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What to look for at end-of-winter sales

Actually, Aunt Toby had a whole program planned out for this weekend. We’d had wonderfully warm temperatures this week, even for Chez Siberia – by Friday it was up to 63 degrees F. About 12-15” of snow cover melted and I was ready to get out there and shovel off one of the garden beds and talk to you about getting ready for spring planting. Unfortunately, overnight, the temperature plummeted down in the low 20s with high winds and snow, so I didn’t deal with that yesterday, and you get ‘housekeeping bits and pieces’ today. Sorry.

At this point in the season, we’re all extremely tired of winter, the snow next to the road is grimy, and we’re all itching for spring. For most of us north of the Mason-Dixon Line, though, we’ve still got several weeks of winter and some of it will be extremely nasty. We also have (and they’ve started already) ‘end of the season sales’ going on not only in our local malls but over the internet. So, at this point, I usually take a serious look at what my family has been wearing this winter, what shape it’s in, and whether or not the item actually performed its function HERE. Now, depending on where YOU live, (more…)

Throw a little science into the garden mix

OK, so Aunt Toby just knows that you’ve got this gargantuan pile of seed catalogs next to the chair or on your night stand and the color photos are just amazing. And your list is growing longer and longer and you are just going crazy with the thoughts of the snow off the ground and the plants IN the ground and what the tomatoes are going to taste like this summer and hey, maybe you’ll make salsa!

Slow down, Bucko. Let’s throw a little science on this, ok? (more…)

More Appliance Fixing: Humidifier

One of the things the DH and I did this year, was look at our heating situation. We have an old oil furnace at Chez Siberia and even without the issue of ‘buying foreign oil’, the thing is old. But replacing it would not change several issues involved with furnaces in houses:
1) They are all electric started so when we lost our power in the winter time, we also lost the heat.
2) Replacing it with a more efficient oil furnace would only make our burning foreign oil even more efficient. Cleaner, but still foreign.

So, we replaced our major source of heat in the house with a wood pellet stove in the living room with the oil furnace as a back up in case the weather got so horribly cold that we could not keep the house warm enough.

The is just one problem with wood heat – it’s dry. Really really dry. Like dries out your nose and your skin and makes you cough and gives you winter itch dry. So, we needed a source of moisture. (more…)

How to get warm and stay warm

P5190021  New lamb (Truth in advertising: This is not a shot of any of our sheep; this photo is courtesy of North Devon Farmer)
Everyone cozy? All settled in? (given the amount of snow and cold out there right now, Aunt Toby certainly hopes wherever you are is cozy) Let me tell you a story. (more…)

Books Worth Having: General Self-Sufficiency

When the DH and I were first married and moved to our first (rented) house in the country, our self-sufficiency skills were pretty meager. I had done a little bit of vegetable gardening at my parents’ house, under tutelage at the level of “just buy a bag of Scotts™ Turf-Builder and throw it out there”. My mom was definitely from the ‘buy a plant and find a hole to put it in” school. (more…)

More Wool: A Prince of an Idea

It’s time to ‘fess’ up, as they say. Aunt Toby has never..ever…met HRH Charles Philip Arthur George, the Prince of Wales.
We just don’t move in the same, as we might say, circles.
But on the other hand, if we did meet, we’d have a lot to talk about.
He’s a organic gardener. Aunt Toby’s an organic gardener.
He believes in good solid architecture. I’m into barns, too.
He’s been a fierce advocate of protecting the ecology for years; moi aussi.

And he believes that the world would be a healthier, happier, warmer place if people wore more wool. (more…)

55: Keep Your Eyes on the Thermometer

I know for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s still summer (for my readers fro the Southern Hemi- file this away) and it’s rather difficult, especially given the temperatures experienced this summer, to think about winter, but it’s out there. And for those of us for whom winter has, ahem, a ‘special meaning’ (as in it can get so cold that you’ll freeze the insides of your nose), soaking up the warmth is really nice.

But it is coming – get over it. (more…)

Curtain(s) Up!

There are probably as many ways to install shades and curtains on a deck or pergola as people can dream up. The basic making directions are here : I’m going to go over some ideas that I got AFTER I made the decisions that I did:

Adjustable shower curtain rods. You can find these to fit spaces between about 40” and 72”. So what I could have done would have been to have either put grommets into the top of the shades and then used shower curtain rings (and goodness knows there are a zillion different types of those; I could have found some to match the pergola, even). OR, I could have gotten those humongous curtain grommets (JoAnne Fabrics has them, as do other curtain supply houses), put those into the top of the shades and strung the adjustable shower curtain rod through those. The upside of that would have been that the shades would have been like curtains and could be opened or closed at will. Neato. (more…)

More Shady Doings at Chez Siberia

I did not describe the process by which Aunt Toby came to the conclusion that making shades for the pergola was the way to go. Actually, I did not describe the process by which the decision to put a pergola on the deck was made either. But, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

There are numerous ways to gain shade: (more…)

My Kingdom For Some Shade

Aunt Toby is not sure exactly when decks replaced porches but somewhere in the not so distant past, people got all hot and bothered to have a place to sit outside that wasn’t a patio and didn’t have a roof. And not being immune to this, when we did “the first big dig” on Chez Siberia (which consisted of a double dug, French-drained basement with its own separate sump and pump to take care of the amazingly huge hydrostatic pressure that we had), we put on this little deck at the back entrance (it is a RULE that all houses in the country must absolutely have a ‘back door’ or ‘kitchen door’ which is what everyone expects to use as the entrance no matter how lovely or appropriate the front entrance is. It is a rule, probably promulgated by Organic Gardening or Mother Earth News or some such publication, but I digress). (more…)

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