Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Boxers for the Boy

About a week ago I picked up patterns for my son at the store.  They were on sale for $.99 and I don't have any patterns for his current sizes.  Also, patterns for boys/men are very difficult to get a good variety on so I'm going to keep grabbing a few when they are on sale.  I get tired of making all our patterns from scratch sometimes.

Anyways, this week I'm working on boxers for the boy.  Now boxers aren't used as underwear by my boy.  He uses them as house shorts and sleepwear.  And he has distinct preferences for materials - soft knits.  Now I could either spend extra money to replace all of them that he has outgrown or I could use the materials I have on hand and recycle some more t shirts.  I'm going with what I have on hand.

I'm using Simplicity pattern #9958.  And the first time I made it exactly as the pattern instructions said to.  This is something I do for most patterns but always if it's a Simplicity pattern because I've had problems in the past. 

This pattern went together well and the instructions were good.  The only problems were due to my son's height.  So the second pair has been modified.  I didn't do enclosed elastic.  Instead I sergered the elastic to the top edge of the boxers.  The addition length provided worked well.  I also just rolled the bottom hem.  Overall this would make them too long to be worn under clothing but for my son's purposes they are perfect.

And both pairs got the child seal of approval almost immediately - he put them on and didn't take them off until it was time to go outside! 

And that's as good as the picture gets because my son hates to stand still!

And I haven't forgotten about the blog but it seems Murphy is here for an extended visit!  Would anyone like him to come visit?  I could do with a break - and not a body part!  I'd share the picture of my toes but it's not pretty.  The second to last toe is now very swollen and the shade of purple grapes. 

Murphy can visit someone else now.  Please.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Amusement!

This was the button tin I was cleaning out!


Ok, this creating was spawned because of the money issue. 

First created was the reusable paper towels.  That's what is in the picture above.  One side is flannel, the other side is cotton knit.  These were recycled from old t shirts and an old bed sheet.  I cut them to be 12" x 12" and then sergered the sides together.  The original craft I found online had snaps to connect them.  While I have a ton of metal snaps I'm not sure how well they would hold up to repeated washings in the machine.  Especially not on sanitary mode.  So I just overlap them slightly as I roll them on a piece of PVC.  So far these have proven useful for everything that disposable paper towels are good for, except greasy bacon.  Not that we've had bacon but I wouldn't use these for that.  And since these are recycled materials, I don't feel that painful twinge when I use them to clean something that might stain.  So my "tea" towels aren't getting as badly abused.  And they are turning out to be the perfect size for small messes.  (And no, I actually don't buy paper towels frequently at all.  But my hand towels were taking a beating from canning messes.)

The second created was reusable toilet paper.  Yup.  It's here.  Again made from recycled materials, these are 7" x 7".  And I ended up with enough of those squares to see us through a week solid if need be.  They do not get reused until they have gone through a sanitary cycle in the washer - by themselves.  The container for them is an old gallon vinegar jug with two cuts made to create a flap.  So odors and no other problems.  I don't roll these on a pipe section because they are just slightly too wide for any toilet paper dispenser.  But they are rolled in batches and set within reach of the toilet.  Oh, and somehow I think some relatives would be highly amused to see certain sections of their old t shirts turned into these.  I tried to avoid any printing but didn't quite manage it once or twice.  This was originally a TSHF idea, so I guess TSHF in our lives.  Either way, it has definitely helped avoid that expense.

The third creation was face wipes.  I used to buy Wet Ones when they went on sale.  For some reason Wet Ones have always been able to handle my rosecea when I have an outbreak.  But I typically wait until nothing else works because they are an expense.  Instead, I made 5" x 5" swatches of the fabric leftover from the two prior projects.  I stuck with using the knit fabric because it wouldn't unravel easily so I didn't have to serger it.  I have enough to fill two Wet Ones containers.  I'm experimenting with witch hazel plain and another batch with a few drops of Thieves' Oil.  Both seem to be working okay so I'll stick with this.  I may try a mix with Tea Tree Oil when I can locate my bottle of it.  If it works out okay long term then I'll start trying to grow witch hazel.  I have stratified seeds that I received as a barter earlier this year.

A few more projects are in the works.  A travel lunch bag that converts to a place mat for my son.  Placemats made from my old favorite table cloth.  Garments for my son.  My sewing machine is happy to be out.

The Good

A wonderful treasure find.

An amazingly compassionate doctor!  He not only helped but in no way whatsoever has let it affect his attitude towards my son and/or myself.

That my son is, hopefully, going to get better relatively quickly.  (A few months of healing for his stomach lining.)

A possible lead on a work at home job from another home school mom.

A wonderful homeschool group.

I'm sure more will be coming or are here and I just haven't seen them yet.

The Bad and the Ugly

I've been away for a while.  That's because life decided that I didn't have quite enough strife to deal with and dealt me a few more blows.

First, within the next two years I will have to move.  This was supposed to be my last move, our forever home unless I found another partner in life.  But in order to get this house, I had to allow family members to purchase it.  My marriage/divorce had destroyed my credit.  Now, I am in a financial situation that is worse, so even though my credit is better.  I can't afford the down payment for a mortgage.  Well, those family members have decided that they are moving.  And they have decided that since they are moving over 4 hours away, I must move so that they will be on hand if I need them.  They are ignoring that my brother lives here.  They are also ignoring that I finally have a support network for my son here.  They are ignoring that I hate moving.  I have put soooo much time and energy into this house and land. 

I haven't been taking this well.  So right now my brain is percolating through all the projects on the To Do list.  It's deciding which projects are worth doing when we are going to be forced to move and which will have to be put on the back burner, for years, again.  And I'm battling the anger and depression that this has triggered.  Especially since this exact issue was discussed before I even agreed to move here.

Second is that my son has been ill.  All we could figure out was that his stomach hurt.  That led into a whole adventure with doctors and insurance.  Finally, one doctor was incredibly, wonderfully kind and said he would see and treat my son - and write off anything that our primary insurance would not pay.  The tears that come to my eyes over this still occur now - days later.  An upper GI has been done and my son is on medicine to help his stomach.  Hopefully this will all soon just be a bad/good memory.

Third is that money is even more insanely tight than usual.  This month is the month to pay for homeschool, homeschool Co-Op, and car tags.  Add on to that more than a few doctor trips to doctors that are over an hour away.  And I've still got to figure out how to make it over the mountains to take my son's service dog to his vet.  And how to afford the gas to take my son to the eye doctor - three hours away.  Right now the indian is riding the buffalo and I'm still coming up short.  Thank heavens for the supplies I have put back for other things.

Now, if you've actually read this far I'm amazed.  I don't normally rant.  But I do know that sometimes, if I put things in writing, my mind clears enough to see a path through it all.  And sometimes fate kicks in, in a friendly way, and helps set things straight.  So thank you for reading this far and bearing with me.

Unusual Buttons

I like to sew.  I am the only person in my generation of my family that likes to sew.  The result of this is that when another family member passes on or quits sewing I get a load of sewing stuff.  I'm sure that others of you experience this.  You get a large load of stuff that is easily over 5 years old, half of which must be tossed because of it's age.  But you can find some marvelous things in those abandoned items.

One of the most unusual items I've found to date came from my great grandmother's button trove.  Apparently, at some point in time, one of the ways to make cloth buttons for an outfit was to enclose two coins in a circle of fabric that matched your project.  I haven't done this because I find the buttons to be too heavy for realistic use.  But there were five such buttons in my great grandmother's button tin. 

For years I've just left them in there as a novelty.  But today I was cleaning the tin out and decided that I should toss the fabric encasing the buttons.  The fabric was starting to shred from age.  And in doing so I found a wonderful treasure - from my great grandmother to me.  The buttons were made with 8 silver nickels.  Those are now set aside to be a "treasure" for my future children, if I am gifted with any. 

The picture is awful.  I just couldn't get a clear one.  But this is a wonderful surprise for me.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Alive and Kicking

It's been a tiring period.  Munchkin and I got sick with something that took us out for over a week.  And it still doesn't want to let go.  Today was only the second day that he spent any time playing outside in because he was so worn out.  But things have been getting done.

I got the first set of jar cozies completely done.  And one of the moms in the home school group saw my snack bags when we went to a group event.  She is teaching sewing this coming year and liked the idea of the bags for one of their projects.  We had an interesting discussion about sewing.  And of course, my son was determined to get as many hugs as he could.  He really likes this mom.  She accepts him as he is completely.  He's missed the regular interaction that he was getting during swim time.  This year he'll be going to Co Op, swim time, and swimming lessons.

Then I moved on to getting canning done.  Do to the generosity of others, and the rain for my garden, I suddenly have a flood of cucumbers to process.  So two versions of pickle relish are done.  The rest will be sliced/diced and spiced then put in the dehydrator.  They make good salad toppings and snacks.  And the pickle relish recipes used up all the spare onions and peppers that have been floating around.  Now I just have to process the tomatoes and jalapenos.  Salsa anyone?

I've spent a chunk of time ripping seams out of some old clothes from my folks.  The material will be used to make hand towels/cleaning clothes for various uses around the house.  I've still got about a bagful to go.  Then I'll rewash everything and get to work with the serger.  It's costing me time, but since I can't afford to purchase the material to make these items I'll spend the time.

I spent a day rearranging the dining room.  There's still some things to be done but most of the big things are done.  There is now a low shelf for all the homeschooling things which helped clear my dining room table off.  My idea to put the table directly in front of the window didn't work, but with the things rearranged it's easy to reach the curtains and open them fully now.  That has made a big difference.  I'll work on the rest in between canning and laundry this week.

I finally had a reason to go to the new Kroger store.  And I'm glad I did.  This one is only 20 minutes or so from the house so it's reasonable to reach.  (Before you wonder - even though I live in a small town if I want decent prices every store is at least 20 minutes from me, even Wal-Mart.)  I've been in the few Kroger stores that are within an hours reach and haven't been impressed at all so I wasn't expecting much.  I got a big surprise.  This store had an amazing selection of the items I need for my son's diet.  If they carried four more items I wouldn't have to visit Earth Fare but once every three months or so.  As it is, I will start using them as a regular store for some things.

And I spent quite a few days prepping our homeschool stuff for the coming year.  I got annoyed at myself at one point because I thought I had printed everything for the first 30 lessons only to discover that I had missed a lot.  I'm using a free curriculum that uses older materials for lesson plans.  I spent some time entering altered lesson plans into the online schedule tracker.  Right now I'm thirty lesson plans out on all subjects, further on some.  The plan is that I will take time each Sunday to add another ten lesson plans to each subject and pulling together the material for them.  For me the bonus is that I don't have to worry about last minute things unless I want to.  If there is something I need to order or make, I will have a few weeks to do so before the lesson comes up.  For day to day stuff, it will already be in the file and all I have to do is grab it each morning.

And last, but definitely not least, I got lucky at the thrift store again.  More fabrics at really good prices.  I'll be making more towels and other projects, including making a new backpack for my son.  Of course, I still have to sit down and plan out the new backpack, and disassemble the old one for a pattern.  But I'm tired of having to buy new ones every year because the seams rip out, so this time I'll make it and reinforce it properly.  I also got 3 chalkboard slates.  They are nice ones with the full handwriting lines meant for teaching at Pre-K and K levels.  So I'll be able to use them to help my son with learning to write.  And I splurged on a purple lava lamp for kiddo.  I'm so glad that this thrift does regular 50% off sales or I wouldn't be able to afford much at all.

Well, it's time to go.  I've got more to do before I can rest tonight.  I'm hoping to post more frequently again now that I'm not fighting whatever bug it was that got us.  I hope things are going well for you all.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Jar Cozies?

I decided not to use the last of this fabric on snack bags.  Since I'll be making more snack bags later, with different fasteners, I decided to put off making more.  So I took the last scrap of this fabric to experiment on this.

All I can think of to call them is Jar Cozies.  And fortunately, before I got them made I remembered the correct reason why I wanted them insulated.  I wanted them insulated so that I could remove the jars from the microwave when they were hot without burning fingers!  So I didn't need to use mylar bubble insulation.  Instead I used double layers of cotton quilting.

Nice and neat with no visible raw edges these were somewhat of a pain to make because of how I cut the fabric.  But since I'm making a total of six, I will fix the cutting error with the next batch.  The no raw edges thing is something that my Grandmother strongly impressed on me when she was teaching me to sew.  And it has stuck.  And no visible raw edges means no temptation for my son.

These should help protect the jars due to the quilt padding.  And I can put them in the microwave since they are pure cotton with no metal.  That should let me remove the jars from the microwave without burning my fingers.

And since these seem to work well for this job, I will probably make some larger ones to put around the quart jars that I use for making sweet ice tea concentrate - for the same reason.

If there's interest, I'll do a picture tutorial.  Just let me know.

This is just one of the projects I've been working on.  Life is a little busy right now.  And I think my sewing machine is enjoying the workout.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

And A Sewing We Go....

I will get to the new cushion covers but now that my sewing machine is easily accessible I'm working on a back log of smaller projects first.  It's mainly things that we can use right away.  The one I was working on yesterday was snack bags.

These were made from old cloth napkins and scrap fabric.  I looked online for directions and was frustrated.  Every pattern I found seemed to be a pain.  And all of them used Velcro.  Sorry, but I learned a long time ago that Velcro and washing machines are not a good mix.  Velcro has many wonderful uses but this isn't one of them.  So it was a toss up between buttons, snaps, and ribbon ties.  Since my son needs to work on his fine motor control in his fingers, I'm starting with buttons.  I have more snack bags to make and I will use even smaller buttons on those.  When he is using the buttons smoothly and easily, I'll add some bags with snaps or ties.

These weren't hard to make at all.  I had cut the napkins in half a while back in preparation for this project.  I turned each half into a square bottomed pouch.  Then I turned one right side out and slid it into the other.  I folded the sides neatly in so that the raw edges were gone.  I didn't have to fold the top of the bag or the cover because they were the neatly seamed edges from the napkin.  Then I top-stitched around the opening twice.  After that I put on buttons and did button holes.

The smaller bags I did in an easier way.  I folded the fabric good side to good side.  Then I stitched one end and the side.  After that I turned it right side out and ironed everything well.  Next I fold up the bottom section leaving it two inches from the top edge.  Oh, and I tucked in the unsewn side neatly.  Then I did another double row of top-stitching all the way around.  The pocket was made and the open end was closed.  Then buttons and button holes were added.  I did not do a square bottom on these.

The seams are all hidden so crumbs and other stuff can't get caught in them.

I've got three more small ones to make and then at least two large ones.  The large ones are for things like popcorn.  And I may do a batch of them lined in plastic for snacks that tend to stain.  These are, to me, better than having to continually buy snack bags.  In addition they won't break like glass.

The next project is cozies for the canning jars that I use for lunches.  It seems silly on the surface but small insulated cozies will help keep the food hot/cold and protect the jars from breakage.  I'm not so worried about the hot/cold thing because I use insulated lunch boxes, and I don't want to risk someone forgetting to remove the cozy and blowing a breaker on a microwave.  But the jars I use have been getting harder to find.  Last year I had to special order some.  So jar breakage is something I worry about.

Anyways, off to pattern those now.

Light For Working

I got the desk into its corner of the living room.  I got it covered.  I got my sewing supplies in place.  I didn't have enough light.

So I spent a couple of hours one afternoon hanging a lamp.  This is a premade cord for hanging.  It only had one problem.  It was designed for a special lampshade.  I've had the cord for years but I can't afford the special lampshades.  I used to have a paper lampshade over it, but that's not what I wanted in this room.

So I completely disassembled the light socket and threaded it through the hole in the lampshade.  Then I put it back together again which, of course, led to the typical stages of two steps forward, one step back.  I finally got it all assembled - correctly.  Then I hung it.  Then I had to take it all down again and repeat because something I did kept the on/off chain from working correctly.  So I fixed it.  I hung it again.  Then I realized that I had the cord for plugging facing the wrong plug.  So down it came again.  And back up in the right direction.

Now I only have two steps left to do.  I have to hang a cup hook at the edge of the wall to take some of the cord weight and control it.  And I have to get one of the clips that attaches the lampshade to the cord rather than having the weight of it on the lamp fixture.  I should have both done by the end of the weekend.

And my workspace has good overhead light.  So I'm getting some sewing done.  But that's another post.

Oh, and I guess there is a third thing.  The metal between the shade pieces is gold.  I'm going to get a paint pen in dark bronze/copper and paint them.  Light has made a big difference in that corner but despite a low wattage bulb it seems very, very bright.  So it only gets turned on when I'm working.

And a matching hanging lamp will eventually end up on the other side of the room in between two chairs.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Living Room & Fabrics

Ok, the decision has been made to finish the living room before I move on to the dining room.  The reason for this is because fate has provided me with solutions for some of the conflicts I had with the living room.

The first conflict was the limits on the amount of fabric I had that matched.  While I did have large quantities of two good upholstery fabric and they would match ok, one wasn't a color I really wanted in the living room.  I preferred to save the second color for the dining room.

The second conflict was based on something I noticed about my son.  My son really, really likes Grandpa's couch.  After a few different occurrences and observing him, we all came to the basic conclusion that he likes the texture and softness of the material.  Well, material of that type is well out of my price range but I threw it out to the fates.  I really wanted to be able to cover our couch, or our chairs, with a similar fabric for him.

The third conflict was that the fabrics I had were light colored fabrics.  Light colored fabrics show stains easily.  And my son is a stain creating machine some days.  In addition, due to his disability, I don't see his stain creating days ending any time soon.  So darker fabrics that won't show stains easily are really needed for the furniture cushions.

This is the fabric I'm happy with for the living room.  It has more yellow tone to it than the picture shows.  The background isn't white but rather a light creamy yellow.

All of the conflicts were partially resolved by our local thrift store today.  Over the past two months the store has started having a fabric section.  Well, it always had a small area for random fabrics but now it has a much bigger section.  Apparently fabric donations have gone up.  When I stopped in today for their 50% off sale, I found something we could use.  Somebody had donated two lengths of a soft corduroy like material.  The first length is definitely upholstery fabric in a beautiful forest green.  And while the pattern is different, it's very similar to what is on my Dad's sofa.  The other length is definitely corduroy in a dark milk chocolate brown.

 Despite the differences in color in the pictures, the green is a very good match to the fabric I want to use in the living room.  And the brown would work.  Unfortunately there is not enough of either to redo the cushions for the couch.  So sometime in the next week I will use the green to recover the cushions for one of the chairs.  And I'll start making curtains with the print.  I'm still debating on the corduroy.  It may just become extra cushions, it may become the cover for the second chair.  That's a wait and see at the moment.

I have faith that other fabrics that will work will come our way.  Especially since the lady in charge of linens for the thrift store told me that she had more fabrics in the back.  She promised to try to get them out by the end of next week.  So I'll stop in next Friday and see what she has.  She knows what I've been buying, and I told her what I was looking for.  She thought she had materials that would work.  She may, she may not.  But since the universe/fate/whatever has decided to help with this problem, I'm going to be patient and trust.  I've learned to wait and see what happens when outside forces jump in.  Making the one set of cushions, and curtains will take some time.  Oh, and I found some window scarves in a creamy yellow that are wide enough to be used to make the roman shades.

So I will be working on the living room in my spare time for the next week or longer.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dehydrating Watermelon

I've mentioned dehydrating watermelon before.  When I got back into dehydrating things I found that all the books said not to dehydrate watermelon.  So I didn't.

The problem was that I like watermelon.  And my son didn't.  It didn't matter what I tried, my son just wouldn't eat watermelon.  So I didn't get to eat it unless I bought small precut packages.  And I didn't do that frequently.  Well, at some point my mother gave me a bowl of cut up pieces that she thought she wouldn't eat in time.  And I already had some.  So I took a gamble and put the extra pieces in the dehydrator.  I was hoping that my son would eat it if it was dehydrated since a lot of his food dislikes are due to textures/sensory issues.

It worked!

Now, if you want to dehydrate watermelon in order to rehydrate it later - don't.  It won't rehydrate into anything you would want to eat.  But dehydrating watermelon with the intention of eating the dehydrated fruit - well that's not only doable, but my son thinks it's candy.  Dehydrated watermelon is very, very sweet.  Too sweet for me.  But my son devours it.

So if you want to do this, here's how I do it to serve as a guide.  First, get or grow a seedless watermelon.  You don't want to try this with a seeded melon.  I promise it's too much trouble.

Second slice the melon into quarters the long way.  Now, next I pull out my cheap electric meat slicer.  But I've done this just fine using knives.  The trick for this next step is to get the slices as close to the same size as possible.  For a lot of foods it's not quite that critical, but for watermelon you really want the slices to be the same size in at least one direction.  And you want them to be at least 1/2" thick.  Seriously, anything thinner will drive you batty when you go to get it off and will be way too thin.  Half inch slices will dehydrate down to 1/8" or smaller thickness when done.

Now you've got the quarter circle slices that everyone devours at picnics.  In the next step you slice them again, trying to stay with even slices.  When I do it I end up with 1/2" x 1/2" watermelon sticks with a small piece of rind at the end.  This works well for helping to give portions after everything is done.

Ok, now cut the rind end off of those sticks and stick the yummy part on your dehydrator trays.  If a piece is under an inch long, put it in a bowl for munching later.  Trust me it will dry too small in your dehydrator.  I had a yummy watermelon bowl for lunch today.

Now put it in the dehydrator on a very low setting.  This is the most effective way I've found to dry the melon and not get case hardening.  It also means that you probably shouldn't do this in an oven.  I have a dehydrator with a good thermostat and a good fan but for watermelon I still rotate the trays at least a few times a day.

Now walk away for at least 24 hours.  Only come back to rotate your trays.  Because of the high water content watermelon can take upward of 24 hours to dry.  Given the humidity here, I expect the current batch will take 3 days.

Ok, when it's done you will have very, very sweet, and very, very thin, slices of yummy watermelon to set aside for treats.  If you're kids are like mine you'd better hide them.  Otherwise your "after" photo of dried watermelon will look like mine.

Enjoy the yummies!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Today was detoured.  My son had an accident so bed linens had to be washed.  And with his fondness for grabbing extra blankets and flat sheets, well it has been quite a few loads.  Then add in his pillows.  Well, it was four loads just to get all of that cleaned up.  And since I was already on that detour, I'm going to go ahead and get as much of the laundry done as I can.

And since I needed to pay attention to getting the laundry done, I worked on our home school lessons for this coming year in between loads.  That way I could hear the loads finish and stop quickly to pay attention to the laundry. 

I already have most of what is needed for this coming year's school.  Right now I'm looking for a primer reader about scientists in general.  I think I will be printing the planner outline and taking it with me to McKay Books sometime in the next month.  But as I've discovered already, I have a lot of primer readers that match up with the lesson plan I'm following.  I also have the items for a lot of the activities.  And we are going to use an online lesson curriculum this year.  While the curriculum is not adapted for special needs, it isn't hard to adapt.  I will just be spending more time on each section of a subject and adapting any activities to my son's abilities.  I think this will be easier on me than creating the curriculum from scratch like I did last year.

My son has not been adapting well to spending lots of time indoors.  There is something about being outdoors that just takes the raw edges off of his hyperness and stimming.  It lets him burn out the energy that otherwise becomes destructive indoors.  So I've been having him do art projects to help.  And it seems to.  It allows him to burn energy in a focused manner.  Today he was painting with dot markers.  And he very deliberately chose the two colors he wanted.  He said no when I asked if he wanted more colors.  And he was actually paying attention to what he was doing, rather than just randomly banging the markers down.  The result was a purple and orange smiley face, I think.  Or maybe a purple pumpkin with orange eyes and mouth.  Either way, I was happy because he was trying to make an image rather than just fill the page with ink.  And he knew when he was done and stopped. 

I'll try to explain why this is so big to me.  There were a whole bunch of firsts in this activity today.  He paid attention.  He decided on colors.  He let me know that he didn't want more colors rather than letting me just keep handing him new colors.  He wasn't just pounding the markers down to splatter ink or fill the page, he had an image this time.  He worked on it without requiring me to supervise him.  He knew when he was done and stopped, rather than continuing and using the markers to stim.  So even if I can't determine exactly what it was that he had in mind, this piece of art will hang on our wall for a while.  But even better is that I can at least partially see what he was trying to make.  He's only managed to do this once before.  And that time it was a fish.  Here's hoping that he will continue on this path.

He also did another first today.  One that has me highly amused.  Every afternoon for the past week, I've ended up laying down in my bed to rest.  My body has desperately wanted naps but that's not a possibility.  And I haven't had to worry about what my son is doing because he believes that laying down on my bed is an invitation to pounce.  So we've been having afternoon pounce, snuggle, tickle sessions. 

Well my body started bouncing back yesterday and didn't demand "nap" time.  But my son did.  When I didn't lay down he came in and tried to pull me into the bed.  When I wouldn't climb into bed he decided to pounce on me whenever I sat down.  Needless to say, we had lots of play sessions throughout the afternoon but he wasn't satisfied.

So today he tried something he has never tried before - ever.  He laid down on my bed and giggled.  And he kept giggling, on and off, for a few minutes.  Well, that was too much for me to resist.  I had to see what was causing the giggles.  And as soon as I came to investigate - I was pounced upon.  And the giggles continued as we played for quite a while.  So I guess a daily play romp is going to be part of our schedule for a while.  Especially with my child thinking "outside his box" to get mommy to come and play.  There is nothing like a child's pure laughter and joy to make you feel wonderful.  And my son has retained the ability to have that pure laughter and joy.  It is one of the blessings that is part of his disability.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Back in Action

It took longer to recover than I expected, but I'm back in action.  Most of the lawn is done.  Tomorrow I will redo the front yard and start the backyard.  But the largest portion is already done.

The shelf under the front window is now longer, but not higher.  Too much of a discrepancy in the size of some of the containers.  But the distinctive change from the sea foam green covering the shelf to the deep red cherry color of the end table is gone.  And it's made a difference.  I got the windows cleaned and all of the sun catchers hung up.  And the big book shelving units swapped out so that the shorter one is on the door side.  And a hanging vase up.  And, and, and, and.  Basically lots of work got done today.  Tomorrow I'll get the small desk moved.  Then all I have to do is get a good cloth cover made for the desk and the heavy part of doing the living room is done.  Well, done until I have to move things in order to insulate around the windows and finish painting trim.

So, the plans for the rest of this week and on, are a toss up.  One part of my brain wants to work on the living room cushions and window treatments.  The other part wants to get all of the rearranging in the dining room done first. 

The dining room project involves some construction projects.  I'm going to make a low custom shelf for under its window.  That shelf will become the home for our home school supplies.  I already have most of the wood for that project.  It was wood purchased for another project that ended up going a different way.  There is another unit I want to build for the dining room but I have to think more on that one.  I'm not sure what I want it too be, either another shelf unit or a buffet.

I'm leaning towards doing the dining room rearrange and builds first.  That way I can work on all the fabric projects and blinds at the same time.  While I'm going to recover the couch and chair cushions in the living room, I'm also going to recover the chair cushions in the dining room.  I'm also going to do some repair to the chairs.

Hopefully in the next few weeks I'll get both the living room and dining room done.  Then it'll be time to work on the gardens again.

By the way, rearranging and redesigning rooms isn't something I do frequently.  I have a need to live in a place for a couple of years before I can do anything.  And every time I thought I had everything figured out for this house, something new came along.  Now I'm at the point where I'm happy with the furniture we have and not looking to accept any new donation furniture.  So what I do now will most likely be the way it stays for a very long time.  I really like the feel of things as they are now.  They remind me of my grandmother's shore house.  The furniture is wood with cushions and it feels kind of open, even for such a small space.  That shore house was small, and it held a lot of good childhood memories for me.  I was very sad when a developer purchased it and tore it down after her death.  So it feels good to have some part of my current home remind me of that place.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


The plans for today were for me to enlarge the shelf under the front window, get rid of two end tables, and put a small sewing desk in the corner of the living room.  Oh, and get the lawn done while the temperatures are lower and the sun is out.  I was looking forward to getting all of these things done.

Instead, I'm sitting here typing one handed with my other arm in a sling.  :-(  I woke up this morning to the discovery that I've badly pinched the nerve in my neck.  This is most likely due to stress from two major personal things that have popped up in the last week.  

This happens once every few years.  The first time it happened I had no clue what was going on.  Over the course of two days I went from mild pinching pain to severe pain if I even picked up a sheet of paper.  I was in college, working on a major project and this was an eye opener.  My Dad has a similar issue but he doesn't get the corresponding muscle weakness so he just powers through it.  Anyways, I thought it was a fluke.  A couple of years later it happened again. 

The second time I caught it before it got severe.  I had an interesting conversation with my doctor which basically said they couldn't do much because I have a bad physical reaction to steroids.  My choices were painkillers and muscle relaxants.  Oh, and several days off work.  None of those were options I could take.  So I was told to not use the arm at all.  I discovered how close to impossible that was for me.  After two days I went and bought a sling and strapped my arm down tight against my body.  To use my arm I had to actively think about it.  Two days later I had full use of my arm back.  It took a couple more episodes for me to learn to keep a sling on hand.

Now I don't even call the doctor.  I have a sling tucked up with my medical supplies.  This morning I pulled it out and put it on.  I rubbed in arnica cream and took an OTC pain killer/anti inflammatory.  Hopefully I'll have full use back by tomorrow since I really want to finish the lawn.  But at the latest it'll be Monday.  So I guess I'll be catching up on my reading and the online Permaculture course. 

But I likely won't post here again until it's healed.  I hate one handed typing.

I hope you are having a happy, healthy day.

Friday, July 13, 2012


And kindnesses.  And I am truly thankful for this gift from a fellow gardener.

By the way, those are cucumbers, not zucchinis.  So I'll be making pickle relish sometime in the next couple of days. 

My plants have just started flowering again, so hopefully I will be harvesting from my garden beds sometime soon.

Hey Ma!


There was a small hole in the bottom center.  My son decided that this meant that he could climb through!  This time I'll use regular screening.

Another Shelving Unit Project

How is it that a simple project, that should only take an hour or so, always ends up taking 4 or 5 hours?  This is a curse in my family.  No matter how much prep work you do to make sure that a project can go quickly, it always takes much longer than planned.

Today's project was to create a 6" deep shelving unit to go along the back of our couch.  I was doing this by taking an old 12" deep shelving unit and cutting it in half.  Then making a new top shelf to rest on top of the legs.  The old unit also had to be cut down to 28 1/2" high from 36" high.  Simple right.... 

So I measure all the existing pieces and mark them for cutting.  Then I go through the scrap pile and get 4 more pieces to cut for the needed additional legs.  Plug in the table saw and away we go!

I haul it back inside and measure the spacing for the shelves against the containers I'm going to be putting on them.  Of course, none of the existing pre-drilled holes will work.  So out comes the drill and drill bits.  Measure, drill, and screw together.

Oops, not enough screws!  Ok, sit down and figure out how many more screws are needed for the whole project.  Check that against what I have and head out to the hardware store.  I like our small town hardware store because I only have to buy as much as I need, and because they are very, very helpful.  I was in and out in less than 10 minutes.  Total time on the trip was about a 1/2 hour since I stopped to get gas for the lawn mower.

Ok, back home and I feed my son.  Now back to the project.  Ok, a few minutes later and everything is screwed together.

Now to make the tops.  Ok, another problem.  The wood I was going to use for the top shelves is 1 1/2" x 7".  It was a little too heavy for the units.  Why this hadn't occurred to me earlier I have no idea.  So back off to the scrap pile.  I end up pairing two 1/2 x 1 1/2" boards with a 1/2" x 3" boards.  I cut it all to size and piece it together.  There's a little bit of warping to deal with but nothing severe.

Now to attach these new top shelves.  You know the rule measure twice, cut once right?  I follow this rule faithfully.  Somehow I messed up the measurements this time though.  Fortunately it wasn't a cutting measurement.  It affected how I pieced together the top shelves.  So a few minutes with the screwdriver and everything is adjusted correctly.  Then I drill pilot holes through the top shelf into the shelf legs and screw everything together.  YahHOOO!  We're done, right!? 

Yup, for the most part.  I put the new shelves in place and cover them with a pretty decorative table cloth that matches the colors I want for the room. 

Slide the couch back. 

Now I have a hidden spot for water storage.  And to the world it's a couch shelf that holds some of my son's reading books.  And gives the cats a window side seat.  Why hide the water storage?  Because I want to.  It looks better tucked out of sight but it's easily accessible when it's needed.

Now it's just time to clean up all the mess and put all the tools back.

Ok, do you see those blinds in that window in the last picture?  That's what I'm looking at replacing with curtains.  But I've got a limited amount of fabric.  So I can either do the thermal shades and curtains or I can do new cushion covers. 

I had a brain storm today that I'd love to here from you about.  I'll still do the thermal shades but I'll make them roll up shades that can go behind the existing blinds, or just flat pieces that I can attach against the windows with magnets.  Then I take the existing blinds and dismantle them.  I lay the slats out on some cardboard and spray paint them in random strokes using the colors that are in the fabrics.  I would do the same for the metal header piece.  Then I would just need to make a decorative header out of the fabrics, which would leave me plenty of the fabric to recover cushions with. 

So did that make sense?  If so, what do you think?  Those are the fake wood plantation blinds so I'd have to use Krylon Plastic paint.  Does anyone have any experience with the plastic paint?  Does it work well?  Please let me know.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Keeping Rain Water

More rain!  And that is not a complaint at all. 

When I checked the weather forecast for this week it showed declining temperatures with some chances for rain.  The chances for rain were pretty low.  The forecast details said to expect severe thunderstorms.  Instead we have rain - a lot of rain.  And it's not severe thunderstorms.  It is a steady warm downpour.  It is exactly what the plants need, especially the trees. 

All of my big trees, and one of my dwarf fruit trees, had started dropping leaves due to the extreme heat and lack of water.  This is not a good thing since my big trees are all silver maples.  And I wasn't too happy about the pear tree either.

I've been looking at the way the land on my lot slopes.  There are really only a couple of areas that hold water for any length of time unless we are getting flooding rains.  This is good and bad.  And then the city started laying new water/sewer lines this spring which resulted in all the drainage ditches along our road being dug out.  And they didn't put them back the way they were.  The drainage ditch along the front of my yard is now shallower and a good 2 foot wider than it had been. 

There are some solutions for this that don't involve running to the city to complain.  But they are going to take some time and effort on my part.  Fortunately, the crew running the pipe laying are friendly guys.  And they don't mind, at all, that I want any "extra" dirt that they have.  And they aren't anywhere near done. 

So one of the parts, is that when they come back I'll ask them to dig the ditch a little deeper.  I will take responsibility for reseeding it and getting it to grow.  And I'll ask them to place the dirt from digging it out on the inside edge of the drainage ditch.  If they can't/won't do this, then when they are done, I'll start doing it a little at a time.  The bottom of the ditch needs to be level with the culvert going under my driveway and then angled to let the water naturally flow to its outlet, a creek at the other end of the block.  I can't do anything about the other yards but I can do something about mine.  And my neighbor is likely to do something about hers because otherwise her entire yard floods.  If I break the task up into segments it won't be anywhere near as hard.

Another part is to take the dirt that they are giving me and use it to make a long swale along the inside of the drainage ditch.  It won't be a high one, probably about 6 inches or so.  It will be enough to delay the rainwater on it's way to the drainage ditch and allow more of it to soak into the yard where the plants need it.

Then I'll work around each tree to work swales in that work with the contour of the yard near them.  For example, that pear tree - the ground to the north of it is sloped enough that any water just flows right off of the spot where the tree is.  And it keeps flowing down to water the dogwood just north of it.  Great for the dogwood but not so great for the pear tree.  So I'm going to build a swale just to the north of the pear tree that will allow the water more time to soak into the ground there.  I'll be doing this for all of the big trees as well. 

The swales won't help with drought conditions directly but they will help the trees/plants get more water when there is water.  Even if the water comes from my hose.  The real bonus during drought time will be that the plants will get as much of the water as possible.  And that will cut down on the amount of water I'm using.  That will be a bonus when I'm using rainwater from barrels.

But it's a balancing act.  I don't want to cause the yard to start holding deep pools of water whenever it rains.  And I don't want more water holding around the foundation of the house.  Right now the house, and the area about 2 foot out from it, are the low point in the yard.  Sixty years of rainfall with no gutters will do that.  But fixing that is a whole 'nother post.  It's another one of those piece by piece projects of mine.

Anyways, since climate change is coming, and because my budget is miniscule, planning to use naturally, freely available resources to keep my garden going seems like common sense.  For the time and energy I put in now, I will be able to put in a lot less time/energy/money in the future. 

BTW, I said climate change.  I don't know if it's getting warmer or colder.  I don't really care beyond a certain point because it's happening and there's not much that can be done about it. I'm not so egotistical that I think that I am the cause of it, or that I can do anything to change naturally occurring planetary changes.  I do the things that I can so that I don't contribute to making it worse - mainly because those things are common sense things to do for multiple reasons.  I do know that weather patterns are changing around here.  And I'm trying to adapt so that we won't be blindsided by something that could be avoided.  I try to plan for the future, not just right now.

I hope you all are having a good day, wherever you are.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Hmm.  The weather is definitely topsy turvy here.  The last few weeks of June/beginning of July had severe heat.  Now we are getting rain.  Normally we get rain through the end of June and then very little until the end of August.  But if it helps break the high heat wave, I have no complaints at all.  Especially since my plants seem to be very happy.  All of the plants are flowering more and the vining plants have had some serious growth the last couple of days.  And of course, the rain barrel is full.

I'm looking forward to making more rain barrels.  Although honestly, most of the rest of them will most likely be made from 200 gallon ag tanks.  40 to 50 gallons just isn't a lot in the scheme of things when you are trying to keep a garden alive through a drought.  And while the area isn't in drought, the weather in July and August is typically drought type weather.  So I need a good stash of water to help me keep the garden going without running up the water bill.  I'm not looking forward to seeing June's water bill.

And I found some instructables ( that I'm going to try out.  One if for making an earthbox out of a 55 gallon drum.  The other is for making a wooden planter out of a 55 gallon drum.  I'm planning on combining the two when I figure out how to do the wood part without making holes in the barrels.  I've got a couple of ideas perking for that.  They would be great planters for the mints I have, and a few other enthusiastic herbs. 

So the rain is keeping me indoors.  And today we ran to Aldi's grocery store for a good sale.  So I have 26 pints of chicken for the canner and the dehydrator is working on the watermelon I bought a few weeks ago.  The dehydrator is about to be running for a couple of weeks again.  After I get both watermelons finished, I have 4 honeydew melons to dry.  And by then I'll probably have something else to go in it.  I'm thinking about trying a small batch of watermelon rind pickles.

I'm still thinking on the A/C drainage thing.  And right now, to be honest, my brain is leaning towards attaching a Y and two soaker hoses.  One hose to the gardens on either side.  Right now the beds are plants I don't really care for but hopefully next year I'll get around to overhauling those beds.  They are in deep shade so I'll be working out plants that will survive better there.  I know that at least one of the ground covers will be wild ginger.  Regular ginger will probably be another.

Anyways, I'm off to empty the cooling shelf off.  There will soon be jars coming out of the canner that will need that space.  I hope you are getting the weather you need.  I know I'm glad that we are.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A New Roof

I live in an old house.  When my Dad checked the roof a couple of months ago we discovered that there were at least 3 layers of roof shingles.  And per the roof installers that came out to give quotes, the roofs needed replacing - not because of the hail and other bad weather but because it was just too old and there wasn't enough venting.  And the roof on the garage was in worse shape.

So yesterday my roofs were replaced.  I would have preferred metal but that was not to be.  And when it's completed, hopefully sometime today or tomorrow, I will have new light gray roofs that match.  Until now the house and detached garage had different colored roofs.  Something that didn't make sense because they both had been replaced at prior points.  I know, it's trivial, but it's still nice.

But I've discovered that the need to watch contractors is still required.  This is something I've learned as we've had a variety of things done around the house.  Shortcuts and other things run rampant otherwise.  And some of those shortcuts caused problems that had to be fixed later.  Dad and I have talked about it, and unfortunately, it seems to be very common throughout every industry.  A sign of the times, and not a good one.

The first issue was when they decided that one of my garden beds was a good zone for dropping the old roofing down.  While the greens in the bed were toasted, I stopped it before the watermelon plants got crushed.  Since I was about to yank the greens anyways, there wasn't a loss.  And the offsite boss was there.  He wasn't happy about it since he didn't catch it.  They had a tarp laid over the entire thing.  But it got fixed fast and he was willing to replace plants if they were damaged.  Again, fortunately for both of us, the important plants weren't harmed at all.

The other two issues popped up after I got home and inspected yesterday.  The first one is that they were supposed to install a second roof vent.  Instead they replaced the existing mushroom vent with a low profile vent that was twice as big.  But they didn't expand the roof hole for the larger vent!  And Dad says that they were supposed to install two vents, regardless of size.  I'm thinking the two vent issue is a miscommunication issue so that's not such a problem.  But not enlarging the vent hole to fit the new vent is an issue.  (Yup, it's confirmed.  Miscommunication issue - Dad meant an additional vent, they heard replace existing vent.  Not sure how that happened.)

The second problem was discovering that a section of the ridge doesn't have any wood supporting it.  Apparently a 6" x 24" piece of the board separated from the rest of the board since it is hanging down into my attic.  The roof here is 1" x 6" wood, not plywood.  I don't know if they didn't catch it or if they chose to ignore it but I guess I'll find out.

Other than those issues the work has been great.  They have been very, very careful about debris which is mandatory given my son's disability.  And they've worked quickly and effectively.  I have no doubts that the problem issues will be dealt with quickly. 

But I am very happy for new roofs.  The lighter color should help some with the heating issues in both the house and the attic.  Now I just have to get into the attic and lay more insulation.  I'm over half way through with that project but I can't get back into the attic for that until fall gets here.

Next I'll be working on gutters.  If I'm really lucky by next spring I'll have at least a couple of 225 gallon rain collectors installed to help with watering the gardens.  Now if I could just figure out how to collect and use the condensation from the A/C unit.  Especially during these temps!  I'll just have to keep brainstorming on that one though.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A New Table

Well, I'm working on the inside To Do list now.  One of the projects was to make a long, low table that ran most of the way along the front wall, under the window.  The table is where I store things that we use, but not frequently, and that I don't want in in sight.

So the original debate I had was over how I was going to build the table.  I was considering getting lumber and building a low shelving unit that could be used as a table and still store everything.  The problem being that to make the shelving unit sturdy enough I would have been buying some expensive lumber.  Also, there would be no flexibility in a long, low one piece unit. 

I also thought about building three of the units, smaller, so that it would be more flexible.  But again, the lumber problem.

So my final solution is simple.  I used 6 plastic shipping totes.  I got these years ago and I love them.  They are ugly to look at but not hard to hide.  But they don't have cover/lids.  So after a few minutes of brainstorming I went out to the garage and found what I needed.

We have wooden TV stands.  I rarely use them but my son loves them.  He is only allowed to have one at any time because he's pretty hard on them.  The one he's allowed to have rarely lasts more than a year.  And the last two only lasted 6 months.  While the tops are exceedingly sturdy, the legs can't take the abuse he dishes out.  And due to the increased destructiveness, he currently only has the top to one to play with.  There were the remains of 4 prior TV stands in the garage because I couldn't make myself throw away the tops.  They were good thick wood.  So I removed all the attachments and brought them in.  I laid these on the shipping containers as lids.  And finally, I put a lovely light sea green tablecloth over the whole set up.

Looking at it now, I may raise the whole thing by an additional tote.  I may also make it go the full length of that wall.  It works beautifully behind the two driftwood chairs.  And so much wonderfully hidden storage!  The final table is 15" wide x 20" tall x 7' long, for right now.  And I guess that it was good that I didn't make it from lumber because then I'd be frustrated about considering changes.

Ah well, off to get more done!  I hope you're having a productive day.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Done, Done, Done, Done, Done!

Done, Done, Done, Done, Done!

(picture this with hips swinging, hands in the air and dancing in circles and you'll come close.)

My child thinks that I went a little crazy for a few moments, or that's what the expression on his face seemed to say.  My girlfriend laughed.  And you probably think I'm a little crazy, at the moment, for being so very thrilled that the weeding is done.  But bear with me for a few minutes and I think you'll understand why it made me so happy.

For over five years now I have suffered from an odd form of depression.  I'm not sad.  I knew what needed to be done.  My body wouldn't do it.  My mind and body have been at war.  And my mind typically lost.  When my mind won, I'd get the energy to do something but typically only for one day.  Then I would be wiped out again.  The docs swore it wasn't anything thyroid/adrenal related despite a family history of those issues, and very very low thyroid readings.

At the end of last year, I got a book on adrenal fatigue.  I was very skeptical but by November I decided to at least give part of the suggestions a try.  I tried one amino acid supplement.  ummm, wow doesn't cover it.  It wasn't instantaneous or continuous at first.  And there are still some rough periods.  But things started changing.  I ended up adding two more supplemental amino acids for a total of three.  By January, things really, really improved.

Guess mind now wins most of the mind/body arguments.  In fact, most days there isn't even an argument anymore.  When my thyroid was tested a few months ago the readings came back mid-range, not bottom end.  I don't know why my body isn't getting these supplements from my diet.  I checked the natural sources and I consume them.  But at least for now, I need to take the supplements.  Maybe, after a while, my body will again be able to function on what is part of my normal diet.

So the reason for the dancing is because a year ago, I could not have gotten the weeding done for my parents.  I would have tried but I would have gotten maybe one good day and then had to quit.  And my mind would have quit because of the heat extremes we've seen this week.  Yesterday hit 106.

This week, I worked during the morning for four days.  The total was 12 hours.  I got all the garden beds done completely.  My body didn't quit on me, although it did give me warnings.  I listened to the warnings and kept going.  My mind didn't quit on me, it just kept figuring out how to get it done.

Of course, I was laughing at myself when my mind gave me the best information just as I was finishing up.  A thick towel to lay over the rocks for sitting.  My stirrup hoe to deal with the rock beds.  Etc.  I just laughed and filed the idea away for next time.  Because there will be a next time.  This has been one of my biggest successes since things started getting better.  The changes in my yard are a close second.  And I like knowing that I can once again do the things that need to be done.

So I'm dancing happy today.  And so incredibly grateful for the intervention from above that led to the ability to feel "human" again.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Hardest Part First

One of the things that my Dad taught me as a kid was to do the hardest part of a task first.  That way when you were tired, you were doing the easier stuff and less likely to make an important mistake.  I try to apply this to everything in our life.  And it works for the most part.  Even if I have to break a task into multiple parts, it's easier to go back to it when I know that the hardest parts are already done.

So for weeding at my parent's house, I started with the front yard.  It was hardest because of my son.  I was going to need to be hyper alert to make sure that he didn't go running off of the front porch.  It was made slightly harder, after the fact, by the Jackson Vine.  Oh, by the way, in Florida that vine is known as saw briar.

The next hardest part was a bed directly against the back of their house.  It has never been mulched or had landscape cloth put down so the weeds were well dug into the soil.  And the soil, which is clay, has been hard baked but the temperatures the past few weeks.  It also has several very thorny plants, including two roses.  There are not many fears for my son in the backyard because it is fully fenced.  And I can keep a close eye on him, even in the pool, regardless of which garden bed I am working on since all the beds are local to the pool.

After the first bed, I moved to the large areas surrounding the pond.  Dad has become addicted to raising Koi and has a pond that is half the size of their pool.  And the surrounding landscaping is equal to the entire pool area, pool and all.  Given how the work was done, I didn't expect any real problems with this area.  And there haven't been any real weed pulling problems.  The problem is the sheer volume of the weeds!  This area contains large areas with no plants at all, just rocks.  And those areas looked like they were debating becoming part of the lawn.  Given another couple of weeks, they probably would have!

This is not normal for my parents.  While Dad doesn't do heavy weeding in those areas, he doesn't typically allow it to get so incredibly overgrown.  If nothing else he will spray weed killer.  But right now, it's starting to look good.  I putting the lack of care down to the fact that Dad hasn't been home for five weekends out of the last six.  And his job has been very very stressful during this time.  Things have been so hectic for him that he even has someone coming in to do the lawn occasionally. 

Anyways, I have about a quarter of that area left to do tomorrow.  And I was getting kind of panicked wondering if I was going to be able to get this done by Sunday.  My parents have been out of town all week and are due back some time on Sunday.  I want this done by then.  So I walked the other garden beds....and took a huge sigh of relief.  There is no denying that the other beds need weeding.  But as of today, only one small section of that is as bad as the section around the pond.  The rest of the beds are weedy but it's a few weeds here and a few weeds there - not a carpet of weeds from one side to the other.

So, hopefully, tomorrow I will be able to get to, and through, the easiest part.  At the very least I will finish the hardest parts and then I can go back early Sunday and finish the easiest parts.  And knowing that those other beds are much easier has kind of buoyed my energy level.  I'm well over half way through, probably over 3/4 of the way through.  The hardest part is almost done.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

One Track Mind

This could also be titled - Overdoing It!

I'm weeding Dad's garden beds this week.  To do this without overheating I'm getting up at dawn - literally - and heading down to their place. 

Yesterday I did all the garden beds that are not behind fencing.  That took about 2 1/2 hours.  The great fun was the saw briar/ jackson vine that I found growing there.  The nasty thorny vine was apparently growing throughout a very very large section of one bed.  After ripping out quite a bit, I realized that we were going to have to use another option for this vine because otherwise I was going to rip through a lot of landscape cloth and mulching.  So I will be teaching Dad what I learned from the nursery, when he gets home.

Anyways, I only stopped because I had to go deal with school officials.  My time would have been better spent working on the gardens.

Today I was determined to get at least halfway through the backyard.  So I kept going even when it got hot.  When I got wobbly, I downed lots of Propel and sat in the pool for a bit.  When the first batch of Propel made my stomach cramp I realized that I had waited too long to start drinking it.  So I made sure the container was refilled then I went back to it.  At about 11:30 I had to surrender at about a third of the way through.  I had to admit that I was being overly stubborn.  I have several more days to work on this but my one track mind wants it done and wants it done now.  So I keep pushing my body to do it.

BTW, these are very, very large garden beds.  On average each bed is at least 6 foot across and 40 feet long - at least.  Most are actually much bigger than that.  They have a very large lot, something like 2 acres. 

But my body has limits in heat and I hit them.  It took an hour in the pool to stop feeling quite so "wobbly".  And then I was just exhausted.  A 5 hour energy drink actually tasted good!  And only lasted about an hour.  All in all, it took about 5 hours and one batch of pain pills for me to start feeling human.  And my stomach still doesn't like the idea of food but it's taking it.

And the grand prize for not stopping earlier - my braid created a skunk stripe through the lovely sunburn on my back.  I originally thought I didn't burn because there was no red, but recent scratching has confirmed that I did indeed burn.  Oops.

So tomorrow, I will stop by 10.  I am going to set an alarm on my phone to make me pay attention to the time.  Two of the remaining beds are really, really bad but the rest aren't so bad because I laid them down and I put very heavy weed barriers down.  So they look bad but the weeds pull out very easily.  It's the garden beds that I didn't do that are going to be the hardest because the weeds will have gotten through to soil that is hard baked right now.

I will be wearing a full shirt and pants tomorrow.  Not the bathing suit and shorts.  Well, at least a shirt over the bathing suit, wet or not.  And I will have a full drink container of Propel next to me at all times.  If I empty it then it will be time to take a break and refill it.

But munchkin thought that this was grand.  He got to curl up on Grandpa's sofa and watch movies for a couple of hours.  Then he got to jump in the pool and play for a couple of hours.  And since he's got the dark italian skin tone he just got darker - no burning.  Sometimes I'm jealous.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Splitting the To Do List

In my house there is the To Do list.  In my mom's house, and my SIL's house, there is the Honey Do List.  Either one seems never ending some days.

I'm having problems refocusing on inside tasks so I decided that I would start by splitting the lists.  That way the stubborn part of my brain that is fixated on the outside tasks can let go and refocus.

So, outside To Do list.  To be worked on if cooler days hit or in September.
          1)  Trellises for Jasmine and Honeysuckle around three front maples.  Transfer plants to each location.  Get native honeysuckle for one of the locations.
          2)  Trimming of back hedge
          3)  Clearing of new back yard bed - the side where the blackberries have rooted in.  Move all the miscellaneous stuff out.  Put in a brick "bed" for the grill.  Dig that section of french drain, fill and cover.  Put in edging - all the way if possible.   Root canes all the way along.  Mulch heavily.  Cut back chaste tree and mallows that are on other side of fence along there.  Pull out honeysuckle that is starting to creep in there.
          4)  Putting in wooden playset for my son
          5)  Moving/leveling trampoline so that the new playset will fit.
          6)  Spreading out strawberry plant runners to blank spots in the strawberry bed
          7)  Fixing greenhouse structure and cover.  Filling thermal mass jugs.  Installing mist system for watering.  Installing shade cover to control temps.
          8)  Clearing area along side of garage and putting mint plants (in planters) along it.  This will involve pulling the existing grass, leveling, and mulching.
          9)  Cleaning out raspberry bed and laying new mulch.
          10)  Dig out privet on side of house.  Prep area for 3 new blueberries in spring.  Includes digging a french drain section behind the location for one of the new blueberries.  Same thing as other french drain section.
          11)  Fix porch gate.  Make a second gate.
          12)  Replace baluster that is breaking on porch railing due to knot in wood.
          13)  Paint porch rails and gates.
          14)  Put up 4 new garden beds.

Ok.  Maybe now my brain can refocus on the inside stuff.  I know my focus for the first couple of weeks/month is going to be the living room.  I want to rearrange a bit.  But then I also want to get the new curtains and curtain rods made and hung.  I'm going to pull the trim around the windows and put insulation in the holes.  Then I'm going to finish painting any trim not painted, including all the new stuff around the door.  Then I'm going to make plastic covered full window inserts for an extra layer of protection during winter.  Oh, and thermal roman shades for winter.  And finally, the couch and chairs need new cushion covers.  I may even get a chance to restain the wood on the two older chairs.  Hmmm....I think at least part of my brain has jumped on to the new To Do list.  Now to see how far I get.

I wonder if I should make the new curtains go from floor to ceiling?  I'll have to see how much fabric I have.

Ok, off to plot.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Well the heat is here.  Now I know that ninety degree weather isn't a problem for a lot of people.  But it is for me.  Even with lots of liquids, I will get heat stroke very quickly in those temps.  I guess it comes with the fair complexion and red hair.  The southern humidity makes it worse.  Even in a pool, I have to limit my time in direct sunlight - and not because of sunburns.  The headaches will be killer if I'm not careful. 

So I will start trying to transition tasks this week.  I will be getting up early to take care of watering, digging out the rest of the Pampas grass, and mulching in the 3 spots that need it.  Early will be at 5:45 to 6 am, just after sunrise.  Although once I get used to it, I'll probably get up before sunrise.  Then I can go back outside at around 7 or so.  It stinks but I actually planned the gardens, and other stuff, so that I could do this when the heat got to be too much.  I just normally have another week or so before we hit those temps.  Not happening this year.  Unfortunately it also means that the back hedge will wait until September to get cut back the rest of the way, because these changes will be in effect until the temps start dropping again.

But I've also promised Dad that I would weed his garden beds next week.  So I'll be breaking that chore up over 3 or 4 days, doing an hour or so at a time.  That way I shouldn't get into too much trouble.  And a quick dip in his pool afterwards will pull my core temp back down effectively.  Fortunately, this is a one shot thing.  It's just that he has sooooo many garden beds that need weeding.

There's only one regular chore that I can't do that early, and that's mowing the lawn.  I have to wait until at least 8 o'clock am to start that chore.  Fortunately, now that the heat has hit, I can normally do it once every 3 weeks.  It's fortunate because I'll be wiped out for that entire day and the next day recovering.

So now I'm shifting gears and plotting the To Do list that involves inside tasks.  There's plenty of cleaning, sewing and other tasks to catch up on.  Although I'm also going to bring the grill up closer to the back door and work on cooking outside when I can.  I've managed to keep the electric bill under $100 for 3 months now.  And I know the higher temps are going to change that but I'm going to do what I can to keep the bill down.  One bonus, the A/C unit is in a naturally shaded area for most of the day.

So unless life throws a curve ball, the projects I'll post here for the next couple of months will be indoor stuff.  I'm off to go through my To Do list and plan things.  I hope you are safe in the heat.

Interplanting wonderings...........

Yesterday I harvested Pinto beans from all the plants that were completely dried out.  About 10 plants gave me about a 1/2 cup of beans.  Since this year I was experimenting to discover plant yields, this wasn't a crisis.  Although I do wish the yield had been higher.   There are still more Pinto bean plants in the garden so the overall yield will be higher.  And it was good to discover that Pinto beans go from seed to yield in 60 days or less.  That's different from the rest of my beans.

In brainstorming for next year, it means I need to plant more.  Pinto beans are not our main use bean but they are used in my house.  And at rates that mean that a 1/2 cup yield would barely touch our use of them.  So I now know that next year I will need to plant at least one whole bed in Pinto beans.  And that I will need to use some type of trellis for support.  I also know that I need to plant them earlier.  This year they didn't get planted until late, late April (almost May).

The problem is the limited gardening beds that I have.  While I want more, unless I get lucky in finding wood I won't get more.  So right now I'm trying to figure out what else I can plant in the bed with the Pinto beans.  Right now the options are tomatoes, cucumbers, onions or garlic.  I don't think the garlic will work because the garlic I have planted right now isn't much taller than the bean plants are.  The onions might work because they are taller so I may try a small mixed patch.  The cucumbers would work because they can be trained to be completely vertical, but the beans would only work on the outside of the bed.  If the beans were further in they'd be buried under the cucumber vines.  And tomatoes would work with the same limitations.

There are other planting combinations I'm thinking of trying as well.  The sweet potatoes could go under the cucumbers.  Greens could go in with the onions and garlic.  Melons could go with the onions or tomatoes or cucumbers.

Right now I'm brainstorming based on plant size and growth rates.  I'm basically trying to create different versions of the "three sisters".  Versions that are based on crops that I grow and use.

At the same time I am working on the start of a Forest Garden.  This is something that I've wanted to do for several years now.  Recently I found a full online course on permaculture.  So I'm taking the course and working on the garden.  The Forest Garden will probably take me years to get fully established but I'm looking forward to it.  Any garden that will provide me with more edibles over time, with less input of hard work and energy from me, is something to look forward to.  And systems that allow nature to work as it should without me having to continually fight it will help us to keep expenses down.

Now realize, I love nature.  But I don't value nature over humans.  What I do value is working with a system that requires less energy input to keep us feed, sheltered and healthy.  There isn't a scenario that I can envision that won't be made easier if the input energy requirements - whatever the source - are lowered.

So I'm working on multiple things and learning as I go.  I'm not really using companion planting guides unless I find them from someone whose actually done it.  If you research how companion plants were originally determined you'll understand why.  It's a quack.  I do have one guide from someone who actually does it but she focuses on flowering and decorative plants, not edibles. 

I wish I could have a week or two to pick the brains of the people who are fully dependent on their gardens - not optionally dependent but truly full dependent.  They would know all the little tricks and planting combinations that work.  It wouldn't be theory or guesswork with them because their lives depend on getting it right.  I've always thought that those should be the people to learn survival gardening from.

Please, share your ideas or experiences.  I love to learn more.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Rain Barrel

I have wanted to have Rain Barrels for forever.  It's one of those projects that is always on my To Do List.  Unfortunately it hasn't been done for a multitude of reasons.  First reason has been the cost.  Yes even homemade rain barrels cost money.  The second reason has been because this house only has one gutter installed.  Yup - one!  Over the back door.  There's a matching 10 foot gutter section over the door to the garage.

Basically, someone at some point got tired of rain pouring on their head when they opened the door.  So they bought two 10 food sections and installed them over the doors.  The one over the back door is 6 inches too long but they didn't trim it.  The one over the door to the garage isn't anywhere near long enough, but that's all they did.  I've got enough gutters, and needed accessories, to do either the house or the garage, but not both.  The problem is that I only have two hands, one body.  And getting help - well it hasn't happened.

Well, about two weeks ago my neighbors moved out.  They had a barrel from a water softening system that they let me have.  So I decided to get at least one rain barrel up and going.

Now the first part was to fill the barrel and see if there were any holes that I couldn't see.  There weren't.  Then I went down to Dad's with the barrel and we fit it with two spigots - one at the top and one at the bottom.  The spigot at the top is for overflow.

Home again with the spigots on the barrel, I started work on it's placement.  I went and got all the bricks, and pieces of brick, out of my rock pile.  I leveled the spot near the house and built a "platform" 3 bricks high.  It was interesting since the ground there is heavily loaded with rocks and the bricks were a whole variety of types, sizes, and pieces.  Next I put the barrel up and filled it to make sure that the "platform" would hold.  It did.

Next I patched two holes using my pool patch kit and some pieces of vinyl from a damaged pool.  That was easy and quick - and it worked wonderfully.

Then I went digging in my garden shed.  I was looking for any hoses that I didn't already have installed.  This was for two reasons.  First, I needed to replace the hose that came from the outside spigot, through the fence, into my backyard.  The one that was on there was breaking and the repair connectors couldn't hold against the water pressure.  Because of this, whenever I want the water on in the backyard I have to go out the front and around the side to turn it on, then back through to the backyard.  It's a pain.  Second, I was looking for a short hose to use on the overflow spigot.  No point in having the overflow if I just let the water drain in the same spot I'm trying to not have it drain in.  I found what I needed.  Then I used the pliers to get the hoses switched out on the spigot.  The damaged hose is now fastened to the rain barrel as it's hose.  A 10 foot hose is attached to the upper spigot and directed into one of the garden beds further away from the house foundation.  And I now have a good hose so water can be controlled at the hose outlet rather than the spigot.

Ok, you might think at this point I'd be done but nope sorry.  There's a mosquito problem in my town.  A lot of it is contributed to by drainage creeks that don't drain, and don't flow.  So any standing water or extra moist ground area becomes another mosquito breeding ground.  So my next step was to cut a piece of metal screening to cover the top of the rain barrel.  There was no lip on this barrel, so I ended up using tin snips to cut the center of the lid out.  The lid holds the screen in place.  I'm also planning on a small piece of screen between the outlet spigot and hose, or at the end of that hose.  Dad says it won't work and I'll be forced to use mosquito dunks.  He might be right.  But I have to try every option that doesn't create a repetitive expense first.  Even if the expense is less than the comparable expense of paying for the water.

Now, the rain barrel is done and in place so I was set.  Right?  Nah, my life doesn't work that way.  See I couldn't leave the gutter the way it was.  As it was the water was just dumping off the end and soaking into the foundation at the corner of the house.  That's another project I'm working on - the reason I have the gutters to put up, and why I dug a french drain at the back of the herb bed.  There will eventually be another section of french drain running along this section of the house back and around the rain barrel.  All to decrease the amount of rain running under my house which sits about 3" lower than the surrounding lot due to this issue for the past 50 years.  So I had to fix this problem as well.

So another trip to Lowes to get an endcap for the gutter, silicone, and a downspout connector that I could drop into the existing gutter.  Then home again.   Note, I did not cut the extra 6" of gutter off.  Due to the placement of the nails, to cut off the extra gutter would have required two more hands and another body which I didn't have.  So I capped the end.  That was easy but we'll see if it stays in place after the first rain storm.  Then I marked the gutter so I could cut the opening for the downspout connector.  Using my Dremel, I cut most of the opening.  When I could bend it enough to get tin snips in I did so and finished cutting with the tin snips.  As much as I like power tools, the tin snips were faster and more effective. 

Using the drill I put two small holes in the drop down section of the downspout connector.  Then I put it in place.  Now comes the decorative part.  I did not attach a downspout.  I never intended to.  I have had a beautiful copper bucket rain chain for a while now that I really wanted to use.  So I made a connector that hung through the two holes I made in the downspout connector and hung it.  I did have to shorten it by about six inches.  But I really like it.  There's no reason that practical and useful can't be beautiful at the same time.  In fact I'll probably paint the rain barrel at some point as well.  Maybe bronze or copper to match the chain.  Maybe a wood tone.  I really don't know yet.

Now the rain barrel is done.  And I like it all.  Now I wait until the next rain storm to see if all the work holds together the way it should.  Fingers crossed for good luck.

And while taking this picture, I snagged a few blackberries from the canes near there.  And my munchkin ate his first fresh blackberries.  He liked them enough to eat a few more after the first.  :-)  He normally won't eat fresh fruit so I'm thrilled.

Catching You Up!

Wow, it's been a while and so much has been happening.  I really need to program a reminder to post something at least every other day.  I may break this into several posts.

Ok, first, the trellises.  They were wobbly because the PVC connectors did not connect snugly to the pipes I had.  And I don't have the budget to afford special sized connectors.  In addition, the trellises needed to be able to be disassembled at the end of their use.  They also needed to be able to be reassembled in whatever configuration I needed them in next.  This meant no screwing into the pipes and no welding.  So the final solution was to put threaded holes in the PVC connectors where necessary.  I borrowed one of Dad's taps to test this out.  I tore my fingers up some doing it because Dad didn't know where the handle for the taps was.  But the end result has been worth it.  The trellises are much more stable.  I will be buying a simple tap and die kit so that I can do this as needed in the future.  The tap and die kit that I currently own is missing in action and no amount of searching has turned it up.  (Of course it will appear out of nowhere as soon as I can no longer return the new kit.)

Plantings.  Everything I had already bought and listed here is already in the ground.  In addition, quite a few new herbs are in the ground.  One of the plants that I thought was raspberries is actually blackberries.  And they are yummy, yummy, yummy!

The back herb bed which was a mess has been completely cleaned out.  The french drain was redug.  It was filled completely this time.  And the weed cloth and rock mulch were applied.  All of this was done by hand.  This project jumped up on my to do list when someone offered free river rock if you came and got it.  Having learned from getting lava rock, I filled the totes in the back of the van since there would be no lifting them once they were filled.  End result is - that project is done and all I need to do is replace the herbs.  Four new herb plants are in and seeds for nasturtiums are planted.  The rest of the bed will be heavily mulched with shredded paper until I get plants in.  Oh, and the main walkway from the front to back of this bed was laid in rock.  Now I don't have to worry about plants when I put up the clothesline.

The Pampas Grass is coming out slowly.  I was unable to take a chain saw to it so I go out each morning and dig out a bit more.  I used the mower to "mulch" all the parts I cut off that didn't have roots attached.  That mulch went down around the blueberries.

There were many other little things in the midst of these.  They got done.  The cucumbers are now very big and flowering.  The tomatoes are getting there.  There are watermelon and cantaloupe plants in the ground.  I've harvested peas and beans.  One pear tree lost two limbs due to the weight of the pears.  I installed storm door on the back door.  Everything gets watered now because the severe summer heat is hitting two weeks earlier than normal.  And in addition the summer "drought" is hitting two weeks early.  So I will be watering things from now until mid September unless we get some type of break in the weather.  And I don't expect any tomatoes until then because the heat will be too high for the fruit to set.  Despite having it set high, my air conditioning is running frequently to keep the house cool.

All in all, it's just been busy, busy, busy.  And there's one more project that got done but I'll post that separately.