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Tuesday, February 21, 2012
In November we emptied the storage pod that contained all the poorly sorted possessions that we had to quickly remove from my late mother’s house. It contained nearly thirty cubic yards of… stuff. Somehow we had to find places for it in a house that was already pretty well furnished and not excessively large. This one project has overshadowed just about everything else. There are still many boxes to go through, but we’re finally reached a point where it’s not a crisis.
One of the first things I did was turn some of the ex-bathroom space in the master bedroom into a makeshift linen closet. One of the things we inherited from my mother were a set of cheap light-weight dressers from the nineteen fifties. By stacking them and screwing them in place, I built a partial closet wall with drawers on the outside. A few scraps of plywood finished it. On the inside I built some quick brick and board shelves. It’s an ugly jury-rig to be sure but it doubled our closet space. When I renovate the master bedroom the temporary wall will be replaced by a permanent one and then I’ll add another wall to create a bedroom closet. Realistically, that’s a 2013 project.
A storage project that’s coming along much faster is our attic. The decision to use Ultratouch insulation proved to be very wise indeed. Not only is the insulation itself non-toxic but because the rolls are slightly over wide for the spacing between the joists it sealed away all the dirt and grime under packed cotton. As a result we have what a friend called the cleanest attic he’d ever been in. Our roof is peaked more far more than is typical for a Southern California house so the attic is about five and half feet tall in the center.
When I put in the insulation I was shocked by two unconnected live wires. One of them I dropped through the ceiling and turned into the light for the linen closet. The other I used to light the attic. There are now three light fixtures (all salvaged) lighting up the length of the roof peak and activated by switch right by the trap door. For flooring I started with whatever scraps of wood I could nail across the joists but rapidly ran out. That’s when I discovered OSB (Oriented Strand Board) plywood’s cheaper cousin. At nine dollars for a four by eight sheet we can afford to bring home a few sheets even during the tightest paychecks. I cut them into quarter sections to fit through the trap door and nail them into place, each time gaining a few dozen more square feet of space.
Friday, February 10, 2012
second year we celebrated the Dia de los Muertos by pulling the trailer up to the Mission Valley site of the Pumpkin Station for straw bales and other freebies. What had been decorative displays, quaint rural seating, and valuable merchandise on October 31st became junk to be cleared away on November 1st. Last year, rains soaked the straw bales making them very hard to shift and stack. I was only able to get nine of them. This year I got twelve. I was astonished this year by the number unsold pumpkins they were throwing out. Last year I got some compostable rotting pumpkins out of the dumpster. This year they had barrels perfectly fine ones. With the trailer loaded I put the seat down and stuffed the back of the station wagon with as many as I could fit. Some we cooked. Some we feed to the chickens, the ones we couldn’t get to in time we composted along with the straw. All of these options beat sending them to the landfill.
Another free source of organic material came from across the street, where another run down foreclosed house was purchased. One of the many problems our new neighbor faced was a dangerously overgrown pine tree with heavy branches hanging over his roof and the street. He had a tree service cut it back drastically. They ground it to mulch on the spot. I asked what they planned to do with all that beautiful mulch and they just rolled their eyes and said “haul it somewhere.” I offered them the option of hauling it only fifty feet to my back yard and dumping it. They were delighted. That same weekend I took my trailer up the Miramar landfill were the City of San Diego has a massive green-cycling operation. City residents can take up to two cubic yards of mulch or compost for free. In the photos above the compost is the small dark mound next to the mountain of pine mulch.
Last but not least I harvested the super rich soil that comes from keeping chickens. After a year of pooping in their straw filled run, it was time to dig out the decomposed straw, manure and soil and replace it with fresh straw. The harvest filled a new bed in our front yard with nitrogen rich black gold.