Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ice and fire

We ran into sleet driving north to visit Girl Far From Home for parents' weekend. It dressed up the trees and bushes up in the mountains where we went to visit a winery. Then on the way back to our hotel, we watched the sun set over the mountains.

Recycling is cool!

So are bow ties and the Tardis.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

SubT: Ready for Occupancy

A couple hours this morning and the SubT (subterranean greenhouse) is ready for occupancy!

This is the finished roof.  You can see under the top layer of poly film the corrugated panels.  They aren't vinyl after all, they are PVC and they are getting brittle.  We had to toss most of the original ones that I bought 4 years ago because they were too bent and too brittle but we managed with the extras I bought two years ago.  We will have to have new ones the next time we replace the poly sheeting but hopefully that will be at least 2 years from now.

This is how it looks from where the neighbors can see it - not pretty but not too bad.   The neighbor on that side doesn't spend any time outdoors - I have seen her and spoken to her one time in the 16 years we've lived in this house and that was when she came over to yell at me.  She doesn't even answer the door for trick or treaters.  You can barely see it from the road because our house sits atop a hill so I doubt that it bothers anyone.

This is what it looks like from the top of the stairs that go down into the well where it lives.  (The long white pole is holding the poly that covers the opening up and out of the way - sort of).

This is the door frame that fits in the opening.  It fits tightly from the outer wall to the back of the chimney wall.  I can leave it so that it will open and you can go in and out, but I have blocked it off for several years.  When the plants get in there, there isn't a lot of room for coming and going so I just push the frame into place with the sheeting that hangs down from the roof around it and it effectively makes that a wall.  

This is the inside - cozy but bright.  It is 6' across from the doorway to the outer wall and 9' long from the opening where I'm standing to take the pic to the end where the white shelves are next to the door.  

And this is standing next to the door to the house looking out the opening that heads up the stairs.  You can see where the chimney wall comes out from the house (behind the wire table) and makes the doorway that I close up.  

Most of the shelving in the SubT is recycled.  The table was a clothing rack that had been donated to the costume shop at the school, but one piece of leg was missing so it was worthless.  The white bakers rack was missing one piece of iron and the glass for two shelves had been broken so the neighbors were throwing it away.  I just put wood where the glass was missing and it's great for my purposes.  The shelves along the long, outside wall are made from cinder blocks that were in Dad's basement when I cleaned out his house and recycled closet shelving (think elfa but cheaper).  The floor is slanted towards a drain that was built in, so I used shingles to level the various shelves.  I do have a small electric heater, but until it gets very cold and stays that way for a while, the light bulb in the outdoor light will keep it pretty warm.

The whole thing is pretty cheap, and pretty effective.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Upgrading the SubT

We have a 'daylight basement'.  I put quotes around that because I think saying it was a stretch on the builder's part.  What they did to create the 'daylight' part of the basement was extend the basement out a few feet, surround it by a brick wall and put stairs that lead below grade to a door and two windows.  

A few years back, I decided that this would be the perfect place to build a greenhouse.  The well is 6' across and the area from the end of the well to the side of the chimney is 9' long, so the greenhouse is 6' x 9'.   It's perfect because I didn't really have to build much.  I had to come up with a way to create a roof that was insulated and still let sun in.  The roof had to be slanted so it didn't collect leaves so that meant that there is a triangle at one end that had to be dealt with and the open end.  Because there is a chimney sticking out of the wall, the other end was half walled which just left a doorway.

So, in October of 2007 my nephew came for a visit and I put him to work.  We bought some PVC pipes, some corrugated vinyl roofing panels and some poly sheeting and we built me a greenhouse.  We built a sqare frame of PVC and laid it across the well where the stairs go down below grade from the top of the wall (which has a railing on it that conveniently holds the frame in place) to the wall of the house.  Then we covered that with the poly sheeting and put the roof tiles on top of that.  I used bubble wrap to drape over the doorway and the open end where the railing is - inside the poly which was also draped down below grade on all sides.

In October of 2009, I needed to replace the poly sheeting as it becomes brittle with time.  I had learned that water will accumulate on it and cause it to droop, so I added a brace to the center of the rectangular pvc frame.  I also lifted the bottom so that the poly sheeting was above ground level and the water could flow to the ground more easily.

This year, I again had to replace the sheeting and this year I am making a few more improvements.

First, the outside edge is all the framing this thing had the first year.  In 2009, I added the third top to bottom piece (the one under my daughter's feet).  This year, we (I had help again - this time from DH and DD) added two side to side braces which I hope will help keep the roofing panels from sagging.

These are the corrugated roofing panels and they are no longer flat.  Gravity combined with the heat of the sun here in Georgia to cause them to sort of melt in the middle.  I'm hoping they will flatten out a bit in the sun today and tomorrow morning but if not, I'll just use them with the humps up so gravity can flatten them back down.

Here is the framing in place.  Tomorrow it will be covered with a sheet of poly which will drape below grade on the end with the wrought iron railing and to the ground on the other end.  Then we will lay the corrugated roofing panels on top of that - I think I may tie some to the top of the pvc frame to keep them from sliding down since we have a steeper grade this year than ever before.  Lastly, we will lay another layer of poly sheeting over the whole thing again.  The corrugated roofing panels will create an air space between the two layers of sheeting that will help insulate the roof.

There is a pvc framed doorway that gets wedged between where the chimney sticks out and the outside wall.  Both the door and the end near the railing will also get a draping of bubble wrap for added insulation.

This has worked very well for the last four years.  I lose a few plants every year, but a lot less than when I tried to keep them alive in the garage.  And last year, I had tomatoes in December, January and even February (tho those didn't taste as good).

Tomorrow, we dress the frame and maybe move the plants.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


This is the first Marilyn that Girl Far From Home knit - all finished.

 And these pictures show my completed square (the blue/pink) and Girl Far From Home's completed square (the purple/pink) and each of our half done squares - mine is the one that is a little bigger.

And possibly the last bloom of the year from my favorite passion flower.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I did in school today.

The school the girls go to (well, one went) is different from most schools out there.  It goes from pre-K (3 year olds) up to 12th grade.  It isn't traditional in any area, but least of all in the early grades.  Once a year, the specialists (the art teacher, music teacher, pe teacher, computer person, spanish teacher, principal, guidance counselor and any other person without a full time classroom full of kids) get together and put on an experiential learning week that focuses on just one subject.  This year it was the Wild West.

They brought me in to teach about spinning and fibers and how the settlers made their clothes.  It was really fun.  These little guys are in the 3 year old class and they were so interested and so polite!

I spent about 5 hours there and got to see a lot of lovely little kids.  The boys were fascinated with how my wheel worked and the girls were fascinated with everything.

I showed them lots of different types of fibers and lots of different kinds of spindles and some cards and how to card wool.

The kids had each made their own horse . . . .

and they rode them up the hall to the music room where I was with my spinning wheel.

This little gentleman held his horse tightly so I could get a picture of it - it was green on the other side.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another New Baby

The Divine Miss M isn't the only one around here who just got a new baby unexpectedly.
My old Dell is going to be celebrating it's 9th birthday on the 4th of February and since it's currently the only computer in the house, DH bought me a new one.  There used to be five computers in the house besides mine.  Girl Far From Home took one to college and the others all died - and I mean really and truly died.

It's a nice, big screen iMac that I haven't a clue how to use because I've always been a PC kinda gal.

Girl Far From Home has a MacBook and The Divine Miss M also wants one so it just made sense that all the family computers should be the same operating system.  It doesn't hurt that we have been hit by nasty viruses that disabled every computer in the house repeatedly over the last couple of years.  The first time they all got attacked it cost me a couple of hundred bucks to get them straightened out.  The second time, my nephew helped and the last time I managed to get most of the crap cleaned off but it kept coming back so I had to have my computer lobotomized.  That time only cost me for hardware upgrades because a good friend did the work.  

Macs are almost immune to viruses and spyware and other security attacks.  To me, that's a huge deal especially with teenagers in the house.  

My last computer has given me almost nine years of use and other than the viruses of the last couple of years, not a lot of trouble.  I've changed the things I do on computers over those nine years though, so I wanted something with a lot of RAM and a faster and better processor - course, I would get that with almost anything I bought, even used.  I want to be able to use Skype and Oovoo and still do something else on the computer and I can't do that with my old Dell and cannot upgrade the processor to allow for the newer video cards that could handle it.  

I love the design of these macs.  There is no big box under the desk where my feet should go - just the screen, a smallish keyboard (going to take some getting used to because I learned to type on actual typewriters and have a heavy touch) and a very small but very cool mouse.  Once I get the old Dell moved to it's new home, I'm going to have lots of room on my desk that I don't now! 

It's going to take a while to get the new computer doing all that the old one did - especially since I spent the last six days driving back and forth to get Girl Far From Home and then playing with her (bought the computer with her) and then taking her back to where she belongs these days.  She has a funny way of riding in cars, in case you didn't notice.

So, if I'm missing in action, I'm probably just trying to figure out how to do something . . . . there will be a lot of that going on for a while, but I'll be smiling in my confusion.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Divine Miss M

Tanna the Llama had a baby on Oct 15 2011

Recap on herd:
I have: 2 males and 3 females (Polo, KiteRunner, La Negrita, Syringa and Angelique)
Teresa: 2 males and 3 females (Sonqo, Encanto, Kizmet, Caldera and Egsotica)
Divine Miss M: 2 males and 2 females (Marco, Mark, Chainaral and Tanna the llama and baby Dai and llama at the end of the blog)

It's Timing Was Perfect

This beauty bloomed last night.  I was afraid it was going to hold out till tonight and I won't be around to see it tonight - heading back to Far From Home later this morning.

It's not just gorgeous, it smells divine.  It's a Night Blooming Cereus and they are one of the most fragrant flowers I know of but they don't bloom very often.  I think I heard something about them being a seven year flower.

This is the whole plant - gives a little perspective on how big the flower is and what the plant looks like.

This is the back side of the flower - I really love all those feathery bits.

It was still open this morning so I got a couple of quick pics.

This is it next to my hand because I wanted to show perspective.  The only problem is that my hand is sort of in front of the flower because I was doing this by myself - would have been better to use someone else's hand.  The hand in front makes the flower look a bit smaller than it really is - it's about 9" across.

And this is a water lily that's been blooming like crazy all summer and is still blooming.  It's more purple/blue than it looks in this picture . . .