Yard cleanup, fire starters and kindling OH MY

August 26, 2019

I’m getting leaves on the ground along with apples and walnuts.  Keeping the apples and walnuts cleaned up is critical for me as I always find those gifts and either a twist my ankle or end up with Apple goo on my shoes.  Neither outcome is what I consider positive.  The B&D air sweeper/ blower worked well blowing the leaf materiel into a pile, without blowing away the mulch. After that quick blow of the air sweeper it was easy to rake up the heavier stuff and toss it in the garbage.   Speaking of tools Mom and I are trading my B&D 20 volt weed eater for her 18 volt Ryobi. Mom doesn’t feel comfortable using the Ryobi,  based on the tools larger size and over all bulk. I’ll let Mom tryout my smaller/lighter B&D and see if that tool is more comfortable for her.  I think Mom is going to fall in love with the smaller size of the B&D weed eater.

On to making more fire starters. I had a little bit of leftover wax from last year so I bought four pounds of wax for this years batch of fire starters. I used about 1.5-2 pounds to make 120 individual fire starters.  I use 1 fire starter a day in my wood stove. Theoretically 120 fire starters should last about 4 months or from about mid October to February of next year.  Of course things seldom work out as perfectly as the theory says it should and I’m making the fire starters for mom and myself this year.  Mom is bringing some of her extra egg cartons to make more fire starters so that the both of us have at least a couple of months worth on hand this heating season.  Honestly I see my fire starters as a thing to get a fire started fast to warm up the house as quick as possible, rather than a “It would be nice to have a fire tonight” sort of thing.  For that sort of fire I’ll be using newspaper to start that type of fire.

The kindling box or should I say that “Freaking Huge Kindling” box?  I did about 30 minutes of chopping and I managed to fill the bottom of the box about one layer thick of kindling.  That was a little discouraging but I’m glad I gave my self a time limit as I have not chopped wood for almost 2 months and my muscles are out of practice.  I had a little muscle tremor when I was finished with that job.  While my muscles were challenged  by cutting kindling. The Dremel tool and stone sharpening of the axe and hatchet worked great.  If you buy a cheap axe/hatchet like I did the Dremel tools does a great job of putting a better edge on a tool without heating up the steel that might change it’s “temper”.  Yes, I still needed to use the stone to clean up the edge but the Dremel made getting that basic “cutting edge” faster and easier for me.  I have a lopper that crushes rather than cuts. I think the Dremel might put a good edge on that tool.  I want to learn how to maintain those yard cutting tools and make them better at the job.  I don’t remember who said it but there is a quote about someone given a job to cut down a large tree in 6 hours and the first 4 hours he spent sharpening the axe/saw.

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Cooler weather helps when working out side. Finish a job, start a new job around the house!

August 11, 2019

Having this cold front move through the area has felt so good!  We got some rain and my little Tucker dog no longer has an “Anxiety Attack” from the sound of thunder.  After several 100 degree days that rain and cooler temps this weekend helped my attitude.  I got more of the dropped apples and black walnuts picked up.  I filled up a 33 gallon trash container and the bag was so heavy lifting it was out of the question.  Those nuts and apples are a twisted ankle bomb just waiting to be stepped on.  I have to many other jobs to get done other than saving apples and nuts.  But I have to keep the yard clean so I can walk about safely and not let fruit rot on the ground that attracts vermin.  So into the trash for these tree byproducts.

I attack the grape vines again  to clear the way to chop wood.  I’m always playing catch up with the grape vines.  I have not found a way to make the vines drape artfully around my home.  I’m always doing cleanup or getting the grape vines out of the way for work.  The grape vines take no notice of all my work and keep on growing.  Good news I have cleaned out my wood chopping area so now I can start filling my  wood Kindling box.  I used my Dremel tool to sharpen up my cheap axes and wood cutting tools.  The hatchet is sharp, perhaps a bit too sharp for cutting kindling long term.  I cleaned up the hatchet edge using a stone, using a Dremel tool to start an edge on a tool does work better than a grinder for me.  Actually I think both tools have a place in sharpening tools.

I’m playing with the new washer settings. I have to give 5 stars to Samsung on trouble shooting the washer and Mr Appliance of SW Idaho getting the washer working.  Samsung stood by their warranty despite the washer being a 2 year old model, that I bought new to me.   Mr. Appliance of SW Idaho was great,  Richard was very personable, brought little rugs/carpets to place the tool bags upon.  Mr. Appliance showed up early after calling if it would be okay to show up early for the work.  That tends to be a very rare thing working with repairmen or contractors.  I understand that Good contractors/ repairmen are very busy.  As a customer I’d prefer a date for a non-critical repair and if the repair person gets an opening, a call to fix the issue.  I know it is never that easy as “Emergency” repair request happen all the time.

I spent about $6.00 at a laundromat over 2 weeks waiting for the new washer.  Drying clothes at a Laundromat  cost the quarters.  No big deal!

I cleaned up the wiring  of the light fixture in the Laundry room.  I added a couple of guides made of rubber to isolate the electrical cable.  Along with buying a big plug of rubber to make the light work.  The light is safe,  but I’m not happy as light should have been tied into the electrical of the add on of the house.  I’m trying to repair terrible half ass “solutions” and it always costs more to fix.

I cleaned caulk around the bath tub and the fiber board shredded.  Was that bathroom install to code?  Nope! I will save a couple of months to fix that problem. I’ll have to get green board sheet rock to make a good base for the new tub surround.

 

 


Back to work!!! My A/C is installed and I got some wood stacked!

June 15, 2019

I finally got a good 6-7 hours of sleep.   While I have stayed awake for several days in the  US Army.  I tend to get very unpleasant missing out on sleep.  Now with my physical limitations, not getting less than 6 hours of sleep really makes me a cranky and feel like a bit of mush.  I can do the “power nap” thing, but I’m not a happy camper and what is worse is I let everyone around me know how unhappy I feel. FYI if I get a get a bit terse with anyone, you can blame my lack of sleep and not me trying to be nasty.

I got both of my window A/C units installed and the house is a nice 75 degrees F.  I changed the setup placing the portable A/C unit out of the bedroom and to the library room so the unit has a straight path to cool the Living room.  So far that is working out great!  This sort of set up may not work for people in a high humidity climate.  In the Inter-mountain west high desert,  a small A/C window or larger BTU portable A/C unit will have lower electrical costs compared to an old “Heat pump” or Central Air system.  Usually in High Desert the night cools down quickly when the sun goes down so the fan kicks then the A/C unit becomes a window fan blowing cooler air into the house.  That won’t work in Georgia if you have 100 degrees F. and 90-100 % humidity.

I got started early stacking wood, by about 11:30 the sun was beating down hard.  I can deal with the sun early in the day with cooler temps or work in the shade after 6 pm.  I’m good with this approach for stacking the poplar. The Doug fir wood area was too narrow to bring the wagon load of wood as the wood racks make for a constricted work space.  Another lesson learned is using the garden wagon to move wood under the carport is it  saves not only time and effort but my arms don’t get bloodied and beat up carrying wood to stack.  While I don’t mind getting a bit bloody, bruised and cover in sap.  It is nice to let the wagon do the work and I stay some what clean and not so bruised stacking wood. I’m about 5′ 5″ so if I’m tossing wood over “eye level” I am probably stacking wood about 6 feet high, accounting for the average size of the split wood.

I have been a bit off on my timing this year by a little bit.  I am doing more wood stacking and have paid less attention to the garden in June.  While this has been less than optimal for growing plants.  I have really stocked up on wood for winter and created systems that will keep me warm this winter.  I’m doing better, as the wood pile needs a few more days of wood stacking.  I’m only 3 months out of phase with the seasons.

I miss watching the birds, so  I cleaned up the bird baths.  I have restocked the bird feeders and added filling the bird baths/cleaning/replacing the water to my daily schedule.  If you hate mosquitoes never have standing water for more than a day or two.   It may seem a bit silly but watching the birds and other critters  is more entertaining than Netflix and cheaper than paying a subscription.

 


Working on the woodpile plus other odds and ends

June 3, 2019

I made a big dent in the wood pile under the carport. Some of my work today has been moving and throwing away “trash wood” that has been treated such as Fence and even old power Poles. The wood hasn’t been all bad.  I got quite a bit of hardwoods (white maple?) along with some elm.  While I need to cut and split about half of the wood I will have plenty of hardwoods for over night fires this winter and that is a very good thing!

Speaking of splitting, the little 3.5 pound splitting maul and 3 pound sledge hammer worked great on the hardwoods!  My 6 pound splitting occasionally just bonked off a chunk of hardwood. Having a handle on the wedge to drive into the wood then use the small sledge hammer to drive the wedge through the wood was relatively easy.  I recommend that small splitting wedge and sledge hammer combo for any one that has limited upper body strength or if you have problems swinging a heavier spitting maul.  This combo of tools might work great for people (me) that look like they are trying to scare a splitting maul into the wood rather than making good contact with the splitting maul.  Using an axe, maul and other wood splitting tools is a skill that takes time to learn.  While using smaller sized tools may seem a bit like using training wheels on a bike.  I think it worthwhile for several reasons…

  1. You get to accomplish your goal splitting wood as you learn. These lighter weight tools would be great for youngsters and women to start splitting fire wood!
  2. Using a smaller splitting wedge and sledge hammer is less intimidating.
  3. Less chance of smashing your fingers and thumbs trying to drive a normal splitting wedge into a chunk of wood.
  4. If you need to split the wood just a little you don’t have to use the big heavy tools.
  5. Using the lighter weight tools lets you slowly build your strength and stamina.
  6. If you ever become handicapped for whatever reason, such as a broken wrist/arm you can still keep the wood stove going.

Overall I’m very pleased with the 3.5 pound splitting wedge and it looks like more places/stores are starting to carry this or something similar to this tool.

I mowed the backyard grass area and there is still one one semi-bare spot but I’m very happy with spring grass seeding experiment.  I doubt I’ll win awards for the best looking grass patch in the neighbor hood. The grass area looks 100% better than it did in early Spring.  This Fall I will be able to fill in those thin spots if the grass does not fill the spots this summer.  I added some soil and compost to the back alley mulch area. I’ll add the mossy rose to a small area I hope won’t get crushed under a wood delivery and I have ran a hose so I can start watering that area rather than just depend on Mother nature.  I have a plan for the alley area, until all of the wood is stacked I have to wait to plant, as well as move the gravel  and lay down cloth/cardboard to block weeds…..

I lent a sprinkler to a neighbor to water the garden I gave them starts to grow.  Every person you help is a potential ally. It could backfire but so far it has not for me.  Something as little as giving out starter plants or lending a sprinkler might make a difference in a person’s mind.

I got a good 4 hours of work today and that felt great.  Yeah I had a couple of twinges of pain but I think I have moved beyond my CIDP flare.   I have a little muscle fatigue from playing in the wood pile but I should be able to mow the front lawn and keep up appearances.

 

 

 


I filled the last wood rack with Doug fir!

May 26, 2019

The last rack is filled with wood and covered with tarps.  It has been very rainy in my area so getting the fire wood covered and drying this summer is critical.  I’m finishing up the last small pile of Doug fir I’m stacking on the concrete walk way between the wood racks.  This wood I’ll add to the porch fire wood rack first to burn and start cutting into kindling this summer to fill the new kindling box.  It is tempting just to chuck the last of the firewood into the open section between the wood racks but I have done that before and found the stack wood dried better plus it is easier to gather stacked fire wood when the weather gets cold and blustery.  I was a discouraged for a time moving the wood Sunday but after that pile wood was stacked the remaining pile of wood went much faster as I was only walking about 16 -24 feet with each arm load of wood.

My wood racks are 8 ft. x 4 ft. by about 18 inches deep so they only hold about a “face” cord rather than a true cord of wood.  I can stack wood between my wood racks on a concrete base over 24 feet long, I’ll stack the remaining fire wood so I know I’m getting delivered about a cord “128 sq.feet” of fire wood.  There will always be a few gaps when stacking wood, but if you come out with 128 sq. feet of wood you have a “cord”of fire wood.  If you use tarps to protect your wood I’d recommend buying tarps at least 10 ft x 12 ft. long.  With 8 foot long tarps you don’t have any overhang to cover the fire wood racks.

The wood under the carport is a jumble right now but with the wood Mom hauled away I have room to work stacking the remaining fire wood.  Most of this wood is cut to length for a wood stove but will need to be split to work in my wood stove.  Mom filled her truck with the smaller/split wood to fill her truck as well as fit her little wood stove.  I am okay with that as I have more tools to cut and split wood plus my wood stove has a larger firebox.  I’m still digging around this wood pile but it looks like we got some elm, white maple along with a mix of fruit wood, pine and some poplar.  Mow I’m no expert on fire wood but in the last couple of years I hope I have gotten a bit better at identifying wood.  I’m not a big fan of elm but I love white maple.  Fruit woods like apple and cherry burn clean, hot and long but are almost impossible to split with an axe. I’ll be doing a lot of cutting with my little chainsaws getting some of the wood into usable sizes.

I got a 3 pound splitting maul that should help split and stack the wood under the carport.  I have to sharpen all of axes and mauls, but I have all of the tools to cut and split all of my fire wood.  I think I will get another 2 cords of poplar around August or September.  I know many people poo-poo pine, fir or using poplar as firewood.  I really like poplar as a fire wood.  Poplar burns clean, is easy to start and burns about as long as Doug fir and poplar cheaper about $100.00 per cord than Doug fir, from my supplier. It seems that poplar has a straight grain though many knots/ branches in that tree.  The little 3 pound maul cut trough a small bit of poplar easily even using a dull edge maul.

Stay away from using a Star type maul unless you are using a hydraulic or powered wood splitter. If you are splitting wood using muscle power a simple wedge type maul will take less effort to split wood. I suspect I’ll be using my 3 pound splitting wedge to start on the wood and then use my 3 pound sledge to drive the maul through the chunk of wood. It will be slow,  but it is what I can handle with my physical limitations.  I bet there are a lot of people that have the stamina to swing a 3 pound sledge for several hours, that would be worn out swing an 8-12 splitting maul for an hour or 2 especially if they never split fire wood in their life.

I just want split fire wood ready to burn for winter.  If I work 20 minutes a couple time per day every other day for the next 5 months and I have my fire wood ready to burn by October.  I’m good to go this winter.  If I could do the same job in two weeks in June it would not change the fact that the wood is ready to burn in October.

I’m a little peeved I got a nasty gram from the city about weeds in my alley area when we have had almost daily rain and they demand I kill the weeds that no one in Idaho has every proven capable of killing.  It is annoying as I have added a lot of rock and mulch to add drainage and I’m trying to build the soil that won’t give weeds good growing area.  I don’t use weedkiller/Roundup because I’m trying to build up the soil to support good plants.  Building soil takes time, even years and my weeds are not that bad plus weeds can be good as the hold bad soil in place.  I hate cheat grass and goat heads but until you improve the soil and replace the bad plants, the weed problem will remain a problem.  All the city of Nampa is the weeds are not tall of unsightly.  Making good soil or growing healthy plants is far down on the list.

Sorry for the rant, I got some mossy rose/portaluca to add to my alley way garden bed.  I have a bit of good dirt and the sun chokes are doing okay coming back.  I’m a bit pissed about the edicts from the City of Nampa but I’m still trying to make the alley way garden the best it can be as a healthy garden.

 


It stopped raining so I moved wood around

May 20, 2019

The skies cleared and I had about 3.5 hours of dry weather this afternoon to move the wood in my wood pile.  I’m  moving the older, over sized dry wood (for my wood stove) under the carport to stack and will be cut to size, too fit my wood stove.  I moved the wood racks around to make stacking the wood for easier access and set up an area for cutting and storing kindling.  I have 2 cords of Doug fir incoming  this week so getting the wood racks prepared for incoming fire wood is important for my heating plan this winter.

I’m trying a new supplier of wood and paying as I go.  Mom says she will buy up some of the wood to mitigate my initial cost for wood.  Over all I feel okay about the wood buy, but we will see if the wood is worth the cost.

Just took delivery of the wood and the carport is darn full.  I suspect I got at least 1.5 + cords of mixed fire wood mostly cut /split and ready to burn.  Perhaps it is Karma helping me on the good side since I got screwed on wood deliveries a few years ago. I’ll need to stack the wood to see how much fire wood I have on hand.  Money is going to be a little tight getting this fire wood delivery before I planned for getting wood this year, but getting stocked up on wood this early will pay off this summer and into winter.  I’m good on money, as I can deal with taking a hit of $250.00 either good or bad easily.

Physically I’m going to be toast Tuesday, after moving the fire wood and wood racks around the yard.  I have a 2 cord wood delivery on the 22nd so I’ll be in  recovery mode the 21st.

The cole crop garden beds seem to be thriving after opening up the Agri-bon frost cloth.  It seems that this week is going to be good for cool weather crops getting a good start for growing.


Plants are going into beds. Huzzah!

May 18, 2019

I think I suffered a bit of a CIDP flare this last week and did not get much done as I felt less than chipper, during the good outside working days last week.  I was able to run my errands and get a bit of shopping done but until today I was down, and in recovery mode.

I did get a lot of great buys via Fred Meyer’s Founder’s sale this week as  Pet-it Sirloin steaks are $2.69 per pound and 70/30 Hamburger is only $1.79 per pound.  With all the flooding in the midwest and the crazy trade war talk, Stocking up on beef/meats  is one of my missions this spring.  Getting the freezer full is high on my to do list this spring.

We got snow in the mountains around the Treasure Valley and the weather went from 85 degrees F. for a high to 55 degrees for a high in less than 24 hours.  Saturday the 18th was about the only dry day to get much work done in the garden or on the yard.  I finished mowing the front lawn about 9:15 pm while my solar lights were on.  Thankfully my electric mower is somewhat quiet and I did not disturb anyone partying on a Saturday night.  I normally would not mow so late but this is the last dry day for the next 7-10 days.  May tends to be a “wonky” weather month around here,  as I have seen 100 degree days as well as snow in the valley as late as May 18th.

I did get one of my garden beds full.  I added two types of romaine lettuce and Napa Cabbage starter plants to my “Cole crop” raised bed.  The broccoli and cauliflower plants that have been under the Agri-born frost cloth are growing very slowly and may need a little more sun though the onions seem to be to be doing well  for “scallion” type growth.  The Agri- born cloth seems to inhibit sunlight a bit more than I anticipated so I have cut the cloth in the middle to allow more mid-day sunlight to hit the crops in the raised beds.  One of my biggest problems with my past gardens is crops bolting, if the Agri-born cloth helps mitigate that issue I will be extremely happy.

I finally figured out what to grow in the former tomitillo raised bed.  I’m going with melons and flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums.  I want to play around with natural bug control and edible flowers/landscape plants.  Plus I’m growing a very  different plant/rotating the crops so that should help mitigate any bug or soil problems.  While I want to go vertical via trellis with the small melons,  this bed has the most area for plants that tend to spread out.

Great news my blue potato buckets have a few plants are starting to come up and put on some greenery.  I was about to give up on those plants but that is the best thing about using big planter buckets/pots as you can try new stuff and give the plants time to grow or fail, without affecting your main garden.  City gardeners like myself that use raised beds or containers always seem to find others that want to know how plant experiments work out.  It’s not snark when some people have great success or another person has a less successful growing of a plant.  It is about finding what worked, and did not work for each individual garden.

Last but not least I had some quail wander through my backyard and it was wonderful watching those little birds check out the backyard.  I’d love to expand my backyard into an urban wildlife habitat. Yeah, some critters are annoying, but there are many bonuses to having wild critters around to eat insects and such.  Never discount a potential protein source in your preps.