Trees trimmed, messy limbs and more flowers

March 31, 2015

I asked Idaho power to trim a few trees that were growing around my power line. Trimming the trees is a free service and it helps the power guys prevent a few outages. Of course now I have to clean up the limbs in the yard, but overall it is a great deal. I was very surprised by how much more sunlight in that part of the yard now that the trees are trimmed back. I still need to prune the trees but I no longer need to worry about playing with power lines! I also get to add some free hardwood to the wood pile.  Getting the wood pile squared away this summer is going to be a big job and this year I will have to pay to have for the wood.  Things should work out because I pay off the wood stove the “loan payment” can be shifted to buying wood.

Fred Meyer’s is having a great sale on flowers so I picked up some more pansies and marigolds to put in  the front yard beds. I hope I can get a few more pansies and some seed geraniums for the back yard flower beds. While I love the idea of an edible garden in the front yard having some pretty little flowers add color and just make me feel good!  Once we get past the frost threat I want to plant a mix of the pansies and marigolds in the front yard by the sidewalk area.  I  hope that the mulch will help choke out the morning glory and the marigold and pansies will establish themselves in soil to replace the morning glory.  So far it looks like the  mulch is deep enough to starve the weeds of sunlight.

I have some new grass growing in the bare section of the front yard. I am still learning about the proper mix of mulch,  compost and fertilizer. The soil in this corner is depleted of the good stuff so it will take some time to build it up.  I suppose it is the bane of every gardener to have to wait and see how things work out.  Building a good soil naturally is not a quick process it takes time to repair damage.   I have an idea of a “mini orchard” using dwarf fruit trees in the front lawn area. What I want to do is have one of those “cocktail” trees in the center and then place various dwarf fruit trees around the center tree for cross-pollination via the central tree. I have no idea if this idea can work.  If it could work, a person could “theoretically” have a mini-orchard of several different dwarf fruit trees in a 20 feet by 20 feet area.  I’m still gathering information and working on the basic layout but I think the idea has potential.

If you are urban or suburban type homesteader/prepper/survivalist and want to grow your own food you should look at going vertical and dwarf fruit trees might be a good option as most HOA/covenants don’t seem to cover trees and shrubs. Adding in a few dwarf fruit trees in the front yard might be doable and keep the local busybodies off your back.  I have no idea what “hill” you are willing to die on nor how much effort you are willing to put into fighting for your property rights.  Sometimes it you can fight and sometimes it is best to not play the game, grab your ball and find a new place. Only you can make that decision.

No I don’t think you need to waste your energy or money fighting the system, unless you want too. It’s a big country and you can move wherever you want at any time if you are willing to pay your way. Heck, The pioneers did it back in the 1800’s often all they had was a small wagon, wheel barrow and a dream.


I got a start on cleaning up the front lawn and working on the basic gardening layout

March 29, 2015

Oh my gosh! I am sore and tired, but I got a lot done on the front yard.  I have to do my work in sections. This weekend’s  job was cleaning up half of the front yard, aerating the soil,  adding fertilizer, new grass seed and wood mulching one rose bed.  When I started adding wood mulch last year I was mostly interested in killing weeds and making the raised bed garden area look nice.  I was amazed by how much water was retained by my back yard even in areas that did not have mulch. Adding mulch in sections can have a huge impact on yard and garden water usage, though I don’t care for the “rubber” mulch as it does not add nutrients to the soil. Since my soil is compacted clay adding any natural material from sand to straw and wood chips will help nourish the soil as start loosening the clay so the bugs and stuff can do their magic.

Aerating the soil via the hand tool sucks, but is doable especially in sections. If you need to do a good size yard I recommend you go to a tool rental place and get a tool that will do the whole yard in less than a day. Unless working hard at poking holes in dirt is your idea of fun, aerating a good size lawn is a lot of tedious work!  I de-thatch the lawn though from what I have read doing it spring is contra-indicated and fall is a better time to de-thatch a healthy lawn. My lawn is not healthy so I figure I might as well try to save it via de-thatching and adding grass seed in hopes I can save it! Unless your lawn is really bad, a garden rake might be a better choice in spring time.

I added more grass seed and the weed & feed to the lawn via one of those little hand spreaders. My hands lack of strength and coordination that little spreader is very difficult to use on anything but a small job. Thankfully the local True Value store had a rolling spreader on sale for only $35.00.  I figure it will save a lot of my physical energy and effort improving the soil in the future.  I think and Mom agrees the finished section of front yard looks much better/cleaner and even the grass seem to have perked up in the last couple of days.  I planted the peas and have the seeds for the front garden beds ready to go  for cold weather plants Monday.  My aunt “G” is a gardening “godess” and she says she was impressed by how good my yard and garden beds are starting to look.  She knows how much work goes into soil repair as well as upkeep.

I finally got a batch of beer made instead of just thinking about it.  Jumping over the pekes in the kitchen,  waiting for snacks/dinner added a bit to the challenge.  Overall it is good to see the old dogs with a good appetite even though they can be underfoot.  I picked up some pork  country style ribs and a nice pork rib roast at Pauls.  Albertsons has some very good buys till Tuesday on Hamberger 73%/23% for $2.49 per pound sold in 3 pound chubs. 21/25 count shrimp for $6.99 per pound , Bacon for $2.99 per pound bought in a 3 pound pack. A few other processed/ dehydrated foods are quite cheap and you should get the circular before you go shopping. I think the Idaho brand flavored potatoes are quite good tasting and four serving for 25 cents is a a steal. These potatoes will work great for camping or add a major break/food fatigue via eating  “bulk rice& beans” every meal. I can say after a hard days work you won’t want to wait for even the 10 minutes to cook pasta never mind rice or beans. These dehydrated potato paks only requre boiling water and sit 2 minutes no heat after the mix is added to water.

I think it is great than many people want “real food”. But MRE’s are just chock full of preservative and chemicals and probably worse compared to an off the shelf product at your local mega-mart.  If you are storing MRE’s for a disaster, that is fine but you sure as heck aren’t going natural or Organic. Since you are not doing either of those things you might as well buy dehydrated potatoes when they are on sale!


Get ‘er done!

March 26, 2015

The wood mulch I wanted to buy went up in cost so I am going to wait and see if it will go on sale again. It sort of worked out as I found an Aerating hand tool for only $20.00 that is made of steel that is easy to use and should help getting the soil healthy plus make it easier for the lawn absorb the weed & feed, compost and new grass seed.  I want to do the perma-culture /food forest idea, but my first step is building a healthy soil and I need the grass to keep erosion under control while I work on the soil. I cut back some of the grape vines, tilled the soil and added some grass seed in a small area as a test.  I want to have a few sections of lawn to define the food forest and edible garden areas.  What I want for the front yard is something resembling an “English” country garden and the backyard sort of a modified “food forrest but using edible plants and herbs incorporating sand, rocks, fountains , small ponds with lots of arcs and round geometry shapes to soften the square shape of my house and fenced lot, incorperating some Japaneese garden elemants to make the backyard a restful spot.

I bought the big potato tower and seed potatos. I’m going with a russet and red pontiac potatoes for the first tower to see how it works out. I’m sorry I did not save the link for this idea but from what I remember about 4 pounds of seed potatoes resulted in a harvest of 65 pounds of taters. I have visited a few websites that recommend using these tall towers for growing tomatoes vertically but I think this consept might work for strawberrys as well as those other plants. Anyone with limited yard/garden space should look at growing crops vertically. I don’t think I can grow all the food I need but every bit of fresh veggies and fruit is a bonus and will make my bulk goods strech a bit longer.

I tilled the front beds and planted snow peas and I’m looking to add some carrots, radishes, spinach, and other fast growing leaf lettuce types.  We have had an early spring and there could be a late frost or two in the area. I’m plantin seed in a somewhat protected and at worse I may lose a few plants. My herbs survived the winter better than I expected using leaf mulch and straw, so I’m feeling optomistic starting cold weather plants a little early.  Mulch materials do have good and bad sides. Straw should be uesd in spring to protect plants, Wood mulch 3 inch deep seems to work well for killing weeds and gives a garden bed a clean look. Fall leaf mulch breaks down  over winter yet still will protect plants add nutrients to the soil and retain moisture.

I got a new “flapper” for the replacement toilet and added a bit of food dye to test for leaks and it is good to go. I don’t see any water leaks and even the condensation problem was solved by topping the tank rather than leaving it open.  I don’t know why adding a lid to the tank fixed the condensation problem but I’m not complaining. I got some silicone caulk to add a small bead to finish the toilet installation to make it look good rather than caulking the heck out of it to prevent leaks because of a bad installation.  I want to install a new dryer vent after my “experience” of the installed vent by the previous owner. The thing is For about $8.00 you can install a nice vent with about 12 -18 inches of pipe that can be screwed into studs going outside your home and extend to your dryer vent hose with no problems.

There was no need to do a jacked up washer drain pipe simply to avoid the dryer vent that was dead simple and cheap to replace. Heck the idiot spent more on pipe fittings, caulk and elbows than the replacement cost of hose for a new dryer vent. I swear sometimes the previous owner was the “Albert Einstien” of screwing up or at least the epitome of stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime. I know there are times a person will do repairs “just to get by until they get materials/money to make things right. I have done those things myself, but just half-assing stuff rather than doing thing correctly really gets on my nerve and when a person spends more money and tries to hide the ass-hattery. I get very peeved, I’m not a fan of getting by. If I pay cash money I want things fixed right and hopefully the first time!

I have the pipe and trap on hand to start dry fitting the washer drain pipe. To be within code I need at least a 4 inch pipe run tie into the stack and at least an 18 inch long drop before the trap. I bought trap with a clean out so things should go more smoothly. I will work on this pipe installation this weekend, Mom is not sure how she will react to having a washing machine draining properly and a dryer that is working all at the same time. There is usually a reason for city/zone codes. While I may not agree with some Federal codes and mandates, I will try to to make my home current with most building codes because they make sense!

A few  prepping items are on hold while I get my eyesight corrected. I will see how things shake out cost wise after the first of April.  While I don’t think it will be cheap,  I’m hoping for a cash discount and get the perscription for a backup set of glasses via the VA.  Ifthat happens great , if not I’ll  pay cash and get my eyesight corrected.

 


Spring time in SW Idaho

March 22, 2015

Overall it was a mild winter and we are having an early spring. The swings in temps of 20 degrees or more for the daytime highs and rain/spring storms have made me a little achy and sore during the weather changes.  Saturday was a tough day so I worked on my little laptop cleaning it up and reinstalling Comodo anti-virus and firewall and getting the old thing running the to the best of it’s capabilities. I want to get a new laptop with Windows 7 and multi-core processor via newegg.com in the $200-$300 dollar range as an upgrade around May or June for a laptop that will be a bit better for web browsing and some other tasks I want it to preform.  For now the old laptop is doing okay for what I need from a computer.  I’m looking towards the future of building a small chat/email server and nodes for mesh network this summer. I have done a little linux/unix coding but I need to learn more before I make a neighborhood server and routing network.

On to the yard work, I finally got the grape vines cut back from my gutters. Yes, I have let the grapes run rampant and they need to be cut back rather severely because of my neglect.  I only cleared one corner of the front yard this weekend as all of the big trash bins were full of large items like the toilet. Good news is my herbs did pretty good over winter and the sage and oregeno survived and are growing. This a big “deal” to a tyro gardener that usually kills plants or has them die via a lack of knowledge. Mulch of leaves and straw  deep (3-6 inches) seemed to work for me. Mom and I raked the back yard for doggie poo and plenty of other yard trash. The yard is cleaned up and ready for my next project.

The small bathroom is fully functional and I have not found any drips or wet spots on the floor after the toilet fix. I have to take these maint.  plumbing jobs one room at a time. The washer drain looks fairly straight forward replacing pipes to code rather than adding angles that create clogs.  The bathroom sink faucet replacement has me a bit “spooked” because of the bad valves and I need to shut off all water in the house until it is fixed.  I have plenty stored water on hand but I also know how much work transporting water without a tap can be daily. I think I’ll get the washer drain pipe done first then prep ahead of time on losing water for 24 hours with the igloo jugs and camp shower before the sink repair. Replace the hot water line first because I can cut the hot water off at the tank and once that valve is good to go, I can cut all water off to replace the cold water line. I suppose some people may think I’m being a bit silly about access to tap water.  But moving water by hand takes a lot of physical energy. If you are disabled, you may not have that energy too expend. Please do not think you will find some sort of motivation or energy based on need, that makes you move 15-20 gallons of water quickly or easily. Moving water by hand  is doable, it sure isn’t easy. Please practice you water plan! If you are like me you have underestimated your plan via real world scenarios.  I had plenty of water for me, though I underestimated cleaning, my use and flushing toilets and other little jobs.

Most thing in life are simple, that does not make them easy. There is nothing wrong with calling in a plumber on complex jobs if you can afford paying the plumber. A good plumber could do in less than two hours what took me about two weeks on replacing the toilet. The only difference is time and I learned how to fix everything on a toilet. If things go wrong can you afford to call a plumber, plus there is no reason not to learn how to do simple plumbing jobs yourself and save money and hire the plumber for the complex jobs.

 


I am feeling better because I stopped trying to do so much at once

March 20, 2015

It really helped me mentally to get the toilet fixed. Turning over the compost heap and soaking got it rocking 110 degrees F. on the small pile and 140 degrees F. on the big pile. Getting the positive feed back from those jobs made me feel better, like I had actually accomplished something instead of just getting by for now!

I stopped by Home depot and picked up 4 bags of Scott’s Brown wood mulch for $2.50 each. That was enough to finish up one of the alley “sunny” beds.  I want to add some hardy herbs/ground cover and a container berry bush or two to this area.  My house is one of the few that did not fence everything up to the road and that area get used occasionally by vehicles so I have to use plants that can handle that sort of abuse and come back.  The brown mulch and broken “concrete” stone looks much better than I anticipated. I have an idea of doing a hugelculture mound in front of the sunchokes using the dirt and debris dumped by the guy that delivered the mill ends. Mom has been digging through that pile  and said the soil looks pretty good now that the smaller pieces of wood decayed, lots of worms in the loose sort of sandy soil.  I can build a small hugelculture mound that get’s a lot of early morning sunlight right in front of the sun-chokes for another garden growing experiment that won’t limit parking but will protect some of my plants that can’t take being run over.  I figure a foot high and 18 inch hugelculture bed won’t eliminate all that much space for maneuvering vehicles though it should be enough of a barrier against any other crazy alley shenanigans.

I found a couple of books that cover the things I have wanted to do on this house. One is a a Time Life book about making all kind of stuff from a home library to a root cellar area in the basement. Another book I got is practical landscaping and while its a bit dated on color schemes the designs range from large to small yards and even balcony projects. Very cool ideas in these books and they are geared towards a neophyte/ beginner with very simple, straightforward instructions.  Speaking for myself, I need that type of instruction. While I don’t think I’m an idiot, I have been blindsided on DIY projects (like the toilet) that did not work so well until I thought outside the box and eliminated a few things that could become problems. I don’t think of a house as an investment I think of it as a very durable good as well a box you throw money at to make it your own.  I bought my home as a place to live and not as an investment. There is nothing wrong if you see a home as an investment, I just did not see a home that way.

Mom bought a used dryer so I got the dryer vent fixed and all cleaned out. Another messed up installation by the previous owner/contractor. Now I know why they did such a crazy washing machine drain pipe setup, the dryer vent was in the way of the drain pipe!  I pulled the outside vent that was only caulked into place and the pipe.  Reattached the dryer flex hose and screwed the outside part of the vent into solid wood framing.  Bad news I got the wrong size pipe for the washer drain but I kept the receipt so I can exchange it at lowes. I got the shelf behind the woodstove in place and cut two bucket loads of mill ends placed on the front porch. The clothes line has been tightened up and looks like it will make a good summer time alternative to drying clothes in the dryer.

I have put off getting my eyes checked and buying glasses but my distance vision and depth perception is getting worse. So for the next couple of months I want to concentrate on getting my health care needs that VA does not cover taken care of using cash. I’m trying out a local eye doctor and shop that seems up on the VA system not covering eyesight and is cool with me paying cash. Plus the optical shop offers several coupons for a new patient!  2015 seems to be the year when I focus on upkeep, fixing things  and maintenance of the home, body and critters.

Diana the peke is doing well coming off the steroids but seems to have a bit of pain when the weather changes.  I give her some tramidol when she starts to hunch up with pain and she does okay with half a pill once and awhile. Using a pain killer occasionally is easier on her system than the steroids everyday.

Overall the week start off bad mentally for me. By the end of the week we got a lot of things done the right way and started bullet-proofing our position financially, physically and mentally. Prepping for me is a journey not a destination and I will have ups and downs. While I can’t speak for others that prep, I doubt that I’m the only one that gets discouraged  or frustrated from time to time.

 


Progress on the toilet and I feel frustrated!

March 18, 2015

Well working on the tank over the kitchen sink made finding the leak much easier than bolting the tank down and unbolting to the toilet bowl. Right now it is a bit difficult to know if the very slow drip is from the tank “sweating” or if I need to tighten the bolts between the tank and the bowl. I never noticed tank condensation problem before as I always focused on the leak but I may have to insulate the tank to stop the “sweating” problem.  I think I have basically fix/installed  the toilet but it may need a few more tweaks to be perfect. I can add a bit of food dye to the tank and see if the water is coming from the tank or from condensation. Huzzah no leaks at the tank via food dye, so the plumbing fixes I did are solid. The condensation/sweating problem seem to be search for a balance after the fixing of the tank.

This check, I want to get the ABS pipe, trap and elbows for the washer drain so I can correctly install the drain. I think the pipe stack may need a good cleaning out via the roof vent.  I can get the drain up to code and put in a “clean out” that will make future clogs much easier to handle.  I was a bit leery about cutting the ABS pipe and gluing it together but the repair I did under the kitchen sink last fall cutting and using glue was actually easier than trying to find the right pipe angles that screwed together.

I need to start replacing all faucets as most seem to be wearing out and have a few extra drips after turning they are turned off.  I have been looking at faucets that are ADA compliant that will be easier for me to use with my limited strength. Plus most of the ADA compliant handles resemble the old 1930’s Art deco/farm house look that I really like.  For the kitchen I want a high rise faucet and I saw a few good brand name ones at the local True value store for under $100.00. Though I can’t afford that right now! If I can get the big bathroom sink faucet installed this week I will call repairs good enough for now.

I’m feeling “stressed” right now, not because I can’t make it financially month to month. I simply want to do more to prepare and I’m having to guess what the most critical priority and I have so many choices yet not enough money to do all I want to get done.  My decision matrix is FUBAR and I can’t seem to find the goals I should focus on this year.  In a way it feels like I’m half-assing stuff though I know I’m not because, I’m working hard on getting things right fixing up the house.  In a way I feel beat down because I seem to be focusing on things I haven’t done rather than the things I have accomplished.

I got the compost heap, watered and turned over today.  I should have done it earlier as Mom’s chicken house cleaning added a lot of organic material to the heap. While a couple of  pallet sized heaps may look a bit daunting to turn over it is do able in few blocks of work of 15-20 minutes. I think 2 bins are less than optimal and you need three bins depending on your compost situation.

I like to fix things, in fact I can get quite agitated if things don’t get fixed.  I added some food dye to the  toilet tank and while the flapper need replaced the tank seems solid.


Still working on the tank leak and adding a fan to dry clothes

March 15, 2015

I’m having a hard time getting the tank to sit level on the bowl. The “Spud” or tank to bowl  gasket is showing an indentation that is sort of an oval rather than a circle.  I’m still sort of guessing about where the leak is actually occurring,  if it is at the tank bolts or at the flush valve. What I will try is getting the bolts installed but use the thin nut on the bottom or the tank to ensure the bolts are not leaking as well as installing the all the flush valve gaskets and make sure they do not leak before I attach the tank to the bowl.  In order to do that test I will put the tank over the kitchen sink and work on any tank leaks. If I can get the tank leak proof over the kitchen sink then it should be easier to trace any other leaks to the gasket between the tank and bowl.  Working at the kitchen sink will save my back and knees bending over that toilet, plus I can actually see where any leaks are coming from rather than having to guess and keep attaching the tank to the bowl for every test.

The clothes line on the patio helps to dry clothes even on rainy days thought it is not perfect. I added a fan in the spare bedroom that seem to help with drying clothes on the drying racks but it still takes about 8-12 hours to get two large loads of laundry dried in “spring like” weather.  Using a hose to bypass the sewage system/drain works okay for about 10 loads but if you have a long run of hose over 10 feet or so, the washer may not have enough pressure to rinse away all dirt.  If you are planing to bypass the sewer system you need to think about how you will drain your washer if you plan to use it in a grid down situation.  I have learned you can not simply add a hose long enough for another drain or run it outside the house.

I would recommend you try out a three day up to a two-week test what you plan to do in a disaster.  Even a three day test of your preps can be very educational. But a couple of weeks of testing made me realize how all that effort can grind you down and wear you out both physically and mentally.  I knew I could stop my tests at anytime, if the SHTF you will have no idea when things could get back to “normal”.  All I can say if a disaster happens, you will have the confidence to take on life in those small chunks of three days or two weeks rather than a day or hour at a time.

By prepping or being a survivalist does not mean you will get out of any disaster unscathed. You are simply increasing your odds  at survival.  If I get shot or beat down in a riot or my house collapses on me, my life expectancy is darn low. I can learn and be aware of these things but stuff  happens out of your control and you do your best not because you will survive, you simply try to stack the odds in favor of you surviving.  As far as I know everyone dies, and I have faced that prospect a couple of times. I find I want to live. I don’t need life/survival to easy, though I like easy! I’m also willing to work for survival and life!

Your preps and survival is on you! If you want to go Rambo that is on you. I want to be around the people that start a garden, fail and start a garden the next year.  I like people that are willing to risk failure and learn from it.  I don’t want a perfect person, I want those that try and fail time and again and learn from those failures.  Heck it’s nothing more than our ancestors did coming to a new land and try to make a living from it.

I think you should go out and embrace failure! Then learn a bit and fail again. Sometimes you feel like an idiot but if you never fail, you will never learn. Try something new and if you fail, embrace it and learn from your mistakes. If you don’t fail you have a new skill. It’s a Win/Win.


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