Archive | April, 2010

Find the Kitty Friday 4/16

April 16, 2010



TOTALLY caught me by surprise. I realized it at 2pm today! lol, wow. Sorry, folks! I know some of you kids wait alllll week for this. 😉 Well, better late than never, eh?

OK OK can you find her??

FTK 4.16.10

I have a bunch of garden posts coming up… more on making a compost, a seeds update, and we’ll be enlarging our vegetable garden beds and planting next week. I also have some things planned about the FASCINATING world of plumbing! Yes! I am obsessed!! I think we are going to do this, people. I think it can be done. Oh, I may call in the Plumber Dude to do some of the dirty work, such as configure the waste stack… but as far as adding supply lines and making better drain lines– it’s do-able. And I am encouraged by a group of people of like-precious faith who may help me. They sent me a photo of some of their recent work… this is a fancy rig job they recently did for someone else. Pretty slick work, wouldn’t you say?


Hopefully I won’t lose any readers when I start discussing my adventures in plumbing. REALLY, it IS interesting! I’ll make it look good, ok?

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How to Start a Compost, Part 2

April 13, 2010

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Starting a new garden? Got a limpid garden? Do you have weak, impoverished soil? Boy oh boy, do I have news for you! It’s time to play in the dirt! Compost is fun, folks! In case you missed the riveting Part 1 in this series, go ahead and read it.

This post is going to be How to Make a Wire Bin, and will be filled with tips and stories of what’s worked for me these years. First, you’ve gotta getta bin.

The Wire Bin
Heavy-duty gloves
Tin snips or cable cutters
Four metal garden stakes or 2 x 4 posts**
Chicken wire, about 15 feet length or so
Twine or heavy-duty garden twisty ties for stakes, or metal staples for posts

Your Wire Bin will probably look a lot neater.

Of course, you can go much fancier, but don’t you really want to get a compost going right now? Sure, you do. Throw together a quick bin and get the compost going. Then you can start constructing your St. Peter’s Basilica of Compost Bins later, and take your time at it. Compost takes about a year to get ready, so time is of the essence.

1. Stake out an area in your yard that receives sun for at least half the day. Hammer the four stakes in the shape of a square. If you have a large yard with a lot of leaves and grass clippings to add, each side of the square should be approximately 4 to 5 feet, with a stake at each corner.

2. Starting at one stake, take the twisty tie and secure the chicken wire to the stake. Or, if you are using wooden posts, tack the wire onto the post using the staples. Go all the way around the square.

3. Now, you can leave the front part of the square open, as I do, or you can loosely secure the wire to the front for easy access later. Just keep in mind that in a year, you need to get all the stuff OUT of the bin.

4. Dump in your waste. Experts say it’s best to try to layer the stuff: leaves, then grass clippings, then food waste. etc. I do not layer. I just dump *whatever* in. It’s been working so far. This is nature we’re talking about– it’s well able to what it needs to do without much pampering from a human.

5. You can add stuff like compost starter to the mix, if you want. But a shovelful of garden soil or cow manure will do. The purpose for this is to give the compost a little kick-start with that wonderful aerobic bacteria that will be making your waste into humus (prepared compost). I have never added anything, and have done fine. The garden soil is a good idea, and I’ll be trying that this year.

**Do not use pressure-treated wood. PTW is coated with chemicals (such as arsenic) that will leach into the soil and into your vegetables.

    Tips for a Really Good Compost Pile:

  • Add earthworms to your pile. Earthworms are marvelous for compost. They help aerate the mix and their, uh, poop, is a great addition to any compost pile!
  • During dry spells, water the compost pile. Just a little.
  • Every month or so, turn the mix over, or stir it up best you can. I actually NEVER do this, because the pile is so heavy. My compost turns out OK. But turning may help make the compost decompose quicker. Use a shovel or pitchfork to mix the waste. Watch out for innocent earthworm bystanders.
  • Add only vegetable matter to the mix, never meats, fats, or grease. This will disrupt the bacteria revelry going on. And meats and grease may attract skunks, raccoons, and rats.

Gardens love compost!

In the next and final installment is this series, I’ll talk about what to add to your compost bin, and what NOT to add, and what to do when you finally have your compost ready for adding to the garden. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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How to Start a Compost, Part 1

April 12, 2010


If you have a garden, a compost is important. If you are a tightwad like me, and don’t like buying expensive fertilizers, bagged compost, and peat moss every year, a compost pile is REALLY important.

Compost is just a fancy word for decomposed waste. Or, as says, “a combination of decomposed plant and animal materials and other organic materials that are being decomposed largely through aerobic decomposition into a rich black soil.” Right. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Veg Garden1

My garden at planting time, last year.


My garden thrives after amending with compost.

I have “maintained” a compost pile for a few years now. I say “maintained” in quotes because it’s been largely trial and error for me. Everybody makes it look SOOO easy– and indeed it is, kinda– but you have to do it right, or it won’t work. Me– I don’t like babysitting the compost pile; I have so much to do that turning the blasted 200-pound pile over every week never gets done. So I’ll tell you about my woes and wins, and throw a few tips in, as well. Here goes:

  • You do not need to buy ANYTHING. Nothing. Don’t believe anyone who says otherwise! You do NOT need that fancy $500 hand-cranking bin, nor the $50 compost starter mix, nor the nice $100 pitchfork. You may buy things if you want. A compost can be a hole in the ground, if you want. Most people like things a little neater (including me) but don’t think that you need to spend a fortune even for that. Keep reading…
  • The compost will not smell bad if you are doing it right. Compost is decaying organic matter, and it needs a few things to decay properly. I call it the Big Three: oxygen, moisture, and friendly compost-making bacteria. If you have too much moisture, or not enough oxygen, it will smell. Believe me, it will smell.
  • The compost bin should be in a sunny area of the yard, in a convenient area near the garden.
  • You can keep your compost going all year ’round, or only in the warm months. I do it only in the warm months, because my son dislikes hauling the compost bucket from the kitchen to the backyard in 3 feet of snow every night. Sheesh. lol.
  • You need a healthy assortment of waste: “green” waste like grass clippings; “brown” waste like leaves and topsoil; “food” waste from the house.
  • Compost ONLY vegetable matter. Do not compost bones, meat, fat, grease, etc. These will disrupt that friendly bacteria that you will soon covet– they are vegetarians, ok?
  • You will learn to love earthworms, and get to know their favorite foods.

OK! Let’s get started! First, you need a compost bin, or a place to dump your loot. I have used the “dump” method as well as a variety of bins. In the next post, I’ll show you how to build a quick and easy bin. Here’s a rundown of the various compost bin styles:

  • The Hole:
    Very ugly. Tends to get quite soggy. Not recommended, but in a compost emergency, it’ll do.
  • The Pile:
    Like The Hole, it’s ugly and messy. But effective. I have The Pile in the back– it’s full of weeds, discarded garden waste, small twigs, etc. It takes a long, long time to decompose. I’m still waiting, actually. The bigger the waste, the longer the wait. There’s a family of rabbits living in there right now. You can create a Pile if you don’t want to use a bin. The Pile works well if you include the Big Three. The main problem (besides ugliness) with The Pile is that the food waste may attract unfriendlys, like rats, raccoons, and other unsavory critters. I only throw large garden waste in The Pile, no food waste.
  • The Wooden Bin:
    I have a wooden bin. I threw it together. It once had a lid, but that decayed after a few winters, and I never replaced it. The bin can be constructed of pallets or plain old 2 x 4s. The Wooden Bin is nice because it keeps critters away (if the slats are narrow enough) and allows for enough oxygen to pass through the mix. It’s very tough to turn over, though. Ugh. Note: do not use pressure-treated lumber for your compost bin. More on that later.
  • The Plastic Bin:
    I use this mostly, right now. It’s not the greatest. I have one large plastic garbage can and two 35-gallon Rubbermaid totes. I drilled holes in the sides and top, but even then, there really isn’t enough oxygen. I sprayed water in them, and the water wouldn’t seep out, so they got waterlogged. The bins are very convenient– compost is easy to turn, and the bins have lids, but the lack of oxygen and the water retention problem makes it a bummer. You can buy one of those expensive plastic bins designed specifically for composts, if you want. I have not tried them. I assume, like Little Tykes toys, that they would fade over time and look awful. But they may work.
  • The Wire Bin:
    In my opinion, this is THE BEST choice. All I did was plug a few metal garden posts into the ground and wrap chicken wire around them. There’s plenty of oxygen, and there’s as much moisture as the surrounding area– and when there’s too much, the extra seeps out through the wire– and it’s relatively easy to turn over.

The Wire Bin works best for me.

I have heard lots of opinions on when your compost should be garden-ready. There’s some “instant compost” flukes out there that I have heard about. I don’t know about them. It generally takes a year for me. I start this year’s compost for use next year. I always spread the compost before spring tilling time. I have a huge yard, with loads of leaves, grass clippings, and kids who eat a lot of veggies. So your mileage may vary. All I know is that a compost is usually ready in 12-14 months. So you’d better get going!

Compost soil, also known as humus, is rich, black, and loamy. It should smell earthy, not like sewage or mildew.


The rich humus of compost contrasting with the brown topsoil.

So this ends the Part 1 of How to Start a Compost. In the next articles, I’ll show you how to construct a Wire Bin, give some tips, and show you what to do with your composted humus when you have it.

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Win a Delta Touch2O® Technology Faucet, Easy!

April 11, 2010

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I absolutely LOVE Delta faucets. Oh sure, some of the reason has to do with the fact that they GAVE me one for my new kitchen renovation this spring! Isn’t it beautiful?!


But another reason is that Delta faucets are, in my opinion, the best faucets made. As many of you know, my home is 150+ years old. Very little of the home has been renovated since then, and what was done by previous owners is horrid (although they did the basement floor very nicely). They didn’t have green products back in those olden days: formaldehyde paneling, lead paint, asbestos, etc etc. And the plumbing is a DISASTER. But all the fixtures except one are Delta faucets, installed about 30-40 years ago. And they are in pristine shape. The one faucet that is a cheapo no-name brand leaks like a sieve, however. After seeing the reliable performance of Delta, I am only buying Delta fixtures for the home. If they can endure what this poor house has endured, then they are the best.

So Delta is having a very, very nice giveaway right now, and you’d be crazy to pass it up. It’s very easy to enter the contest, and fun, too! They want you to go to their site and Make a Mess! Yes, boys and girls– MAKE a MESS! You could win a beautiful Delta® faucet with Touch2O® Technology! Believe me– they are GORGEOUS. And Delta has 7 of them to give away, one per week until May 23. And then at the end of that week, Delta will choose an additional two winners.

This is all you have to do. It’s EASY:

  • Create a finger painting and upload it to the design gallery.
  • Check your email account for confirmation that your uploaded design has been submitted for content approval.
  • You will receive a second email inviting you to submit your design for a chance to win a Delta® faucet with Touch2O® Technology.
  • Submit your design for a chance to win!

The faucet is lovely. It has “touch” technology– like those touch lamps, ya know? Instead of grabbing the faucet handle with sticky, messy hands, you tap the faucet and it comes on automatically. It also has an integrated sprayer. The faucet has a brushed bronze finish, and of course, it has reliable Delta parts and technology.

When it comes time for me to install my faucet in my kitchen, I’ll have how-to pictures, (hopefully) a few videos, and tips that helped me with the installation. Delta also has some installation videos on their site, too. Check out the contest! If you win, we could install our together! 😀

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Find the Kitty Friday 4/9

April 9, 2010


Livvy just loves to help out with chores, especially clean, warm laundry. Can you find the kitty?

FTK 4.09

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How to Remove Sod

April 8, 2010

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I’ve removed sod a few different times: through suffocation (laying plastic on a plot until the turf dies); through roto-tilling; through manual removal. By far, I think the easiest and most satisfying is through manual removal. The suffocation method takes too long and is messy; roto-tilling is hard, trying to get the machine to chew through tough turf, and then there’s the back-breaking work of picking and raking the plot to remove sod clumps (and I never seem to get them all). Manual sod removal is quick, it’s easy, and you see instant results. After you remove the first 3-5 inches of sod, you can roto-till the soil.

The best time to “bust” sod, as I call it, is a day or two after rainfall. The soil is slightly moist and the sod will tear apart easily. However, if your soil is waterlogged, the task may be very messy and muddy.

Get a flat-end spade. Cut a long strip of any length, and about 1 foot wide. Then, chop the strip into 1 to 2 foot sections, for easy handling.



Work up one side of the strip with the spade. Your goal is to tear the root system out of the subsoil below. It’s important to get the roots out, or else the turf will grow back. My yard varies: in some places I need only dig 2 inches down to get past the roots; in other areas, it’s 4 inches.



Use the spade to hack horizontally into and under each square section.


Pull up the section. Dump it upside down, and chop off any loose subsoil and clumps. Loosen the dirt from the roots with your hands if you need to.



This is what the section looks like after we removed a few sections.


Hacking into the sod is probably the hardest part, but I love it because it is incredible exercise. It’s a little difficult to explain with text, so we made a quick video showing how to do this.

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To Plumb or Not to Plumb?

April 5, 2010


Hey, did you know that the word “plumb” in plumbing comes from the ancient Romans, meaning “lead”? The Romans innovated plumbing. They realized that cities were cleaner and had less disease when fresh water was piped in and sewage waste was piped out. However, the Romans lined their pipes and water cisterns with lead. Unfortunately, they didn’t realize the toxic effects of lead to the brain. Some of those crazy emperors we read about may have had lead poisoning. :S

Well, anyway, that’s the long way of saying that I have been consumed with learning about the plumbing system of a home. I met with my plumber over the weekend, and he gave me a general estimate for the work to be done here.



I’m seriously reconsidering my pledge to “never do plumbing.” Yikes $2400 (without New York State tax included) is what I wanted to spend on the ENTIRE KITCHEN.


Plumbing is pretty cut and dry. The problem is that the system here in this house is unvented. Can you believe that?! A “professional” plumber (he is a plumber, but he did this work on this house as a favor for his sister who was the trustee of the church that owned the house before we bought it… if that is comprehensible at ALL) did the work. He slapped things together. Not only is the system lacking vents, the pipes for several fixtures are not attached/secured. Nope! Dear Remuddlers: simply owning and wearing plumbers’ uniforms does NOT make a plumber. You must KNOW the concept behind good plumbing and DO it CORRECTLY. See?

For example, the drain pipe under the bathroom sink is a little smaller in diameter than the drainage plumbing behind the sink in the wall. All the guy did was poke the sink drain pipe into the wall drainage pipe. If the sink is ever clogged or a large rush of water is draining in the sink, the drain water backs up and comes gushing out through the opening inside the vanity cabinet.


And there’s a lot more.

Problem is, connecting everything to the vent stack. I would have to slice open the existing vent stack (there is one vent stack, it’s for the tub and toilet upstairs) and connect the downstairs toilet, downstairs, sink, kitchen sink, washing machine drain, and upstairs sink into it. That’s a lot of cutting.


I don’t know, folks. I could save a lot of money by doing this myself… but I think I’d probably have to ditch the entire old system and start from scratch (as I decided to do with the electric here). That would take a lot of time. I could buy them at eBay cheap, and resell them when I’m done, that wouldn’t be a problem…

*sigh* I’m a little discouraged, I guess. I haven’t even begun, and already the costs are piling up!

Oh well… I’ve been through tough times before, and the good Lord has helped me through. Keep me in your prayers. I don’t know what to decide, which way to go. I’m thinking I may have to bite the bullet and hire a guy, but this will double the cost of my kitchen re-do. Not sure what to do yet.

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Back to School for Me

April 2, 2010


It’s hard to believe that I haven’t worked on this house (in a major way) for three years! I wish I hadn’t waited so long to pick it back up again; I’ve forgotten a lot of what I knew about electrical wiring.

So I’m repeating this year what I did for that summer of ’07: pouring through various wiring books, learning about codes and how to wire the house. I managed to wire about half the house in 2007; we’ve been without electricity for the other half all this time. Ever since I opened the walls and saw the horrible mess of 1930-era knobs and tubes, I’ve been too afraid to turn the electric back on, not until I can replace the entire system. So my home is still a mish-mash of new, old, and intermediate wiring, not to mention a LOT of extension cords everywhere. :-p

Anyway, I went to the library and checked out half their stacks, lol.


The best books have lots of diagrams and have information on codes in basic, simple lists.


I have also got the floor plans made out.


I have yet to map out the electrical schematics, and the plumbing schematic. I dread the plumber’s bills. The entire plumbing system must be replaced… it will cost a pretty penny. I am apprehensive about the condition of the pipes, especially that nasty black cast iron sewage pipe in the basement. It’s turning orange, which means it’s rusting. I do NOT want to be around when that thing breaks apart, uh uh. Talk about toxic waste!

Anyway, I’d better get cracking on this stuff. I figure I’ll start demolition after I plant the vegetable garden, sometime in late April/early May. I am itching to start pulling down plaster, but I have to box and pack away ALL my stuff including my books and computers, cover my heater vents, move the animals to the upstairs, hang plastic in doorways…. there’s a lot to do.

I can’t wait til it’s all over.

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Find the Kitty Friday 4/2

April 2, 2010

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This is a rerun photo from nearly a year ago, but many of you newer readers may have missed it. I love it. It’s the photo that started the whole Find the Kitty meme.

Find the Kitty 4

She’s not in a mood to play FTK anymore. That, and she’s too darn big to hide in many places. I just may have to get another kitty to continue the game! 😀 We’ll see. 😉

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