Friday, June 29, 2018

30 Days of Summer - Post #4 - How To Beat The Summer Utility Bills and More

Here in Southwest Missouri the heat has arrived with record-breaking temperatures and there's no end in sight. That's got me thinking of ways to cut down on the cost of summer utilities. Over the years I've picked up lots of tips and tricks. Here are a few of them...

* Use blinds (or foil the upper half of windows) to deflect the hottest rays of summer sun. It keeps the sun out, makes the house cooler, and makes it much easier on the air condition.

* Don't just turn off, but unplug, your computer and other devices that can drain power even when they're not on.

* Raise the thermostat on your air conditioner by a few degrees and use overhead fans to circulate the air. 

* There's no reason to waste energy cooling empty spaces. Shut doors and vents to close off rooms and other areas of your home that aren't being used.

* Homes often leak cool air in the summer (and heat in the winter) because of spaces between walls. Insulate your home by filling gaps with insulation. Personally, I like the stuff in the can that you can spray directly into cracks and crevices.

* Use energy saving light bulbs and get in the habit of turning lights off when not in use.

* Make sure that your air conditioner is in good working order. Wash coils, replace (or wash) filters, and service annually.

* Take advantage of the summer sun, by-pass your dryer (which is a huge energy drainer), and hang your clothes outside.

* Don't use the oven. When the summer heat is on serve salads and other cold foods. 

Energy-Saving Tips Around The House - Refrigerator/Freezer

(This information is taken from Emilie Barnes' 15-Minute Home and Family Organizer.)

Your refrigerator/freezer is probably one of the biggest energy users in your home. Here are some ways to beat the cost of keeping things cool. 

1) Keep it clean. In a manual-defrost model more than half an inch of frost can build up and make the appliance work harder, so defrost regularly. Vacuum clean the condenser coils below or at the back of the refrigerator/freezer three or four times a year. Clean coils keep it running efficiently and help save energy.

2) Keep it closed. The time for decisions is not when you have door open. Get everything you need for a sandwich or recipe in one trip.

3) Keep it full. Frozen food helps keep the air cool in our freezer. But don't overpack food in either refrigerator or freezer, or the cold air won't have space to circulate properly.

4) Heat has no business in the refrigerator. Cool dishes before you store them so your appliance won't have to work so hard. 

5) Investigate before you buy. A frost-free refrigerator/freezer may use 30 percent more electricity than a manual-defrost unit. Also, be sure to choose the correct cubic footage for your family, since a too-full or too-empty refrigerator/freezer wastes energy.

6) Unplug your second refrigerator. Refrigerators are big energy users, so if your second refrigerator is not being used to full capacity, unplug it. It could save you $15.00 a month or more, depending on its size.

Simple Ways to Minimize Air-conditioning and Save Big Bucks on Your Summer Electric Bills

By Robert Waldrop

(I have printed this article before, but am printing it again as it is so terribly hot right now and we know of several folks who are, indeed, trying to keep cool without air conditioning.)

Keeping cool without AC, or while minimizing air conditioner usage, is not rocket science. It's mostly common sense. These suggestions are distilled from our six year experience of living without air conditioning in Oklahoma City. It should be remembered that our advice is for this particular climate, but ideas may be found here for use elsewhere.

1. Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. Avoid soft drinks and caffeine, these will dehydrate you, as does alcohol. The idea that an ice cold soda pop is the perfect solution to thirst is a delusion fostered by hundreds of millions of dollars of advertising. Its purpose is to enrich the stockholders and management of soda pop corporations at your expense. The more soda pop you drink, the more thirsty you will be, the hotter you will feel, and thus the more uncomfortable you will be in hot weather. Soda pop advertisements are LIES! Sugar free soft drinks are as bad as the sugared versions.

2. Dress for the season when inside your house. Wear shorts and a light shirt. Loose fitting clothes are cooler and more comfortable than tight fitting garments. Go barefoot or wear sandals. Natural fabrics are cooler than synthetics. At night, use light cotton sheets on your bed. Minimize indoor fabrics, as fabric increases interior humidity. This is good in the winter, but bad in the summer. People living without air conditioning should probably opt for no carpet on the floors; during the winter they can lay down area rugs, but roll them up and put them away during the summer.

3. In the summer, shade is your friend. Keep the sun's heat from hitting windows, doors, walls. Install window shades on the outside of your house; indoor curtains are not enough (although they will help). Once the sun hits the glass and window frame, the heat is conducted inside the house, even if you have indoor curtains, so shade them in addition to your curtains. 

It is easy and inexpensive to make your own outdoor window shades. For six years we have had great success using mylar covered auto sun shades that are about 5' X 2'. They cost a dollar or so at local stores. We duct tape two or three of them together (depending on the size of the window) and hang them on the outside of our windows. Then we cover that with a white roll up shade, which is mostly for appearance. An inexpensive bamboo roll-up window shade works fine. One or more curtains inside will help, and choose white or another light color (sheets are do-able and cheap, & more is better). Don't forget to shade the doors if you don't have a porch. Shade cloth is available and can be used over windows, although it costs more.

The best choice for your wall shade is vegetation. Although it takes many years to grow a tall tree, vines grow in just a few weeks. Morning glories provide plenty of shade plus flowers that are beautiful to look at. We have grape vines on our trellis, so not only do we get shade, we also get tasty grapes to eat.

If you have indoor thermal mass, such as concrete or brick floors, a masonry fireplace, etc., make sure it is shaded so it doesn't soak up heat during the day. (The opposite of what you want to do in the winter, of course.)

3. When keeping cool without any air conditioning, the basic rule is: keep the house closed up during the day when it is hot outside, and ventilate it in the evening and at night when it is cooler. At night we put box fans in the windows to pull cool air in and hot air out of the house, and we open nearly every window and door to facilitate cross breezes. During the day we close up the house to keep the heat out, usually between 7 and 8 AM, depending on the outside temperature, humidity, wind, and cloud cover. The exact time is based on our perception of what the weather is doing outside. If it is warming up and the humidity is high, we close up right away. If the morning coolness lingers, we "stay open" longer. The longer you live without AC, or minimize your AC use, the better you will be at making this kind of judgment.

We open up the house when it seems as though it is starting to get warmer inside than outside. We open the doors and windows on the very shady north side and shady southeast side of the house before we open the doors and windows in the southwest corner of the house, which gets the most sunshine.

We sometimes run a small window fan in a window that pulls air that has been cooled by our shady trellis during the day, but we keep the rest of the doors and windows closed. 

These ventilation decisions will vary from site to site, and also people have different definitions of comfort. In the beginning you will want to experiment to find the right combination for your own particular situation, which is influenced by the design and construction of your dwelling and the microclimate of its site. But this does work. 

4. Keep the air moving around inside. We use ceiling fans and rotating fans to create breezes in the house during the day and the night. Moving air can knock ten degrees off of the apparent temperature, so fans can add considerably to indoor comfort. They can also be used in conjunction with conventional air conditioning. With breezes inside, you can set the thermostat temperature higher than would be the case without the fans. Box fans are good for use in windows, but for other indoor uses, they are inefficient and usually noisy, rotary fans are better. Variable speed fans will help you get the right amount of air. Right now, as I am revising this essay, it is 5:08 PM, Central Daylight Time, in Oklahoma City, 91 degrees outside, the heat index is 96 degrees, yet I am very comfortable. A fan is cooling me with a nice breeze. 

5. Insulation and weatherization help moderate indoor temperatures in the summer too. Minimizing leaks will help you keep your cool inside.

6. Ventilate your attic. We did this during our third summer without air conditioning, and it added appreciably to the indoor comfort level.

7. Minimize heat buildup inside the house. If you have a dishwasher, don't use it or at minimum don't use the heat dry at the end of the cycle. Take cool or lukewarm showers, rather than hot steamy showers. (If you aren't using AC, you won't want a hot shower in the summer anyway.) Check your electronic equipment. Many devices such as "instant on" televisions draw current all the time, and thus create heat. Plug them into an electrical outlet strip and turn it off and on with the switch on the electric outlet strip, and thus eliminate the "hot plates" adding heat to the indoor climate. Don't use the clothes dryer, hang your clothes on a line outside to dry. If your neighbors ask what you're doing, tell them you are using your "solar clothes dryer". If you smoke, do so outside. Turn your computers off when they are not in use. 

One of the biggest contributors to indoor heat and humidity is cooking, so during the summer, we cook outside, on the porch. I set up a "summer kitchen" on our shady front porch (on the north side of the house). This consists of a small two burner camp stove, and a conventional backyard gas grill. Both are hooked to 20 pound propane bottles, and seem to be fairly thrifty with their propane consumption, especially the 2 burner camp stove. To use a 20 pound bottle with such small stoves, which usually run on a small one pound or so bottle, you need a special adaptor, sold at most propane and outdoor supply stores. We also have a large gas ring (advertised as a "turkey fryer") for boiling larger amounts of water. When I make pickles in the summer, my boiling water canner fits it perfectly, and it brings the water to a boil much faster than the natural gas stove in the house. A little roller cart, bought at a garage sale, completes the setup. I have a cast iron skillet with a cover, it makes a fine "Dutch oven" so that the gas grill becomes an oven for baking casseroles or biscuits. I do the prep work in the regular indoor kitchen, load everything onto the cart, and roll it out onto the front porch for cooking. When I cook outside, and see the large clouds of smoke and steam rising from the pans, I am reminded about how much heat and humidity cooking contributes to indoor atmospheres.

Cooking outside also makes sense for people with air conditioning, because the AC will have to work hard, and consume energy, and thus cost you extra money, every time you cook a meal.

8. If you are using no air conditioning at all, try to stay out of air conditioned spaces. I am most uncomfortable when I come home from my "perfectly" air conditioned office. But on my days off, when I generally stay out of air conditioned spaces, I am more comfortable. You body does acclimate itself to your surroundings, whatever they may be. 

9. If the heat becomes oppressive, dowse your head, arms, and feet with cool water, or take a cool shower, or (my favorite) go outside and dowse yourself with a water hose. Keep a spray bottle of cool water handy, and give yourself a spritz of cool water every once in a while. 

The title of this little essay is not a joke. Life is a joy, and I don't miss air conditioning, ESPECIALLY when I open our electric bill in the summer. The gentle breezes from fans inside the house are refreshing, as is going outside and spraying myself (and others) with the water hose. Abandoning or minimizing your air conditioner habit is a way to increase the quality of your life. As with any other movement towards sustainability, do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Summer 2003, updated and revised May 2005

Until next time...

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30 Days of Summer - Post #3 - Summer Nights

Thursday, June 28, 2018

30 Days of Summer - Post #3 - Summer Nights

"In rhythm with the turning earth, the sun appears to move across the sky from east to west. In late afternoon, as it begins to slip below the horizon, a deep glow of reds, oranges, and yellows flood the western sky beneath a ceiling of blue. 
    Shafts of fading light gradually pull the darkness over the ground and gently nudge the day aside. Night slowly fades into the spaces between branch and twig and blades of grass. Hilltops, treetops, and the sky over fields and meadows are among the last places to be filled with night. You can observe this gradual and impressive transition away from daylight if you take the time to look. Watch as day fades into night first along the floor of forest and field and slowly makes its way up into thickets and around vines, shrubs, and small trees. Watch as darkness continues its rise to the sky. You will see the blue ceiling change form pale blue to cobalt and finally to a black dome punctuated by points of light." 
                            Taken from Discover Nature at Sundown by Elizabeth P. Lawlor

What a beautiful way to end each day!

The First Sunset Of Summer 2018

Of course, I didn't always feel that way about the night. In fact, there have been times in my life, when I was absolutely terrified of it! But not now. Now, I love observing nightfall and all the activity that takes place in the natural world as dusk becomes twilight, twilight turns into night, and the nighttime deepens. It's a whole 'nother world than that of daytime! 

Monday evening, after my husband and I returned home from our granddaughter's birthday party, we decided to go for a walk. It was late (after 10:00) before we got started. First thing out the door we were met by a cute (and very fat) toad that was sitting smack-dab in the middle of the front porch doorstep eating bugs under the porch light. 

As we made our way down the alley that runs between our place and the neighbors, we spotted a fox perfectly silhouetted against the light from the street-light that sits across from where the alley and the next street over meet. What a great start to our walk! 🦊

As we made our way around our usual trek, we observed other creatures of the night in their natural habitat. A chorus of Blanchard's cricket frogs serenaded us as their clickety-clackety voices played against the deeper, rumbling call of bullfrogs, while moths flitted and fluttered as they criss-crossed the path in front of us. Like a band of pixies carrying tiny torches, lightening bugs lit up the edges of the field, summoning us to follow them deeper into the forest, making it easy for us to become mesmerized by them. 
Lightening Bug (also known as a Firefly)
When I was very young, I can remember spending many a summer night chasing lightening bugs in the darkness, catching them, and putting them in a jar (one that had small holes poked in the lid, of course) to sit on the nightstand beside my bed. I delighted in watching their tiny flashing lights as they signaled to each other across the way. I guess I'm not much different now. I actually chased several lightening bugs Monday night before finally catching one. The only difference is, this time, I caught it, observed it's flashing light through my clasped fingers, and promptly let it go. 😊

And the moon! 😲 There is nothing more beautiful on a summer night than a full moon spilling its light over into places that would, otherwise, be hidden deep in shadow. The moon was so bright Monday night that its light actually penetrated the spaces between the leaves of the trees casting itself between their shadows on the forest floor. It was awesome! 🌝

As our nighttime adventure came to a close and my husband and I made our home, we talked of the grandeur of the night sky and the intricacies of the natural world at night. What a beautiful and amazing world that the Lord God created and gave to us to enjoy! 

Until next time...

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Happy Homemaker Monday - June 25, 2018

Monday, June 25, 2018

Happy Homemaker Monday - June 25, 2018

Greetings, Dear Friends! And Happy Last Monday of June! 😊

I hope your week is off to a great start and that you and your family are healthy, happy, and walking in God's greatest blessings! How was your weekend?

My week and weekend was full, but great! Although I never did make it around to cleaning the carpets, I do feel that I got a lot of other things accomplished...which is good!

On Tuesday, my daughter-in-law, who was in the middle of making sour dough bread, called to ask about how to form the bread into loaves. I thought that sounded pretty yummy, so, after we got off the phone, I got my own starter going. It had been ages since I had made sour dough! By Thursday my starter was ready and I made two big loaves. It was so good! I cut each loaf in half. We've been using one half and I froze three halves for later.

Freshly-Baked Sour Dough Bread
I had library programs on Wednesday and worked Friday and Saturday. Yesterday, of course, was church. After lunch, my husband and I took a walk. Then, we spent the afternoon chillin' at home before going to our daughter and son-in-law's for supper. While on our walk we saw the fox again. One of these days I'm going to get a really good picture of it, but, for now, here's the one that I got this time:

Not the best photo of the fox, but, at least I got one. 
It was a nice weekend, but enough about last week. Let's get started on this week's post as we join Sandra and all the other lovely ladies over at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom...shall we?

Today I'm joining Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom and
all of the wonderful ladies of 
Happy Homemaker Monday!
Right now I am...

Waiting on the sugar-water to cool so I can fill the hummingbird feeders, waiting on the last load of laundry to come out of the dryer, finishing my breakfast, enjoying a cup of tea, and working on this post. 

Am thinking...

About our granddaughter, Esther (it's hard to believe that she's 4 today!) and my childhood friend, Dorothy (who will always be older than me...BUT...only by a couple of months) who both have birthdays this week AND our newest granddaughter, who, if everything goes according to plan, should make her debut tomorrow. Our daughter-in-law is scheduled to be at the hospital at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. Prayers over her and the baby would be greatly appreciated...for a quick, smooth, and easy delivery and for complete health and healing over both. Thanks so much!

Miss Esther Rebecca Grace
This picture was taken at last year's birthday lunch with Nana.

Dorothy and I when she came to visit last autumn.
On the breakfast plate...

Cottage cheese on toast, cantaloupe slices, and Irish Breakfast tea

The weather...

Cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms off and on all day. We've had really good chances of rain for the last several days, but have gotten very little. The systems get close to us, divide, and go north and/or south of us. We did get a little bit of rain night before last, but nothing significant. I sure hope we get some today. 

We did get a break from the heat. We've had several days in a row here lately that were actually nice. Right now it's 69 degrees, but the humidity is 99% which still makes everything wet and sticky. Looks like tomorrow we make a return to the 90's with temperatures near 100 by cooler temps were nice while we had 'em, but me thinks they're over! 😰

On my reading pile...

Life in the Spirit Study Bible, The Busy Woman's Guide to Healthy Eating
by Emily Barnes and Sue Gregg, Built to Last by Kenneth W. Hagin, and
Discover Nature at Sundown by Elizabeth P. Lawlor
In addition to daily scripture reading, I am still reading The Busy Woman's Guide to Healthy Eating by Emily Barnes and Sue Gregg. I am also reading Built to Last-How to Build Strong and Lasting Relationships With God, Family, and Friends by Kenneth W. Hagin and Discover Nature at Sundown by Elizabeth P. Lawlor. I will be using this book for a season-long study of what happens in the wild when the sun goes down and the creatures of the night that live there.

On the menu this week...

After the library program on Wednesday, one of the gals that was there blessed me with a box of fresh yellow squash. That same day I was given some fresh green peppers and had picked up a couple of nice zucchini from a friend that grows for a farmer's market. Squash and green peppers will obviously be the stars of this week's menu. 

Monday - birthday supper @ granddaughter's birthday party
Tuesday - spinach and feta turkey burgers, yellow squash casserole, and sauteed peppers and onions
Wednesday - bison fajitas served with homemade tortillas, rice and beans
Thursday - stuffed pepper casserole and steamed broccoli
Friday - troodles (zucchini noodles), sauce, turkey meatballs, and homemade sour dough bread
Saturday - homemade vegetable pizza
Sunday - leftovers

On my 'to do' list...

Normally, I do my home blessing and laundry on Mondays, but I had so much to do today that, after we got home last night, I jumped in and worked until 2:00 a.m. this morning to get it all done and leave the rest of my day free for all the other stuff I've got going on. It was so nice getting up to a super clean house this morning! Maybe I should do that more often! 😊! 😲

- Monday - Plan the week ahead, do my weekly "home blessing", do laundry, take a food inventory, go to the UPS Store (that sounds like a little thing, I know, but, for us, that's a 40 mile round trip), celebrate our granddaughter, Esther's, 4th birthday. I am taking Esther with me to town today so we can have lunch together (I try to do that with each grandchild on, or near, their birthday), then, tonight, is supper and a birthday tea party at her home. Fun! Fun! And Nana can't wait! πŸŽ‚
- Tuesday - Await the birth of our newest granddaughter (Nana can't wait for this one, either!!!) πŸ’—
- Wednesday - Take a friend and family member shopping, return the herp trunk to MDC and, hopefully, pick up the owl trunk for use at daycamp, and, hopefully, see the new baby 😁
- Thursday - Run errands with dh; work on various projects around the house
- Friday - Work
- Saturday - Work
- Sunday - Church; work in the afternoon

In the craft basket...

Am still working on forming grape vine wreaths when I have time. 

A Few of the Grapevine Wreaths That I Am Making
With the Grapevines That My Cousin Gave Me
Looking forward to this week...

Meeting our newest granddaughter for the very first time and celebrating birthdays! πŸ’—

Something interesting I watched...

This news story that featured my little cousin, Kadin, at Hug-A-Herp Day! 🐍🐸🐒

This is the second year that my young cousin, Kadin, and his family have
helped us collect reptiles and amphibians for our annual  Hug-A-Herp Day
at Prairie State Park. This year two news crews showed up to
 film the festivities and Kadin turned out to be the star of the show! 
What I found while surfing the net...

I'm thinking that I need to eliminate this category. I usually only have a couple of places that I visit on-line daily and, unless I'm specifically looking for something (and that's usually for work), I just don't spend too much time surfing the'll see. πŸ˜•

From the camera...

A Frog in the Pond
Scripture passage...

Well, Ladies, that's it for this week! I pray that each and every one of you have a blessed and beautiful week ahead! And I'll see you next week! Have a Happy First Day of Summer! πŸ’—

Until Next Time...

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Introducing the 30 Days of Summer Blog Series

Happy Homemaker Monday - June 11, 2018

Be sure to visit our 30 Days of Summer blog series. To find out more check out this post on Jean's site and this one on mine. Jean and I hope you'll join us in our summertime adventure! 🌞

Saturday, June 23, 2018

30 Days of Summer - Post #2 - Summer Bucket List 2018

Sunflowers Blooming Outside Our Back Door

Once again, the summer season is upon us and, as always, it promises to be a busy one. I have been thinking about some of the things that I'd like to do this summer and some of the things that I hope to accomplish over the course of it. I know that, in reality, I probably won't get to all of them, but having a list will certainly help me to focus on the season and remind me to enjoy it to the fullest! 

" see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand" 
(Luke 21:30).

My Summer Bucket List 2018

1. Write my summer bucket list
2. Welcome another new granddaughter into the family πŸ‘Ά

3. Focus on building strong relationships with family members and friends 
4. Finish the unit that I'm currently on in Rhema and start the final unit before graduation 

5. Take a vacation
6. Eat watermelon πŸ‰
7. Celebrate Independence Day by attending an area city fireworks display πŸŽ†
8. Attend an outdoor concert
9. Hike a new trail
10. Enjoy fresh produce and herbs out of our own garden 🌱
11. Celebrate summer birthdays with the grandlittles (and there are a BUNCH of them!) πŸŽ‚
12. Find creative ways to use up items on-hand (food, craft supplies, paper products, etc.)
13. Attend Project Learning Tree πŸŒ³
14. Visit friends at Truman Lake
15. Go stargazing 🌟
16. Plan and complete summer programs at work:

        a) Hug-A-Herp Day (Reptiles and Amphibians) 🐍🐸🐒
Explorer Daycamp 2018 - Who Gives A Hoot? (Owls) πŸ¦‰
        c) Let's "Stick" Together Library Program (Sticks)
        d) Sunflowers Library Program (Sunflowers) 🌻
        e) Sunflowers a la Petite Prairie Saturday Programs (Van Gogh) 

17. Enjoy a summer storm
18. Celebrate my birthday with a banana split
19. Catch a lightening bug 
20. Do a night hike 🌜

21. Organize our bookshelves
22. Get blinds up on the south-facing windows
23. Make red, white, and blue Jello
24. Go camping with my husband ⛺
25. Build a bonfire πŸ”₯
26. Make S'mores
27. Make a fairy jar

28. Take a walk in the rain ☔
29. Make homemade ice cream
30. Go to a movie

31. Preserve what I can of the summer bounty
32. Grill burgers on an outdoor grill πŸ”
33. Go through, at least, ten totes of stuff that is packed and put away, throw away, give away, or sell
34. Play in cool water on a hot day
35. Have a yard sale
36. Visit Grand Gulf State Park 
37. Do a season-long nature-at-night study using Discover Nature at Sundown by Elizabeth P. Lawlor as my guide 
38. Collect rocks 
39. Observe insects around an outdoor light at night and sketch them 
40. Feel cool grass beneath my feet 

That's what's on my summer bucket list. What's on yours? 

Until next time...

Join Us For Our 30 Days of Summer Blog Series