Archive for the ‘projects’ Category


January 17, 2011

On Friday we received a letter from the City informing us that we had been approved for a low-interest loan for to complete energy-efficiency/building performance projects.  Last year we had a home energy audit which detailed issues and prioritized solutions in terms of feasibility and payback.  Of course, it can cost quite a bit to address these issues so we sat on the report. Then in November we were invited by the City to participate in a pilot program where the City provides low interest loans to homeowners so they can complete these projects.  Ideally, you pay back the loan each month with money you save on your utility bill.  I can guarantee we won’t have our gas bill reduced $89/month (our monthly loan payment) but I still think its a great idea as we are not just saving money every month but will hopefully be making our home significantly more comfortable.

We received two bids for work.  The first contractor came at it with the approach of a remodeling project than a retrofitting  or weatherization project.  I don’t doubt that gutting the house and reconstructing it would be the ideal strategy if money were no object but Tanya and I decided it wasn’t in our best interest to spend $40,000 to $80,000 on our basement.  Especially since some houses on our block aren’t worth 80K. The second contractor gave us a bid of $7000 to seal an area in the basement, replace/upgrade 3 basement windows, replace/upgrade a hot water heater, replace/upgrade a bath fan, and insulate portions of the attic.  If all goes well, we should be eligible for about $1000 from the state energy efficiency foundation.

The ultimate goal, is to get the upstairs bedrooms and the basement warmer.  And to replace the hot water heater before it totally gives out.  Then we can move on to installing draintiles in the basement and reclaiming one floor of livable space!  But first I need to sign some forms and get some guys over here fixing this stuff!


New Day, New Decade

January 2, 2011

In 2010 I learned that writing about urban ecology is much easier done in the winter than the spring and summer simply because during late spring and summer I was “too busy” to write.  This is, of course, total bullshit.  There was plenty of time to write, I just didn’t.  In 2011, my goal is to write one post per week and on the first day of January which arrived here with a cold, hard wind, that seems like an easy task. 

My overall goal for 2011 is less ideas, more action.  My mind has fallen into a state of input-addicted, multi-tasking, disarray and I need to fix this by focusing on output via creating, writing, building, and growing.  With any luck, this will help rewire my brain so it functions effectively again.

To recap the last 8 months of 2010, it was hot as shit with horrible mosquitos which are my top two excuses for the garden falling into a greater state of disrepair than I would care but there were some successes.  The tomatos did very well in Liam’s yard. The sorrel came back and looks well established.  The hyssop sprouted and even bloomed and should come back thiicker unless Liam pulls it all out while the converting the old dogrun to a chicken run. The Canada Anemone should be fine and another clump I put in 2 years ago completely overran the English violets which was too bad.  The pole beans did well  but the lettuce was not particularly great as even though it was supposed to be a mixed bag of seeds, 90% of what actually grew was a very peppery. arugula-like green – I’ll need to get a new mix this year.  The biggest disappointment was that no mushrooms whatsover grew.  I think the logs that I drilled the spored dowels into must have dried out which prevented the oysters from growing.  They could still grow this year though.

On the efficiency-front, we got a letter from the city offering us a spot in a pilot program to get a low interest loan from the city for energy efficiency improvements. Using the report from our home energy audit as a guide, we got bids from 2 local contractors for work I’ll detail later if we get approved.

Guerrilla Restorations

April 24, 2010

This past weekend was a major gardening weekend.  Saturday April 17th my daughter and I went down to a huge nursery 10 miles south of town.  I purchased 4 sedges (Carex plantaginea), six wild gingers (Asarum canadense), 3 Siberian Irises (Iris siberica), and a pair of English violets (Viola hybrida ‘Etain’).  Most of the plants went in the front garden.  The exceptions were the wild gingers.  Those went on the north side of the garage where I am trying to reclaim.  These didn’t go in the giant weed patch / dog run but between that and the garage, intermingled with the Columbines that I transplanted from other places around the yard.

Sunday morning I dug up the prairie plants on the south side of the garage and decided to plant them in the greenway across the street from our house.  There is about an acre of land that is neglected by the city but used as a walking area by the neighbors.  The open field is primarily inhabited by reed canary grass and a variety of other common weeds so I doubt anyone will mind that I planted 20 prairie plants out there.  Rudbeckias, ironweeds, monards, spiderworts, and sunflowers, etc.  People probably thought I was crazy as they biked along the bike path that traverses the greenway and saw me digging holes in the middle of a field with a kid on my back.  At least one neighbor was into it, though.  I told Steve what I was doing an he offered to raise plants in his backyard and then transplant them. Maybe I’ll post something on craigslist and see if anyone else wants to contribute….

Steve also told me that our mushroom kit order had arrived.  I purchased 6 dowel plugs that will grow Wine Cap Stropharia and about 100 dowel plugs that will grow oyster mushrooms.  The stropharia plugs are 2-inch dowels that are covered in mycelium.  These you just jam into the ground in an area full of decomposed wood chips.  I planted(?) those on the north side of the house.  For the oyster plugs, I needed to drill inch in holes into the logs I picked up this winter from where the crews cleared the railroad right-of-way.  After drilling the holes, I just tapped the dowels in with a hammer.  since they were wet and covered in mycelium, they fit in very snug-ly.  Now I need to water my mushroom logs.  Go figure.

And as a prelude ti this weekend’s activities, I received 30 Canada anemones (Anemone canadensis) in the mail from a nursery.   These will replace the prairie plants I moved to the greenway.  They’ll stay nice and low and they have a nice long bloom time. They also spread nicely.  I also received the Lavender hyssop seed with the anemones.  Liam has most of the weeds and topsoil removed from the dogrun / weed patch so these will get planted soon.