Monday, April 28, 2014

Plumbing 101

Now if you are my family reading this post, I know you are very worried for several reasons. 1) It is a known fact I know nothing about plumbing, EXCEPT, shit goes downhill. 2) I should not even attempt to play with plumbing and 3) If I'm talking about plumbing, I probably had to hire a plumber recently which means my world is upside down! Seems like life just wanted to have some fun with me, on a Monday, no less. So let me start at the beginning!

My job occasionally has me up early to complete projects which is not a big deal. I can usually just work from home. So, I decided to be uber productive and throw in a load of laundry in the morning when I was up early. I had already showered, so why not. When I went to put the wash in the dryer, I walked thru some water, but didn't notice it. I decided to grab some trash out of the bathroom next to the laundry room, and then I noticed the water. Not much, but water that came out of the drain pipe in the floor is never a good sign. It didn't dawn on me until I'm on my hands and knees wiping it up that this shouldn't have happened and a pipe must be clogged. So I set forth on testing the situation. 

Luckily, I figured out that the bathroom in the basement and water from the wash sink, could cause water to come up. Not a lot, but some nonetheless. I tried to pull off the drain cap only to realize that the genius DIYer's who owned the house before me I had grouted it in place!! Mind you, it is 5ish in the am when all of this is happening! 

Before any of this occurred, I had made myself a nice cup of tea and had been drinking it. Now, I know I'm going to need a plumber and obviously I can't call at that hour of the morning. I hadn't been prepared to work all day from home, so going to the office was needed as well. And since I work in the city, commuting time was needed to be considered. So after a somewhat frantic call to the parents for pure reassurement that I could leave the house (don't ask), I got ready to leave. It was also about this time, that my body reminded me of the lovely cup of Tazo Chai tea I had enjoyed earlier. While this may be a little TMI, this wasn't a #1 reminder either! Seriously, I have never moved so quickly in the morning EVER to leave the house. Nor have I ever been so grateful for the new Sheetz less than a block away!!
Going to the office with running water and flushable toilets never looked so good on a Monday!!

I reached the plumber and was able to set up an appointment for later in the afternoon, I packed up everything I would need and went home to meet him. When he arrived, the plumber said he had worked in my house before and even showed me how to turn off the outside water faucet for winter (just a little late on that one!). When he was looking around, it wasn't that great. These previous genius owners had probably laid hardwood floor in the basement over the second drain pipe! And, it that wasn't enough the pipe he needed, the opening was possibly too small for his equipment. (Cue the panic) . As a natural worrier, I went straight for worse case. He would have to bring I an excavator and tear up my front yard, for oh say, $12,000 (cue the tears!). However, he seemed to think we had plenty of other options before we went that route. (thank God!)

The plumber arrived a little before 10 am on Wednesday. He thought he would try the drain first only to discover the pipe was too small. :-(

Onto attempting the access location in the closet. However, this required the plumber to remove the door between the laundry room and bathroom.

As I worked upstairs, I could here all kinds of loud noises. I came to the decision that I never want to be home when work is being completed here. However, after what seemed like a long time (really only 15 mins), he was done. My lovely 90 year old home has terra cota pipes so some roots had grown into pipes and he was able to drill them out and flush them down the drain. 

All of that was possible because I have never finished this bathroom closet which I procrastinated on all winter.....what luck! Not going to lie though, every time I was into the laundry room, not scratch that the basement, I expect to see water everywhere!

Soil Testing

So, I decided to be smart this year and test the soil for my garden. I went through the Penn State Extension to get my test. Just Google "soil test and penn state" and it should come right up. The test was $12. You go online and print off the application and send a check with the signed application. You can do commercial and residential, mixed vegetables, lawns, flower beds and so on. For the first time, I thought mixed vegetables would be sufficient. It only took a week and a half for my test to arrive. It really was quite simple too, well, if you read instructions!

Basically, I had to take 10 to 12 samples of dirt for different areas and mix it all together and let dry. The instructions say to place dirt on newspaper. I however, forgot about that, so I placed it in a baking dish on my dining room table for a few days! Anyone hungry?

They provide this nice little bag and request a 1cup sample of dried soil. (Yep, same measuring cup I bake with!)

Along with the dirt, they ask you to complete several questions depending upon which test you are required. Again, if you read the directions, selecting the correct color application makes the process much smoother.

It said the results would take about 10 business days depending upon the season. I was thinking it might take longer with it being spring, but I received my results within that time frame. So, how is my soil you ask...Below Optimum!! Actually, that is not surprising.

The results come back in a nice format that are easy to read and clearly explain what you need.

Now, if you thought I interpreted the results, you are sorely mistaken. I snapped these photos and sent them to my parents and said to get what I needed. Seriously to me all of that was Greek! The parents came for a visit this weekend and we followed the recommendations for fertilizing, turned it over, and fertilized agin. Now, all I need is for it to warm up and maybe I can plant a few things!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Life Lately

I have been out and about in the city lately. Nothing really new to report, but I have been enjoying a camera app on my new iPhone 5S. Basically, it turns the camera in my iPhone to a DSLR camera! Score!! It isn't unusual for me to be snapping pictures when I'm walking on my lunch or meeting up with new friends around the city. Thought maybe I would share a few.

Gardening 101

About two weeks ago, I attended a Gardening 101 seminar. I found it through a Pittsburgh based gardening group. Originally I was going to attend the class in the city, but they provided a second one near where I lived which I thought made more sense to attend. The best part was that it was Free.

The woman who taught the class is a retired Pediatrician. She became involved with gardening as a cheap way to provide food for herself while putting herself through medical school. Since she has retired, she has continued to garden and even has her Master Gardener certification. I guess, that is important to some people, but I honestly could care less.

Her theories and practices come from a guy named Mel Bartholomew who has written several books on Square Foot gardening. With the size of the space I have to work with it, makes sense for me to apply as well. She gave some great tips which I am going to try this year. The Pittsburgh weather in the spring is really wet, and not much sun. Ironically, she said this is why broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower never seem to do well out here in the spring. I instantly identified with it as I have not had any luck. She suggested to buy the seeds and start these plants inside in July and then plant them in the garden in August because they would thrive in our fall weather. Also, she said onion sets will never grow well out here. Instead buy and onion bulb plant to get actual onions. Never heard of them so I will be on the lookout I guess. Finally, rather than planting everything in rows, I'm going to try more of a cluster style planting saving space and adding more seeds every 2 weeks so I have continuous fresh veggies throughout the year. I'm not sure if it will work, but can't hurt to try.

She also discussed our soil, which has been puzzling to me. It is clay basically. She said it is best if we do not turn over our soil. WHAT!! I know, shocker right? Goes against everything I was taught. However, her theory is that as leaves and other plants die and decompose, they fertilize the soil. Since our clay soil is so thick, our plants' roots go out left and right rather than a deep tap root. So this year, no turning over. My back, biceps, and quads are thankful!! She did suggest a soil test and I have known I needed to do it. I am proud to say that my check has already been mailed to Penn State and my soil test kit arrived yesterday!!I will be moving on it quickly as my gardening help arrives at the end of the month and definitely want to have my plan finalized when I have free help. Excited Mom and Dad?!?!  :-)

I asked how to keep squirrels out and she had no advice. I think that will always be my challenge with a chestnut tree in front of the across and an acorn tree out back. I did meet a guy who grows garlic in his garden. Definitely will have to try that!