Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shadows and Light

This is not a very good photo of what I am trying to show you but it was the best I could come up with. This is one of 3 small, west-facing windows in my house. Now, you out there that know a little about passive solar design will note that most sources recommend NOT having any west facing windows because of the high solar gain in the summer. Try telling that to my architect. And I did have to agree with him on this. It would have just looked funny to not have any windows on that end of the house so I made a few concessions and the windows are helpful for heat gain in the winter since I am a little lean on south facing windows. They are much smaller than the other windows and I recently discovered an interesting product that I thought I would tell ya'll about. You can't really tell in the photo but I have applied a tinted film to these windows. It is basically just like the stuff they tint car windows with. This particular brand claims to reduce heat gain by 65% and UV rays by 95%. I did a little checking around and found out that Lowe's carries a similar product that they claim reduces heat gain by 70%. It is very easy to apply and in the winter you just peel it off the window, roll it back up in the paper backing and store until next summer. It's not terribly expensive either as one roll was $35 but you can use it over and over. You do have to cut it to fit your window but that was not too difficult. I can honestly say it has made the bedroom noticeably cooler. When you look through the window it kinda looks as though you are wearing sunglasses but it has a very clear and clean appearance. Yes, you could just install blinds on the windows but to me, why have windows if you are going to keep them covered always? I know in some areas you need to for privacy but I don't have those issues here. The deer will just have to get an eye full. Plus, my little orchid there can still get good sunlight and I like having such a beautiful flower by the bed. Get a little fung shui going if you know what I mean!

I have always said I do not have a clue as to what I am doing with this house and didn't know if what I am experiencing here is any better than a conventionally built house. I think that the house is more comfortable and easier on the budget but I am probably biased. I do have this evidence though; Allen was talking to a guy that said his power bill for his small house was running around $300/ month right now. Now, I don't know what kind of appliances this guy has or whatever but I do know his house is not much larger than mine and my power bill is averaging about $70/ month so I felt much better. I know some other people who are saying their power bills are $150-$300/ month. I know mine would be much lower if not for that #$#@!&! water heater. I do run, in different cycles, 2 small air-conditioning units, mainly to dehumidify the air. The units cycle on at the hottest part of the day and I rarely run them at night so the house stays about 76 degrees all the time. I have opened my clerestory windows for venting and actually slowed the ceiling fans down. This helps the hot air rise up to the clerestory and be vented out instead of getting stirred back down into the cooler air. Since cool air will not rise, the rooms stay very comfortable. It is to me anyway but I work out in the broiling sun all day, so any shade is cool to me. Some people say, well, why run air at all, you should be used to the heat. Well, constant heat drains your energy and you must find some coolness to be able to sleep well and renew yourself. We construction workers have learned to deal with this and our standard treatment for when we get overheated at work is to come home, take a cool but not cold shower, drink non-caffeinated beverages and go to bed even if it is still daylight. Sleep for a couple of hours, get up and have a light supper and go back to bed.

I have been able to rest some this weekend and have even gotten a little done on the house which I will show you soon. It's not very exciting though. This week was so draining I have not worked on the house lately or even in the garden. Next week does not look good either but I'll tell you about that later.

*Joni Mitchell

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Quick Note

Hey Everybody! I have been trying to get some time to post but this week is just killing me. We have had to stay over at work some to finish pouring concrete and I am worn out! Barry, if you are able to check this away from home, I will be here over the weekend so come on by! I would love to have some visitors. May go to a friends on Sunday for a little while so if you could let me know kinda when you might drop by, that would be good. I'll try to post some over the weekend but I must recover some from this week. It's been one of the roughest I've known in a while.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lavender's Blue

I had several things that I wanted to post about regarding the house but then discovered that I didn't have any photos to go along with the posts, so I had to just use a random pic I found. My lavender is doing well so far since being moved and has started blooming. I plan to harvest the blooms but am not sure exactly what I am going to do with them. I thought Karen might want some for her soap?? This variety is provence. I would like to collect some of the other, more rare varieties. This variety has a wonderful fragrance that keeps well after it is dried.
The tractor shopping continues. I have looked at used ones and new ones, Kubotas, Case, McCormick, Mahindra, Deere, FarmTec and Massey-Ferguson, I think. I am leaning heavily towards the Kubota. I could do SO much if I had one with a front bucket. Thanks for your info Woody; I appreciate that so much. You are right, they think a whole lot of those smaller ones. It confounds me that you can often get a bigger tractor for less money. The implements too. The hydrostatic drives are very nice too but I don't think I really care if it has a tilt steering wheel! It's amazing what you can get on a tractor nowadays. Getting into something where I have a monthly payment again is not a great thought to me though, even though I can afford it. I just wanted to be free of that but I need some help badly. It is just too much to try to do all of this and help Fred take care of his land also, doing it all by hand. Even though Allen is very healthy, he is getting older and just does not need to be pushing a mower up these hills. I don't either for that matter. I have a tremendous amount of stamina and strength for my size and usually continue to work on stuff when I get home from work but it gets to the point where you are having to constantly be working just to keep things maintained, not improved. I want to enjoy my house finished for a little while before I croak. Fred has done so much to help me, I must do a better job of helping him around his place and this machine would help Allen also. So, buying some mechanical help is the only solution I see. I can get maintenance issues done much faster and without wearing myself completely out and have time to make progress on the house and gardens.
I'll try to post again this weekend of some new stuff going on around here with new photos. Those of you getting too much rain out there are welcome to send some of it our way. I fear we are entering another dry spell.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

They're Red Hot

This is maroon coreopsis, coreopsis tinctoria. I have had a number of these flowers come up in my little wildflower meadow this year and just love them. The old standard yellow coreopsis grows abundantly wild here and there were some in the seed mixture I bought also. Interestingly, these red ones bloom much later than the yellow. It took these 2 years to come up and I hope that they reseed well for next year.
My quest for a tractor continues. I have informed the guys at work of what I am looking for so today several of them brought me newspapers etc. with tractors they had found, new and used. They are very good to help me out and advise me on stuff that I don't know anything about. Of course, a lot of them farm or just know about equipment. So, I am going to stop at a dealership tomorrow after work and may go look again this weekend. I need to do something soon though, the place is getting out of hand as far as maintenance.
I thought of a great idea also! Or I think it would be fun anyway. I have seen where some other bloggers have giveaways for different things so I decided to have a "name that tractor" contest. We have to wait until I actually buy a tractor so we know what brand. That might be important. Anyway, you submit your choice of name and the guys at work will help me pick one winner so that I don't play favorites. If you win, you get one of my hand made coffee mugs! How's that?

*Robert Johnson

Saturday, June 14, 2008

School's Out

I recently attended my brother's college graduation when he received his master's degree. He is 4 years older than me and it has taken him a while to get his education but he finally made it and we were all very proud. He put his wife through 2 degrees before pursuing his own and working at the same time. That is our mother standing beside Mark and the little short stuff there is one of his 2 daughters. He lives about 2 hours away and my sister is an hour off so I do not get to see them very much. They both have 2 kids and busy families so they don't have time to come here and it's hard to catch them at home even. Sometimes I think that we all just get too busy these days.
I sort of wanted to post this photo to show that I can clean up and do not always wear a ball cap or hard hat! If I ever see any of the guys from work, away from the job, where I am cleaned up it usually takes them a few minutes to recognize me. I always thought they were kind of putting on about that but one day, when I was still at the railroad job, I stopped by work after a doctor's appointment. I was dressed about like you see me in this photo but still wearing jeans. Anyway, I just walked in the office trailer and went over to the assistant superintendent who was sitting at the desk. I noticed that he looked kinda funny at me and did not smile. Kinda like, " who are you and what makes you think you can come on this job site?" I then spoke to him and made some joke and a look of recognition came over his face and he started laughing. He then admitted to not realizing who I was at first, until I spoke. Now, during all this, one of the Norfolk Southern bigwigs was in the office, meeting with their on site rep and had been casually observing this. He always seemed like a nice guy but never spoke to any of us field personnel, which is not unusual. Anyway, I said, "Oh, come on, I don't look that different than I do when I'm dressed for work!" and this guy walks over quietly, leans towards me and simply says, "oh yes, you do" and walks off. I wasn't sure what to think. I mean, I don't try to look rough for work but I guess it just happens.
It was raining when I got up this morning so I spent a good part of the day doing some research and shopping around. I have decided that with 17 acres and Fred's place to maintain also I need some mechanical help. I am going to have to buy a tractor. I can get a 48 or 60" mower attachment for the 3 point hitch and several other tools for it such as an auger and front bucket. I have been looking at the smaller Kubota tractors. They are a considerable investment, one of the smaller ones was more than I paid for my truck! I bought my truck brand new and it's not a stripped down model either. I had a little bit of sticker shock but that faded somewhat when I drove the tractor. Hehe, I have to admit, I like nice machinery. Keep your old pearls and sparkly things boys, give me a backhoe! I don't intend to clear that much of my own land but there is a lot of maintenance to do regardless. One thing is that I must keep the area underneath the power lines clear or the power company will come in and spray that horrible poison on everything to kill the vegetation and I will be very upset if this happens. Some of my lines will later be run underground but there is quite a bit that crosses Fred's land before it gets to me. Anyway, I am looking at some used tractors also and different options. Something tells me that what type of tractor to buy is not a decision that normal women have to make but I guess I should be used to that feeling by now. I don't really have a desire to be "normal" but I guess I would just like to sometimes not feel so different. I don't understand why things are the way they are.

*Alice Cooper

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In The Garden

Edit! After reading some comments I guess I did not make something clear in this post. I do not use synthetic pesticides or herbicides or fertilizers of any sort. I only use organic, natural pesticides and then, only when I have a bug problem. Generally I prefer Pyola, which is an organic product containing mostly canola oil and pyrethrins. It does not persist in the soil and does not harm beneficial insects such as bees etc. It is the only organic product I have found that is effective against Japanese beetles also which are a major problem here. Also, if you look closely in the shot of the tomato plants you will see marigolds planted in amongst the vegetables. I like marigolds but I use these as a pest deterrent also. You can tell I don't spray my weeds because of the humongous jungle over to the right!

My garden is doing pretty well despite my neglect of it. I have tried to weed and spray after I come home from work but that doesn't always give me a lot of time. There is grocery shopping and supper to fix etc. Plus, some days I am just too tired. The heat is fairly difficult right now and there is talk of our crew going on 4/10's to save driving into town one day a week. We are all spending quite a bit on gas right now. In a way, that would be nice to have a three day weekend but we have also considered the possibility of not being able to make 10 hours in this heat. We are in some of the hardest part of construction work; the foundations and 8 hours is pushing it sometimes.
I'm not sure what you can make out in the pics but I have planted okra (half from karl) , corn (silver queen), purple hull peas, blue lake green beans, several varieties of tomatoes, eggplant, just a couple of squash plants and cantaloupe. Oh, and 3 types of peppers.
Hey karl, these are my wonderful Pantero Romanesca (sp?) tomatoes you sent! I have several of the Cherokee Purples too. They are all doing wonderfully and I am sooo happy with them. These are waist high and starting to get little green tomatoes! I also found an old heirloom tomato from Russia (Black Prince) at our local co-op. I was quite surprised they would have such a thing but bought 2 and they seem to be doing well. Has anyone out there ever raised any of these before?
My 2 fig trees finally seem to be flourishing. They have just sat in the ground and tried to die the past two years but look much better now. I think hoping for actual figs may be asking for too much though. I don't know, they may have 2 or 3 this year.
I have done some work on the house and will try to show that maybe this weekend. I am now able to move my scaffolding up to the next level for the siding and should be able to top out the north wall soon. I hope none of you are experiencing really bad weather where you are. Seems like there is all kinds of stuff going on everywhere. We had a fairly strong thunderstorm here yesterday but I was glad for the rain.
Oh, the grasshoppers are horrible here right now! There are just hordes of them. They don't seem to be eating much of my stuff but they probably will start. I have read that ducks make good grasshopper control. Do any of you notice that ducks or chickens help with this? I know chickens will eat them but didn't know if they are actually that aggressive in their pursuit of hoppers. I thought I might get some Muscovies as I read they are especially fond of grasshoppers.
*Van Morrison

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Eight Miles High

The recent crane collapse in New York has caused some talk on the job lately. Unfortunately, cranes falling are not that uncommon even here, away from the real high rises. I mean, it doesn't happen all the time but I know of several incidences in my short career. These photos are from my one time in a tower crane several years back. We were building onto a hospital in Anniston, AL. This crane was only at about 200 feet but to me it was pretty high. They sway so much that I actually felt motion sick as I reached the top. Another thing that is about as common is to have the crane operator die in the crane of natural causes. I guess since most operators are usually older men and the cabs of the cranes get very hot, several of them have had heart attacks. By the time anyone knows what is going on and can get to them (it takes about 15-20 minutes to climb to the cab) they are already dead. One we know of died during a concrete pour. A lot of the high rise floors here are poured with a crane and buckets that holds 2-3 yards of concrete. The operator had enough wits about him when he realized what was happening to hit the emergency stop on the crane but he unfortunately, passed away.
I took this photo while I was sitting in the operator's seat. The floor of the cab is Plexiglas so you can see straight down. I gave me a really uneasy feeling at first. Another thing the surprises a lot of the guys is when they find out that often times in the summer, the tower crane operators will be nude. It gets so hot in the cabs, as they are essentially glass boxes, many of the operators will take all their clothes off. This was the case with another one that died in the crane and when our guys got up there to him they were quite surprised with what they found.
There was another young man killed on a site this week not far from here. In fact, it was on a job that my company was supposed to have gotten as general contractor. Two construction workers in less than a year is a little unusual. From the reports it sounded like he was electrocuted. You know, when I see some of you out there working on construction projects of your own and I say, please be careful etc., I don't think that you all are stupid or don't know what you are doing, it's just that we see so many bad things, it makes you constantly aware of what can happen. We have safety crammed down our throats and stuff still happens every day on jobs and it happens in the blink of an eye. I mean, I know of 2 incidences where I was just 3 or 4 inches from buying the farm myself. You maybe don't really find out how close you came until later and it is very sobering. So, please be careful anytime you are climbing on something, working with electrical or gas or working under an object that is not completely secure.
I haven't felt like posting much lately even though I have several things going on at the house. My mood is still kinda flat and I just don't feel like I have much to say that would be of any interest to anyone out there. I learn so much from all the other blogs out there and hope I provide some new ideas maybe, to someone, but I guess I feel like I don't have anything new to share. Anyway, maybe I won't be away too long. Ya'll be safe.

*The Byrds

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It Don't Come Easy

Hey guys, I'll try to post some stuff soon; I've been working on several things around the house. This has been the first week down here that the temps have been in the 90's and so work has been a little rough. It takes about a week or so to really acclimate to the heat when you are working outside for so many hours. We have been having to work on top of steel decking or black plastic too, in the sun, while tying rebar so that has made it especially tough. Plus, I've been in a little bit of a blue funk but it will pass.
Barry, sorry I missed you Saturday! I had forgotten to mention that I had to go to Tennessee to attend my brother's graduation. I only missed you by about 20 minutes though. Agh! Please try again around the 4th. I know I'll be here then.

*Ringo Starr. Also, a favorite song.