Bird Killer

It’s Sunday night after a long weekend of work.  I got a fair amount accomplished this weekend and have the sore muscles and drooping eyelids to prove it.  Saturday our little guy wasn’t feeling well so instead of visiting relatives down south we stayed at home.  I was happy to have a bonus free and open weekend so I spent Saturday morning finishing up the cabinets in the upstairs art studio.  Photos for all the weekends activities are below, I’ll give you the rundown up here first.  Always seems tough to integrate photos into these WordPress posts and I don’t feel like battling the computer tonight.  So words first then pics.

Friday we fired up the pellet fireplace for the first time.  We watched the Quadrafire DVD that came with our EDGE60 unit and learned how to use the fireplace and thermostat.  Everything worked well enough so we should be all set for when the cold weather hits.  This time of year is great as we haven’t had the heating or cooling on in about three weeks.  The house just hums along at 70 degrees consistently with little or no change.

I started by carving out a rectangular piece of drywall and screwing it over the hole the plumber created to access the pipes we needed to relocate.  I then made a feeble attempt to put drywall “paste” spackle over the seams.  I really hate dry walling…I mean screwing the drywall up is easy enough, though I even screw that up.  Spackling is just plain a pain in the ass and I have no patience for it.  Clearly it’s a task meant to be delegated to others in exchange for currency.  After the hole was patched up I placed the last cabinet and screwed it into place.

Next was installing the long counter top.  I put my Stanley “L” brackets into place, five on each long leg and a couple on the short legs.  Over the open bay where the mini fridge is going I screwed a strip of wood on the wall.  This is to support the counter top over this open area.  Once all the bracket were in place I installed the counter top and using my 3/4″ blocks as spacers, and my family as a weight, I screwed the brackets to the counter tops. Topside I installed two trim pieces on either side of the drop down section.  There was a 1/4″ gap where the counter met the cabinets on either side.  I used the simple 1/4″ half round trim that came the cabinets.  I put adhesive caulk on the back side and pinned it in place with my air nail gun.  The nails shot through into the cabinet walls but they are in a place where they shouldn’t hurt anyone.

Finally I installed the cabinet pulls.  I created a few templates on paper so that I’d consistently drill the mounting holes.  The pulls came with a variety of screw lengths; I measured the thickness of the door and test fit a screw to select the right screw.  The leftover screws are great to have around for future projects or to give to my kid.  It’s really important to get the hole locations right as I struggled a bit and had to over bore some holes to get things to line up.  Lastly I’ll run some clear caulk on the counter edges to close off some of the gaps where the wall waves in and out.  We chose not to install any back splashes on these counters.

Saturday afternoon I attempted to commit suicide by excavating the cistern access and digging a drainage trench.  After thirty minutes I was heaving up specks of lunch and seeing yellow spots.  I muscled through it and was rewarded with just a little bit of chest pain and random anxiety fits.

I went up to Lowes and picked up 50′ of solid plastic pipe material, 4″ in diameter, a couple plastic caps and metal rings which, when all strung together, created a way for water to exit from around the excavated cistern lid area.  I had to dig down far enough to expose two electrical boxes and then trench down enough so the laid pipe would allow the water to travel down hill so to speak.  See, the electrical boxes were allowing water to build up and ultimately travel into our basement.  This little heart and back breaking maneuver I pulled off this weekend should eliminate the water in our basement.  After laying the pipe I covered the one end with stone and the rest of the pipe with the excavated dirt, clay and grass.  I used about ten bags of river pebbles around the lid to make it easy for water to find the drainage pipe.  I’ll pick up some more stone for around the roof washers as well.

I used some of the hand excavated soil in the bed area nearby, as well as wheel barrowing in some from my top soil pile.  Yes the wheel barrow tire is fixed and holding air.  We then spent today planting the rest of the boxwood bushes and relocating some other little plants whose names escapes me at the moment.  I topped everything off with a wee bit of mulch to secure the soil for the winter.

Out back I spread some more mulch around the hydrangea bed.  We picked up two variety of black berry bushes on sale at Lowes for five dollars apiece.  These I planted in our berry bush area, the future pathway that will lead to the veggie garden.  While fixing up the bird netting around the berry bushes I sadly discovered why they call it bird netting, seems I caught and killed a song bird in our netting.  So that puts me at net zero in terms of helping / hurting birds.  In an attempt to improve the situation for our aviary friends I started cutting the netting in half length wise, as I had the excess netting layered over itself which I think made it a trap to animals.  Well laziness is the mother of invention, or at least it is with this Industrial Designer so I just ripped out all the bird netting.  In its place I tied three horizontal strands of yellow twine, about 16″ apart.  I’m pretty sure I saw a TV show where these guys at Penn State said this would stop deer.  Actually they said three strands about 16″ off the ground (spaced apart by 16″ or so with the middle strand a bit higher) would keep dear out.  Something about deer don’t like to step over stuff.  Anyway I did the typical fence thing so we’ll see how that goes.  I did the same around my Arctic Kiwi trees too, which have grown to the exact height they started at six months ago.

Ok, that’s more than enough for one weekend.  Here are the pics in no relative order.  Cheers.


Studio Plumbing Moved

Happiness this week is in the form of the plumbing in the upstairs studio is finally moved.  This means that I can finish up the cabinets.  The hot and cold water lines were inexplicably just poking out of the side wall, so I had them moved by a pro to go back behind the knee wall and resurface inside the sink base.  There was some debate as to whether the lines were in a freeze prone zone, but I contend that there is enough insulation behind the knee wall, in the roof and floor, and the heat ducts run through there, as well as an access panel that the space should be considered conditioned space from a thermal standpoint.  If it gets below thirty-two degrees in there then I have serious thermal issues, frozen water pipes would be the least of my worries.  Just to be safe the plumber used flexible water lines that are more forgiving to temperature changes than the yellowish white PVC plumbing pipes. Once complete the sink will be a great addition to the studio so our resident upstairs artists will be able to clean brushes, make coffee and water down apple juice.

I’ll have to patch up this drywall before the cabinet goes in. You can see the transition here from rigid white PVC plumbing pipes into the fancy less rigid hot and cold water lines. The fancy pipe is less prone to damage from temperature changes.

















here are the chrome tipped water lines emerging into the sink base. As soon as I finish installing the cabinets and countertop we’ll install the new sink in the studio.



On the day before my birthday I had the pleasure of taking a nature walk with the wife and our boys. The nicest thing about our house is the land itself.  As nature takes back over its nice to see all the little plants turning tan dirt into a green carpet. It is so special to just walk around and visually explore.  Our land is basically about a half-dozen meadows visually separated by trees that perfectly frame views.  We’re starting to enter the cool rainy season of Fall here in Ohio.  Summer is finally losing its grip and the plants have run their course. Leaves ease from greens into yellows and browns.  Some are even turning red on certain bushes.  The wild flowers hold on adding spicy blues, pinks and purples to the mix.  It is a most wonderful time of year.  And the cool seventy degree evenings are perfect for taking a walk.

We should get our cedar clear coated yet this Fall and as I said the porches are painted.  I’m going to forego the screens for now and save some money; we’re basically broke for now.  Next week the plumber comes in to straighten the upstairs studio pipes which will allow me to get the task of finishing Christine’s cabinets installed complete.  The garage doors still need their weather-stripping trim caulked and nailed into place.  Plants have been planted, though some boxwoods up front need their bed expanded with top soil before I can plant them…need to remember to do this as they’ve sat patiently for weeks now.  I also need to dig around the cistern and lay some drainage pipe.

With Fall in the air my hibernation instincts are kicking in.  Wrapping up everything outside for the next few months will be good.  Hopefully I can force my ass back into the studio and get painting.  I have dozens of canvases waiting for paint.   I really need to get some paintings done and start whoring my wares to make a few bucks.  We need to refill our coffers before winter….unplanned expenses such as snow removal and putting cleats on the metal roof are looming, not to mention the clear coating of the cedar this year still.  We’ve nixed getting any trees this year including the nine apple trees.

One good thing is that we actually refinanced our mortgage; with rates so low we’re saving  around $150 plus, per month (I have to look).  I highly recommend you look into it yourself. The process was long and drawn out but worth it in the end.  Only down side is the appraisal.  Our banking models are really outdated…their only means of accessing a value on a home is via comparable sales.  Based on their assessment we’ve already lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of value on our property, but I’d contend that the house and property is incomparable to other properties.  The system is set up to evaluate homes in bubble markets in cookie cutter neighborhoods.  It’s really a shame but not surprising when one considers most of our modern business and social models are out of date.  Hopefully our kids will have a better time of it, but I’m not sure how successful our generation will be at changing things.

I went to hear Janine Benyus speak in Akron the other night.  I’ve heard her a few times previously and even met her / sat in on a round table discussion with her before.  Janine literally wrote the book on Biomimicry.  If you don’t know what that is, in a nut shell it’s the science of asking nature how to solve problems.  As we bring biologists to the design table we gain access to a tool box of materials and tactics that can solve the most challenging of problems in an effective and environmentally sustainable manner.  If you want true innovation for business look no further than the 3.8 billion years of R&D that mother nature has performed.  Man has only been around for 200,000 years; to think that we can’t learn something from nature is being just plain stupid.  I was inspired by her talk as I always am.  Ohio is doing a lot of great research in this field and turning out great solutions such as colors that don’t require chemical pigments, super materials made from the same stuff spiders make their webs from and adhesive free tape that is inspired by geckos.

As we live in a world where it is requisite to “heat, beat and treat” everything and dump chemicals all over ourselves until we inexplicably get cancer or our sperm no longer work, it’s refreshing and hope filling to realized there are better ways, that can also benefit our bottom line and leave the world a better place.  For 150 years we’ve been convincing ourselves it’s in our best interest to see how quickly we can kill ourselves and our children by destroying the natural world.  In the end it is so much less expensive to go with the flow of nature than to fight it.  Nature does so many wonderful things with just a small set of tools and operating rules.  I implore you to learn more for your own sanity and to restore some sense of “humanity” back into your soul.  I know it inspires me.  Just two examples of how kickass cool nature is: Nature uses water as a solvent, people have to rely on nasty chemicals.  And nature only uses a handful of the elements on the periodic table to make everything we see around us, man feels the need to use them all (we’re like small children in that regard). One more major fact, in nature there is no concept of waste.

As I think about Biomimicry, I naturally think about our house and land.  Our house in some regards is virtually invisible to nature.  For example, as I listen to the rain outside…we collect nearly all the water that hits impervious surfaces on our property.  What we “keep” or “use” goes into the cistern or rain barrel.  What we don’t harvest goes through pipes and they empty out into a series of pools where nature naturally filters the water through native grasses and plants.  The water we harvest is filtered, albeit with help of chlorine and a filter to make it potable, and then we use it.  We drink some and use some for washing.  We’re working towards using natural soaps and detergents, but regardless because of the septic we’re not using anything too too bad.  The water goes through our washers and showers and us and it all goes into the septic system.  The septic is a man-made way to treat the water, with forced micro organisms, so it’s not really too natural but it is treatment no less.  The treated stuff is then pumped up to the leech field where it bubbles up and returns to nature as water and treated by products that in turn nourish the north meadow.  So it’s pretty neat that our water “cycle” literally can be seen completely if you stand in the yard of our house.  All of the water that hits our property nourishes us but more importantly is dealt with on site.  This is the polar opposite to how it is typically handled in this region, state and country.  It amazes me and I find it to be one of the neatest aspects of the house.  Water is handled in a very natural way, and in the end it really doesn’t cost any more than the typical way, or at least all the costs are accounted for on site, not hidden somewhere in the form of environmental degradation or social inequality.

If you want to know more, read the book or stop on out here and let talk and go for a walk, I’ve got a dozen other examples for you on site I bet.

Here are today’s pics, enjoy and do something remarkable this week.

Grass, Tennessee, Paint and Drink the Water

The grass we planted last week is popping  up in the front yard.

grass is growing

Outside the painters are done painting the front porch and back porch columns.  Now I can run out to Home Depot and get our Screen Tight screen porch system and install it.  I’ll need to get a screen door too.  I should have the porch wrapped up just in time for Winter, of course.


Beyond that, there’s not much else going on.  I’m going to get back into the art studio and attended my first Biomimicry meeting in over a year, so it’s nice house stuff is winding down or at least there’s not much left to do until the coffers are refilled.  I did get an update that the bushes we ordered will be shipping as soon as temperatures in Tennessee moderate to the 70’s, hopefully later this month or early next.  Speaking of Tennessee I had to go there for work and found the state to be most agreeable.  Memphis was so so but Nashville looked like a great town.  We spent the day visiting retail and had lunch downtown.  Was cool that most of the restaurants downtown have country music singers and musicians playing, even on a Wednesday at lunch time.  Presumably they are all starving artists and based on what we heard we’ll have no shortage of good country music for years to come.

One thing I thought of during my Biomimicry meeting today, after watching a biologist give a presentation on human waste was that one advantage of the rain water system is the there are no pharmaceuticals in our water, unlike city (or even well and bottled) water.  Pharmaceuticals enter the system through human waste and pills flushed down the toilet.  There are many that just can’t be filtered out of the water.  Studies have indicated that pharmaceuticals in the water could be the reason kids are maturing physically earlier and altering hormones in all of us, which in turn can lead to an array of health problems. Granted we still have mercury and other air contaminants from coal power plants and other air pollution sources, but everyone has those as well.  Despite the water pressure issues, air pollution concerns and the need for the boys to take fluoride additives, I’m really warming up to the fact that we have a rain water system supplying our fresh water needs.

Ok, just a short post.  Catch you later.

Echinacea purpurea

Tonight I took advantage of a window of opportunity between storms, (and after dinner) to get a jump on the weekend’s planting chores.  In less than an hour I breezed through about seven Green Velvet Boxwoods and a dozen Purple Coneflowers.  Coneflowers are my personal favorite flower.  They are great for bees, and butterflies.  We can even make herbal tea and oils for medicinal use.  Yay! Another useful natural native plant.  So far we got all ours from Lowes for $3 in an end of the season sale.  The only coneflower specified for our plan is the Purple variety.  Eventually I’ll probably sneak in some others somewhere else on the property.  If you visit definitely keep an eye out for them; I’m sure I’ll gladly show them off….maybe even divide some for you to take home once they are big enough.

Here you can see the Boxwoods, Daisies and the newly planted Coneflowers.

The perennial beds include a variety of flowering perennials.  Beside the coneflowers some of the beds will have Goldenrods too.   The plan is to order them from that Tennessee nursery place I was telling you about.  Well we were looking around, and while we are pretty stupid with our money, and the TN place is super cheap, even we aren’t that dumb….we’be got Goldenrods coming out of our ass basically….they are all over the front meadow.  I’ll start transplanting individual plants tomorrow into the beds.  I’m pretty sure they are all the same type of plants.  If not, close enough in my mind, at least for now.  We can always change them out later.

We need to expand our front bed before I can plant the rest of the Boxwoods. We tried to make it smaller and do something with the cistern tops but I don’t know now. So I’ll haul soil over and work it over tomorrow. To haul soil I need to buy or fix the wheel barrow tire. Ugh.

View of front bed with Brilliant Red Chokeberries and Mt. Airy Forthergilla in the foreground. You can see the Goldenrods I’m going to try to transplant in the meadow in the background.

The wife bought some interesting bug spray at Target.  Below is a picture of the All Terrain Herbal Armor bug spray bottle.  It’s all natural and deet free which is great for little kids.

Plant Schedule

Quick post tonight to talk more about the landscaping.  In the heat and humidity we ventured out and planted ten more of the shrubs we have on hand.  Tonight it was the Brilliant Red Chokeberry bushes and the Mt. Airy Forthergilla that found their home.  I cleared the mulch and dug small holes in the fertile bed soil for each plant.  I enhanced the soil with some nutritional goodness and some small crushed stone to help keep the soil healthy and broken up for the plant roots.  Each shrub was planted a little taller than the surrounding soil.  I’ve learned from past experience that planting them too close to the ground doesn’t seem to help the plant.  Subsequent years of mulch layers will ease up the surrounding soil so having the plant mounted higher than its surroundings seems to make sense to me.

We had a local landscape architect lay out our master plan and we are installing shrubs and perennials according to plan.  Here’s a detail of our plant schedule:

It features the location, latin name, common name and preferred planting size.  We are trying to stay as true to plan by matching the latin name to what we buy.  So far we’ve been fairly successful, even without going to wholesalers.  We discovered our Chokeberry bushes at Patitti’s Garden Center, and our Mt. Airy’s were there too.  We found a variation of the white Hydrangea’s at Home Depot.  And the perennials we get pretty much anywhere and have found the varieties fairly easily so far.  Mostly we just have the cone flowers.

Here’s the front yard plan showing what we have planted or have on order:

Everything around the house will be planted by end of next Spring.  Everything around the playset and other areas will wait until later.  The toughest thing to find so far, besides the Red Twig Dogwoods between the house and garage, are the New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus).  Finally we found this website for a nursery in Tennessee that had them.  We ordered those as well as some Hydrangea’s and the Witchhazel.  Everything is shipped bare root stock which means there isn’t a pot or soil.  The roots are treated and we have about five days to plant them upon arrival.  Size wise the shrubs are upwards of 42″ tall.  The best part is a bush that would cost $20-$40 at Patitti’s or Home Depot costs about $5-$10 plus you buy three get two free on most shrubs.  I also ordered some of the Redbud “trees” that we need around the playground as well.  I ended up spending about $200-$300 including shipping, whereas if we got the same plants at a garden center we’d have paid over $500.  If it works out we’ll be ordering a lot more next Spring.  When it comes to perennials alone we need hundreds of plants.  The site sells them in lots of 50+ for as little as 97 cents per 12″-18″ tall plant.  Very good deal.

I’m excited to see all the plants in.  By late Spring everything should be looking good.  We’ll be able to start taking nice photos and submitting the project to magazines and sustainability “award” type things.  Not to mention looking good for the book(s).




I read an opinion piece today in the New York Times about how we are all to busy and how it stifles creativity and generally makes our lives miserable. I’m 100% in agreement. Building and living in this house has made me very busy with no light at the end of the tunnel, seemingly leading to irreversible detriment of my sanity, health and happiness, not to mention my bank account.

When I’m not whiling away the fragmented remains of my career during the day I spend my free time guilting myself into doing task after task ad nauseam, with the distant fictitious hope that someday it will all be done and I can concentrate on the real meat of life like drinking for pleasure (not necessity), working on art, and (gasp) spending time with the family.

I truly bring this down upon myself do it’s little surprise I get zero sympathy from any other breathing organism on the planet.

“Yes, ‘Self Pity’. Party of one.”

The painter finally called back. Having secretly come out last week to evaluate the situation he came back with an estimate of over $7500 un-budgeted dollars to stain the cedar siding. If you recall we were going to let the siding weather to a cool grey color like it does on shake siding in those neat architecture books and mags. Well one of our builders recommended against leaving the cedar un-sealed. Water penetration would eventually loosen up the caulk joints and the boards in general would start to flex seasonally and just be a big mess. So we’re looking at what our translucent color options are including a light grey. We could clear coat it and save a grand. That’s an option but we’d have to re-coat every 5-10 years at the cost of about $6000. Ouch. We shoulda but baby fur seal pelts on our exterior – they’d weather nicely I suspect plus they are waterproof. Sadness.

One good thing is they are coming out to paint the porch which means I’ll be able to start on the screens soon. Yay! A new task for my “to-do” list. Joy!

The painter laughed at me then begged me not to caulk the porch joints myself. He said he did such a nice job on the rest of the house he’d hate to see me ruin it. He’s probably right. Now I have 12 tubes of caulk to return.

We found a neat online wholesale nursery in Tennessee where we can buy shrubs and perennials at a fraction of what we’d pay at a garden center. We basically can finish the front beds and some of the back beds for about $900 including shipping. This is for about 350 perennials and I bet about 75 shrubs. Amazing pricing but we need to verify our needs and what we want to get in this fall. The nursery is nice too cause they have our New Jersey Tea shrubs we’ve been looking for.

Of course if we got all these plants, on top of the 50 or so waiting to be planted this week, we, namely I, would be extremely busy. I’m guessing winter can’t get here soon enough. That would at least kill outdoor tasks. As of right now my list includes, in no particular order – plants (buying and planting), yard grass (plant), garage door trim, painting porches, painting house, screen porch material buy and install, fix water leak by grading cistern, clean up construction waste in yard, pressure wash house, work on art and sell it to pay for all this nonsense, finish cabinets, buy a new wheel barrow tire…and I’m sure there’s a lot more. By the end of it I’ll be bankrupt and have a foot in the grave so I hope it’s worth it.

I’ll put “stop being busy” on my resolution list for next year”. For now though I just don’t have the time.

Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissima’

Sorry, sorry, sorry I have not posted in a while.  As usual we’ve been busy.  More and more people are getting to see the house and visit.  In between entertaining, raising kids and working the day job we’re also staying busy working on the house.  This week I cleared up some “to do list” tasks and we’ve been working in the yard.  I am about at the end of my rope mentally and  physically.  Need to recharge again and get back at it.

We spent Saturday and Sunday visiting Lowes, Home Depot and Petitti Garden Center to see if there were any end of the season deals to be had.  Sure enough we found plenty of goodies to satiate our short-term planting needs.  Amongst the treasures we discovered were the Brilliant Red Chokeberry bushes we needed for the front bed.  We’re trying our best to find exact varieties as spelled out in the landscape plan.  When we find something that matches up perfectly we pounce on it.  This weekend was buy 2 get 1 free at Petitti’s.  Sunday upped the ante to include a 10% off your entire purchase sale.  So we also loaded up on some of the Green Velvet Boxwoods we need.  Ultimately we need about eighty boxwoods.   We got about fifteen this weekend on sale.  We’re comparing prices and what we got the weekend was our best pricing so far.

Home Depot had the two Hydrangea’s we needed, Hydrangea arborescans though I’m not sure if they are the ‘White Dome’ variety, they do have white flowers so closes enough in my book.  These go by the playset.  Lowes came through with $3 perennials, so we loaded up by buying twenty-three Echinacea pupurea (Purple Coneflowers).  As a bonus we bought two other neglected perennials for a dollar apiece.  Perenial wise we need 850 when it’s all said and done.  Long term we can actually divide many of the plants we’re buying now so it’s not like we have to buy them all.  The plan is to get the front bed done this Fall and next Spring.  We’re making progress.  Some of the remaining bushes we need we found at a great price online so we’ll order those ASAP to get Fall shipping.

We were going to plant everything today but it was just to damn hot.  The sweat was pouring off of us.  All we accomplished was garden weaseling the bare spots on the lawn and spreading grass seed.  It then rained pretty good so the seed hopefully set up and can start growing in the coming weeks.  I have some natural bagged fertilizer I’m going to spread around this week too.  This should get the lawn headed in the right direction come Spring.

Non plant wise I finally cleaned the garage windows, and it definitely felt good to get this chore off my back.  Also I’m keeping progress on the porch; I installed 2×4’s on the sole plates of the screen porch framing.  These will provide a mounting place for the screen porch system.  Next I’ll pressure wash the columns on the front porch and start caulking everything in preparation for painting.  Once everything is painted the screen can go on.

So this week is more planting, start caulking and we have an art show to get ready for.  There definitely is no time to rest.

By the way, Brilliant Red Chokeberry bushes are native to Ohio.  Birds love ’em and supposedly we can pick them and make jam if we are so inclined.  They look really nice and they are supposed to look great in the fall.  I’ll keep you posted.