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helwen: (Due Consideration)
In January it was getting harder to keep the porch warm, so we ran a lightweight rope shortways along the ceiling and hung a couple of pieces of row cover fabric from it - folded over the rope and secured with big safety pins, and used vintage glass and ceramic insulators to weigh down the bottom edges. This reduced the space we were heating by 8' x 10', which helped.

By late January we decided the glass jars just weren't able to retain enough heat (in a real greenhouse they might, but through two layers of translucent plastic? Not so much). So the Ashwaganda, Lemon Grass, Ginger, and Turmeric came in, as well as some of the more northerly plants that were looking a little peaked. All of the jars and bottles of water are under the plant tables in the dining room, with some in windows or around the radiator in that room for some extra heat.

The Lavenders, a mint and a savory are still out there. On warmer and/or clear and sunny days I'll uncover them, and at night and on colder days they're covered with a couple of lightweight curtains. I've got them all bundled together in front of the downstairs bathroom window, so any heat that might leak out from there goes to them.

Good enough for about a month...

This week it's gotten very windy, plus we finally have an actual polar vortex. I was working on something in the living room this morning and noticed motion through the porch sliding doors' curtains...oh look, the inner layer of plastic at the far end of the porch has blown down, and the outer layer is ripped to shreds! Happened sometime last night or this morning. The row cover curtains, such as they are, are still in place, and on the inner side of the enclosure the temperature is 20F -- considering it's 0F outside plus whatever the wind chill factor is, that's kind of amazing.

Can't do anything about it today, because it's too dangerous for human beings. Repairs will be.... interesting. The outer layer of plastic had been wrapped around the wood frames and then we installed each frame and secured them to each other. Tomorrow it's supposed to get up to 20F outside and also less windy, so I can lower the inner sheet more and try to tape the outer plastic sheeting together. Then the inner layer goes back up -- probably with some felt weatherstripping run along the top in a solid line, not just dots of it nailed in place (and more tape, of course).

Next month things will warm up some -- enough that we can look at using the porch again.

Been doing some research on glass greenhouses, heating, etc. We're considering splitting one of the greenhouses in half and using it on the south face of the porch. It'll be a big project, what with doing moisture control under the porch, leveling the ground around the porch, digging a cold sink, and more.
helwen: (Due Consideration)
Didn't enter the fabrics-store contest, as we ended up working on clearing up the area around the greenhouse for the neighbor's first house showing, plus some yard work in the front yard. Oh, and we moved a fancy metal arbor over to our place (has gates and side planter stands), as well as a really cool fish statue. It can be a fountain but I like it just as it is.

Did move a bunch of things both before the showing on Monday. Tuesday it was cold and wet, and then we had snow overnight. Wednesday afternoon though, I made several trips. I moved a couple of loads of smaller stuff in the garden cart and also carried over a couple of metal trellises, two tall tripod planter things, and a couple of those planter boxes that are metal ribs that you put coconut coir matting in them. Not sure as I have a use those last, but there are more of them in the greenhouse (L brought a couple more over today), but maybe somebody does.

This morning we wanted to make a trash run to the transfer point, to take some recycling and trash, and especially one of the bags that smelled of something truly nasty -- and better first thing in the morning, while it was frozen and not yet completely hideous to be near. As it was, we drove with a couple of the windows partly open :D

After breakfast, L had a meeting so I worked on sorting through the bags that neighbor D had filled as trash, pulling out what could be recycled and what might still be used by us or other folks. One of D's business plans had been to make silk floral and holiday arrangements, so a lot of the current bunch of trash I'm working on is ornaments, flowers, straw wreaths, and fake evergreens. Most of it is trash, unfortunately. While none of it is really needed in our world of too-much-stuff, it's doubly sad that most of this was and never will be used...

I did save one little evergreen "tree" so far, and a bunch of ball ornaments. The latter aren't in great shape but they're whole, so I can remove the dust and re-paint or otherwise cover them. There's a lady in town who does a cancer research fundraiser at her family Christmas tree farm every year, so these would be perfect for that. I also found some sort of berry wreath thing that is mostly trash but has some interesting beads on it, so I'll take those off first.

Anyway, we took a total of 4 bags of trash to the transfer point today, and quite a bit of recycling (plastic and paper mostly, but also a little metal). L commented on the first three bags we took on the first trip this morning that that was the equivalent of about 6 months' worth of trash for the two of us. Of course, what's in the greenhouse has accumulated over many years, but still, interesting.

L also moved the pressure waterer today, so it'll be easier to get in and out of the building now.


The one issue I have with doing all this is that I don't really have the energy for cooking, but we need to keep moving on this because I saw a hornet the other day. There are some old wasp nests in the greenhouses as well as some old snake skins, so we want to break up the habitat before they come by to try to set up house this year.

Once we have everything out and sorted, I can maybe invite folks to come over and pick through anything we don't want to keep for ourselves.
helwen: (MacGyver)
Lyle got the rest of the walls up today, just minutes before snowfall!

We still have more to do with securing the wall sections to each other to tighten up how they stand next to each other, block in the bottom of the walls against the wind, and stuff the area between the straight edge of the new walls and the clapboard of the porch. But the hardest and most important part is done. All of the finish work can be done without worrying so much about the weather.

Last week I found three of the containers I'd painted flat black ages ago -- back in our Holyoke days. I'm going to need more than three, but it's a start. We have some other old containers that I can paint, no big deal. Also going to hang black fabric or plastic on the south-facing porch wall, at least a couple pieces, to help with warming during the day.

Once all the plants are out there, I can work on doing a little harvesting and re-potting. Progress!
helwen: (Due Consideration)
Construction going slowly, but we do have another wall section up on the porch. Did some work on it yesterday, to secure what we'd already put up; bitter cold, but we didn't want to lose the work we've done so far. Saturday would have been a perfect day for this project, but we had the Gray family Thanksgiving. That was a good time though, lots of tasty food and good conversation with relatives.

We get a lot of wind this time of year, and it's very good at ripping things apart. Today is even colder, so assuming we can still get pullets, L will work on re-doing the wall that separates the chicken room into two rooms. We plan to do more work on the porch tomorrow, when the temps should be in the 20s-30s (F). Hopefully we'll have the porch fully closed in Sunday and I can move the plants in there that currently have taken over the dining room and parts of the kitchen and radiant room.

I'm at the family farm at the moment; just finished washing the eggs and waiting for them to dry.

L brought the water jugs in to refresh the water in them. It being so cold out, he put two jugs with hot water in them into the chicken room overnight, in addition to the warm water in the two waterers, to keep the chickens a little warmer. We used to use electric warmers under the waterers but some rats chewed on the wiring one year, so now L just changes the water daily in the freezing weather.

A hay customer is here this morning too, so we're getting a few things done at once. Later today I plan on moving some of the bookbinding supplies and equipment from the barn into the house; rearranging continues! We're hosting the Gray family Christmas this year, so there's a lot of work to be done in the next few weeks, and Wednesday it's going to rain so I want to do as much moving of stuff as I'm able on clear days, despite the cold.

Monday a.m.

Nov. 6th, 2006 12:48 pm
helwen: (Default)
Sprayed three containers black for passive solar. One is old maple sap gathering can (was used for transporting sap from our buckets up to the farm. Need a new one anyway, with a better cap). Two are buckets that kitty litter came in.

Watched [personal profile] fitzw put up more insulation and another wall panel. Yay!

Shortened a raised bed near the studio so that it's further away from the building. Dug a trench from there past the front of the building, to try to encourage water from rain/snow to go past the building before going downhill. Worked on levelling ground directly in front of studio door so that the pallet can go there -- mostly stable, but will ask [personal profile] fitzw to please look at it and see if he can make it more stable.

Lunch - pepperoni "pizza" Lean Pocket, and Golden Sussex Ginger Ale (from Canada - thanks, [profile] prince_hring.


Nov. 5th, 2006 05:11 pm
helwen: (Default)
Got the last piece of plastic up in the greenhouse porch today, including putting up some lath and scrap wood in a few places to keep the plastic from billowing (which it isn't doing too much of, but...) [personal profile] fitzw did some insulating in the garage.

Then we went to Home Depot and bought:
- roll of pink insulation, can of Great Stuff
- window gasket for the one studio window that came without one (draft stopper)
- 3 4'x8' sheets of white panelling (lower half of print shop's inside wall)
- outdoor welcome mat (100% recycled rubber!)
- draft stopper for bottom of garage door
- boot trays (2 for under the greenhouse plants, one for the studio)
- heavy duty shelving (to hold the passive solar water containers, and general storage)
- Gorilla folding ladder, new staple gun, and sundry items

[personal profile] fitzw did more insulating when we got back, and installed first wall panel. Will definitely brighten the room up.

Plants are now in the greenhouse. Shelves are assembled. Too cold to paint today, so painting of containers (black) and of garage door (white) to happen tomorrow.

Also tomorrow, more insulation of garage and a piece for the ceiling in the greenhouse.

Tonight, more work on scroll.


Nov. 2nd, 2006 09:53 am
helwen: (Default)
Worked yesterday, no work today or tomorrow. A bit stiff and achey today, so I don't really mind having the days off. Besides, it gives me more time to work on the court doc for Concordia and other stuff.

Hoping to get the last piece of window plastic up today, but we'll see. Once the room is all set up, I'm looking forward to being able to leave open the door to the porch/greenhouse during the day -- the sun is quite strong in there, and can help to heat up the house. And of course we don't want the plants in there to roast :) Not remembering how hot it could get in there, I hadn't realized when I started my project that it might help to cut down on our heating oil usage. Happy thought!

One of my bleeding hearts up by the studio is blooming, along with the rose. The pinks are also in their second bloom. Markers of the unduly warm weather for this time of year. I know a number of people who don't care for snow and cold weather, but the plants need it. Many pests and blights that our weather kept reined in are no longer slowed enough by frost and ice, because it comes later in the year. Hemlocks are taking a lot of damage, many fatally so, from an asian bug, all across the country. There's a beetle that can help with fighting the invader, but Romney won't support the funds for it in Massachusetts. Ash and White Pine and other trees are suffering from other pests: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-10-23-trees_x.htm

Being a Gray, one of my concerns is the Sugar Maples, which don't seem to have quite as immediate a threat to them, but the warmer weather is hard on their general health and longevity (think about what happens to you when you don't get enough sleep on a regular basis), and for the farmers it means a shorter sugaring season. Once tapped, the trees provide sap for the same amount of time until the tap holes heal over, but because of the weather the quality of the sap can change more quickly. Once the trees start to bud the season's over, because the sugar is diverting to growing leaves. Our family has other means of income, but for some folks it can be a major source, and finding something to replace that income could be difficult.

And of course the beauty of the fall foliage would be missed by everyone in the valley -- over time, if our weather becomes too mild, the Maples will die out, along with other northern plants. Weather changes are happening faster than the environment can keep up with.

So, what can one or two people do, especially without a lot of money?" Well, we won't be going off-grid anytime soon, but we're doing our best to winterize and use fuel with even greater economy than before. The greenhouse will be providing more heat, as well as some fresh veggies and clean air. I'll be getting some English Ivy for the greenhouse, to replace the air filter in the bedroom (saving electricity and new filter materials). Fossil fuel is a precious and finite commodity -- using it more wisely means it will last a bit longer, and the environment will have more of a chance to deal with the pollutants from it.

NB: English Ivy isn't good for kitties (if you have the type that eat houseplants), so if you get this plant, hang it or put it on a shelf the cats can't reach. It's esp. helpful in an office, around electronics.

For people who want to lower their thermostats and save energy, two things. One: don't change the temp. range more than 5 degrees, as it wastes fuel. Two: keep your feet warm -- cold floors = cold feet = turning the thermostat up.

The new studio has a bamboo floor, and we used only a tiny bit of treated pressurized wood for the deck supports under the building. The roof edge is extended further than usual on the long side, to move rain/snow fall further from the building, but also to provide extra shade in the summer, and windows at either end are for pass-through ventilation. Windows are double-paned, argon-filled. Building will be fully insulated by snowfall. Some of the leaves in the backyard are getting bagged in plastic bags (yes, plastic - but reusable for next year) and put around the studio foundation to keep wind and cold out from under the floor. This last thing is a useful thing to do around house foundations, especially if we end up with an open winter.

NB: An open winter is when it gets cold but there's no snow on the ground. Snow insulates plants -- no snow means the wind blows over the ground, pulling moisture out of the soil and dehydrating plants. Larger plants like bushes and trees will have dead or brown patches the following spring/summer, and many plants overall will die. If you're concerned about saving particular plants in your garden, you may wish to mulch around them this year.

Windows: look for leaks, drafts, and caulk them. If your storm windows aren't great, plastic them. This helps to stop drafts/leaks you missed, and creates another barrier (air) between you and the cold outdoors. Don't forget to check the doors too - felt stripping can be used to overlap the door edge to stop/slow down drafts. Bottom of door drafts are trickier -- if you have this and aren't sure of the best way to deal with it, feel free to contact me about it.

Back to the environment -- we stopped using body care products that have parabens in them. You can find shampoos and such that don't have them that are affordable. Parabens mess with the endocrine system, affecting hormones, in people and I would expect in animals too (gets into the water). It's hard to get it out of the ecosystem, but we don't want to add more to it. And I'd rather not have anything that might be causing weight gain or might cause cancer in the house. We're using Jason Organic shampoo and conditioner - nice stuff! Some Dove products also seem to be acceptable. More research needed on this stuff...

Easy way to cut down on sunblock and save money -- wear a hat, wear longer sleeved clothing, wear gloves while driving (yes, the sun _can_ burn you through a car window, oy!). Hats can be fun and fashionable. More people should wear them!

We're trying to eat at home more, save money spent on service and gas. Better for us anyway.

Hmm, looks like a couple of people can do quite a lot! And if more people did this, and spread it to other people, then we can affect some change whether the government helps or not.

Well, there's a few thoughts for the morning...

Roz, etc.

Oct. 31st, 2006 08:30 pm
helwen: (Default)
Concentus practice Sunday was pretty good, even with not everyone there. We practiced one of the new pieces more, so Pagan and I are feeling a little more confident -- although we still have to work on the French pronunciations more... Then [profile] prince_hring played us some music from his collection on his new iPod, through our stereo (connected to a really big battery, for some technical reason). [personal profile] fitzw played some tunes on the piano while we sang along. Lots of fun!

Took Roz in early Monday morning so they could start the IV drip for fluids and antibiotics.

Did much work re-organizing the upstairs and downstairs back porches, with only one minor mishap with a window spline. Fortunately [personal profile] fitzw is a very handy person, and saved the day. So, downstairs back porch is plasticed and much more organized (did more work on it today). Also pantry is now better, and one wall of windows in upstairs porch is now plasticed too.

We only have one vehicle, so [personal profile] fitzw dropped me off at work today. Later he picked up Roz at the vet's, dropped her off at home, then turned around and picked me up. She is doing well, but they had to remove two of her pre-molars (behind her incisors). They decided that the canine that didn't look too hot would be better off remaining, because of concerns for structural integrity of her jaw/face. She's on antibiotics indefinitely, because of the kidney infection, with a follow-up appointment in 30 days to see how she's doing.

We still think it's somewhat amusing that the vets had to do dental work on a black cat on Halloween....
helwen: (MacGyver)
Most of the things that belong in the studio are now there. We need some hooks, shelving, and blinds, but it's getting there. Have to sand and re-polyurethane the threshhold between the two halves -- wind blew fuzzy bits all over it, and then I stepped on it and left two very clear shoe prints on it. Looking good!

[personal profile] fitzw also used renoferret's table saw to cut our tent poles down to 2"x2" nominal from the 2"x3" nominal they were. Fits better in the overhead storage space. Also, we might be able to use the left over bits for making freestanding walls (privacy/dividing, not for sound).

[profile] prince_hring showed up before I got home from work, so we went out to dinner as soon as I was ready. Very tasty grilled lemon pepper trout! He and [personal profile] fitzw are now trying to get their laptops to talk to each other and other technical stuff... I believe some of it has to do with getting us set up for uploading pics to the Artisans Showcase. That would be sweet, since I have photos from last EK 12th Night that I'd _really_ like to get put up. Bit by bit...

Did most of the foil insulation after lunch today, and found another leak in one of the window frames, too narrow for stuffing a plastic bag into, so I used duct tape. Finished that part of insulating after dinner and phone call to Una. Moved more storage bins back in. Will wait on installing plastic sheeting until tomorrow (If I'm lucky).

Think I'll go make some tea...
helwen: (Default)
Confirmed that if there isn't someone scheduled at near enough to start or finish time,of shift, that part of the shift will be nipped off to cut down on office overhead.
more on working )

Upstairs Porch: Only two bags of winter clothing left to sort for keep/give away/throw away. Vacuumed up the dead bugs, etc. Removed old plastic sheeting, took down the insulation blind fabric (need to line it, put rings on it), stuffed plastic grocery bags into gaps in old window frames, plus a little duct tape. Started putting foil insulation on wall below windows. Put one stack of clothing storage bins in, to start building surface to put plants on. Although I'd prefer to build a surface over them -- depends on what materials I can find to use for that.

Today I have to finish putting the foil insulation up, hopefully the heavy plastic sheeting over the windows, and insulate the extended part of the porch roof. Then the rest of the storage bins can go back in and we can walk around the bedroom again.

To be done in near future: make the insulated shades, get/make black water containers to put along back wall of porch for passive solar heating for the plants. Possibly get a plant light bulb.

Studio: Only one window needs staining, and the threshold plate between the two halves of the garage to be installed and renoferret's done indoors. I have some trim to paint on the windows, but that can wait until next spring if need be. Meantime, we get to clean, move furniture, and move the rest of the weaving/spinning supplies in today.

After that, some more house cleaning, then off to work. [profile] prince_hring will be arriving sometime tonight from Canada. He's got a wedding to attend on Saturday, so this gives him some rest time and visiting time. Friday night a bunch of us are going out to dinner at Ruby Tuesday, a former Concentus post-practice hangout -- great food, and the accoustics in the hall outside it are great too.


helwen: (Default)

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