Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Surviving Hurricane Sandy

I survived Hurricane Katrina. I know it was 7 years ago that Katrina hit, but when a storm runs away with your house and all its contents, you remember.  Trust me, you remember.

Now many of you are trying to survive after the biggest storm so far this decade.

I learned a few things 7 years ago.  I would like to share them and just maybe they could help you.

First call FEMA.  Program in it your phone. 1- 800-621-FEMA (3362)
When you finally get through and it will take many tries and hours on hold.  They will give you a case number. Do not ever forget it.

Have your homeowners insurance declarations page .  Never put it down. Have it with you at all times. This dictates what you can collect. Same with your flood insurance.  Anyway, give that info to FEMA.  The 'decs' page determines how you will make it through the next few months.  You will become as familiar with 'decs' as I am.  In fact, you will learn an entirely new language.  

Get a small spiral bound notebook or use whatever you have to start making notes.  Every phone call you make, write down what time it was, who you spoke with and what happened.  You will not remember even if you think you will. Write it down.

Take pictures. Lots of photos. And then take more. Write down what they are and when they were taken.  You will need them when dealing with your claims adjuster. 

Go to your insurance agent's office. They do not have a claims adjustor there. That guy comes later. But often the insurance agency will give you an advance based on your future claim.

FEMA may also deposit money in your checking account, no questions asked.  They did after Katrina. You can use that money and the advance from your insurance company to pay immediate needs.  Even though you may not be able to work, all those bills still need to be paid.  You may not have a phone or electric or gas, but all those companies want to be paid.  Chances are your cell phone company will give you a few free months. Ask.  It's also possible your mortgage company will suspend payment for a couple of months.  You still have to make payments to catch up. They won't just tack the lost payments onto the end of the mortgage, but at least you can catch your breath for a month or so.

Your insurance company will send a claims adjustor to your home.  This man or woman is NOT your friend. His job is to NOT pay your claim or to pay the very least possible.  Be strong, be adamant and do not accept his first offer to pay damages. Do accept an advance if you have to pay for something immediately, like tree removal perhaps. 

If you are not familiar with current constructions costs, find someone who is. Even if you have to pay someone who does professional estimating. Find a person who has been an estimator, not someone who became one a day or so and after the storm.  

Churches and local helping agencies may help you meet your immediate needs.  They will give you food, water and ice.  They also have mops and buckets on hand.  They may even volunteer to help you clean up at your house, but if you are homosexual, butch up and do not mention that. You will lose that mop or bucket if they find out or suspect.  Or they may run out of water and ice when you drive up.  

Do not hire anyone who knocks on your door and tells you they can fix your roof or driveway or walls or anything else. Chances are they will overcharge you and possibly just take your money are run.  Use trusted companies you know.  Or check the company at the BBB or even online review can help. Do not use an out of state contractor for anything. They only came to get a piece of your insurance money.  They really don't care if they do any work or not.

Watch out for price gougers at gasoline stations, grocery stores or hardware stores.  If prices seem outrageous, call your state attorney general and report it.  It does and will happen.

I could write dozens more pages here. If you have specific questions, I will be glad to answer them here.  

Good luck and write everything down.

I survived

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pond Equipment Winter Care

Pumps, filters and UV lights 

When temperatures drop, winter pond care is necessary. Algae growth stop, so you can disconnect your filter and UV light if you have one. Remember you only need filters and UV lights if you feed fish. If you make them work for their room and board by eating submerged vegetation and in turn fertilizing it, you have no need for filtration or UV lights. 

As the temperatures drop to 39 degrees F, turn off all pumps and fountains. Fish like to stay in the bottom of the pond where the water is warmer, so don't stir up the water and lose the bottom layer of warmer water. 

Remove your pumps now, check the hoses for leaks. Clean your pump, clean and wipe down your filters and UV lights. To clean tubes and remove lime scale, you can wipe them with vinegar. 

De icing 

When the pond freezes over, you must create an ice free opening in the ice, so gasses can be exchanged and the fish can breathe. You can buy deicers, but if you do, buy the ones that are used to keep horse trough water from freezing. They cost about 1/4th as much electricity and work better. And cost much less to run. Another way to keep a hole open is with a plastic jug that milk or water came in. Put a couple of cups of water in the jug, tie a string on it and float it in the water, tying the string to something you can reach easily. If the pond stays iced over in the morning, pull the jug out and you will have a hole in the ice. If the temperatures stay below freezing all day and you expect them to stay there, you must use several jugs or a different method altogether. You must be vigilant if the temperatures continue below freezing because ammonia and carbon dioxide build up from fish breathing. Ammonia is also generated from decomposing plant material and fish waste. If these gasses can't escape, your fish can die, plus they need oxygen to breathe. 

If your pond does freeze over completely for more than a day, do NOT whack it with a hammer to open it. The shock can kill your fish. Use warm, not hot, water from your inside faucet to open a hole. Just run it over the ice or put it in a pot or bucket and put it on the ice. You can also run water from your garden hose and the ice will melt, unless you live where the hose is frozen too. I have heard of people putting a piece of black visqueen on the ice to thaw it, but have never tried it. Let me know if it works. You can do these things daily, but I think the plastic jug is easier. And, of course, the deicer is easiest, but also costs a few dollars. 

Some people build a frame over their pond, like a cold frame, out of PVC and visqueen to keep the pond warmer and protect it from debris falling in the winter. This can be a good idea because we tend not to pay as much attention to the pond in winter and a small problem can become a disaster if not prevented. 

Do not run a pump that brings the warmer water up from the bottom of the pond to the top. Pretty soon all the water will be cold. If you do put a pump in the water, raise it to only 10 or so inches from the top. That will leave the warm water at the bottom where the fish are more comfortable. 

Fish food, liquid bacteria, fertilizers 

Now is the time to discard all fish food, if you have been feeding fish. It loses nutrients over time, so throw it away and buy new in the spring. 

Buy all the pond things now that you might need this winter because no stores stock pond supplies in the winter. 

Be sure you have enough dechlor, Microbe-Lift and any fish meds you may need. 

If you do these few simple tasks, your pond will come alive happy and healthy next spring. 

Visit my website at  Visit us with your pond questions or just to show off your pond.

I talk about seasonal pond care in my book as well. You can buy it by clicking below.
A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining your Pond, available here

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Day Off

Didja ever open your eyes in the morning and and decide to just write off the day.  

Yup, that was the idea when I woke up.  A couple of weeks of packing and moving and driving and unpacking and searching for the other half of whatever I needed made a day off sound pretty good.

A day off what, you ask?  I am retired from a 'real job' and all I do to make a living is write…..and we all know how easy that is.  But today was MY day. To putter in the garden, maybe even to take a ride to see the fantastic fall color in Mountain View AR today. 

I managed to eat breakfast by about 10 am and the phone rang.  It was the company that provides water to this part of the world.  In this little town, the water company calls when they think you have used more water than usual.  She asked me if maybe I had left a hose on. That's how much excess water I used and my bill reflected that. And that was the end of my day off. 

First run around the house to check all possible places water could be leaking.  Silence everywhere.  OK, now off to turn off the water to the whole house and see if the meter was still running. The meter is about 200' from the house near the road.  Meter was still running.  I could see a Ditch Witch in my future. A huge yellow monster in my yard making a long hole and costing hundreds upon hundreds of dollars.  

Checked the house again.  This time I opened up the closet that the water heater is in.  I heard some sort of hissing sound.  Huh?  Felt for water up, down and all around. No water. Opened the relief valve.  The hissing sound stopped. The meter stopped running. Shut the relief valve off.  Meter was stopped.  Go figure.

And so went my day off.  

Visit my website at  Visit us with your pond questions or just to show off your pond.

I talk about seasonal pond care in my book as well. You can buy it by clicking below.
A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining your Pond, available here

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Pond in Winter

We are coming up on winter. Many of you have cold days and freezing weather at night already.  The pond looks like a gray hole in the ground sitting in the landscape.  A few basic things will get your pond and fish through the winter safely.

•  Put your tropical aquatic plants in the garage.  You will probably lose them anyway, but there is a chance they will be OK.  Even if they die back, they will most likely come back in the spring.  

• If you have hardy water lilies, put the at the bottom of the pond and don't worry about them. They will be back in May, none the worse for the ice and snow.  Same with any hardy plant.  If the plant grows naturally where you are, it will grow just as well for you. Most aquatic plants are only pretty weeds anyway.

•  Remove your pump from the water. They don't like to be frozen. Put it in the garage with the filter. (Take this opportunity to clean it thoroughly.)  Check all the tubing and replace the old, hard and brittle stuff with new.  Hose clamps too.  The newer ones made in China don't last very long, so buy new if they are deteriorating. 

•  The need for a pond heater has been debated for decades.  Some folks use them to keep a hole in the ice.  Pond does need to have a hole in the ice if it freezes over and stays that way.  But there are other ways to do it. Throwing a gallon jug with some water in it, keeps a hole open. Remove it in the morning and put it back at night.  The pond heater works, but is expensive to run, so alternative methods can work just as well.  The pond heater will not keep your pond from freezing solid, just keep a hole open so gasses can be exchanged.  The fish go into torpor, but still need some oxygen and the carbon dioxide the breathe out needs to go somewhere.  

•  If you built your pond below the frost line where you live - you can find that out from your county extension agent - the fish will be fine. They just stay dormant at the bottom of the pond, but you must still keep a hole open. Tropical fish will not survive and must be brought in when the temps go below 55ยบ.

*  Do not run your pump to keep your pond from freezing.  It mixes up the water and brings the warmer water to the top. Leave the warmer water at the bottom so the fish will be happier.

*  Winter is a difficult time for the small ornamental garden pond, but performing these few duties yearly will bring your pond through the winter and it will come back just as beautiful next spring.

Visit my website at  Visit us with your pond questions or just to show off your pond.

I talk about seasonal pond care in my book as well. You can buy it by clicking below.
A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining your Pond, available here

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Things I think about.

Each year somewhere around my birthday, I have a look back at my ever increasing years and write down things about myself that seem important, at least at the time

1) I cannot seem to recover from PTSD following the loss of our house in Hurricane Katrina even if it has been 7 years.

2) I once took a year long motorcycle trip and visited every national park in the US.

3) I am so glad I did so much traveling when I was young and could enjoy it more.

4) I spent so much time in church as a youngster, I said I would never ever set foot in one again and haven't

5)  I spent years studying organized religion and realized that it is a huge power trip by the leaders who want only power and control over many.  National politics is much the same.

6) I am very spiritual, knowing that we are all part of the same natural web of life.  I find myself and all others in nature.

7)  I am probably the shyest person on earth.

8) I am completely at ease with a microphone in my hand standing in front of 10,000 people.

9) I question everything. Always have and always will.  It got me in lots of trouble and still does.

10) I love learning and never want to stop.

11) I read drug store trash novels.

12) Motorcycles mean freedom to me.

13) I only worked to feed my travel addiction.

14) Retirement is OK, but getting on a ladder or picking up something heavy is much harder to do.

15)  Surviving Katrina was the hardest thing I ever did. No, quitting smoking was the hardest thing I ever did. Surviving Katrina was the second hardest thing.

16) When I came out, the whole world suddenly came clear.

17) I think swimming is staying alive in the water, but I loved to water ski.

18) Sailing is a great way to spend any amount of time.

19) I rarely leave the house without a camera, but am not a great photographer and it's time I accepted that.

20) I am a hack writer. Most all writers are better than I am, but I still keep grinding out words.

21) Everything I have done in my life to make a living was a success.

22) I was 48 years old before I found my passion and earned a living at it.

23) The politicians of the United States are owned by corporations. Their running of the government is only an attempt to keep their jobs.  

24) I think my great-nephew is a cool kid.

25) I just moved to Arkansas to my dream house.  This house and land makes retirement fantastic.

Visit my website at  Visit us with your pond questions or just to show off your pond.

I talk about seasonal pond care in my book as well. You can buy it by clicking below.
A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining your Pond, available here

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hanging Pictures

Isn't one of the last things one does in a new house to make it home is hang pictures?  I have been doing that and at least one room looks like home. A messy home, but that's normal as well.
And another thing that makes you know you are at home is problem that needs fixing.  Mine?  A stopped up toilet.  Do I know where the plunger is?  Of course not.  Good thing I live in 6.5 isolated acres.

Don't forget my book. It's a great holiday gift for the gardener in your life.

Visit my website at  Visit us with your pond questions or just to show off your pond.

I talk about seasonal pond care in my book as well. You can buy it by clicking below.
A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining your Pond, available here

Friday, October 12, 2012

Moving is a Mess

I am still moving to Arkansas.  Seems like it's taking forever. Maybe because it is.  One more trip and lots of craigslist postings/garage sales, freecycle and I hope to be here for good.
Let's see what's been happening beside moving.  I turned 71.  All this physical activity drives that home.

Garlic is in the ground here.  I am in Arkansas for at least another month to 6 weeks until the next trip.  So I planted garlic. I'm told the deer will not eat it this winter.  Crimson clover is coming up down by the pond. (Isn't there a song named Crimson and Clover?  Those words sound good together, don't they?)  Just seeded that a few days ago. That is for the deer to eat come winter.

I am also hoping that the deer realize that they cannot be shot while on my 6.5 acres, so they come here for safety during this hunting season.  Guns boom at all hours around here this time of year.

Reducing the stuff that was in a 3000 sf house so it fits in a 1300 sf house is not a job for the faint of heart.

While you are waiting for the blog to start or winter to be over, buy my book and read my website.

Visit my website at  Visit us with your pond questions or just to show off your pond.

I talk about seasonal pond care in my book as well. You can buy it by clicking below.
A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining your Pond, available here