Saturday, October 27, 2007

Halloween Harvest

This is what you logically should see when you Google "Halloween Harvest":

Instead, this is our Halloween Harvest at Georgetown House:

Yup, that's what I collected TODAY from our five tomato plants in our garden. On October 26th. Five days before Halloween.

And I'm sitting here in my office after midnight ("I go out bloggin'... after midnight... out in the moonlight...ju-ust like we used to do, I'm always bloggin'... after midnight, searchin' for you-oo-ooooooo" Oops. Sorry. Got distracted.)

Anyway, I'm sitting here and it's after midnight and it's now officially October 27th and I have the window open and the fan on. Now, one could argue with some merit that it could be because I'm, shall we say, a woman of a certain age. You know, that age when at any moment I'm likely to break out in a profuse sweat and have my face turn bright red like I'd just run a marathon and have this incredible urge to rip all my clothes off - in front of my students. However, I could also argue with some merit that it's because it's 73 in this room and only 69 outside.

And it's the end of October.

At least we have tomatoes. Lots and lots and lots of tomatoes with still many on the vine, waiting to ripen.

And it's almost November 1st - the date which for many years has been my "don't turn the heat on until" goal date, though I haven't made it to November 1st for as long as I can remember. Hell, I'll be glad to not have to turn the AC on after November 1st at this rate.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Year-round sunflowers

An online friend made a casual post about how an hour of sunshine in her Pacific NW home gave her what she needed to paint this:

A few minutes later I asked if it was for sale, a few minutes after that she replied yes for far less than I ever imagined, and a day later I purchased it from her Etsy shop, which I didn't even know existed. It just makes me smile with its color and brightness.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Life on the front porch

I started my day sitting in a wicker rocker on my front porch, book in hand, shearling slippers on my feet, big mug of tea at my side.

Early-afternoon found me returning to that same rocker, book still in hand, slippers still on my feet, big glass of iced tea at my side.

As the sun set, I was back in the rocker, closing the book because of the darkness closing in, slippers still on my feet, and I sat through the sunset while drinking the last sips of a really kickass good martini.

The porch was what made us fall instantly in love with this house, from its wraparound coziness to the arts & crafts feel of its tapered pillars and low-pitched roof. And we still love it, especially on days like today where we can enjoy the last bits of this fall's unseasonably warm weather.

It was a good day.

What's wrong with graywater collection?

It's amazing to me that with all of the issues that we face with our fresh-water supply, both in this immediate time of drought and as areas continue to be increasingly over-populated, that so many state and local codes forbid graywater collection and reuse.

How much would we save if we simply set houses up so that water used in our sinks and showers/tubs was automatically collected to be used to flush toilets and water plants? The technology is really very simple, and yet it's generally forbidden by the housing codes in so many areas, including in our rural county.

Why?!? I just don't get it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

My Favorite Houseporn

Sometimes I can sit for hours and lose myself in lust-from-afar over the houses listed on After I find something there, I always try to go to the original listing agency's site because they're the ones who will have the good picture, the details, the bigger pictures, the closeups of the woodwork, all that yummy detail that an old house freak like me just thrives on - all the joy of a porn site without any of the pop-ups, spy-ware, or computer viruses. I find myself going into mapquest to see just where the house is located, investigating what I an about little towns tucked away in the middle of nowhere in NC and VA and OH. I pull V over to look at cute little well-preserved craftsman-style cottages: "Look, honey, only $75k - when we retire [in 15-20 years] we can look for something like this anywhere we want. We can sell this house, buy a new one that's smaller, in good shape, with a bedroom on the first floor, tucked into a cute little town with a low cost of living that's perfect for the beginning years of our retirement."

Of course, many of the houses end up being in deteriorating towns that have quickly rising crime problems. Or they're in states that have passed laws that say that we're not allowed to even write out medical powers-of-attorney for each other in case one of us falls off a ladder and cracks our skull open and can't authorize our own surgery, or create wills that acknowledge that we both own the sofa and the dogs, because such paperwork would *gasp* give us rights just like we were MARRIED or something. Some houses just need a little too much TLC. Many wouldn't be remotely practical for two 60-something's searching for a place to hang out for the next 20 years. And some are just so far back in Boonieville that certain criteria important to retirees such as access to decent medical care simply couldn't be met without a private helicopter on-call for us.

But still I lust. For the moment at least, it's like regular porn-industry porn (or ::ahem:: so I've heard): I don't care that it's not realistic. I don't care if the pictures have been retouched. I don't care that it's no place that I could ever actually live. Just the chance to spend some time looking at those wood floors and fireplaces and original woodwork is all the fix I need to get off... the computer for a while and go read a book. ::hee::

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's not easy being Green

Today is Blog Action Day, and many of my fellow housebloggers are writing some very interesting posts on the topic of what we can do to save the environment.

I put off writing all day out of guilt, and then it dawned on me that that's what I'll write about: Not letting "oh I'm not doing enough" stop you (ok, not you, ME) from doing the little things that you can do, and improving on them in at least baby steps.

It's just hard to not slink into the corner when you read about folks who have completely eliminated their use of paper products (I even know folks who use rags and bidet-type things instead of toilet paper) , who never eat anything that's not produced/grown within 100 miles of their home, who don't own a car and bike everywhere, who bake all of their own bread in a wood-fired oven in the back yard, and who sell electricity back to the power company because of their solar panels or windmills or whatever.

However, I'm not one of those people. I dream about it, fantasize about it the way that pre-teen girls fantasize about being the next Hannah Montana, but I know it's not going to happen overnight or even over-year.

So here are my baby steps:
  1. We moved closer to work and replaced a 72 miles round trip daily commute (36 x the two of us) to a 3 mile round-trip total for the two of us. Yes, that means that we should be able to walk/bike but for V that's not practical and for me it's happening less than I want it to. But that's 33 miles a day less, more when I bike.
  2. We're finally recycling again. This house is 3x the size of our old house but has no practical place for recycling bins, and since we don't have curbside recycling, storage becomes a problem. I finally figured out that we could squeeze one of the little tarp-type material Trader Joe's bags behind our extra-skinny trash can, then bring it to the bins in the detached garage when it's full. Then when we're seriously out of room in the bins in the garage, I'll load them up and bring them to the recycling center.
  3. FREECYCLE. It totally rocks. I've listed and given away stuff that most folks would consider pure trash. I totally love Freecycle.
  4. Minimize food waste. We are serious about using up leftovers here.
  5. Grow what we can. OK, so right now it's only tomatoes, and I'm about to have to figure out what to do with fifty zillion green tomatoes. But next year I'll do a bit more, then a bit more after that.
  6. Lights out, or low voltage. We're working hard on turning off lights, and replacing bulbs with compact fluorescents. I'd feel a wee bit better if they had a better handle on what to do with the mercury in those bulbs, but hopefully by the time we need to replace them, there will be a disposal program around here.
  7. Rain barrels. OK, so I don't have them all built yet but they wouldn't have done any good in this summer's heavy drought anyway, but it's a great concept and very easy to make.
  8. Being more conscious about buying local and in-season. I'm doing better, but it's also turning out to be a challenge to balance that with minimizing food waste and minimizing my drive to buy those foods.
  9. Body heat instead of heated air. In the winter, we wear sweaters and thick fleece pants around the house, use an almost too-thick down comforter over our flannel PJ's, and keep the temps down low. I'm hoping that this year our near-90's temps in October will mean I finally meet my goal of not turning on the heat until after November 1st. I just reminded Von that the heat goes on when it gets below 60 in the house during the day. But even when we're heating, even though we now have these fairly efficient new systems, it will never be set above 68, and will generally be set much lower than that.
  10. The rag bin is there and we use it for most house cleaning tasks; we just need to find a way to use rags more in the kitchen, instead of always reaching for a paper towel.
So there you have it. It's not much, but it gives us a base to build on. So let me set some goals for me to meet by next year's blog action day:
  1. Get rainbarrels finished and hooked up.
  2. Start a compost bin and compost our food waste as well as the outdoor stuff.
  3. Plant at least 3 more foods that we will eat regularly into next year's garden.
  4. Buy all local meats, eggs and dairy.
  5. Bike to work at least 50% of the time that it's possible (due to weather, what I need to be wearing, if I have to go somewhere during work, etc.).
  6. Make my own yogurt regularly instead of haphazardly (we go through LOTS of yogurt here)
  7. Buy an energy-star mini-chest freezer for the extra produce we grow and foods we could buy local in season and eat year-round.
  8. Get out of the fast food habit (obviously benefits us not just for "green" reasons).
  9. Separate out the bottles on which we paid a deposit from the recycling, and have them picked up by someone who needs the money.
  10. Less computer, more reading.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Shame on Jennifer Saranow and the WSJ

Back on 9/21, in a comment that she has since deleted, Jennifer Saranow from the Wall Street Journal left a message similar to this one as a comment on my blog:
My name is Jennifer Saranow and I'm a reporter with The Wall Street Journal in New York. I came across your blog and some of the posts fit into a story I'm working on. I would love to set up a time this week to interview you for the story. Look forward to hearing from you and really appreciate the help.
That was copied from someone else's houseblog, by the way - in the comment she left for me, she chose to omit her name and email, and only described her work as being for a major publication.

I'm writing this post for one single reason: So that if someone else is contacted by her and Googles her name or contact information (as I did, before contacting her), they can potentially find out about how she really works. Her name, her affiliation with the WSJ, her email and her phone number are all publicly available, so I'm not posting anything that's not already easy to find. I just want to make sure that it's easy to find in a place that directly addresses her tactics.

She told me, and the many other housebloggers that she contacted, that she was writing an article on people who throw "parties" to get friends to come over and help with work that needs to be done on their homes. I never did this (and had only mentioned the possibility of it in an earlier post) so I didn't have much to contribute, but I thought it would be an interesting article. I often talk with long-distance friends who are very much into home renovation about how nice it would be to live closer and be able to share work and trade off our various skills, so I enjoyed that they were writing on how people come together to help each other.

I was totally shocked to learn today about the real purpose of her interview: Her article, "The Three-Martini Renovation," was instead about folks who had house-fixup parties, served alcohol, and then had all kinds of problems as a result.

But the big problem isn't the topic of her article, though in my mind it belongs on some cheesy TV reality show, not in the WSJ. The big problem is that not only did she deceive the people she talked to by not telling them the actual focus of her article, she purposefully distorted many of the facts and pictures given to her to make them fit into this article. A fellow houseblogger, "1902 Victorian," has far more of those details to share; be sure to read the comments after that blog entry from even more folks that she talked to.

Shame on Jennifer Saranow for such unethical tactics. And shame on the Wall Street Journal for allowing them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

This is October?

Two days ago, I was running the air conditioner - and had been, for several days. Normally October is my month to battle towards my goal of not turning the heat on until November 1st. Normally, I lose. But still, it's usually one of my utility-bill break months, with minimal heat and no AC running.

Tonight it's cool but we still have all the windows open.

Today I picked another half-dozen very ripe wonderfully fresh and tasty tomatoes from my garden. One in particular was absolutely perfect: That heady fresh-tomato smell, the skin a clear deep red, the shape a perfect orb the size of a large orange. I used it to make myself a cheese, tomato and fresh-picked basil sandwich for dinner. A mist of EVO, some fresh ground sea-salt and pepper, all on some fresh nutty whole grain bread. Oh yeah. That's the perfect summer sandwich.

Except it's FALL.

And not only are my tomato plants covered in ripening fruit, they have new blossoms on them.

It's October. OCTOBER.

In other news, that damned rabbit ate all my fall broccoli plants. I definitely need to add a rabbit-proof fence to my gardening plans.