assuming the more seed a customer buys, the more the order will cost to processes and ship). Unfortunately, this can get skewed when a customer buys more high-value seed, which increases the dollar amount of an order without necessarily increasing the shipment weight. This is partly what happened in your case, with some of the larger packet sizes that you ordered. We’re always rethinking how we do things, so I’m happy to be reminded of this issue to see if it’s something we can improve upon.

I hope that some of this helps to improve your experience with High Mowing Organic Seeds. I think you’ll find our seeds to be of great quality. Happy planting and hope you have an abundant season!

I am honored. Really. First, that this company checks up on and CARES about their reputation. Second, that they are reaching out to me this way.

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I haven’t tried any of the seeds yet (it snowed yesterday!), but I will be planting them either this week or the next. If the seeds are anything like the customer service, I think my garden will be beautiful.

Check out highmowingseeds.com. So far, the company TOTALLY ROCKS.

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What to Get Mom for Mother’s Day

April 28, 2010

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THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ‘BOUT.

If she’s anything like me, she wants that honking baby hanging from her tool belt, MMMHMMMMM!

When my kids wonder about what to get me for Mother’s Day or my birthday, I’m pretty predictable. I want the POWAH!!!!! That is a Rockwell 14.4-volt cordless drill with LIFETIME battery warranty. Sweeeet. At Buy.com, of course. I also like the Skil model, but that’s sold out. Oh, and Buy.com has a kickin’ Grinder Buffing Polishing Machine for only $50!!!

But what I really need is a nice garden hose and a hot plate. Because we’re going to be without a functional kitchen until August…. *sigh* The garden hose must be potable because we’ll be getting our drinking water from it, and washing our dishes in a basin outside; and the hot plate will be our only way to make tea and cook meals, because the stove is going to be in storage for a while. Kitchen renovations are SOOOO scary. I get this funky butterfly feeling when I think about it too much….

Anyway, Buy.com makes the transition a little easier. I can use my KICKIN’ power tools (every mom’s dream right?!) and get some great deals on everything from the PEX fittings to wall paint to the pots and pans. Buy.com also has some terrific weekly sale on electronics, too. I’m holding off on getting a laptop until the kitchen is done…. lol. I can’t wait until it’s all over and I haven’t even started!

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Planning the Kitchen

April 26, 2010

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The detail requirements for everything little are sometimes overwhelming!

The kitchen plans are starting to take shape, finally. I have a general schedule, a basic materials list, and a nearly-completed list of products we will be using. Some of the big stuff I haven’t yet decided on (cabinets, ugh).

First week of May:
Demolition is slated to begin next week (*gulp*).
Get permit.
Get dumpster.

Second/Third week of May:
Build a closet for the washer and dryer at the south end of the kitchen (called the Laundry Alcove).
Install new plumbing (water supply, drain, and vent) for washing machine. Move gas line for dryer. Install dryer vent at exterior.

Fourth/Fifth week of May:
Electrify the Laundry alcove section of the kitchen.
Electrify the upstairs bedroom above Laundry alcove.

First week of June:
My helpers arrive (praise the Lord)!
Lay in rough-framing for the new window.
Install new plumbing (water supply, drain, and vent) for the upstairs bathroom.
Electrify the upstairs bathroom (YESSS! At last! After three years without electricity!).

Second week of June:
Install new window.
Install new plumbing (water supply, drain, and vent) for the upstairs bathroom and downstairs bathroom.
Electrify kitchen.
Install stove range hood and duct vent.

Third week of June:
Install new plumbing (water supply, drain, and vent) for the upstairs bathroom and downstairs bathroom. Install new fixtures.
Insulate kitchen walls with fiberglass batting.
Electrify dining room.

Fourth week of June:
Electrify dining room, downstairs bathroom, Front Entry Hall.
Electrify two upstairs bedrooms.

Fifth week of June:
Install new furnace ducting for living room, kitchen, and dining room.
Install sheetrock to kitchen walls. Spackle.
Install kitchen lighting.
Order kitchen cabinets.

First week of July:
Insulate dining room with fiberglass batting.
Spackle and sand kitchen sheetrock.

Second week of July:
Spackle and sand remaining kitchen walls.
Spackle and sand dining room walls.

Third week of July:
Paint kitchen and dining room walls and ceiling.
Install kitchen cabinets.
Install countertops.
Install kitchen sink, dishwasher, and oven.

Fourth week of July:
Install the flooring for kitchen and dining room.

First week of August:
Finish up loose ends: install backsplash behind stove, install light fixtures where needed, etc.

Second week of August:
Move back into the kitchen and dining room.
Praise God for getting us through this.
GO ON VACATION.

I’m still pretty scared about the whole thing. Renovation is scary business. Paying for it is half the fright, and the rest is not knowing what we’re going find behind these walls, and then there’s the installing of the new plumbing. We’ve never done plumbing before, and it’s just totally freaky to me. The Hubs has been reassuring me, saying it will be OK and we will survive, lol. He has even offered to take over the plumbing job himself, the doll. He’s done some PVC work with our sump pumps, and he has a terrific eye for detail (plus, he’s a math whiz). He seems to be at peace with it (usually he’s jittery about renovation and I’m the one who’s doing the comforting). Me, on the other hand…. I’m SCAIRT, people. Electricity is a BREEZE. Plumbing is terrifying.

So I’m basically totally replacing the entire plumbing system and the electrical system while renovating the kitchen and dining room. After this is all done, the only things left to do will be to rip out the upstairs plaster, insulate, and lay up sheetrock. The electricity will be done already. *sigh* And then the house will be, for the most part, entirely renovated.

Then, I will set my attentions to building a family room and additional bathroom into our attached garage, installing a pergola and patio, and building a deck and more gardens. And by then, we’ll have to replace the roof. I’m figuring EVERYTHING will be done by 2013, Lord willing. After that, it will be maintenance and some other things, like replacing the siding, etc.

It’s been a wild ride. I can see then end, I think. Lord, help us!

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Fixing the Garden Fencing and Other Odd Jobs

April 24, 2010

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Before we go full tilt with gutting the kitchen in a few weeks, we need to prep the garden for this year’s crops. In a few short days, we’ve made good progress!

gardenrepair3

We’ve replaced the wooden border for one of the beds. Each bed is 12 feet by 24 feet. Lumber prices are sky-high suddenly, so I decided to replace only one bed. Next year, we’ll do the other.

The beds are also tilled and ready for seeds.

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When we first started the garden, it was an agonizing task to till the beds those first few years. I’ve added peat moss and compost for four years, and it’s really made a difference. The soil is light and fluffy, just beautiful.

We also fixed the fencing, replaced posts, added more rails, and have been weeding the border of weeds and out-of-control border flowers. I also pruned my grape vine and tied it to the fencing. I hope to have a great crop this year.

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Gardening is extremely physical work, but I just love gardening. It so invigorating to hoe and rake, and hammer and plant seeds! I’m out of shape right now, because I’ve spent the last two years sitting on my butt in front of a computer for a job. So right now, I’m huffing and puffing. But I was always very physically fit as a young person, and I expect I’ll come bouncing back very quickly as I usually have in the past. Boy, this is fun! 😀

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A Special Find the Kitty Video

April 23, 2010

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Find the Kitty Friday

I had previously mentioned (somewhere on one of my blogs) that Livvy is getting smarter and smarter. One of the little tricks she’s learned is to open the door.

After dinnertime, when the kids are assigned chores (feeding the outside animals, emptying the compost bucket, etc), Livvy turns on her sneaky mode, and tries to sneak out the door as the kids are opening and closing it. She’s such a pest about it that the kids now place her in our front entry room, a small room with two French doors. These doors have the original 1855 thumb latches for door handles. Livvy has figured out how to press the latch and open the door. I finally got her on video. I hope you enjoy it! We sure did!

Of course, the only problem now is keeping her contained during chore time. I suppose we could place a chair in front of the door…. until she figures out how to move that, too…. she’s mighty cute– and I suspect she may use her charms to bamboozle one of us (namely, me!) to open the door as soon as she starts whining…

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Energy Efficiency is Finally “In”!

April 22, 2010

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Some of you readers know about my unusual background: in the mid-80s, my folks ditched the corrupting influences and expenses of suburban life to go live on a mountain. As a teenager, I helped log trees for firewood, harvested edible weeds for eating, and learned how to make my own clothing, conserve energy and water, and etc. We never got “off the grid,” so to speak, but we learned to be frugal, be wise with what we had, to create as little waste as possible, and to learn to live off the land and our own resources. We eventually sold the property as we kids grew older, but it was a really rich experience for me then. It was unique, too– while the rest of society was looking toward Yuppiedom, we were becoming Hillbillies, lol.

Well, we didn't exactly go THAT far...

But today, saving energy and reducing waste is BIG! I’m so glad to be able to be a part of it. I have long believed that we must be good stewards of God’s good earth and of all the good things He’s given us. We’ve really tried to incorporate good stewardship with what we do here in this house and yard. We try to keep an eye toward future technology, but only future technology that helps us to serve God better, to be smarter in our consumer choices, and to reduce waste and inefficiency.

With that said, it was my extreme pleasure to ask a few questions of home safety expert John Drengenberg, the Consumer Safety Director at Underwriter Laboratories (UL). Since we are going to be renovating this summer (kitchen, dining room, and installing new plumbing and electrical wiring), I asked John’s advice regarding these things. I tried to keep you guys in mind, based on comments and articles you have brought up in the past.

Here are the questions I presented:

1. I’ve seen ads on the Internet for a small rooftop windmill device that the homeowner can install on their house roof. Are these for real, and could they truly generate enough energy for the homeowner to make this worth their time and effort?

2. Regarding “vampire” electronics, those appliances that use power even when they are “off” (such as televisions and DVD players): my readers and I hate these things. Is the manufacturer required to label the appliance as an energy hog? How/where can we find a list of appliances that do not continue to suck energy even when off?

3. How accurate is the Energy Star rating? I’d heard through the grapevine that the majority of appliances were receiving the rating, even when these appliances were not truly energy-efficient. Is this true?

4. I’m renovating my kitchen this summer (I have an 1855 house and the last plumbing and electricity updates were in the 1940s). It’s a 100% DIY project- we’re doing the electric, plumbing, installing cabinets, etc ourselves. My readers are going to experience everything we do as I blog about it. I’m looking for ways to make my home more energy efficient, and also have an eye toward the future (appliances, wiring, design). Do you have any recommendations as to what I can do or include in my kitchen to make it (and my home) energy efficient?

Check out John’s answers to my questions in the video. And John– THANK YOU so much for taking the time to answer my questions! Your information is so helpful. 😀

If you go to the Underwriter Laboratories website, you can find a ton of information about energy-efficiency, buying and using products safer for the environment and families, and get information about terrific community projects. There are videos, too. I have found the folks to be very generous with their advice and attention– do check them out whether you are remodeling or not. I know you will find something helpful.

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Going With PEX Plumbing

April 22, 2010

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When I gut the kitchen in a few weeks, all the house plumbing will be exposed for us to see. I’ll be able to view the condition of the pipes and see for myself how miserably the system was installed previously. I’m expecting to find a disaster behind the plaster and lathe, so we’re gearing up for replacing everything. Unfortunately, even though I live a mere 30 minutes from the Copper City (Rome, NY), copper is very expensive. It’s also difficult to install (propane torch and soldering). We’re going to be doing the bulk of the plumbing ourselves, so we’ve opted to go with the PEX system.

In a nutshell, PEX is like heavy-duty garden hose. You use the piping for your water supply system. The pipes come in lengths anywhere from 5′ to 1000 feet, so the only connections you’d ever have to make are at the supply in the basement and at the fixture shut off valve. No joints, elbows, or fittings in the walls. VERY nice. PEX has been used in Europe for over 30 years now. I first heard about it on This Old House about 10 years ago. I’m looking forward to using it. The Family Handyman has a good article about it, too.

Right now, I’m shopping around for supplies. The PEX piping is not terribly expensive (a fraction of the cost of copper!), but the crimping tool is $100 or more, and the fittings are rather pricey (it’s a good thing I don’t needs loads of fittings). I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to see that my favorite online store, Buy.com sells PEX supplies! There’s not a ton of PEX, but enough to make it worth my while, especially with the piping. Buy.com has everything! I used to go there once a week or so, to check out their great sales on electronics every week, but then I started to peruse the store for my household stuff, like vacuum cleaner bags, cleaning products, garden products, and hardware. They also have a ton of books on home improvement (and some great textbooks, too).

So I’m happy. I’ll be saving a ton of money on plumbing by doing it myself, and doing it with PEX. I have a lot of homework to do– right now, I’m learning about pipe diameters for optimal water pressure. I’ll have more on PEX as I go along, and definitely give my opinions about installing the system. You already know my opinion about Buy.com– they rock!

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My Organic Seeds Arrived

April 21, 2010

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UPDATE! See what High Mowing Seeds has to say about my shipping and packaging complaint. WHOA!!! They rock!

—————-

I decided to go 100% non-Monsanto, 100% organic with the garden this year. No funky seeds, no funky fertilizers, no funky pesticides. It’s expensive to go organic, lol. My seeds from High Mowing Seeds, a small seed distributor in Vermont, came in.

I’m really happy with the selection of seeds, and am looking forward to planting them… but I’m a little disappointed by the packaging and shipping. I spent a whopping $11 for shipping. For that price, I nearly expected a valet to come to my front door, to roll out the red carpet and unload the packages into my gardening shed. OK, maybe a $3 sturdy box. But this is what I got:

myseeds1

Maybe I’m being a tad fussy…. I’m used to paying HALF that amount in shipping and getting TWICE as good a package. The seed packets were all smashed into this thin little envelope. I haven’t yet checked all the seeds in the envelopes to see if they are crunched. I have a husband who works for the post office, so I know how packages get a severe beating through the mail system. I’m kinda disappointed. Hopefully, the seed quality will be spectacular and more than make up for the pitiable shipping.

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Anyway, they are here. I’m really looking forward to planting leeks and kale this year! And cabbage! I’m trying out a lot of new things this year:

  • Giant Chard
  • Red Cabbage
  • Cucumber
  • Siberian Kale
  • Collards
  • A large selection of lettuces
  • Leek
  • Muskmelon
  • Snow pea
  • Spinach
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini
  • Roma Tomato
  • Rutabaga
  • Basil

They had no Romaine lettuce, so I need to obtain that from another company. I also plan on getting marigolds to keep the slugs at bay. And I’ve got some potatoes ready; the kids may want some pumpkins and I do want sunflowers again this year. Sunflowers do well here. This is what we got the last time we planted them.

sunflowers

It’s been cooler at nights again (high 30s), so I have to delay the seed planting until it’s a bit warmer. We also have to till the beds yet. The Hubs and I spent an afternoon replacing the rotted old wooden boards with new ones.

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Lumber prices are CRAZY. Why are they jacking up the prices THIS year?!?! Don’t they know I have a ton of work to do?! :-p These six 2 x 6 x 12s cost me $60. Ridiculous. I could only replace one bed. *whine snivel*

Well, I’m going to be pulling out some plaster and lathe this weekend. Just a little. I’m going to be testing out my plumbing skills with the washing machine set up. Mmmmm… I’ll have more on that later. Please PRAY for me!

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How to Start a Compost, Part 3

April 19, 2010

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This is the final post in my How to Start a Compost series. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 to get up to speed. I’ve already covered the essential compost general guidelines, some sage compost advice, and instructed you ow to build a simple Wire Bin. Now, I’m going to throw some lists at you.

    What to Do When Your Compost is Ready:

  • Your compost should be ready in 12-14 months. This can really vary a lot, depending on what you put in there, how often you turned it, how wet the weather has been, etc. But 1 year is a general estimate.
  • I always start a new compost pile in the spring, so that when I am ready to start next year’s garden, the compost is ready. You can add the compost to your garden beds either at spring tilling time, or fall tilling time. (I don’t do fall tilling, by the way).
  • Prepare your garden beds: pull out the weeds, the rocks, etc.
  • Grab your shovel and wheelbarrow and shovel out the compost from the bin. The humus should be loamy and rich-looking.
  • Dump the compost into the garden. Spread evenly. Roto-til or hand turn the garden soil. Water lightly.
  • That’s it! Plant your garden when you’re ready.
SprdgLeavs

The composted compost (called humus) is dark, rich, and loamy.

    What to Add to a Compost Pile:

  • Any household vegetable food waste, such as: carrot tops, discarded vegetable peels, wasted vegetables that the kids refused to eat, etc etc
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds, leftover tea, or coffee
  • Dryer lint
  • Hair. Yes, hair! Spread it out well so it won’t clump in the pile. You can even add your fingernail clippings… if you want…
  • Grass clippings. Make sure the grass is not loaded with pesticides or chemicals.
  • Leaves, they are full of nitrogen.
  • Earthworms. Have the kids dig them up and plop them in. Earthworms love coffee, by the way. They are wonderful critters!
    What NOT to Add to a Compost Pile:

  • Meat waste
  • Newspapers (some ink has chemicals may disrupt the happy bacteria revelry)
  • Dog and cat food (contains meat and preservatives)
  • Corn cobs (they take FOREVER to compost!!)
  • Peach pits (see corn cobs)
  • Weeds! (They will germinate in the rich soil and you will wind up planting them in your garden next year)
  • Milk products– no cheese, yogurt, milk, nothing.
  • Oils (vegetable, grease, etc)
  • Bones
  • Silverware (can you believe that we actually find forks and spoons in the compost pile?! All the kids say they have NO IDEA how silverware gets in there! :S hmm)

So there you have it! Composting can be pretty fun. Sure, you’re getting your hands dirty. But just think of how happy you are making the worms, the bacteria, the garden plants! And think of happy you will be when you sink your teeth into those luscious tomatoes that thrived in such rich soil. 🙂

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Humus is tilled in to the bed, bed is weeded and raked, and ready for seeds.

Thanks for reading! Happy composting.

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