Thursday, December 30, 2010


I'm borrowing this picture of Mt Rogers from a friend. I imagine the snowy coat from a couple of years ago is similar to what Mt Rogers is wearing now. I backpacked up there for the first time in October of this year. It is truly beautiful. As I reflect back on 2010, one of my personal heroes comes to mind - Rachel Carson. Though the subject matter of some of her writings will unsettle the most stable person, her writings are eloquent, provocative and beautiful.
"Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts."
I have definitely tapped into those strengths this year. This winter I find myself pouring over seed catalogs and a book entitled Edible Forest Gardens yearning to turn the soil and plant new life. I will plant some old favorites: rosemary for friendship and remembrance; lavender for its calming smell and simple beauty; candy tuft as a nod to familial generations before me; sage for deserts of Oregon and its yummy addition to food; hellebores for a wonderful gardening friend. I'll also plant a tree or two - probably a dogwood and a redbud. I like to plant trees to mark significant years in my life. With inspiration from the Edible Forest Gardens, I'm pondering wild ginger and galax for areas of my yard that are in full shade beneath the maple trees.

I look forward to closing out 2010 settled into a local gem to enjoy some amazing food, have my ears tickled by the sounds of my roots, and smile at the prospects of a new year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bubbles. Tiny Bubbles.

The last week or two have proven to be an adjustment and dynamic experiment to living with single pane windows and an older home. Some of the steel windows downstairs don't seal as well as they used to seal. Weatherstripping on doors is deteriorated or non-existent. Cold air pours off the bottom of the windward windows. My thermostat is already set higher than I would like and I fear this month's gas bill.

On advice and generosity of a friend, I have taken action. It's action on a budget, but something is better than nothing. Over the course of a few days, I made a mental note of which window coverings I rarely open and which windows were not as important for views in the winter months. I narrowed it down to the all of the basement windows, the master bedroom, and the upper half of the second bedroom windows.
Bubble wrap installed pane-by-pane
While my inner interior designer went to war with my inner greenie self, I measured window lites, cut bubble wrap to corresponding sizes, wiped down windows with an old wet rag, and adhered the bubble wrap pane-by-pane to select windows throughout my house. As I put up the bubble wrap, the designer in me took deep breaths and knew that it could all come down in a quick flurry since it is only held up there with good ol' water. 

Bubbles installed - trash and recycling bin view impeded

The downstairs "bedroom" is used as more of a seasonal clothing and craft storage space so views to the exterior were not critical (especially since the current highlight of the view out the big window is my trash and recycling bins).
Stealth bubbles. Privacy at ground level. Glimmer of daylighting to admire Granny and Papa's handmade quilt. Eclectic.
With the makeshift window coverings salvaged from years gone by, the bubbles are not too noticeable. The unfinished basement windows are clerestory windows. In the winter their primary purpose is to provide daylighting when I happen to be down there to do some laundry, source a cardboard box, or grab a sled.

Bubble wrap installed.
The master bedroom is on the front of the house. Given the slope of the land, the "deluxe" vinyl 1" mini blinds that came with the house are always closed. The white plastic of the blinds glows in the morning so the bubble wrap only cuts the glow factor by a teeny bit.

Bubble wrap installed, the blinds still glow at 4 p.m.
I do not live in a neighborhood with a homeowner association so there is nothing forbidding me from putting bubble wrap, styrofoam, cardboard, plywood, etc. in windows other than sheer heinousness. Not wanting the neighbors to hate me, I had to take a look outside to see what I had done (again keeping in mind that a quick swipe of the hands and bubble wrap would be GONE).
Exterior view of installed bubble wrap
I am standing about 10' away from the window taking the picture. The sidewalk is a good 25' feet from the window. All-in-all I don't think it looks too horribly bad especially considering the payback I'll potentially get in my investment of time and materials. The master bedroom feels noticeably warmer. The basement feels less drafty. I am anxious to see what the gas utility bill says about it. Until then, I'm crunching numbers and looking at more energy saving options to tackle these single pane windows.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bottled Up

A couple of my friends reminded me that I did not provide full disclosure to my water savings success in my last post. I totally forgot about working for a few days to maximize water displacement in the toilet tank. I fell victim to out of sight out of mind and have been letting the bottles do their thing.

Per the date inside the toilet tank, my toilet was manufactured August 24, 1970 - a verified water guzzler. I've heard of displacing water with bricks placed in the toilet tank. This is not a good option as the bricks may erode and leave sedimentation in the toilet tank (not that mine could look much worse). Since I don't typically drink sodas, I solicited a few polyethylene terephtalate (PETE or #1) bottles from friends. In addition to my mellow yellow practice and with a little finagling around moving toilet parts, I managed to wedge one - 2 liter bottle and two - 20 oz bottles into my toilet tank. The bottles are filled with water for ballast.
Bottled up toilet tank
I never promised that my photos would be glamorous. For that matter, I don't know that I've ever seen the inside of toilet tank that I would call glamorous - even the brand, spanking, new ones (my apologies the toilet manufacturing industry).