Sunday, August 30, 2009


Recently I changed/updated my blog layout, fonts & colors- again.  I just haven't been satisfied with how it's looked since I set it up.  The white background was too plain, mundane.  I tried different templates which I downloaded from different places, but didn't like the built in ads for the site from which I downloaded the template.  Plus I tested the templates on various computers & found them to be slow to load.  I want a sleek, fast-loading blog, that's simple, but fun.  So here it is.  I'm not sure this is exactly what I want, but I'm done playing with it for a while.  Please let me know if you hate it or love it.  If you read the blog via a feed you don't even see this modification, so that's cool, no worries.

Also, since everyone here uses computers, I wanted to stress the importance of backing up your important data.  Yeah, yeah, we all know backups should be done, but no one really does them.  I work for a government agency doing computer forensics, so I should know the importance of a backup.  Although I use numerous computers, I have a primary computer for basic email, internet and whatnot.  Recently the hard drive in that computer started acting up, and from experience I knew it was going to die.  Luckily I was able to save my important data before it died, and am grateful I still have all my data.  Now, at home one of the the hard drives from one of my personal computers is starting to fail, and I need to do a backup there, too.  They say bad luck always hits in threes - so that means one more computer of mine will die...

So - real quick, take it from me - go do a backup of your data while you're thinking of it.  Put it on DVD or CD or USB drive or on your network share or where ever.  You never know when you just may need it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Garden update

Here's the latest pics from our garden.  It's not much this time, just a couple spaghetti squash & cucumbers.  I keep telling myself that next year's garden will be bigger, but I'd like it more varied.  We had way too many squash this year!  But this was our first garden, it's a learning experience, like everything else.  If you'd like some squash, I have some extra ~ just stop on by for a visit!

Friday, August 28, 2009

New Windows

Last Monday we got new windows installed in our house.  We wanted to keep them looking like the original historic windows, but needed something better to keep the winter wind & cold out.  We got energy efficient low-e argon vinyl windows with muntins inside the double panes to keep the historic look. 

They have a .30 U-factor, which determines the rate of heat loss  (here in our climate .35 or less is recommended)  They have a .19 solar heat gain coefficient (the fraction of solar radiation admitted through a window, expressed as a number between 0 and 1. The lower a window's solar heat gain coefficient, the less solar heat it transmits.). 

Here are some pictures:
The same window - the first picture is the old, the second is the new.  This one's in our dining room.
Here's one of the windows in our living room.  First is old, second is new.  Notice the old window was covered in plastic to keep the wind out, and it had a piece of cardboard covering a broken pane.
I'm very pleased with the windows - they look just like the old ones to keep up with the historic nature of the house.  They'll reduce our AC bills in the summer & our gas bills in the winter (hopefully).  They can actually open (the old ones didn't open too well, and if they did open they were missing screens, which let every bug inside when they were open).  And if I get really bored, the windows easily swing in to be cleaned!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Coming soon - windows!!!

Goodbye old windows...
Hello new, draft-free, energy-effecient, tilt-in, vinyl, muntin grid (which still look-like-the old-to-preserve-the-old-look) windows!
Today we got new windows in the house! 
I also got a root canal tooth procedure, so the blog will be short.
Stay tuned for all the window details!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Time to Organize

Before we bought this house, we lived in a luxurious and spacious 5 bedroom, 5 bath house with a full finished basement.  We filled the rooms with furniture and collected lots of stuff, as normal couples seem to do.  Then we moved to this small, historic house, which had no storage and no closets.  We traded a nice house with an ok property for an awesome property with a little, old house, but have dreams of renovating the historic house.  In the mean time, we'll make do....

Two rooms upstairs became storage rooms for spare boxes & junk.  After living in the house for a year, the junk rooms got out of control...
Room # 1
Room #2

For the past week or so, Randy's been working on organizing the two junk rooms.  This weekend we both worked hard and just about finished up organizing.  We had to figure out what we really needed, and the rest goes to the trash.

Here are the rooms now:
Room #1 right side
left side
Room #2
Ahhh, it's nice to be semi-organized.  Now maybe we'll be able to find stuff when we want it.  Tomorrow we get new windows in the house - stay tuned for the details!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Business Thru Barter

A friend recently asked if he could get rid of some earth. He was doing major landscaping around his house & had about 10 dump truck loads of dirt. The county here charges $175/ton to dispose of topsoil at the county landfill. We estimated he had between 15 - 20 tons of dirt.

It just so happened we had a huge area in a field by our entry road where the previous owner removed gravel/stones for our entry road & left a big unsightly hole in the ground. I always hated how it looked - I drove by it every day.

A few days later, we had huge piles of topsoil covering the hole in our field.

The guy came back with a tractor & leveled it all out. No more eyesore in the field!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Who doesn't love chipmunks?
We named this little guy Chip. I know, it's not an original name, but it fit the little critter. He used to hang out outside our back door on the deck. We put out bird seed for the birds, and he showed up to gather the seeds that fell to the ground. Eventually, we put out bird seed on the deck for him. He would "vacuum" the seed up into his face pouches, and then would race down to his home below the deck to empty the pouches. Quickly he'd be back for a seed refill.
Chip wrapped his tail around his feet on cold autumn days, as you can see in this picture.

Jack loved to watch Chip. Chip spent hours resting on the old rug on the deck in front of the windows when he wasn't stocking up on seeds. Jack spent hours glued to the window watching Chip.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Jack Tree

Jack's favorite thing to do is to take walks outside. We only let him out on his harness - he tends to scare easily and often runs, but doesn't always pay attention to the direction in which he runs when he gets scared. I'm sure he'd come back home, but he may take the long way. And here in the country there's animals much tougher than Little Jack, the spoiled cat. He doesn't have a chance against the two stray tom cats, Jerry and S2, who visit us regularly, not to mention the coons or foxes.

Here's Jack on a walk today. He's cruising along on the standard walk route. He knows right where he's going.

Hurry up, almost there!

There it is! It's a low, old dogwood, perfect for climbing.

Jack scampers up the tree and sharpens his nails.

Life is good in the Jack tree. From this vantage point, Jack watches all that goes on below.

Garden Bounty

I just went out and picked more squash and cucumbers from our garden today. These are by far the best crop from our garden. The squash just never stops producing! There are more on the vine right now! I can't wait to try the spaghetti squash - they are one of my favorites!

Here's a fresh plate of cucumbers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Signs of Summer

Just a few pictures of summertime...
Here are some baby wrens that were raised in the plant on our front porch. Baby birds are always a sure sign of summertime.

One of the woodchucks who resides in our back yard. We have so many woodchucks, but luckily they don't dig their holes too close to our house. When summer's gone, they too will be gone, down into their homes.

Baby deer that I saw out by our woodpiles. There were two, but one ran before I could take her picture.

My two cats, Shadow and Jack, being lazy on a summer afternoon. What else is better than an afternoon catnap upside down?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Poison Ivy

My husband & I went out for a walk in the woods Saturday morning. It was a nice, peaceful, relaxing time, just like the hundreds of other walks I've been on. We walked the same paths, didn't climb through any brush or bushes or anything strange...

Then, on Sunday, I noticed I was scratching my neck. No big deal, I quit scratching. Later Sunday evening, I realized I had a rash - on my neck, of all places! It was all red & nasty. I didn't scratch it anymore, but by Monday morning it spread to a second spot on my neck. Nice...

Now it's Tuesday, and sure enough, it's still there, looking like I have something nasty right in the front of my neck. I'm treating it, and hoping it's doesn't look as bad as I think. And of course I'm in a training class for my work, which means interacting with strangers, going out to lunch with strangers & coworkers, and generally trying to make a good impression, all with a nasty spreading rash on the front of my neck...

Monday I wore a turtleneck sweater to class to hide this issue. It was 105 degrees outside, but there I was, with a turtleneck. It was cold in the classroom, you understand. Today I gave up hiding it & displayed my poison ivy with a normal shirt. I did try to keep my long hair in front of it, though.

So, if you're attending training with some poor girl with a nasty poison ivy rash on her neck, it just may be me. Try not to laugh too hard!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Take a walk & check out the trees

Yesterday morning my husband & I took a relaxing walk in the woods. I love to check out the different types of trees that we have on the property. My husband has researched many of the trees that we have, and he told me the tales of trees as we walked along. Come join us for a quick visual walk!
Here's our backyard, the open gate just calling us to come out...
Wild crab apples on an old apple tree. We have many old apple trees, planted long, long ago. The birds & critters seem to eat the apples before they get very big, but these ones escaped and have gotten pretty large:

Trees on the edge of an unruly field:

Wild spearmint. Maybe one day I'll use it in my cooking, but right now it grows wild down by a field. It smells so good when I break off a leaf!

One of our most hated trees, the tree of heaven. It grows wild & takes over an area. When I was a child I always confused this tree with a poison sumac.

Sycamore tree. We have a lot of sycamores.

A row of red cedar trees along a path. They are dry because we went through a dry spell, but now we are getting rain again, so hopefully they will liven up again. I don't know why, but I love old cedar trees planted beside a path.

Young sassafras tree:

Sweet gum tree. I hate these trees because they drop a "gum ball" in the autumn - a sticky seed that hurts your feet when you walk barefoot on it! We have a lot of wild sweet gums.

Black walnut tree. They have a lot of large walnuts, which the squirrels love!

Red maple tree. This is one of my favorites ~ we used to have one in our yard when I was a child. I used to love to climb it! Now we have one near our garage. The left pic is of the tree itself, the right is closeup of the leaves & the neat little seeds. When I was a kid we used to put the seeds on our nose!!!

Spruce tree. This one drops a sap on anything below, but has the coolest big pine cones!

Red horse chestnut tree. One of my favorite trees, it's close to our house. It has pretty red flowers in the spring.

Well, thanks for taking this walk with us. Time to go inside & have a nice cold glass of lemonade.
It's been nice, come back again soon!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mystery tree

We try to keep track of what trees we have on our property. It's good to know if we want to keep them around as new, young trees constantly grow here.

We've identified a tree that we just can't figure out what it is. We have many of these "mystery trees" pictured here up close to our house. They may actually be an overgrown bush - many bushes are huge here as they have not been trimmed since time began. The tall ones of these trees are over 30 feet tall, one is about 2 feet in diameter at the base. The young ones are much smaller. The trunk is light wood. It has thick, soft leaves that are fuzzy on the bottom. It sort of looks like a lilac, but it never has flowers and the leaves are much softer. A few of the leaves have what I call the "glove look", as you can see in the pictures, but as the tree matures the leaves get more heart shaped.

Does anyone have any ideas what this could be??

Here's a picture of the morning sun shining through the leaves of the mystery tree. I took it standing underneath in the shade.