May 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
We’ve had a pretty persistent ant problem these past few years. The ants seem to arrive in April or May, eventually find their way from the back door into the kitchen, and persist through eradication attempts. A few years ago I tried, with reasonably good success, cayenne pepper and vinegar as ant deterrent. That worked short term, but unfortunately either the colony bounced back, or a new colony stepped in the following year. I got so frustrated with the boomerang ants that last year I caved and bought some ant traps (even though we prefer not to have poisons in the house).
The traps helped quite a bit last summer, although the ants still managed their way into our recycling bin and the dishwasher. It was a pain to deal with, so this year I decided to try being extra, extra vigilant. We also switched from cayenne to cinnamon. It’s not an absolute block by any means, but the ants do seem to dislike cinnamon more than cayenne. Plus, as a bonus, the vacuum smells sooo nice after cleaning. :)
I started my ant watch in April. In May, I was able to catch the first scouts by the back door, before they found the kitchen. We moved the recycling temporarily into the living room (closer to the front door where no bugs seems to come in), planted the traps by the ant entry, killed the ants we saw, wiped any high-ant-traffic areas with vinegar and laid strategic cinnamon barriers to direct the ants towards the poison.
After the first two surges, the ants seemed to slow down. They did get into the kitchen one night, but it was still early enough that the trail wasn’t fully formed yet. Re-positioning the traps and another round of stomping, vinegar and cinnamon fortunately helped.
Three things really seem to have made a difference: starting early, being very vigilant, and applying a consistent regimen of cinnamon and vinegar to re-direct ants to the poison. Last week’s ant tally was three, total! (And one of them was a stray way off at the other end of the house, so not related.)
This week, we were able to clean up most of the cinnamon, but left a thin band running by the baseboard by the back door just in case. I even pushed doses of cinnamon down into the crack that seemed to be the ants’ favorite doorway. So far that seems to be enough to discourage them from entering again – fingers crossed!
May 15, 2015 § 2 Comments
The weather was unseasonally gorgeous and warm last week. We spent a lot of time outdoors and got a lot accomplished. I moved a bush that suffered from melting snow and ice from the roof:
The poor bush had quite a few broken branches. Some I cut off, but most of them I splinted with sticks and strips of fabric:
They seem to be doing well; there are new leaves coming in beyond the breaks in each branch. Yay!
Mr. E dug a new vegetable patch and prepared the two existing ones. In the photo below, the left side will be potatoes and the right one already had cucumber seeds planted…
…and by the deck we will hopefully get some melons…
…everything fertilized by authentic bull dumpings from a local farm:
In addition, we’ve raked, pruned and weeded, sawed off a dead branch, removed another that had fallen on its own but gotten stuck, taken down an awkwardly placed young pine and partly undone a small stone wall to relocate it Somewhere Else(TM).
I still want to dig up and relocate some wild plants that I want to keep but not where they set themselves up. Yesterday would’ve been a good day otherwise, but it was 86 F / 30 C after lunch, which was way too hot this early in the season for me, and I suspect for the transplantees as well.
The flowers have really come out, too. The flowering pears bear a white cloud each, there are both white and purple violets here and there in the grass, and a few other wild flowers have found their way in again. Bees and bumblebees buzz around, and birds are singing. Ah, I love spring!
We also have blossoms indoors: I updated my wreath form with spring colors…
…and the saintpaulia is blooming!
Even with tree and grass pollen making my life miserable, spring is the time of the year I love most. :)
May 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
We discovered that it’s possible to play a word game with Bananagrams rules and a set of Finnish-distribution Scrabble tiles that Mr. E’s father made for us. The most difficult thing was to adopt a new set of tricks to play one tile at a time (when someone says “Peel”); it really was a brain exericse! Here is one of Mr. E’s word sets:
He started with the long word in the middle, älypuhelin (Engl. smart phone). I’m seriously impressed!
May 5, 2015 § Leave a comment
April 29, 2015 § 2 Comments
Our house is very low on utility-type closet space. We have a large basement, sure, but it’s not a very handy storage space for things that we need regularly but not daily (like the vacuum cleaner), or things that don’t like humidity (like cardboard). Therefore, we use our basement stairs as a de facto cleaning closet / pantry, and store tools, outdoor furniture, outgoing recycling and the like in the basement. Earlier, at times when life was very busy, we’d “temporarily” drop off a thing that was supposed to go to the basement, and never remembered to actually move it when things calmed down. Towards the end of last year, the stairs had gotten cluttered enough to bother me.
Ugh. Time to do something.
Since the stairs are wide enough and we don’t mind storing things there, we decided to keep the basic arrangement and just impose more order. First I carried everything out and went through everything to toss tossables (like torn bags) or relocate keepables (like tools and empty bottles) and, finally, vacuumed the stairs. Then I created zones.
The top half of the stairs is still a bit of a mix, but it’s neater now. At the top are my work slippers and on the wall a DIY corkboard and pens for Mr. E’s homebrew info; below the corkboard there’s a recycled sixpack carrier in case he wants to send some samples home with a visitor. Opposite that there’s a small container for expired drugs waiting to go to disposal. There’s still a broken cabinet door and an extra shelf waiting for their final destinations; they won’t stay long term.
The landing is now our tall-stuff-cleaning-closet. I added a wall rack for the tools (mop, sponge mop, broom) and hooks for the two collections of reusable / recycling bags. We’ve really grown to like tossing our recyclable paper into a cardboard box or paper bag and toting that to the recycling center; it works well for us. There’s also space for a large sheet of cardboard (to be reused for mess protection or shipping), the vacuum, kitchen window screens (note to self: install them soon) and two gallons of potable emergency water. Here’s the top half after reorganization:
The bottom half of the stairs continues as a pantry; I just removed everything else and dedicated the area to food-related items. Chipboard clementine boxes lined with brown paper make very nice, unobtrusive (=narrow) produce drawers. We’ve successfully kept potatoes, onions, squash, pumpkins and apples there. This is what it looks like now:
You could say that this isn’t much of a change and be right. It is, however, enough for now. (I dream of at least painting in the future.) What’s best, even after a few months, we’ve been able to keep the new “cleaning closet” and “pantry” neat and clutter-free – that means it’s working!
Here’s a before-after photo of the top half and the landing:
And a before-after photo of the bottom half:
As it turns out, we unknowingly timed the change very well. This February’s snowstorms created so much ice in March that our roof leaked. It was a relief not to have to worry about cleaning tools falling on you while stomping up and down the stairs to deal with snow and the leaks.
April 22, 2015 § 2 Comments
Right now I’m kinda wishing we were in need of more dinnerware. I really like this cheerful, spring-color set:
This Kim Parker Provence Garden 16-piece set is available from Macy’s for a limited time.
(Note: I do not not publish sponsored content, or accept gifts or discounts to write about products. Blog posts are based on my personal opinion.)