Sunday, January 25, 2015

Living in Arkansas

I retired after Hurricane Katrina destroyed our house.  Soon after that we bought another house, sold that house 8 years later and moved to Mountain View AR. We have been here 3 years already and things are starting to come together.
Gardens are started. Here in Stone County which lives up to its name, gardens have to be raised beds.  There is little or no soil. We harvest the leaves after some leaf mold has built up, but I do my gardening in straw bales. After the straw bales start to decompose, I shore up the sides with the logs from the trees that had to be removed to let some sunshine in.
For these beds, I managed to get some topsoil from an old sawmill. This is 50 or so years of composted sawdust.  Needed some 13-13-13 to make it perfect for growing.

Straw bales photo when I get around to taking them.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I was gone, but I'm back, at least for today

Oh dear, I was just chastised for disappearing and indeed I did.  Now with the new year starting, I really do need to pay attention to the blog again.  My past months have been way busy trying to get the house in Arkansas renovation completed. And get this house sold. Between those two projects, twittering the book, regular for-pay-writing, this blog has suffered greatly.
Levonne and all my other 3 or 4 followers, I am sorry.  Thanks for the heads up.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

More Hurricane Sandy Info

OK, you are downright sick and tired of no electricity or gas by now.  You are cold, have thrown food away, can't get gas for your generators and are downright pissed because you see several hundred power company trucks from all over the country parked in your local Walmart or Kmart. They are playing cards, barbecuing and drinking beer. Why the hell are they not out there making my power go on?

Here's the deal:  These folks arrived from some other state.  Someone has to coordinate efforts to tell them where to go, what to fix and when to fix it. Because you are a union state, they can only work so many hours in any 24. You are not allowing non union companies from out of state to volunteer.  They drove a long way for nothing.

Anyway, some poor SOB has to communicate with all of them, give them driving directions to somewhere in a city they have never been in, work with equipment they have never seen with folks they do not know.  And their workers have to work together. They can't just walk up to some pole and rewire it.

We know you are pissed.  We Katrina survivors went through it. We watched the guys try to work as fast as they could with live wires.

Please try to understand.  I know it's hard.  But they are doing their best.

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