Monday, December 6, 2010

Realizing Winter

This fall has been an eye opener for us in the bioshelter.  We went to Fairbanks one weekend and that is the exact time the cistern chose to overflow.  No big deal really, but the water hose splashed the wiring to the solarium air circulator, so that quit. 

We were just back and heard a funny noise.  Curt got out of bed to investigate while I stayed in bed.  I heard water running all over the floor.  Curt had opened the HRV unit in the kitchen and those little invasive moths that didn't freeze until after the end of October had gotten in and filled up the filters and then the dead bodies filled and clogged the tubes of the de-humidifier.  Water on the floor.  We unplugged the HRV and went back to bed.

The next day as I cleaned dead moth bodies and re-set the fuse for the solarium air circulator fan, there wasn't much hot water, but I had just done a load of dirty laundry.  But that night, we cranked the shower on the hottest setting.  Nothing but luke warm water.

It started getting colder and colder in the house.  Hmmmmm.  Curt and I took the FanCoil apart to see if we had a broken belt or motor.  We poked around at the boiler, but saw nothing unusual.  (We keep the thermostat set at 60 degrees, so even if we don't start a fire, it won't get colder than that with our natural gas back-up boiler.  We thought that the house should be warm because we were burning wood.  It seemed like the only place we could be warm was next to the Finnish Stove. 

I called the repairman, explained the whole thing.  If it was an emergency, we would have to pay extra.  So I simply scheduled him to come out the next available time---which was Monday.  He told me to just turn off the boiler, we'd just be wasting gas if it wasn't heating the house.

Guess what happened on Monday?  It rained.  No one went anywhere and we had to get to the airport to fly to Texas the next day.  We decided it really didn't matter, the house wouldn't freeze while we were in Texas for Thanksgiving.  And we have an EXCELLENT neighbor who promised to come over every day while we were gone to light a fire. 

Well, that weekend it hovered about 60 degrees in the house----it was warm outside (right at 32 degrees).  When we got back from our trip, it was down to 52.  And outside it was + 10.   Our neighbor said that was the lowest it ever got in the house.  We had frozen pipes in North Pole a few times and that just wasn't fun.  Yeah for this house.

So, it's just a $20 piece in the boiler that needs to be fixed, but what we learned is that if there is no natural gas. . . .well, it might not get lower than 52 degrees in the house.   But right now in the root cellar it's 38 degrees and we are trying to keep that cold.  I guess the pipes wouldn't freeze no matter what.  But I don't know about living in a house at 38 degrees! 

So, all is back to normal.   It's about 45 in the solarium and it's 65 in the house.  The fish are swimming around again. They were very funny to watch when it was cold----it didn't get below freezing, but they would see a piece of food on the water and then in very very s l o w  motion, they would swim up and slowly open their mouths, but by that time the food would have floated past them and they missed it every time.  Poor fish. 

So we are talking about upgrading the old structure above the cistern outside.  It would be a much smaller building to heat if we ran out of natural gas!  I'm just glad we got a wool king sized NC Company blanket for our wedding.  It was the first time we REALLY enjoyed it in almost 30 years! 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Already the end of June, a rainy, cloudy month here in the mountains. I need to report that the lasagna garden is doing okay for cabbages, broccoli and bok choi, but not so well for lettuce, carrots, radishes and peas. :0( It could be a function of the weather and not necessarily the lasagna garden. But I'm loving the lasagna - no till- gardening idea.

I first put down worms (I happen to have a lot of those), then cardboard from left over history day projects at school, (You can also use 6-8 pages of newspaper.) Then I scattered our humanure over the top----we didn't have nearly enough, by the way. Then a layer of fresh grass clippings (no seeds or fertilized grass), then a layer of peat moss, then crushed leaves, then peat moss, then rotten wood chips from the woods. Finally I made small trenches to put organic dirt in and plopped in the seeds.

Hmmmm. I also started the broccoli, cabbage, and bokchoi and peas indoors. So that also might be a function of what's going on. The peas, however, are not doing well. Oh yeah, the beans are also doing terribly and I started them indoors. So. . . .no idea why some things are doing well and others aren't.

In the solarium we release 2 packages of ladybugs to combat the aphids. This time we sprayed the leaves with water first and that kept them from flying to the ceiling the next morning. So, right now, the aphids are tolerable.

I planted 2 tomato plants in the topsy turvy planters in the solarium this year----they didn't work outside last year. One I put a bean plant out of the top and the other no bean plant. The one with the bean plant is fixing nitrogen for the tomato and the I have at least double the amount of tomatoes and blossoms on the tomato plant. I'm also watering them both with pond water, not cistern water. I think that helps. I didn't do that last year.

My begonias are blooming non-stop. I'm blaming that on the worm castings. They LOVE that. But worm castings didn't help the strawberry plant. So I've been pouring coffee on it, Curt's been giving it urine. We don't know why it's not blooming. No blooms, no strawberries. Not good. :-(

My northern pitcher plant ate the wasp---maybe two of them---that I invited in to eat the aphids. I saw a slug in the mouth of the other "bloom" so I think that plant is full for the moment. I'm still trying to find the best plants to put around the pond. I moved the rosemary bush and now I moved the Lady's Mantel---they were just being drown. So now I have a mini-cattail plant there. I hope that works. The slugs are eating the bulbs of the irises, so I'll have to keep those in plants and hope the slugs don't go there. OR, get a frog! :-)

The koi have been voracious eaters this spring and summer. We can't keep enough duck weed in the pond. They've nibbled at all of the lilly pads, ate the Faerie Moss, ate the snails. I put 12 shrimp in the pond and when I cleaned it out this spring, I still had 3. So they WERE hiding well enough. The only thing that's still alive is the Hornwort and it's missing branches. The Frog's Bit is doing okay too. So. . . .I'm wondering if the fish need a different kind of food. Luckily the ammonia level is not too high in the pond and I can still watch them eat their koi sticks. One bad thing: Casper got eaten by the water pump. It prompted screen around the pump.

I have to say, I really like the trial and error, the pursuit of the balance, the problem-solving it all takes. It's fun.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Just a note to those who even remember I have a blog. I tried using the yellow stickee paper for aphids. It didn't work. Then my friend brought me a jar of tomato leaves soaked in water. I poured the juice into a squirt bottle, sprayed it all over my plants. I didn't notice a difference. Aphids are still among us.

Each day it reaches 60 or so in the solarium and my seedlings are reaching toward the light. I have almost every space covered and each day I pet their leaves to make sure my friends the aphids didn't come to rest on those new leaves. Caring. Watching. Nice to see successes and progress.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Just call me the aphid killer!

Okay, so it's starting to act like spring in the solarium. Fun, right? Well, I'm aghast at all of the aphid hatchlings! Maybe they go dormant during the winter. I don't know, but they are all over the new buds and leaves that are bursting out in their bright lime green colors. I slid my finger and thumb up the blade of a new iris shoot and I probably smashed 50 aphids. As I stroll around, I pluck any sign of spring and throw it out in the snow.

I knew there must be an easier way. So today is my first test of the Aphid and Whitefly Trap put out by BIO CARE. They are little glue sticks that smell good to aphids and when they are full, they go into my worm bin for the worms to eat. How great is that? And it adds that nice yellow fly paper color to the solarium! What can be better than that?

I'll let you know if it works! :-) Just in case you start sending me other solutions, I'm still sweeping up dead lady bugs. The leaves I sprayed with oil and soap are still alittle dead, banana peels did not work. So. . . . I will go and look for praying mantises when it gets a little warmer. That might work too. But I'm up for any other ideas.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Here comes the sun.


The sun came over the Hurley Gurleys about the 2nd week in January and it keeps getting sunnier and warmer in the solarium all the time. This week has been characterized with temperatures of almost 60 every day and moving, hungry fish! What a difference from last year when they didn't come out until after the Equinox and only because I put tiny fish in there to annoy them. The tiny feeder fish didn't last long---they were picked off one by one. My koi don't play well with others.

Also, spikes of vines are shooting sunward and I'm wacking them as fast as possible. I have found the enemy aphids still alive. So since they love those new growth leaves on the vines, I'm throwing them out in the compost heap in the barrel to freeze them, I hope!

I've started lettuce and carrots downstairs in the basement. I guess it's moist enough down there to go without watering. (I forgot) Something still came up. Must be the humidity.

It looks like spring, it smells like spring. . . it must be spring!