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 :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's Coming

Victorian winter
Victorian Winter

There is no doubt after the last couple of days that winter is making an entrance early this year. Heavens I have really used a lot of personal restraint to not put on the fireplace to take the chill out of the house. I'm determined to hold out to get to as close to November 1 as possible before using any heating other than solar. The cooler temperatures at a balmy 18ºC (64ºF) indoors just a little lower than the 20ºC (68ºF) we try to keep the house at during the day in the winter. The end of last heating season we discovered a way to shave off a lot of BTU by using only the gas fireplace so I really want to try using that method for as much of the month of November as possible.

We had a cooler and wetter summer that many complained of having no summer at all. It was not all bad though because we only ran the AC for 3 days and with staying home more we spent less money, getting more things done. The fall is now well into it's first week feeling more like winter than fall. Throughout the blogosphere there are warnings for those in the northwestern US states to stock up on wood and supplies for the predicted long, cold winter ahead.

I have been consistently working on caulking and sealing since we moved here just a little over 2 years ago. We are now reaping the benefits of that sealing! I continue to be ever vigilant for any drafts, sealing as soon as they are discovered. Unfortunately we did not get the sunporch rebuilt this year so we will be sealing it up with plastic shortly. The main focus of this year's winterizing is: replacing weather stripping on outer doors, weather stripping windows and installing window treatments (blinds, etc). I will be writing more about that shortly. Window treatments are not a high priority for privacy here so we simply haven't bothered with them because we like the open look. Using energy efficient window coverings will increase our energy savings lowering our carbon footprint.

Garden Gnome

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Solar for Emergency Preparedness

Solar Emergency Preparedness

As summer comes to an end it's time to make sure we are well stocked for the winter months. Not only am I busy making sure the pantry is well stocked with home canned and dried foods, I'm also adding to the freezer stock. However, preparedness is more than just have a 1 - 2 year supply of food on hand. This is also the time of the year to stock up on sundry type items such as laundry soap, personal needs items, toilet paper, First Aid supplies as well as emergency preparedness items. I'll be making a few posts on getting prepared for winter.

During winter storms the prospect of having no electricity for short periods of time increase. The normal recommendations is to keep oil lamps with plenty of fuel and lots of candles in your emergency preparedness stores. In cold climates both serve to provide light with a bit of heat. I keep a good supply of homemade beeswax and soy candles on hand for regular and emergency use. However, in homes with pets or children using oil lamps and candles can present a risk of fire and/or injury if they get bumped or knocked over. Battery operated emergency devices only work if you have sufficient batteries. I've turned to solar devices as part of my emergency preparedness.

Pictured is the wind-up/solar powered radio, Coleman camp lantern, a few of our many flashlights, solar light stakes, battery operated lights, rechargeable batteries (AAA, AA, D), 6 V battery adapter and solar battery chargers. Not pictured are a couple of small camp lanterns that use only one 6 V battery and a wind-up flash light. The principle of using solar rests on turning solar energy from the sun into usable energy for lighting and heating. In emergency situations you cannot always rely on the sun however in most cases you will be able to get enough sunlight exposure to power emergency equipment such as the radio, some lights and solar battery chargers if need be. Combining wind-up power for essentials like flash lights and a radio makes good sense as these can be used without relying only on solar.

The light stakes are meant for garden use but can easily be charged in a sunny window to provide indoor lighting for the evening during a power outage. I like keeping a good supply of charged batteries on hand that can be recharged if necessary using the solar battery chargers. The 6 V battery adapter is a rather interesting find. It uses 4 - D cell batteries and can be used in place of a 6 V battery. I think these are great items to have in our emergency preparedness supplies.

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Plumbing Update

I know many readers have been waiting for the current plumbing problems. If you recall my last post talked about our plumbing problems (more here). The plumber snaked from the house and back the other way hoping to solve the problem. Ideally had this worked we would have noted a great improvement in our drainage problem.

indications in the grassIndication

Snaking should have opened the drainage lines but what we quickly realized is it caused the lines to collapse. The water wasn't draining properly then about a week later we noticed greening of the grass (red arrows) right in the same orientation of where the line ran and not really noticeable in the pictures the ground caving in. So we thought we found the exact location for the problem not realizing that we had a type of fiber piping that has been banned since the 1970's. In it's inception this piping was supposed to prevent root damage. However, as we quickly found out this piping does collapse causing major drainage issues. It is proving to be a costly repair for anyone who used the fiber piping!

dangerous wireDangerous Wire

In Ontario it is supposed to be mandatory that you call for utility line locates prior to digging. Line locates are free but can take up to 2 weeks if it is not an emergency. In emergency situations line locates can be done within 24 hours. The fine if you hit a line without calling for line locates is $5,000. Now we knew from previous line locates there were no official utility lines as in from the utility to us where we were digging. What we also knew is the previous owner installed an outdoor plug off of which fed an outdoor utility light and the line to the dock lift. We disconnected the line to the dock lift so here is what we saw with the first backhoe shovel not even 2 feet under the ground and only a foot from the sidewalk where digging for flower beds easily could have happened was this totally illegal wire hook-up running from the main backyard plug to the utility light. I was shocked and yet happy we found this potentially very dangerous wire. How could anyone be this stupid? I'm not kidding! This unprotected electrical wire had the very real potential to kill someone. It's eerie too because my husband said to keep the backyard breaker off unless we were using it so he must have suspected a problem. So that is our next household project.

new weeping bed pipesPipes

It was decided after a bit of discussion to install a weeping bed that would be between the house and the lower clean-outs. This involved digging a trench from the back of the house to the clean-outs or about 100 ft. Three quarters of the trench was filled with 1' of gravel then the solid piping from the house was connected to two lines of holed piping that reconnects into solid piping that connects to the final drain. What this means is any storm, grey or rain water coming from the house ends up being filtered into the ground so it doesn't reach the water. In our area this is a more expensive solution that is eco-friendly as well. We are very, very conscious about what goes down our drains even though all but the kitchen are hooked to the municipal sewage system. This means nothing from the kitchen even though it is all phosphate free will not reach the water. Rain water is collected and used for the gardens. Now eventually any excess will reach the water but not much and by then it has been filtered so again another eco-friendly solution.

new line end of dayEnd of Day

It really was a depressing day in a lot of respects. My husband and I watched as the entire backyard was essentially destroyed. All the sod, seed and work we had done was gone. At the same time I couldn't help but think perhaps we finally have the problem fixed meaning no more water in the house.

Over the past 2 years we have had water levels in the house as high as 3" on several occasions. It is never pleasant to deal with flooding problems. So while our backyard now looks like this as of last Friday I'm looking forward to flood free days indoors. I think too that with the improved drainage our millipede, centipede and earwing problem will disappear even though I definitely have those issues under control. Our main concern right now is to solve all of our drainage issues. Once those are solved any of the side effects of drainage problems should go away including moisture loving insects.

Garden Gnome