Friday, May 22, 2015

Brick Dust: Spring Brings Changes

Our beautiful sage bush.

Spring brings change, and around here, there's a lot of change happening!  First off, you've likely noticed that I've changed the name of this blog.  There are a lot of reasons for this change, but I don't quite have the words.  The new name came to me just this evening, as we were coming in from dinner.  Sage has been a special plant to me for a very long time, and the fact that this old girl has been with us for so long and has stayed so healthy has been an inspiration to me.  She feeds us, and she also helps me to stay connected to Spirit. Plus, she's just so darn gorgeous!

While we don't live on an alley, we are in the suburbs, surrounded by concrete and asphalt and apathy.  Our yard is tiny (though we do get a lot out of it!) and traffic sounds are a constant.  I also just like the way "Sage Alley" sounds as a writer.

The content of the blog is not going to change.  The new name actually feels closer to the intended spirit of the blog, too, and it's casual.  We're casual people around here.

Just another afternoon at home.

The garden is in for the year, but it is decidedly scaled back.  (I'll get to why in a moment.)  What you see here is our collards.  My boyfriend is letting the collards and kale go to seed, so we can collect seeds.  We'll still probably eat some of the plant, after we've harvested seed pods (if the leaves are hearty enough for us to do so,) but the main goal is to collect seeds.

We also are collecting seeds from our carrots.  There aren't many planted, and my understanding is that they are strictly seed plants, so I'm not expecting to harvest any roots.  We did find a few "surprise carrots" early in the season, and they were juiced.  (Yummy!)

Also in are kohlrabi and beets. No tomatoes or peppers this year.  

It's been unseasonably cold here in Maryland.  We had a few very hot, humid days, but now, we are back down in the 40s and 50s! (Brrr!)  Considering the weather patterns, we really didn't see the sense in planting certain things.  Only the most hearty plants.

Another reason we are not planting much is that We are moving this summer! We are taking Sage Alley to the country!   While we will still be within about an hour's drive of Washington, DC and Baltimore, we will be living in quite a different world.  Most of our neighbors where we are moving are farmers!  We are going to have more land, which means we will have a larger garden!  We're both excited about this.  I'm particularly excited, because it means there will be room for two of us in the garden, so I will be able to get my hands into the dirt!  I have a couple of additional things I want to grow, too, that I never could have grown here.

We are moving, because of my mother.  At this time, we are managing renovations to her house in WV. This is beyond our DIY skills, and our timetable is too tight for us to be able to futz around and learn as we go.

As for the Little Stone House here in Maryland, I will be keeping it and renting it out.  While I am hoping to get renters in who share our philosophy about simple, green living, right living, and treading lightly upon the Earth, unfortunately, you can't really hand pick who rents your house.  You can carefully screen applicants, but you get what you get.  I'm hoping that knowing the yard here was used to grow food will encourage green types, but mainly, I want the house to be a happy home for someone else.  It certainly has made us happy, so why not share that?

Eventually, we will sell the house, but this year, the market is not conducive, so we'll wait and check in next year.

There is going to be nothing simple about this move, but we are working hard to keep it as green and frugal as we can.  We've already located some materials at the house that can be reused in the renovations to keep costs down and to keep things out of the waste stream, but with a job like this, we can only do our best.

More on this as it develops.

Musashi.  He likes to be held like a baby,

This is Musashi.  An ex and I found him and his brother, Sam, who also lives with us, when they were teeny, tiny kittens.  Mu has always been the more nervous and the more frail of the two.  Recently, part of my morning routine has been "cuddles". I sit down on the top step to put on my shoes, and he comes up and asks to get on my lap. Then, he curls up in my arms like a baby and drools.  This is how I treat my cats.  I give them love and affection, and they know to seek it out.  Some people think that animals can't feel or don't have emotions, but my experience has been that that is nowhere near accurate.

Mu and Sam are about 12 years old, which is very old in human terms.  To me, they will always be my babies, though!

Until next time, enjoy your Spring, and remember to appreciate the little things in life.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Recycling: Bathroom Tiles

Tiles soaking.  Ew!

As with everything at the Little Stone House, I kept the tiles that my boyfriend ripped out of our upstairs tub surround.  Many of them had to be tossed, but we ended up with close to 200 tiles that can be reused.  First, I had to clean them!

In order to do this, I found it was easiest to soak them in non-chlorine bleach for a couple of days and then scrub them with a paste made from water and the same non-chlorine bleach. (Wear gloves!)  I did this using an old toothbrush--another item we recycle and repurpose around the house.  It's important, finally, to make sure that you completely clean out the sink you use when you are finished.  It's nasty work, and non-chlorine bleach can be just as hazardous as chlorine bleach, even though it is easier on the environment! 

Cleaned tiles, set out to dry

When cleaning them, you want to scrub off as much of the paper backing, mastic, etc. as you can, and you can't forget to scrub the edges of the tiles, where adhesive might still be stuck on. I found that most of the mastic and such came off with a little elbow grease. Most of what is still stuck to these tiles is just the paper from the drywall backing. (The person who put in the tub surround used regular, old green board, which did not hold up to moisture very well!) 

The fact that not all of the mastic came off means that they can't be reused for a job like a tub surround, but we are finding other uses for them. The first thing my partner did was he used some in the cubbyhole where our new dishwasher went in.  He did not stick them down.  He simply lined the cubby floor with them, which brought the dishwasher up to the height it needed to be.  While it's not a perfect fit, it now fits as well as we need it to! 

There are tons of potential uses for these.  We will keep them on hand, as long as we can store them without cluttering up our space.  We might use them as plant coasters or under furniture to keep from scratching up the floor or raise the height of the furniture.  We may use them to line shelves we make.  The important thing is we have kept them out of the waste stream, which is always a huge goal in our world!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Caring for a Pet Remotely

Mama Kitty

I have alluded to the fact that we are caring for my mom's  cat while Mom is recovering from her surgery, which happened in 2014. Mom's dogs are with a sitter, as caring for a dog remotely is just not possible. By "remotely", I don't mean I'm using any funky tech to spy on the cat from a distance and operate computers that feed her and let her out.  What I mean is that I care from her from a distance.  We travel to my mom's once a week--which Mom said she wanted, whether the cat was there or not--to check on the cat, give her company, and of course replenish her food and water.

When the pet sitter first suggested this, I was kind of horrified, to be honest.  I could not imagine leaving an animal by him/herself for days at a time.  There is so much that can go wrong.  We talked about it at length, though, and she told me the story of a cat her family had had when she was younger.  The cat lived at a second home, which they visited once a week, and she said the cat was fine.  She also told me that she felt Mama would be happier at home, stating that when she takes Mama to stay with her, Mama hides a lot.  This is someone we've trusted with Mom's pets for years, so I took what she said to heart.  It has worked out fine.

Though Mama is overweight, the only way we can keep her fed throughout the week is with dry food.  She recently went to the vet--I take her fairly regularly--and her blood work is fine.  We'd like her to lose weight, but we'll be able to manage that more easily when someone is back living at the house with her.   In the meantime, I make sure she has toys and room to run around.  (It's a big house.  There is plenty of room !)

When we get there, the first thing I do is take up her food.  Most of the time, we just stay over one night, so the food gets put away until we leave.  She gets a small amount of wet food that night and then when we leave, as a treat.  Since the house is in the country and Mama never ventures far, when we get there, we let her out.  Depending on the weather, she sometimes stays out for hours.  There's not much more we can do for her, since we don't live there.  I just watch her weight and check her for any signs of illness or distress when we get there each week.

Her water is changed and the bowls washed every visit.  The bowls for both her food and her water are all large enough that there's no danger of her running out.  I've been talking with a neighbor about leaving her one of the garage door openers in case we can't get there on time, too.  We are still trying to work that out.

We have had very few problems with her.  Lately, she has started soiling, so I'm going to monitor that and take her back to the vet if needed.  I suspect it's just because we can only clean her boxes when we visit, so she probably does not like that they are not clean all the time.  I'm hoping that's all it is.

We are hoping that this situation will be remedied soon.  I'm working with the nursing home to find out when Mom can go home, so we can get Mama on a more stable schedule with more company and more activity in her day.

Overall, she is a happy cat, and I always make sure the house is safe for her before we leave.  When you have a situation like this, it's really the best you can do.  I absolutely do not recommend leaving a cat for more than a week at a time!  Most times, we're only gone 5-6 days, really.

Before leaving an animal, always talk to your vet and a trusted pet sitter, if you have one.  How successful this arrangement will be depends heavily on the health and personality of the animal in question, and like I said before, you really can't leave a dog for more than a day or two.  If you decide to do this, have the animal thoroughly checked out by your vet first, and always have a backup plan/a neighbor with an extra key or something.  My own preference is to hire a sitter to come in once or twice a day, but in this case, we were unable to do so.