My Cleaning Kit

My Cleaning Kit

As my mad scientist skills have improved over the years, I’ve been able to replace many of the store-bought cleaners that I used to buy with homemade cleaning solutions. Here’s a look at what I keep in my cleaning kit these days. [Read more…]

Shopping for Car Parts at a Junk Yard

2002 Jeep Liberty

High-mileage vehicles – they’re kind of our thing. We buy used cars, and then we do whatever it takes to keep them on the road. A coat of wax twice a year keeps the paint looking nice, and some basic maintenance and upkeep helps us to avoid many expensive repairs.

So, when we bought our weekend homestead, and suddenly found we needed a vehicle with four-wheel drive (our other vehicle couldn’t make the drive in), we didn’t hesitate to buy another high-mileage vehicle – a 2002 Jeep Liberty with 189,00 miles. The body was good. It drove well, and it didn’t seem to have any major mechanical issues.

We paid just $2,900 for it – taxes and all, so we figured there was plenty of room to make repairs, if we needed, too. And you know what? We’ve been driving it for four months now, and in that time we’ve only had to replace one sensor. Can’t complain about that.

Having gained some confidence in our Jeep, we decided it was time to address some of the small issues that it came with. [Read more…]

How I Disaster-Proofed My House

How I Disaster-Proofed My House
In the 11 years that my husband and I have been homeowners, we’ve had:

  • Our neighbor’s tree fall on our house
  • Another neighbor’s tree fall on our garage
  • A sewer line back up
  • three gas leaks
  • A power surge fry our downstairs HVAC unit

So, it’s fair to say we have a bit of experience with the “what could go wrong?” side of homeownership, and because of that, we’ve taken a few extra precautionary measures to ensure that these problems (and others like it) don’t come up again. These are inexpensive fail-safes that I think everyone should implement, but unfortunately most people don’t even know they exist. So, let’s change that.

I’m going to tell you what we’ve done to protect our home, in the hopes that you’ll implement these measures in your home, and then tell your friends about them so they can do the same. Because spending a few bucks on preventatives is so much better than spending thousands on repairs.

And now, here’s what we did to diaster-proof our home. [Read more…]

How to Replace Washing Machine Hoses

How to Replace Washing Machine Hoses

Washing machine hoses. You probably bought a set when you bought your washing machine, installed them, and then forgot about them. Am I right? If so, you’re taking a major risk. Because washer hoses, they wear out.

Stand there and watch the next time your washing machine fills up, and you’ll see just how much pressure those hoses are under. It’s crazy!

And if your washing machine hoses are over five years old, you’re really flirting with disaster. Because if one of those hoses fails, guess where all of that water is going to go. Yep. Right into your house. That’s bad if your washer is in the basement, and really bad if your washer is located on another level of your home.

Because, let’s be clear on this point: If a hose fails, it will continue to pour water into your home, until you catch the problem and manually shut off the valve. There is nothing to stop it. No fail safe to save the day.

Just imagine how much damage could occur if a hose were to fail while you were at work or worse while you were on vacation. We’re talking catastrophic flooding. We’re talking call your insurance agent, pay your deductible and hire a construction crew to come tear out damaged dry wall and flooring. It is not a good way to spend your time or your money.

So, pay more attention to that washer hose. Replace it if it looks worn; and swap it out every five years, even if it looks fine. It’ll cost you $20 tops, and it could help you avoid thousands of dollars in damages.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, the average washing machine failure costs $5,308 after deductible

Suddenly inspired to replace your washer hose? Here’s how it’s done. [Read more…]

How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes Naturally

Mosquitoes are annoying, but you know what else is annoying? Most of the advice on how to get rid of them. Do a quick web search for “get rid of mosquitoes” and you’ll get two basic pieces of advice:

A. Dump any standing water on your property.

B. Spend a bunch of money spraying your yard with chemicals. Then, repeat the process every two weeks.

That first piece of advice isn’t bad, but that second piece of advice is just plain rotten, in my opinion. I’m not comfortable with the idea of spraying chemicals around my family, and I don’t like broad spectrum insecticides, either. Will they kill the mosquitoes? Sure. But they’ll also kill a lot of beneficial bugs, too. Maybe even some that were eating my mosquitoes.

So what are you supposed to do when dumping your standing water isn’t enough action and spraying your yard with chemicals feels like too much action? You turn to nature for the solution.

And nature is all about balance. If mosquitoes are a problem in your yard, it’s because there aren’t enough predators to keep the population in check. Introduce those predators, and over time, the problem will take care of itself.

So, am I suggesting that you unleash a bunch of scary beasts in your backyard? Not at all. In fact, let me show you what I’ve done to solve the mosquito problem in my own backyard:

Foraging Chickens

We got chickens. Chickens love to eat all sorts of bugs, including mosquitoes. We give them time out of their coop each day to forage, and we get rewarded with fewer pest problems. If a mosquito happens to land on one of us while holding one of our hens, she’ll eat it right off of our arm. Sure beats DEET. Find out more about keeping chickens.

Toad in Bird Bath

We got toads. Toads eat mosquitoes, slugs and other garden pests, so we’ve introduced several into our garden. They’re fairly easy to attract, but you can also buy toads, if you prefer to go that route. Read more about toads.

Bat House

We installed a bat house. Bats eat mosquitoes, beetles, moths and other nuisances bugs. We already have bats in our neighborhood, so we installed a bat house to attract them to our yard. I hope to get a second bat house up soon. Get my instructions for a bat house.

Bird Bath

We’re working to attract dragonflies. Dragonflies are beautiful, and they love to munch on mosquitoes. We don’t have a pond or a large water source to attract them, but we’re doing what we can. So far, we’ve set up a small fountain and several bird baths around our yard to give them a place to lay larvae and hang out. It seems to be working because I recently spotted a dragonfly on my office window. I know having standing water around your yard runs counter to most people’s advice for getting rid of mosquitoes, but it’s okay as long as you have something eating the mosquito larvae. In our case, both the dragonflies and toads are serving this purpose.

Koi Pond

We hope to add a Koi pond someday. A pond full of hungry fish will gobble up your mosquito larvae, while adding a cool feature to your yard. This is on my definite must-do list.

So, Is My Yard Mosquito-Free Now?

No, but it’s much better than it used to be. We can go outside without getting chewed up, and it’s a lot of fun to watch the chickens, toads, bats and dragonflies in action.

Do I Still Use Bug Repellent?

Sometimes. I haven’t really needed it lately, but if I notice mosquitoes, I’ll run back in for one of my homemade bug repellent sticks. It doesn’t have any of the junk that you’d find in store-bought repellents, so I feel good about using it (and letting my kids use it). If you want to experiment, I also have an all-natural bug repellent bar and a bug repellent spray recipe.

Your Mileage May Vary: While this method of mosquito control works well for me (and my small suburban lot in the south), it may not work as well for you. Customize your mosquito plan to meet your own needs.