What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Hallowe'en

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

Winterizing Project #1 - Creating a Windbreak Enclosure

Sheet plastic is a good way to winterize three season sunrooms, porch areas, entrances and under decks. It is an inexpensive DIY project that can save considerably on your heating costs by blocking the effects of cold winds. While this is an inexpensive, one season solution it need not look cheap. Take your time to do a nice finishing then enjoy the energy savings.

This project is especially useful for creating air blocks, keeping the cold air from cooling poorly insulated walls and entrance ways. It will not provide insulation but the enclosed area can act as a solar heat sink depending on the location. You can maximize the heat gain by adding home made solar heaters. I'll do an article shortly on how to make these yourself. The entire area need not be enclosed to get a benefit either as long as the portion where the winter winds hit is blocked. You can also modify the application for providing a wind block for problematic windows. You can add another layer of plastic on the inside of the closure if desired. This will create a somewhat sealed air enclosure giving a little insulation value. One roll will be enough for applying for two or three years. You will need to use a fresh application but the plastic from the previous year can be used as drop cloths or recycled in other ways. Material, tools and method follow.

Interior Before & After

Our house is a two level, semi-earth bermed house on waterfront property. The first level enclosed sunporch faces west, spans almost the entire upper west wall and covers the lower level open patio. We suspect there is little insulation in that wall that will be corrected when we renovate the sunporch. We wanted to use this room for entertaining as a smoking area during the winter months. At the same time we wanted to preserve the view (1) but want to wait until spring before we start any renovations on the sunporch. So we really wanted a temporary, inexpensive winterizing solution.

We enclosed all three sides of the sunporch including the door on the outside. Once the plastic was up (2) there was a small effect on the view but for the most part it isn't intrusive. We may put a second layer of the plastic inside that would affect the view more if we feel it will help. Essentially this was installed as an effective windbrake to prevent the cold winds from hitting the upper west wall. This wall will get the late afternoon sun so the space will provide solar heat gain for that area. The patio doors leading to the sunporch can be left open during sunny spells allowing the heat into the upper level.


The plastic (green arrow) was installed around the outer three walls of the sunporch using a staple gun. The door was covered separately so it could still be used during the winter months. Once the plastic was secured, strips of 1" x 2" (red arrow) were screwed around the perimeter of each wall of the sunporch. This will prevent the plastic tearing from the staples during higher winds and give the plastic a finished look.

The overall effect was immediate. It was a very windy day when the guys were on ladders installing the plastic. The games room opens into the sunporch via patio doors. Just by blocking the wind, the games room warmed up even though the furnace wasn't on. However, the real effect came when the sun hit the sunporch. We opened the patio doors to let the free heat pour into the house. As the temperature drops we will be able to enjoy the free solar gain and energy savings.

DIY: A novice DIYer could complete this project.

1 roll medium mil clear plastic
1" x 2" x 8' wood strips
1 ¾" screws

utility knife
screw driver (cordless works nicely!)
ladder (depending on location)
hand saw
tape measure

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day - The Environment & Windows

Today over fifteen thousand blogs with twelve million readers will be blogging on one topic - The Environment. Each of my blogs are participating, each from a different perspective so be sure to read them all.

As mentioned in a previous entry, I will be focusing on DIY winterizing projects that are inexpensive yet effective ways of saving more energy. Every time we reduce the amount of energy we use, we reduce our personal carbon footprint. This is a measurement of the impact human activities have on the environment. This measurement is determined by the amount of greenhouse gases produced in units of carbon dioxide (grams of CO2 equivalents).

On a personal level, we can do something to reduce our especially in and around our homes. All the energy saving activities you do like turning off lights and using compact fluorescent bulbs reduce the amount of energy you use. Not only are you saving money but you are reducing your impact on the environment. So as I get the winterizing projects posted, please consider using one or more of them. I'm sure you will enjoy making and using them as well as the additional energy savings.

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Well Stocked Pantry

Even though I can year round, this is the time of year where I begin to see my efforts from preserving over the busier canning season. There's new foods that I haven't canned before put up along with the old, tried and true. I'm no where near finished yet but progress is being made.

The first reaction I get when someone first sees my pantry is sheer surprised usually followed by why? Keeping a well stocked pantry is important to me on many levels. First and foremost, it is a way of putting wholesome foods that are not laden with excess salt, preservatives and refined sugars. Many of the vegetables are home grown so storing the excess becomes a concern. It is a huge money saver because the food is right there ready to use instead of having to run to the store. This was very convenient when the kids were small and now we live in a rural area even more convenient. The pantry also saves money because I only stock up on certain foods when in season or on sale. A well stocked pantry is environmentally sound practice as well. Finally there is security in knowing there is enough food to feed ourselves comfortably for extended periods of time as well as help others if needed.

My goal is to maintain somewhere between a one to two year supply of food in the pantry. I'm pretty much on track. So here are a few pictures of my pantry as it is as of yesterday. There will be a few changes as the canning continues and we stock up on apples, potatoes and root vegetables to be eaten fresh. We will also be doing a restock on a few things from Sam's Club

The pantry is on the lower level under the stairs. It is a nice size room but the ceiling is low and has duct work running through it. The open beams will be perfect for hanging drying herbs next year! To the right as you enter the pantry there is a small supply of beverages (1). The paneling slide hides a nice storage area for empty jars. A small metal shelf unit beside the freezers (2) holds miscellaneous odds and ends. The space between is just perfect for cases of bottled water. The two freezers hold mainly meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and make-ahead meals I prepare in bulk. As you can see, I even use the floor space. In front of one freezer is a box of salsa, flour and rice (3). The shelves hold a wide variety of home canned foods with every thing from beans, fruits, vegetables and meats to soups and stews. The smaller white shelf unit will be replaced shortly with an industrial version of the smaller metal shelves giving me more storage space. A smaller shelf unit (4) holds more home preserved foods along with a few of the commercial items I need. In front are potatoes, squash and pumpkin waiting for processing.

A microwave stand (5) fit perfectly just inside the door facing the entry. It was ideal for storing cookbooks and some necessary equipment the the essential pressure canner. Hanging racks increase the storage. Pasta is temporarily being stored in the breakfast island base cabinets (6) on one side and spices (7) on the other side. The pasta is waiting to be vacuum sealed as soon as I have time. Then it will be moved to the pantry as well. My dried pasta supply is on the low side right now so I need to do a restock. A good supply of spices along with other seasonings like hot sauce (8) make food interesting so I keep a good store on hand.

This is my actual herb and spice cabinet. I consider this part of my pantry stores even though it is not stored in the actual pantry. It houses a host of dried herbs, mainly home grown. The top shelf holds a range of dried vegetable powders to be used as flavour boosters or in the case of dried zucchini as a natural thickener. The other shelves hold a variety of home dried and dried herbs and seasonings.

There are two more food cupboards in the kitchen, one for teas and coffees the other for commercial products like tuna, oils and mustards. I didn't take pictures because by now this entry is getting long and you are likely getting bored. As you can see from my pantry, the emphasis is on homemade and buying in bulk. Both will save you a considerable amount of money while they put good, healthy food on the family table. You can also see that a well stocked pantry need not be fancy but it does need to be well organized.

Well, my jars of ground beef are almost ready to take out of the canner so I best end this lengthy entry. Hopefully this has helped my readers understand the importance of a well stocked pantry. I do hope you will set up a pantry of your own. You won't regret it!

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Winterizing Begins

Snow Over the Water
February 2, 2005

Beautiful scenes like this will be common here shortly bringing with them howling winds, below freezing temperatures along with snow, ice and higher energy bills. The ADFF has passed and while we haven't had a frost yet, the air has turned cold. We have had the gas fireplace on a couple of times to take the chill off the family room so it won't be long before we have to put the furnace on. This photo was taken a couple of years ago at our old house. The house had virtually little wind block, was poorly insulated and received the full force of the north winds. A lot of winterizing was needed to make the house as energy efficient as possible. This house is well protected from the wind, is partially earth bermed and in general a much sturdier, better sealed house that appears to be fairly well insulated. This house benefits from the cooling effects of the water in the warm months and will also benefit from the warming effects of mainly open water in the winter. This will be our first winter in this house so I've already been busy looking for and sealing air leaks.

The heaviest canning season is almost finished. The pantry is well stocked as are the freezers so I will be able to focus on winterizing both indoors and outdoors. My husband will winterize the vehicles and boat which is being lifted out of the water the week of the twenty second. We will be removing lawn furniture and garden decorations. These will be cleaned then stored. We are debating doing the same for the solar lights as they not withstand the freezing temperatures. This is the time of year when it is very important to make sure bird feeders are kept full to encourage the birds to return to your gardens the following spring. We will also be mulching and making necessary preparations inthe gardens for the cold weather.

Why should we winterize our homes? Winterizing is an important way of getting the most for your energy dollars. It makes our homes more comfortable as well. The main energy savers are to insulate, caulk, weatherstripping, replacing old windows and replace old heating systems with energy efficient ones. Do check for rebates and grants if you need to replace your furnace, air conditioning or major appliances. The Home Energy Retrofit Program (Canada) offers a maximum $5000 grant on qualifying purchases. Natural Resources Canada lists details and links various rebates and incentives for selected Energy Star® qualified products in Canada. For one reason or another these may not be possible especially for those living in rented accommodations or those on fixed incomes making it difficult to keep the rising energy costs in check. Landlords in particular often frown upon tenants making permanent changes even if they will help save energy. This is where winterizing can help, Winterizing involves more than the basics to make your home more energy efficient. They tend to be frugal DIY projects and versatile projects that improve your home's energy efficiency. Many of the winterizing projects can be used in rental units as well. They can be taken with you if you move making them ideal.

Windows can present several problems that result in thermal heat loss even if they are energy efficient sealed double pane. The first step of course should be stopping all air leaks either by caulking and/or weatherstripping or using the popular shrink plastic. The second step is creating a barrier to thermal heat loss through the window pane itself. This is where you can have a little fun! Doors can also give a cold zone at the threshhold even if they are insulated and properly weatherstripped. Patio doors can be worse at thermal heat loss because of their large expanse of glass. I'll be making a few posts over the next couple of weeks with some easy to make, inexpensive sewing projects that I will be using for our windows and doors. I also have a couple of easy DIY, inexpensive non-sewing projects for windows. So check back over the next couple of weeks for these projects.

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007


Garden Gnome
© 2007