Winter is Coming

When the season changes from warm to cold, there are several specific things that would be very helpful to do around the time of the first frost, or when the clocks change, whichever is soonest:

  1. Give the lawn a final feeding.  Cover tree roots with mulch.  Harvest everything from the garden that won’t survive a frost.  Don’t forget to fill the bird feeders!
  2. Winterize your lawn sprinklers, if applicable.  Drain the pipes, blow our the sprinklers if needed.  Put the automated sprinkler system on standby.  Disconnect all hoses from outdoor faucets.
  3. Change all the beds from “regular” to extra-warm fleece/flannel sheets..  Wash and store the summer linens including comforters, bedskirts, and matching curtains, if applicable.
  4. Check that your winter coats aren’t missing any buttons; locate the matching hats, gloves, and scarves; have anything dry-cleaned that didn’t get cleaned at the end of last season.
  5. Change out the filter in the furnace and replace the batteries in the smoke detectors.
  6. Have cars serviced.  Oil change, tire rotation (new winter tires if needed), wiper fluid.  I highly recommend purchasing a portable car battery charger.  Make sure it’s fully charged about once a month and kept in the trunk when not in use.  Locate or purchase a new windshield scraper.
  7. Build a “go bag”.  This is a fully packed suitcase complete with spare shoes with at least one complete casual outfit and one complete work-appropriate outfit.  I started doing this in 2005 when the blizzards were so bad that people got stranded on highways during evening rush hour and had to be rescued by the National Guard.  At the very least, be prepared to check into a hotel near your work if you might not be able to get home.
  8. Along the lines of weather preparation, also carry in your trunk some basic survival supplies: snow shovel (I once used this to dig another car out of my way so that I could get to my apartment!), hand and foot warmers, granola bars, extra coat, snow boots, gloves, hat. umbrella.  I keep my ski pants in my kit since I can pull them right over my jeans if I need to walk outside if my car breaks down during a snowstorm.
  9. If you have the space where you live, stock up on non-perishable supplies in case you are snowed in or the power goes out.  I especially make sure that I have enough cat food and cat litter!  Other helpful items include flashlights, batteries, camping stove, camping toilet supplies.  Gallon-sized jugs (or larger) of water can be used for basic cooking if the pipes freeze.
  10. Set up a stash of non-electric entertainment.  Board games, books, candles, wine.

Enjoy the season!

Garden Party

Happy (unofficial) End of Summer!

One of the dubious pleasures of owning a brand-new house is that one has the opportunity to landscape the backyard from scratch.  I started working on the yard in June from nothing more than a weed-filled dirt patch.

It’s now a muddy dirt patch.

Well okay, I managed to get *some* things accomplished.  I planted 8 trees, 5-ish shrubs (more on that later), and a 4×8 raised garden bed.  Being a landscaping novice, I thought I’d pass along the top 10 things I learned about landscaping this summer:

  1. Wear gloves!  I learned this really quickly after attempting to pull up sharp noxious weeds by hand.  Thistles are the worst.  So are spiders, actually.
  2. Have a place to put the dirt that you’re digging out of the ground when planting trees/shrubs.  Otherwise you’ll have to shovel the same dirt pile more than once into the wheelbarrow and then the place you ultimately move it to.
  3. Know the water drainage pattern in your yard before planting anything major.  I started my planting in the middle of a heat wave and didn’t get a heavy rainstorm until after the trees were in the ground.  Right directly in the path of my downspouts.
  4. If you are into feeding the birds, try to wait until *after* your lawn seed has sprouted before putting out the bird feeder.  Otherwise they’ll peck the seeds right off the ground if they’re already used to coming to your yard to eat!
  5. Plan for future expansion.  If you want to build a deck or pergola or water feature in the future, don’t waste your time planting grass where the new structures will live.  Put down gravel or river rock instead.
  6. Sod versus seed?  Sod needs a *lot* of water.  Seed doesn’t need as much water, as long as you plant in late August after the hottest days of the summer are over.  And if you don’t have a sprinkler system installed, sod really is (in my opinion anyway) a bad idea.
  7. Work with the weather, not against it.  I wanted until late summer to till my yard with compost in preparation for seeding, because the clay soil in my yard bakes to cement-like consistency in the heat.  I was able to time it just right by waiting until after a week-long wet spell to dig up the yard.  Much easier to run a power tiller!
  8. Speaking of tools, a cheap moisture sensor that you stick in the ground is a real eye-opener.  I over-watered my garden very badly at the beginning of the summer since I was not checking this.  Bonus points if you get a sensor that also measures the pH.
  9. Check for plant diseases in your area before deciding what to buy.  In my area we have pine beetles and apparently also some disease that affects ash trees, so I narrowly avoided buying something that was even more likely to die!
  10. Plan and measure before you dig!  And don’t forget to call the utility people to come out and mark the underground lines.  I literally had to change my landscaping plan around to avoid serious potential disaster!

Oh and the shrub story?  Let’s just say, keep your receipts, in case you have to dig out nearly-dead plants from the ground and return them to the nursery for an exchange.  I very nearly killed 5 perfectly nice burning bushes because the poor drainage in my clay soil holds water like a sponge.  I now have moisture-tolerant dogwoods in that part of the yard.

Above all, have fun, and good luck next summer!

Digital Divide and Conquer

Happy GDPR!

If you have any sort of online presence, you are probably seeing a host of privacy-related emails coming in now that the Global Data Privacy Regulation is in effect.

You may not realize it, but you have a lucky organization opportunity right there in your inbox:

  1. You can now see at a glance every website you have created an account for.  See something that no longer interests you? Make a mental note (or move the email to a special folder) to follow up to determine whether that account can be deleted from your life.
  2. Do you notice that the emails have all arrived into your main email inbox, or are they being filtered (moved) into subfolders relevant to your life?  Are they being filtered into the wrong folders or do your filters need refining?  You now have a treasure trove of filter-ready material to browse through (subject lines, sender email addresses, etc.).

For me, the experience of having all the GDPR emails show up in my main inbox folder led to the complete overhaul of my email filtering rules.  I think I now have near a hundred or so filters set up, neatly organized by category.  Some (somewhat) obvious categories are: work, family, finances, social life.  Some new categories I added this year are: professional networking, continuing education, pets. And since I recently moved into a “smart house” I now have a category for all the emails my thermostat, garage, lawn sprinklers, and security system send me!