Archive | Gardening RSS feed for this section

Bambi Meets Godzilla

April 21, 2012

3 Comments

Now that’s it’s spring and I’m surveying the massive damage to my vegetation and gardens, it’s time for my annual “I Hate Deer” post! Yay!

To start off this year’s festivities, I present to you a marvelous short film, Bambi Meets Godzilla.

I first saw this video more than 30 years ago! I was flabbergasted to see it on YouTube. We kids were around the television set when this little film came on sometime in the late 70s? I think it was done by a university student, as a school project? Can’t remember. It was on TV one fine Saturday afternoon. My brothers and I and my very little sister were watching it. Oh the sweet, lilting music! The adorable and soft sylvan setting! The innocent little fawn munching on my future hostas forest foliage!

All of sudden, HERE COMES GODZILLA! Impending doom.

The boys and I (quite the tomboy) rolled on the floor, laughing. My young sister, however, was aghast and shouted out in distress. For some reason, we all thought her angst was hilarious, too, and laughed even harder. It was tough being a girl in our family.

I never forgot that video. I even told my kids about it. Imagine my surprise to find it on YouTube!! I gathered them around the computer like a mother hen with her chicks, pressed the “Full Screen” key and turned up the volume. With swelling anticipation, I awaited their hilarious laughter.

The video ended.

Silence.

“Oh Mom’s so sadistic,” a daughter rolled her eyes. The other kids were quiet.

WHAT?!?! I think it’s cool.

Deer eat my gardens, they eat my trees, they poop in my lawn, they wreck all my hard work!!! Cheers to Godzilla. 🙂 Muahahahhaaha.

So who are you rooting for?

Continue reading...

Brrrrr

March 26, 2012

3 Comments

Has everyone been experiencing an unusually warm and early spring, or is it just us here in the Northeast? Spring is about 5 to 6 weeks early here, “unprecedented,” say the weather gurus.

My daffodils are blooming and the lilacs are budding, but it’s the weeds that are really thriving. After all the years of flooding we’ve had, my yard is filled with weeds. I used to have such a nice lawn, nice gardens. There’s no way I can manage all these weeds. So if you can’t beat them, join them, right? Weeds can be very decorative…. well, kinda. I think there’s no redeeming burdock, except that the roots are edible.

Anyway, the heat was climbing into the 80s so I unpacked my summer clothes and wore shorts for a time. I even unpacked the box fan to run in the window! But then, all of a sudden– WHAM. Winter is making a comeback! It’s freezing today, with the thermometer barely getting above freezing. And looks like a bit of snow is on the way, too. No worries, though. Even though I unpacked my shorts, I didn’t pack up my warm winter clothes. This IS the Northeast, after all.

So the weather gurus are in their glory. They don’t usually get this excited about weather except when there’s a huge lake effect snowstorm on the way. And as if we just CAN’T get enough of the weather, they bring up the “drought” index.

Seriously?! Drought in New York State?! It appears that the word “drought” has different meanings across the country. I always through a drought was a long time (years) with very little or no rainfall– you know, The Dust Bowl and Grapes of Wrath and all. But here in NYS, “drought” means more like “a few weeks without our usual deluges of rain.” So we haven’t had our usual 5 inches of rain this month— who’s worried about a drought?

Yes, yes, I know local farmers rely on rain. But if there’s one thing New York State does not lack, it’s rainfall. How I wish we could import it, we’d be rich! I remember a few years ago we had a very dry summer with very little rainfall (for about 2 whopping months). Our garden and lawn thrived, though. We’d redirected our sump pump pipes to the gardens, and poked holes in the pipes. Drought or not, that sump pump runs ALL THE TIME. So we had plenty of water and the plants grew enormously. I’m never worried about drought. I welcome it, actually. But that’s just my own little world so I still hope for rain for the farmers’ sakes.

How is your weather in your area? Is it another crazy year of unpredictable events and weird patterns?

Continue reading...

Old Windows vs. Vinyl Replacement Windows

January 16, 2012

3 Comments

In a previous post, Plaster vs. Drywall, I battled the snob appeal regarding plaster and lath walls. In this post, I’m once again picking up the sword and combating the “old windows versus replacement windows” argument. As an old house owner and a person who has lived in old homes all my life, I’ve had my share of old windows experiences. Most of them have been bad. Yes, people, I HATE old windows. New windows rock.

I love old stuff as much as anyone. My favorite old house style is Federal style, so you know I’m an old house lover. My own house, a Greek Revival, was built in 1855. I have researched the history of the building and its original owner (and owners after that). I know that of the original windows to my house, only two remain. Both are in terrible condition.

Garage Window

One of the original 9/6 windows, behind a storm window.

The other windows to the house were replaced in 1910 or so. Most of those windows are still in place. They are BARELY in place, but they are all still here. The house has a total of 15 windows, and only two windows had ever been replaced since 1910, the kitchen got an aluminum replacement window in 1972 and the upstairs bathroom window got a crank-style Anderson window in the late 1980s.

When we moved here, we could only afford to get 5 windows replaced, the ones that were broken or cracked. We got very inexpensive vinyl replacement windows. They’ve been in place since 1997. Even though they were the cheapest window we could get and even though they are over 14 years old, I LOVE THEM.

Yet among the “old house experts,” old windows are somehow superior to new ones. Old house folks are always saying that old windows are better than new ones because… well, just because. Old windows look better, they say. They say there is no difference with heat loss between the two, that old windows are more historic, and they are just “better.” I say: BAH.

So I’m here to debate the “old window” snobs. I think new windows are great, and old windows — especially MY 100+ year old windows — need replacing. And there’s nothing wrong with replacing old windows with new ones.

Snob appeal says: When it comes to insulation factors and heat loss, old windows play a small part and do not lose THAT much heat.

Reality Check: What planet are you from?!

My old windows rattle, shake, and leak. Cold air in the winter and hot air in the summer blow through the holes all around the frame. True, the glazing on parts of the window is flaking off (another problem with old windows) so air leaks through some of the windows (but glazing is not the problem with some of the others). Old windows are made of glass– thin, 1/8-inch thick glass. This house has 15 windows that are 32 inches by 62 inches– that’s 13.78 square feet of windows for the entire house. Which means that approximately 207 square feet of the walls here was covered by 1/8-inch glass. Brrr. Just yesterday with temperatures falling into the single digits, the old windows were caked with a thick layer of ice. The ice melted during the day and water was everywhere. I have to lay a towel on each windowsill to prevent the water from running all over the floor. Even with storm windows on some of the old windows, we still get thick ice on the glass. So for me, ALL my old windows, the ones that have storm windows and the ones that do not, develop thick ice on the glass when it gets cold. None of my vinyl replacement windows have EVER developed ice, not ever.

oldwindowicile

My old window. Don't let the snobs tell you there's no measurable heat loss difference between old and new windows!

Vinyl replacement, on the other hand, has two panes of glass in each sash. When we installed vinyl replacement windows in our dining room, the change was remarkable. Before, my hair would blow around at the dinner table on a particularly blustery day; new windows stopped that. Before, we could almost hear our neighbors in their homes discussing with each other how to kill my flower gardens and hack at my trees; after the new windows were installed, I live in blissful ignorance of their schemes. Windows will never really be very good at keeping out the extreme temperatures, no matter what kind of material they are made from. But vinyl replacement performs better than the old glass. That’s a fact.

Now let me temper this argument with a few points. YES, storm windows installed over old windows help reduce heat loss. YES, vinyl replacement windows will most likely not last 100+ years. Old wooden windows were *usually* made from “old-growth” wood, the hardiest and strongest part of the wood. I don’t know if the original builder of my home made his windows from old-growth. This home was always a “middle income” home in a “middle income” community. The biggest expense the owner made was to install black walnut trim in the living room (which, incidentally, had to be removed because it was soaked with lead-based paint from other owners who had painted over the wood!). Everyone’s mileage may vary because everyone’s house and windows and weather is different.

But in my experience, I have noticed a considerable difference between the old windows and the new. The old windows would stick in the summer and freeze up in the winter. The glass is thin. In all the windows, the glass is so old that is has melted and has drooped from gravity and weather changes. Some people like this kind of “character,” but I don’t. I like to SEE out of my windows, thanks.

Snob appeal says: Old windows look better than vinyl replacement windows. It’s better to keep your rotten old wooden windows than replace them with vinyl windows.

Reality Check: I don’t care how ugly vinyl windows look, rotten wood windows look worse.

It’s true that most “old house” building materials were build with better quality than the trash manufactured today. But there does come a time when you just have to say goodbye to certain things. Moldy plaster and rotten windows are some of them, in my opinion.

I KNOW! I KNOW! I am going against the entire old home snob community when I say these things! But please realize that I am addressing the 99% of us who are middle-income and who own non-state-historic-site houses. We just don’t have the cash to pay for elaborate repairs to old windows or spend millions on new custom wood windows. Those days are gone. For most of us old-house homeowners, vinyl replacement windows are terrific. They are more weather-resistant, easier to clean, have screening, and open and close easier.

Snob Factor: Vinyl replacement windows might look ugly and out of place in an old home. Old windows have more character and appeal.

Reality Check: Character and appeal are code words for “expensive” and “high maintenance.”

I am all for curb appeal and beauty in an old home. But just because SOME replacement windows look ugly, it doesn’t mean that ALL replacement windows are ugly. I have seen some wooden windows installed improperly and look horrible. Just because a window is wood or old doesn’t make it beautiful by default.

I think that my vinyl replacement windows look great. If a millionaire dumped brand new, gorgeous wooden windows into my lap, I’d take it. Heck, yeah. But that hasn’t happened, and I have some kids that need to eat. So we buy vinyl replacement windows and they look pretty good!

DiningRoomNewFlooring

My 14-year old vinyl replacement windows still look fabulous! This photo taken after we had gutted and were restoring the room, in 2010.

 

Snob Factor: Removing painted old windows contaminates the house with lead dust.

Reality Check:
Painting new coats of paint does not cover the lead, it chips off and exacerbates the lead problem.

Lead paint removal is a touchy topic. Every state regulated lead-based paint in old homes differently. Here in New York State, a homeowner can remove lead-based paint articles VERY CAREFULLY from the home. If you hire a contractor, expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the high-tech removal and disposal system.

I have tried both methods: leaving the old windows with their lead paint AND removing them for vinyl replacement. Removing them — WHEN DONE CORRECTLY and SAFELY — is much, much better than keeping the toxic articles. I sleep better knowing that those old time bombs are out of my house and far away from my kids.

Most windows in old homes were painted with oil-based paints that contained lead. You try to slap new paint onto those old windows, that paint is going to come off in no time. And every time you open and close the window, the paint is scraped and lead dust goes into the air. I don’t care what the “experts” say– all that opening and closing the window removes the new paint and just makes dust spew everywhere.

I personally believe it’s best to get rid of the stupid things altogether. No more dust, no more peeling, no more painting every couple of months…. Old windows that are coated with lead-based paint are best removed, in my opinion. The windows MUST be removed safely, however. Make sure you know your local regulations. Some towns even offer financial aid for the removal of these toxic items.

So if you decide to replace your crummy old windows with vinyl replacement, I say good for you. Don’t let the Window Snobs influence you! Shop wisely– get high-quality windows from a reputable company and install them properly. They will last a long time. Mine have.

Continue reading...

Perennials, FINALLY!

August 11, 2011

4 Comments

One of the perks of having a perennial garden is that you don’t need to replant everything every spring.

Yet one of the disadvantages to a perennial garden is that nothing blooms until JULY! :-p I don’t know how I did it, but I must have chosen all the plants that *only* bloom at a certain time, so my yard has no color until mid-summer, ugh. Not very good organizing, apparently. Oh well.

So now that we’re into August, my yard is literally ablaze with color. The Rose of Sharon, day lily, black-eyed Susans, purple coneflower, butterfly bush, sage, oriental stargazers, everything! Yay! It’s good to see that the plants aren’t suffering TOO much from my severe neglect this summer and last.

Colorful Flowerbed

Orange and Blue

I’m nuts about blue and red flowers. Next year, I’ll plant more red!

How’s your garden growing?

Continue reading...

Vinegar For Sunburns? My Conclusion

August 4, 2011

1 Comment

I’ve heard vinegar touted as the miracle product for everything: bad breath cure, tonic for long life, fabric softener for washing machines, rinse aid for dishwashers, and sunburn soother. Sure, vinegar cuts grease and is useful for many things, but I’ve been discovering that vinegar is no miracle cure for everything. It has its pros and cons just like everything else.

For one, while vinegar makes a good rinse aid for dishwashers and a cheap (but mediocre) fabric softener replacement for the wash load, vinegar does corrode some plastics– including some of the plastic seal parts that line our appliances. I recently did a little research into the effects of vinegar on rubber seals and my article was published on eHow. See my article at ehow.com/facts_10006845_vinegar-ruin-rubber-seals-appliances.html Will Vinegar Ruin the Rubber Seals on Appliances?

So vinegar is cool, it’s great for a lot of things. But it certainly isn’t the miracle cure for all the stuff I’ve heard about.

My curiosity was piqued this time when I heard about Rose Vinegar for Sunburns. I wrote the post too late in the rose blooming season to make rose vinegar, but I read that others tout plain, diluted vinegar as a superb homeopathic method for soothing sunburns. Some folks left comments that their very severe burns cleared up in HOURS, that the pain subsided instantly and that there was no peeling at all! The new miracle cure!

After reading all this, I thought, Gee, I’ll have to go get a sunburn and test this out!

Hoh boy, I got a sunburn. A bad one. It’s a surprise, because my skin has an olive complexion and I rarely, rarely burn. But I’ve been helping fix a flat roof and it’s been super-hot here in New York… and I got me a lobster-like shine, I do. Well, at least now I could try out the vinegar thing.

I poured a small amount in a bowl and diluted it with an equal amount of water. I’m not 100% sure if I was supposed to dilute it, but my burn is pretty bad and I didn’t want to put full-strength acetic acid on it! So I dabbed a cotton cloth in the solution and patted it onto my arms.

The vinegar cooled the burn. Or maybe it was the cool water. While it hurt to place anything on my arms, the coolness was refreshing. I did the vinegar thing for two days, until I got bored from lack of spectacular results.

My burn is still bad and it still hurts. No miracles here, no instant tan. The burn is peeling, and the skin is still very warm (after five days now). The vinegar did very little for the burn, except make the skin a little softer which provided some instant comfort.

My conclusion: vinegar does next to nothing for sunburn. It’d be easier to smear raw aloe vera on the skin, since the aloe is creamier and will stay on the skin to be absorbed. If you have a sunburn, save the vinegar for the salad.

Continue reading...

Compost Bins | Energy Efficient Compost Bins | NatureMill

July 21, 2011

Comments Off on Compost Bins | Energy Efficient Compost Bins | NatureMill

From time to time, I like to feature a guest post when someone has something informative to offer and when I’m too lazy busy to write anything. This guest post about compost bins is brought to you by the cool dudes at NatureMill Compost Bins.

Making Energy Efficient NatureMill Compost Bins A Priority In Your Home

Despite all our best go green efforts in this country, food recycling still needs a healthy boost into our collective consciousness. Even though food represents one of the easiest recyclable resources, nearly half of all solid trash collecting in our landfills is in the form of food waste. To some, the process of composting seems labor intensive and it’s thought this is why food recycling isn’t more of a priority. Other homes admit being deterred by the apparent contradiction of utilizing electric compost bins and draining the earth’s natural resources in an effort to repurpose food waste.

Green Model Compost Bins: An Eco-Friendly Must Have

Fortunately, simplifying the composting process with an electric compost bin and preserving our world’s precious natural resources can work together side by side. Choosing an energy efficient compost bin from NatureMill minimizes the compost bin’s environmental impact with designs that run on fewer than 5 watts of power every day. The compost bin ensures the most efficient composting process for your home. With a typical expense of less than $.50 each month, it’s easy to see how a NatureMill compost bin can revamp the way your family views composting.

Continue reading...

Name That Weed

July 19, 2011

5 Comments

Befuddled by the billions of weeds cluttering your yard or garden beds? Curious about that odd-looking herb or a nasty plant that stubbornly resists your weed-thwarting efforts? Check out the garden.org/weedlibrary National Gardening Association Weed Library for identifying that plant. This is a very valuable resource for me. Not only do I have a lot of plants around the homestead, particularly weeds, but the kids are always doing something or another for their science courses.

I haven’t done ANY gardening (yet) this year. It’s just been too busy. Hopefully, we’ll do some major weed-pulling in a few weeks. This is what lies ahead of us….

weedsgalore

Continue reading...

Break Out the Blowtorches, Hogweed is Here

July 11, 2011

3 Comments

Even the name insinuates the most noxious, insidious killer to lately crawl out of Asian cargo ships onto our purple-mountain majesty coasts: The Giant Hogweed!

It’s heeeeere! It’s native to Central Asia and it’s spreading toward the northeast. It’s already established in Michigan and Indiana. New reports are showing the unwelcome visitor arriving in Pennsylvania and New York State.

The Giant Hogweed is an invasive species, a member of the carrot and parsnip family. (I knew there was a good reason why I hate carrots!!). However, this family member grows to be a lot taller than Bugs Bunny’s meal of choice. The hogweed can grow to be 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It produces a disgusting number of seeds, too, to ensure that it ruins as much property as possible. *sigh* The British initially brought the hogweed home from Asia in the 19th century, planting it as an “ornamental” plant in special gardens. But like The Blob, Jurassic Park, and Killer Bees, things *kinda* got out of control and the species escaped captivity. Oopsie.

The hogweed has lace-like flowers very similar to Queen Anne’s Lace. The leaves resemble large, jagged dandelion leaves and the plant would almost be pretty were it not for one small problem: it’s viciously poisonous.

The plant produces a sap that burns human skin. God forbid it should get in the eye, or blindness can occur. According to the University of Illinois Extension:

Characteristics include hollow stems, between two and four inches in diameter, with dark reddish-purple splotches and coarse white hairs. Leaves are compound, lobed, deeply incised and may grow up to five feet in width. Flowers appear from mid-May through July. As with other members of the carrot family, the flower heads are umbrella-shaped, up to 2½-feet in diameter across a flat top with numerous small flowers.

The Giant Hogweed is sometimes mixed up with other members of the parsnip/carrot family. My husband came home wondering if he’d seen a hogweed planted by a mailbox, but the flowers were yellow. I think he probably saw wild parsnip. Other very similar plants are cow parsnip, wild carrot, poison hemlock and angelica.

Giant Hogweed has a thick, tuberous stem with very wide white lace flowers. It exudes a clear, sticky sap that causes photodermatitis. Skin contact followed by exposure to sunlight can cause severe burns and blisters that become purple or black blotches and scar the skin. VERY nasty.

I just don’t know how the Chinese manage, with all these horribly toxic plants and bugs that float around over there. In my opinion, I’d rather manufacture our goods here in the U.S.A. and avoid all the extra baggage in the cargo crates. 😐

Anyway, the Giant Hogweed is a “federal noxious weed” and therefore it is illegal to propagate, sell, or transport the plant. Do not pull, mow, or chop down the weed with a weed whacker. Doing so will release the sap. And, since the plant is a perennial weed (which means it will grow again even after the entire planet has been decimated by nuclear war), the Giant Hogweed will just keep coming back for more. Think of this plant as Bishop Weed from hell.

If you see the Giant Hogweed, alert the authorities. Who ya gonna call? The GIANT HOGWEED HOTLINE! I’m putting this number in my speed dial, people: 845-256-3111. If you see hogweed, call them. A hazmat team will arrive via black helicopters and blow the smithereens out of the noxious weed. YEAH, BABY.

OK, I jest. A hazmat team is *probably* not required. Nor are the black helicopters, but hey– black helicopters have descended upon DVD pirates in the local ‘hood, so ya never know….. this is a “federal noxious weed,” after all….

Some photos and information courtesy of hyg.ipm.illinois.edu/article.php?id=80

Continue reading...

The Silent Summer: No Crickets, No Peepers!

July 5, 2011

114 Comments

Something very strange has happened. I realized it the other night while I outside in the backyard during twilight. The entire yard and forest and small creek that runs next door is completely silent. Completely silent!

No crickets. No spring peepers. Nothing. I have never experienced anything like it since I’ve lived here. Besides the mosquitoes quietly whirring around us, the only forest activity was the lightning bugs, blinking their lights in utter silence.

This is my backyard. Behind that scraggly brush is a small rivulet that fills with peepers every spring. There’s no sign of my beloved musical friends there this year.

closedeer2

At dusk, the area is usually ablaze with sounds. The crickets usually chirp so loudly that they challenge the sounds of the busy streets. And the peepers– those tiny little frogs that exhale high-pitched raspy whistles– are gone. Everything is SILENT.

I found a video recording of peepers in the northeast. This is what my neighborhood SHOULD be sounding like:

I’m devastated!! What happened?! I have lived here for over 14 years and nothing like this has ever happened. Was it the awful April flooding that swept my critters away? Is it some kind of pesticide or toxic chemical that has been sprayed in the forest and has descended into my neighborhood? Is there some evil raccoon gang or other monstrous creatures that have eaten all my precious nightly musicians in some kind of perverse thuggery??

This spring and summer has been weird, simply weird. I feel forlorn, bereft of a very necessary ecological foundation. It just ain’t summertime without the peepers. 🙁

Continue reading...

Find the Kitty Friday 7/1

July 1, 2011

4 Comments

I must have been absolutely nutty to take her outside. I was tired of her whining, and spoiled her. She was a MANIAC as soon as she hit the grass. She thinks she’s a puma or a bobcat or something.

FTK July Pines

She raced me around the entire acre+ of land, skulking behind trees, poking her head into grasses…. I had to furminate her thoroughly when we came back in, since the yard is infested with ticks (thanks to the immense deer population). She was quite cranky about that, lol.

But look at her adorable face. Ugh.

LivvyinGrassyarea

No wonder she’s spoiled rotten. 🙂 What an old softie I’ve become!

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Continue reading...