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.