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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle - The Second Window Box

My oh my, it certainly cooled down. We are probably 20 degrees cooler than yesterday. It is 71 degrees in Wisconsin today! It is cloudy and damp and humid but at least the temperature has dropped.

That crazy 90° stuff of the last for 5 days has just been insane for May in Wisconsin.

Steveio scavenged through the leftover treated wood from our fence project last year. He figured he'd have enough to design and make four sturdy brackets to hold up our window boxes.

I love it that we are recycling from the storage area of the garage and not using any new materials to build these window boxes boxes and brackets. Recycling at its finest!!

He looked at the design of our bracket that holds up the rear shaker porch on the second story. Using that same Craftsman Design he manufactured his own heavy duty planter box brackets.

These will be mounted directly through the siding into the studs, using five heavy lag screws on each bracket. They should easily hold the weight of the window boxes.

I stained them with the white solid colored stain, just like our fence, and Mr Antsy-Pants had to get the first ones mounted up on the house before they were barely even dry. He made sure that the brackets were level and straight and true and got them secured into place. Before I could even snap a pic, he had the box lifted up and set into place!

Locating the studs on the front of the house was a little tricky. He actually had to offset the window box a little bit from from centering it underneath the porch windows overhead. But on the other hand, with the hydrangea bush being so full on the right, it really is centered in the space. With a 6 ft long window box, I don't think it needed to be exactly symmetrical under the windows anyhow.  In the winter, I leave the hydrangea up with the dried heads being a feature.  And I plan to lay pine boughs and bows in the window boxes too.

Then we went to the store... $68 later we came out with enough materials to fill two window boxes!!! In all fairness, $30 of it was the special potting soil. It's a moisture control soil with fertilizer in it that helps to keep the roots moist for longer periods of time.

Because these window boxes will be located under the eaves, I will be watering them from my rain barrels with a watering can, probably every other day. I divided the flowers in half, so we could fill the first box up in the front of the house.  Love using our little red wagon for this purpose.

After the inner rubberized coating was dry in the boxes, we covered the drain holes with pieces of mesh tape, used for seaming drywall. This will help prevent the dirt from leaking out with the excess water.

Again, keeping with our Recycling and Reusing theme, there were five old styrofoam rose cones from up in the attic of our garage. They were left there by the previous sellers. So we chopped them up into little pieces, enough to fill the bottom of each window box for the first layer. This way I'm not filling the first inch or two with heavy pea gravel. It will help the boxes drain if we get a downpour rain angling in from the east.

NOTE- be careful if you decide to use packing peanuts to do this,
 because many of those new ones are made to dissolve.

Once that was all in place we carefully filled each portion with the new dirt. I love getting my hands dirty and feeling it between the fingers and smelling that earthy musty smell of new dirt. Steve dumped in the bag and a half while I spread it around and broke up the clumps.

Now it was time to arrange the plants. I put the taller plants to the back and the shorter plants to the front. I clumped them in groups of three in various colors. I tried to balance them from side to side so it will be somewhat harmonious from the edges to the middle.

I hope it will look interesting as they fill in and grow up. Along the front edge I put white alyssum and scopia that looks like tiny daisies that will cascade over the front. In each corner I put an interesting dangling vine called lysimachia in a bright chartreuse green.  The rest is filled in with colorful versions of petunias,pansies, marigolds, impatiens, and some small variegated coleus.

I topped off the dirt around each plant and we gave it a careful watering for the first time. I was trying not to disturb any of the fresh plantings but trying to get the potting soil to settle around each plant.

That was enough for Tuesday night. We were both soaked to the gills with sweat and what we needed was a nice cool shower.

The rest of the evening was spent out in our front porch because the temperatures were starting to drop. It was still humid, but the temps were dropping fast over an hour.  It's been the first evening in a week that we could sit in the front porch with the windows open and enjoy the fragrance of the lilacs blossoming outside on the front corner of the house. We stayed out there until almost 11 p.m. I was reading a good book and Steve was relaxing, with the dogs curled up at our feet. Very, very peaceful.

Wednesday morning, Steve had to leave early to do his driving job. It was raining outside so I had some time to work on my quilt. I'm almost done with the blocks--- soon it will be assembled and ready to be loaded onto my quilting frame.

He came home at noon while the rain drops stopped long enough for him to mount the other two brackets on the side of the house. This is on the south side located underneath the windows to my loom room. He located the studs and this time and they lined up exactly perfect underneath the window.

Once he had the brackets into place, then we could figure out where the box would set so he could cut the little notches and drill the drainage holes.

Those are crank out windows on each side but we only put them out a couple inches. The windows are not able to crank out too far or otherwise they bind and cannot be cranked back in anyhow. We normally just crack them open a bit for some fresh air.  Someday I would like to restore them back to the three double hung windows that were on the house originally.

Before he left to go back to work, he gobbled down his lunch, and then he helped me lift the second window box up onto my rolling cart. From there I was able to start filling the box with the styrofoam bits, the dirt and the rest of the remaining plants from last night.

It's almost 4 p.m. now and he will be home soon. 
Then we can lift it up and put it into place. 


It's a bit dreary in the pics,
due to the cloudy skies and 
rain on and off all day. 

I think it really starts to dress up this south side of the house.
Next, I think all the windows need either shutters,
or some other blue trim around the windows? 

As an added P.S. Speaking of dressing up the house--- earlier in the week, we removed the painted green squares of soffit material that had been put across the front of the house between the windows and the porch roof.  It was probably done the same time they did all the vinyl siding. Five years ago, I had painted the green squares on every other section, to cover up the textured areas that would trap dirt and look icky,

Now Steve removed them all....  it unearthed the old imprint of the house numbers from many years ago. We didn't know what we would find underneath, or why it was covered up with the tin soffit material?  Other than just not wanting to have to paint the wood, it didn't make a lot of sense to cover it up.  The frames and windows on the porch are all wood and need to be repainted every so often, so why not the flat header board above them?

I painted across it all fresh new white on the nice flat wood underneath. Back to the way it was originally.  I would love to go back to all natural wood siding on the whole house, but for now the vinyl siding will have to stay.

Steve took down the light fixture that we put up five years ago. There had never been a front porch exterior light before.  This one had such pretty leaded glass when we bought it.  It had a black frame and top which I had painted green, and now I painted it blue!   Then he put it back up again in it's proper place.

We added a trim strip of thin wood (also from the attic of the garage that I painted blue too) where the soffit meets the newly exposed white header over the windows.  Ahhhh that looks better!

Soooo I wonder what our next project will be??? 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Boxing The Flowers and HOT HOT HOT

When we viewed our house to purchase it back in 2012, we noticed odds and ends of scrap wood up in the attic of the garage. We asked the sellers if they wouldn't mind leaving it there because some of it might be usable in the future. It's funny, because five and a half years later they said they didn't know half of the things left in that attic and they really didn't want to go through it anyhow!! Lol!

Steve had it in his mind to build some window boxes to dress up the front and the south side of the house. We kinda looked at picking up some wood at Menards but that would mean going out in the heat, hooking up the trailer, and driving 30 miles to get wood. Instead, we shopped in our own attic of our own garage! Recycling at it's finest.

Just look at that up there, should be something we could use to build window boxes with, you would think?

Sure enough, Steve found some interesting pieces of wood that would work. They actually had little grooves cut along the edges, known as "shiplap". If anybody watches the show on HGTV Fixer Upper, this is the stuff that Joanna absolutely loves!

Well, this wasn't going on the walls, this is going into making the window boxes.

Steve carefully measured and cut and got all of the pieces ready yesterday afternoon. It was way too hot to do any more work out in the garage as the temps were climbing.  But he had a plan in mind.

This morning he decided to get out there early and do what he could to get these put together. We started about 6:30 a.m. Before the temps climbed up the thermometer.  It was humid, but still in the 70's so we could work out there in the shade.

Just look at that guy. You know, on the PBS TV show The Red Green Show, he says if your woman can't find you handsome, she might as well find you handy!

Well, I think Steve is BOTH handsome and handy!!!

We started to work on the boxes with the garage door open for fresh air.  The mosquitos were biting, but not as bad as they were the evening before.  He had it already figured out what to do, and I was there to hold things and hand him tools, screws, the caulk gun or his coffee cup.  That's my job.

He carefully sealed all of the seams with a caulk adhesive before he put the boxes together. The front surface he nailed on with the air gun to hide the fasteners, but the rest of the box was constructed with heavy duty coated deck screws on the sides, back and bottom.

Although the garage was getting warmer, I held the pieces while he assembled the boxes.
I'm not good with heat nor humidity so I could tell the morning was really going to be rough as the temperature kept increasing into the 80s.

Soon, the Construction Master took a break and supervised me from his lawn chair. I got out my brush, roller, tray and can of blue trim solid colored stain for the front and sides of the box. I rolled two coats quickly and went back in the house to cool off in between coats.

Steve helped me flip them over on the saw horses and then I could coat the bottoms and the back sides and the insides with a special rubbery paint for wet basements called Dry Lock to preserve the wood on the inside.

Steve will drill the drainage holes on the bottom and add screening over the holes, once we are sure where the brackets are going to be located that hold them up to the house.  We will have to measure for the studs first and then center the boxes.

We were done by mid morning and we escaped back into the house into the cool central air conditioning. The temps were climbing and climbing outside. We had planned to go to my friend Connie's birthday party in in Oshkosh for noon. But there is no way I could deal with that heat and humidity for an outdoor party for the afternoon. So we gave her a call and said we would stay home today and get together on another day to celebrate her birthday.  Sorry Connie----

THIS is what our afternoon was like:

Once it cools down next week, we get the window boxes mounted, I'm still debating what I want to plant inside of them. I am thinking it would be nice to do just blue and white petunias. But then I thought just all over crazy colors of just about every flower--- because I planted all different colors of gerbera daisies down below by the Dutch Boy and Girl? Or I could put in red geraniums and ivy like I have in the pots on the front stoop.

I know the bottom couple inches will be shredded up styrofoam and packing peanuts so they can drain but not be as heavy as pea gravel. Then I am going to use some of that lightweight Moisture Control potting soil meant to retain the water designed for window boxes and hanging baskets.

Playing with Photoshop, I drew a blue box on both the front and the side of the house where the window boxes will go. I also drew some blue trim that I want to add to the soffits and eaves.  Also with Photoshop I did a copy and paste of the design of the fretwork cutouts underneath our front porch. Then I pasted them as shutters up on each side of the windows to see what that looks like.

I cut and pasted shutters 
just to see what they would look like

Steve seems to think that's a really good way to dress up the house as well. So we might be cutting out shutters in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned!


Even though we were inside the house and it's relatively cool, I didn't want to heat it up with cooking anything for supper. Who does?

Even in our small town of Chilton, we are lucky to have a little Chinese restaurant called King Wok. I called up and ordered our favorite meals to share and Steve ran over to pick them up. Easy peasy supper.

I am pleased to say that the modification that Steve made to our ductwork has been working out tremendously great!  (I wrote about it in the last blog)  We now finally have cool air reaching the second story and the house feels drier and less humid as well.  It is comfortable sleeping in our master bedroom, and the whole second story is only about 2 degrees warmer (74) than the first floor (72). Before his adaptation, it ran 10 to 15 degrees hotter up there, even with the central air running.  So the in duct supplementary fan is really making a difference. 

Although, in my sewing room if I have the iron on, it gets a bit warmer.  So he did put the window air conditioner in there for me. It's only hanging out on the north side, not in the hot sun, so it doesn't have to work so hard to cool things down.  I don't care for the look of window air conditioners hanging out on the house, but this is far back on the north side out of view.  It really helps! 

 So I hid out here for a couple hours this afternoon,
 and then we took a nap!

If the weather man is correct,
tomorrow is going to be
just as miserable as today.

I think I'm just going to stay upstairs and keep working on my quilt!!!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fan Fun with Ductwork in Our Old House

Before I start today's blog, I would like to give a big shout-out to our son Dan and his wife Heather on their 10th anniversary! They are the parents to our two wonderful grandchildren Allegra and Mason. We wish them a happy anniversary and hope they have a wonderful and exciting year ahead of camping and baseball and family events.

Okay, now on to my blog topic of the day.

Did you know that every time you have a 90-degree turn in your household heating or air conditioning ductwork, it can decrease your air flow by 33%? 

Our ductwork run that goes up to the second story in our master bedroom (and my sewing room), has THREE 90 degree turns. That means there's almost no air moving through that vent, even when the furnace or the central air conditioner is running. It's very weak compared to the other ductwork in the house.  We have tried turn down the air flow with the dampers in the other ducts somewhat, but that doesn't increase it up the one run to the master bedroom.  Ironically, that is also the longest and farthest run from the furnace blower. 

We don't notice it as much in the winter months, because heat rises up the stairwell in into our bedroom and we are quite comfortable. We turn down the heat at night to 50 degrees, and use an electric mattress pad heater. So no problem with the winter months. 

But in the summer months it's really hard to get the cool central air up into our bedroom. Especially in the evening and night during hot humid weather. The main floor is still cool from the air conditioning running all day which is where the thermostat is located. We just don't get enough cool air movement pushing up into our bedroom.

We have tried various fixes over the last five years:

First, we put a ceiling fan in the bedroom.  It moves the air, but it's HOT air. Compounded by the fact we don't have any cold returns on the second floor at all. The cool air from downstairs just doesn't get up to the second story too well.

Next, we put a window air conditioning unit up there to supplement the central air. Not only was it noisy but I didn't like the look of it on the outside front of the house. It only cooled the bedroom and we had to keep the door shut to the rest of the upstairs.  We had to fire it up about an hour before bedtime to cool off the room. And --- the rest of the upstairs is still hot and uncomfortable.

The third solution was to add a supplementary fan to our attic scuttle hole to help suck some of the hot air from along the ceiling out of the second story. Beyond that, in the attic we installed an attic vent fan to help expel it to the outside through the gable end grid. Although that helps some, it's still was not addressing the issue of not enough air blowing up through that duct to begin with. 

So we went on now to our newest solution and I think this one is a winner!

I read about these supplementary electric duct fans, and although Steve pooh-poohed my idea from the get-go, I persevered. I showed him plenty of information about how that duct to our master bedroom and sewing room is severely hampered because of the three 90 degree turns. There just isn't enough flow of air.  

He finally went along with my idea, after living here for 5 years with insufficient air conditioning going up to our bedroom.  YAY! by boosting the air flow to the upper floor, both of our open stairwells to the main floor will act as cold air returns. 

So we went to Menards and invested $28 for a duct fan booster unit and $22 for the supplementary pressure switch control box, I am willing to try for $50 to make a difference!!!

He had looked at the size of our duct downstairs and first thought it was 6in. So we bought the unit for a 6in.. We got home and realized, nope, the ductwork is bigger. So we went back and got the fan for the 8in. duct work. We came home and oops, again, wrong size, that one's too big!

Guess in 104 year-old homes, they had 7 inch duct work at that time????

Three times a charm! We went back and bought a unit that was adjustable between a 6 inch 7 inch or 8 inch ductwork. 

This can be installed and run continuously 24 hrs. a day.  But..... we would rather it kicks on and off with the central air when it blows.  Hmmmmmm

So they make this other piece to go along with it. It is a temperature sensitive switch controller unit. After the fan is inserted into the ductwork, you drill a hole about the size of a half-dollar into the ductwork and mount this box to it. As the furnace or AC blower air passes over that hole, it activates a switch that turns on the supplementary duct fan. Set it for cooling or heating and there is a dial to control the amount of time the fan runs with a high and low limit.

Now to start the installation:  here is the duct fan unit with a half circle of ductwork. That makes it adjustable from 6" to 8", of which we have 7".

The fan is installed right into the ductwork. He removed the right duct pipe from the basement to install the fan in the best position. First by using a template, (which Steve hates using templates), he drew in the rectangle that needed to be cut out of our existing ductwork. Using a pair of tin snips, he carefully cut away the rectangle needed from our existing ductwork.

The is the first of three 90 degree angles of ductwork to our bedroom.  The other two are enclosed in the walls and floor between the first and second stories.  The duct transitions from a 7" circle to a 14" wide rectangle to boot.  This is the best place to insert the new duct fan, as it is close to an electrical outlet in the basement.

Before Steve reassembled the ductwork back into place, he decided to vacuum out the duct with the shop vac. It wasn't too dirty, but he since he had it apart, he might as well do it at the same time. 

He reassembled the duct work into place,
now with a rectangular hole cut into the side.

Using real "duct tape" he sealed off any corrugated areas that also leak air flow. The new fan slides right in and four self-tapping sheet metal screws hold it securely into place. He sealed it around the edges with more duct tape as well.

Now to add the temperature pressure switch to the duct, it has to be on the far side after the fan and furnace, not before it.  He only needed to drill a half-dollar sized hole in to the duct with a hole saw.  The orange box needs to be screwed tight to the duct and they recommend either some sponge gasket tape or a circle of caulk (non-hardening) to seal from the flat surface of the orange box to the round surface of the duct exterior.   He installed it tight and screwed it into place and plugged it all in.  

We followed the instructions and set the low and high limits and turned on our AC central unit to test it out.

We now have
 a nice strong noticeable blast of cold air 
coming up into our master bedroom!!!!!   

It is getting up in the mid 80's today and humid, so it's a great to test it all out.  We closed up the house and pulled the shades for added comfort, as well as slid down the storm windows over the screens on all of the windows for more insulation layers.  It's been 2 hours and the upstairs is nice and cool in the bedroom at 70 degrees, 

By George, I think we got it! 


This morning, before it got too hot and humid, Steve and I went out to dig up some hostas.  Steve's brother Pete and wife Cindy built a new house. They are working on landscaping now, and would like any and all perennials we can split and share.  My hostas have gotten too large for their areas over the last five years, so they needed thinning out and splitting.  

We dug up 10 huge clumps of various types,
 and most of those can be split two or three times more.

I am running up to Menasha later today, so we loaded them into the car trunk and keeping them in the cool of the garage until I am ready to leave. They will have a busy memorial weekend getting them situated and planted in their new yard. 

It's now noon,
and the temps are up to 84
and humidity of  58%


On edit---- it's now after 8 p.m. I'm very pleased to say that the downstairs temperature is 72 and the upstairs temperature is only 74! Usually there is a 10 degree difference between the downstairs and the upstairs. So it appears this supplemental Duct Fan is really doing its job to circulate the air throughout the house and get the cool air upstairs where it's needed the most. $50 well spent!!!