Archive | May, 2012

Garden Planted

May 31, 2012

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We spent the hottest day of the year (thus far!) working outside on the garden. We didn’t plan it that way. I’m very late getting the seeds in, and couldn’t wait another day. Besides, it’s May. Who’da thought we’d break a 100-year record at 91 degrees with 75% humidity? Yick.

The husband tilled one bed and the boys did the other. The girls hacked at weeds on the garden paths.

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I’d read somwehere that laying a cover of mulch helps keeps weeds down. The weeds have been mighty ferocious this year already, so I tried newspapers.

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Hm. Looks awful and I am not even sure it will be effective. The papers were actually too wide to fit between the rows. So we only laid a few, then quit. We’ll see how this develops. I will eventually spread a layer of peat moss over the beds, as mulch. I have done it for a few years and it’s worked very well. I just gotta go get the stuff.

Both beds planted! I’m very pleased with it so far, despite the rather shabby appearance. It’s so GREEN and lush.

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Oh the work has only just begun. I have to mend the fences and replace the mangled chicken wire. The ground hogs, rabbits, and deer love my garden too much, and they don’t like to share. We also have a grapevine on one side of the fence and raspberries on the other side. It’s quite the work to keep these guys from entangling their octopus-arms into everything.

This year, I’m trying red peppers again. This will be my third attempt. In all the years of gardening, I have only got ONE pepper. Ever. If nothing grows this year, no more peppers. I can’t grow corn here, either, because the crows are profuse and because it’s so wet here.

I also am trying broccoli again. My previous crop was a dismal failure. Here’s hoping this does better. We planted LOTS of lettuce, yellow beans, yellow and zucchini squash, rutabagas, onions and basil. I have yet to plant potatoes.

Now we wait. šŸ™‚

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Soundproofing

May 31, 2012

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I have written a number of articles on soundproofing lately (for online publication SF Gate Home) and here. The science behind it is very interesting. There’s s new product called Green Glue. It’s a “viscoelastic damping compound” that looks like green caulk. Apparently, you spread it between a sandwich of drywall boards, and it converts sound waves to heat. Amazing! According to a number of people who have used it, the stuff actually works.

I’m storing all this information for two reasons. One, when sitting in my office, I can hear a pin drop upstairs, right through the floor. It’s simply staggering, how sound travels through this old house. Two, I’m going to be converting the garage into a family music room, and I’ll want it to be soundproof, or at least somewhat soundproof.

Another reason is that we have dogs. Yorkies. They are adorable dogs but they YIP YIP YIP all day long. Not very conducive to recording music in a studio!

Soundproofing is not very common in homes. It should be mandatory in apartment houses, I think. It isn’t very expensive to soundproof or even muffle noises. I don’t know why more landlords don’t do it. I wish mine had!

So this is my latest venture, investigating the science and construction of soundproofing. I haven’t been able to start my built-in bookshelf project yet….

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Fuzzy Masters the Art of Relaxation

May 30, 2012

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Can this cat relax or what?

FuzzyRelaxing

All she did was rub his shoulders, and he melts into a bag o’ fluff.

I don’t often talk about Fuzzy because he’s an outdoor cat and because he hasn’t hung out around the house very much during the day, until recently. Our other outdoor cat, Milo, died about a year ago and since then, Fuzzy hangs out with us more often. Fuzzy and Milo hated each other. They barely tolerated each other’s presence on the property, and we always had to have two separate beds and foods in separate locations. But since Milo is gone, Fuzzy is oddly lonely! I think he liked the excitement. :-p

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Fun Stuff: Electroplating a Quarter

May 29, 2012

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Renovations will have to wait. We’ve spent the better part of the week with science lab experiments for my son’s science course and beating back the weeds to cultivate a garden. More on that later. For now, I wanted to share a neat little experiment we did. Since wiring the house, the boys and I have had lots of fun with electrical gadgets. We rigged up a way to electroplate a quarter. His lab assignment was to electroplate a spoon using a lantern battery. I didn’t have any extra spoons and we had no lantern battery, so we decided to use a quarter and an old cell phone charger power adapter. Fun!

At first we tried a DC battery, but that didn’t have enough juice.

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We also didn’t have a strip of copper, so we just bundled a bunch of old leftover copper wiring from when we wired the kitchen electric. If you look carefully in the photo, the quarter is bubbling. We’d cut off the adapter end of the power adapter and spliced the wires. We then taped one wire to the quarter with black electrical tape and connected the other end of the wire to the copper wires.

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The quarter was electroplated with the copper! The wiring looks dull because the copper hopped from the wires to the quarter.

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You can see that the area that held the tape didn’t get plated.

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Recipe:
White vinegar
Table salt
Power source
Copper strip or wires
Quarter
Black electrical tape

I wonder what’s next. I do know there are more electricity experiments coming up. Fun!

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Insulating Between Floors, Is It Worth It?

May 24, 2012

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Yes and no.

Single-Family Units: No

If you live in a single-family dwelling, insulating between the floors may actually make your home colder. Hot air rises, and the heat produced on your first floor floats up to heat the second (and third) floors. This type of passive heat transfer saves you a bit of money on the energy bills.

My home was built in 1855, before the onset of central heating. I can only imagine how freezing cold it must have been in this house, with no insulation, no ducts and hot water pipes to transfer heat. Still, even after these inventions, the house was bitterly cold every winter because we had no insulation in the walls.

Well so far, I’ve managed to insulate the entire downstairs. It’s been a slow process since I’m gutting the house room by room. But it’s been SO worth it. The downstairs of this house is so cozy that I am hot during the winter. The upstairs, however, is still much cooler. The walls upstairs are uninsulated (for now). Yet because the downstairs of my home IS insulated, the rooms retain their heat and of course the heat rises. This year, for the first time EVER, we did not turn on the baseboard heaters this winter. The heat from the downstairs supplied all the heat for the upstairs. If my floors had been insulated, this would not have happened.

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I did insulate the ceiling above a heat sink, where the joists extend from the warm living spaces over an unheated garage. This makes a world of difference.

Insulating between floors does not save energy. It does not warm the house, but it does make the insulated section stay warmer longer. So all the data I have read says that insulating between floors is not necessary (and may even be detrimental) for a single-home dwelling.

Multiple-Dwelling Units: Yes

With that said, I think that the floors between multiple-home dwellings SHOULD be insulated. In this case, each family is paying for its own utilities. With the cost of fuel, the last thing a family living on the first floor wants to do is pay to heat the apartment on the upper floors. I once lived in an apartment for a few years. The heat was pretty expensive so we scrounged to conserve. Right before we we moving out, a neighbor confided to me that one of their rooms was on my heating line. I’d been paying to heat a part of the neighbor’s apartment for years, without ever knowing! Needless to say, we made tracks to chew out the landlord, lol.

How Do You Do It?

I heartily recommend that floors between apartment buildings are insulated. It can be a messy job, though. You can always rip out the layer of drywall, install fiberglass batting, and reinstall the ceiling. Another option is renting an insulation blower and filling the ceiling joist cavities with blown-in fiberglass insulation. A few notes on insulating between floors:

Do not fill the ceiling joists with insulation if the room has recessed lighting. Recessed lighting cans become extremely hot during use, and loose fill surrounding the can may ignite.

Do not insulate between walls or ceilings if your home still has the old knob-and-tube electrical wiring. Many building codes prohibit insulation with this wiring. The wiring, covered by insulation, can ignite and cause a fire.

It also helps to place the insulation blower outside a window, to reduce the dust and mess a blower makes. Most blowers are equipped with extra-long hoses for this purpose.

Close Up

What I found when I opened my living room ceiling. It would have been very dangerous to insulate between here!

Thanks for reading!

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Review of Adams Flea & Tick Spot On for Cats

May 22, 2012

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I don’t often talk of him because he’s the shy, retiring type– our “outdoor” cat, Fuzzy. Fuzzy is all tabby, so he never comes in the house. We do have a nice little apartment for him in the basement, however, which is where he stays during the night. Because he is an outdoor cat, I can’t have him in the house. I am horribly allergic to fleas. I swell up and my glands go beserk. Fuzzy is a very affectionate cat, though, so he loves to sit on our laps and sleep on our fabric-covered patio furniture. A part of me dies when he does that… I envision a brigade of razor-teethed fleas marching from his fur onto our clothing. It’s not that I don’t want to cuddle him, it’s just that I know he has fleas and ticks just from his exploits in the tall grasses (and from befriending raccoons).

We’ve tried Frontline, which is “OK.” It’s pretty expensive and the applicator stinks. I usually wind up with more on my hands than on the cat. And Fuzzy has this vicious aversion to ANYTHING that remotely resembles a vet tool.

Well, the folks from Adams have seen my pitiful position, and took mercy on me. They sent me their new Adams Flea & Tick Spot On for Cats. It has a fancy applicator. Fuzzy is blissfully unaware what’s about to happen! Muahahhaa!!

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It’s wonderfully easy to do. I was actually amazed at how easy. I am the kind of person who *hates* giving cats any kind of vet care– pills, meds, grabbing them by the scruff and stuffing them in carriers– it just goes against my sensibilities. But I actually thought the applicator tool was pretty easy.

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You pop the plastic liquid tube into the plastic applicator. No need to tear the tube open, no scissors, nothing. Just put it in.

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Then, bend the applicator top over. The action will snap open the tube! I loved this. I didn’t get ONE DROP on my hands.

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That’s it. Now go rub and squeeze the stuff on the back of the cat’s neck.

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Fuzzy thought nothing of it, he figured I was just scritching his neck like I usually do. I couldn’t believe that he didn’t run away! I was even able to take a PHOTO while doing it. Unbelievable. If you have feral cats or outdoor cats, you know what I mean– these cats don’t like NOTHING. They’ll run away of they even suspect you of trying to help them. But the applicator has this small lip that probably feels pretty good, like a back massager. What cat ever ran away from a massage?

All done!

The Adams Flea & Tick Spot On for Cats says it kills fleas (YAY), deer ticks (YAY), flea eggs, flea larvae, and mosquitos. It also has a natural coat conditioner. The application must be repeated every 30 days. Don’t do this more than once a month, and MAKE SURE you get the proper potency according to your cat’s weight. There’s Adams Spot On for dogs, too.

It’s also affordable. I saw a 3-month supply of liquid tube refills on sale at Wayfair for $10. Walmart carries this stuff, as does Petco and others.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the product. And Fuzzy is, too, because now he can snuggle all he wants without me grimacing at him.

Note: I received a free sample of this product for this review. My opinion on the product is 100% mine. It is not intended to substitute any professional advice or opinions from your pet’s veterinarian. Before applying this product to your pet, consult your vet. Never apply this product to weakened, sick, or very young cats. Thanks for reading!

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Find the Kitty Friday: Solomon’s Seal

May 18, 2012

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Shhhhhhhh. She thinks she’s invisible.

LivvySolomonsSeal

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You’ve Got Questions…..

May 16, 2012

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I love forums. Since I write articles for so many diverse topics, I often come across forums. While visiting forums are not generally considered to be the most reliable method for exacting information, I like them because I can glean so much from the experiences of others. Many a time, a forum member has posted some fix for a computer or plumbing problem that I found useful.

So I want to mention a very cool forum for homeowners. It’s called homeownershub.com and the owner of the site is a terrific guy. He just opened up a helpful Questions and Answers section, too. You can ask away– ask questions about your appliances, roof, electrical, anything. If you know a thing or two about the topic, leave your answer. Or read others’ answers. Or, just post a comment to commiserate with us other homeowners, lol.

It’s a really good place to get information. Check it out!

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I’m writing about this site because the owner is a very nice guy and the website is extremely helpful! I recommend it. šŸ™‚

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Livvy and Her Teddy

May 16, 2012

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It’s been raining buckets lately so we’ve been unable to continue our work on the gardens. We HAVE been hacking away at the weeds, though! The progress is very good, but I can’t get photos because… it’s raining. The yard is looking like Brazil, my son says. All this rain inspires the plants to grow amazingly large and full. Let’s hope we can stave off the Amazon River this year… I’m praying no more of those Hundred Year Floods. We’ve had our quota for the next 800 years, I’d say.

Because I am photo-less, I’ll treat you to a cute little video of Livvy and her Teddy. Whenever Livvy is feeling grouchy and wants to attack our feet, we stick Teddy under her nose. She can take out her frustrations on him. And she does.

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Find the Kitty: Yew Mews

May 11, 2012

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My yews are, um, a BIT overgrown. My excuse is that it’s been raining cats and dogs and we haven’t had a chance to clip them. but the real reason is that I’m TERRIBLE at pruning shrubs. I leave the job to the husband, but lately he’s been working 6 to 7 days a week. The extra dough is so very nice, but the yard is a disaster, lol.

ANYWAY… can you find the kitty?

YewsMews

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