The Groundskeeper

Dec 262017
 

This post contains affiliate links.


This sale will be over in a flash! December 26th only, stock up on new faves for your family and save 75% off your order at Schoola.com with promo code FAST75.

Schoola has been one of my favorite ways to save money on clothes and save time by shopping from home.  With a kid who has grown, again, I will definitely be checking here today to see if I can help fill in a few current needs. This is also a great time to begin thinking ahead to spring and summer clothes.

Send a friend $10 off to shop the amazing deals on children’s clothes at Schoola.com and you’ll get $10 off too. Shop now!

And don’t forget, orders of $25 or more (up to 10 items) always qualify for free shipping!

*Fine print: Discounts and credits do not apply toward the free shipping threshold or promotional minimums. Discounts are applied to the post-credit order value. New-with-tags items are not eligible for purchase with discounts or credits.

Sale ends 11:59 PM PST December 26

 

Dec 232017
 

Bird feeders are an easy addition to any garden or balcony. They do not take up much space and can match any style you currently have going on.

Do not be discouraged if you do not get immediate results, it may take some time for our avian friends to find the new food source. Once they do, though, you will have regular visitors.

Whether you are considering a craft for kids, need a gift ASAP, are on a budget, or are wanting something different for your garden, here is a quick bird feeder you can make. The actual crafting time is mere minutes, or seconds in one case, though the glue may take longer to cure. (Mine was dry enough to move in about 2 hours, but took 24-48 hours to fully cure.)


BIRD FEEDER #1 – cup and spoon

Cost: $0 – $8

Materials needed: tea or coffee cup, spoon, E6000 glue, chain or other hanging material, acetone, cotton swab

This feeder has a lot of room for creativity. The general jist is to provide a container to hold seed or other food, as well as a perch.

I chose coffee mugs which appealed to my vintage mood at the time, as well as spoons with designs on the handles.  These are fairly arbitrary details in the grand scheme of bird feeders. One thing I would keep in mind is the size of bird – if you are wanting chickadees, I would pass on using a large handled serving spoon.

When it comes to putting you spoon and cup together, again you have freedom in the details. Due to my spoons and cups, I chose to glue them at the back end (the bottom) of the cup. I tried placing them further out, but realized the handles hung at an odd angle.

  1. Find the center point by holding the handle of the cup with two fingers, putting the spoon in so it sits like you want it.
  2. Paying attention to where the spoon makes contact with the cup, remove the spoon, place a drop of glue at each contact point.
  3. Reinsert the spoon, double checking you placed the glue appropriately.
  4. Set the cup off to the side to dry.

I found a few things to help keep the cup at the correct angle, so the spoon is not lifted up by it’s handle being lower than the bottom of the cup.

Once the glue is firm enough to handle, or completely cured, add a chain or rope by which to hang your bird feeder.

Note: I initially glued my chain in place, but had trouble with the chain constantly sliding, not enough glue staying in place, and the resulting angle. In the end my chain came off, over a week later, due to insufficient glue holding it in place.

Find a place to hang your feeder and fill with appropriate seed…or leftover popcorn because your bird loving kid was too excited to wait for a trip to the store.

I would love to see your creations if you try this DIY project. Share a picture below and let us know how it went.

Dec 212017
 

Looking for a quick craft to add interest and color to your garden? How about a gift without spending a lot of money? Glass Garden Flowers, also known as plate flowers, are the perfect fit!

Materials needed:

  • tube e6000 glue
  • acetone
  • cotton swab
  • various plates, saucers, cups, candle holders, lids, condiment dishes, etc.
  • PVC elbow pieces, conduit connectors, bud vases, etc. for back
  • paper towel
  • sheet/drop cloth – not mandatory, but will make clean up easier
  • Pipe or rebar, to act as a “stem”

Step 1

Gather various ceramic or glass pieces. Plastic ones work, too, but may not hold up in cold weather. I picked up an assortment while at a thrift store. Turned out to be “50% off everything” day. The pieces I picked up ranged in price from $0.25-$1. I could have spent more, but was looking to make several without spending a lot out-of-pocket.

Step 2

Clean pieces. To get glue, residual stickers, and marker off, use a cotton swab dipped in acetone. (You can pick up a bottle of finger nail polish remover and cotton swabs from the Dollar Tree if you do not have any.) I find it easier to pour a bit into the lid and wet the swabs from there.

Dry thoroughly.

Step 3

Pair pieces together to get the look you want. Play around with the arrangements. Not all combinations looked like I thought they would, while others surprisingly worked.

Once you get them arranged like you want, take a picture if you plan on moving them. 😉

Step 4

Glue pieces together. Working with one group at a time, deconstruct the stack. Working from the bottom up, glue pieces together.

Step 5

Glue connector on the back. After letting the pieces dry enough not to move, flip the stack over and glue a connector piece on the back.

There are many various ways to do this. I tried three – using a bud vase, using conduit connectors and using PVC pipe elbows. Each has their benefits and drawbacks.

Bud vases – can be found cheaply and often in abundance. However, if the vase is too big, the flower will “dropped” on the support post. These also add weight.

Conduit connectors – cost a bit more (around $0.40 each in a pack of 5), are stocked at local hardware stores, and lighter in weight than vases.

One potential downside I noticed is the open side pointing up. This means rain can go down your support pipe, if it also happens to be hollow. If you live in a cold region this may result in snow, ice, or freezing of precipitation in this area. A solution would be to glue a coin or small metal piece on top of these.

PVC elbows – light weight, cost me around $0.40 each, found commonly at local hardware stores (or leftover from a DIY project), easy to attach, and snug fit to post. Not sure how these hold up in cold weather, as I have not tested them.

One lesson I did learn, thankfully before the glue cured completely, was to place the metal connectors far enough back from the edge of the plates so the posts can actually fit into them. Be aware of the lip along the bottom of the plate!

Step 6

Create, install, and attach to a support stem. This can be a variety of items, anything which is strong enough to support the weight of the flower. Some use rebar, conduit pipes, or other metal structures. PVC pipe is too flexible to use and would potentially break under the weight and deteriorate from being exposed to the weather.

If your flower is small enough, you may be able to use copper pipe.  I love the color these add, though it is more expensive and was too flexible for the weight I was working with.

I cut my poles to 2.5 ft, pounded them into the ground about 6 inches (till they felt secure), then placed the flowers on top. While I did not use rebar the help support the flowers, I believe I will do so in the Spring, due to the kind of soil we have. Inserting a foot or foot and a half into the ground, then sliding the “stem” over it would be an even sturdier option in my garden.

Enjoy!

Dec 202017
 

We are now a one house family again!

We traveled this past weekend back to Small Town home. The main reason was to close on the sale of our house there. We also used the time to visit with friends we had not seen this past year.

How do you know someone is your friend? Usually one of the following two apply:

  1. they stop by (somewhat) unannounced for a visit and stay an hour or two, or three
  2. they let you in their house when you stop by (somewhat) unannounced for a visit and let you stay for an hour or two, or three.

The one visit I thought we had pre-planned was the one that actually didn’t work out. We showed up, but they didn’t. All the others where set up as such – “Hey, we are going to be in town this weekend.”, then we stopped by to see if they were home and visited. Even when it was around supper time or already 7 pm.

Thank you, Friends, for continuing to extend your generosity.

Something I got out of every visit, beyond the reminder that friendships do not have to be based on seeing someone constantly, is that we all have had things happen this past year which have been struggles and blessings.  Not one person said, “I went to work, I came home, I mowed the grass… everything is exactly as it was a year ago, there were no unusual events or struggles.” Everyone did say something different, no two struggles or unusual events were the same, but everyone had something(s) happen.

We drove in to town on Saturday, changed the furnace filter, turned in the heat, made sure all the toilets worked, turned on the refrigerator, carried in our bags, and inflated the air mattress. Then set out to visit friends.

We picked up supper and brought it back for a picnic meal on the kitchen floor – the house had NO furniture.

Sunday morning Jack was up earlier than George or my husband, which seemed to make a shower a good idea. And it was. Except we found out quickly that we had forgotten to turn on the water heater the day before.

Oh, the things you take for granted each day.

A trip to the grocery store resulted in a lighter (gas heater), paper plates and napkins, an extra roll of toilet paper (just in case the one left in the house ran out!), and cream cheese. A stop by McDonald’s filled the coffee request. Back at the house we, and YouTube, lit the water heater then proceeded with a breakfast of coffee, hot cocoa, beagles and cream cheese, again on the floor of the kitchen, while the water warmed up. Breakfast hit the spot.

By the time it was the adults turn for a shower we had to actually use some cold water to make the water temperature tolerable.

After replacing batteries in a few smoke detectors, fixing a door which wouldn’t stay shut…work at this house never seems to end…we headed out for lunch in Big Town.  We went to a restaurant where we frequented every Sunday after church for years. Pure nostalgia, as it is a chain restaurant you can find in most towns.

While in Big Town, after a few wrong turns delaying us, we saw a friend of ours crossing the street. We pulled over to offer a ride (this friend walks assisted, which can make getting places difficult), say hi, and extend an invite to lunch. As it turned out, this friend wasn’t feeling well and was headed home to rest. But it was a nice chance encounter.

More visiting with friends, a frustrating miscommunication, then supper of leftovers and a few premade items from the grocery store.

Monday we got up at our normal times, loaded the vehicle back up, cleaned up the house, fixed a fan (the codes had somehow changed between it and the remote – work is never done), and said final goodbyes to the house.

We had a couple hours till closing which we planned to fill with a delicious breakfast out. It did not disappoint. Added perk, no wait for a seat on a cold Monday morning.

Not all of us were as hungry as usual, which meant yummy leftovers!

We headed out to our closing destination, found ourselves checking in about 20 early, so took a walk. While out strolling a few blocks around our location, a former classmate of my husband’s saw us. He wasn’t able to chat with us, but did connect with my husband via text.

Closing went smoothly. A blessing in more ways than one – our attorney had been down south, headed back with his family via Atlanta airport. While they did not get stuck in the airport, their flight had been delayed. He found a different way back, arriving just in time.

Papers were signed. Hands were shaken. Informal details given. Ways parted.

We are no longer home owners in this particular state!

Being that it is a small-ish, rural-ish town, as well as winter time, cold, right before holidays…we thought for sure nothing would happen till spring. When this reasonable offer came in, we were shocked. It was at a time where things had been a bit rough (see “everyone had something this year” above). This was one of two large pieces of good news which came in the same week after months on quiet. Proof that you can not always make things happen in your timing.

So, that is what we have been up to these past few days.  Perhaps not the typical pre-christmas activities, but one that was a huge gift and blessing. We have said, “Thank you, God.” many times through the process.

Wherever you find yourself this week, look for ways to be a friend, as well as enjoy those you already have. It doesn’t have to be anything grand, or require a pristine house. Sometimes it is the small gestures which mean the most at that moment. (Thank you for letting us borrow your step ladder!)

Dec 172017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

You have fewer than 10 days till Christmas – are you still looking for a gift to get a kid on your list who seems to have everything? Or maybe they live further away and gifts would have to be mailed. These are hard positions to be in.

Have you thought of gifting an experience rather than a thing?

Kids Cook Real Food makes an awesome Christmas gift, and many grandmas are doing it already!! (They have printable gift certificates for them btw.)

Sunday, December 17 through Tuesday, December 19, Kids Cook Real Food is having a flash sale.  To make it even better – new members get a free $20 value set of extra videos!

Problem solved! Now, go. Finish up that list and enjoy some yummy holiday cookies.

Dec 132017
 

This is a visit to a post from a few years past.

With winter on the verge of being ‘official’ and not just determined by our thermometer, it seemed time to update some of our songs and videos in our YouTube favorites list.  I play these at meals times to add a bit of variety to our day.

Here are several I found and what I thought of them.  I went ahead and included all the ones we watched, which is not the same as all the ones our search returned.  Not every song is one I liked and while several are good, they probably won’t make our list.  The goal was to find winter songs, not holiday songs.  We do not believe in Santa at our house, so ones with him or Christmas referenced will not be added to our ‘Winter’ list.  However, you may feel different, so they are on here with a note added after the link.

Winter songs that also mention holiday related items

Winter Songs for children – a good song,  Does talk about Santa coming and bringing gifts

Fun Winter Song! (Winter is HERE) – mentions writing a letter to Santa, says “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”

Snowman Song for Children (good for Christmas and New Year) – we actually did not like this one

The Colors Of Winter – Nancy Stewar – Children’s Song– I liked the use of the season to learn colors.  Also mentions a Christmas tree and decorative lights.

Winter Preschool Song – Wintertime is Here – Littlestorybug  – great pictures.  One is of Santa in a sleigh

Christmas Time! (December song for kids)

Winter songs (but no holiday related lines)

Little Snowflake | Super Simple Songs

I’m a Little Snowman Song for Children – to the tune of “I’m a little teapot”

Children’s song: Winter Winter

 Winter preschool songs – Let’s get dressed! – littlestorybug

5 Little Reindeer (December-themed song for kids)

Dec 122017
 

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for helping support this site.
One of the top news stories currently happening has to do with wildfires in California.  Strong winds, previous droughts, hilly terrain, these all make it very prone to large fires which can be difficult to put out.  Fires are not new to that part of the country. If you live there, then fire is a natural part of the environment and most likely a part of your day in ways you may  not always think about – choice of landscaping and building materials for example.

If you do not live in this particular area, you more than likely do not think of how prone that environment is to fire.  It is doubtful you think of it at all.

Then it is plastered all over the television, newspapers, internet, and radio broadcasts.  You could not get away from it if you tried, and everyone seems to have an opinion.

That seems to be the way it goes with natural resources.  They are all around us, we live in them yet rarely talk about them or think about them.  Till something goes wrong.  Or you are out of conversation at a family holiday meal.  Then either everyone has an opinion, often a very strong one, or are ignorant on the topic, yet still have an opinion.

Fire is not the only natural resource which brings out strong feelings.  Wolves do the same thing.  Especially if you live in one of the western states.

As one who does not reside in the west, nor grew up there, my view of wolves is from a natural resource professional standpoint – balance is a good thing; putting back what we took out can only help begin to bring back that balance.

While this sounds great on paper (0r the computer screen), at what point in the past are we aiming to return to?  Before the government began the campaign to eradicate wolves from the forests?  Before Europeans began settling the continent?  At the end of the last ice age?  Which of these is the ‘ideal’ and which is the one we should aim for?

If there is one thing we, as humans, should have learned a long time ago it is this – we do not know everything.  Often we find things more of a mess when we try to ‘fix’ them rather than letting them be.  We act with what we think is the vast knowledge gained by experience or with the newfound scientific research of the era.  Only later, we find out we were wrong.  By then, life has moved on.  Reality has adjusted to the change.  Now a new question arises – should be try to fix what we broke, or let nature take its course and fix things on its own…if possible.

This is what happened with the wolves, a path which author Nate Blakeslee walks through in American Wolf: a true story of survival and obsession in the west.  As with every piece written concerning real life events, the lens through which activities are reported can make a difference in the conclusions reached – was the reintroduction a good thing or not?  Were there more benefits or outweighed by the consequences?

Spoiler – Blakeslee is not a cattle rancher. He is not a hippie.  He is not a government employee.  What he is is an author who took the resources he had and pieced them together, showing both sides of the story.  Or trying to, rather.

The majority of the book seems to follow one particular NPS Ranger, Rick McIntyre.  Understandably so, as Rick too copious notes on the wolves for many decades, almost from the beginning of their reintroduction.  These, combined with notes from other wildlife observers, researchers, and park records gives a large picture of the packs’ reintroduction and growth into the Yellowstone National Park. While a lot of this information aims to be scientific, unemotional, and unbiased, it is written largely from a group of individual who love nature and wanted to see these wolves succeed.

The other side of the coin – hunters, guides, and cattle ranchers may also love nature, though may be affected differently by the wolf reintroduction.  Wolves are a natural predator.  They were at the top, or near the top, of the food chain when they were targeted for eradication.  It is only natural to then assume there would be loses and adjustments in populations of other animals once they were reintroduced.  To help offset these losses, the state governments set up programs to pay for cattle losses due to wolves.

What these programs did not cover were loses in elk to hunt for food, loses in revenue from reduced stays at hunting lodges, and the loss of having to sell property that may have been in a family for generations because the family could no longer earn enough to support themselves in such a rural setting.  While these are loses that can be felt, often they are much harder to quantify.  Even Nate had trouble finding someone to talk openly with him concerning the negative aspects of wolves.  It took him several trips, and a lot of reassurances concerning not using his real name, for him to gain the trust of a local hunter/guide.

Over all, American Wolf: a true story of survival and obsession in the west  gave a fairly balanced view, though I believe it leans more toward a pro-wolf stance.  Perhaps this was the way I was reading the information, the fact that the majority of the information came from those who spent time watching and tracking the wolves, or that information from those negatively impacted by increase in wolf populations is harder to find.

In all, I believe it was a successful reintroduction, with more positive than negative results.  Only time will tell.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Dec 112017
 

How is the holiday shopping coming? Several of my friends have their lists all taken care of, relaxing with their feet up, having fun a holiday parties.

Me, well, I had hoped to be further along. I had hoped to be sitting with my feet up reading books. But alas, it only works that way if you implement the plan in your head. So this week, this week will see that list taken care of.

A few if the items I am making, a few are already bought, a couple will be bought in-store over  the upcoming weekend, while others will be ordered online. Having a plan of what to buy and where makes it much more likely to happen, as opposed to saying, “I need to buy a gift soon.” There are too many vague variables in that sentence to motivate one to action.

Having a plan takes the thought out if it, you follow the path you had previously laid out. It is much easier to follow a path than to bush-wack your way through the forest.

You can earn money while saving it during Green Monday! The Cash Back Shopping site Swagbucks is offering big cash back – 2x or more – at a number of different stores today only. They’re also offering big payouts on a varieties of different deals and offers from companies that would make great gift ideas. Get great deals without waiting in lines or even leaving your home!

Click here to take advantage of the cash back, just create your Swagbucks account when prompted (it takes less than 30 seconds) and then you’re all set!

As a special bonus, if you sign up through me you get a 300 SB ($3) bonus when you earn your first 300 SB before January 1st! This site’s a great way to extend your shopping budget, especially around the holidays!

Dec 102017
 

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for helping support this blog.

If you haven’t tried Swagbucks before, you can get a bonus $3 for signing up as my referral during December!

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a $3 bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

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That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I’ve earned $27 (2,729 SB) during the month of November! That includes time with family over Thanksgiving, where I did zero, zilch, nada on Swagbucks. The category where I earned the most was Answer (surveys), closely followed by Discover.

I earned $0 (0 SB) from shopping online. 🙂

It is not too late to join in order to add to your bank account, via PayPal; save on purchases by redeeming for gift cards; or earn points back for online purchases.

Dec 102017
 

 

Regular turning of your compost pile is one of those garden jobs that often is forgotten.  Turning your pile over does several things:

  1. Mixes the new items you have added to your pile with your older items.
  2. Allows air to get to items that may previously have not had it.
  3. Discourages pesky insects (gnats, flies, mosquitoes, etc.) from gathering and laying eggs by covering food scraps not yet decomposed. This is only an issue if your pile is near where people will be, and therefore they will be pesky.
  4. Speeds up the decomposition of your pile.  In other words, you will have compost that you can use faster.  (This is my favorite reason.)

If you are in a cooler climate, or just a down right cold area, you may have to wait till a warmer day. This is especially true if your pile is under snow or otherwise unable to be worked.