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Summertime Slump

July 27, 2012

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FuzzyCatinGrass

Oh it’s not that we’ve been lazy… not exactly…. it’s just that it’s been too hot and humid to do much renovation work. I had such grand plans once July hit. I can’t believe all we’ve done in get the new windows installed. Lack of rain and an explosion in the deer population ruined the garden. I haven’t even finished sewing curtains or installed the bookshelves or finished installing drywall in the kitchen closet… I’ve been very busy with work, though. I was accepted for a special project for a few days, and was paid well for that. A few tourist places want us to visit, and I have a ton of reviews to write including one on pet pheromone diffusers. I’m eager to see how that diffuser thing works. I have to leaves it plugged in for 30 days to see any results. Livvy’s been cranky and jumpy lately — I don’t think she likes all the noise from the fans — so we’ll see if this gadget helps any.

Over all, it’s been a quiet summer so far. I suppose we’ll get going on the renovation projects in August or maybe September when it’s cooler. It’s just too hot and miserable to wrangle with drywall and dust right now.

How has your summer been?

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How to Build a Walkway Using a Concrete Paver Mold

June 22, 2012

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You can spend thousands of dollars and hire a professional contractor to pour your walkway or install commercially made concrete pavers, or you can use Quikrete’s Walkmaker form or some other type of form. Walkway with Stones The Walkmaker, constructed of a durable plastic material, greatly simplifies the construction of a concrete walkway and produces exceptional results. For a customized look, purchase powdered cement coloring to add to the concrete mixture. Here’s how we made our lovely walkway with the mold.

Stuff You Need:
Paver Mold- we used Quikrete’s Walkmaker
Crack-resistant concrete
Flat-bladed spade
Gravel
Hand tamper
Wheelbarrow
Powdered cement coloring
Measuring cup
Bucket
Hoe
Trowel or shovel

Step 1

Determine the amount of concrete material needed for the project. Quikrete recommends one 80-pound bag of concrete for every 2 feet of walkway.

Step 2

Measure the walkway area and remove the sod with the spade. You can lay the pavers directly onto the ground, but for best results Quikrete recommends that you remove 2 to 4 inches of soil and pour gravel into the trench. Tamp the gravel so that it is level and compacted.

Bust Sod

Step 3

Pour a bag of concrete into the wheelbarrow. Remove approximately 2 cups of dry mix and set it aside. Add the powdered coloring to the dry concrete mix and stir well with a hoe.

Step 4

Fill the bucket with approximately 3 pints water. Slowly pour half the water into one part of the wheelbarrow. With the hoe, rake the dry concrete into the pool of water, mixing until all the water is absorbed.

Mixing Concrete

Step 5

Add another 2 to 3 pints of water to the bucket, and pour the water into the concrete mix. Rake and chop the concrete into the water until the water is absorbed. The mixture should have the consistency of mud. When you chop the mixture with the hoe, the mixture should stay in place. If the mixture is too crumbly or stiff, add more water. If the mixture is too soupy, add some of the dry concrete mix you have set aside, and mix well.

Step 6

Place the Walkmaker form at one end of the walkway. Shovel or trowel the concrete into the form, patting down the mix to ensure that it fills the corners and cavities of the mold.

Filling Form

Step 7

Lift the form straight up so it does not snag on and damage the wet concrete pavers. Hose off the form immediately to prevent the concrete mix from hardening.

Lifting Form 2

Step 8

Repeat the process of mixing concrete, laying the form in the walkway and adding the mix to the form until the walkway is complete. Allow the pavers to dry for at least 24 hours.

Step 9

Sprinkle cupfuls of Portland cement sand mix or jointing sand over the pavers. Spread the sand mix between the paver form lines with a broom so the mix completely fills the form lines.

Sweeping Sand Mix 3

Step 10

Mist the pavers with a garden hose, wetting the sand mix but not washing it out of the form lines. Allow to dry completely.

Spraying Water

Secret Garden Blooming

Notes and Tips

To make a curved walkway, reposition the Walkmaker form onto the wet concrete mix in the direction of the curve. Press the form down to form new paver lines. Smooth out the previous paver lines with the trowel.

To prevent the Walkmaker form from sticking to the wet concrete, lightly spray the form with water or very lightly with cooking oil.

To create a nonslip surface, lightly brush over the wet pavers with a stiff broom. The broom will create small ridges on the paver surface.

To allow the concrete to properly cure, choose an overcast day when the temperature will not drop before 50 degrees and no rain is expected within 24 hours. If it does rain, cover unstained concrete pavers with plastic sheeting. In an area with sun, cover the concrete pavers with plastic sheeting or burlap to prevent the concrete from drying too quickly. Lightly moisten the burlap periodically when the material becomes too dry.

Do not cover stained concrete with plastic sheeting or burlap, as they may cause discoloration. Apply Quikrete Concrete Sealer to the surface of the concrete instead.

Concrete is caustic. Do not breathe in concrete dust. If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves while handling concrete.

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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?

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Vinegar For Sunburns? My Conclusion

August 4, 2011

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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.

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Name That Weed

July 19, 2011

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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

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Break Out the Blowtorches, Hogweed is Here

July 11, 2011

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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

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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. 🙁

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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!

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Rose Vinegar for Soothing Sunburns?

June 23, 2011

1 Comment

I’m not going to wait until somebody gets sunburn to try this out, so I’m mentioning it here now in case any of you have heard of such a thing: rose vinegar for sunburns. Some gals in the natural herbal section of the blogosphere are praising it’s benefits. I am definitely going to try it. I’m curious like that.

Here’s how you make rose vinegar:

  • Fill a glass jar with fresh rose petals and leaves.
  • Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar.
  • Cap the jar with a PLASTIC lid! Vinegar will eat through a metal one and discolor your vinegar solution.
  • Allow the glass jar to sit for 3 to 6 weeks.

To treat a sunburn, pour 1/4 of a cup of rose vinegar into a bowl. Mix in a few cups of fresh, cool water. Dip a clean, cotton cloth into the rose vinegar and wring lightly. Dab the sunburned skin with the rose vinegar. Apply as needed. Rose vinegar also helps cool insect bites and stings and heat rash.

I am definitely going to make it! I’ll have my scientific results for you in a few weeks. 🙂

LivvyDarling1

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Sloooowly Starting to Rise Again

June 23, 2011

2 Comments

It’s almost July. Ya think I should be getting back to the garden and home renovation projects yet? 😉

We purchased an air conditioner. Hurray! It’s the first air conditioner I’ve ever had. It’s the window kind, so we’ve been having *fun* trying to fit it into our old 1855 window frame…. more on that to come. We’re still working on a unique shelf that juts out from the window, upon which will sit the A/C’s bulky butt. Man, those things are bulky. I guess they have to be.

I’m also starting to take more time off from work. I try to get my writing assignments done by the time I have to cook dinner. I don’t always make my goals, and sometimes I wind up staying up much later than I like. But at least I’m not working non-stop anymore.

Gardening is on my mind lately. I bought some hostas and a few blackberry bare roots (all died but one). I have to plug them in sometime.

And of course, I have a lot of loose ends to finish up after last year’s renovation. I still haven’t completed that kitchen bench. And my living room/office needs a lot of decorating help. I have Ethernet and cables strung about everywhere. I dislike cords all over the floor. :-p My intention is to build a very nice modern office with updated equipment (i.e., an i7 core computer with slick video graphics array or DVI cables, and… *sigh* yeah) with nice furniture and orderly shelves! I can see it all in my mind’s eye. Reality is another matter, lol.

All in good time.

How are your summer projects going? Or are you one of those lucky persons that have no projects??? 😀

homework

*sigh* To Do Lists....

 

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