Entries Tagged as 'Home'

Landscaping

Last year was spent mainly cleaning up the yard, this year I’m focused on trying to make some forward progress with landscaping.  It’s been a busy Spring planting season.

I started with a flower bed in the front of the house; 100 tulip bulbs (only about 70 came up).  I’d hoped to plant canna lilies to come up after the tulips, but finding bulbs here has proven to a challenge (the only Summer bulb that any of the nurseries around here carry are caladiums, and never considered I’d have to order something so common).

Then two Azaleas when in on the side of the house by the pourch.

Two areas (one in back and one in front) of the breezeway were done in concrete pavers.

Two cedar trees were moved out from under an oak tree in the back yard to the side of the back yard where they could grow.

A red Camila was put in the front by the mail box; a Japanese (Tulip) Magnolia was put in the front; a Gardenia was put in the side yard near the front of the garage.  Four Privet Ligustrums were put in the side yard to break it up, hide the A/C unit, but not interfere with sunlight through the bedroom windows.

Nine blue berry bushes were put along the rear fence.

Four compost bins were put in the back corner of the yard.

Four fig bushes (Brown Turkey) were put along the side fence in the back (between two oak trees).

Two plum (Blue Dawson & Golden), two peach(Florida King & Elberta), and two pear (Pineapple & Bartlett) trees were put in the back between the oak and the cedar trees.  A persimmon (Fuyu),  an Asian pear apple, a lime (Persian), two lemon (Meyer’s & Pink Variegated), a pomegranate (Russian 26), and an orange (Calamondin) tree were put in front of those.

Eighteen tomato plants (Heritage & Better Boy), eighteen pepper plants (Sweet Banana & Cayenne), and nine cucumber plants were put in the back in front of the figs.  I’ll probably expand my garden next year, but these plants will help condition the soil and provide me with much tastier alternatives than the grocery store (I almost always get my produce from the farmer’s market anyway — this should be less expensive and a nice diversion).

Three Medjool date palms and two Sago palms were put in the front corner; and one banana tree was put in the end of the flower bed.

That’s probably it for this year… certainly the yard has been greatly transformed by the addition of all this vegetation, and the care that’s gone into the few healthy tree that were here.

I still have much more to do, but I can’t be sure we’ll have adequate rain this year — so I can only plant as much as I can comfortably water.

Originally posted 2010-04-11 02:00:13.

Solar Panels

I just did a little exercise in trying to figure out if solar panels would be cost effective for me.

Using my latitude and longitude; NREL and NASA data; along with the ratings from a couple of the manufacturers of the most cost effective panels currently produced it appears that for about $750 I can produce enough electricity to run two [small] compact florescent lights — or a little less than $30 in electricity per year (at today’s rate).

So considering the energy and tax savings the panel couldn’t pay for itself in ten years (and that’s just the panel, that doesn’t include the batteries, inverter, installation, etc).  Plus, I suspect it’s unlikely that a solar panel would last ten years here.

I’d say that solar panels have to increase in cost/performance by a factor of roughly 2x before they’d be feasible here (and we get quite a bit of sun).

I’m always on the lookout for ways to be a little more “green”; but I also believe that any solution needs to be sustainable; and I’m sure if I consider the impact of the production of the panels into this “equation” I’m going to find [here] that solar panels really aren’t that “green”.

I’ll have to keep looking for other options that might be more effective.

Originally posted 2009-08-13 01:00:36.

Lowes “We Care” LOL

I purchased an inexpensive ceiling fan from Lowe’s in July — I needed something small, something that would be close to the ceiling, and since I didn’t really care for anything I had to choose from, something that wasn’t expensive.

I ended up with a:

Harbor Breeze,  30″ White Breezeway Ceiling Fan
Item #: 20006 / Model: 0020006

For about $30…

I found the fan a little noisy from the start, and originally it wobbled quite a bit on the ceiling (that I took care of by taking it down, and putting it back up using some felt spacers to help cushion it against the outlet box).

Last week, it finally got cool enough here that I didn’t need the fan circulating air in my office… so I turned it off.  Yesterday it got warm enough that I felt like it was a good idea to turn it on to circulate the air to keep the office as cool as possible.

To my surprise, a ceiling fan less than three months old appears to have bearing that are going bad (certainly I don’t class this fan as inexpensive any longer, I classify it as CHEAP).

I figured, I’d contact Lowe’s and find out what the warranty was and how painful it would be to get service… so I clicked on their web site, send off a message to customer service (with all the information on the fan, model, etc) and went about my business doing other thing.

Submitting online requests are great; they very low impact on a person’s time — you send in the request when you have time, you deal with the response when you have time — it’s the next best thing to not needing to contact support… that is when you actually get customer service.

I got a message fairly early this morning — they needed the item and / or model number in order to provide me with the information I ask for.  Hmm — can you say careless, incompetent, and not really interested in providing service — all that information was in the web request AND embarrassingly enough, the entire web request (including that information was sent to me).

I replied that I had provided the information already… and if there was something more they needed they’d have to be more specific.

The next note came back that they couldn’t access the original web request; yes — you got it, all the previous information was once again copied onto the request.

Enough was enough… I picked up the phone and called.

The woman who I spoke with (after going through the obligatory maze of voice prompts and responses — a good sign a company doesn’t really care about it customers) seemed concerned, but she immediately needed to put me on hold (wasting more of my time) to research the problem.  Then all she had to come back with was that the local store would call me.  When I told her I’d like to speak with her manager, she immediately apologized and told me that the local store would be calling to help me (yeah — like I was deaf, dumb, or stupid — she obviously had been dealing with Lowe’s customer service people too much).

I was a little “rough” on her… and got a manager.

The manager was equally ineffective — but in fact confirmed that all the information that would have been needed to resolve this had been entered into the original message; but since it had been turned over to the store they would need to handle it.

As I pointed out to him; I did an online request for information because I didn’t want to spend the time chasing this down on phone calls — had I wanted to make a phone call originally I would have been able to, and that all they had really done was to waste my time and encourage me to shop elsewhere.

I received a voice mail this afternoon from one of the local Lowe’s store — apparently they’ve pulled a replacement for me and it’s ready for me to pick it up at my convenience.

I’ve got news for Lowe’s — it will NEVER be at my convenience, and I certainly don’t intend on wasting more of my time to take down this POS fan, drive to Lowe’s, pickup another POS fan, and install the same POS fan — I’d much rather invest a little more of my money and less of my time in acquiring and replacing this fan with something that provides better service than either this POS fan or Lowe’s!

Originally posted 2009-10-23 01:00:11.

Andersen Windows Doors

I decided I wanted a full view storm door for my front door to help reduce the energy loss, and I wanted to buy it this year to take advantage of the Energy Tax Credit… I looked at both Pella (Lowes) and Andersen (Home Depot)… no one in the area carries Peachtree (and I’m not sure they make storm doors).

I liked the Pella, but a couple of the features of the Andersen (screen / glass user interchangeable panel) seemed slightly more appealing.

To say I was disappointed by the perceived quality of the door is an understatement.

Below is a message I posted to Andersen via their web site.

Let me preface this by saying I’ve renovated four homes now; and I’ve always used Peachtree, Pella, or Andersen products in them — and I’ve always been extremely happy with the quality.
When I purchased a storm door for my home in Florida I looked at the Pella product at Lowes as well as the Series 4000 and 3000 at Home Depot; and I elected the Series 3000 since I was price sensitive for resale.
While I cannot complain with the overall appearance of the door I was less than happy with the quality of the construction of the door during the installation — it seemed “cheap” to put it simply.
The way the glass/screen section installs/removes (obviously far superior on the 4000, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t have been happier with the fixed window in the Pella at the same price to avoid the concern in how well the plastic clips are going to hold up in the first hurricane); also I found the door closure mechanism to have too short a throw for the door to open any where near 90 degrees (the travel only allows about 80 degrees).
Additionally, the Home Depot employee informed me that the Kwikset lock set for the door would run around $25 — while I haven’t called either Home Depot to check on a special order or Andersen to confirm the price yet, I just find that price point to be totally ridiculous.
I can’t say I won’t consider Andersen products in the future — but this door doesn’t even slightly resemble the quality I expected (and enjoyed in the past) from Andersen…
The only positive thing I find about the door is the lifetime warranty — something I (unfortunately) expect will be used over and over and over.
I’m sure that disappointing customers isn’t your goal; but I felt it was important to share my experience and my lack of satisfaction.

Andersen Corporation
100 Fourth Avenue North
Bayport, MN 55003-1096

888-888-7020
651-264-5150

http://www.andersenwindows.com/

Originally posted 2010-11-11 02:00:00.

Big toys for big boys…

I did some major tree trimming this past weekend, and rented a “Nifty Lifty” lift to do the job.

First I “topped” a tree in the back corner of the yard that the top had died.  The tree itself was in pretty good shape, but for some reason (I’m guessing that the roots were being choked out by a lot of the vegetation that I’d cleared) the top 30 feet had died.  This was easy, plenty of open space around it, and fairly easy to get the lift into position.  And I did what appeared to be the easiest tree first to get used to operating the lift.

Second, I took out one tree near the front of the house that the top had died.  It would have been a very easy tree to take out, except that it was leaning precariously close to the house and almost over the power lines.  It had to be taken out a few small sections at a time until the tree was well below the roof line of the house.

Third, I trimmed a number of branches from another tree in the front of the house that were over-hanging the power lines.  These proved to be a little bit of a challenge because of the height and weight of the branches.  One of the branches was almost 6 inches in diameter, the other was about 4 inches in diameter and the larger branch needed about 25 feet trimmed, the smaller branch needed about 30 feet trimmed.  With the life extended to it’s full height, it was a little shaky, and definitely a slow process taking out the sections of the limbs.

Fourth, I trimmed a few limbs that were over the house from a tree in the side yard.  Except for one of the branches this proved to be straight forward (after the experience from the tree in the front yard hanging over the power lines this was a piece of cake).  However, the last limb was about 40 feet above the ground and extended well past the ridge of the house — there seemed to be no way to trim this without potentially damaging the roof since there was just no way to get to end of the branch to lighten it.  My brother-in-law came up with the idea of using a very long pole saw from the life to cut off small sections of the limb.  It was slow go, and a little uncomfortable working that far off the ground with a 18 foot pole saw; but it worked, and the limb came down section by section without damaging anything.

Of course, the work just started after getting the trees and branches down.  There was an unbelievable amount of small limbs and leaves to haul away, and there’s still lots of fire wood to cut and haul away.

Originally posted 2009-08-14 01:00:16.

Fresh Fruit

One of the advantages of  planting a series of fruit trees in my back yard when I first moved in is that I get to have fresh fruit.

I was amazed that some of the trees have produced since the first year.

I’ve already had peaches this year, some pears, blueberries, and some figs…

This morning I picked three pears, peeled and cored them, sliced them thinly, and cooked them with cinnamon, and served them with Greek yogurt.

Soon I’ll have more pears, pomegranates, more figs, and grapes (muscadines / scuppernongs).

All the plum blossoms fell victim to a heavy storm; so won’t have any of those this year.  The persimmon, may-haw, kiwi, and loquat are too young to produce… but maybe next year.

So far for fruit bearing I have

  • 6 varieties of pear
  • 6 varieties of blueberry
  • 4 varieties of fig
  • 2 varieties of peach
  • 2 varieties of plum
  • 2 varieties of pomegranate
  • 1 variety of may-haw
  • 1 variety of persimmon
  • 1 variety of loquat
  • 1 variety of kiwi (two – one male and one female)
  • 1 variety of banana (multiple trees)
  • 1 variety of lemon
  • 1 variety of orange

I also plant several varieties of chilies every year (in my flower bed with the hibiscus, canna lilies, Hawaiian ti), and I think next year I’m going to add

  • 1 variety of paw-paw (two trees for pollination)
  • 1 additional variety of persimmon
  • 1 additional variety of may-haw

My goal is to actually have home grown fruit ready to eat from late Spring to the end of Fall…

 

 

 

Originally posted 2012-07-21 12:00:38.

Green Online… JUST SAY NO

Below is a note I sent to Willis Orchard Co about an order I placed for some tropical plants.


On 19-Mar I placed an order for three Medjool Palms (1.5′-2′) and a Drawf Cavendish Banana Tree with and expected ship date around 1-Apr… yesterday (11-May) I received the FedEx packages containing those items.

Roughly a week after the expected ship date I began calling approximately once a week for an update on the shipping status — to which (other than the last call) I was always told that the product should be shipping within a couple days…

Needless to say, my impression of your “customer service” wasn’t very high; in fact it was so low that I acquired the forty-seven other fruit trees, shrubs, and ornamental trees I used to begin landscaping my yard from local sources…

I understand that your shipping delays were caused by your vendor; however, the failure to realistically appraise me of delays is solely a fault your company and customer service people must bare.

While the shipping delay alone was enough to make me shy away from doing additional business with your company; the condition of the plants I received certainly indicated to me that I shall not put your company high on a list to consider again.

The committed size of the plants is stated to be the overall height; while I’d would have hoped that would be the height from the top of the root ball to the highest vertical point on the plant, it’s obvious that you intend that measurement to be the distance from the top of the root ball to the furthest point on a (stretched) frond of the palms.

In my case that appears to be two just less than 18″ (one of those I’m being generous with the “just less”) and one that isn’t even 16″… further the one closest to 18″ and the one less than 16″ are based on measuring fronds that are brown at the ends (dead) — which most likely didn’t occur in a single day of shipping from Southern Georgia to Northwest Florida.

I can’t say I was the least bit surprised… and certainly I don’t think any of these three specimens would have come home with me had I visually inspected them before purchase (at the prices you charge).

Whether these represent the plants you would normally ship to a customer or simply you feel you’re a victim of the volume of your orders verses the inability of your supplies to fulfill their commitments I can’t say… all I can say is that I’m greatly disappointed.


In retrospect, I’d say ordering plants online should be put in the same category as ordering produce online — what you get might not live up to your standards, and what others are happy with says nothing about the quality.

Originally posted 2010-05-13 02:00:35.

Fall Harvest

I just finished up a little yard work — more than anything I needed to get some fresh air, the weather hasn’t been very conducive to early morning bicycling, and with the road construction on one of the semi-major roads between me and the trail I ride I haven’t been too motivated to risk my life to go out most week days (they are getting close to finishing up — though it’ll be mid-day rides for now).

Pruning some rose bushes and rooting the cuttings — hopefully next spring I have a few dozen more rose bushes to plant in my rose beds.

Trimming dead branches from the fruit trees and getting them in shape for the winter / spring.

Bagging up yard clipping for the green pickup on Tuesday — my recycle bins are too full to add more clipping right now, but they should have space if there’s another mowing this year.

And… picking the last five limes.  I’ve now had this tree for four years, the first winter it was in the back yard nearly killed it, so I moved it and an orange tree to the front (I’ve since planted two more orange trees in the front I grew from seed).  The orange tree produced literally hundreds of oranges the first summer, but only a handful since then.  The lime tree produced two limes last summer, this summer it produced over twenty (I lost count).  I probably could have left some of these limes on the tree a little longer, but the nights are getting cooler, and realistically the days are too short to really nurture much growth on a citrus tree… so I figured just put them inside where I’ll use them (they’re great when I bake boneless/skinless chicken in the convection oven).

Hard to say whether we’ll have a mild winter or a rough one this year, but as long as there’s a good amount of rain in the spring I expect my fruit trees to do well again (which makes the squirrels and birds very happy as well).

Home Energy Report

Yesterday I got my “Home Energy Report” from Gulf Power… I cam in #6 out of 100…

Sixth!!! Hell, I don’t like second place… of course no one told me this was a competition.

The report’s fairly interesting… I used 967KWh, my “efficient” neighbors used 1,354, and “all” neighbors used 1,740… so I use 29% less energy than my “efficient” neighbors… which is one of the reasons why their “Energy Select” doesn’t make sense to me.

Of course another thing that doesn’t make sense to me is why I need another account with Gulf Power to view this information online — seems like it should have just been “connected” with my bill pay account, or at least I should be able to have a “master” account that I can select what services I want.