Category Archives: outside chores

Stair Rails, Minisplits, & Life Work

I told DH yesterday to add to the list I want to replace the stair rail at some point. It’s shiny brass. The house is going towards flat black or brushed zinc hardware. Flat black on incidental stuff and brushed zinc on things like faucets. (Not shiny brass!)

So I did a bit o’ research and so did he, it will cost $100+ these days to replace the railing.  We explored some DIY ideas, and they’d all cost about the same, so why bother?

It’s a detail and not on the urgent list. If we find a  used flat black or brushed chrome set of hardware, we now know where to buy the railing, prefinished or raw lumber. Info. is almost always nice to have.

I had found a fireplace set I didn’t hate for < $100 and sent him a link. He pointed out it has 2 tools more than we actually need and why buy them? The place where I found this I think has some tools a la carte. I’ll have to go look. The tongs from the current set wound up in the flea market pile because of this discussion too.

The minisplits got more discussion, as did the house design ideas we’ve explored. We talked about taking the home plan we now have to a big box store and talking about floor plans, changing the kitchen around, etc. with one of the free kitchen designers. Don’t know if they’ll actually talk to us without a monetary commitment, but you don’t know if you don’t ask.

DH came up with a piece of hobby equipment for the flea market, prompted me to go find 4 bowls and a length of fabric to add to a new flea market box.

I found in the shed a few things I thought were long gone, but no, they were not sold long ago and far away… they’ll either be put in the booth or the new flea market box, after they’re cleaned. I have a silk pantsuit which needs to be ironed before it gets added too. The china and silk will fill up the end of the box — and another cubic foot o’ stuff goes outta here!

That doesn’t seem like much, does it? But we’ve both been sick, for most of 6 weeks with 2 different colds. And the second one is a bitch and a half to kick, let me tell you!

3 rules of work

DH dismantled one of the 2 snowblowers last week. The motor is being kept for a project he has in mind. The rest of the bits and pieces went to the dump. The last of it today. Also, we’ve started hauling the accumulated leaves and bark piles to the dump too.

He resigned from the board he was on and I asked him what we could do to forward his avocation using his now free time? What he did shocked me!

He bought organization materials for the accumulated work, so we can label and catalog it. His heirs will be pleased and I’m relieved. I had this nightmare vision about going through the work and only having my best memory and no knowledge of the technical side of what he did, when and where. Hopefully, at some point, there will be (even self-published) a complete catalog.

We’re adulting here. It’s a slow process, but it’s happening. All I have to do now is find some weird convoluted way to turn it into some $. That’s all?

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More Frugality

Because the thing I want to save the $ for is a heating/energy unit, I went looking at our electric company’s website. So they kept referencing apparently an old, Obama-era site, which of course is no longer active, but there’s no other referral.

I am, can you tell, really impressed with our local electric company. Wonder why? See here for more info.

In their defense, I will say that the 3rd time they sent us the “You’re using more energy than your more energy efficient neighbors” letter, they did at least make some reference to what they were comparing us to, a typical home in our zip code. Of course, they never actually said what that was, so it was still meaningless, but less so than previously.

DH is set on getting at least one minisplit  this year and maybe another next year. Okay. The chimney cap we’re replacing this year is the last piece of the chimney/wood stove replacement project. The only piece other than that on the chimney which hasn’t been replaced is the veneer over the pipe, a box around it. I’d love to replace the box, but it’s mostly cosmetic, not structural.

If I win the lottery, we’re going to get the minisplits, solar panels AND a new fake riverrock box around the chimney pipe with a mantel to match. Just sayin’!

Barring that? We’re getting a new chimney cap and at least one minisplit.

My husband said to me, empathically emphatically this morning, that he didn’t want to haul wood or load it into the stove another year.

Okay!

I just have to find a way to make this happen! Squeeze those dollars!


Plant and landscaping frugality: A 1 gallon potted perennial is $35 at Lowes, about $32 with a discount. If you buy them at garden club sales, they’re around $10-$20. Cheaper yet? Layer a 2nd one from one you’ve got, or plant the seeds, or divide it? — Free!

Mulch frugality: Garden centers at big box stores typically sell opened bags of mulch, etc. for 1/2 price. Cheaper yet? Use the pine needles, pine bark, leaves, what have you that you have in your yard already as mulch. Free!

The Celery Thing: I’ve run into this a couple of times, people talking about planting celery plants in their yard. I did this last fall, and the plants are gone this spring, again.

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Photo by Sole D’Alessandro on Unsplash

I went looking for more information. The best I found is a woman who’s been using the same 7 celery plants for years. She lifts them in the fall and makes them houseplants during the winter (and uses them). You can find her write up about this here. (The site is full of interesting ideas too: choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com .)


Gawd I love spring.

And I hate it; I’m always overwhelmed with things to do, ideas to explore, etc. Too much!


Despite still being sick, I managed to spread one of the remaining bags of mulch this morning on the bulb bed. I also transplanted two daffs AND moved some rock, sand, etc. I was wiped out after about an hour, which is typical these days.


On Saturday: the plant sales were a success and not as cheap as I’d hoped. The library/town sale where I’d bought a 1 gallon pot for $10 last year, they were $15. (I got 2.)

The other plant sale where I stopped I got 2 6″ perennials for $5 each.

Sunday? Our next door neighbor took out 90% of a forsythia bush (what the 1 gallon pots held)  and gave me a branch which should get us the last two plants I think I need, for free. I wish I’d known the neighbor was going to whack up his 15 year old plant 1 day earlier, could have saved us $30!

More Getting Ready for Retirement: Food & Home Improvement

There are things I definitely agree with in Aslett’s book, Make Your House Do the Housework. And things I don’t.

One of the main things I do agree with him is that the easiest way to make something easy to clean/not require cleaning at all, is to change the overall system/design of something to that end. He has some favorites:

  • Vinyl (which we won’t use because I’m allergic or sensitive to many kinds of plastics and petroleum products). I don’t disagree with him about the stuff being easy to clean but I don’t want easy to clean and makes me sick at the same time!
  • Medium tones in colors, as very light or very dark show stains and spots more easily.
  • Built-ins. Built-ins take away areas to clean (or should) as they frequently go from floor to ceiling. Last week I found someone making a “built-in” from Ikea bookcases and they left a 4-6″ gap at the top, so you have a weird looking top and an impossible to clean horizontal surface? I don’t know what’s up with that? Built-ins are just that, built in. And if they go up over my head, they’re going to go to the ceiling, not almost!
  • Suspended Furniture. Wall mounted tables, chairs mounted to the front of a counter, etc. All make the single biggest horizontal surface in a home, the floor, easier to clean.
  • Water filtration removing things like iron which cause staining.
  • Reduction of surfaces, like using mirrored glass doors instead of louvers.

Okay, I mostly agree with him. I’d love a whole-house vac, but there’s no way thats possible in our solid-wall log home, forget it. That means at least 2 pieces of clutter/tools, vacuums. Of course, being us, we have 3. [We had 5 — I’m doing better, don’t get on me about this!]

DH has one for the workshop. I have a small portable I can and do carry around. Finally, I have an upright for the large rugs. We use all of them, every week. The workshop one DH has can be connected to tools to clean as he goes. MUCH better than before, I’ll put up with the extra piece to store! Not to mention that it’s much stronger than the other 2 vacs, so if I have something really filthy I borrow it . . . . And he made it a place to be put away, so it isn’t part of the floating clutter. That’s 2 of the 3. The upright doesn’t really have a put away place, and it needs one. It IS a part of the floating clutter. . .

I need a list! (I’ll add to this as I come up with other items.)

FLOATING CLUTTER (Cull, find a place to put it away, and/or use them)

  • Upright vac
  • All 3 rakes
  • Empty kindling bins

Proud of myself! Just figured out a spring/summer use for these: taking leaves to the dump! I have been reluctant to bag up leaves, because I couldn’t figure a way to do it without getting my face right in it.

My neat-nick neighbors put their leaves down a slope on the edge of their yard or put them in a trash barrel and haul them to the dump. They have trucks. We don’t. Putting leaves in barrels isn’t a solution here!

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Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

I’ve had a cold for a month now. The idea of using the kindling bins for hauling the leaves to the dump means that 1) they now have an out of season use which is much better than storing them empty 2) I won’t need to use bags to haul leaves to the dump, which means we won’t need to buy them and 3) I can get leaves prepped to go to the dump without getting my face near them.

WIN!!!

Whacking and Hacking

I did some work in my hobby space/office this morning. The drawers I plan to remove this summer are empty. However, the piece on top of them is NOT. Nicely, the bookcase which sits nearby is mostly empty, so I started the process of moving things from the top of the drawer units to the bookcase this morning. After that’s done, the top DH added can be removed. THEN the floor area needs to be cleared enough so we can get the small dresser and toy chest out and then, finally, the drawer units.

It won’t be tomorrow, that’s for sure!

However, there’s progress. Pieces were culled and added to the “flea market” stack, going to the storage, when convenient.

We got rid of the chair which has been lurking on the porch all winter last week, it went to the dump. It had checked (split) and neither of us thought it would sell, so off it went. It was a good, oak chair, but we couldn’t sell it, we tried in two shops, at various price points, nada. So it sat and sat and sat, and eventually the seat became checked.

Still  to be removed is the old flat file. That was waiting on better weather which we have now, but with both of us being sick, it’s way down the list, It can stay where it is, it’s a wind break on the porch.

DH examined the laundry vent, which got bent off 90 degrees by ice this past winter. It’s going to require patching, a diverter it should have had to begin with, and more sealing than it apparently had too, sigh.

THAT job is going to delay my moving the wood piles. We had one which fell over last winter and the plan has  been to move a lot of the wood storage to the porch. That has to wait until DH is done with the roof project. Since I didn’t want to move the wood 2x, I figured I’d just load it onto the porch around now. Hmm. Not now.

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I did get the last of the unstacked wood stacked yesterday. The last fall delivery was dropped at the lowest point of our driveway, the wood on the bottom was pretty wet, even sitting on a tarp. I had a plastic pallet,slated to go to the dump, but what the hey, I used it atop the lower tarp, wet wood stacked on it, put the 2nd tarp back on top. There’s not much there, only about 20 pieces, but it has a chance of drying now and it probably didn’t before, it would have just rotted.

Yes, I’m still getting things done. Yes, I still feel fine, and then have no energy, like water running into sand. It’s inching forward, but it IS forward. I am whacking away at it.

(Hacking is what I sound like, mostly, if I’m not croaking trying to talk.)

Going Back and Not

This past week found me working on pieces I haven’t worked on in a year or so: my might be a novel and the buying used stuff website.

Both are things that I hope to sell someday, so I guess I’m feeling like I need to make some $. Both are pieces I have a lot of time and energy into (the website data is 45 pages, for example).

Both got stalled last year. Okay, both are on my queue again, now.

Other things which have been dropped recently:

  • Food plan & food waste tracking – not so much dropped as forestalled. The farm food glut starts the end of this month . . . .
  • The cleaning plan – also not dropped as set aside because of the cold.
  • The absolutely final house purge. Also not dropped, but before the flea market last month I had gotten to all the pieces which were easily accessible here. So a major movement of boxes o’ stuff needs to happen. I have cleared off a bookcase in my office, almost entirely. But the other counters, etc. are heaped high with uncategorized stuff. There’s a crafters “maker space” (a commercial one) in the nearby college town. My idea is to take some of the materials there and USE them or donate or SELL them? We’ll see.

So, things haven’t stopped entirely, but yes, they slowed down a lot. The first major goal was met, that is we did the flea market in April. We donated a lot of the unsold merchandise to a thrift shop on our way out of town. There was a hole in the storage unit. There still is, although I’ve taken 1 load of new flea market gleans to the storage (and I have the beginnings of another).

x

The next flea market is the beginning of next month.

Hopefully, I will NOT stay sick the entire month, like I have the past month, so this will be much easier!

I have dropped the following:

Early planting of the vegetable garden. Some of it should have been planted last month. Some of it should be seeded RIGHT NOW. I’m not because I feel wretched. Too bad!

What has been planned for this month is to scheudule the chimney sweep coming and  also replacing the chimney’s cap. That will do us for another year for that.

Ironing the Driveway & Other Skills You Never Knew You’d Need…

The result of the traumas related to knitting etc. caused me to lose much of my enthusiasm about making things. I’m not all that good at knitting or crocheting anyway, but I have a few pieces I’m proud of. I had crotched a hat of Malabrigo wool, and have two scarves, one for DH one for me, of Eco Yarn which I knitted.

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(Malabrigo wool, image via images.google.com, NOT mine!)

The hat disappeared about a week ago. Last weekend I gave up and bought a hat, which is far too big for me, but it was better than having a cold head.

I got home yesterday from the storage where I’d worked on the transfer from one unit to a smaller one. I went back outside, opened the tailgate to get the first box of books I intended to deal with and there was my hat, on the ground  — frozen solid on the dirt driveway. So, we tried various ideas to get it unstuck: heated bottles of water and put on top of the hat, a hair dryer, chipping around the edges with a screwdriver, and finally? A travel iron, which created much steam, but I got the hat thawed enough to pull it from the driveway.

I put a shovel or two of snow where I’d been heating the drive, just in case. I wasn’t very worried, it was 23 degrees outside!

Kneeling in the driveway, running an iron on something which couldn’t be seen from the road? I was just waiting for someone to ask WTF I was doing?

But that didn’t happen. It’s not a skill I’d list in a resume, but it certainly is something new to me, and one I never knew I’d need!

I’ll probably take it apart and make a new hat, after I wash the wool.

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(Image via images.google.com, it is NOT mine!)

Weird Ways to Save $, Mostly in the Garden

I’m always looking for ways to implement my 3 basic ideas to save $ (use less, find a cheaper subsititute, or do without), here’s a few.

  • Manila Envelopes: Seem to fail most often on the T-shaped clasp. Use one side at a time instead of both. When one fails/breaks off, use the other.
  • Lawn:  1) Deliberately let a part of the lawn go to moss, if it wants to do that. Will you win a house beautiful contest? No, but moss usually stays green without fertilizer and doesn’t need to be mowed. 2) Fill in bare spots with a no-mow grass seed mix. 3) Deliberately let the edges of the lawn (or a patch) go to seed and collect the seed to use on any bare spots. 4) Change part of the lawn to something else, a patio or path, using stone, pavers, mulch, etc.
  • Plants: Get more plants by getting out of the way and letting them do what they want! For something like forsythia, put a rock on the middle of an outer branch and it will grow roots where the branch hits the ground. Two bushes for the price of one! (It’s called layering.) Divide bulbs and plant both bulbs slightly farther apart. Works with day lillies, daffs, etc. Or, let the plant go to seed. We have an edge of “cup of gold” day lilies lining part of our drive. Most of these were grown from seed, obtained from the one plant I bought or other landscaping. We have a layer of bracken (ferns) along the top of a stone retaining wall. Cost? Nothing. I layer leaves of the bracken where I want the ferns to be the next year and there they grow!
  • Fertilizer/Mulch: 1) Compost your grass clippings and use the compost. 2) Make use of your community’s leaf pile/shrubbery pile for compost or as a source for items to compost. 3) Find a farm who will sell you soiled straw or composted manure. Not so easy in the city, but pretty easy where we live. I have found chicken farms who would let you haul off their soiled straw for free, folks who raise beefalo who would deliver it in small area, etc. 4) Use your coffee grounds or spent tea.
  • Trellising: Find ways to reuse what you have. At one point, the bean trellis here was made from 2 paperback spinners, a TV antenna, and various card rack bits, because it was what we had to hand.

I hope there’s at least one thing in there you haven’t thought of yet!