Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How to clean siding and learn to love your home

My home is my retreat, but at a certain point (maybe two weeks after buying the house and moving in), I felt overwhelmed with projects that needed finishing. In less than two years, I had started and stopped a number of  projects. BUYING the items needed to complete the project was easy, but USING the items was another issue. Unfortunately, the overwhelming fear of failure loomed large in my mind. Home ownership is no small deal and the amount of upkeep prior to buying was underestimated on my part.

That brings me to my siding. I don’t have much siding, but it had gotten gritty and dirty. Horribly dirty.

For some unknown reason, I had decided that cleaning the siding was beyond me, even though, it really wasn't. By just using Google, I found PLENTY of websites that explained the basic techniques of cleaning siding.


Most of the web sites I found used a power washer to clean the siding. However some articles cautioned against using one if you didn’t really know how to use it. I decided that it was in my best interest not to use a power washer.

The other tool that I didn't use was a garden sprayer. It's use was suggested in order to soap the siding. I thought that it would be too slow and just one more item that I would have to lug out and clean afterward. I used the following tools:
  • Bucket
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Brush extension pole
  • Hot water
  • Dish washing liquid
  • Soft Towel
  • Water hose with a multi-sprayer nozzle

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East and her siding is the sun.
What I did...
Working from the bottom up, I used the misting setting on the nozzle to wet the area I was going to clean. Then I used the soft bristle brush and hot soapy water to brush off the grit and grim. I only used enough force to get the dirt off. Next, I used the spray setting on the nozzle and sprayed downward (important!) to get the soap off. I used this method for all of the siding, except for the times I had to work around light fixtures or a crack. When I worked around those items, I used a towel to wash and wipe the soap off (Yes, I cleaned the rag with fresh water in between washing and wiping).

In an hour and a half (on a 90+ degree day) I had clean, if not pristine siding.

Next Up: Windows!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What does it mean to be green?

Making sense of green

I have been inundated with “green” product advertisements, “green” living articles and “green” blogs. Each ad, article and blog seems to point me in a different direction. At first I’m told to buy a green cleaner and then I’m told that I should make my own. Instead of turning down my thermostat (or up, as the case may be in the summer), I should by a programmable thermostat. All of this “green” advice has left me feeling a little blue.

Why? Too many articles are simply promotional copy to buy product; it doesn’t give me the background I need to make substantive changes. In other words, “green” can sometime just mean greenbacks. It’s a loaded vocabulary word that can mean recycling, carbon credits, veganism, stainless steel water bottles, water conservation and bamboo clothing.

In my bid to do better for myself and the environment, I made a conscious decision to limit the amount of cleansers I bought…a multi-purpose cleaner is a multi-purpose cleaner. In other words, my “green” efforts seem to center on conservation more than any other principal. Instead of buying plastic containers for food storage, I use sturdy ones from previous restaurant take-outs; old t-shirts become dust rags; electronic appliances are on surge protectors and are cut off when not used; canvas bags are used while shopping and containers that can be recycled are recycled.

As I find products that make my life easier, I will buy them. But, what trips me up is that usually it’s not buying something that helps; it’s deciding that when something breaks if it truly needs to be replaced. (Yes, I truly needed the chest of drawers.) I won’t buy another washer until this one breaks or is no longer efficient and then I may invest in a high efficiency washer. The same goes for the hot water heater. When that is no longer efficient and a new one is needed, I will probably get a tankless water heater.

I also use some alternatives to store bought animal and insect repellants. For the raccoons who visited my porch at night, I put out cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil. It seems to do the trick and they have not returned. For skunks, I play music, preferably rock or rap (something, even I don’t want to listen to at 2 a.m.) in order to make my yard less inviting.

I have found the following resources to be most helpful in sorting through the glut of “green”.

The Daily Green is “the consumers guide to the green revolution”, a website with good concise information on environmental living. They seem to pull from other “green” websites so you don’t have to look far for information. Their standard sections are Home, News, Tips & Advice, Green Homes, New Green Cuisine, Living Green and Weird Weather Watch.

The Environmental Working Group is the standard bearer for ensure that the things we come into contact with daily (fresh fruits and vegetables, water, cosmetics, plastic containers, and other items ) are free from contaminants that can cause us harm. They are routinely mentioned in the media as a source of research on environmental health issues. You can sign up to get information emailed to you.

So, if green has you blue, take a deep breath before committing yourself to something new.

This blog was originally published on 7/27/10. A photo was deleted; the photo above was added and taken by the author.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Target Chest of Drawers

About three weeks ago (it could have been four, but I can’t find the receipt) I bought a chest of drawers from Target. Technically, it's called a "4 drawer chest" from their Room Essentials brand.

Yes, that meant that I would have to put it together. Yes, it meant that I would have to take everything out of the package myself and later dispose of/or recycle all of the packaging contents. Yes, it meant a lot of things; including having a place to put clothes that were currently stacked on shelves.

So, impulsively, I bought the chest. I should have known it was going to be trouble…it weighed 72 pounds and I had to have a Target team member put it in my tiny car. Once home, I unpacked it in the garage and carefully carried the pieces inside. I stacked them in my den, looked over the instructions and knew…knew that this was going to be problematic.

I let the pieces of the chest rest in the room for two weeks, while my mind wrestled with putting it together and when I couldn’t stand it any longer I got down to business. It took me a total of four days to physically put the chest together. Why did it take so long? Well, out of the hundred pieces (okay...approximately 35-not counting the hardware) of this project only four were labeled. Four! The others were supposed to be labeled; according to the 31 page booklet of instructions. And they were labeled. With totally different numbers from what was listed in the instruction booklet.

Maybe I should have taken it back to Target then, but all I could think about was lugging 72 pounds of particle board back to the garage, somehow packing it all in the same box and driving that back to Target.

And that is the reason I will never get furniture that I have to put together again. It’s a headache; a pain and a reason to go to garage sales or any place else first.

I was stuck…so for those two weeks I had to tell myself that I could in fact put this chest together. Oh, by the way, I checked the furniture website for the chest (they don’t want you to take it back to Target either) and the pieces were numbered the same as the instruction booklet. No Help.

Four Days and 35 Plus Pieces

The first day I concentrated on putting together the four drawers. That went well enough that I believed I could go on.

The second day I concentrated on the frame and then the temperature rose to over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It was hot, even though I had the fan on. So, I stopped.

The third day the frame was stable and I corrected some mistakes…it was not clear where I was to attach the panel clips. Do not take the picture literally!! Oops. They need to go in the edge of the panel and drawer front and back.

The fourth day the drawers were inserted and the dresser was moved into place.

Done and done.

Finally a place to put my clothes.

On a scary note: The wall mount attachment strips are absolutely necessary! If I had kids or pets, I wouldn’t buy this thing at all. It is not very stable.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Rhododendron in the Backyard

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Now, I just have to learn how to deadhead the plant.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wasps!!! Part Three: Is this the end?

Recessed lights covered with painters tape

It’s been two weeks since I’ve seen a yellow jacket or paper wasp in my house. That doesn’t mean that every time I hear a certain kind of buzz or bump  I don’t cringe. I do. And then I sit (depending on the position I am when I hear the sound, I stand) perfectly still until I determine the location of the sound. For now, most of the buzzing has been outside.

I Taped and Still They Came

Nothing I did earlier stopped the invasion. Taping the recessed lighting did nothing. And, yes, I heard the skeptisim in the pest control guy's voice when I first told him that I believed that they were coming from the lights; he indulged me, and in the process, I was proven wrong. The first warm day, there was a yellow jacket in the house. So, I did another inspection of the outside and remembered an area I had seen paper wasps flying in and out of, but at the time I didn’t think it led to the interior of the house.

Now, I didn't care.

At all.

I sprayed.

Then, I began to look for other areas that could be exploited. Unfortunately, I found a lot places that could be potential openings and I sprayed them ALL. I guess a more permanent fix would be caulking (mortar fix) or tuck pointing, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

And then I took an extra step; the painter’s tape previously used on the recessed lights now tape parts of the windows. Yes, I went that far!! Another pest control guy thought that they may be coming into the house by squeezing through a closed window. I didn’t believe that at all! Now, I’ve suspended my disbelief and I sprayed the areas around the windows.

Later, after  taping the windows, I found a wasp trapped between the untaped storm window and screen of the storm door. The storm window was closed, so I left the wasp to die. It didn’t, at least not by my benign neglect. When I looked later in the day, the wasp was gone. This made the pest control guy's statement that they may be coming in through a closed window plausible.

If you have any ideas on wasp control and abatement, please let me know! It’s not for me; think of the wasps who need a better, healthier place to live.

How I live painters tape on windows

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Do Squirrels Like Chicken?

For about a week it rained...every day. I watched the rain puddle on my driveway, walkways and lawn. I watched as the rain overtook my backyard, until it was under water. And then, not surprisingly, it stopped raining and the sun came out. And so did I. After a sunless week, I happily traipsed to the garbage can. When I opened the lid, my happiness crashed momentarily. A bag had been ripped open and lettuce and other scraps of garbage littered the inside of the can. I immediately blamed raccoons for the mess even though, they had never bothered my cans before.

And then I saw the chicken bone, broken in two and sitting on top of the adjacent recycling bin.

It didn’t seem that that was something a raccoon would do. It seemed like something a squirrel would do. Which led me to my next thought, “Do squirrels eat chicken? Do they like chicken?” I thought squirrels were, well, vegetarians. Then I looked at the backyard where they normally scavenged. It was still flooded from the rain. How could the squirrels look for their buried food? How could they find it underneath the water? Would they even try or would they simply look for food elsewhere? Like in my garbage can.

According to The All New Squirrel Place squirrels rarely eat meat, but they will when faced with hunger. My backyard and any nut buried in its perimeter was under water for several days. In other words, there was no food for the squirrels unless they hit a garbage can.

I really don’t have a definitive answer on who or what left the chicken bone. There are no cameras watching the garbage and recycling bins. What I can say is there have been no more ripped garbage bags since the rain stopped and the backyard dried up.

And if you know that squirrels really do eat chicken, let me know.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Water and a Caulked Sink

One night last year, I realized that water was seeping into the lower cabinet from the sink above. I found this out by accident. I was washing dishes and needed to grab something from underneath the sink, when I grabbed it, it felt damp and I could see that the area around it was also wet.

Luckily, after pulling out everything from under the sink, I saw that the water was not coming from the pipe and seemed to be in only one spot. Then I looked at the rim of the sink and the counter top. There was no caulk! There was nothing to prevent water from seeping down into the cabinet when I sloshed it over the side in washing dishes. Then I procrastinated…instead of correcting the problem, I vowed to be much more careful when I washed dishes! That idea didn't make sense,but I followed through with it anyway.

And then the ants came, in a previous post, High Hopes, I told how I got rid of that problem. But water seepage can create a whole host of problems, including insects (ants and others), mold, and general deterioration. So, I took pictures of the sink with my trusty digital camera and headed to the big box home improvement store. There, I showed them my pictures and explained that the counter top was wood with some type of polyurethane coating. It was suggested that I use clear adhesive caulk.

It worked! The sink is now caulked, perhaps not beautifully nor expertly, but no water is seeping into the cabinet below.