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green intentions

photo (2)It’s that time of year when an old woman’s fancy turns to garden planning. Whenever the snow melts down far enough, I start visualizing where I want raised beds, and which shrubs i need to kill, and where I need to undo the things the previous owner had done, which at the time I paid for the house I had found charming, and now I find an inconvenience.  At the last House I had given up gardening about 15 years ago, I was sick of defending my little patch of green from the lawnmower men and my brother. Obviously HERE I can do what I want, where I want. If i want to rip out all the shrubs that annoy me I can. if I want to replace every blade of grass with something i don’t have to mow every weekend, I can do that too.

In essence I have planned to squeeze in as many raised beds as I can fit in any place that gets sun, which amounts to a straight 60 foot strip down the left side of the house.  The patio bricks will come up and find their way around to the back of the house where If I wanted to sit outside I could.  What I envision is a strip of raise beds, with less obnoxious shrubs on the fence side and a paving stone walk to the back door, curving away from the house on the right.

But when I think about 60feet of wood for those beds along with all that dirt not to mention seeds and such, i got very depressed.  If i built the beds properly from pressure treated 2x10s lined with tyvek sure they will last 10-12 years…but that’s a very expensive way to go.  But you can build anything you need out of pallets if you just think about it long enough. I figure just start building the beds….and down the road you can upgrade them as need be.

On Friday, the opportunity arose: someone downtown had free pallets on Craigslist, and it was warm clear weather and I was feeling rather ambitious.  The benefits of owning a pickup truck, you can collect up anything you want whenever you want without having to make arrangements. What I did learn from having the 1st three pickup trucks, is that you have to REALLY WANT whatever it is you are picking up, or at least have plans to get rid of it if you don’t want it. Because it is so sinfully easy to just cart home everything you see, and this way madness lies….So after two trips, the pallets are now parked in my front yard.   I have intentions of moving them around to the back, i just have to decide where.  And if I wait long enough they will freeze in place and I won’t have to decide until mud season.

2015-01-16 14.51.09

I think we all know that FREE doesn’t always mean FREE. It means free with a price you pay on the back end. Many years ago I spent an entire summer disassembling FREE pallets. BTW the BEST free pallets and wooden crates are behind the places that get windshields. And I wish I knew then what I know now. The fastest way to break down a pallet is to use a reciprocating saw and slice through all the nails. Here is a video. It also looks to be the best method to get the wood to stay intact. Now I am not the twenty something I was when i broke down the largest crates with the the longest nails, so just for giggles I checked out reciprocating saws and like everything else they are expensive. HOWEVER I did get an idea, and I found a listing for a..used, saw only, no battery, no charger,  for $54 no shipping. SUCH A DEAL, I one-clicked that puppy immediately. CAUSE I HAVE a couple of 18v batteries and a charger that I got in the Pawn shop before I moved, when I bought the circular saw and the power drill. …yes I am feeling smug, that is working out to be a good decision.


IN MY MIND’S eye, I see the pallet wood being immensely useful. After I break them down into lengths I can design raised beds that fit the wood I have at hand. Though I think i need a few more larger heavier pallets if I can find them. I get the feeling my neighbors are going to be very unhappy with me for a while this spring.

preppy bargains

2015-01-02 18.17.22 I have been into fixing things since i got here.  It started with one of my rules, when i was packing I did bring some things which needed a bit of work, and some things that were down right broke. But they were things on my list of ‘things i intend to fix.’ Well one of the new rules is to fix things or get rid of them, there is no in between…there can’t be, there’s no room for anything to sit and wait for me.   The lantern was not one of those, it was actually something new off ebay that i bought already broken with the intentions of fixing it.  The currently manufactured version of this folding lantern sells for $40 and I am too cheap to pay for something like that, so i found this 1970s japanese knock off on ebay for $10,  though its mica windows were all broken.   So I bought replacement MICA cut to size for about $10 from the UK and bobs your uncle. i confess I don’t really need a folding candle lantern, i have plenty of the non folding sort on the porch and a number of battery powered lamps and flashlights.  I just liked the idea of rescuing this one, i felt a little smug, melting off all the old paraffin candle wax with boiling water and taking knife to it to make room for the new windows.  Now it’s fixed with a beeswax candle dancing about in it. Technically I could put it back on ebay, but I don’t want to. I’d rather have the one I fixed than one didn’t have to fix.2014-11-27 10.55.38

Over Thanksgiving we lost power for about 19 hours…i know it’s rather a first world problem. We had a storm that knocked out a power in lots of  pocket neighborhoods.  Everyone I had previously asked about it,  had sworn up and down to expect to lose power for only a few hours and that only rarely…yeah…i know and I believed it too. Over 19 hours the house, the two thousand dollars I spent on insulation proved itself, as the house only lost 10 degrees.  The cats didn’t seem to mind and I dealt with it by burrowing under a blanket fort. But after shoveling myself and a couple of the walks of  the neighbor ladies who had sensibly packed off for warmer houses, all I really wanted was a cup of tea.   I really had no way to make FIRE, which was pretty sad state for a human. Actually that’s not true, I had plenty of candles and matches and batteries, I just couldn’t make TEA which was profoundly sad. So I cobbled together something using a silverware drainer,a pie plate and a candle, which warmed up my travel mug.  So tea was eventually had. (i drove down the road to Dunkin donuts and bought it first, then just kept it warm.)

2014-12-01 13.03.13The first thing i ordered once I the internet came back was a tiny camp stove $20, though it doesn’t really boil anything  it just seems to make tea, thus insuring i probably wont’ need to it this winter. Knock wood.

Another thing I bagged over the holiday was a pretty decent Leatherman while at the pawn shop trolling for a birthday present for myself.   The Wave model of the leatherman usually sells for about $80, and though i have an old micro on my keychain which i use for cutting the tags off things, i never could justify buying what amounts to a Swiss Army knife with a pair of pliers –  both of which I already have.   But this little dear was sitting in the case marked at $34 and was so stiff and dirty they sold it to me for $25.  after about 45 minutes of boiling water,  cleaning and lubrication I had it opening like a whirlygig.  I admit I bought a new sheath for it $7 and replacement drill bits $9. But I think I still made out like a bandit.  It’s always nice to have the right tool handy when it comes to fixing things. 2014-12-17 06.38.42

While working at the Portland gear hub I bought another backpack $20 for a nearly new old Kelty …. not that i needed another one, but this one i packed as a Get Home Bag for the truck. Mittens, hat, scarf, socks, radio, first aid, etc.. a bag just to sit in the truck, in case I end up in a snow bank some place. Not very likely considering I have developed a serious aversion to driving DURING active snow storms… maybe its age, maybe its fear, maybe i’m just a coward. But its Maine and unlike most of the places in Mass I could indeed find myself not within walking distance of anything very easily. So it doesn’t hurt just to keep it handy just in case.  I also found a second hand walking stick there, but that’s another story.

erasergirl rides again

I am still pretty busy in a good way, and i am not sure if that’s just the universe being nice to me, or is just what’s going on  inside my head. The wordpress plugin i bought to sync the woocommerce orders and inventory with quickbooks on my PC took at least 4 days for ME to configure. To be fair the support guys for the app, did all the work, i just whined and sent them screen grabs of what i broke and they told me what i did wrong. Mostly it was the mapping of the inventory from online to quickbooks….all the products had different skus and variations had to be tweaked to be their own products etc… it was tedious and still not done. But the big picture is that i am getting more adept at quickbooks that i have ever been in the last 10 years. There’s still vast chasms of it, that i have never even tried to understand and have always felt that i should. In the same way you know that if your pantry was labeled and organized your life would be a thousand percent better. But I figure i will figure it out when i get around to it.

So when i got sick of massaging the database and trying to get all of last years orders into quickbooks, I set up a little experiment I have been thinking about. I was wondering how the task of actually erasing could be filmed in an interesting way. Since all my digital cameras are in various states of disrepair I had to use the Iphone which does have a pretty decent camera if you can work the logistics. Using the cellpone tripod adapter i bought ages and and never used, and the gorilla pod i bought years ago and never used, i jerry-rigged a little workspace to shoot this video. Mind you I did have to flip the film 180 degrees, so it looks a little wonky.

Ideally i would like to go back to doing demonstration videos. In a new location, i will set up a camera and lighting in a permanent cat free spot.

here’s a very short section where i refresh the eraser edges so i can keep using it without smudging.  (Youtube is supposed to be adding music to it…but it’s slow)

On the sunnyside (revised)


One of the things I have planned to do…to exploit my new found love of alterative energy, is build it a small web presence.

A simple site, with a page about the installation process, diagrams about how the solar cells and battery are connected.


I know there’s a way to hook the meter results to an online feed.
qrcode.17326845The 1st thing I have to buy are a half dozen of these Outlet Usage Meters

I am imagining a  QR code on the fence post…so that folks who see the solar panels can stop and scan it with their smart phones,  which will go straight to the website and check out the system online.  (yes i realize i need a burglar alarm)

They can email questions, i can have a link to the solar installation service, etc…



and wouldn’t it be a gas if they could interact?    You can buy light bulb’s and such from Belkin’s Wemo or Phillips Hue that can be controlled via the internet.   Even  both Channels so that you can control the devices with an automated instruction.    I just think it would be a gas, if a visitor to the website, could turn a low watt lightbulb on and off with an instruction or a text,

This is fun I need to design this a little more and go look at some diagrams for systems.


The planning is the best part of any project for me, no matter how big or small.
I did more research on the internet for a webcam example of real world items inside a house that are operated by the public.
There are more, but this one is by self definition – insane.
It’s been set up since 2007 using the older X-10 technology
and has examples of many devices, not just lamps, but sound, camera, voice synth, somewhere a doorbell.

As it is, I just have in mind one webcam aimed at ONE night light plugged into one device.
The hook is the website is about the solar installation and it will allow you to flick the light on and off.
I am not funding a playground…. like this one…

X-10s in use at



One of the things one does to make yourself feeling better, when one is utterly broke is round up all the things in your house that you have been meaning to send back and then actually sending them back. The Maxpedition pouch with the stitching coming undone, the case for the kindle that doesn’t fit, the USB to Micro connector that doesn’t do what it was supposed to do..they all went back, granted if i were flush i wouldn’t worry so much about spending $2 to ship a $6 item back, but right now that $4 is a big deal. Sales are still flat do not only will i be pawning dvds today…but i have a really have to contemplate selling my Mamiya 645…I love that camera but i don’t need it.

Another things I one does is start fixing all the little things that are in your to be fixed pile. Shelves that needed to put up, shades that need to be rewound, I even slapped a bit of glow in the dark paint on my Kindle On/Off button which is so indistinct that sometimes i have to turn the light on to find it.  Bad practical design even if it does look cool.

Times like this I am tickled pink with my new assembled ‘hardware store’ and repair box…when i put the shelves in the closet for spare food…i added the pegboard to the door and as I clean the house I hang up everything that is just hanging around waiting to be used. You know packages of things you buy and use ONE of and have the leftover in a blisterpack. The Industrial Strength Velcro hard to find in the real world had to be ordered off ebay, so i could hanging bulletin boards on a hollow wall at the animal clinic. Since then i have been lopping little snippets off when needed. Some of my favorite things are bungees, bulldog clips, zip ties, magnets, shower curtain hooks…love my shower curtain hooks, Gasket cement, gorilla tape. things to fix other things. Same deal in the tools box, seems most of the crap i own is just to support all the other apartment is one big junk drawer, taken individually things have purpose but lumped together without organization it’s scary.

Despite all my efforts to get rid of possessions, these little widgets and doohickeys escape the rule, technically it is NEW product, so it would wasteful to dump it. My decision was to keep gathering them together into clusters and jam it into a container. I worked through all the boxes of stuff for sale on the flood of the office…still have a few things to load onto ebay. But the way is clear to emptying the office cupboard, which will give me more space for more stockpile…i will of course need to make more money to feed the cupboard ..this week i didn’t even look at the sale money takes the fun out of it.

I have 4 essential things to pay this week…or today actually..Car insurance, phone, internet and the garage. Aside from that i need to buy cat litter, and eventually products to keep selling to people. But i am gambling on a few some booksales and i think i have an editing job coming in the mail with a check.  Yay.



true confession: i like shopping off the net, big surprise. i will never just go to a store and buy the 1st thing i find anymore. like everyone else i don’t want to waste my money buying something i may have to replace too soon. And i really detest going into a big box store to buy something i can have delivered to my home for less than i’d spend on gas money, cause i hate the big box stores and that i never find what i want in them. aside from looking things up on review sites, i do have a fondness for some of the blogs that recommend items just because they don’t suck.

Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools is almost an institution. What entertains me a lot is when he writes about something i already own. In the last two years the blog blew up big and now covers hundreds of products which don’t suck.

Recently Jezebel blog has started doing a daily recommendation called Worth It for things..not neccessarily products, which don’t suck. I discovered Bromer’s Castille Soap using that blog, and a couple of other useful products that i didn’t know existed.

Since I have my heart set on an external hard drive i was poking around and discovered which does the same for an assortment of technology.  I was pleased to find out that the drive i had my heart set on was one of the better buys out there. Unfortunately i now have a list of toys i can’t afford nor really need but i know they don’t suck.




snow marches on

All this damn snow has broken my spirit, all I want to do is keep warm. Of course eat and sleep, but that’s normal.

worth reading • un-published story by Mark Twain “The Undertaker’s Tale will finally see print, in the pages of the mystery quarterly The Strand Magazine.

blog of note • from J. L. BELL’s Boston 1775 Blog: The Boston Public Library, Massachusetts Historical Society, and Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello are among the organizations presenting a conference titled “John Adams & Thomas Jefferson: Libraries, Leadership and Legacy” in Boston and Charlottesville this June.

well worth reading • Exile Bibliophile has a post up at the revised edition of Fine Books Blog at “A Bookbinder’s Ticket and Bookseller Labels”

really well worth reading • from the Guardian – What choice of reading material would impress you in a potential date – and which book would be a big turn-off?

banktoaster • HTML to PDF Converter to Turn Web Sites into PDF Files

cool tools • LAMY pen finally has a USA site up, Lamy makes affordable casual fountain pens. the kind that don’t break your heart too much when you lose it. But this little item had not up until now been vended in the USA. A wooden fountain pen for school children. Think one little pen can slow the progress of technology? Nah, neither do i.

site to see • Duke Ellington will be on the back of the District of Columbia quarter.

cool tools • it’s only a matter of time before this little piece of FREE online Vector graphic software gets eaten by someone like..say GOOGLE. Now I just have to find someone time to play with it. I love new toys, especially when they are free.

worth seeing • if you are in the neighborhood. Four decades after its mysterious disappearance, and two years after it was recovered by the FBI, the original, hand-edited manuscript of Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth is about to go on display. Pearl S. Buck International will display the manuscript at Buck’s home in Perkasie, PA

worth seeing • if you are a different neighborhood, the UK’s National Trust aims to return Agatha Christie’s Devon home ‘Greenway’ to its 1950s heyday for visitors.

worth reading • Powell’s bookshop has reprinted Scott Sherman’s review from the Nation of the George Plimpton festshrift George, Being George: George Plimpton’s Life as Told, Admired, Deplored, and Envied by 200 Friends, Relatives, Lovers, Acquaintances, Rivals by Nelson Aldrich.

probably not worth reading • from the Guardian – Salman Rushdie who up till now I thought was a sensible man, has decided to publically dis Slumdog Millionaire because it has several unrealistic plot points…Unlrealistic plot points? in a MOVIE? say it ain’t so. (scuse me while I spit on my copy of Casablanca) Seems a silly thing to call a press conference about, wicked much ado about nothing. If grapes made a noise would they sound just as sour?

save the words

site to see • oh man this is like the coolest use of the internet EVER – the Oxford English Dictionary is sponsoring Save the Words, a website dedicated to keeping underused English language words in the dictionary. Folks can pick an endangered word and pledge to save it from extinction.

If you like that, Lifeacker has more : Best Online Language Tools for Word Nerds

cool tools

David Friedman @ Bibliotique is a cruel man. He keeps finding and stocking really useful bookseller tools at reasonable prices. First he started selling these really sweet paper scissors, now he has the Duluth Pack Deluxe bookbag. (think midwest LLBean-ish) Granted you can get this stuff elsewhere for the same or MORE. but here you are getting it from another bookseller who isn’t gonna price gouge you on shipping.

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