Monthly Archives: May 2008

Vote to Help Me Win a Kitchen

I entered a contest sponsored by Electrolux to win a $50,000 dream kitchen.  Can you imagine how sweet (and green) an induction cooktop would be?!!? 

I need for you to vote for me so I can seal the deal.  I know how many silent, noncommenting blog visitors I have, and I’m really really hoping you guys pull through for me.

Visit this site to cast your vote (super easy, no registration required):

All About Garden Sheds

How cool is this time lapse project photo sequence? I found it on flickr from Crusader, and it is listed as a favorite by many.

A story I wrote about sheds ran on the front of yesterday’s Home section.

Sheds in a nutshell:

  • Be aware of city codes and permit requirements when you build.
  • Avoid the big box hardware store sheds – you can get a better shed for the same money from a shed builder, at least around Dallas. That’s because custom ones have better overhangs and welded steel frames.
  • You can double your space for not much extra by building a “shed attic,” which is exactly what it sounds like, a second level.
  • Cedar of course looks best but costs more.

Crazy Compost Video

I couldn’t resist creeping everyone out with this nutty video I saw posted on a blog called The Compost Bin. It made me want to paint a tongue and some monster eyes on my tumbler!

It also made me ponder this … what’s the largest thing I’ve ever composted? I believe it must be a whole acorn squash that never made it to the table. It went into the tumbler for quick(er) turnaround than my pile.

What’s the biggest or weirdest thing you’ve ever composted?

First Tomato, Plus Some Veggie Photo Tips

Husky Red Cherry Tomato, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

The first ripe tomato has officially arrived! It’s a husky red cherry, born on Sunday morning. It weighed ….. just kidding, but I do call them plant babies.

My veggie-mama joy at the garden progress will soon be crushed when I have to pull out at least one and maybe two of the squash plants — they are simply too large for their spots and aren’t climbing the trellis the way I’d intended. They are choking out a bunch of other stuff. A fatal error on my part was not putting them on the edges of the raised bed so they could trail off.

Also just in time for first harvests: here’s a story from a NY newspaper with tips for photographing your hard-won vegetable treasures.

Why You Should Vacuum Your Fridge Coils

Under the Fridge – Eeew!, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

Doesn’t this picture say it all?

Yes, that’s my fridge.

I bought a new Miele canister vacuum this week. I’ve been vacuuming all sorts of odd dirty things — vent covers, ceiling corners, that little utensil tray in your kitchen drawer that gets crumbs in it that I’m too lazy to dump out completely …

But nothing comes close to the pure grime I found on these fridge coils!! I think our house is generally pretty clean, and we don’t have any pets, so I had no idea this would be so gross!

Removing this gunk is supposed to increase the efficiency of the fridge condenser, resulting in greater electrical efficiency. So let my photo be a reminder to all that if you’re feeling a little OCD-ish, this is a satisfying and Earth-friendly task.

If you too decide to do this, email me your dirty coil photo and I’ll post it. 😉

Veggie Tales

There’s nothing better than a few good before-and-after photos to show progress.  I suppose in the garden it’s more like a neverending movie than before-and-after, since the plants are always changing.

Scene: Girl builds box…


She fills it with soil and plants…


The plants become snobby and won’t drink tap. She gives them a rain tank, and a trellis to climb on.


The beans …

Yellow Beans

… and cukes …

Baby Cucumber

… and baby tomatoes …


… and the solitary pepper …




Girl ponders the leaves-as-big-as-her-head and wishes she’d stuck the big suckers on the ends. She begins to doubt the wisdom of her square-food-gardening book.

Live and learn, and tie them up with a bunch of string. Reconsult that book. The veggie garden goes on another day.

Veggie Garden May 21

Rain Filling the Tank, Live!

Thank you Apartment Therapy Chicago for featuring my rain tank!!! And greetings to all of you who’ve made it here by way of that great site. The huge jump in my traffic stats made my day, so don’t be shy and let me know who you are and what you have to say!

I plan to keep posting about the cool rain tank and veggie garden progress, so keep visiting. 🙂  The tank, by the way, was just about completely full after that 15 minute rain shower that happened when I shot this video early last week.

How to Choose Landscape Lighting

From John Watston Landscape Illumination.

Recently I visited some of the best examples of landscape lighting in the Dallas area researching a piece I wrote about landscape lighting for The Dallas Morning News.

Having seen these at night, I am a big believer in this use of light and think it shouldn’t be overlooked.  If you’re spending a lot of time and $$ to improve your landscape, why not set aside some so that you can enjoy it more hours in the day?  Read the story for more.

How to Distribute Rain Tank Water if You Have Pressure Problems

In the comments following the last post Rich raises the question of how to distribute rain barrel or tank water if there is insufficient water pressure. Greg Whitfield, the rain harvesting professional who installed my tank, has developed a pump that works with tanks and barrels. I believe he said it costs around $160. In the video above he demonstrates how it works. I don’t think I will need one of these as my tank is about 3 feet away from my vegetable garden. I have yet to use the tank water so we shall see how the whole pressure issue works out.

Installing a Rain Tank for the Raised Vegetable Garden

Rain Tank

Check out my new 300 gallon rain tank! It’s the newest addition to my veggie garden heaven, previously the useless sunny strip next to the back driveway.

Greg Whitfield from The Rain Well installed it yesterday. I like this particular tank because of its low profile and small footprint. It’s 34 inches in diameter and about 7 feet tall, which tucks up underneath most house eaves. It’s also dark green, which keeps out algae-causing UV rays, but also looks pretty sharp. My dad was convinced it would be orange or camouflage or something.


The tank system is made up of these parts:

The big container that includes a basket strainer on the top


A spigot fitting that works like a hose bib on the bottom


An overflow PVC pipe to divert rain once the tank is full


I bought the tank both because rainwater is much better for plants, and because there’s no hose connection anywhere near this spot in my yard. Up ’til now to water the spot I’ve either lugged a 3 gallon watering can or fussed with a 150 foot hose that usually lives in the front yard.

It took nearly 2 hours for the installation, much of which was making sure the ground was level and built up enough to mitigate future sinking into soft soil. I watched the entire process and at first thought it was something a DIY-er might do on her own. There are quite a few special parts to get, though, and while it appears simple to set up, knowing how to keep the fittings from leaking, etc., makes hiring installation worth it.

Now I just need for it to rain!