Wednesday, May 27, 2015

DIY Grass Seed Shaker

Several years ago I came up with this idea after buying 5 pounds of grass seed and realizing that I had used it all on a very small area.  As hard as I tried to sprinkle the seed evenly and lightly it seemed that it would always go where I did not want it to go and always too heavy.  There had to be a better method for laying down grass seed.

My neighbor who owns a nursery suggested that I put the seed in a brown paper bag and shake the bag upside down only allowing a little seed to escape.  This worked better but still not perfect. But it did give me an idea.

I now use the plastic container that grated cheese comes in and use that as a seed shaker.  It allows me to get a more even and lighter application of seed. Also, this helps you to not waste your grass seed and keeps you from having those heavily seeded areas.

I buy my seed from my local nursery where they weigh the amount you need and put it in a paper bag.  They offer a variety of types of seed and I buy two types.  One for shady areas and the other a high end blue grass mixture. I also buy by the pound.  If you buy prepackaged seed you are paying for inert material and possibly weed seeds.  I buy pure grass seed without filler.  Read the contents of the grass seed bag the next time you buy a bag and you will see that it is not all just grass seed.

I mark my shakers using a paint pen so that I don't mix up the seed and use shade seed in a sunny area and visa versa.  You can buy these pens at some hardware and paint stores. Automotive parts stores sometimes have them, too.  But I'm sure they can be had some where in the Internet.

Just after I came up with this idea I sent it off to This Old House Magazine and they used it in one of their issues.  I had no indication they intended to use my idea and I was so surprised to run across it while reading my issue.  They used just my initials but it was still cool to see it in their publication.

Today I was able to get my grass seed laid and my sugar peas and two types of cucumbers planted before it rained.  It was hot and humid today and we were able to get a lot accomplished but when the rain finally came I was so ready to go inside and take a shower.  Imagine our surprise when we went inside and realized that we did not have any power.  No power means no water......grrrrrrrrrr.  I used captured rain water to wash my hands.

R walked next door to our neighbors to makes sure it wasn't just our house.  When he came back he said they were without power and were none too happy that their brand new Generac generator only ran for 10 minutes and then quit.  We hope to install a generator at our house some day because there is nothing worse than not having electricity, water, OR heat in the winter.  Just ask R.  He was out on the deck with his battery radio trying to tune in the baseball game on AM all the while muttering to himself.  Thank heavens the power came back on around 10PM and by 10:01PM I was in the shower. It never felt so good.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Curbside Treasures

R has been rocking it with the curbside finds this past week.  So let's start with the first find.

A nearly new weed whacker.  Whenever he finds a weed whacker the first thing he does is check to see if it has a spark plug and then he pulls the cord.  If he pulls the cord and he cannot feels any resistant then it means there is no compression and it probably has a broken ring, etc or something that is mechanical and is not worth getting fixed.

If it has compression there is probably a 90% chance that it will run so he'll take it.  When he gets home he checks the gas tank to make sure it has gas.  The next step is to look at the spark plug.  Look for cracks in the porcelain and look at the electrode to make sure it is not broken or heavily corroded. If you have tried to start it a lot, then the electrode might also be wet with raw fuel.  Dry the electrode and I always like to use a fine grit sand paper to clean up the electrode.  Reinstall the plug and try again.  If it still will not start, it is time to look at the fuel.  Here's something our local tractor shop told us about buying gasoline.  The gas that is sold now has a lot of ethanol in it and some lawn equipment and chain saws were not manufactured to run on ethanol so always buy premium gas for your lawn equipment.

Dump out any fuel in the tank and start fresh.  After emptying the tank add a little fresh fuel and swish it around and empty again in case there is dirt in the tank.  R likes to dump the used fuel and swishing fuel into a white throw away plastic container so he can see if any dirt comes out with the fuel.  If everything looks clean then adds some fresh fuel and try again.  By this time most weed whackers will start. But if it sounds like it is not sparking than try a fresh plug.  If it runs but stalls out it is probably a dirty carburetor or what we call as having a slug in the carb.  This is a tiny piece of dirt that gets picks up and plugs the little tiny hole in the jet so that it stops the flow of fuel.  When the engine stops the dirt falls back down or moves so that when it starts back up fuel gets through the jet for just a short time and then stalls out again or it will only run on choke.  This is remedied with a carb cleaning.

Some other easy fixes are it might need a new recoil.  This condition is when the pull cord will not retract. Easy fix for the repair guys or if you are handy you can do it yourself.  It all depends on the value of the weed whacker whether you want to fix the tool or set it back out to the curb for the next person who actually might just need a part off of it.

This particular weed whacker has a slug in the carburetor.  Since the weed whacker is in very good condition we will either clean the carb (if we have time) or take it to our lawn tractor guys for an estimate.  I'll keep you posted.

The other item he found was a potato/onion storage bin.  We are going to use it to store bird seed in the potato area and suet in the onion area.  I will probably paint it and put some hardware on the lid to keep it closed.

On the agenda for Tuesday is to buy grass seed and seed the area around the garden shed.  We have more rain in the forecast for Tuesday so it's the perfect time to seed.  We will also plant the remaining seeds in our garden.  I think we have cucumber, radishes, and beans that we want to plant.  Our tomato and pepper plants are growing fast.  The Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli haven't really done much but look healthy.  The garlic is looking great and the white and red onions are just starting to peek above the dirt.

We also need to hunt through our stash of old hoses to find some 5/8 of an inch in diameter hose for the overflow line on the rain barrel.  We have a stash of hoses because we use old hose to protect the tree truck from the rope when we stake young or bent trees.

So I'm off to bed so I can hit the floor running on Tuesday before the rain starts which I am predicting to happen at 530pm.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Flagstone Path, Rain Barrel Install, and Hosta Planting

The area to the east of the garden shed was a total disaster when we purchased the house.  Besides the overgrown evergreens there was a huge dead crab apple, several large choke cherries, miscellaneous dead branches and waist high weeds.

Every year we worked a little on it until last year when we were finally able to till up the soil and somewhat level the dirt.  It was during the tilling that we found the steps that lead to the old tennis court.  The grade was about 6 to 8 inches higher in our back yard than it was at the top of the stairs.  I really wanted to utilize the steps because it is far easier to take the steps than to walk all the way around the garden shed and down the hill.  I raked and raked and could not blend the grade without having a steep grade from the lawn to the steps.  Since I wear flip flops ALL summer it can be slippery if the lawn is damp.  So I had to put on my thinking cap and come up with something.

Over the years we have found a lot of stuff in the yard and rather than throw the stuff away we just make a pile here and there until the light bulb turns on and we think of a way to use the stuff.  One of the piles was for the green shingles for the roof of the garden shed but another pile was of large pieces of flag stone.  These would work perfect for a pathway if there was enough of them and that was a big IF.  So on Saturday we hauled them all over to the side of the garden shed and was just starting to lay them out when we received a phone call from our son.  He needed his dad to go with him to bump off the sprint car because he had a race on Sunday and needed to shake down the engine because it was rebuilt this past winter.  So off we went.

For those that don't know about this type of racing this type of car is referred to as a sprint car.  They can be asphalt or dirt style and winged or non winged, this one is a dirt non wing sprint car.  Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, AJ Foyt, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, and Kyle Larsen all raced sprint cars before they ended up in NASCAR.  This particular sprint car has a 700+hp methanol engine.  These cars do not have starters and need to be pushed by a truck to get them started.  There are many arguments for and against starters but mostly it is a tradition thing along with the fact that it would need a heavy duty starter to turn over such a high compression engine. Add the fact that a dirt clod could take it out during a race and most importantly it is added weight and in the world of power to rate ratio the mere mention of weight has engine builders pulling their hair out.

At the track my daughter in law gets the sprint car lined up using her ATV and then a truck will push my son's sprint car out onto the track to get it started.  My husband was going to use his truck to push the sprint car so they needed to protect the fuel cell nerf bar with a tire tread to prevent damage to the fuel cell. Normally that ugly tire tread is not on the car....LOL
G uses an empty road in an industrial complex when he needs to bump off the car.  That's slang for push starting and is not gangster for killing someone.  The first attempt resulted in an aborted attempt when my husband noticed fuel leaking from a fitting on the fuel cell.  Alky fires are scary. Once that was fixed the second attempt started the engine.
You have no idea how powerful these cars are until you stand next to one while it is idling. You can really feel it when G gave it throttle as the car sat there warming up.  Once G determined everything was OK and that the engine was completely warmed up, he cut the fuel off and we loaded it back up into the trailer.
He has an electric winch that pulls the race cars up into the enclosed trailer but you still need to line everything up and get it onto the tail gate ramp.  B and G take their nephews to the race track and B said she has had to correct them when they call it a wench....LOL  Boys will be boys.

FYI this is the same type of car my husband raced.  My son also races the winged version and a dirt modified.  Both my husband and my son have also raced asphalt modifieds.  My husband no longer races because of vertebrae damage in his lower back.

So by the time we got back home we were exhausted and called it a day.  No biggie the forecast for Sunday was zero percent chance of rain.
Sunday morning was cloudy.  R was concerned it might rain but I assured him that I had just checked the weather report online and it said ZERO percent chance of rain.  We walked outside and it started sprinkling.  We worked through the sprinkles and it finally stopped.

We laid out the walkway with several shallow steps to accommodate the grade difference.  We used every piece of flagstone except for three small pieces.  I laid them aside to later put in the stone pile.
Next was the rain barrel.  They suggest that you sit the barrel on a patio slab so that you can level the barrel for safety reasons.  The instructions said that a full barrel of rain water can weigh 500 pounds. So it was back to our pile of stuff to look for a patio slab.  We had one 24 X 24 inch slab that was given to us by the same friend who gave us the concrete bird bath pedestal that we bought a top for last week.  The only problem was that one of the corners was broken off but we did have the piece.

Supplied fittings that came with the rain barrel
We leveled an area and laid the slab with the broken corner up against the house and facing a hosta plant which should cover the broken corner.  Actually you can hardly see that it's broken because R placed the broken corner back in place after we leveled and back filled around it.

We then added all the fittings to the barrel.  You have several options depending on if you are going to fill a watering can, attach a drip hose or if you are going to connect several barrels together.  We intend to fill a watering can but we still used the lower hole (drip hose hole) and just attached a section of hose about 5 feet long.  Why didn't we use the higher hole?  Once the water level gets below the spigot you would be without water and I wanted to utilize the entire capacity of the barrel.

There are also several styles of barrels and several ways to set them up.  We live in the north and will need to return our downspouts to normal operation in the fall so we will install a diverter in the downspout.  This diverter will allow water to spill onto the top of the barrel and fall into the barrel through the screen to filter out particles.  In the fall we will empty the barrel and store them in the shed.  The diverter will flip up and allow the down spout to work in a normal manner.  If we lived in a warm climate the set up would have the down spout enter directly into the top of the barrel.

I planted the remaining new hostas (purchased last year) on the east side of the shed while R riveted the new elbow to the bottom of the downspout.  We had a traditional elbow but needed to change to the sideway elbow because of the rain barrel.
Fragrant Queen 
June Fever
Lakeside Paisley
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Then it started to rain....yup rain...even thorough there was a ZERO chance of rain.  B and G were on there way to the race track when it started to pour and his race was cancelled due to rain just as they arrived at the race track.

We still need to install the diverter but I just ordered them from a company in Canada.  I can buy metal ones here in the US for 45 bucks plus shipping or I can get white vinyl like our down spouts from a company in Canada for 12.95 plus shipping.  It was less expensive ordering directly from the company than buying them off of eBay from a Canadian seller who was charging 56 bucks for shipping.
Also, we need to install an over flow hose for when the barrel fills to the top.  You do this by attaching a hose to a fitting at the top of the barrel so you can direct the run off away from the barrel. We intend to use a section of hose and run the hose over to a small spruce tree.
So far we like the looks of the rain barrel and how it blends with the grey shingles.  Of course it will look a lot better once the hostas get bigger and I get all the weeds pulled out of the hosta bed, grass seed laid, and the weeds are gone on the hill. But for's a huge improvement.

Tomorrow I'll show you our two latest curbside treasurers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Seed Packet Storage Box

I don't know about you but when it comes time to plant seeds, I can never find the seed packets that I have purchased.  So when I ran across a wood seed storage box while searching an online website, I knew that I just had to have it.....along with a little glass honey jar.

Since receiving the storage box in the mail, I have been busy filling it with seed packets that I have found stashed here and there throughout my house.  I know there are more but I am happy to just have some of them corralled in one spot.

The storage box was found on the P. Allen Smith website.  I love how it is divided.  I keep all my plant labels and store them in a large binders but I like to wait until I have a handful of labels before I haul out the binders.  By storing them in the box, I can keep them from getting lost before I get around to filing them away.

Between the rain and mowing the lawn, we have been able to plant our garden, sow some zinnia seeds, and plant the large window box and 3 large pots.  I think the grass has finally slowed it's growing spurt AND there is no rain in the forecast for the next 5 days.  BUT then there was a zero chance for rain today when R and I went to the grocery store with the truck only to leave the store and find it pouring rain and no where to put the groceries except the bed of the truck.  There was a nice rainbow by the time we got home and unloaded our soggy groceries.              

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bird Bath Bowl Install

Say that three times.....real fast.

The worker who helped R load on Monday, told him that the bird bath top weighed 150 lbs.  So on the ride home we talked about how we were going to get it out of the bed of the truck and then onto the pedestal without breaking it and both of us during that process.  We came up with nothing during the ride home.

So today we decided that we should at least back the truck up to the pedestal.  So R backed up the truck and avoided driving over plants and hitting trees.  We dropped the tail gate and then stood there just looking at this heavy concrete thing in the truck and the concrete pedestal it had to sit atop.

Since we still hadn't come up with a plan we decided to make sure the pedestal and the patio slab it was sitting on were level.  It was almost level so we added a little soil to the back of the slab and re positioned the pedestal and rechecked for level.  It was level so now we had to do something because we could not continue to drive around with it in the back of the truck.

I suggested boards from the tailgate to saw horses next to the pedestal because I figured I might have enough strength for a 5 second burst of power to lift it up 4 inches and over 6 inches.  R went to the barn to get the saw horses and boards.  He came back with the aluminum platform ladder that I use when I paint and several 6 inch wide boards.

We lifted up one edge of the bowl and got it into the boards.  We then rocked the bowl back and forth as it moved along the boards.  The boards were close enough that the bottom of the bowl straddled both the boards and the top of the pedestal.  One final tug resulted in the bowl falling into place.

After that we planted tomatoes, peppers, shallots, and Brussell sprouts and I just read that we might get a frost tomorrow.  The weather has been really weird.  It's 80 degrees one day and 56 the next.

Tomorrow is a clean up day after I get back home from a doctor appointment.  We need to move some items in the barn and make room for the new mower.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Zero Turn Mower and a New Bird Bath Top

The rain, coupled with warm days and cool nights, have made the grass grow like it is on steroids. Between our two houses and my son's lawn we probably mow a little over 5 acres.  Now if those 5 acres were just straight mowing it would be a breeze but they are not, so we had to do something.

Our current mowers are a 17hp 42 inch cut rider and a self propelled push mower that is a 24 inch cut.  We have a lot of trees to go around which adds time to cutting because I need to go around the tree four times to cut all the sides because the turning radius isn't very tight.  This adds time to the mowing.

Then we have the fall which gives us a bazillion leaves of which we run out of time picking up and end up spending weeks in the spring picking up wet leaves.  So when we saw a zero turn Simplicity with a triple rear bagger for sale in a yard for $1850 we slammed on the brakes and investigated.

The mower is a 2008 with only 400 hrs of non commercial use.  R worked his magic and we got it for $1750.  It was raining today so I do not have photos but it's a cutie and even has little chrome front shocks.  I gave it a quick test drive and I'll need a little practice before I get close to my hostas with the mower.

Since it was raining we decided we needed to do something that would require us to get rained on so we went to the lawn ornament store in Lennon, Michigan.  It's called Krupp's Novelty and has been in business for a long time.  Its amazing what you can buy that is made out of concrete.

My favorite was the stepping stones in the shape of the state of Michigan.  These can be bought in plain, pebbled, or pebbled with a Petoskey stone (MI state stone or fossil).

I love the sign that says you can buy the state of MI for $40.00 or the upper for $19.95.  Ahhhh....the upper peninsula is Michigan, too. This really pisses off the U P people.  It really throws people for a loop when we say U. P. which means upper peninsula.  Some people say up north but generally speaking, up north is anything north of Gaylord or basically where the big traffic jam ends every Friday night during the summer.

Unfortunately it looks like the top that we wanted for our base is no longer made.  We have two large bird baths already and two summers ago someone gave us another base to match the ones we already have in our yard.  It's a shallow bowl so the birds do not drown while taking a bath.  They love to splash and get thoroughly wet.  I always add a large flat stone for the smaller birds to land on, too. The bowl that we ended up with is deep so I will need to fill it with rocks to take up some of the depth.  No photo because it was raining pretty good by the time we found a bowl that would work with our base.  You can see the rain drops on some of the photos.  Tomorrow should be fun getting it out of the back of the truck and onto the pedestal.  #timetocalltheson
 I'll leave this last photo for your imagination.  I'm sure there is a joke there but I'll refrain.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Front Door Update

The weather was beautiful today.  Mostly sunny and a high of 80 degrees.  I don't know what happened to our 60 and 70 degree weather because we went from 55 to 80 all in one jump.  The weather forecast is for rain and storms for the next week so it was time to get busy with the front door.

I think that waiting 3 or 4 days from the time we painted until today was a good idea. The paint was fully cured when we installed the door knocker and iron straps and so we did not have to worry about finger prints, etc.

Yesterday, I gave all the wrought iron pieces a spray coat of black satin paint and let them dry over night so they were ready to install today.
We still need to install the door handle but R wants to take the lock set apart to clean and lubricate it before it is re install.  AND I still need to find the cast iron door mat.

 The second mowing so far this spring.  I think I can hear the grass growing.
Daffodils survived the deer......the tulips.....not so much.  I think I spy just one tulip.
The hostas are all sprouting......oh happy days.
Yikes!!!! We haven't raked this side yet.
The garlic is growing and looking good.  I planted three types and you can see how they are different heights and leaf shapes.
I ran out of time last fall and the snow was coming so I just buried all the plants in their pots.  Three Knock Out roses and about 8 hostas.  All the plants looks like they are growing nicely.  You can see how dry the soil is right now because we have had very little rain. The rain is needed but such an inconvenience when it comes to painting and raking. 

This weeks agenda is raking, painting, call the flag pole people about moving our original flag pole to another location, call the custom window people and make appointment for them to give us an estimate on replacing the non original windows with the correct style of windows (I hope I do not faint when they give me the estimate), and in between rain drops mow the Torrey Rd house back yard (over 1 acre).

Fingers crossed that I get at least some of those items crossed off my list.