Archive for the ‘at Home’ Category
It’s no secret that our house is in need of repair and updating, but there’s only so much money to go around. When it was time to take down the dry rotting curtains and broken traverse rods, I wanted to find a way to insulate the 2 picture windows in my living room without breaking the bank.
The windows are a single pane, sheet glass with an aluminum storm window over them. That means they turn our living room into a green house in the summer and still allow a ton of heat out in the winter. While I know new windows would pay for themselves over time, there just isn’t money in the budget to replace these two whoppers while trying to keep up with the rest of the repairs needed around here (like the $450 drain line for the kitchen sink).
The solution I decided on was a take on the Ikea panel curtain system, Kvartal, and beef them up with a product called Reflectix.
If you’ve never seen Reflextix before, it’s essentially a double layer of bubble wrap with a reflective, metallic surface. The idea is that it helps reflect the heat to keep it where you want it to stay.
While they’re not the most attractive thing to hang in our living room, we lovingly call our panels the “Blast Shield” since we feel their effect most during the summer months. Without the Reflectix bouncing the sun’s heat back through the glass, our house gets unbearably hot.
It’s been harder to talk about the effect of the insulation during the winter months because it has been relatively mild… that is until this morning.
A Polar Vortex is blanketing Michigan in sub-zero temperatures and dangerous wind chills. Last night’s low was 29 degrees below normal for this time of year and the curtains proved they were working last night by keeping enough heat off the glass to allow them to develop a thick layer of frost – on the inside.
As far as installing the insulating curtains, it’s essentially the same process as drawn in the directions that came Kvartal tracks and mounting brackets, except instead of putting in a decorative fabric panel into the top and bottom rail unit, I used 24″ wide Reflectix.
The only special step required was to take a pin and pop a couple of rows of bubbles on the Reflectix so that I could fit it into the top and bottom rail. With the air still in the bubbles the material was just too thick.
After a couple of years on the job, the biggest issue I’ve had with the system, besides being less than attractive, are the small, plastic, tabs that allow the panels open and close together. They were no match for the Robinson Brothers Destruction Company and they broke off within a year of installation.
The other issue I have is the end caps on the 3 rail units. It’s fairly easy to pull the curtains back hard enough for them to pop off and have one of the panel glides pop out of the end.
The Reflectix, on the other hand, is in great shape. It’s hard to tell that they’ve been handled twice a day, every day, for a little more than 2 years. I’d even go so far as to say that they’ve exceeded my expectations. For a product that’s meant to be hidden away inside a wall, they sure can take a beating.
Overall, this was an affordable project and while it’s probably not as effective at saving money on our energy bills as getting new windows would be, I’m happy with the results. Plus, when we draw the fabric across on it’s own track, you can’t see the metallic bubble wrap while you’re in the living room.
Last week, I was in my kitchen listening to NPR, like always, when a segment came on about the Backseat Book Club and instantly thought “what fun,” but then I frowned, knowing every chapter book entering our house seems to have a boy barrier in it. Ya know that spot, somewhere in the first chapters, where the young, male, reader decides the book is a dud.
While listening to the discussion about the May 2012 selection, Heart of a Samurai, I was secretly begging the voices on the radio to give me a hint of how I could get books that are worth reading read in my house. Instead, I was a little down trodden because I had just listened to a wonderful discussion about a seemingly wonderful book and I had no idea how to present it to the kids.
Then it hit me… I’ll read it to them!
Before I could get distracted and lose my fabulous idea, I went to my computer to find the book at Amazon.
There it was, just a click away from being in my possession. Then all of a sudden I was scared that the boy barrier was more than just a problem of text and eyes. Would they give up part of their summer to listen to me read? Could I compete with back yard adventures, video games and the swimming pool?
Yes, if I could present the idea in the right way. In this case, my marketing skills were needed as I attempted to create the perfect summer reading package.
I can’t tell you what might float your kids’ boat, but at my house a cuddle in the bed is a coveted activity. It’s equally enjoyable on lazy weekend mornings and for rewatching the Last Airbender on Netflix, so that was my hook.
With my idea in hand, I began my sales process… “Summer vacation is almost here,” I would say to one of my boys, “Don’t you think we should have some more cuddle time?”
Then, with one buy-in for cuddling I’d wait till I had boy #2 in a position to answer a casual question and then ask, “Your brother thinks we should have more cuddle time this summer, what do you think?”
Then a little later in the day I’d ask, “Do you remember when I use to read stories to you all the time? Wasn’t that fun?”
Of course they said yes, I wasn’t asking questions to get a no. But with my pile of freshly minted “Yeses,” the Snuggle-up Book Club was born.
In the days we waited for our books to arrive from Amazon, I kept the hype going. “Oooh, the books have shipped!” And , “they’ll be here tomorrow!” “When do you want to start the book club?” “Should we wait until the end of school, or start when they get here?”
- We read at least one chapter a day.
- If we don’t read our chapter, we’ll make it up the next time we snuggle up to read.
- We can always read ahead, but not as an excuse to skip a day.
We also decided we can take our book club on the road. One suggestion was to take a blanket when we walk the dogs out in the field and let the dogs run while we read.
Now all I have to do is make sure the club lives up to the hype, but I’ve got them this far, I think I can get them through the boy barrier this summer and a little more excited about books.
One thing I love about our new house is that we have 2 acres of blank canvas. Although the house isn’t new construction plunked down in the middle of an old corn field, my husband’s grandfather, in his later years, went through a “Mow it down” phase. So the peonies that use to line the entire length of the driveway are long gone and so is the asparagus patch, leaving vast expanses of easily mowed lawn. In fact my expanse of lawn rolls right into the neighbors, with only the occasional lawn mowing to mark the property line.
While the lack of fence or other markers make our yard look like it’s much bigger than it is, our dogs, chickens and the neighbor girl, on her quad, tend not to see where one lawn starts and the other stops.
We knew we wanted a fence of some sort, even before we started the move last summer, but getting moved took most of our time and energy last year. Heck, we’re still unpacking. Though not jumping on fence construction gave us plenty of time to think about where it should go, how it should look and all the other nuances of the project.
We considered more chain link, like we have around the other half of the property line, various bushes, trees, split rail, and just about every style fence you could think of before we settled on Robin Hood Musk roses.
They might take a few years to reach their full glory, but they’ll be better looking than chain link, less maintenance than wood, cheaper than vinyl, and I won’t need to trim them like I would with a hedge. Plus 300′ of thorns should keep dogs and chickens from wiggling through.
The first thing I had to do was figure out how many roses we would need to create a thick hedge along the property line. Since I didn’t have a handy dandy Measuring wheel and I couldn’t find our 50′ tape measure (remember that move I was telling you about?), I turned to technology.
I won’t go into details of how I got a rough estimate using the GIMP and Google maps, since it’s a bit technical for a gardening topic. But if you’d like to see a tute on the process, please leave a comment and I’ll write it up. Otherwise I’ll assume you’re not interested.
Suffice it to say, that the area I wanted as roses was the north (top) and East (right) borders of the red box shown in the photo. By measuring the border in pixels (px) and counting PX between the marks on the scale provided I came up with approximately 300 lineal feet of fence/hedge if I start at the NW corner of our lot, and make a jog to the garage. (The numbers in the image are for the whole lot, not just the shaded section – I’m recycling images)
According to the nursery, I needed roses every 2 feet to form a hedge or 150 roses. For this project, that came out to $525 or about one-third the cost of the supplies I’d need to cover the same distance with chain link.
I placed my order on May 9 and 3 big boxes showed up a week later.
With bare root plants, time is of the essence. You don’t really know how long they’ve been out of the ground and what the conditions were like in shipping. If you want to ensure their survival, it’s important to get them in the ground as soon after arrival as possible.
If your permanent location won’t be ready for a while, you should heel them in. A fancy term for a temporary planting.
The first thing you need to to with any bare root plant is get them out of their package and soak them for several hours, in water, before you plant them. Even though the plants were packaged in plastic to keep them from drying out completely, they still dried out. Trust me, they are thirsty and if they are well hydrated before they go into the ground, they stand a much better chance of thriving after planting.
I could only get the first 50 roses into water because I was running short on water-tight containers.
Since I was going to plant all the roses within a short amount of time I cheated a little bit by not unpacking all the plants. Instead, I assumed they were packed well enough to go further across the country and that they’d be alright if I left the remaining boxes in the shade while I got the others in the ground.
Once I started planting though, as I emptied a bucket, I would unpack a group of roses and start their soak. Though if I were to do this again, I would probably order 50 roses at a time, about a week apart. More on this later.
Our town’s code book states that although a fence can be placed directly on the property line, plantings need to be 4 feet from the line. Which in our case works out just fine since the roses should get to be between 4-6 feet tall and wide leaving them just shy of the true property line by the time they mature.
Since there’s no way I could eyeball a perfectly straight line 4 feet off the property line for nearly 250 feet, I turned to a trusty Mason Line. Though any string will do, I purchased a high contrast color so that I could see it easily against the lawn.
Using a tape measure, the line and a couple of sturdy sticks to act as stakes… I measured 4′ from the surveyor’s mark on the NW corner of the yard, and placed my stick. Then I tied my line to my stick. While trailing the line behind me, I walked to the other end of the property to measure 4 feet from that property marker and placed the other stake/stick.
However, before I tied off the string, I lifted it out of the grass and pulled on it a little bit to be sure it wouldn’t sag, be blown around by the wind or otherwise be dragged off by a wondering dog.
Depending on how long your string is, you might find it has a lot of stretch in it before the slack is taken up. So make sure whatever string and stakes you’re using can handle being tugged on.
When I was sure my line was straight and would remain straight, I tied it off.
Next we measured along the string, every 2 feet to mark where we would dig our holes for the roses. We used leftover spray paint to mark our spots. While it’s probably not the most environmentally friendly way to do it, it was on hand and was a way to use up the paint which was already a potential environmental pollutant.
With all the spots down, we rewound the line to get it out of the way while we worked.
Indecently, the process was exactly the same for the 90 degree turn we made from the property line to the garage. We just didn’t have to worry about a perfect off-set, since that was already set so we eyeballed the placement of the string on both ends. In our case the location was based on where we’ll put a vehicle gate later on. After all, it would be a real bummer not to have access to the back yard if we ever need to get a truck back there.
We bent the rules a little bit. Normally you would want a hole wide, and deep enough to spread the roots out so they aren’t crowded. With 150 roses to get into the ground and my husband volunteering to dig, any reasonable hole was just fine with me.
Except for a few places near the trees where there were roots in the way, every hole was the same. My husband simply drove the shovel in the ground 4 times, as far as it would go, to create a ring around the white dots and pried out a big plug of dirt and sod, leaving it at the side of the hole. Poor guy even broke 2 shovels while helping me.
Since the roots were going in all directions I had to work them into the hole along with the dirt and sod left behind. Now I didn’t really want the sod growing back as a weedy mess around my beautiful new roses, but without it, I wouldn’t have enough dirt to back fill the hole.
To get around this problem, I put the sod in first, before the rose and soil. In some cases I had to tear the sod into smaller pieces and work it in between the roots in sort of a cone to drape the roots over the top to get everything to fit back inside. I didn’t fret if I couldn’t get it all back in the hole and composted the rest. I just needed it as fill and a small depression isn’t a bad thing, especially when watering, I just didn’t want a row of craters.
The grass will die deep in the hole providing green manure for the rose to feed on as it gets established.
To get the soil in around the roots I crumbled about half of the dirt back in the hole and sprayed it with water from the hose to settle it around the roots. Only spraying until the water was at the same depth as the soil in the hole. I was also careful not to blast the roots too hard. I need them in good shape to help the plants get established.
After that step I put in about 2 tablespoons of Azomite, the rest of the soil, and watered again. While not a traditional NPK fertilizer, Azomite has many trace minerals that will help the rose grow strong. The best way is to think of it like giving your plants a vitamin pill. I used Granular Azomite because the wind is always blowing at my house and I could see a plume of dust fertilizing the whole town if I went with the powered form.
In all, I spent nearly 2 and a half days crawling along the property line to plant the roses. Which is why, if I do anything this grand again, I’ll break the shipments up and do no more than 50 at a time.
Day 1, Thursday – Layout and 50 roses planted. Wrists, knees, and legs all ached at the end of the day.
Day 2, Friday – 80 roses planted and some darn good advice from my husband to stop for dinner and start again in the morning. Although I was really close to being done, my body was screaming at me. I started planting a little after 9am and although I was moving along faster than I had the day before, I was getting slower and slower as the day went on.
Day 3, Saturday – I was excited to be finishing, but at the same time, my body was not happy with me being back on my hands and knees. I managed to finish up fairly quickly and gather the left over bits of sod to compost. In fact, while I was gathering the sod, husband dearest was making me lunch and while I ate, he finished picking up the rest. Then I spent the rest of the day in bed watching Netflix and knitting.
On Sunday, I had to get back to mom duty and all the other things I neglected while working in the yard. My kitchen – oh the dishes and mess in there, but now that my body is getting over the effects of crawling around the yard, I’m making a dent on the dishes.
All I know is that this rose hedge should look amazing in just a few years and then, like the pain of child birth, it will all be worth it. In fact, the roses planted on the first day were already showing signs of bud growth when I checked on them before getting started Friday morning.
I’m also looking farther into the future when I’m too old to get excited about lawn hacking or even lawn care. With luck, once these roses establish themselves, I won’t have to do much except admire them.
I’ll keep you updated though and report back on how they’re progressing.
Meet Fly, the newest member of our family.
I have no doubt that someone paid a lot of money for her 2 years ago, but as of last week, she was a cast-off for a second time.
Pine River Fly is a registered Black Mouth Cur. Both her Dam and Sire are titled champion hunting dogs. The only thing in her life that makes her happy is the chase. It’s in her genes.
In her case, the chase revolves around squirrels, but any other creature she can get her mouth on is just fine too. Unfortunately for Fly, her last family preferred Guinea Pigs and a young, high energy, stubborn, smart dog with desire to chase rodents just wasn’t working out.
She’s with us because we have experience with Cur breeds. We usually rescue Catahoulas, but when we saw Fly’s story, we knew that she’d be put to sleep, bounce in and out of shelters or get a bad rap if an all breeds rescue group took her.
Catahoulas and other Cur breeds aren’t your typical house-pets. They haven’t had generations of breeding to select traits marketable to modern families. The breeds are rare and those that are breeding aren’t trying to make lap dogs.
So it’s not a shock that Fly was trying to eat the other house pets. She’s not a bad dog. She just doesn’t know what to do with herself and the families she lived with just didn’t take advantage of her innate abilities so they became a problem.
The making of a happy Cur
Our technique for turning a nutty dog into a productive member of a family has 2 main components – Exercise and establishing the Alpha.
Exercise is important for the Curs because they have a lot of energy. If you want them to pay attention to anything, it helps if they’ve gotten the ants out of their pants first.
This, of course, is always easier said than done.
Right now, the exercise portion of the plan is kicking my butt. Fly has been here 3 1/2 days and I’m worn out. My legs are in pain so I’m seriously lacking positive reinforcement to continue running her.
Fly might force the change in my exercise attitude as well as my body in the next few months. While I might be aching and struggling to get my lead legs to carry me home from a full speed bike ride, the alternative is living with a wild beast.
Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way
The role of the Alpha human is to ensure that you don’t end up with an alpha dog. Cur breeds embody the phrase “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” While all breeds have a similar mindset, Curs are more likely to make your life miserable if you can’t stand your ground.
It’s also the foundation for loyalty and training too. Curs want to please the Alpha and they usually show it by doing what they’re asked.
Even if you do establish yourself as Alpha, your dogs will still train you to do a few things their way. Let’s just hope Fly trains me to do something benign.
This week, we’ll get Fly to the vet and make sure she has a clean bill of health and find out when she can be spayed. Although she has the potential to be a champion in her own right, the reality is that we’ll never competitively hunt with her and we don’t need to make puppies while there are dogs being put to sleep simply because they’re misunderstood.
So a big welcome to Pine River Fly. Good luck with your training, little miss. Let’s hope you like it here as much as we like having you in our little pack.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what my blog should be about. I just can’t pump out business topic posts like a machine because I’m lucky enough to have so much flexibility that I’m not slaving away at… well anything and that means business isn’t always at the front of my mind. While I’m still working in my own businesses, helping others with theirs and testing new business ideas, business isn’t the only thing I do.
In fact, over the last few weeks, my focus has been devoted to developing a knitting pattern for a book submission and the 2 acres of lawn just outside my office window, tease me like a blank canvas teases a painter. But, while I was hearing the seed stash, pictured above, begging for some organization, I downloaded my banking statements and filed NY State sales taxes. I also did a cost analysis of fencing versus hedges and outlined a new business plan, in my head. Then I shucked more than 3000 accounts from my tweet stream and nagged my husband about cutting down the hollow, bug-filled Hawthorn tree in the front yard.
I’m a modern woman with a Family, Home, Business, and a slight inability to say no to my distractions. Though I think I’ll have more to say, here, if I don’t limit myself to being so single minded about business and let my other passions spill out onto the Internet now and then.
Besides, Google Analytics doesn’t lie and after importing my old blog posts and re-directing my Blogger visitors, I found that more people want to see my Buttercup Bag knitting pattern than want to know about Social Media for TV news.
Which makes sense. Social Media advice is a dime, a dozen, but a unique knitting pattern only has one source. (Well it didn’t hurt for me to do a little SEO for the pattern either.)
But anyway, look for a wider variety of posts coming out of this blog as I continue my adventures as a 21st century woman.
I like to think that I’m a good cook. I can prepare meals that both family and company rave over, but in a lot of ways I’m a novice.
Take this weekend’s project – A small birthday party for my now 6 year-old son, Quintin.
Lucky for me, Q is fairly easy to please and agreed to a make-your-own-pizza-and-cupcake party.
Being my Master-chef self, I whipped up a batch of dough and cooked up 20 flat breads for the kids to make pizza on.
Don’t they look delicious? Well they were, and a hit with the parents too.
The Disaster Chef part comes in when you look at the cupcakes I made.
They looked more like a volcanic eruption than anything edible. In fact I was so embarrassed by those monstrosities that I stopped at Sugary Moon and purchased proper cupcakes for the kids to decorate.
I realize that it was probably an over-fill situation, but I was certain that two tablespoons of batter in an ice cream cone would allow plenty of expansion space… I was wrong.
The good news is that I’ve vowed to perfect my cone-cakes. I had such high hopes when I sent away for the baking pan/carrier that I just can’t justify giving up. Not to mention the fact that the kids are more than willing to help me dispose of any future rejects.
It’s a funny thing too. I had taken a few months hiatus from Knitting because I didn’t have anything to knit. I still checked out knitting books from the library, browsed patterns online and tried to secretly study how my co-workers sweaters were constructed, but I didn’t have anything interesting enough to cast on.
A couple of weeks ago, I began doodling with sock yarn in the evenings only to frog it out just before I went to bed and eventually came up with a project. Excited to get going, I ignored my wrist and have been paying for it for the last few days.
So here I am in bed this morning trying to get back to sleep and all I can think about is sticks, strings and stitches.
In fact, I’m thinking about a blanket based on Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac April Mystery Blanket. But, instead of uniform squares, what about a mix of sizes and even some rectangle shapes… More like random tiles or a stone wall?
Hmmm. Might have to spend a few more mornings thinking about that one.
They’ll be a week old tomorrow and all seem to be doing quite well. Except for the one I’ve named Chunk.
Chunk, as you can see from the picture, is pretty darn big for 1 week. What this little chick lacks in feathers and energy, it makes up for in pure pound packing progress.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it means that I need to keep a close eye on this big, little bird to be sure it is getting it’s chubby little self over to the water as the weather warms up.
As you can see, our little friend is bigger than my hand. S/He’s also lagging behind the rest of the flock in feather production.
Now take another look at Chunk.
All I can assume is that Chunk’s genetics put body mass ahead of feathers.
We live near the Genesee river and we have a very high water table and are prone to drainage problems due to the heavy silt soils.
A huge puddle in the back yard, muddy foot prints throughout the house, and running the sump to keep the basement dry, is expected when snow melt and spring rains team up.
However, this year we got lucky. It’s not that we didn’t have any of those joyful events, but they were short lived and it gave us a head start getting the garden ready.
A few weeks ago I mucked out the chicken coop and got all the dirty litter on the garden and tilled in. Since it’s not composted it’s going to need as much time as I can give it. First, the nitrogen content is probably off the charts and would burn the roots/kill the plants. Second is the possibility of pathogens.
From the time the manure was added, I’ll be looking at 2.5 – 3 months before I begin planting the garden and about 5 before I begin harvesting. My estimate is that this should be enough time for everything to mellow out.
As far as the pathogens are concerned, we’re also going to try the Stout system in the garden. I’m hoping the thick layer of mulch will also provide a barrier between the soil and the veggies. By preventing the soil from coming in contact with the food from simple things, like splashing, we should be ahead of the game.
The Stout system originally caught my eye as a way to prevent weeds. With a home business, the family, volunteer hours and everything else that comes up, we’re usually not that good at keeping up with the weeds.
Based on the estimate of 2 pounds per square foot in Mother’s article, we ended up with 10, 60 pound bales that I broke up and placed on the garden. As you can see in the photo (click to enlarge) I just grabbed a flake from the bale and flopped it down. I’ll break them up more as I begin to pull and make holes for the plants, but for now, they’re fine.
My hope is that I’ll be able to keep you updated on the garden’s progress throughout the season, and give progress reports on the stout system and other observations.
Rather than use them for rags, I decided to give them one last hurrah and hope the material lasts through the spring.
The button had fallen off, but that was an easy fix, but the more challenging fix was the bottom hem. I didn’t really need a pair of cut-offs… It’s warming up, but there’s a lot of time before it will be warm enough for shorts.
My solution was to cut the legs off at about mid-calf and roll a hem to make capris.
The technique was easy enough -
- Roll the hem twice to enclose the raw edge
- lace up the joint.
I used Perl Cotton left over from the Rose Window Beret and the technique is very similar to how you would lace up your shoes.
Find the middle of your thread and put needles on both ends. Again, the technique is so similar to lacing your shoes that I can’t think of another way to describe. Clicking on the image will give you a close up of the stitches for you to examine.
Now it’s time to go outside and see if I can’t get a little color on these winter white legs.