Monday, November 30, 2015

Sprucing Up the Window Box with Yew Cuttings

Normally my sister brings me evergreen cuttings from their cottage in the U.P. (upper peninsula). But this year she stayed home because she had puppies.....little black labs.  Oh so cute.

So this meant that I had to go to plan B, which was to walk around my yard looking for green stuff to cut.  We had some high winds the other day and I was able to pick up some pieces of spruce but not enough for the window box.  The spruce pieces and a few yew cuttings went in the large pot by the front door along with some white silk poinsettas.

I also added the white silk poinsettas to the window box along with the yew cuttings.   I've used the same silk flowers for about three years now and they seem to be holding up nicely.  I think I originally purchased them on sale for 75% off.

It looks like I will need to buy a fresh Christmas tree to cut up and make my wreaths.  I normally make three or four wreaths and leave them up until March 1st.  From year to year they are different depending on what kind of greens my sister would cut.  I usually prefer a combination of different greens.  This year the wreaths will all consist of just one type of cutting and it will probably be spruce or fir.  I like how full spruce wreaths are but I love the floppy and non perfect fir wreaths, too.
 UPDATE Rejunvation is sending me a new replacement shade.  They were very pleasant to deal with on the phone.  The only downer is that I never received a reply from customer service on my email detailing the broken shade and documenting with photos.  After not hearing anything after three days I just phoned them.  Fingers crossed that the shade arrives safely and is packaged more securely than the first shade.
 Why is this photo crooked?  Camera or user error?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Great Deal!! Dewalt 20V Drill Driver

Recently R purchased a used Dewalt cordless drill/driver at a garage sale for 10 bucks.  It came with two batteries but no charger.  So when R came home he said "find me a charger for this drill motor."

I found one at Home Depot for 69 bucks.  I was just about ready to purchase when I remember that the big sales were coming so I asked him to wait a while and see if I can get a better deal on Black Friday.

About a week later I got a code in an email for $5.00 off a purchase of $50 or more at Home Depot. Now was the time to buy so I went to the Home Depot website only to find an even sweeter deal.

A drill motor/driver, 2 batteries, a charger and a cavas bag for 99 bucks!

Use the 5 dollar off code (HDHOLIDAY) and it is now 94 bucks!  But why buy another drill motor/driver and two more batteries when you just need the charger?  Well because how many times do you need to drill a pilot hole and then use a driver to install the screw?  This way you have two drill motors set up without the hassle of changing out the bits. Plus, you can never have too many charged batteries.

But can save even more money by joining Ebates and saving 2% on Home Depot purchases.  You will also get a 10 dollar gift card.  Use this code and I get credit, too.

Don't dally too long as I have no idea how long the code will be valid and the % back changes daily.

But can even save more money by using in store pick up and paying with a credit card that gives cash back on purchases.

****The promtional code is enter before checkout on the Home Depot site.  You have to look around for the spot.

Monday, November 23, 2015

One of THOSE Days

I'm going to blame it on the cold and snow because I am never at my best when there is snow on the ground or if it is cold and cold is basically anything under 35 degrees.
Here is my long list of today's grievances.....are you ready.

My phone sucks.  I put in a new battery two months ago and it still loses it's charge almost immediately.  So today when I needed my phone to work, I had no bars.  I put it on the charger and then couldn't get the touch screen to work properly.  I tried to call my mother and nothing would happen.  I am now fielding mutiple calls from my mother because my phone is now dialing her number every 10 minutes.

Shouldn't a $300 phone last longer than 2 years?  Am I asking too much?  That's 150 bucks a year plus what I pay for service.  Back in the day a rotary phone would last FOREVER.

I learned a long time ago to order parts etc well in advance of needing them.  So two weeks ago I ordered two black porcelain bathroom sconces and two black porcelain electrical covers from Rejunvenation for the master bath.  The covers arrived earlier in the week in good condition.  On Saturday the sconces arrived but I was busy and didn't unpack them until today.

I was shocked at how they were packaged.  I do a lot of shipping and receive a lot of items in the mail.  The sconces themselves were wrapped loosely in brown paper without any tape to secure the paper. They were surrounded with those air bags that they use to take up space but there was still a lot of excess space to allow for the sconces to move around.  Luckily the sconces stayed put in their brown paper but the shades didn't fair as well.
The shades were in a separate box laying next to one another and covered in just one layer of that small style bubble wrap.  The box had a lot of excess space on top.  This would have been the perfect spot for those air bags but there were none. One shade was in pieces.  I am shocked that they both did not break.
Am I asking too much for $431.61 worth of breakables items to be wrapped properly?  I'm sure they will replace the shade but I've lost time and energy trying to get the photos and info to them because my phone isn't working properly.  I thought I would expediate the matter by sending photos in an email along with the details.  But the receipt didn't have a contact email just a phone number and remember I was going through that phone thing.

Which brings me to my camera.  Last night as I was taking watch photos for my Etsy shop, my camera batteries died.  I opened a brand new package of batteries and installed them and went to bed. So today when I get my camera out to take a photo of the broken shade my camera is dead....nuttin....nodda.  So I had to go back out into the snow and cold to get batteries for the camera.

Back out?.....yes, back out into the cold and snow.  I actually started my day with great hope of getting a lot done and at the top of my list was to remove the vintage thumb latch door handle and lock set from the front door and take it to the locksmith up town.  We've been having trouble with the lockset not keeping the cyclinder lock in place.  There are long fine threaded screws that hold it in place. You have to locate the screw on flat spots on two sides of the cyclinder lock.  We do this but after several locking and unlockings the lockset jams.  One of the long screws is slightly bent so it will probably need to be replaced and we just didn't have a replacement piece.  I relayed what the problem was to the girl behind the counter (not the locksmith) to which she says "so what is it doing?" Really? So I repeated myself again saying that the cyclinder lock moves and when we put it back in place the lockset jams after several uses because the cyclinder lock moves.  If I have to diagnose the problem, I might as well just order the part and save myself a bundle.  This locksmith isn't cheap and I am probably looking at least at $75 if not more.

So let me recap

I hate the snow and cold but went out first thing this morning to the locksmith.

I had to go back out into the snow and cold to get batteries for my camera so I can document the broken sconce shade.

I put in the new batteries and take the photos.  Then I hunt down the email address because my phone is unreponsive because of dead batteries and cannot call them directly.

I then realize that the house is a little chilly.  I walk over to the thermostat and what do I see? Dead batteries and not a good AAA battery in the house.  So I go out in the cold and snow AGAIN.

After rereading this post I think I have figured out what the root cause is of all of my problems. Batteries.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Relocating the Downspout

I never liked the location of the downspout on the front of the house.  It sticks out like a sore thumb.

My preferred location when we installed the eavetroughs and downspouts was to run the white downspout down the white corner trim but this was impossible because the rain water diverter is actually about 8 inches long.  When you add 4 inches (to the center of the diverter) plus a couple of inches of eavetrough and then the end cap it totals at least 6 inches from the end of the run that you can locate a downspout.  I didn't want to run the downpout right next to the corner trim because from far away it would read as a very wide trim board.  So we moved it over and lived with it for two years before the light bulb in my head went off.

Why not run the eavetrough around the corner and if the stars and planets (dowspout elbows) all lined up correctly, it would line the downspout up with the corner trim.  But first we needed to add a piece of thick vinyl fascia board to extend the fascia aroud the corner.

Next on the list was to add a corner piece to the eavetrough and then a portion of gutter along with the diverter.  We permenently attached all the parts except for the diverter so that we could move it to exactly the correct location to align the downspot with the corner trim. Out of all the excess gutter parts that I have in my stash I still needed to go to Home Depot to buy just one more elbow before I knew for sure if it would line up exactly.  It was looking good but I was not going to count my chckens before they hatched.

Score!! with the second elbow installed the downspout lines up exactly with the corner trim.  R pop riveted all the parts together and sealed the deal by using a hole saw to cut the hole in the eavetrough to allow the rainwater to flow into the diverter and down the downspout.

This photo was taken before I trimmed the Gutter Brush to sit lower in the eavetrough
The front of the house is now unblemished and the downspout blends into the corner trim.  You need to be upclose to actually see the downspout.  I know it's a little thing but it has always bothered me.

Installing Gutter Brush in the Eavetroughs

Cleaning your gutters is a thankless but oh so important job.  No one ever has uttered the words " oh boy today I am going to clean my gutters".  But I'm sure someone has said "damn, I should have cleaned my gutters last year or maybe sometime in the last 10 years" as they looked at the huge icicle dangling from their gutter.

Dirty and clogged gutters/eavetroughs can cause roof shingle damage or roof rot, fascia board damage, gutter/eavetrough damage, or even siding damage from water over flowing the gutter and running down the siding.  So it definitely falls in the 'must do' category of routine home maintenance.

We have trees in our yard that all drop something besides their leaves.  There are walnuts from the black walnut trees, samaras (commonly referred to as helicopters) from the maples and ash trees, PLUS both the black walnut and ash tree drop their leaves first and then the little stem that the leaves were attached to before they dropped.  Our gutters can fill up and clog in just one season so we are always on the look out for something that can help deflect the tree debris from clogging the gutters.

We have tried the 36 inch plastic piece that goes under the first row of roof shingles and then snaps on the outside edge of the gutter. These are commonly referred to as gutter guards. We have these on one of our houses but the problem is that you can only use these if you attach your gutters with long spikes and not the hanger/clips that we use on the current house.   These cost less than 2 bucks for 36 inches.

These work best with a shallower pitch roof where the rain water runs off the roof slower, but our current house has a steep pitched roof.  Rain water has to pass through holes to get into the gutter so in a down pour it doesn't always work well.

So along comes the Gutter Brush.  R saw them on a home improvement show and told me to search for them on 'The Internet'.  I found them at one of our local hardware stores up town.  They are not cheap and come in at $9.99 for 36 inches.  Home Depot also carries them online but even if I purchased a large volume it was still about 50 cents a piece more and I would have to wait 2 weeks for them to arrive.

I purchased 10 pieces and brought them home to install on our front gutter. Basically the Gutter Brush is like a bottle brush that lays in the gutter and allows rain water to easily flow into the gutter but the debris stays on top of the brush and hopefully blows off and onto the ground.

We have white gutters and white fascia boards so when R shoved the black Gutter Brush under the gutter hangers it was visible.  R pulled the brush back out and we contemplated taking them back but then I got an idea.  I'll give the brush a little trim and remove the bristles on the bottom so that the brush sits lower in the gutter.

So I started cutting.  Easier said then done.  Those bristles are plastic but sturdy.  R was installing them faster than I could trim them.  But with the bottom bristles cut off the Gutter Brush sat lower in the gutter and are no longer highly visible.

We still need to adjust a few spots but with the short daylight hours we just ran out of light.  I swear the sun just falls out of the sky after 4PM.

It is forecasted to rain on Wednesday so we will know more about how it performs during a downpour. We are hopeful that these will keep out the walnuts and samaras and still let all the rain water pass through.

Tomorrow I'll reveal our new and improved downspout configuration.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

End of the Year Fruits and Veggies

It was a mixed bag this year when it came to our fruits and veggies.  The fruit trees have never been so prolific.  The apples were plentiful and large.  This is the first year that we really had any plums that were a substantial size.  The Comice pears were huge and even broke some branches.  The Bosch pear tree had about 20 pears which was about 15 more than usual.

The veggies on the other hand were so so.  But the good news is that we now know what the problem is and how we are going to correct it.  We have a lot of black walnut trees and there are a lot of veggies and fruits that do not do well planted near them or in area where walnut hulls, shells, and leaves have been left to decompose.  Tomatoes, peppers, and beans abruptly wilt when planted by back walnut trees.   The tomatoes and peppers that we planted in pots grew like crazy.

The garlic and onions are not affected by the black walnut trees.  The onions grew until about the size of a  small potato because the clay soil was just too hard.  The garlic grew just fine but we made the mistake of not cutting off the seed heads.  From what I read (too late), was that you need to cut them off if you want large garlic bulbs to develop.  Next year we will know better.
The tomatoes that grew in the pots were large but not abundant because they got a late start.  After our first tomatoes wilted due to the black walnut problem we purchase 10 plants for $10 at the hardware store.  The harvest was just enough to make BLTs until we couldn't look at another one and the remaining maters made their way into several pots of spaghetti sauce and chili.
We can't undo the damage done to our soil from the black walnut trees but we can try and keep up with picking up the walnuts and discarded hulls so they do not decompose.  When it comes to picking up the leaves we are doing our best but there are a lot of leaves.

I should have realized that black walnuts affect some plants.  I read about it eons ago but sometimes you can't see the forest for the black walnut trees.  It makes so much sense now.  I walked around the yard and noted everywhere I had a tree or shrub die and sure enough it was under a black walnut tree.

Next year the tomatoes and peppers are going in large pots again and we will forego trying to plant them in the ground.  The garlic will get the seed head cut off the minute that they start to show and our onions will get planted in soil that is loosen up a little with some compost and peat moss. Hopefully that will allow them to get bigger.

Does anyone know what kind of fruit this could be????  The fruit is larger than a 50 cent piece in diameter.  My guess is quince.  The tree sprouted right on the edge of our property.

R is feeling much better after a close call on Tuesday.  While I was at the doctor's office on Tuesday, R was home puttering around when he stopped to pet Elvis.  He said he was sitting there calmly petting him when Elvis bit him on the arm really hard.  Completely out of the blue.  Lately Elvis has been playing hard but has never bit anyone or even scratched anyone.  We have always had females cats, that we always got spayed right away.  So when Morrie nd Elvis were born in our barn it was the first time we had male cats.  There is such a difference between male and female cats.  It's actually kind of funny to watch them.
I have been after R to get them both neutered but I think the guy in him kept from pulling the trigger on making an appointment until Tuesday.  By the time I got back home Elvis had a Friday morning appointment for a neutering.

R on the other hand cleaned his wound with hydrogen peroxide and went about his business. Come Wednesday morning his arm was swollen and very red from elbow to wrist.  He called his doctor and got right in for an appointment.  Doc wanted to admit him to the hospital but R talked him out of it and instead has been seeing his doctor every day so he can check it along with taking two types of strong antibiotics.

Elvis came home Saturday morning.  He is not happy and basically just sits there and stares at R. LOL   In two weeks, Morrie will go in for his adjustment.  When Sasha and Patches went to the vet to get spayed, they both came right home and acted like nothing had happened.

In house news....on Friday the window guy came back with the installer and I think the other guy was the owner.  The installer remeasured and on Monday or Tuesday I will get the final figures and place the order.  The bad news is that it will probably be the first of January before the windows are installed.

We have been tweaking our downspouts.  Shortening some and making others longer.  Tomorrow we are going to redo a length of gutter that we have never liked how it looked.  Rather than having a straight run we will add a corner piece and end the gutter around the corner and have the downspout come down the side of the living room rather than on the front wall.  I purchased all the eave trough parts last week but I'll need t make another trip to Home Depot for a length of 1x6, in vinyl for the fascia board.  I need a 3 foot length and all we have in our stash is one 10 inch piece.  We use the thick solid vinyl fascia boards for two reasons.  One....we will not have to paint them now or down the road.  Two.....they will not rot if the snow, ice, and rain get them wet.

So there you have it.  It's always something....isn't it?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Summer Flower Round Up

Thank you for all the well wishes both on the blog and in private emails.  I'm feeling much better and I feel that my arthritis in general feels better.  Both R and I have made changes to our diet and it will be interesting to see if in 60 days (my next appointment and blood work) if these changes are making a difference in our health.  I'll let everyone know the out come.  In the meantime get yourself a bottle of Just Tart Cherry juice by Knudsen.  It is not only good for lowering uric acid levels but it helps with inflammation and heart health.

I love it poured over vanilla ice cream (healthy...huh?) or straight up but my brother in law adds it to his Coca Cola.

This is the time of year where I walk around and evaluate which flowers and plants were winners and which ones were losers.

Zinnias.....I was pleased with the ease of planting seeds and the germination rate.  The plant stems were sturdier than when in the past I had bought plants and transplanted them.  Also a big difference between $2.99 for a packet of seeds and $6.99 for a pack of 6 plants.  I'll plant the tall green Envy variety again but I am going to look for a medium height, larger bloom Zinnia instead of the shorter, small Zinnia that I used.  Zinnias are age appropriate for the house and because they have been around for a long time, there are plenty of varieties to chose from in the see catalog.

Cone flowers....I think I have enough pink varieties but I also added a chartreuse green, off white, and orange varieties that I really liked, especially the green one.

Day lilies......I divided a lot of my day lilies this spring.  I am trying to fill in the areas around the fruit trees with day lilies.  Some didn't flower because of the disruption and some of the divisions were small so next year should be a lot better.

Monarda (bee balm).......I divided a dark pink Monarda that was growing in the back yard and it survived but I divided it too late in the spring and it suffered because of it.  I'll continue to add to my Monarda collection because the bees love them, they are very colorful, and once established they are hardy.

Daisies.....I have been buying one or two daisy plants a year for the past 5 years and really do not have much to show for it.  They start out nicely but once the buds open up the stems bend and the center of the entire plant dies.  I might need better soil or more water.  My favorite is Banana Cream Pie which is a very pale yellow daisy.
Asters......The bees need more fall flowering plants so I tried to add asters.  I love the Stokes aster. The bloom are large and seem to be long lasting.  I also planted two smaller aster flowers but they are very short and the flowers are tiny.

Tulips.....I planted 100 tulip bulbs around the bee hive area.  Tulips are a hit and miss thing for me. They always look great the first year and the after that....not so much.  The bulbs were a freebie so it was worth giving it another try.

Roses......I'll continue to buy just Knock Out and Carpet Roses.  They are the only roses that do well when we have a severe winter.  I do not have time to wrap and protect the more delicate roses and both of these roses are own root roses so if the top dies back because of a harsh winter the plant will just regrow.  My climbing roses took a beating after two severe winters.  I had to cut them back quite hard for the second year in a row.  Blooms were sparse and several plants died.  I will not be replacing them.

Hostas....I didn't buy any this year...oh my gosh!!! But they are looking great, require very little attention, and are just about ready to be divided, so they are the plants that keeps on giving.

Today felt more like fall/winter and looking at these flowers already has me yearning for spring.

Tomorrow I'll tell you how R almost ended up in the hospital on Tuesday.  It's always something.