Monday, February 23, 2009

Snap Pea Challenge Update

One week into the snap pea challenge, and we already have results!

Last Sunday, I planted twelve pea seeds in ten peat pots. Eight were pre-soaked for about 11 hours in room-temperature water, and four were planted straight in without soaking. Four of the pre-soaked peas were doubled up in their pots; this was actually an administrative error, as I grabbed the wrong number of peat pots at checkout, but it made for a nice experimentation opportunity.

Yesterday, we returned from a family wedding to discover that six of the eight soaked peas had sprouted while we were gone (either Saturday or Sunday), including three of the doubled-up ones. None of the unsoaked peas have come up, although a few look like they are close. It looks as though, all other things being equal, the soaked-pea technique may have an edge, and the doubled-up peas don't seem to have suffered any from crowding, although it'll also be interesting to see how strong all the plants end up.

Eventually, some of these plants will move out to a new garden bed on the south side of the house, so they can scramble up the dining room wall. The rest will be re-potted into a window box and left in the south-facing living room window, where, with any luck, they'll climb up the window. Although I don't have any sort of support in place yet, the plan is to make a trellis of sorts out of fishing line, criss-crossing the window. If it looks feasible, I might try the same thing outside. Ideally, I'll get to start another small batch of seeds in a week or so, with the Munchkin's help, so he'll get the experience of growing his own peas too.

Joe periodically teases me about my aversion to curtains. We live in the middle of a two-acre plot, so privacy - one of the very few reasons to cover a view of the outside, in my opinion - is not an issue. Who knows - maybe this will turn out to be a happy compromise!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Countdown to the gardening pre-season

Seeds and peat pots have been purchased, starting tips researched, and lighting options considered. I am officially all set for the 2009 Cold Antler Farm Snap Pea Challenge. Fancy joining?

Seriously, y'all - it's gonna be a good time. Swing through your local hardware store or garden center, pick up some seeds and potting mix, and join the fun.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

"I don't get paid just for pushing the button..."

"...I get paid for knowing which button to push."

So goes the punch line to one of my favorite techie jokes. Up until recently I've been perfectly happy to leave plumbing jobs to expert button-pushers, but a combination of chutzpah and stinginess caused me to take on a plumbing repair this week.

The weather has been more frigid than usual this winter, and we've had a few pipe freezes, primarily in the kitchen and laundry room, where the pipes have to run through our completely uninsulated crawl space. I thought we'd gotten lucky, with no pipe bursts, until last weekend, when I noticed the carpet in front of the clothes washer was a little damp. Yes, there is carpeting in the laundry area, which is completely impractical, but that room, the kitchen, and the dining room are really one big room, and we're holding off until we can replace the floor in all three places. I didn't think much of the wet, since the Munchkin likes to help move wet things from the washer to the dryer, and it's pretty common for them to land on the floor in between.

The next day, I was putting dirty laundry into the washer in my sock feet, and noticed the carpet was still wet. Even wetter actually.


Turns out the freezes had caused a slow leak in the cold water pipe to the washer. Worse, that leak was before the cut-off to the machine, so as long as the main water supply for the house was on, there would be water in that pipe and it would continue to leak. There was good news, though: the leak was not actually in the crawl space (where it would have gone unnoticed until the pipe burst completely), and, as plumbing sites go, the space behind our pulled-out washer is relatively spacious.

I could tell roughly where the leak was, in an L-joint, and since it was small and seemed to be at the connection, I thought I could get away with patching it. Trip #1 to the hardware store (G.R. Smith Hardware in Mount Vernon - one of my favorite places) netted me a package of plumber's seal. I took it home, mooshed the two-part epoxy together, and commenced to patching. It only took a few minutes, plus an hour to cure, but when I turned the water main back on, it became clear that the leak wasn't in the connection but in the pipe itself. Bugger.

Before: This is with my attempted (and failed) patch job. Note the soggy drywall and wood. The carpet was pretty squishy.

By this time it was time to fetch the Munchkin from school. Still, I didn't want to just let this thing leak indefinitely, and we couldn't be without water for terribly long. So, the Munchkin got to accompany me on trip #2 to Lowe's (not as awesome as Smith's, but open later) where an incredibly nice guy in the plumbing area helped me find new 1/2" pipe, a new joint, the nasty cement stuff to connect it all, and even cut down the pipe into a few smaller pieces. All the while he kept reassuring me "you can definitely do this." I have no memory of the man's name, but I need to go back and thank himfor making an intimidating task seem completely manageable.

Flash forward to the next day, when I begin my plumbing attempt anew. Why wait? Ever try to get a plumbing job done with a toddler trying to help? Me either, and I don't plan to start now. Anyhow, off goes the water, drain the pipe as best I can, put a cookie sheet down to catch drippage, find hack saw, commence to cutting out the bad section of pipe. This was actually the trickiest part, since the pipe was right up against the wall and trim molding, and in pretty close proximity to another pipe and to the electrical line. I did some damage to the drywall, which was had gotten a little punky from the leak, but that's about it. Next up, check the length of the pipe and cut to fit. This was pretty much entirely by eye. Assemble the whole works dry and see if it fits. Marvel at how much it reminds one of Tinkertoys. Marvel that the fit is just about perfect. Disassemble everything so we can do it again for real.

Attempt to open cement. Fail. Attempt again. Fail again. Whack at the lid. Use one of those rubber jar-opener things. Use rubber bands around the lid. Whack again. Locate pliers. Hand cramp! Curse loudly and be glad the toddler is not home. Take a break and have a beer. Curse frequently at the irony of taking on plumbing only to be thwarted by a stuck jar lid. Make one more attempt with the pliers. Success!

At this point I was able to reassemble everything using the noxious-smelling cement product, which is just as nose-hair-curling as you'd imagine. After a few hours wait, so that the cement could cure properly, I turned the water back on. The pipe stayed bone dry.

I don't think I have ever been quite so proud of myself. OK, maybe childbirth. Seriously, if any of y'all have a smallish home repair that you've been putting off dealing with, because you don't think you know how, DO IT. Break out the hacksaw and plumber's flux and plan to get a little damp, but give it a try. If it all goes horribly pear-shaped and you need to call a plumber to do it over, you're really only out your own time and the relatively minimal supply cost (remember - you were going to call the plumber anyhow). And if it works? You save a mint and get a massive confidence boost. It only takes one small victory to make all the larger projects on the to-do list seem manageable.

Next up: installing a dishwasher.

After: The white section of pipe is the new stuff. I did a little damage to the drywall. The carpet was still pretty soggy at this point, but a few days later it's dry as a bone.