Saturday, December 5, 2015

Winter, your house and you.

Winter time has been the biggest challenge for my house hold in past years. the age of my home doesn't make it any easier. the first winter we were here our furnace went out, this lead to a discovery of just how expensive using electric heating solutions  is. This post and any to follow are going to be about winterizing various components of your home for maximum heat retention. some of these can save you money year round by making some of your systems work more effectively thus making them cheaper to operate. As with most of my postings there will be the usual free cheap and expensive sections, although it is hard to do much for free when it comes to home maintenance I will put in my share of effort in finding method for you to utilize.

The keywords for this post are: air leakage , radiant heat loss.

The principle of heating your home is keeping the hot air where you want it and the cold where you want it. Thus if your home leaks cold air in, you furnace will have to work twice as hard to heat. Air sealing is a method where you reduce the amount of exterior air from entering your home thus keeping the tempature fluctuations low. Weather stripping around doors and caulking around windows are the most common methods. I personally use plastic sheeting create an air gap between the cold air outside and the warm air inside. In my case I could see the plastic sheeting inflate as the cold air moved in and was stopped. I would rate all of these methods on the cheap side if things and you can do them spread across the warmer months.

You own a water heater I'm sure, but is the heat from your water heater being retained throughout the system?  If your water heater is warm on the outside then the answer is probably no. This can be fixed by a trip to your hardware store which will probably stock insulation blankets made for water heaters, while you are there pick up some pipe insulation as well. Because losing heat into the air is not always a good thing. This also fall into the cheap section, less the $100 bucks over the warmer months to add lasting savings to your home.

Zone isolation, reducing the area you are trying to heat by closing off the least used rooms from the main area. By heating less area you will have lower cycling of your heating system and use less over all energy. This can be achieved by closing doors and putting a towel at the bottom. Having rugs on hard surfaces will help with heat loss through the floor.

Another common theme you will see is dress for the season. As it is said you can always put in more clothing. Blankets and sweaters will help to reduce you energy costs by allowing you to lower the tempature in your home. Cats and warm beverages are a commonly employed method in my home as well. Tea is inexpesive, coffee is slightly more expensive  but may boost your productivity.

The most expensive of my methods is adding insulation to exterior walls. Blown in insulation is the simplest method as you can drill holes large enough to fit the hose in and give it all it will take. The ABC method, or attics crawlspace and basements are where much of your tempature shifts will come from. They often have large seams where they are joined to the home and will benifit greatly from any extra insulation you can give them.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Orange cleaner

My orange based clean has finally finished fermenting. The result is a slightly tangie but super effective cleaner. I used it on everything I could think of and thus far it's left it clean and free of weird residue. It disolved weird buildup in my bathroom and left my floors squeaky clean. It took care of my coffee oops from earlier today. Short of trying to disolve oil from an engine block I would say it is on par with commercial cleaners.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Slow progress

The blog is currently at a stand still, I'm working on devising a new and exciting series of content. The cloning section was a big hit judging by the views but there are only so many ways I can present putting plants in water and waiting.

  So far I have received 200 views, I thank you all for taking time to stop by and read some of the things Ive posted. I'm not sure if there is any other content I am not showing that you would like to read, If there is them by all means let me know by commenting. If I don't know about it, I can play around with experiments and present the results. there are only so many ways I've found to help you save a bit of cash and have a good time doing it.

the cloning experiments have been a great success, all but very few plants survived, Most that died were due to forgetting to contain humidity around the plant and they dried out. the orange based cleaner still smells like oranges and is fermenting under the sink. Ill find something super hard to clean to use it on and present the results in a future post. The amazon mechanical turk experiment is going well and I am almost to my first investment through lending club. The other money generating methods are not viable unless certain criteria are met. Ive been playing around with another one called swag bucks but It is difficult to actually earn points and when you finally have enough to use them they are only payed out in gift cards. The post on smart phone use and money savings didn't get as many views as I would have thought so there may or may not be a follow up post. the budget leakage was a median post and I am unsure If you want to hear more about this.

This is it for the first progress update on the blog as a whole. stay tuned for the next post and comment on what you would like to see in the future.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

making technology work for you: part one

The evolution of technology is mind boggling. cars have more computers then the first N.A.S.A space shuttle and we can carry infinite amounts of information in our pockets. Although I will not knock you many hours of candy crush and aimlessly watching cat videos, I will however point out that you can utilize that smart phone you pay so much money for every month to do a  wide array of things outside email, app games and Facebook.

   This Series of posts is targeted to those unaware of the capacity of one smart phone as it pertains to the main subject of this blog.

Coupons: you can download them through apps on your phone and use them at many stores. This being said I will remind you that just because you can get 200 tubes of tooth paste for a penny a peice that you shouldnt do it as it make as much sense as an addition hole in your head

Bar code scanning: your phone is capable of scanning bar codes and this can be used to find better deals on things. the amazon app actually has a feature that allows you to scan the object itself and it will find it on amazon.

Inventorying your pantry: you can scan the bar codes right from your pantry and even build shopping lists and weekly menus from what you have in your cupboards.

Note taking: This is something I use often as it will sync my notes onto my google+ account and onto any devices using the note taking software.

Checking your heart rate: I honestly was surprised by this function when I upgraded my phone recently. It does do it and although shaky at time it does it ok

Tracking your daily steps: got that Fitness goal in mind? your phone can help you with that.

Online Banking: Many companies have an app for Online banking. I personally use USAA, yet another perk of being a veteran is USAA's online banking app which I can use to not only check my accounts but also pay my Insurance through them in one go. Not to mention they have Bill pay, Investments and a Variety of other services

The only limitation is what Apps they come out with to accentuate the phones features. If you would like to read more on this post a comment in the comment section and I will start reviewing phone apps that I have found useful.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tomatoes: infinite plants

As has been the most popular post, I am going to continue with cloning. Tomato plants are the easiest to clone and can actually be strengthened through the same method.
The secret is the small hairs on the stock. They are essentially roots, which means if you bury a tomato to the first leaf it will create a deeper root system. This is how I saved my plants that were sickly at the start of the year by pruning all but the top leaf set and burying the stock deeper.
  On the cloning aspect of things, if you have a second branch growing between the main stem and one of the leaf stems you can use that branch to clone the main plant. The process is simple, take your cutting and put it in water or soil and wait. With the soil I put it in a solo cup and put a 9 Oz clear plastic cup over the top to create a humid environment. This process I use for all my clones being transferred into soil.
  The problem you may encounter is mold. I mix  1 tsp baking soda in 24 Oz of water and use that in a spray bottle to alter the pH, taking the molds ability to grow away. It has been a successful solution across all of my plants that I have started indoors.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Basil and mint update

The clones I planted are looking, for the most part, like they are sucessful. As I posted previously, 4 out of 9 are rooted, 3 of which are in solo cups by the window and one in going to wait a bit for the roots to grow a bit more

Rosemary clone has rooted

The cutting from my rosemary has finally rooted. The only ones that haven't are my catnip, tomato and lavender. That leaves the grand total of plants successfully rooted at 4 out of 9. Three of which are planted in solo cups and all but one are looking very lovely.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

cloning experiment plans for the winter

I have not had good luck with my gardening this year. as a result  I may not get any sort of yield from my few surviving plants. I was contemplating what would be a good way to utilize the survivors so that they don't go to waste when the weather turns colder.

I came up with the idea of systematically pruning the plants to encourage a strong stem and using the pruning to populate an indoor garden with the cuttings. there are a vast number of way you can stop your plants from blooming and inevitably dieing after they are spent. It should make for an interesting experiment even if it is a complete failure.

at worst I may have a crop of semi strong plants by spring and at best I will have a strong crop of plants that will yield massive amounts without the waiting period of starting from seeds and maturation. the worst thing that could happen is I have to start over next spring, but I'm going to have to do that anyways when the plants bloom and die off.

All things in the name of research I suppose.

Aloe vera: self cloning awsome

The aloe plant is amazing, not only for its medicinal properties but how quickly it reproduces by itself.

The aloe plants roots when exposed to sunlight will become another plant known as a pup. These can be separated from the parent and replanted. I have three aloe plants right now. The large plant has no fewer then 4 pups on it, the medium plant is a pup from the larger plant and the small plant has one pup in its tiny pot

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Cloning update, mint and basil

Well, things have taken root and we're transplanted into soil. The basil isn't looking great as I had forgotten to put humidity domes on them to keep the leaves moist. The mint had rooted alot better than the basil. Now is the hard part, waiting for things to start growing in.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Enzyme cleaner part one

Making your own cleaning products is not only rewarding in knowledge but also a very economical way to not only reuse things that would otherwise be throw away, but also save at least 1/3rd of what you would be paying for a cleaner from a store.

If you have ever seen orange clean or a similar orange based degreaser, you will have some knowledge of what we are attempting to create here today. the concept is simple, take orange peels and other scraps you would otherwise throw away and ferment it in water with sugar added for roughly a month. the process can be expedited by adding some form of yeast to increase the rate of fermentation.

The materials you will need are

A container ( I used an empty 5 liter vinegar bottle)

1/2 cup brown suger per liter

water ( leave room for the other ingredients)

2 cups of orange peels/lemon peels/lime peels

combine the ingredients and shake daily for a week or so, after a month strain off the solids and you will have your cleaner

Also, ensure the container is ventilated, I made an Airlock for mine out of some small tubing but you can loosen the lid. Explosions may occur if  pressure is allowed to build up in the container.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Rose cloning part two

This is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. Gather your material and venture into the wilderness.

I cut roughly one foot sections then applied honey to the cut ends (retains moisture, protects from disease and aids in scarring of the cuts). Remove all but a small amount of  leaves at the top and put in your jar of water.

Place the jar in a well lit window (not in direct sunlight) and change the water regularly( at least every other day or as it discoloration occurs).

After a while roots should begin to grow. When a healthy amount of roots grow transfer to a pot at least twice the height of your cutting and allow to grow until it is the same height as your pot before transplanting into the ground.

Rose cloning part 1

The first step is assembling the materials.
The list is as follows

A container to hold water that is large enough to hold the cuttings.

Cutting tools (I'm using my trusty fiskar pruners)

Honey (anti microbial plant bandaid)

A plant, in this case a rose bush with new growth (the green steams are new growth and softer so they root faster)

Stay tuned for the results

Gardening mad science 1.5

This is going to be a continuation of the cloning post from part 1. The response from the first part was so massive that I decided to choose a new subject from my yard for another round of cloning.

I have a rose bush that was planted in a poor location on a shaded side of My house. I figured I was going to transplant it but the interest in my cloning post was significant.

Cloning woodie  plants take a great deal more time I've found in my research and the survival rate is 50% at best. None the less I shall undertake this using the same methods as with the basil plant.

cloning update one

My basil cuttings have rooted after roughly two weeks in water, the others are still only about a week in the water and hopefully will root soon

Monday, August 3, 2015

Budget leakage: Part two

 Technology is the life blood of the world at this point in time. Nearly everyone has some form of electronics and probably uses at least one of them on a daily basis. These things you own are probably phantom leeches on your power bill and can easily be stopped from draining money from your pocket.

I was married, divorced and now remarried, this being said I have twice the number of game consoles and TV's as a normal household. you may look at your TV and notice the little red light on it(assuming you have a modern TV) this should be the red flag that it is using power even when it is off. If you own high end electronics then you probably own at least one surge protector, this is where you can kill off any excess power usage from your electronics. I haven't done an official study on how much my electronics pull. but a Google search turned up a data sheet of various products on standby   which should prove to be Enlightening if applied to your current set up in life. just having your laptop power supply plugged in can pull 4 watts. A Watt meter can be plugged in along with whatever you think is eating up the most power to confirm it. This goes along with a saying I commonly use "the things you don't know....." which commonly indicates a failure of proper knowledge in any one subject.

 A translation of watts into what your monthly bill is measured in can be calculated here.

 or for the math wizards it looks like this

KWH= Watts * Hours/ 1000

It may surprise you month to month to know you could have saved enough for a date night with you significant other just by turning off a few surge protectors and unplugging a few things not currently in use.

This concludes budget leakage part two, as always comments, questions and petting my ego are welcome. stay tuned for more tricks and tips.

one stop composting: part two

composting is as much of an art form as it is science and there are many methods to go about it as well. I was surprised at the amount of compostable materials there are. some of which are discourage by a few people and others may not be comfortable with using a specific thing.

My current method is a bit lazy, I am working on a lot of different things at this juncture in life with my house and often find myself neglecting some of the initial projects. my compost bin is made of some old wire fencing that was along one side of my yard. I formed it into a circle and filled it with no particular blend of yard waste and left it to do its thing. but this blog post is about the over all operational theory and the implementation.

The chop and drop method: This method is used in permaculture applications primarily, you simple cut down the weeds and grasses and use them to mulch around another plant to add a slow release fertilizer
 and provide ground coverage to prevent weeds from growing back (eventually). this can be seen in nature if you pull back some fallen pine needles around the base of a tree, the soil underneath is almost always a dark rich material but normally you wont find too many weeds growing around in it.

Bin method: from railroad ties to old trash cans this method can be done in almost any container. Heat and moisture retention should probably be a concern on some methods. The helpful bacteria can only stand so much heat, the recommended range of temperatures is between 135 degrees and 160 degrees F. if the compost is at 160 degrees the bacteria wont be doing much and can possibly die off, on the other side of things compost held at 150 degrees F will kill off unwanted seeds and pathogens.

compost tumbler : as with most of my posts Ill do the budget methods to the more expensive methods. compost tumblers don't really speed up the process but rather make you more willing to do what you should be doing with any other compost pile. many of them retain water better then an open pile, retain heat to a degree and make it easier for you to turn the pile. The ease of use makes the process feel faster but a well maintained compost pile can break down at the same rate as a batch in a tumbler.

Stay tuned for part 3 where we will take a look at the mega list of things the internet says we can compost. as always comments are welcomed

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Gardening mad science part two

 you have your plants growing in the garden, happily tucked into the compost you made which such love. now what?

Cloning is a interesting pass time, most people asscoiate this with marijuana, but there are a vast array of plants that can be propagated through cloning.

The set up to do so can be as simple or complex as you want, there is a surprising amount of materials available for it. most of which can cross over into hydroponics as well. the principles are simple take a piece of a plant and suspend it in a grow medium and it may eventually root.

You can go crazy with this process if you really want to spend the money and get Aeroponic cloners and other super high tech fanciness. but realistically all you need is some water, honey and time. there are rooting hormones available which can speed this process up  but I haven't had the drive to use anything like that yet.

The first step is selecting the plant you want to clone. In this case I'll be doing basil, rosemary, mint and a lavender plant. I have never tried anything other than saving my poor tomatoes that had a case of root rot, the process is roughly the same for most plants and even trees can be cloned using similar methods(to include roses and grape vines)

To take the cutting you select a stalk that is as close to the size of a pencil as allowable. Using a sharp cutting device(I like Fiskars products personally)   make a clean cut and once the plant section is cut free dip the cut end in honey(honey is antibacterial) and Remove all but a few leaves on the top.

Fill a container with enough water to cover the stem and change it at least every other day. When the roots have formed transplant it into soil and give it a good watering.

This concludes the first official plant mad science post, sorry for the lack of photos as I am doing this post retroactively as my cuttings have been in the rooting tank for about three days now.

Home chemistry primer: part one

there are always alternatives to using store bought chemicals. most of these things are common purchases and you probably have them in your cabinet right now. this series of posts will educate you on the multitude of common household goods that can be used to do more then you purchased them for. It differs person to person but I have assembled a list of the common things I use in my household

Bees wax combined with coconut oil

white vinger

baking soda


olive oil


hydrogen perioxide


So you think you can build: part one

I find having the ability to construct many things out of a vast array of materials to be a comforting thought. the broad spectrum of this will include several of the back logged project I have constructed since owning my home and perhaps product reviews and recommendations.

As always I know a little about everything but am not an expert in all things, comments and corrections are welcome.

Budget leakage: part one

There are places that secretly take your money without you even knowing it. some you may know of and some you may not know of. This subject will cover inexpensive tactics you can use to reduce the amount of excess money being sucked from your account each month. the scope of this has yet to be determine but it may include : small energy efficiency projects and the subtle art of recycling, among other insightful looks at tricky company practices.

As with all of my post I encourage you to let your voice be heard. ask questions and if you know more make corrections.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

One stop composting tips: part one

As with all of my part one posts, This will be an introduction to what I aim to accomplish with this post. This posts purpose is to introduce the in depth science of composting. this will include the Free, Cheap and more expensive equipment list, product recommendations and in later posts a more in depth look at what you can and cant compost, acceleration of composting and alternative methods of composting materials.

Hopefully throughout this process I can teach you a more in depth methodology and perhaps learn a few things along the way. I encourage reader input, I am not a complete expert on the processes involved, but I have done a great deal of research in this field and hope to share my compounded knowledge with you

gardening mad science: Part 1

This post will be a chronicle of various semi-scientific methods used to generate an army of super  plants for your newly constructed garden and keep them healthy by using common household items.. I'm hoping to include photos of my successes and failures  as they happen.

The subjects I plan on covering over the span of this haven't been full thought out as of yet. I don't have many remaining plants to experiment on because of a series of events including some wrathful hale here in Colorado and the associated rain that came with them. I will however try to cover cloning plants, perhaps some grafting as I can and some house hold remedies for disease on your tiny monsters(err Plants). as with many of my posts I will include links to the products I would recommend for undertaking the aspects of what  I am trying to accomplish and the hyper budget version of the same process.

Hopefully I have roused the budding mad scientist within you with this introduction. As always leave suggestions and corrections in the comments.

Andy's rapid gardening techniques: part two

We left off on a basic overview of what is required to start and grow a garden. In this post we will delve into a more detailed approach.

Like my older sister  I too feel that wasting things Is just plain dumb. the world has only so much of some things and most things can be used in more way then just its intended purpose. I have to be cautious about this fact as I could easily become a hoarder.

As said in the first section in this post, you must have soil in order to plant a thriving garden. Composting organic materials is by far the cheapest way to go. there is a science to this however, percentages of green matter to brown matter, moisture content, the temperature of your compost pile(the key word here is micro organisms). I could dedicate a several post to this(it is in the works as you read this). the basics however are simple; take green matter and combine it with brown matter, turn and water. the process will happen as long as the micro organisms within the pile stay alive. Even a pile more or less left alone once formed will break down but at a slower rate.

Once you have secured you fertile soil(or compost) you will need a place to plant in. This part could be combined with acquiring quality soil in more advance gardening methods (more of a permaculture style garden) but I will stick to simple means for the hobbyist gardener for the moment(I will add secondary posts for the more advanced undertakings). In this post we will start with container gardens. there are three levels of gardening containers in my opinion

Free: reuse containers from thing you bought already such as the plastic container of cottage cheese in the back of your fridge or for good seed starter pots you can form small pots out of toilet paper roll centers. the limiting factors are what the container held (you don't want to use a container that held any kind of toxic chemical) and your imagination

Cheap: you get to test out your tag popping abilities at the thrift store, yard sales or give your local dollar store a visit to see whats available. solo cups, small paper cups and various containers can be found for little money.

More expensive: sometimes having things designed for the purpose they are being used helps make your gardening skills seem more then they are. For the initial setup you will need Seedling Starter Trays3 Inch pots, 5 gallon pots. All of which can be reused until the plastic begins to break down

 We will assume you are using the products on the more expensive side of the realm as they are less of a variable in the overall scheme of things. at this point you have soil and containers, you need seeds. I have found little difference in most of the seeds I have planted thus far. seeds can be acquired almost anywhere during the gardening season and for the most part inexpensively.   You are the one who must determine what you want to grow.

On the next post we'll start with seeds and preparing them for planting using different methods. I have an unconventional method that has proven to be reliable(roughly a 90% germination rate) and a few stand by methods that have been around for a while with a little twist to them.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Andy's rapid gardening techniques part one.

Like most of the members of my family, we like to grow things. not everyone has the knack for this but for those who do it can pay off in the long run of things. but without the proper components of  a garden you will most likely fail at it.

 To start at this you will need a good quality soil. This is important as your plants will do poorly in poor soil. this years garden(the first at my home) was started in miracle grow potting soil, this was a mistake as our local hardware store had improperly cared for the bags and they rapidly developed a powdery mildew  and most of the plants died off. the second crop was more successful and was potted in a locally sourced mixture of composted wood chips. the problem with the second crop was they grew too aggressively and my wife and I couldn't up plant them fast enough. the remainder of that crop was only 3 tomato plants that the roots became diseased because of poor drainage. they survived using a technique I will cover later on in this string of posts

The next important step is to have somewhere to start seeds and to finally plant them. Our . initial garden was started in small paper cups this worked out for the most part up until the mold took hold of them and they dropped dead(Ill cover the solution for the mold problem later). the second crop was planted in the black plastic containers you would buy seedlings in that we acquired. they proved to be the best as they had pre determined drainage.

the second phase was the solo cup phase after the plants reached the approximate height of the plastic containers they were planted in. the height of the plant shouldn't exceed the depth of the container they are planted in, otherwise bad things happen with the roots (root bound plants is the keyword here) and they will essentially choke themselves to death.

the third stage had we made it here was going to be some food grade plastic buckets we acquired(acquired meaning free on the side of the road or sourced from a location that would throw them out) where the plant should be able to live for the extent of their life

there are many options available for final planting, most of which can be constructed of discarded materials. this is where we will pick up on the next post as cats have happened  and I am losing the use of my hands to their needs

Making every minute count for something

I hear people talk about how bored they are or how they have nothing to do. These people are fools within the grand scheme of things. I never do just one thing at a time on a day to day basis, I use a combination of timed events such as laundry in conjunction with at will events such as watering my garden or vacuuming. those are just the examples of active things I undertake on a daily basis.
   This is the basis of the next string of posts is to make use of every waking moment that you can and within this string is going to but a few sections on ways of reducing the over all amount of money that you will spend. these methods are not always going to be easy but I never really take it easy myself.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

hyper budget meals

the key to a budget meal is simple, knowing the cost per unit of the ingredients, know how to prepare them so that they are eatable and limiting the quantity of consumption.

My personal key to not only cheap meals but often time healthy meals is this

1: rice
2: potatoes
3: beans

All of these can be purchased in bulk for very little money. A common dish in my household is fried rice as it is not only fast but also cheap. throw in a bit of frozen or canned vegetables and two eggs and some soy sauce or teriyaki sauce and your in business. with potatoes you can add some cheese and a few herbs and again you are good to go. with beans you add tomato sauce and tomato paste and some chili powder. throw it in the crock pot the night before  and let it cook til your hungry.

The best part of these meals is they taste as good if not better as leftovers the next day, I usually package some of this up in a couple Pyrex containers and eat it for lunch the next day. the recommendation I'll make is make sure you have some protein in these dishes. generally speaking chicken and pork will be the most economical choice in comparison to beef. another good option is eggs in some of these dishes as they are very good at soaking up flavors. I leave what you do to your own discretion.

If you want the official recipes that are made at my house then request them in the comments section and I'll compile them for a future post.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

when to use coupons and when you are throwing your money away.

Coupons are the devil some of the time and a savior others. they can bring prices of goods down by a significant amount and in some cases bring the price down to free. the problem with coupons is knowing what you actually use and what your buying because its got a coupon associated with it.
I've often been to yard sales where people are trying to re sell their hordes of tooth pastes and deodorant thinking that they can make a quick buck off what they probably got for free. don't be this person, only buy what you can use within a reasonable amount of time. tooth paste isn't stocks they wont increase in value the longer you have it.

coupon sites are numerous and with the coming of the age of smart phone are even more accessible to most people. one website that I've heard of time and time again is The Krazy Coupon Lady where she lays out what is on sale and how to combine coupons to reduce the price down to pennies on the dollar. but again If you buy 500 tubes of toothpaste then you are still stuck with 500 tubes of tooth paste and significantly less storage.

Another place that you can sometimes find better deals is on  Amazon  and they also offer a subscription to product you have to buy on a regular basis which can save you time and possibility money. I used this extensively while I was overseas to order coffee and I often could get a great deal of coffee for very little money.

There are several other apps available on your phone, Ive used a hand full of them but I don't buy nearly as much as most people. A quick search on Google play or your app store of choice will reveal what option are available

The bottom line is  know what you will use, know what you can acquire for very little money and balance  out you expenditures. I have a set amount for groceries a month and I rarely exceed it But that is a discussion for another post