Doing It Ourselves

Somewhat More Intimidating Than the Usual Do-It-Yourself Project

We have heat! It took nearly a month of telephone calls, research, lots and lots of perseverance, and a full day of exacting work, but our previously “dead” furnace is now running like new. We were hoping to repair… not replace… the furnace, and this turned out to be a problem because the part we needed didn’t seem to exist. There used to be two dealers within a sixty-mile radius selling and servicing this kind of furnace. The dealer we bought the furnace from went out of business a few years ago. The other dealer is closing his business in a few months because of the recession and he had absolutely no interest in trying to help us find parts or information.

We Should Have Wondered Where All Those Rocks Came From!

Although stone walls are not an unusual sight in New England, the extremely long expanses of stone walls that we have here should have made us wonder where all those rocks had come from.

Our Search For a Firewood Source Continues…

Our plan to order another truckload of logs came to a screeching halt the morning I called to place the order and arrange for a delivery date. There had been, the receptionist told me, some changes in load size, pricing, and availability since our previous order.

Short Growing Seasons & Saving Seeds

We have a very short growing season here, and if I followed the usual instructions to wait to collect seed pods until they are brown and dry, I would still be waiting when the seed pods were destroyed by the first killing frost. Luckily, many pods that are still “green” will contain mature, viable seeds, and these seed pods can be harvested and successfully dried in the house.

Why Mark Shields Never Looked So Good!

Our old television was still working… kind of… but the screen would randomly get brighter or darker, the colors would fade, and the sound would distort. We couldn’t complain… this television had served us well for nearly fourteen years.

How To Make Compost in a Garbage Can

Reader question… “When you wrote about making compost, you mentioned making a small compost bin out of a garbage can. Could you give instructions for making one of these and how to use it? I’m a newbie both to gardening and to the idea of composting and have no idea how to proceed. Thanks for any help.” –Katie R.

How We Make Leaf Mold

It’s easy to make leaf mold, but there are a few tricks that speed up the process. If you just make a pile of your raked leaves, they will decompose (unevenly) in two or three years. If you chop the same leaves into small pieces and compost them, they will decompose completely within less than a year. We used to chop the leaves by running them through a wood chipper, but we have found that a lawn mower does a much better and faster job. We just rake the leaves into rows and run the lawn mower over them (using a blade dedicated for this purpose!).

Our Handmade Soap

Our handmade soap has spoiled us… we like it so well, we never buy commercial soap any more. Recently our soap supply has been getting low and I have needed to make more. I finally got all the supplies together and turned out two batches of goat milk soap on Saturday afternoon. I unmolded the soap and cut it into bars this morning and have just put it on the shelves to cure. I love making soap… it always fascinates me that you can take such unappealing ingredients as oils and lye and that the soap making process transforms them into a completely different product… soap!

Removing An Enormous Tree Stump: How We Saved $576

We lost several of our beautiful big pine trees during an ice storm when the weight of two days of freezing rain literally broke off the tops of the trees. One especially large tree (actually, three trees that had sometime grown together) at the edge of one of our gardens was totally destroyed and had to be cut down, leaving an enormous (and ugly) stump that was easily eight feet across. We have removed a lot of smaller stumps, but probably nothing larger than three or four feet in diameter. Removing a stump this large without specialized machinery seemed somewhat physically impossible, but we decided to give it a try.

What $25 Worth of Strawberries Looks Like

Every summer we spend at least one morning picking strawberries at an organic farm that has a pick-your-own berry field. It’s a nice place, well-kept and nicely laid-out with one hundred rows that are each five hundred feet long. The owners weigh the container you plan to pick into and then weigh the container and the berries after you have finished picking. This year the price was $2.50 per pound, and although that is more expensive than another (not organic) pick-your-own berry place nearby, I think it’s worth it to know that we’re not eating chemicals along with the berries.