Friday, August 31, 2012
Juergen went to pick the kids up from camp. I would have gone with him but Jessica needed a nap. So Juergen is gone, and Jessica is asleep. I'm enjoying a few hours of calm before the loud kids return. I'm looking forward to hearing how it went. I'm sure it was awesome! And I'm grateful Juergen and I had this past week. We got allot done, and we enjoyed each others company. Next week is the last week of summer vacation. We have loads of yard work to do ahead of the big graduation party we are hosting for 100 people. So I think the kids will be glad to get back to school. And eventually I will have my mornings back, as Jessica also goes back to school. So there are good things to look forward to. It was such a nice week. Sometimes things do not turn out how you planned them, they turn out better!
Thursday, August 30, 2012
We signed a loan for the energy renovations we are making on our house. We will be putting a thick insulation in the attic, a new gas heater, and a kachelofen. We aren't sure if the bank will finance the kachelofen yet. But the loan should pay for it's self in about 7 years or less by what we save (we have an expensive oil heater). The men are now in the basement putting in a new tile floor. The kids will come home to a new hallway. We have new paint, lights and now a new floor. I'll take pictures when it's done. I forgot the before photo's. Oh well! Juergen and I wanted to go out to lunch, but Jessica isn't interested! Maybe she will be willing to go to dinner? It's just nice to go out when it's just the 3 of us! Tomorrow it will be the 7 of us again. I love my kids, but I would not mind one more week of this quite and ease! It’s amazing how uncomplicated it is to work with out the kids fighting, asking what’s for lunch, or saying they are bored. I clean a room and it magically stays clean. Amazing! I have not had to tell one person to put their socks away, or carry their dish to the sink. And you know what, I’m still finding other valuable things to do with my time. Mommy work is not the only thing I am able to do! I actually still know how to read. I can think….wow! It gives me hope. I may be able to survive when they all move out in 10 or so years.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Today I canned another 24 jars of heirloom tomato sauce. And I picked enough tomatoes to can 24 more jars of sauce. I had a big bowl of tomato soup for lunch. I love tomatoes! I think I can pick more tomatoes in one day then I got all last year. It's been amazing! But it is starting to get colder and wetter. So I doubt we will have much of a harvest next month. Juergen did some painting today. He also had to pour this cement like stuff on the floor in the basement. It's to even the floor out for tile. The tile guys come tomorrow and Friday. Hopefully it will be finished when the kids come home Friday afternoon. Sadly our week is nearly over. But it's been very nice. We agreed to buy a gas furnace. It will be put in at the end of September. And we want to have a kochelofen (tile oven) put in too. But We can not decide where the oven should go. We think the best place would be the kitchen. But because we would need to cut off half the front balcony(to make room for a chimney) the oven needs to wait until next year. We want to have the balcony’s refinished, and the house painted next year. And the chimney for the oven could be built at that time. We don't have the money or energy for this project right now. We get new insulation in our attic and a few new windows, and the new furnace this year. And I'm still lobbying for the greenhouse this year. All the other things have to wait. But I'm very satisfied by the good progress. It's pretty wonderful to get things done!
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
I like old stuff. Juergen likes new stuff. I want to buy this old oven that is for sale in the Eastern part of Germany (they would ship it for a very good price). We could hire a local person to build it in our house. I think it would look super in the living room. It's from 1910. But Juergen wants something new. I will just have to talk to him about this one! The new ovens cost so much more, and don’t work as well. And a new oven does not have this kind of charm.
Politics is a passion of mine. This morning I prepared 2 crock pots of tomatoes from my garden and caught up on the political news. Juergen is paying bills. I took these photos with my new camera...the one I lost last summer. I found it in a small basket that was in the attic. I have to learn how to use it again, it's not an easy camera to use. But it's so cool that I found my good camera. So today I keep putting stucco on the back hall walls. Back to work. I wish the kids had 2 weeks of camp because I'm getting so much done. It's so nice to work and not get interupted all the time.
Monday, August 27, 2012
These tile stoves are called Kachelofen in Germany. They are wood burning stoves that burn very hot and clean. The heat heats up the tiles and radiates heat hours after the fire dies back. And you can get a Kachelofen that has water running through it. The water is piped to a water heater. It can be used to heat the entire house, cutting back on your need for gas or oil. I want to have a Kachelofen built in the entrance hall. And we may actually forget about the solar heat. Solar will take 20 years to pay for it's self. A good kockelofen pays for it's self in 5 years.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
We dropped Sarah off at her first summer camp. Philip and Thomas are both there helping with odd jobs, and Nicole is a counselor this week. That leaves Juergen, Jessica and I home for one wonderful and quite week. We already painted the hallway in the basement, and began putting stucco on the stairwell walls. We also decide to buy a gas furnace and solar panels. We will also replace a few windows, insulate the attic and have a giant wood oven put in the front hallway. After months of researching options (and there are many different options) we are going for what can be paid off in the fastest time. Pellets would have made us more independent, but the over all investment would have taken 20 years to pay off. Solar and gas together will be paid off in 5 to 7 years. And if we add a good wood oven, we will save even more money. The generators that give you electricity are also pretty cool, but they are pretty expensive to maintain. The sterling motors are easier to maintain, but don't come in models large enough to heat our house. We learned that there is no "best answer" or "one size fits all" to heating a house. We took months to come up with this answer. I hope now we can just do it. Life has too many other things to consider. Right now we are studying for a seminar we will be teaching on the "end times". It will be 4 teachings at our church in October. I have actually taught at our church for years. I'm happy to have this opportunity. And it's cool to be digging into something like this with Juergen. I guess not many people would want to spend a quite week of vacation doing home renovation and studying the end times. But we feel desperate to get things off our to do list. And teaching is also a personal passion. So I’m looking forward to this week.
Juergen wants us to buy a gas heater with solar. I want to buy a pellet stove. We could do all 3. I was thinking maybe we could put a hydro pellet stove in the greenhouse. It could keep the greenhouse warm, and help produce heat for the house. MCZ has a large pellet stove that can give us 24kw of heat. It has a storage tank that holds 106 kilos of pellets. You would not need to fill it more then once a day on the coldet days, on average 2 times per week. And as a by product, we would have a warn green house I could grow in 12 months per year.
Friday, August 24, 2012
I invited people to come get vegetables from my garden, but not many came. I guess many people already have a good source of zucchini, tomatoes, etc... So I'm making 2 big pots of zucchini soup. I'm adding onions, potatoes, garlic, tomatoes and herbs. I'll can it all for the winter. Sarah and I also picked 5 more gallons of tomatoes. I'm going to chop these up and cook them in the Crockpot. I will make sauce to can. I ate one jar of the sauce I made yesterday. I added some milk and cheese to it and it was an awesome, nearly instant soup. The sauce contained tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs with a small amount of olive oil. So if know one wants my fresh vegetables, there are more for me! It's so quite in the house. Thomas, Philip, and Nicole are all helping to set up the summer camp that begins on Sunday. Next week Sarah will also be gone. Juergen has the week off to work on the house. I'm not sure yet if Thomas will stay at camp, or come help Juergen. I sort of hope he stays at camp. It would be nice for Juergen and I to have a week nearly alone. Jessica will be with her teacher in the mornings. We do have to work, so Juergen could use Thomas' help. Either way, it looks like another quite week (I hope).
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Last night Juergen looked at the over all costs of buying a new heating system vs. keeping our oil heater. It cost so much to buy and install most systems, you would not actually see a difference in cost for 15 to 20 years. This includes an increase in the price of oil by 6% a year. An the sad news is natural gas has actually gone up more then oil this year. Most new heating systems run on natural gas. I'm thinking we should insulate the attic, and keep the oil for now. It would be cheaper to just supplement our oil with solar and pellet stoves. I found out today a pellet stove has a fan that blows the smoke out of the house. You don't actually need a chimney, so you can place a pellet stove in almost any room. We could buy 2 or 3 of them, and light them to help supplement the oil. This would quickly pay for it's self with out a giant investment. We could see a return on our investment in just one year, vs. the 20 years it would take with almost every other option. And yes, I know it would not be so convent to have to fill a pellet oven 2 times per day, but I think it would be worth the effort. I think we should keep our oil for now, and just supplement it to bring down the costs.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
We keep hearing about problems people have had with pellet heaters. They have problems getting clean pellets (bio mass). The dirty pellets can cause fires. And a good pellet oven cost allot. So My 2nd choice is this WhisperGen. It runs on Natural gas. It generates heat and electricity. I like it because it has a piston engine. It hardly needs any maintenance and last forever. I just don't know if they make a model large enough to heat our big house.
Because we live in a state that is run by the "Green party", there are allot of kick backs for buying the WhisperGen. We could get it for basically half price. It will not take up all Juergen's work shop. A pellet oven takes up allot of space. And if they have a big model, we could maybe buy an electric car. Then we could make the energy for our house and car.
The past few days it has been so hot. And in this weather you don't want to do anything but sit in front of a fan. I have not slept well for days. We are suppose to get some rain soon. I hope we do! My grass is brown! And everything is drying up. I feel so sorry for the farmers in the USA. It must be awful to lose your crops. Philip gets braces today. We also had tile laid in our back hall. Juergen has next week off to work on the house. He was going to put insulation in the attic, but that will be done later. Instead there is a long list of other jobs. I hope we have cooler weather next week. It would be awful to work in this heat. Sarah will be going to camp next week. And Philip and Nicole will be working at this camp. Jessica will spend the mornings with her teacher. That leaves Juergen, Thomas and I to work on the house. We plan to pay Thomas for his work. He is earning money for a new iPod. He broke his old iPod 2 weeks ago while skate boarding. Those are the plans. I hope Juergen and I are very satisfied with the progress we have made by the end of next week. We don't mind working. But sometimes you just run into walls and don't actually make any progress. That's how I feel about the heating system. We have been considering a new heater for months. It has taken up way too much of our time. But the bids we are getting are too high. And we do not see a clear answer. I do not want to talk about heaters anymore. I just want to get on with it! But we need to figure this out. We can not afford to waste so much money heating our house with oil. It would have been nice to have a new heater instilled next week while Juergen is home. But the tile guys come next week to put a tile floor in the basement. So at least that will be done!
Monday, August 20, 2012
I was thinking about soaking my feet in Epsom salts. Then I saw this about using Epsom Salts in the garden. So I think I'll fill a large bucket, and soak my feet outside. Then I put the water, with the epsom salts in it onto my plants. ....Experienced gardeners use Epsom Salt as a tonic for plants. It supplies readily available Magnesium and Sulphur which are easily leached from the soils by rain. This tonic is particularly useful when the lack of nutrients in the soil is causing yellowing of the leaves. Not only does Epsom Salt provide good nutrition, but it also improves plants utilisation of N(nitrogen) P (phosphorous) and K (potassium) making it the perfect partner for your current fertilising plan. Supplementing with Epsom Salt supports germination foliage and flower development chlorophyll production and improved absorption and use of phosphorous and nitrogen. The major pluses of using Epsom Salt: it’s natural it does not build up in the soil and cause any problems it is safe around pets and children it is quick acting clean and odour free over application does not cause damage or burning of plants.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
I found a high tunnel green house that Juergen said I can buy. Maybe he just got tired of me asking? But he said yes! This will be 4.5 meters wide (14,7 feet) and 6 meters long (19.6 feet). It's 2.5 meters high (8.2 feet), and we will build it on a foundation that is 1 meter high (3.2 feet ). We want it to have both electricity and water. And we also want a heater, maybe even a radiator that is hooked up to our house heating system. Nicole will paint there, so I think Juergen figured it's also for Nicole. Maybe that's why he said yes? Or maybe he just wants the house to be finished? It really will look nicer then the empty space we have now. Or may he just knew I was not going to stop asking for a green house until we get one! Anyway, this is the one he likes.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Last February I wrote a post about using the tent for a green house, and building a rocket stove to heat the space. Nicole wants to paint in the green house. She wants to use oil paint. This is very smelly and we don't want her to paint in the house. She will be wearing a mask when she paints. But it's best not to have that smell in our house. So I want the green house built sometime soon. And before we put the dirt floor down, we want to build the rocket stove. Here is how you build a rocket stove. And here is my tent. I think it would be a good frame for the greenhouse, art studio.
Juergen is the very best husband I have to say....but you all already know that. He let me sleep until 10am. Then he had Sarah bring me my coffee. Oh man, I needed that! Thank you Juergen! We have a big party scheduled in September. This is for the International Health department of the University of Heidelberg. I was blessed this past year to get to know many of these amazing students. Now that they will be graduating and we are throwing them a party. We will put up our party tent. And it's good motivation to get the garden in top shape. So I replanted all the window boxes today. We cleaned up the vegetable garden. We pulled loads of weeds. And we have started to clean the space where the green house will go. I want to order some soil to go there. Then We will put the party tent in that space. It will look good for the party. We expect 100 people. They are bringing their own catering. They will also have professionals come clean after the party. So I only need to set up the tent, and clean the house and garden (only). But a party is always a good reason to get stuff done. And we wanted to get this stuff done anyway. My sister Shelley just had a big tea party in her garden yesterday. Here is a photo of my Mom wearing a hat. Isn't she lovely! I wish I was there to share in the fun! Shelley went all out, and it looked amazing from the photos! Good job Shell! What a blessing you are! And bless everyone who helped you. I'm sure many hands helped make that event work out well!
Friday, August 17, 2012
Nicole and I have been getting allot done in the garden today. I took the tiller to the 2 beds that the potatoes came out of. The soil is so much better after months of being covered with straw and sawdust. I planted lettuce, red kohlrabi, yellow heirloom carrots, white turnips, red onions, chicory, arugula, and radishes. We also picked a 10 gallon bucket of heirloom tomatoes. Those will be used for sauce. I have so many tomatoes I need to process them right away or we get fruit fly’s in the kitchen. I also picked some yellow zucchini, green zucchini, and yellow pumpkin. I think we will make some carrot cakes in jars. You bake the cake in canning jars. Before they cool, you put the lids on them. They seal, and keep well for a long time. How long they keep, I don't know. But it's a good way to use up the pumpkins and zucchinis. I'll also freeze some of the squash. I want to order a new (bigger) freezer this weekend.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
so this is how they would change Medicare as we know it. What is so bad about this? Obama has no plan to save Medicare, and Obama care will rob Medicare right now. This plan was a Clinton plan...it is a bipartisan idea. Calling it radical and reckless is a stretch!
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
We are getting close to a decision about a new heater. We had an offer from a company not far from us. They install pellet heaters with solar. We would have solar panels on our roof that help warm the water that heats our house. The solar can help cover about 35% of our heat. Then the pellet heater would cover the rest of the heat. Pellets are made in the South of Germany. They are a renewable and sustainable form of heat. And the price of pellets have remained low, while oil and gas both rise at a rate of 6 to 8% per year. Because both China and India have developed a hunger for oil and gas those prices are sure to remain high. Pellets are a more secure source of clean and low cost energy. The investment is a little higher for solar and pellets. The government offers us a 1% loan over 20 years. We would save nearly 3000 Euros the first year based on our present use of gas. There really doesn't seem to be a down side to the switch...just the increase if debt. But it's a debt that looks like a good investment. So we will wait on a firm offer and plans from this company. But after months of reading and searching, I feel good about this direction. Juergen will be ordering the insulation we need for our attic. I found a good source online. It will save us over 1000 Euros off the building supply store price. But we need the material delivered in the next 2 weeks. Juergen has taken vacation. He and Thomas will install the insulation together when the other kids are at summer camp.
Monday, August 13, 2012
So I'm going to can potatoes today. I have so many it may take me a few days to can them all. The reason I'll can them is to keep them longer. I did some reading. With good treatment you can keep potatoes for 6 months. But canned potatoes keep for years. I will most likely use all my potatoes up with in 12 months, but I don't want to waste any of what I've grown. I will also be canning tomatoes sauce and zucchini today and most likely tomorrow. And I'm replanting the two beds the potatoes came out of. My garden has really done well this year. Not bad for the first year! The soil was pretty bad, but the straw has really improved it. Over the winter I'll add compost, and ash to continue to improve the soil. Over time it should just get better! And I hope to move the tomatoes into a greenhouse next season. So I'll much more room for the other crops next year. Well that's the hope, it's all according to God's will. You can never count on anything, it's all grace!
Nicole and I dug up the potatoes. Actually, Nicole did most of the work, I was out with Jessica and her teacher. I just helped in the end. We got a 25 gallon bucket worth of potatoes. There are a very large variety from all over the world. And I plan to save some for next years seed. The rest I want to can. We grew the potatoes in straw. That worked out well. Once they were planted, I basically did nothing but add more straw to the plants. I also added saw dust around the plants to keep out the light. My soil has improved. I'll be planting a fall crop of lettuce, onions, spinach, cabbages and carrots in these 2 beds. We are also saving the lettuce seeds. And we are making tomatoes sauce today because we are over whelmed by tomatoes! Nicole got home from Amsterdam last night. It’s great to have her home.
Friday, August 10, 2012
We are thinking of getting a pellet stove (or 2) with the hydro feature. It warms up the water in the radiator. And then the oil heater never has to turn on. If we had 2 stoves, I don't think we would need anything else! And pellets are cheap. We could have bags of pellets delivered. They could be stored in our old garage. You only need to fill the stoves about 2 times a week. And the ash is very good for the garden.
Today I took the kids and Jessica's new teacher to buy fish for our pond. First we had some breakfast at a cafe. Then we went to the garden store for the fish. We bought 2 different types of gold fish (10 fish total). They are happy in the pond. And it was a good begging with the new teacher. Thank God it's Friday. Nicole has her birthday tomorrow. She is in Amsterdam with friends. She will return (God willing) on Sunday. I miss her.
Thursday, August 09, 2012
I was pretty stressed yesterday. Jessica had a much better day with her new teacher today. And because of this I also feel better. Jessica needs time to get use to the teacher. She can not be pushed into spending 4 hours per day with her. Today she did spend 4 hours, but this will not be how Jessica feels everyday. And the time will be easier to fill once she can take classes at the autism center this fall. Right now the center has vacation. So right now we have to take it slow and respect Jessica’s comfort level. But today we went shopping. I went off on my own and let Jessica go around with her teacher. They stopped to look at whatever Jess wanted to see. We spent a few hours in the store. It was relaxing for me, and good for Jess. And we drove in the car for another 2 hours. I could talk with the teacher. And I feel good about how it's going.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
We are having a fruit fly problem. I had to finish canning everything I've harvested from my garden. I just have no more room in the freezer or refrigerator. So I canned the tomatoes, come zucchini, some carrots and potatoes. I have allot more to harvest. I need more jars. And If I had any time to just focus on this I would be very happy to can everything. But I have the kids home from school. I feel a little overwhelmed.
I had to throw away a whole bucket of tomatoes today because I didn't get around to using them. So I processed the 3 large bowls of tomatoes I picked yesterday and today. I cut them up, added olive oil and balsamic vinegar and herbs to the tomatoes, then canned them. I got 5 very full jars. And I saved the seeds. I have the first of the "ox heart" tomatoes I got in Italy. I saved the seeds from a tomatoes I ate, planted the seed, and now I'm harvesting the tomatoes. How cool is that? I'm very tired today. Jessica doesn't want to go anywhere with her teacher. Maybe we just need to go slower. We have had her teacher 4 hours a day for 3 days now. Jess wants her space. It's just a too close to soon thing. This isn't going to work if she doesn't take Jessica out of the house, and I can not take them places everyday. I have so much to do. The kids are home on vacation. They need attention. I have my garden work. The laundry piles up. I'm getting so tired. It's just allot at once. I'm sure it just takes some time. Jessica needs more time to get use to a teacher. But the extra effort is making me tired.
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
A BHKW is basically a generator that makes electricity. While it generates electricity it creates heat. You capture the heat in water heaters that heat your house. You use the electricity, and sell the extra electricity to the net. We are seriously considering a BHKW or solar with biomass.
A wave board is a special skate board that is in two parts. So not only do you need to skate, you need to coordinate both sides of your body. I think it would land me in the hospital if I tried this. And not just because I'm old, it would have killed me when I was young. But my kids are loving it. It didn't take them long to figure it out. It has to be good for the brain. They have to use both sides of the brain to do this. And it takes them away from the TV and computer.
The garden is really starting to produce well. I now need to process what I have grown. Yesterday I made a giant pot of vegetable soup using my potatoes onions, and zucchini. I'll can what we don't eat. I'm also making pickles today. I also have lots of tomatoes, so I guess I'll make some tomato sauce. I need to find a good way to save the Chinese cabbage. I wonder if you can make sauerkraut with Chinese cabbage? Anyway, here are a few pictures of yesterdays crops. I have about this much every other day. I need to dig up all the potatoes now. I think I'll can those too. New potatoes don’t keep well, but they can well.
Monday, August 06, 2012
Today Jessica stood at the door waiting for her new teacher to come. Jessica was sick last week, so her teacher started today. We wanted to take her to breakfast, but Jessica would not get out of the car. She wanted to go shopping. So I drove to the shopping mall. Jess went shopping with her teacher while Sarah and I sat in a cafe and ate breakfast. That was nice. Then Jess sat in the car with her teacher while Sarah and I shopped. Then at home I drank coffee with Jessica's teacher and we had a good chat. She is very nice and has many good ideas. Tonight the social workers come, and the director of the Autistic center. We will set some goals. My main goal is to see Jessica learn to write on an I Pad. She has a good mind, and I think she has a world of good things to communicate. She just needs a way to get it out...she must write. It may take some time before I personally get my "freedom" (time for myself). But we are on the way. And I think Jessica is very happy to have a teacher.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
We have a big garden. I was just mowing the lawn, and sweating so much that I had to come inside. It turns out that it's over 30c or about 90f outside. I thought it was just me. I love to be so hot that water taste good. Do you know what I mean? In the winter I don't feel like drinking water...but right now it's easy. And of course water is so good for you! I also ate a forth of a watermelon today. I would probably be thin if I lived some place hot. As long as I had lots of fresh fruit to eat, and plenty of cold clean water! My garden needs some work. There are weeds to pull, the hedges to cut, and a mole or 2 to catch. The noise makers seemed to chase the moles away for awhile, but they are back. So I ordered these traps. They are suppose to help you catch them, so you can release them in a far off field. It was Juergen idea. I hope it works. I don't like killing animals. They really don't hurt anything, they just make a mess of the grass. Anyway, it's illegal to kill moles in Germany. They are protected. I'm sure they serve a good purpose. But they eat worms, and make holes all over the garden. We have everything we need to fix the pond now. All I need is sand. I'll try to buy that tomorrow. Then We can start repairing the pond (maybe on Saturday). It's going to be beautiful! And the pond will draw frogs and birds. They both eat bad bugs.
We finally have vine ripened Heirloom tomatoes. This is what I picked today. I have peas, tomatoes, yellow zucchini, and cucumbers and flowers. I don't have enough for the whole world but I do have enough for a few friends. So if you want some fresh tomatoes then let me know. I'm ready to trade!