Thursday, September 28, 2017

Buckthorn...Invasive Species

Doesn't that branch look like something you would love to have in your yard?  If you don't have Buckthorn (rhamnus cathartica) on your property now, be very thankful and do everything in your power to nip it in the bud, as soon as you see it.
From what I have read on the Internet is that it was brought here in the 19th century from Europe, Asia, and Northwestern Africa as an ornamental shrub.  I think that is how it came to be on our property.  Why do I think that?  I have two large specimens, one on each side of my driveway that had been trimmed into tree form.  I also have them planted along my fence row by the street.  Each plant or should I say average size tree, is planted the same distance from the fence and the same distance from each other in a manner that is deliberate and not happenstance.  The original planter probably didn't have any idea that what they were planting would turn into a nightmare nearly 100 yrs later.

We recently removed the trees planted along the fence on the right side of the driveway but we still have trees to the left side and numerous little trees growing in my flower beds.

You can cut it down, but unless you get the roots it will grow back with vengeance.  Once it gets established and grows to around 1 inch in diameter, it will start growing little black berries and thorns.  

The thorns make removal a very slow and tedious process.  My neighbor had a thorn go into his thumb and ended up in the emergency room.  You can't pick up a pile of small branches with your hands.  The safest method is to pick up one small branch at a time, being very careful to look completely around the branch where you intend to grab it.  Just about the time you let your guard down and grab a branch quickly without inspecting it first, there will be a large thorn on the backside and you will find yourself doing the buckthorn dance while spewing every bad word you can think of to say. 

YouTube video 8/27/2016 Duncan Slater

The above YouTube video shows up close photos of the leaves, berries, and bark.  I will add that when the berries are ripe they will be a dark purple or black.  And the bark of the immature tree is a burgundy color and slightly shiny like the bark on the photo of the thorn.  At a glance they look somewhat like a cherry tree but don't be fooled.
Photo credit

Those berries are lovely to look and the birds love them but that just helps to spread the seeds even further in your yard.  The berries on a buckthorn are plentiful.  There are areas on my property where the ground is covered in a thick layer of berries.  But not anymore.  We are on a mission.  I know it will take years to rid the yard of these invasive plants but it's necessary.  We can no longer turn a blind eye because they will take over our landscaping if we don't put a stop to it right now.

The link below is to an article published by Michigan State University and is quite informative.

You might have a different species depending on where you live and you can find photos of the different species on the Internet if you suspect that you have buckthorn in your yard but it doesn't look exactly like the kind we have in our yard.

Do you have this invasive species in your yard?  If so, how did you get rid of it?

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Gargoyles and Our Downspouts

It was about the same time that I was searching the Internet for a splash block that I came upon a gargoyle for downspouts.  I was excited to find another method to hide the hideous downspout extensions.


In architecture, a gargoyle is a carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building, thereby preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between. Architects often used multiple gargoyles on buildings to divide the flow of rainwater off the roof to minimize the potential damage from a rainstorm.

The back of our house is fairly close to how it was when we purchased the house in 2004.  We removed a poorly thought out and non-original overhang over the back door and we re poured the step at the back door.  We also removed a large picture window with casement windows on the side.  It wasn't original and was badly rotted.  AND we planted hostas so they could get a foot hold and look good when we finally finish the back of the house.

We have replaced the old eave troughs and downspouts on the house except for the back.  There are two downspouts on the back of the house and both the downspouts and downspout extensions are very obvious and ugly.  So I was quite pleased to find a method to make them look better.  Enter the downspout extension gargoyle.
The gargoyle is cast resin and colored to look like concrete which is perfect for us because we love concrete items.  The gargoyle slips over the end of the downspout extension without the need of a tool. If you have plantings around your downspout extension, you can hide it and have just the gargoyle peeking out from the plantings.

In the photo above the extension is showing, but when we install new eave troughs and downspouts, the extension will be shorter so that you only see the gargoyle peeking out and not the extension.
 Isn't he cute?

The hostas are First Frost with Royal Krossa in the middle. Both have blue instead of green and both varieties have thick leaves.  Always try and buy the thick leave type as they look great right up to the cold weather and frost.  Notice the difference in the other photo.  Those hostas have thin leaves and show stress as soon as it gets hot.  Bugs and slugs eat the leaves and the heat burns the tips and they require more frequent watering.  They actually only look good for a month or so in the spring.  I will replace those hostas when we finish the back of the house.

Search eBay Gargoyle Gutter Spout Downspout Statue Stone and Resin Garden Home.  You will find two styles...Gargoyle and Dragon.

I also found them on Wayfair for almost half the price that I paid.

Don't forget to use Ebates for an additional 2% off.  Click here to sign up and receive a $10 gift card after your first $20.00 purchase.  I am at over $700.00 saved by using my Ebates account when purchasing at participating sites.  I recently purchased an item from an online store and will receive 12% back by using Ebates.  Etsy is currently giving 1% but I have seen it at 2% and 4% before.  eBay can be as low as 2% and occasionally 5%.

Also, make sure when purchasing on eBay that you sign up for eBay Bucks.  I will receive a code worth over $22.00 at the beginning of October.  I can use that code on any eBay purchase, but hopefully something on sale and when Ebates is offering more than 2% back.  Maybe I will buy more hostas!!!!

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Downspout Splash Block

One of the small projects, that we squeezed in between mowing and weeding, was throwing down some small rocks on the south side of the house.  The small bushes are the blueberries bushes that we planted last year.  The berries were very yummy and surprisingly plentiful, too.
Excuse the burnt and dried up grass.  The rain has been sporadic and light all summer.

There is a downspout with an extension on the front of the house that sticks out on this side of the house.  It works out great because the ground is slanted downward and from left to right in the photo above and away from the house.  Rather than send the water to the lawn, which is fine but our blueberries need to stay hydrated first.

See that dark green thing on the left side of the above photo?  It's this resin splash block.  It is pretty but it's green and it sticks out like a sore green thumb.
So I took these.
and spray painted the splash block.
And after the two coats of grey were dried (I left it overnight to dry) then........... 
......I gave it a light coat and by light, I mean faint dusting of the faux granite spray paint in black granite.  Less is more when using these faux finish spray paints.  Before spraying any item, first spray onto a piece of cardboard so you can get a feel for how it comes out of the nozzle. 
Greys can be a difficult color and even more difficult to photograph when you have zero photographic skills.  A grey with a tint of blue will read BLUE in the sun.  I didn't want that color anywhere near the splash guard so I picked a light grey by Krylon in Dual Superbond Paint and Primer.  It works on plastics/resin and has the primer included.  This meant one less coat of paint.
 For the faux granite look, I used Krylon Stone Coarse Finish in the finish, black granite.
Again's not that blue....I swear.
The splash block now blends in better with the small rocks than the original dark green color.  
We are pleased with the results because we were unhappy with that long piece of bright white downspout extension sticking out from the house  AND now the new set up directs the water towards the blueberries.

eBay Downspout Splash Block

Don't forget to use Ebates for an additional 2% off.  Click here to sign up and receive a $10 gift card after your first $20.00 purchase.  I am at over $700.00  saved by using my Ebates account when purchasing at participating sites.  Last night I purchased an item  from an online store and will receive 12% back by using Ebates.  Etsy is currently giving 1% but I have seen it at 2% and 4% before.  

Also, make sure when purchasing on eBay that you sign up for eBay Bucks.  I will be receiving a code for over $22.00 at the beginning of October.  I can use that code on any eBay purchase.

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Our next post will be about how we use gargoyles to disguise downspout extensions on the back of the house. 

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Troy-Bilt...still tilling after all these years

Our Troy-Bilt, rear tine rototiller is old, really old.  We have been married for 30 years and this rototiller was my husband's father's tiller.  He died about 5 years before I met my husband and we lived together for 5 years before we got married.  So it has to be at least 40 years old.
 40 years old and still tilling.
 Over the years this tiller has really gotten the workout.  Gardens tilled are too numerous to count.  Lawns tilled so they could be reseeded......a lot of lawns.....too many lawns.  

And then there was today's job.  We rented a stump grinder over the holiday weekend to grind down all the stumps of the dead trees that we have had to cut down in the last 10 years.  Damn you emerald ash borer and Dutch elm disease.

There was one extremely large ash tree that we cut down that was at least 125 years old.  We counted the rings but without a magnifying glass we could only come close to the actual age of the tree.  Because the tree was so old, the lawn rose up around the tree.  After R ground the stump away there was a hill left behind.
Back and forth and 20 minutes later....fluffy dirt.
We raked all the excess wood chips and removed some dirt in an attempt to flatten out the area but the grassy part was still too high.  So it was time to haul out the old Troy-Bilt one more time.  Would it start?  Well of course it did.  It had a flat tire that needed air but those 40 year old tires are cracked and ready to be replaced.

Over the years, R has been very good about changing the oil and not leaving fuel in the tank over the winter.  We had to replace a starter and the recoil about three years ago but no biggie when you think about how many times it has been started.  The cord probably was a little dry rotted after all these years and was the reason it broke when R tried starting it manually.  We also needed to replace the muffler because it was no longer muffling anything.  Mufflers are cheap and do not last all that long even on new equipment.  The intense heat, steel, and moisture from combustion makes for rust in very short order.
You can see how dusty it is because we haven't had a good rain in awhile.
R probably tilled for about 20 minutes in the area of the ground down stump and about 5 feet around the stump area into the lawn.  We called it quits after he tilled because it gets darker sooner these days and we had some watering to do before we went inside for the night.
Remove some dirt,do a little raking, and throw down some grass seed.
I'm sure we will have to remove some dirt to lower that entire area but it won't be too hard to do.  The rear tine set up breaks up the soil so that it is loose and fluffy.  I have plenty of low spots in the yard so it will just be a matter of dirt musical chairs.  Move dirt from point A to point B and C and D and E......and so on and so on.
Nice fluffy soil.
If you are thinking of buying a rototiller but you can't afford a new rear tine Troy-Bilt......look for a used one.  They are made to last.  Invest in a tune up from a reputable garden shop that specializes in garden tractors and such and you will be ready to till yourself a garden or till up a lawn that has seen better days.

We also have a Troy-Bilt snow blower that we bought used.  We just love the electric start.  I always thought that electric start meant that your snow blower/thrower had a battery.  I don't know about you, but when it is 10 degrees outside, starting anything can be difficult.  Batteries can wear down before you actually get the blower/tractor running but not with this electric start.  This one uses a heavy duty extension cord.  Plug one end of the cord into the wall outlet and the other end into the plug outlet on the blower and turn the key.  Easy peasy.  No batteries to worry about running down. 

We purchased our used blower just before the polar vortex winters.  Those two winters were horrible.  I thought it would never quit snowing.  Thankfully we had the snow blower because we have a loooonnnng driveway.  Which reminds me that I need to talk to R about getting the snow thrower ready for winter because I heard we are suppose to have a bad winter because of La Nina.

It's always something.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Curbside Treasures...Bonanza Edition

R has really been kicking it in the curbside treasure department this summer.  Some of the items I don't have a need for or want, so off to Craigslist they go.

We figure that it's a win win for everyone involved.  

1. We keep the item out of the landfill.
2. Someone gets an item that they need or want for a fraction of the price.
3. We get cash to buy something we need or want.

The number one item that sells fast and for a good price is the glass for glass top patio tables.  R brought home two glass top patio tables at different times and both sold within a week for $40.00 each.  These were tables with tubular frames and not a wrought iron table base.  Both frames were bent so we removed the top and cut up the base and added it to our scrap metal pile.
It seems that a lot of people break their glass top when they remove the umbrella when it is windy just before a storm hits.  The edge of the pole hits the edge of the glass hole and the table shatters into a million tiny pieces.  Plastic inserts are available to protect the umbrella hole but with exposure to the sun they crack and people throw them away.

You can easily find them, especially online.  Here is one at ACE Hardware and it is only $3.39.  That is cheap insurance against a broken glass top.  I may order some replacements for my tables.  The plastic plug becomes discolored from the sun and look bad.  The inserts also have a center piece that plugs the hole if you are not using an umbrella.  

When listing a glass top you need to measure the length and width of the glass 'only' and do not include the metal frame.  Make sure that you take a close up photo of one of the corners.  There are several different corner radius' and if they are buying it for the glass only, they need to have the correct corner radius.

Do not remove the metal frame from the table top because this protects the glass during it's ride home.  The fastest method to remove the metal frame is with a cut off wheel on a grinder.  Just go slow so that you do not make contact with the glass as you cut through.

Both buyers were pleased as punch because they priced new glass and it was more than a new table.

I was driving to my sister's house and noticed that a round table top with the frame still on the glass was placed out to the road for trash pick up.  I stopped and rolled it to the truck and proceeded to my sister's house.  When I got to her house, I asked her if she saw that table top that was out to the street.  She said that John (her husband) stopped but it was only the top.  I told her I picked it up.  I sold it within the week for 40 bucks and then called her and said "you snooze, you lose.".....LOL

Here are some other items that we picked up and sold so far this summer.

 Exercise bike $25.00
 Patio table and 4 chairs $40.00
Cargo carrier $25
  Snake plant $15
 Donkey planter $15
Snow plow $20
R also found a nice tubular table with glass top and 4 matching chairs.  We are keeping that set to use while we work on the back of the house.  I would rather damage this set than my vintage Woodard wrought iron set.  We will sell it when we are done with it.  I forgot to take a photo of it.
 He recently picked up two bar height patio chairs.  I think I will keep them for now because they are heavy duty welded aluminum frames and they swivel.  We have an idea for a patio bar and these would work perfect.  If not we could easily sell them for 50 bucks.
 Here are other items that we are keeping or might sell at a later date.
Mail box post.  We are keeping it in case the county snow plow mows down our mailbox.  We can use this mailbox post by putting it in a 5 gallon pail with sand, as a temporary set up until the ground thaws and we can replace our broken mailbox post.  I hope that we will never needs this post but it's nice to have it at the ready.
I love this heavy, grey resin flower pot.  It is large and I love the shape and you can never have too many flower pots.
This cement birdbath base is missing the top but we know where we can buy a replacement top. We already have two of  these and the birds love them.  The top is square and very shallow.  If you have bees you can put a big sponge in the water and the bees will land on the sponge to drink. 
R has been dying to buy a lawn roller because our lawn has so many ruts and holes that it makes walking treacherous.  But who wants to buy or rent one just to use it once a year. So this was a real score!!! This is a homemade set up but it has a very nice hitch and even has grease zerk fittings.  R was impressed with the zerk fittings and it was the first thing that he pointed out when he brought it home.  My son was looking at it and it was the first thing he pointed out, too.  It makes it easy to grease the bearings and with this being so heavy, you wouldn't want any additional drag from bearings that are dry.
R found this grill with the stand.  The stand was completely rusted away but yet the grill itself was just fine.  It came with the ash holder and two grates.  Just needs a stand.  Might build a stand or sell it.

We also sold a gas grill/smoker set up for $40.00 but I deleted the photo.

But the best curbside treasure of the summer is this riding lawn mower.  It was at the curb with a sign that said free to good home.  Roger was looking it over when the owner came out.  He had purchased a new mower because this one had a bent part.  No
 problem we have torches.  

R picked it up and took it directly to G's race shop and fixed it in a matter of minutes.  It actually took longer to get the torch and pry bars out.  Fire is an amazing tool.

The owner later stopped by and dropped off some extra seat springs that were still in the package.

That mower went to our rental house that we are selling next year.  We will add the small black lawn trailer that we already have in our inventory.  R picked it up curbside years ago.

I have these items that I need to list and sell.
Vintage stack able file cabinets.  They can be configured anyway that you want.  5 high or 5 horizontal or 2 or 3 high.
HUGE basket.  36 inches across and 39 inches high.
 Exercise equipment.  It is all there and similar to a Bow Flex but with thick rubber bands for resistance.
 Vintage wheel covers.  4 Chevrolet baby moons, 3 Dodge, and 2 heavy, Chevrolet wire wheel covers.

The table that the wheel covers are sitting on is another curbside treasure.  The table top is Formica and damaged.  The legs are solid wood and heavy.  The apron has a cool detail so I am keeping the legs and apron and will use at a later date for a table project that I have swirling around in my head.

How did we do???  Have you found anything interesting on the curb?

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Fruits of Our Planting Labor

I've been a bad blogger.  Every time I sat down to write a post it seemed like it was just the same things rehashed.  Kind of like Wash, Rinse, and Repeat.

My cousin, Judy, (Hi! Judy) sent me a message wanting to know if everything was all right because I wasn't posting anything.  So in honor of my cousin Judy, I will try my best to post regularly again.

We started planting fruit trees about a year after we bought the house.  Trees take time to grow so we wanted to get them in and growing right away.  

Below are the apples and pears that we have growing in the yard.

Golden Delicious 

Red Gravenstein


Comice Pear

Anjou Pear
Asian Pear (we have two varieties)
Paw Paw Tree

We soon realized that some trees would not grow in our yard because of the black walnut trees.  The peach, cherry, and apricot trees were dead within two years.  We replanted thinking that we must have done something wrong but they died again in two years.

There is no where in our yard that is far enough away from a black walnut tree to plant those types of trees.  Apples, pears, and Paw Paw have done well.  The Paw Paws  will need a few more years before they bear fruit but the trees are growing.

Last year we planted 5 blueberry bushes in the landscaping on the south side of the house.  We chose two varieties.  Three were a regular height bush and two were a short small compact bush called Jelly Bean.  Our intention is to have an edible landscape.

Jelly Bean was a prolific bearer this year.  Despite it's short stature it has large full size, and very tasty berries.

South side of house.  Jelly Bean bushes are behind bird bath.  The other three blue berry bushes are located under the window box.

FYI we do not spray or treat our fruit trees.  The fertilizer we use on EVERYTHING is Alaska Fish Fertilizer.  You can buy it at Walmart, Lowes, TSC, and Home Depot (my Home Dept doesn't carry it).  The best bargain is to buy it by the gallon.  It's stinky but all natural.

 We had several plum trees that were infected with Black Knot Fungus.  We cut down those trees and ground the stumps up.  To keep from spreading the disease we burned all the wood as fast as we could.  There was a period of windy weather that kept us from burning for about a week.
Photo from Gardening Know How

To fill in the spots where the plum trees were growing we decided to stick with apples and pears.  R wanted a Red Delicious and I wanted a Granny Smith for pies.  The third tree that we added is a Bosc pear tree.

Look for posts on Buckthorn shrub, Curbside Treasures, and downspout bling. 
The thorn of a Buckthorn........ouch!

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