Thursday, November 20, 2014

Autumn Mayhem

I decided to order my self 5 apple trees, 4 blueberry bushes, 2 black berries, 2 raspberries, and 1 muscadine from the FFA through the local ag extension. I also bought a Granny Smith apple tree at Ingles, and 3 cranberry bushes from Park's. The weekend the FFA stuff arrived I also adopted a hound/pointer mix. Don't ask me why I do these things. Where am I going to plant all this stuff? And how?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It Just Keeps Getting Better

I haven't blogged in a while. I've been too busy making a right mess of things around the yard and in the house for that. A home full of unfinished projects, that's the hallmark of bipolar disorder, or ADHD. Whatever. Today I just had to go hacking away at that damp tree stump sitting right on top of the septic pipe, and wouldn't you know I banged a hole in it. Only the pipe wasn't cast iron like I thought. More of that asphalt shingle stuff I've been finding in chunks around the yard. So I plugged it for now with clay and put a rock on it. Lame I know. So I did some more research. I've had to reasearch so much since I bought this place to figure out what all this old stuff is. Turns out the pipe running to the septic is referred to as Orangeburg pipe. And it's just layers if paper, pitch, and my old friend asbestos again. It's was popular as a cheap alternative to cast iron from the 50's-70's, and failing in yards all over the country. You can only imagine my excitement over this latest discovery.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

HVAC Mahem

I can't sleep, but what's done is done. Monetary loss later. Was it worth it. I'm not sure. We just sunk an uncomfortable amount of money into an HVAC revamp. I'm not sure how much was really needed. It all started with the 31 year old furnace paired to a 3 year old AC unit. Heating and cooling wise the house stayed comfortable. Met what ever demands we put on it. We demand a lot. A constant temp of around 70 degrees F. The utilities want you to set your stuff at 78 in summer and 65 in winter, so basically, don't ever run your stuff. I suppose where I live, I might just be able to do that. But the house would get humid. I'm second guessing our decision to replace the ducts and switch from a propane furnace to a heat pump. If the utility bills drop enough, maybe it will have been worth it. But my logic keeps going back to the same formula I run for every investment in this house. It's a tiny house. So putting a HE new HVAC system on it, doesn't negate the fact that it's still a tiny cottage of a house and only is of interest to a niche market. It's like putting a fancy HVAC system on a trailer. I guess if we live here long enough, then it was for our own comfort and that's OK.
It was a difficult decision. The AC was new but the furnace was not and was leaking carbon monoxide into the house. Plus, it's set up some how passed the code inspection, but is not up to code. Welcome to Podunk.
The cheapest thing would be to just replace the old furnace with a new HE furnace.
But the ducts where half unwrapped and 30% air leakage, not that 30% is really terrible. I read most new houses test at 30%. I wasn't sure what state the ducts where in. I did know that animals had been nesting in it. So it seemed like they where dirty, and had gaps.
We where told it would be cheaper, and maybe required to replace the ducts with new ones up to code. We went with a company who advertises being efficiency focused. Still, the new ducts still tested at 13% but, one vent wasn't fully covered, so maybe more like 8-10%. Is that good?
The new unit is gigantic, I wish they would have mentioned that, and asked if I might want it in a different spot, I would have said, "Yes." It's a 4'x3' eye sore. How am I going to hide it? It's ruining the esthetics of the little country house, with the big ass AC unit. Sigh.
I had kept saying maybe we should go with a lesser unit, less SEERS, maybe new ducts and an HE furnace. It's so hard to say. Because you don't know how each scenario will play out until you're in it. Know we have a new AC unit in our shed, and 250 gallons of propane. I feel, that maybe we made another hasty decision. We have a carbon monoxide detector. We could have at least used up the propane.
So what the hell happened? I guess we got tired of thinking about it, tired of estimates. Wanted to get it taken care of already. It's nice to have new ducts, but on a house with a foundation issue, pillar post beetle and termite damage, and wood rot, maybe we sunk our money into the wrong thing.
It's another reason I want to get away from these things all together.
Just do simple stuff, window unit, wood stove, no lawn.
I'll never be able to replace the money we just spent. And I just don't think it's going to increase the resale value of the home that much.
Not with that gigantic gray eyesore outside in plain sight, next to the drive way.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

LED Color Temps

Urgh, so I obviously don't know anything about LED lights. I had picked out some to try, but picked a "daylight" spectrum, thinking it would be warmer. I don't know what the heck I was thinking. I obviously don't understand the color temp numbers. I just received my solar motion light to try out, and the box clearly explains the color temps:
2700K-3000K = Warm White
3000K-4500K = Bright White
4500K-6500K = Daylight

Sure, I should remember color temps from film school, but that was a long time ago, and I wasn't listening.
So, what am I working with here? Looks like I requested 5000K bulbs. Yikes, it's gonna be like the climax of Close Encounters of the LED kind in here. Or, "Interrogation City"
There is a 2700K bulb, but I don't think it was being offered for trials. Yes, had I'd seen some labeled, "soft white" I would have chosen them, I think. The incandescents in my 8 recessed lights are "soft white", but 2 are like having the sun 3 feet from your face. I'm just like, "What's up?!"
Dimmer switches would be nice, but be advised for LED and those hotter than hell CFL lights, you need a special, and pricey dimmer.
At this point, from what I've seen, it seems like the wealthy are the only ones who can afford to offset their HVAC and electrical bills and implement green technology. Which led me to a scary thought. What if soon only the wealthy will have power, via solar and expensive tech, and the rest of us will be back to oil lamps and outhouses?
That would stink. Get it?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Case of the Swollen Door(s)

So we've been dealing with an interesting, or annoying phenomenon, pretty much since we bought the house. The front door and master bedroom door sticks. But about a month or so ago, the front door swelled so much that I almost couldn't open it. I've sanded both doors down, but they would just start sticking again. Then, a couple weeks ago, we got an estimate on our ductwork, while the tech was in our crawl, he noticed that we had a broken pipe, and a large pool of water.
Basically all the water from the house, accept the toilet and washer, was pouring into the crawl.
So, my husband donned my hazmat suit and shimmied under the house and re-cemented the pipes together. One pipe is a little too long and needs to be trimmed, because it's causing the joint to not fit properly. It could come apart again. This is why I'd rather do this stuff my self, look at the results when you PAY supposed PROFESSIONALS? Well, I didn't pay for the pipes, the previous owner did. I'm not sure how long the pipe has been broken, but we noticed a month or so ago, that the drainage fields had long deep cracks running their entire length. We thought it was maybe because of the hot dry weather. But it was most likely because there wasn't anything draining out into the field.
Also, a few days after my husband fixed the pipe, the front door now opens and shuts like a normal door! And the master bedroom door isn't sticking as much now either. My mom thought maybe it's because he fixed the pipe. There was literally a small pond under our house and that's a lot of moisture. There's already a moisture issue because of the sweaty ducts. But nothing like having around 150-200 gallons of water a day. That's a worst case scenario of 3 showers @ 40 gallons each, 1 dishwasher load @ 15 gallons, using the sink to wash dishes, and my daughter having a bath. I didn't include tooth brushing. I found a chart here: How Much Water? Basically, there was ALOT of water dumping into the crawlspace. It was as if our crawl had become a gray water holder, which I have thought about diverting gray water for using in the garden. But not like this. Really puts water usage into perspective.

Summer Slump

I don't know why, but I've hit some sort of summer slump. Maybe it's because you need money to do anything and everything. Maybe I'm being too thrifty. I don't know. I feel paralyzed, when it comes to money for some reason.
Anyway, It's July, it's pretty humid, and I have all these incomplete projects all over the house and yard. ADHD, and low energy anyone? I'll go out and toil for a little while, but that's about it. All the stuff that I feel "needs doin'" is getting to me. I can't even pick out paint colors without agony. Will I make the bathroom feel too small? There's pros and cons to this layout. It's openness helps the house feel a little larger, but that means you can see all the rooms all at the same time. So individual colors per room can start to looks wacky. I have no clue.
My current, large project, is coming up with a patio scheme to give us additional living space outside.
I've already trimmed down the ALL the shrubs that are next to the house. When fall comes, I will attempt to dig them up and move them to a better location. I don't want ANY shrubs near the house and I need to grade the dirt away at 10% for 10'. Or 1 inch every foot. PLUS we need gutter, ASAP, all the lower boards on the exterior are rotting. Add that to the laundry list of "needs" and I really feel the fool for purchasing this tiny money pit. I really think I over paid. The furnace needs to be replaced and the duct work needs to be either repaired, rewrapped, or replaced. Plus, to bring the home up to date it would be best to convert it to a heat pump. But the previous owner put in a new AC but kept the 29 year old furnace? We had no representation. Honestly, when buying a house you really can't trust anyone involved. It's sad. But that's the truth. But here we are. So I need to run 85' of gutter, need maybe 6 downspouts? There's so much reading to do, from how to put in a patio, to how to install downspouts. It's more than I'd care to know right now, but there it all is, staring me in the face. I need to vent the bathroom out the roof too, now that I'm looking at this photo. More reading. 
So, imagine if you will, this back part of the house with out these scraggly gardenia's. It's actually made the space feel pretty huge. I just saw a pergola idea on "I Hate My Yard", that was attaches to a house with a similar shape. I am thinking a pergola, either in the middle, or the entire length of the back. The patio shape is still evolving. It started as a simple square in the middle, but now I think it should span the entire length. Do I want to continue the formal rectangular language of the house? Or do I want it to kind of soil lout into the yard, and implement the river stone. 
My hope is to make the landscape mote cohesive and united. Flowing from front to back, inside and out. I'm pipe dreaming big time. Considering all I have to work with is a shovel, and myself. I will need to rent a bush hog, or bobcat this fall to remove some stubborn brush and stumps. 
It could be that having a house and property is too much for me. It's causing me a lot of anxiety and gives me a helpless feeling. Here a list of needs doin' :
SW corner needs jacks
Vent Bath outside
rewrap, repair, or replace ductwork
replace furnace
replace 20 missing feet of drip ledge on the back soffit 
remove bradford pears and replace with pine or native hardwoods 1-4 acres
bushhog brambles and Japanese honeysuckle patch .25 acre
remove dying pine trees 2-3 large dead loblollies 
grade the dirt around the house to 10% extending 10 feet
fix the weird wiring situation for the pump house
Contact Ag Department about land stewardship options
Contact DNR about the ever growing gully behind the property
Prep large garden and fence it in
Build a hoop tunnel
dig my own pool
dig my own grave
Repair walk cracks in kitchen and living room and repaint 
And then there's the shed 
What to do about the shed?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Small House, Big Problems

How much could maintaing a 1082 sqft house possible cost us. Uh, a lot. Our realtor was anxious to get her Christmas Money, and our home inspector was a joke, add to that our ignorance, and viola! We bought the house knowing the furnace was old but didn't think to much into the duct work in the almost un-navigatable crawlspace. We've been trying to get estimate to replace the furnace with a heat pump or HE furnace, plus rewrap/replace the ducts. Either people come out and never call us back, or just plain don't show up for the appointment at all. One company that had the nerve to come out for an estimate and didn't call us back, claimed to be a "Christian" organization. I hate when people use Jesus to sell stuff. I guess we're out in it now, aren't we.
So I'm brain storming. What are some creative, perhaps off-grid options for us? Our current AC unit is only 3 years old, so getting rid of it to convert to a heat pump might be kind of wasteful. The issue is with the furnace, it's 31 years old and has a cracked heat exchange and is leaking carbon monoxide into the house, just a tad. I don't think it's fixable.
This post is mostly brain storming options.
1. Just use the fire place
Well, it was built without a permit and cellulose has drifted into the fire box. I can dam it off and get the cellulose out. That's a easy fix. Fire places are smoke, dirty, and inefficient. Is there a better way?
2. Space heater?
3. Window AC unit only?
4. re-wrap and mastic/seal the ducts ourselves.
Just need a babysitter, or a little hazmat suit, and mask for our daughter

In thinking about not heating and cooling the entire home, I wonder if this would aggravate the failing paint situation I already dealt with this past winter. I think the seller did not live in the house for the 6-8 months it was on the market, and therefore did not run the HVAC system. This causes wide temperature and moisture fluctuations, which can cause paint to peel, for one thing.
So maybe going backwards with the HVAC setup isn't what I want to do. Plus, I want to improve the resale value, if I can, not turn this place into a hobo shack. Yes, my current, and slow paced landscaped projects might suggest otherwise. But I want to make this place better than how I got it, AND eliminate any trace of the previous owner. Since he pissed me off so bad.
So that leaves getting under the house and rewrapping and sealing it ourselves. Not the most pleasant idea, but there it is. My husband just had to go under there to re-glue a pipe that popped apart from a joint that wasn't glued right, or has to much pressure on it. Basically, our crawl was a grey water space for some time. The drainage field dried out and began cracking too. Derp. We thought it was the drought, no, there was no water going into the septic. Oops.

Well, here's hoping we get the HVAC squared away by November.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Big Dreams of Tiny Houses

Maybe it was just PMS, but I got really emotional over the Tiny documentary last week. I had originally watched it with my mom a few weeks ago, and found myself re-watching it a few times last week, and really, "getting it". I'll probably watch it again. I think for me, I just really like the idea of building a completely self sustaining, mobile, little house. Plus, the style that Shafer designed are just so darn cute. Like tiny little slices of Scandinavian bliss. I have no design ideas, so I need I'll most like copy one of his, to avoid building an ugly shed on wheels. I already have two ugly sheds staring me in the face every day. I don't need another one!
The tiny houses also remind me of when I sued to live out of my sleeper cab as a trucker. Only I didn't have lovely finishes, a sink, a stove, a shower, ect. But I do know how it is to live simply, out of something not much bigger than you. And it can be cozy, and it can be claustrophobic. When living in a truck, you're usually parked in an area that would make wandering off for a walk, a little tricky, or down right dangerous. Or, I often would drive past life happening, like hiking trails next to rivers in Idaho, and Pennsylvania. I don't exactly miss living humbly out of my truck. The loneliness and boredom resulted in a lot of retail indulging.
Now I live in a small house, and I shouldn't consider myself less a person for living in more than 200 square feet of space. Just like I don't think any different of people who live in a fancy shed. The Tiny House movement has become almost a strict religious experience for some. I read a review for a book by a Tiny Houser, and the reviewer was criticizing the author for building a 1500 sqft home. But the author and family decided to live in a tiny house for a while to get out of debt and regroup. Now it's becoming, with some, a case of who can go smallest? Not me, I'm at 1082, and there are times when I'm wishing for another room to hide in. I was going outside for some peace, but it's high summer, and the cacophony of crickets and locusts is worse than the ringing in my ears that I'm fleeing outside to mend. It's a small farm house, built in 1943. It has an open format, so we are all essentially together all the time. So this is good and bad. Just depends. I like our Wee house, and I'm working to create some outside living space to help increase the living space. Even if it's only psychological. These types of projects are slow going though. With just a shovel, and myself to work with, and no budget. Currently the yard looks like some one got drunk and rented a back hoe and had some crazy fun. No, it's just me, with my ADD, working on multiple projects at once.
It's time like these, when I'm trying desperately to dig the Georgia clay, to level out the yard, sweating like a ferrel hog, and getting no where, that I can see the perks of a tiny house. I still want to build one. For the experience of building something myself, and to have a tiny little house to retreat into, or  refuge in if we have power outages. I think they're really cool, and if I was single, I'd live in one today!  But as a family of 3, we'd need 3 of those, one for each of use, and at $30-60K per tiny house, that would add up quick. So for now I will dwell in my small house, and think about solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, LED lights, organic gardening, and maybe building a tiny house over time. I still got that huge ugly shed to address.
My take away from the Tiny doc, for me, is don't worry so much about house stuff, try not to let the house own you, and don't hang onto stuff, if there's an empty space, let it be empty, don't fill it with stuff, and don't engage in retail therapy. Which our new budget had nipped. Also, don't feel like less of a person, just because I have 2 pants and a few shirts. That's all I need, because I don't go anywhere. I just need an outfit for going into public with. And don't buy clothes I don't normally wear, that included shoes. I'll just feel weird when I try to put them on to go to the store, and then I'll never wear them, and they'll just sit in the closet, and back at Goodwill where they came from. I'm a plain sorta person. I just like my jeans, my running shoes or flips, my T-shirts, and my pink and grey rain jacket. Some one once asked, "why don't we you buy ourselves some new clothes?", because we'd been wearing the same ones for a while. Well, because there's nothing wrong with the ones I'm wearing. I get a lot of hand me downs. Like I'm the pre-stop before Goodwill. I don't care, sometimes I get a goodie out of it. In return I complete the cycle.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

LED Lighting

Look, I'm not exactly a fan of LED lights, especially no at Christmas. LED Christmas lights give me the sensation that I'm about to have a seizure (they blink you know). I'd actually be interested to see the research on that. Anyway, I read that LED lights for recessed lighting is a good alternative because they don't produce heat. Currently I have 8 can lights that reach at least 215 degrees each. I notice the heat, because dugong the day I don't have any lights on and the temp at 72 (that's warm for me) the house feels nice and cool. When it gets dark I switch on the lights in the kitchen which is 4 can lights. I begin to notice that it's feeling warm in the house and turn down the temp. Our house was rewired by the previous occupant without a permit, they seemed to have done it up to code, but the lighting and outlet situation is still a little weird. You choice is either all the lights on or none. It would be nice if the 4 lights where divided into two. I also need to install a dimmer. I don't need these things on full blast all the time.
I've been given the opportunity to try out some LED lights for free and thought why not? Have you noticed how expensive these things are?! I chose a generic brand to get more lights. They received good reviews. I also chose them in a daylight 5000K spectrum, because I already know how cold and interrogating the regular LED lights can be. So I'm trying to avoid this.
I'm waiting for the products to arrive so I can see if it's worth making the switch.
They try to boast a $600 savings over 18 years with 3 daily use. Who only has their lights on for 3 hours? Some of the lights are for my all night porch light. Plus $600/18 = $33 a year if you only have them on for 3 hours. I guess if you run them longer you save more? The whole point of this experiment is to determine:
1. Are the new LED lights comparable to incandescent
2. Will they hum with a dimmer switch?
3. Will I see a noticeable difference in my electric bill?
4. Will it lower the temperature in the rooms with can lighting?

You might be asking, why not just get lamps? Well, I hate lamps, but more than that, our house is small, so I don't want lamps. Also, I'm in practice for one day switching over to solar. So it's good to test the more energy friendly lighting out beforehand. It's going to be a long time, if ever before I can do solar. I'm planning on either converting the large shed into another livable unit, or building a tiny house with solar, ect. These lights will find a home somewhere. Even if it's the garage.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

When You Buy a Home in the Country......Expect the Unexpected

It would have been nice if Joseph had gone ahead and let us know that the power for the pump house, for what ever reason, runs over to the out building, through the out building, and then over to the pump house. It pretty much runs around the entire yard before finding it's way to the pump house to power our well. But let me back up. When ever I dig outside I'm always finding random wiring and lots of glass, and rusty nails. Some wiring is old and just sticking out of the ground, uncapped. The other day, while working on grading the back, I dug up a wire. I discovered that it's the wire that comes out from the laundry room, and runs straight into the side wall of the out buildings, where it is connected to a junction box. We figured, they where just trying to run power off the house to the shed without having to pay the separate metering service. So today my husband decides at the height of day, and after I've only slept a few hours, to start making a huge racket with the tool box and commence work on disconnecting the wire, which was harmlessly exposed above the dirt. To be fair, it was only buried 1" under the ground, not 12" like it 's supposed to be. But is anything as it's supposed to be out here? Oh and it's 93 degrees out, and full sun. The perfect time of day to start a project of this nature, don't you think? So he fools around with the wire for an hour, and when he finally cuts and yanks it all out, and turns the power on, no water. In fact, while he was working I tried to water my garden and had no water. I said do I no have water because the power's off? This should have been a clue for us. Then I remembered digging up a wire heading from the pump house towards the out building in a different direction while digging up that stupid ornamental grass heap. Now it all makes sense, but now we have no water anywhere! I'm up before I'm ready, can't make coffee, it's hot out, my "don't know when to stop" husband is out there trying to rewire the pump back the way it was, and I'm trying to figure out why the hell the pump is wired via the stupid out building?! I hate this country rigged crap. I'll have to dig up the other wire, yank it all out from the out building and run a line straight to the pump house from the house. Geez, why is everything so complicated when idiots run wiring? It would have been nice if Joseph had mentions this schematic, since him and his daddy, who thinks he's an electrician rewired the entire house without permit! Don't get me started.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

More toiling in the back garden

Planted all 4 varieties of corn, 3 varieties of cucumbers, 1 early summer squash, and 1 zucchini

Friday, June 27, 2014

How Not to Stay on Top of Things

What do you get when a girl with ADHD purchases 10 acres with hopes of turning it into an off the grid organic homestead? A big mess. And a lot of unfinished projects. Maybe I should take focus meds, but I hate the drug industry. Anyway, Monday they are going to have a tax lean auction on the neighbor's property. I was supposed to call today to see if they where able to pay their taxes on the property. I kind of forgot. Maybe it's because buying people's properties out from under them is not exactly my forte or life mission. I am concerned about the land falling into the hands of a developer and next it's neighborville over there. I want to keep my neighbor's to trees and 4 head stones.
I wrote the owner a letter asking if they would be interested in selling some of the adjoining property to us, but I haven't heard from them yet.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When I Grow Up, What Kind of Farmer will I Be?

Seems like in Morgan county, people have one of three things, horses, cattle, or goats. Or they grow hay, wheat, or corn. Though, I did come upon a charming field divider of short golden sunflowers. It was so charming. There's something magical about this area. I can't quite put my finger on it. But I'm happy to be here. Which is a miracle in and of itself, if you've ever read my other blogs, i.e. Walking Out of Darkness. So what about me? I've got 10 newly acquired acres, with 37 next to me possibly being auctioned as a tax lean this Monday. What should I do with my land? Tillage, range, forestry, orchard, a hybrid of various uses, or nothing at all. This first year is what I call the, "Get to Know You" period on my land. Apparently it's what an old farmer would do, where a new farmer might just get down into it. This strategy comes from budget constraints, and instinct. I need to understand the land, what it's doing, what's been done to it, and what it can or can't do.  

Water Games

You would think by my age, and with my amount of gardening experience (circa '87) that watering would be a no brainer for me. But no. I'm guilty of either over watering or under watering. I noticed a mid-day wilt happening in my herb and outhouse garden. I thought it was heat. I usually just sprinkle my plants a little every day. But I don't think it's saturating the crumbly clay soil. So I accidentally left the sprinkler on my outhouse garden for 20 minutes. I noticed that for the next 4 days my garden didn't wilt. But today it was wily again. So, yes this is probably so obvious, I need to do a deep watering at least every 3-4 days. Still, I thought a more even watering pattern was better for plants. I've also bought a 50' soaker hose to employ. Still, considering the fact that I didn't get to amend the soil as much as I would like to this season. Everything seems to be growing nicely, all be it slowly. I'm still waiting on my first tomato, and zucchini. And my watermelon have no interest in growing for some reason. The only other issue I seem to be having is with my peach tree and blackberry transplants. The peach trees are developing yellow leaves, and the blackberry doesn't seem too happy either.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Second Longest Day of the Year

We've reached the first "official" day of summer, but the heat has been well under way since the start of June. These are the kiddie pool, and water fight days of summer. Necessary in order to survive the coming dog days, that my father in law so eloquently outlines in his poem. I'll post it for you when the dog days arrive July 3rd. 
My test plots haven't yeilded abountiful  harvest, but they have produced. So far I've had a few tasty strawberries, some delicious green beans, and Cherokee wax beans that my daughter quickly scarfs down. This is the whole point you see. To grow the foods we love, free of GMO, and pesticide activities. 
The first plot to spring forth was the herb garden. It's starting to get a little tired of its SW exposure. And the plants are showing signs of mineral deficiencies. So I added organic fertilizer, which smells like freeze dried cat poop. I'll just have to see if that helps. 
The next plot to show signs of life is the, "Pump house/Outhouse" plot. I originally was only going to plant wildflowers around it. But my love for edibles snuck in, and soon there was a variety of corn, squash, watermelon, and mustards in place. It does give the pump house a victory garden look. This plot had been looking really tired from the heat, so yesterday I let the sprinkler soak them for a while, and today they didn't even wilt in the sun. I need a soaker hose. I'm still learning.
The third plot is the SW corner plot in the yard. It's pretty close to a dying black walnut. So? You say. Well, apparently black walnuts produce a toxin called jugalone, that prevents other trees and certain vegetables like tomatoes from growing too close to it. It makes it's own Jugalos? Yes.
Lastly we have the 3 peach trees in place, 1 muscadine, and 1 Arapaho blackberry bush planted. As well as a few large bramble patches ripening, and a fig tree that I cleared around, pruned, and is setting figs. There is also 1 wild persimmon tree that is setting fruit too. As well as a few black cherry trees, but those cherries where too sour for me. The dewberries are ready, but most are in the neighboring property. The red mulberry tree gave me a nice little harvest that I froze and made jam with.
The nut trees are pecan, and bkack walnut. There are 7 pecans, and 3 black walnuts. All the pecans appear to be setting, but only 1 of the 3 black walnuts is holding onto it's, err, nuts, if you will. The other 2 are hollow, yet leafed, and started producing, but are now regularly dropping immature nuts all over the place. That's too bad. Black walnut trees are pretty valuable. So I'll have to focus on the young healthy one that is left. The ramains of a 4th black walnut lay near the barn in rotting sections. What a waste!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Height of Summer

This is the height of summer. I love this time of year. And this year I get to spend summer in the way I'm accustomed to, in a big green yard. And I am blessed, I can't put it any other way because I've gone from having no yard, tiny strips of dirt with barely any sun, or sweltering balconies with only 4-6 hours of day light, to 10 acres of trees and grass for me to play in. And this summer has really been a reliving of some of my happiest things from my childhood in Wisconsin. Grass feilds, rolling meadows with cows, hot days, with cool nights, oak trees, hot weather followed by a stormy cold front. It's just been so nice so far.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Tree

I've discovered that I have a Mulberry tree in my yard, and another on my property. I think mine is a non-native white mulberry, and possibly an invasive tree. But, It's a fruit tree, so it's not going anywhere. I'm actually very happy to have a Mulberry tree of my very own. It reminds me of home in the midwest. I used to call them raspberry trees as a kid. I remember the first time I saw one. I was going for a walk outside while visiting a friend who lived in an old house on the not so glamorous end of Washington St. in Oshkosh. We came apron what looked like lots of long raspberries on the side walk beneath a tree. I stopped, wanted to know where they came from. When we figured out it was from thee tree, I asked if we could eat them. My friend didn't think so, but I thought, since they looked like raspberries, they must be edible. So I ate them, but my friend was to afraid. I'm still alive and happy to be gathering up the raspberries dropped from my little friend in the corner of my yard.  Plus, it's not like the damn bradford pears and privet that really take over. I've decided, since I don't have any jam in the fridge, to make my own Mulberry jam. Why not? I love jam.

Mulberry Jam
Basic Recipe:
2 1/2 cups of Mulberries
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tblspns water

Some recipes also call for lemon, pectin, and nutmeg.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Filling the Hummingbird Feeders

The previous owner left a few humming bird feeders in the trees and today I'm going to refill them. Here's an easy recipe and link from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center:

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
1 part sugar
4 parts water
bring to boil to kill any germs or bacteria
let cool and fill feeders
Red dye should NOT be added

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Getting Started in Agriculture

I've enrolled myself in a free online beginner agriculture program through North Carolina's National Center for Appropriate Technology, and through start2farm. I think I meandered my way to it through the Madison-Morgan Conservancy of all things, while researching the Nolan House. The website also had farming information which lead me to these online programs. Pretty neat. I like free stuff.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Still Angry

I keep going back and forth in my mind about the fact the the seller didn't have permits to do some major stuff in the house. Therefore he lied on the disclosure, which is fraud. The fireplace is a rooting mess. It would be nice if, since he didn't have the permits to put one in, that he should pay to remove it. But really, what would I rather be using my money for? Proving a point? Or doing needed stuff around here. So there you have it. Enjoy my latest podcast on Spreaker!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What is really needed is a dry crawlspace instillation, and sealing the sill plates. I can crawl under there and seal the sill, but the dry crawl, might be too much money for us to do at this point. I can also add soffit vents, exhaust the bath outside, and even upgrade it to be used as a whole house exhaust. We are planning to replace our furnace with a heat pump and move the ductwork into the attic. These modifications may help improve the moisture issue. Our house is currently around 60% which is the highest you want. Above that the conditions area created for mold. Your home should be between 40-60%. The weird thing that happens is after we've been running the AC and then we need to run the furnace for what ever reason. Steam comes out of the vent and steams up the windows. The other night the system was on cool, and it was cold out and nothing was running and the house got down to 64 degrees and the bedroom we are in at the moment smelled like dirty laundry, and the humidity was at 74% when I turned on the heat, it shot up to 84%, then slowly dropped back down. So it's a double edge sword. To keep the house around 50% either the heat or AC has to be running regularly. That's not efficient, or cost effective. Our house sits in an ungraded foundation. Ungraded, being that there's a hill under the kitchen that almost touches the floor. I don't know if this was there at the time of construction, or if there was a flood at some point. The crawl is only about 24" high. In some places the ductwork is sitting on the ground. Gross. A lot of the duct insulation has been torn off and used as nesting material in the ducts themselves. I found one nest in the air return, and one in the vent in the kitchen. There's probably more. Some where along the duct there's an opening for vernon to get into. Or they're entering from the furnace or evaporator coil itself. Our furnace is in a grotesque house attached to the exterior wall of the house.
 The opens for the vent ducts are rectangles cut into the exterior of the house, with no attempts to seal the opening. So it would be easy for vermin to get into the duct work from the house. I really want to get rid of the rotting creep shack, remove the ducts from the crawl, seal the duct entries, and move it all into the attic. I'm currently working to chisel down the chimney which almost touches the roof. The chimney itself is a moisture wick from the crawlspace. I had noticed a moldy smell coming from the dividing wall between our rooms. I was able to look in the wall where they added a cable jack. But I didn't see anything. After some research I read an article about an old chimney causing mold, and paint failure due to it being a moisture wick. When it snowed the snow melted on the roof above the chimney and above the two places where the facia was gapped and had rotted a little. I'm pretty sure the chimney goes down to the crawl because the home used to have a floor furnace that vented out through it. Small house, with big problems. I'm hoping that if I reduce the chimney down and cap it, that it will solve that problem. Although, it will still be wicking moisture from the crawl. At least right now it's somewhat venting out through the ridge vent. Maybe I need to think about what I'm doing.
Gutters, heat pump, and a dry crawl would do this house a world of good. With out gutters and a dry crawl, it's going to continue to rot. Is it worth saving. Sometimes I just don't know. The house is sitting on compacted red clay that in places goes down at least 20 feet. Judging from what I saw at the gully. Clay is hold a lot of nutrients and water. I don't need to dig very far before I hit moist clay. Even if it hasn't rained in a while. Now that Georgia isn't in a drought, the gardenia's are turning yellow, and the paint is peeling off the walls. The house is basically sitting on one big moist terra cotta pot. It's just perpetually damp. I read that a 1000 sqft. crawl will release about 10 gallons of moister per day. Well that explains a lot. This isn't Arizona either. This is moist Georgia clay. I could make pottery out of this stuff, or a new house made entry out of cob. I just might do both. I'm actually gathering clay as I grade the yard. Here's what I can do right now. Grade the yard away from the house 1 inch per foot for at least 10 feet. Add gutters, and extend the downspout away from the house at least 10 feet. Or into my rain barrels. I'm not sure if we'll ever be able to add a dry crawl. If the crawl wasn't so low and damn scary, I'd have gone in there already and sealed the sill. The crawl is only about 24" in a good place, and 2" in the kitchen. When you build a crawl this low and you think you might ever want to venture in there, you're now going to need a chihuahua, or a primordial dwarf. I would love to rase the foundation, poor new footers, elevate the crawl to 3.5 feet, add a dry crawl, and really clean this place up. I guess if the paint in the master fails again, we might need to consider it. Plus, is the house still sinking southward? On the front of the house under the bedroom it's like the home is tilting towards the back and the sill plate is almost exposed. It has termite damage. Plus the bottom board of siding is rotted and ready to break off. The inspector missed that. As long as most of the sill plate is damage free then it's OK, but if most of the sill plate has termite damage, then we're talking terms of, "Just bulldoze this shack already". I'm seriously. It's only 1082 sqft. Was built more like an extra home, not a primary home. The rafters are weird and hand hewn with bark still on them in places. Replacing a sill plate is mucho dinero. Since the house is small maybe it can get away will sill damage. The house was not taken care of for a long time. Was covered with vines that went all the way into the gable vents, and under the exterior siding. It also had powder post beetle damage (hopefully that was the sill culprit), termite damage, dry rot, and wood fungus. Yikes. Maybe I need a dehumidifier to get things started.


This was a huge undertaking, one which took me about two months to finish. Because I've never done anything like this before, I would stop when I was unsure, do some reading and thinking and then move forward. My room rehab involved several techniques, most of which I improvised, and hope withstand the ongoing moisture issue from the crawlspace. My technique involved repairing, filling, and patching with expandable foam, because it's weather resistant and adds insulation value. While working on the wall and exploring cold spots, I discovered that the walls had blown in insulation, but the the house envelope is missing a layer. The envelope is only siding, tarpaper, studs, and drywall. I think the old tar paper has holes in places adding to the cold spots, and moisture infiltration. I tried to fix this with foam. The cellulose was also over filled, otherwise known as a "blow out" which caused the south wall to bow out into the room. The cellulose also acts as a sponge to absorb moisture from the crawlspace, gaps in the tarpaper, and later I discovers a rotten and separated facia. I had to foam and silicone the entire south side facia board where it meets the roof because it was gapped and rotted in places. My technique for fixing the mold crack beneath the west window involved foam, and a layered cast of drywall mesh and mud. This technique would have also worked for the punch hole, but I hadn't thought of it when I repaired the punch hole first. I think the foam, mesh cast would have given me a smoother and stronger patch over the punch hole. As is, the punch hole patch involved foaming the area behind the drywall around the punch hole and towards the window where the drywall was flexing with pressure. I foamed it flush then cut out a relief to insert a square of drywall with flaps of drywall paper around the edge to help with blending. I did end up taping the edges with mesh and the result was slightly raised and the wall still flexes slightly, though not as bad as before. I also removed the tape and mud blob patches for the cellulose fill holes, 4 holes per wall. The tape had water damage and the holes where allowing moisture to enter and become trapped beneath the many layers of paint. I foamed these holes and as much of the surrounding area behind the sheetrock. I also drilled holes every 8 inches in the wall near the crown molding and foamed a continuous line inside the wall. The interior wall and soffit share an opening which leads into the attic. I'm not sure how this adds to the problem, or what will happen if I add soffit vents. I also foamed the entire length of the south corner and west corner. After all the foam, and patching I had to blend everything with a float coat of mud. So almost the entire wall of the dividing, south and west wall, was mudded. Lots and lots of sanding, and lots and lots of dust. Finally, after all old and new discoveries where addressed, and I felt happy with the surface, I primed with two coats of Zinzer, and then it took 2 tops coats of Glidden premium. I also decided to go ahead and repaint the ceiling while I was at it, because it was splotchy in places. I decided instead of keeping it white to paint it an off white, which I had seen Nicole do on her show. The color scheme changed though at painting time. I was originally going to paint our room a color called, "Haystack", but decided it was too yellow and wanted something more relaxing. So I switched to a color called, "Misty Summer Day". I tried to re-tint haystack, but they couldn't do it, so it will probably go in our daughter's room. She picked out a color called, "Dazzling Daffodil". But it was way too yellow. I tried re-tinting it and ended up with a color that looks like gross caramel. Still not sure what I'll do with that. Mix it with something else, sparingly. The color for the ceiling is called, "Glow". I had 2 gallons I tinted that color, should have only tinted. I took it back to try and make it lighter. Should have added more white. They made is a more beige color which I thought I liked. But at home It was too dark. There's a huge difference between the lights at Home Depot and the light in my house. Smartly the guy in paint recommended only re-tinting one can just in case. Good thing, because I decided to just keep the original color on the ceiling. I still think it's a little too dark, but I like it. The room now has a very relaxed happy feel too it, which is exactly what I wanted. Best of all, no more pea green soup color on the wall, and no more peeling paint. Only time will tell if this repair will hold up. I did the very best I could with the money and resources available to me.
It all started with a flap of peeling paint
Underneath was the tell tail signs of water damage 
Rini called this the "Bunny"
A small peel quickly becomes a massive paint fail
inspecting a crack under the window
Finding crumbling sheetrock and mold
other areas where beginning to blister and crack.
When scraping away these blisters, larges areas of paint would come away.
Testing for lead
Covering where I had opened up the crack which had mold and termite residue.
Be careful when changing scraper blades. The ER visit cost more than the entire room rehab.
$1000 for liquid bandage and a crappy splint?  Where is the ACA now?
Soon our room looked like a meth shack
Found a strange curved crack and the wall next to the window was flimsy
Finding more water damage next to the other window
caulking the crack, but what is this spongy peach stuff  I'm  revealing? The paint that was covering this area was darker and sticky.
The water damage next to the window was pretty bad

Close up of some of water damage on south wall
finding poorly patched holes from when the blew in cellulose, which is acting as a moisture sponge.
Patching poorly taped drywall pieces 
Underneath the spongy peach stuff was a poorly patched hole some one had punched in the wall

A domestic despite between Joseph and Meg? How interesting. 

Foaming the cellulose holes and the punch hole

Just cut flush when dry with a serrated knife. Bread knives work really well.
repairing more cracks under the west window

When scarping the paint by the south window, it failed all the way to the sheetrock paper.

Mudding starts and scraping continues

Mudding the curve crack while still repairing the punch hole.

More foam for the punch hole and the surrounding area behind it to ad stability to the wall

Things have really gone from bad to worse. 

Investigating the water damage, trying to find it's source. It may have been the rotten facia board which I discovered later.

Scraping the west wall finds more water damage 
Looking pretty horrendous, what's that red stuff?
Squaring off the mold area for a possible drywall splice
West wall is done being scraped and now needs patching and a float coat

close up up mold crack. Had old termite damage and even mud from the out side in the wall

debris from a prior infestation, and red clay dust

scraped out all the dirt and debris from between the two wall beams

South wall. Meshing, and mudding the long relief cuts I made into the wall length cracks from the cellulose over fill or "blow out". Also mudding the drywall paper.

I break for inspiration. Nicole Curtis wears the same shoes as me
Now she is awesome in my book
I've just patched the punch hole with a drywall square. Maybe a full foam patch with a mud cast would have been better. But I was still learning at this point.

Second foam patch. I chose foam for all my patches because it's moisture resistant and adds insulation. 
With an ongoing moisture issue, I need to use weather proof materials.