Monthly Archives: July 2015

Yes, I Am A DIY Angel- My Wallpaper Painting Suggestions Are Implemented

I like to give advice. It’s one of the reasons I started blogging “how-to”– frankly, I’m happiest telling other people what to do.

A nice lady at work was telling the lunchroom crowd about her cosmetic upgrades she and her family have been working on. She’s done new kitchen and dining room flooring (Allure vinyl planks and they look beautiful) and was trying to figure out what to do with some wallpaper and paneling.

I piped up (like I do) and suggested that she paint over the wallpaper. I know this goes against Standard Old School DIY Advice (google it, and you’ll find countless forums telling you NOT TO DO THAT, buckle down and scrape it off, Loafer!)

But I beg to differ and I told her so and explained how to do it. Then I suggested that she fill in the grooves in the cheap paneling with drywall mud, sand, prime, texture, paint.

She did the wallpaper! I was so proud of her (and she of herself) and also tickled that she took my advice and did a great job (she’s a meticulous person, and would never stand for anything that looked sloppy or cheezy.) I am trying to get her to send me some pics so I can post them. She liked the paneling idea as well (filling in grooves with mud, sanding, oil based primer, texture and paint and will try them soon.)

So I will be posting a wall-paper painting tutorial this week, complete with LIVE ACTION SHOTS as I still have a section of my kitchen that remains ugly (it’s above and behind the fridge, I didn’t feel like dealing with pulling it out.)

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

Peddling Your Wares- A Craigslist Tutorial

craigslist

At work yesterday, Steve the Hipster Electrician asked me, “Do you use Craigslist?” Do I use Craigslist?? I’m ALL OVER Craigslist like a cheap suit (which you can buy on Craigslist.) I told him so, and he launched into his frustration at trying to buy a tent trailer, finding suitable trailers on CL, emailing trailer-listers with his intentions to PURCHASE SAID TRAILERS WITH HIS AMERICAN CASH MONEY, and getting no response. Yep, it’s Craigslist, it’s not for the squeamish.

We are currently trying to purchase a budget work truck, and much like Steve, emailed buyers requesting to please look at their truck, only to be met with internet silence. Made phone calls to truck-lister, voicemail purgatory. Two days later, truck-lister LOWERS the price of his vehicle… because..because no one wants it??

I’m not going to say there are rules on Craigslist..but let’s face it, there are. My husband and I have bought and sold hundreds of vehicles, housewares, furniture items, recreational vehicles, musical instruments, tires, wheels, and other sundries on CL. So if you’re new to it, or just fed up with your unsatisfactory experiences, I have some tips.

SELLING

A Vehicle

  • Post a picture of your item. I’m telling you now, no pic and I’m not even clicking on your post. You will be FILTERED.
    • DO NOT take a picture with your 1997 Nokia phone.
    • DO NOT take a picture in the dark, on a random street where it looks like you might not actually the own the car, or inside your garage where you are 3 feet away and can only get closeups of the door handles.
    • DO NOT post a blurry picture. Why are you wasting my time?
    • DO post several good, well-lit pictures of the things people actually want to see: front view, side view, interior front, interior back, engine (if it’s special), trunk (maybe), dash, tires, interior of RV, etc.
  • Use a descriptive title. Examples of good titles are “2002 GMC Yukon, low miles”, “Class A 27 Foot Motorhome”. Examples of bad titles are, “truck”, “Chevy camero” (or other misspellings), “I’ve got this trailer…”
  • Include all pertinent info in your post– year, make, model, miles, features, accessories, clean title (the first thing buyers ask is “is it branded?”) but don’t write a novel. You can say, “selling because I bought a bigger car” but no one cares about your LIFE STORY. Save that for a blog.
  • Don’t start your post with “Hey!” or refer to your potential buyers as “Bro”, or tell people to “hit me up if u wanna see it”.
  • Give buyers several way to contact you and then CHECK YOUR PHONE AND EMAIL.
  • Respond to everyone (except obvious scammers “I am be interested your item, I am be purchasing your item with CASH today. What is your address?” ). But your response should fit the inquiry. You will get a lot of “is your car still for sale?” and the answer is “Yes. Yes it is.”
  • Don’t significantly alter your schedule to accommodate someone who wants to view your goods. They may not show up, and if it’s the first week or so of your post, they will likely be a looky-loo. That’s the CL timeline- first you’ll get 2 or 3 looky-loos who have either just started their search and will use a “grass may be greener approach”, or don’t actually have any money.
  • Set your price slightly higher than the price you want to get. Craigslisters are notorious (I’m one of them) for wanting to haggle. When I see you list prices that’s just a starting negotiation point for me and not what I’m going to pay for your product. Writing FIRM on your post — even if your item is priced correctly– will just drive away buyers and make you seem difficult to deal with. Which brings me to…
  • Don’t be difficult to deal with. I know it’s tempting to splash NO LOW BALL OFFERS!! on your post, but it really makes you sound like a jerk. “Reasonable offers will be considered” is what I like to say.
  • Don’t accept any reduction in price over the phone or in email— buyers are just feeling you out to see how low you’ll go– and that information is a secret! We had a few “I’ll bring you $8000 in cash today!” from people who had never seen our RV. Our response, “don’t you want to see it first? what if it smells?” Later I decided that if happened again I would reply in email: I ACCEPT YOUR OFFER. THIS IS A FORMALLY BINDING CONTRACT. YOU HAVE 48 HOURS TO ARRIVE WITH THE MONEY OR YOU WILL FORFEIT HALF OF IT.” Until someone shows up on your doorstep with money in their hand, there is no offer.
  • Don’t offer anyone “dibs” because they contacted you first, don’t “hold” the vehicle because a buyer has made you an offer but can’t come until Saturday. I made this mistake after having a conversation with someone who sounded really nice and wanted to buy my mini-van, because I wanted the van to “go to nice home”. I held the car for a few days then she texted me back to say it was all good as long as the check engine light wasn’t on- it was, no sale. Tell buyers, “If it’s still here Saturday, you can come out and make an offer.” Again, no cash in your face, no offer.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the buyer who immediately launches into a tirade about the Kelly Blue Book price, or the NADA price for RVs. The only thing that matters here is MARKET VALUE, on other words, what is it going for on CL?
  • Ride with any potential car/rv buyer. It’s not likely they will try to steal it but someone CL buyers like to REV THE HELL out of your engine or they may be really bad drivers. I have several stories about this including my friend who’s CL buyer burned out her clutch on his joyride.
  • Never let someone take your car to their “mechanic”, or (this actually happened to us) bring their OWN TOOLS to wrench on it. They can check the oil, pop the hood while the engine is running, try the radio, A/C, windows, door locks, etc. You can offer them your own mechanical records, and obviously they can drive it. But until they own it, it needs to stay intact.
  • Be courteous and on-time for your appointments.
  • Offer your vehicle AS IS. Write that on the bill of sale…
  • Print a bill of sale (normally available from your DMV’s website). Print two copies, one for you and one for them, both of them should be signed and filled out. This is important for your records (as it turns out) if you sell a few cars then apply for a home loan and cannot account for where the $10000 came from. Also, if the new owners fail to register the car in their name and then have an accident or rack up parking tickets you will need proof that you are no longer the owner.
  • Sign your title in the correct location. The seller of my daughter’s car accidentally re-assigned it to herself and the DMV would not let us register it until we went back to her (thank goodness she hadn’t moved out of town yet) and asked her to sign an ‘error form’.

Furniture or Housewares

  • Don’t let people come your house and just to look at your $200 couch. They either want it or they don’t, you are not Ethan Allen, there is no browsing. If they saw an antique table on ebay they would just buy it based on the pictures, this is no different.
  • Take good, clear, well-lit pictures of the item so there is no question about it’s condition/appearance.
  • Make sure you let buyers know how the item can be hauled so they show up with the appropriate vehicle or trailer.
  • If you are selling an instrument, you are going to have to let buyers play it. But don’t let them abuse it. And if they suck, just smile. And offer them paid lessons.

BUYING

  • Thoroughly scour CL to get an idea of what similar items are listed for. Pay attention to outliers, such as an item that has been listed for a long time- it may be priced too high. Decide on what you want to pay.
  • Set your price filter slightly above what you want to pay, remember the price is just a negotiation starting point.
  • Make multiple attempts to contact. If there is a phone number and a text and email, use all three. Some people won’t answer their phones but will be on top of a text.
  • Jump on something that (assuming it IS what it claims to be) is a good deal. Some people vastly undervalue perfectly good stuff and it will be GONE TOMORROW.
  • Don’t deal with anyone who starts arguing with you on the phone (this goes for selling on CL too). If they’re difficult on the phone they will difficult to deal with in person.
  • Show up on time for your appointment.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell someone if you are absolutely not interested, it’s not going to hurt to do them the courtesy, just be an adult.
  • Start with an offer below what you want to pay. The idea here is to get sellers to meet you halfway at your price point. That may not happen but there is more room to haggle if you start low. If you have brought your top offer with you and it’s not that far off from their price, you can make the offer and the seller may decide that cash in the hand is better than two future buyers in the bush. Can’t hurt. All they can say is no.
  • Don’t insult someone’s item as a tactic to get them to lower their price. You can certainly point out the issues in your negotiations, but no need to get ugly. And for crying out loud, none of that Bluebook crap, it’s just tedious.
  • Be prepared to walk away if the seller won’t budge and you don’t think there is enough value in the price he demands. You may fall in love with something and buy it anyway, but you have to really think it’s worth it. Sometimes, the seller will call you back a day or two later having received even lower offers or none.
  • Very closely inspect whatever you’re buying- it’s AS IS. If it’s a car, TRY EVERYTHING. A/C, heater, stereo, power windows, power locks, power seats, heated seats. If the back seat is supposed to fold down, make sure it does. Some things may not be a big deal, but if you roll the window down and it doesn’t come back up (this happened to us) its a big deal. Drive the car in town and on the freeway if possible, listening closely to the way the engine sounds, “feeling” for any shaking, shimmying, bumps, thumps and shudders. Make sure the brakes work properly, check the parking break. If it’s an appliance, make sure it’s running when you get there (such as a refrigerator) or have them plug it in (e.g. a vacuum, power tool, etc.)

I hope this inspires you to get out there in CL marketplace. Happy commerce!

Tagged ,

No Dish Left Behind

wpid-20150726_211939.jpg

When I pack the dishwasher, EVERYTHING is going in. No. Dish. Left. Behind.

Happy sink!

Happy sink!

Tagged ,

Subway to Heaven- Installing a White Subway Tile Kitchen Back Splash

I have always had an obsession with subway tile. It likely started when I bought my 1936 two-story cottage (that’s what it’s called here in the Northwest, Cape Cod is probably another frequently used term.) I dreamed of restoring to its former vintage glory with 1″ octagonal floor tiles and wainscoting and of course SUBWAY TILES. Brick-set, thank you, none of this trendy grid or herringbone crap.

I never actually got the tile into that house, I ended up going a bit more modern. But subway has always spoken to me with it’s timelessness and refusal to be trendy.

Other reasons to choose subway tile for a back splash or tub/shower surround:

  • It’s CHEAP. Dirt cheap. Generally under $2/sqft
  • It’s always available in your local orange or blue store
  • It’s easy to install
  • It’s easy to cut
  • It’s easy to layout

Most subway tile comes with built-in lugs so you won’t even need tile spacers for most of your installation.

I recommend white on white for several reasons:

  • It goes with everything
  • White grout on white tile will make all your DIY sins evaporate- like MAGIC
  • If you choose rounded end trim, or any type of spacer trim or chair-rail tile (like in a bathroom) those pieces are also very available in white

I know a lot of white subway is installed with black grout, and yes, this looks fabulous — if you know EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE DOING. In order to use a contrasting grout, all your cuts have to be absolutely perfect. We are not perfect- we are DIYers and we need all the help we can get. If you absolutely hate white and still want to install subway, consider black. Also readily available in tile and trims.

We Begin:

MEASURE: You’ll need to measure your wall area where the tile will be applied, then do some math (not much! won’t hurt!) to calculate how much material you’ll need. My project was about 56 square feet x 10% for waste and mistakes. Since you’ll likely be buying by the box, you want to round up to the next box if you have a fraction. My tiles came in boxes of 12.5 sqft, for me that was 4.92 boxes, so I got 5.

WALL PREP: Sadly, the least fun part of any project is the tedious prep work. If there is any glue on the wall from a previous attachment scrape it off as best you can. Sometimes part of the gypsum board paper will come up as well, this can be plastered down with spackle or mud.

MATERIALS: Just about everything you’ll need is conveniently co-located in the tile area of your orange/blue store.

  • Adhesive: I used this and it was super easy to work with. You can mix your own but why do that to yourself? Are you going to spend a half hour trying to get it it to the consistency of peanut butter?? (And why do they SAY THAT?? It’s more like hummus, really.)
  • A notched trowel: If you’re working in a small area with small tiles, get a small one.
  • Putty knife: you will use this in areas where your trowel won’t fit OR when you realize that it’s easier to splop adhesive on the wall first, then notch with trowel.
  • Tile nippers: to bust off tiny pieces of tile for corners and tight spots. This is an art, do not get discouraged.
  • Clean up rags: about a million
  • Grout: LISTEN TO ME NOW!!! Get the right grout for your project. Subway tile has very tiny grout lines an should be installed with un-sanded grout. Do not make the mistake I did and buy the pre-mixed grout in a convenient bucket. It costs more and it doesn’t say “sanded”– but it is!! Unless your grout says “un-sanded” on the package, it will have sand in it and that will make you CRY when you are trying to smooth it (smoothing not actually possible) on to a vertical surface and then moosh it into tiny tiny grooves.
  • Grout float: although some of it will be installed with your fingers, believe it.
  • Grout sponge: to wipe off excess grout from tile surface
  • Tile saw: Yep, you need one. Borrow one if you can, if not they don’t really cost that much (about $300) and remember that you are doing a job that would cost $1500-2000 or more if you hired it out, so it’s really worth the expense. Barring that, there is a newish product that I almost bought but ended up borrowing one instead. I don’t recommend the cheapie ones that only score the tile and then you snap it, you’ll waste a ton of tiles and your husband will suggest calling a contractor (don’t listen to him!)
  • Tile: I used traditional 3″x6″, You can buy locally or buy online, but I recommend buying locally so you can run out and get more if you need it. However if you decide to do a fancy color buy extra- even if you can purchase it locally, you may not get the same color lot.
  • Grout sealer: I bought a bottle with a spout, then bought another product in an aerosol can, which seemed infinitely easier.
  • Tile spacers: 1/8″ and 1/16″
  • Tile caulk: for the spaces between your tile and your cabinets or counter surface or ceiling or floor.
  • A really good friend/willing spouse: you can do this alone, but you have a Cutter and an Installer your job will go much faster. Even having someone hand you tiles while you are shoving your body up in to the corner under a cabinet will be of great assistance. Also another “eye” is useful.

GETTING STARTED

I was going to draw out my grid on butcher paper and then lay out my tiles..but that suddenly seemed really tedious and I just wanted to start getting them up. So I bagged it.

Start from the bottom and work your way up and over.

In this area, I started on the left next to the tall cabinet:

Tile under the cabinet

Tile under the cabinet

Since my tile run stopped and started in a corner it didn’t really matter, but in general you’ll want full & half tiles (for brick joint) on the end where it’s going to show. That way, your small pieces and slivers will be in a corner and eventually swathed in grout.

Slivers of tile in corner

Slivers of tile in corner

Your first row will require 1/8″ tile spacers between the tile and counter surface (or back splash if you are starting above that). This is to accommodate the caulk that will form a water-proof seal. Determine how many tiles it will take from the bottom row to the top (including spacer measurement) and pre-cut half tiles (these will start your 2nd, 4th, 6th, etc rows and create the brick joint pattern). Smooth some adhesive on the wall and notch it with your trowel, it should be about 1/8″ thick, enough to stick the tile on but not squish out between tiles. This takes a bit of practice. Work your way over as far as you can go with full tiles. YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE SOME CUTS.

CUTTING

You will need to fit cut tiles around light switches and electrical outlets. Measure the space you need to fit and cut while keeping in mind the finished tile edge always goes next to the last full tile, the raw cut edge goes next to the outlet (it will be covered by a plate) Also keep you pattern going. Sometimes you have to “imagine” the pattern continuing through your outlet so that it matches up with full tiles on the other side.

Tiles cut around outlet

Tiles cut around outlet

A note on electrical outlets: your existing and new outlets will need to be “raised” about 1/4″ to be flush with the adhesive and tile. Picture above is actually below the tile surface and needs to be shimmed. You can see below an outlet that was shimmed. My electrician advised me that (at least in Oregon, please check your local codes) you can shim an outlet as long as it’s 1/4″ or less. He used washers for this but there are plastic outlet spacers as well. If you are installing/replacing outlets you can buy extended boxes for this purpose.

Shimmed outlet

Shimmed outlet

Cutting tip: we found that placing a full tile against the saw fence as a buffer kept the tiles from chipping as you finish your saw cut. You can reuse it by moving it around, but saw should bite into an uncut surface of the buffer tile each time.

You will also need to cut small pieces to fit directly under cabinets or into corners. Just keep the pattern going. These small pieces will likely need to be “back-buttered” by applying adhesive directly to them as you won’t be able to get a trowel into small spaces.

Tiles cut to fit in place

Tiles cut to fit in place

When it came to the back splash above the stove I had just enough space for a decorative line of trim and terminating tiles so I chose that over cutting down tiles.

Decorative trim tile on stove backsplash

Decorative trim tile on stove backsplash

And here’s the whole stove backsplash

Stove backsplash

Stove backsplash

In this area, I started on the right at my terminating line. I determined where the tile would stop then used a level (with plumb reading) to draw my line. Because this end is finished with terminating trim tiles (they are rounded for a finished look), I measured in from the line the width of the trim tile and drew another line.

Tile on window wall- sink side

Tile on window wall- sink side– cable outlet needs a new cover

Same application, working left,  til we get to the window, then I had to wing it. I wanted to do something “fancy” around the window trim so I measured out from the frame, drew a line and continued my rows to the line. Then I placed the rope and pencil trim tiles around the frame, spacing them with spacers more or less equally between the tile row and window. These required a diagonal cut to resemble mitered picture frame. I used a carpenter’s triangle to get a 45 degree angle. Mitering tile trim is a lot like mitering crown molding, you have to flip your adjoining tile backwards and upside-down to the get the two 45’s to meet in a 90.

Rope trim and pencil trim around window frame

Rope trim and pencil trim around window frame

Any tile without a built in lug (terminating or decorative trim) is going to need a spacer to keep it in place, either a 1/8″ or 1/16″ depending on your look or how much room you have to fill. You’ll end up using both sizes turned in various directions.

A note on cutting tiles for weird spaces: it is very hard to cut a puzzle piece out of tile. So get the size and shape as close as possible then use generous amounts of grout and/or caulk. Try to keep the funky cuts in corners or under cabinets where you are not really going to see them.

CURING

Once the tile is installed it needs to cure for at least 24 hours before you apply your grout. Which brings us to…

GROUTING

My nemesis. Not my favorite part. Theoretically, you should be able to scoop grout onto your float and smooth it into all the spaces. In reality, you have to shove it in. So do yourself a favor and accept that it’s going to be super messy and put more grout on rather than less. Work the grout in with edge of float moving at a diagonal (where you can, this won’t always be possible). If you need to use your fingers, so be it. You can smooth it out later. Also, you may want to cover your counter surface prior to grouting. It should come off of surfaces like granite but not easily, I had to scrub a bit. There are products however that will remove excess grout, so don’t worry too much.

You should be wiping your excess grout off with a wet grout sponge every 10 minutes or so to keep it from drying on your tile, but be careful not to get the sponge too wet or press too hard or you’ll scoop the grout right back out of your joints.

Let grout cure for 24 hours.

CAULKING

Now it’s time to caulk. You’ll be caulking all the seams where the tile meets another surface.

Caulk in seam between tile and granite

Caulk in seam between tile and granite

You are supposed to let it cure as well before you introduce water (such as behind the sink) but I’m a gambler and I needed to use my sink. And that’s why I need to re-caulk this area. You make the call.

Icky caulk needed to cure before water was introduced

Icky caulk needed to cure before water was introduced

Apply grout sealer to grout lines. Technically this is supposed to cure too, but it’s a wall, right? Try to avoid splashing on it.

And that’s it! This project took me (and a friend! Thank you, Jackie!! also my husband helped) two weekends, about 20 hours total not counting trips to the DIY mart. I did the grouting and caulking on my own.

Total cost was about $250 (I borrowed the saw, otherwise it would have been more).

It won’t look really glorious until I get the walls and cabinets painted, and now that I’m taking closeup pictures I can see some areas that need to be re-caulked or scraped or need more grout, but it’s better than a powder blue laminate back splash and fugly wallpaper.

I hope this post inspired someone to do their own tile, even if it isn’t subway. It sounds a bit complicated but I am telling you that anyone can do this. Also, I hope it was worth the hype.

If you have any questions about something I missed or wasn’t clear about, or if you have a suggestion for something I could have done better, please post in comments or message me at suburbanbettysouth@gmail.com

Tagged , , ,

Subway Tile Project Post Forthcoming

I swear. I have it written, just need to update pictures. We appreciate your patience. You are very important to us. We know you have choices when it comes to looking at DIY blogs and we’re thrilled that you’ve chosen this one. Please remain on hold…

*musak*

Tagged ,

Future Home of the Mom Cave

So here’s where I am in Operation Clean Teen Boy’s Room.

IMG_0212

I always forget to take a “before” so here it is. It’s a very nice room, lots of light, big closet.

Yesterday, we took the queen sized bed out of teen girl’s room (she got a daybed- which we put together and also which I was going to post but I didn’t get in there before she “teened” up the room, so we’ll leave it until we decorate in there.)

I used the patented Macro-Micro-Nano vaccum system for this room: first pass with a shop vac to suck up all the particulate larger than a terrier, next use the OLD crappy vac to get the next layer, finally, finish up with awesome, will-suck-your-face-off Shark vac to get minute dust particles.

Spouse and I wrestled Q bed into the room. Next step, put together trundle for remaining teen to use with her daybed (using abandoned twin mattress.)

Then this room gets a a nice fresh coat of paint in whatever color I have enough of in my garage. I think the winner is going to be Careless Whisper, a nice silvery tone that will really set the mood of the forthcoming Mom Cave.

This room will be where I sew, craft, and generally chill out, and will double as a guest room, my first space of the kind!

Next pic will be post-paint and with furniture. Hopefully re-decorated teen room will also be featured soon. We are doing a 70’s theme in there with some gorgeous burnt orange paint.

Following this, will be the Big Ikea Billy Bookcase Caper in the downstairs living room, which will also feature my new office area. As organization arrives, bliss follows.

Tagged

Home Brew- Kombucha

I stumbled across the word “kombucha” while looking at online reviews for a small pub that I wanted to check out. They reportedly have it “on tap” and I was intrigued– what was it? Some type of cider or beer? Was it like hop tea?

What it is, is fermented black tea, invented by (obviously) ancient Chinese people 5000 years ago. Apparently it has been commercially bottled and available in the US since the 90’s. I had never heard of it, and I’ve grown my own kefir and made my own yogurt. I’m guessing kombucha was largely the domain of hippies and health nuts back in the day, but it seems to have been noticed by hipsters of late, which has propelled it into the mainstream (at least in Portland, where the hipsters will no doubt now decide that because SUBURBAN DIY’ers from Salem have discovered it, it’s “OVER”.)

Kombucha is purported to have many health benefits such as:

  • Improved Digestion
  • Weight Loss
  • Increased Energy
  • Cleansing and Detoxification
  • Immune Support
  • Reduced Joint Pain
  • Cancer Prevention

These claims are (of course) unsubstantiated by the medical community, at least in the US. However, I KNOW echinacea will help me get over a cold faster than not taking it, which is also not scientifically proven, so make up your own mind about it. Ya never know.

Then I remembered seeing some bottled kombucha beverages in my local Fred Meyer natural food area, both refrigerated and room temp. So I purchased a selection to sample. Let me add that this product is not cheap, it goes for about $3 per 12 to 16oz bottle.

As a proper DIYer, I quickly asserted that I CAN MAKE THAT. So here’s what I did.

  1. Went on-the-line

Quickly discovered a number of kombucha making resources. Some sites offer “kits” and others describe how it is it to gather your own humble materials and put your own kit together.

2.  Decided to make my own kit.

I purchased a 1-gallon glass jar ($11) and a bottle of raw, unpasteurized, unflavored bottled kombucha. The other materials I already had: canning jars and high quality cheese cloth.

3. Went for it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1-gallon glass jar, with a somewhat wide mouth
  • 2-qt glass jar (for first batch)
  • canning jars or bottles (bottles are more expensive, I already own dozens of jars) with lids
  • Good cheese cloth, or a thin cotton dish towel, or paper towels
  • Black tea- I used 4 “family size” bags meant for iced tea making, any brand. I’ve used generic and Lipton. If you already have loose tea supplies feel free to use these.
  • 1 16oz bottle of raw kombucha
  • 1 cup white sugar

First Batch (this is how will you will start your SCOBY)

Boil sugar in some water, it doesn’t matter how much. Once sugar is dissolved remove from heat and immediate add 2 large tea bags (or equivalent loose tea/small bags- enough to make 1 1/2 qt of tea). Let steep for about an hour (or several hours).

Let cool– very important. Hot water will kill your bacteria and yeast.

Pour pre-bottled kombucha (room temp) into 2-quart glass jar, add cooled tea. Cover jar with cheese cloth fastened with a rubber band. Keep in a relatively warm area (70-75 degrees is good) for 7-14 days.

If you’ve done it properly (and it’s hard to screw up), you will see the SCOBY forming in about 4-5 days. At first the surface will have a milky film, this is good. Then at about 5 days you’ll see floating stuff and think, “Oh crap! is that mold??” It probably isn’t; certain areas of the SCOBY may be dark, this is normal.

Keep checking. Eventually, you’ll get something that looks like this

When you do, it’s time to brew your second batch, which is the one you will actually sip and enjoy.

Second Batch

With clean hands, carefully remove SCOBY from floating on top of jar. It will be firm, don’t worry. Set aside. Discard all but two cups of the first batch of tea. You can drink it but it’s very tart and I already tried it. I’m going with NO.

My SCOBY

My SCOBY

Prepare tea & sugar like the first batch only use 4 tea bags (steep and let cool) then add to the reserved liquid from first batch. Add enough water to bring the total volume to one gallon, leaving at least one inch of air space. Add SCOBY, cover with cheese cloth. Wait another week. Taste kombucha after about 5 days and check it for tartness, sweetness, fizziness. when you are satisfied, it’s time to bottle.

BOTTLING

You will of course reserve two cups of the tea for your next batch, so yield should be about 3 1/2 quarts. I poured mine into 3 quart size and one pint size canning jars. At this point, should you desire additional fizz, you can afix lids and store in a dark warm area for a few more days, leaving 1″ head room for carbonation. I felt my batch was sufficiently fizzy so I added fresh peach slices and stored in the fridge for immediate consumption.

Here’s a link to some kombucha recipes and more instructions. They also have several suggestions regarding bottling if you are going to double ferment for more fizziness.

https://www.culturesforhealth.com/flavoring-bottling-kombucha

komb2

Tagged ,

Wherein The Porch Explodes With Blooms- Hanging Flower Baskets Arrive

Cue bees! Cue butterflies! The baskets are up!

20150712_163631 20150712_163711

Drippers are dripping! I set the timer to turn off after 30 minutes. Then I will do a trial timer run to make sure it comes on and turns off.

The nursery guy at Godfrey’s advised me to water twice a day (early morning and afternoon) and the to fertilize with liquid (such as Miracle Gro) once per week, making sure to turn drippers off for that day so the chemicals don’t leach out.

We ended up buying the baskets whole because Godfrey’s sells this size for $13.50, and they are already fabulous.

I’ll post an update in a few weeks and we’ll see how the baskets are coming along.

Tagged , ,

I Solve My Gardening Skills Deficit With Technology- Installing a Patio Drip System

The West is in a bit of a drought this year, NW Oregon not excluded. In spite of the fact that water falls quite frequently from the sky, our warm winter has left us with no snow pack. This is working out great for me- I now have a valid excuse not to water my lawn this summer. It’s not a great lawn anyway, and now it’s quite yellow. So I decided to pep up my home’s curb appeal with with some hanging flower baskets on my porch.

PROBLEM: This has never worked out for me before; I just cannot remember to water them on a daily basis and usually end up with sad little baskets of death instead, matching sad dead lawn.

SOLUTION: A micro-drip irrigation system on a timer.

Yes. I’m a genius. I know.

So I bought this product for $11.97 at the big orange store:

20150711_131443

It comes with everything you need set up a direct water feed for your hanging and/or patio plants.

And also these items, $26 for the timer and wayyy too much for the hose splitter (it’s a piece of crap).

20150711_131604

I installed the hose splitter and then connected in-line: the timer, backflow preventer, micro tube adapter. Then connected the tube into the adapter. You really just shove it in and it stays in place. I then attached the tube to the siding near the hose bib with one of the included clips (nailed into siding.)

20150711_144729-001

Then ran the tubing up the wall and across the porch cover.

20150711_144745

This was the point where I started adding my barbed T-connectors. The tubing is pretty tight and takes a bit of muscle to get the barbs inserted into it. THIS IS GOOD because it means that once the tubing is on, it’s staying on.

I used a heat gun to make the tubing more pliable and me less angry about it.

20150711_144809

Next, I measured the length of the patio cover, it’s 22 feet. I had decided on a total of five hanging baskets so 22ft/5=52 inches (and some change). I made 4 marks 52 inches apart on the beam (creating 5 zones each 52″ long), then placed marks in the middle (26″) of each length where the baskets will hang.

I connected the left end tubing into the main T from the crossing tube, it did not require it’s own T since it is on an end and simply terminates in a dripper.

20150711_172027

At this point I went inside to connect the remaining lengths of tubing for the run and their subsequent drip tubes with T’s. From the right of the main T needed 11″ of tube to the next hanger mark, then a T (with a tube and dripper hanging from it) then two runs of 52″ of tubing (each connected by a T with a tube/dripper combo), final run for the right end was 60″ of tubing, again terminating in a dripper.

20150711_152337

Had a beverage and measured all my lengths of tube and connected (as they would hang on beam) with T’s and drippers and used heat tool to expand tubing end.

It’s important when using the heat tool that you make sure the tool is on a lower setting (if yours has settings) and always keep it moving so nothing melts or burns (mainly your fingers).

This operations requires “hot hands”. Hot hands are useful for things like grabbing a loaf of hot bread out of the oven, or handling baked potatoes. If you don’t have HH’s submersing the tubing in warm water will also work.

Now to install the tube-assembly on the beam.

20150711_172122 tube

I started using the tube clips (with built-in brad nail), but the system only comes with 10 and I knew I was going to run out. My first substitute was a two-brad “staple” but that pinched the tubing which was going to adversely affect my water flow.

I ended up using a combination of staples fastened horizontally as a “hanger” to which I attached the tubing with a tiny zip tie

20150711_193915

and also 7/8″ brad nails, driven at a 45 degree angle with a zip tie around tube and nail.

20150711_193739

Of the three types of fasteners, I liked the simplicity of the naked brad nail the best. The clips that come with the system keep the tubes on the wall but don’t stop them from slipping around so I ended up using zip ties on those as well.

20150711_193706

As a cabling technician, I have deep affection for zip ties.

Here’s how it looks from the street.

20150711_172318

And here is the timer unit with adapter.

20150711_172253

I ran into an issue with the backflow restrictor, it leaked no matter what I did (plumbing tape, extra O-ring, extra gasket). I looked this problem up on the Dig website troubleshooting guide and it says water leakage is normal particularly if the system of lines is higher than the valve. So I left it off for now (you can see the puddle) and I’ll either extend the hose bib over to the yard to the right or maybe research a valve that doesn’t flood my sidewalk. But the drippers work and nothing else leaks!

Now I’m ready for my baskets and will no longer be a plant murderer. When I test the timer I’ll post an update.

The whole installation took me about three hours and I did it alone. The system is expandable so I can install window boxes as well and connect a second line with a T connector.

Try it! Tell me about it!

***Update on backflow preventer**
I read reviews about this particular plastic backflow device and they are not supposed to leak until after water shuts off, and then not very much . Apparently the plastic ones are prone to cracking. A brass unit was recommended and that’s what I’m going to get.

Tagged ,

Because It’s Awesome

image

This is my silverware drawer. I know. It’s nice.

Tagged
Advertisements