Progress?

July 1, 2017

I added a few more of the Balsam wood sachets to the crawl space area and we are no longer hearing the chewing sounds in the walls.  It seems to be working but it is still early days in this test.  Our trapped mouse count is way down, so at least we have caught most of young and dumb mice. Another section of the basement has been cleaned up and got rid of some of the cloth nesting areas removed.  I’m not sure if we are getting rid of  all mice but we have removed all of  easy access food sources, nesting materials and cleaned up with bleach to stop the mice runs and the poo the mice tend to leave everywhere they go.  As I am building/buying proper shelves and additional storage containers we are eliminating any mouse habitats and I have to say any food in buckets, totes and stored in the barrels have not been breached by mice.  Overall I think the balsam oil sachets are a good preventive measure and can help if you have a mouse infestation.  These sachets are a bit pricy but they do seem to be effective.   Using bleach solution/cleaner is also effective in disruppting the mouse runs along the walls and the mice don’t seem to like the bleach smell.  I like the Clorox brand urine odor remover that is good on all surfaces from fabic to wood to concrete.  This product has almost no odor and seems very effective eliminating urine odors.

Summer heat is comming on with a vengence this week so we need to protect some of the crops in the garden.  Light weight canvas painter clothes seem to a great job of protecting the plants.  Burlap also seems to do quite well protecting the crops.  Twenty dollar investment in cloth and stakes can prevent your crops getting burnt by the summer sun.   Remember you don’t want to block all sun just the high temp sun beating down in the afternoon.

In the Alley way garden I bought a few more Sedum plant called “hen &chicks”  that are spreaders.  My plan is the sedums will fix the soil and help choke out weeds.  I think the sunchokes and sedums are good plants to start with plantings.  The mulch is keeping most “nasty weeds” controlable and in time I can share out this solution to all my alleyway neighbors.  An alley way of sedum and sunchokes is much better than an alley way filled with “cheat” grass or goatheads/puncture vine.   All it takes is a bit of mulch and digging up the bad weeds.  Gosh I can  pull up thistle easily as the wood mulch makes weeds much easier to pull  and get roots.  If this planting works I will use the sedum to help choke out the morning glory in the front yard rose beds.  Gosh I hate Morning glory plants!

Plan of attack for next week: work the garden and yard in the cool AM and then attack the basement and indoor jobs when it gets very hot outdoors.  I have to say the little portable AC unit is doing an outstanding job keeping the front part of the house cool.

The dog anti-anxety  medicine seems effective though we have not had a lot of fire works shot off so far.  Tuicker the peke seems to be okay as long as the fireworks are intermittent and not so loud.   I agree with him and never served in a combat zone either.

 


We got one job finished! Calling in the exterminators.

June 27, 2017

I can officially state that the compost pile is complete and all off the materials have been moved into place and got a lot of water to get it building up some heat so it can break down the materials correctly.  I need to add in some more “browns” and will move a straw bale closer to the compost area to add to the pile easily.  Adding a straw layer should keep all unpleasant odors and bad bugs to a minimum.  I have to say I have not had a problem with odors even with the old Pallet compost pile.

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Using a leaf blower on your compost heap. Air or at least oxygen makes the compost heap work better. While it might be a pain/ require effort adding air to your heap is a good thing and almost as critical as adding water, browns or greens.  When you turn over a pile you are adding air. There is no reason you can’t use a leaf blower to add a bit of air to the heap.  I think it is a lot easier to use a blower to turn the compost heap rather than turning it by a fork, if you can be effective.

Mom got to use the weed wacker today along with a block of instruction. She knocked down the alley way weeds and I’m getting a lot of mulch on sale.  That thick layer of mulch should help keep the weeds under control as some puncture vine/goat heads are trying to creep into the beds.  The Sunchokes and sedums have done a good job as “good plants” that choke out the weeds but  I need to spread them along with more mulch out in the alley beds.  So far both plants have not spread but have just got thicker and bunched up.   The best way I think to explain how the sunchokes spread is like Iris flowers.  Like Irises they need to be thinned and replanted.  I would recommend using sunchokes if you have a hot/sunny area with poor soil and limited water as a great plant to help choke out weeds plus the plant roots/rhizomes are edible.  My sedums have done okay in the alley way garden but now they are getting expensive to buy as they are very popular with zeroscape/ drought tolerant landscapes.

Mice and bug problem is beyond us and we are getting some info on having in some exterminators.  I’ve added more tincat metal traps and sprayed down the outside of the house and much of the inside with bug barrier and we are still losing ground in this battle.  I’m still gathering info and quotes for the job to get done in July but so far it looks like the cost will be about $200.00.  I think if we get the critters stopped from breeding more critters for a couple of months, Mom and I can maintain getting rid of the critters!

Sometimes you just get overwhelmed and must call in the specialists for a problem.  I don’t there is anything wrong in spending money for pros if you have done your best and failed to correct the the problem.  I have really learned how important it is to store everything in good containers.  None of my food barrels, buckets or bins have been breached so I did that part of food storage correctly.  I failed when I put something in the basement and did not store it properly right away.   Add in a tough winter and you get an explosion of problems.  I’m not saying you should not have traps, pesticides and other ways of preventing any infestation.  Right now you can call in the pros to help get your home vermin free. Maintenance is a lot cheaper than trying to get rid of an infestation.


The new compost pile frame is done

June 23, 2017

I really screwed up on one measurement, actually my math.  I transposed a number measuring but it was not a big deal as I just cut the lumber to size and fixed my screw up.  So I have slightly smaller compost bin and a slightly larger bin which might work out okay overall.   The smaller bin ( honestly it less than 12 inches difference from the original plan)  will be the daily added to pile and the larger bin will the mix station / pull compost area.  The fence brackets made putting the bins together much easier plus having the new Ryobi drill made very quick work of drilling in the screws.   At this time the compost walls are not as “rigid” as I anticipated but I can easily add more support lumber as needed in the future

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The old compost pile walls.

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The new compost pile walls

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Much prettier than old compost pile pallet walls.

For this project I used pressure treated lumber as the basic framing and then cedar fencing boards to contain the the compost. My hope is the slats in the cedar fencing will allow plenty of air to the compost heap and discourage the bad bugs.  I learned a lot about basic construction though I did have a few fails during the process.  Theory is all well and good but after a certain point you must put theory into practice and learn from the mistakes you will make. Or at least the mistakes I make!

Don’t get me wrong you can build some great stuff using pallets.  I just did not know how to build stuff so I half assed  it and it showed!

Added in new plant to the corn beds.  I dropped the ball on planting heirloom corn this year so I planted some sweet corn in the new beds.   Mom loves sweet potato fries so we have added those plants to the new beds.  Will it work, I have no idea but if we get even a couple of pounds of sweet potatoes the plant is paid for and we will learn a new thing and that is priceless.

 

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Excellent shopping day

June 21, 2017

I got a great tool bargain at Home depot.  Rather than buying the drill and getting a free tool instead I bought the 18 volt drill + impact driver set for $99.00 and got the 10% vet discount! So the price was only $89.10 for both tools.  I got a 5/8 in. sheet of plywood cut into 2×8 ft.sections for $25.00 and add in eight, 1×3 inch boards to start the basement shelf building project.  At this time I’m working to re-enforce and add new shelves to an existing frame work hence the smaller dimensional lumber.

One thing I noticed today is the cashier at Home depot was sort of defensive or tried to explained that the 10% discount did not apply to all items.  I’m a disabled vet and I love how some companies give a vet discount but no company is required to give a discount to vets.  No cashier needs to be attacked if a vet discount is not applied.  If you don’t like the policy, write a letter to corporate or rant on the internet but, leave the cashier alone.

Most or the replacement garden veggies were available for the replacement plants that did not do great from my starts.  I bought some sweet corn, celery and sweet potatoes that Mom wants to try growing.  No luck so far with finding tomitillo plants but I know from last year those plant start off slow and then explode with growth so I have not given up hope yet!  The worst thing that can happen is that raised bed lies fallow and I build up the soil so it is not a bad situation.

This may sound a bit strange but I am more interested in learning how to grow a garden rather than what food a garden can produce.  Many people that never had a garden think growing a good garden is easy.  It is not easy at all and requires a lot of effort.  For me any veggies I get is a bonus, my focus is on building up a sustainable garden out of my own resources.  Learning to work with my land and then improve it as much as possible before the need to grow a garden is upon us.

It is very easy for a government to mandate everyone must grow a garden,  (ala Venezuela) for food but we all know that just tossing out a few seeds and hope for the best is a terrible way to grow a  good garden.

Thursday and Mom does not have a master gardeners BS class to go to so the plan of attack is trim up and perhaps cut down the dead cherry tree and finish up building the stuff needed for the properly built compost pile.  My carpentry skills/knowledge are mediocre at best but I have built a few simple things and now I can build “larger” simple projects.  I can’t say you can succeed on trying new project.  I can guarantee if you never try doing anything new you will fail.

 


Effective puttering today. Plus tool shopping!

June 19, 2017

We hit 96 degrees F. today here at Casa de Chaos.  I know it’s crazy how we have high temps in the desert in June but what can you do?   What I did is buy a small 8000 BTU portable A/C unit for under $200.00.  This little unit has really made the whole house much more comfortable even when it does not cool down at night.  I’ll be checking out our electrical usage but so far this June has been cool and wet compared to last year.  I love having many small A/C units as I can control my energy use/ cooling and heating by room or what I can afford to spend on energy.  Having the ability to create on warm room in winter or a cool room in summer gives you a lot of flexibility as a prepper.

A small 2000-3000 watt generator can run a small A/C unit.  Powering up a whole house A/C unit requires a large generator and lots of fuel.  A plus to using a few small A/C units is they are very easy to replace cost wise and if one unit dies you still have some cooling.   The prepper mantra is all about redundancy.  No one failure exposes you to total failure of your system.

Ryobi sale at Home depot! This a great sale for me as I love my Ryobi mister fan and  compact drill that has been awesome to use while making my firewood boxes and new compost frame work.  The sale is a buy one 18 volt drill and get another tool free sale and I’m getting the hammer drill.  I would have liked getting the fan if it charged batteries when  connected to 110 volt power.  Nope the fan is an either connect to the grid or use the battery.  I would have liked the battery powered sprayer but that was not an optional free tool.   I love how Ryobi has made most cordless tools compatible via the 18 volt interchangeable batteries and all inclusive battery chargers.  I have several old drills,    the Makita  and Dewalt are both 9.6 volt battery powered.  I choose the compact 9.6 volt Ryobi first on jobs and it has no problem going though a total of 6 inches of pressure treated lumber.  Now give me an 18 volt version add in a charger an impact hammer type drill and 2 batteries for under $100.00 I’m gonna jump on that sale!

Last but not least I finally fixed the screen door hydraulics for closing  the door. Most screen doors have a Hydraulic piston to close the door and mine got ripped out during a wind storm a few years back.  My reaction with the screen door is a bit different than I expected.  Don’t get me wrong I love the new set up but I got used to closing my screen door.  It feels a bit strange to have the door resist a bit on opening an close itself even though that is what I wanted !

Added in the Mulch along the walkways.  That is the downside of mulch walkways, replacing the mulch.  Of course if you are replacing mulch that means the mulch is breaking down and adding good stuff to the soil. Which is why I chose to mulch my backyard paths.

 

 


More cleanup hints and tips

June 18, 2017

It seems that we have made some progress on the mouse problem in the basement.  Ironically we now have a bit of a problem of the mice moving into the main floor and into the closet and bedroom areas.   In a way this is good news as it means we are starting to affect the mouse problem in the basement, downside is we have the mice coming up to the main floor.   I’m trying out some strategies for attacking the problem in the living areas.

  1. A lot more sticky traps are being laid out in the living areas.  While sticky traps are not reusable they are much safer than Snap-traps to use if you have pets, children or if your hand strength is a bit “iffy” because of a handicap.
  2. Adding more of the Tomcat traps for closets bedrooms and perhaps the attic.  These are very safe and effective traps even if you use a bit of grain for bait.  I’m going to get a small Snack pack size peanut butter from the local dollar store to be the bait for the new traps.
  3. The “Pet safe” mouse pellets were a bust!  We found 1 mouse that might have died via the pellets.  I recommend you buy a Tom cat trap instead of wasting your money on a bag of those pellets.
  4. The Balsam oil sachets did help with the odors and seemed to start moving mice out of  the basement.  I think the Fresh Cab Rodent repellent sachets are worth a try for getting rid of rodents and maybe a good preventative to help keep mice away.

Cleanup multi-taskers:

  1. The Clorox urine spray seems to work equally well on all animal urine odors and cleanup.
  2. Washing down the basement walls/floor with a mild bleach solution  (10 parts water to 1 part bleach) seems to disrupt the mouse trails as well as sanitize.  Plus it really helps get rid of the urine odor on hard surfaces at a low cost.
  3. I dropped the ball on this but a disinfectant spray is a great thing to use before you start clean up.  I did not even think about giving the dirty area a good spray down before I started my cleanup.  I had few can of this Lysol type disinfectant spray but only added it to day on the basement cleanup.

Things done this week:

I got the lawn mowed and added about 8 bags of mulch to the backyard walk areas.  Mom weeded the garden and got the grape vines cut back from the 3 sisters garden.

Re-organized a cabinet and sprayed down some bug barrier spray in the kitchen.

Plan for this week:

  • Get a Ryobi impact driver tool and perhaps fan that is rechargeable.
  • Finish up the compost bin walls and cut down a dead cherry tree.
  • Get wood delivered, stacked and covered so it can dry.
  • Finish cleaning up the basement food storage area.
  • Buy plywood for shelves in the basement buy paint to protect the wood shelves.

Gosh that is plenty to get done for a week.  Mom is focusing on getting her “community service hours” for her Master Gardeners class, so I’m going to be doing many jobs myself.  Don’t worry I’ll only start cutting the tree when I have Mom as backup.

I’ve been prepping for almost a decade and I still think of myself as a newbie to prep because I still make mistakes.  Mistakes are how I have learned on my little adventure.   Remember there is a very good chance you will screw up while you are learning and that is a good thing!  I really “SCREWED THE POOCH” on my basement storage.  No drama needed, I am just trying to correct my screw ups.  Learn from my mistakes and save time, effort and money on your prepping adventure.


Tools and stuff I using for cleanup. Another cheap solar solution

June 12, 2017

This winter I bought a large 5 gallon shop vac for dealing with the flooding in my shop.  With the addition of some bags and some brush tools the vac works great for getting up the mouse droppings, plus we don’t have to worry about the dust or spreading anything via the shop vac exhaust.  I have a small 1.5 gallon Shop vac that has worked out great cleaning the laundry area and closets where the big shop vac is difficult to maneuver around in tight quarters.  My only complaint about the Shop vacs is the power cords are too short and I have to use an extension cord for almost every job. I don’t think using your regular vacuum to clean up a vermin infestation is a good idea.  Save that house vacuum for your everyday cleaning chores and get a cheap shop vac for around $20.00-$60.00 depending on the size and features.

Cleaning off the existing shelves I have been using a “Shop brush” ($2.00 Harbor Freight) and an oversized dust pan ($1.00) Dollar Tree.  These tools work great for cleaning  shelves that have open areas between the slats.  You can place some newspaper below the shelf and just sweep everything onto the paper or into the oversized dust pan.   I am looking into building some of my shelves with smaller 1×2 or 1×3 and painting all shelves with a semi-gloss paint so they will not absorb odors and will be easy to clean in the future.

Cleaning solutions:  The Clorox urine remover is working out great! I bought a spray bottle to try it out ($5.00 Lowe’s)  but I will be buying the large jug ($13.00 Lowe’s) for my cleaning supply.  What I like most is this cleaner works on all surfaces and has not bleached or discolored my furniture or carpets.  I’m using a mild bleach solution to clean the cement/concrete wall of my basement area. The mice don’t seem to care for bleach solution or it disrupts the scent pathways they establish.   Mom and I are cleaning the buckets with the mild bleach solution and so far we have not found any mouse dropping on those cleaned buckets.  The basement is smelling better overall and in the area we have cleaned still smells clean after 5 days.

Traps:  Tom, I have added one of those Victor Tin cat traps in the basement and using a bit of grain rather than peanut butter as bait. In the last four days we have caught 10 adult mice.  I’m using a lot of sticky traps in the house as Snap traps are difficult for me to set and use.  Heck even the local Dollar store has those sticky traps though it may take laying out the traps in groups of 2 or 3  traps to catch the mice, they do work.  One thing I have learned about sticky traps the more surface area the trap has the better it works for catching mice.   Over all I think the Tomcat metal re-usable traps are a better solution for a prepper.  I think adding sticky traps when you find them on sale are great and should be added to preps.

Last but not least clean up item, construction grade trash bags.  These bags have a heavy mil of 2-6 depending on on what you buy and are great multi-taskers.  This last winter we did not have trash pickup for over 6 weeks.   I do have a bit of an advantage with the wood stove to burn most paper trash.  While I had extra cans on hand for trash I was ready with those super thick bags to hold trash. I live in a small city and if my neighbors don’t contain trash properly the vermin will affect me and not just them.

Okay now the fun shopping stuff for the day.  I bought a small under counter LED light that runs on rechargeable batteries for $20.00 at Home Depot.  What is great,  is the light is recharged via a USB cable and all of my power packs and my fold able 15 watt solar panel has USB connection for power.  This a great way for me to start a solar powered light system for the kitchen via a solar panel/ power pack but still can be recharged via the electric company’s outlets.  No direct wiring is need to install  this little LED lamp. You don’t need a large solar array to take advantage of solar energy.  A small solar panel system that charges a small battery bank can be a great start.   I have a small power pack that that can jump a dead car battery though I have not tested it for charging via my little solar panel.  As soon as the sun comes out in SW Idaho I will test it out.

I forgot I’m adding a bug barrier insecticide as we clean the basement.  I’m not sure how the insecticide is working but I do have a great system of battery powered pump sprayer now. I think it is helping but it is early days of testing.