ANTS, ANTS, ANTS in my PLANTS!

The ants have been TERRIBLE this year. I’ve tried insecticide sprays and Diatomaceous Earth. However those treatments don’t kill the queen so the nest continues. Then someone recommended Terro Ant Baits. I’ve tried baits before without much success. Then a guy from North Carolina posted his photo on Twitter of using one style of Terro bait. So I checked YouTube for similar videos. Surprise! There’s a lot of such videos of ants going nuts over the sugary Borax mixture.

Home Depot only carried the flat indoor-style bait so I bought a box of that style and put them outside. I laid a rock on each to hold them in place. They worked very well as the liquid was depleted within a few days. I found the outdoor stake-style at another store and now have 8 of them in place around the outside of my home where I’ve seen ants. I made this short video of the last stake I put into place. The nest immediately attacked it! I installed the stake on Saturday. Today is Tuesday and I’m seeing only a few stragglers. This Terro bait really works!

Trick to Weathering Wood Overnite

I have a split-rail fence as required by my subdivision. It’s now 20 years old and was again in need of replacing some rotted fence posts and rails. When I’ve had this work done in years past, I had to live with a “new wood” look until it also aged over time. Because I had so many posts and rails replaced this time I went to Home Depot with the intent of finding a suitable “weathered” stain. One of the salesmen told me that stain wouldn’t really work well. Instead he showed me a YouTube video giving instructions on weathering using white vinegar and steel wood pads. Sounds odd but I found many such videos so apparently I’m the last to know this trick.

I bought a half-gallon of vinegar and used 4 steel wool pads. In one of the videos I watched, it was suggested that if a darker color was desired to make black tea and spray it on the wood first. I didn’t want to do that plus I had only regular tea so I put 7 tea bags in the vinegar mixture. I put a lid on the container then let it sit for 24 hrs. I poured the mix into an all-purpose spray bottle I had on hand then sprayed all the new wood. VOILA!

weathering new wood on old fence
fence post weathering
In the photo all the top rails are new and the post on the right is new. They look a little different than the 20-year old rails but look a whole lot less obvious than the new wood did. They turned this color within a few hours. The photo below shows another sprayed post as it compares to a leftover of a new wood post. Pretty amazing isn’t it!

I do have a couple cautions.

1) Wear gloves because the spray will stain your hands, nails & especially cuticles. It also can stain kitchen counters. Use Chlorox!

2) The fibers from the steel wool may periodically clog the spray bottle’s tube so you may need to check the bottom of the suction tube to remove the fibers.

Spring is for Transplanting

This Spring I’ve been busy in the yard. There were plants that needed moved because they had overgrown their space or they weren’t doing well in their spot. I also had to replace a large Butterfly Bush that didn’t make it through the winter. Rather than move two large hostas I gave them to my insurance agent during a meeting I had with him. Actually I told him he could have them for his new home IF he came and dug them up.Spruce & Pear Trees

Last fall I had to have Davey Tree cut down one of my large spruce trees. The trees had been planted too closely and in an arc. The middle one of the 5 trees wasn’t getting enough sun anymore so it looked very bad. Removing it would allow the two trees beside it to get more sun and space. My wonderful neighbor volunteered to cut the stump out. It was an afternoon of really hard work and I certainly appreciated it.

Ligularia

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The Ligularia that I planted 2 years ago had grown much larger than I thought they would plus they were in a spot where I had to walk by them to reach the garden hose and a bird feeder. The leaves are easily damaged so they needed to be moved to a spot where I didn’t walk by them. So I moved them to the empty space where the spruce tree was. So far they are doing great. Their tall daisy-like flowers should look very pretty in this mass display.

Ninebark and Summersweet

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The Ligularia was originally planted next to the back of the house where the dead Butterfly Bush was. I wanted a tall plant to replace the Butterfly Bush so I chose a Vanilla Spice Summersweet shrub. It is to get up to 6 ft tall and wide. It has white fragrant flowers in late summer and is favored by butterflies and hummingbirds.

Orangeade Potentilla

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There were 3 Spireas in front of the Spruces which never did well so I moved them to another spot. In their place I put 5 Orangeade Potentillas. They’ve already started to bloom in the three weeks they’ve been in the ground. Whenever I plant flowers and shrubs I always use one of the types of Miracle-Gro soils and Miracle-Gro fertilizer so they have a good start. Butterflies are supposed to like Potentilla. We’ll see.

I’ve also divided some very large Hostas and put the divided portions within the Spruce bed and moved some dwarf Barberries in the front yard. I AM NOW DONE! (until I decide to do something else)

EDIT UPDATE: This is what the Orangeade Potentilla looks like 2 weeks later. Very pretty!

Orangeade Potentilla

Is Your Shower Spray Slow?

To continue with my plumbing focus, I purchased a new kitchen faucet and a new faucet for my shower stall. Had a local plumbing company install them since this was beyond my abilities. I love both of the new faucets!
city water crud plugs shower faucet
What I want to alert you to is what we found when the plumber removed the short pipe that holds the shower head. The circle piece is the flange that is flat against the wall. The center pipe then curves downward to hold the spray part of the shower head. Notice the calcium crud that is filling the pipe! That is affecting the water flow coming out of the shower plus it’s just gross!

Once I got over the shock of seeing this crud, I remembered that was the same water I was using to brush my teeth and drink! I use CLR every so often to clean the shower head and faucet aerators but I never though about looking into the pipes delivering the water! So I held a mirror under the two bath faucets to see if they also had the calcium deposits. They did, so I soaked them in CLR also.

I have city water for which I pay $46+ per month. I think residents deserve cleaner water! By the way, my shower now puts out a whole lot more water now!

My rant against faucet manufacturers

I’m going to continue my plumbing theme … or perhaps I should say my frustration with the manufacturers of faucets and handles. Bear with me!

shower faucetThis is a photo of the handle in my shower stall. It’s pretty typical of what builders install. I would like to replace the knob with a lever. It would seem that I could just remove the knob then buy a lever and put it on. Not true. There are “universal” levers but they don’t fit this Kohler unit. Why don’t manufacturers make the unit such that handles can be interchanged? That seems like a simple request!

In order to get a lever handle here’s what has to happen:

  • I must buy a completely whole new unit including a cartridge – $$$.
  • A plumber must cut an access hole in the wall opposite the faucet. (In my home that wall is slightly visible from my living room.)
  • Then they replace the cartridge that connects the 2 water pipes. (Cartridges are unique to each faucet style. WHY?)
  • Then the plumber replaces the new fixture and lever onto the new cartridge.
  • The plumber will place a plastic access panel over the hole but they won’t do the drywall work. I would have to do that or I would have to figure out how to conceal the panel by hanging a picture or mirror.

In order to get a $25 lever I would have to spend well over $200 plus drywall work (which I can do). As I joked with the plumber, I’m convinced the manufacturers are in cahoots with the Plumbers Union to make these units such that an ordinary do-it-yourselfer can’t make minor repairs. Plus the manufacturers make more money on a complete faucet versus just a handle.

I would like to have bronzed faucets like the one I just put in the half bath. But that’s out because the separate tub with chrome fixtures does not have an access panel either so ceramic tile would have to be cut to access it’s cartridge. I don’t even want to think about THAT mess! Guess I’ll just live with chrome and ball handles!

I’m still pretending to be a plumber!

I’m a glutton for punishment! My half bath needed an update from the plain chrome faucet with plastic ball handles. I also was tired of the gawd-awful builder-grade glued ceramic/plastic towel rod and TP holder. I watched various videos on installing faucets to see if I could do it. As with my earlier Korky installation, the videos make it seem much easier than it really is. I also believe the job would be much easier with a 2nd person to help with the above-the-sink holding-things-in-place job.

pipes under bathroom sinkFirst problem is the small size of the cabinet in a half bath. Crawling in it to reach the gizmos holding the faucet in place is a challenge and requires a sturdy pillow to prevent pain on shoulder blades. Regular wrenches are useless. However, in the videos I watched I was introduced to two very handy tools.

tools needed to remove faucetsThe first is a Rigid Faucet & Sink Installer (red tool in photo). Follow that link to Rigid and you can watch a video of how versatile this tool is. In my case it didn’t work to get the nut off when I was removing the old faucet because my copper pipes were curved. This tool only works with straight pipes that can go in the tool’s opening. But once the pipe was removed, I could then use it for the piece that screws up tight against the sink. It worked just great when installing the new faucet.

The other metal tool is called a basin wrench. It can be extended to reach the top hex nut when arms are too short. The top black part has wrench teeth to grip the nut while you turn the bottom rod to leverage your strength. That top also flips over to other side depending on the direction you need the teeth to grip.

Delta Porter bath faucet

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I’ve partially got the new Delta faucet installed. Looks good from the top! Underneath I’m still working on it. The flexible connectors that I bought to replace the copper pipe is not fitting the pipe fitting that comes out from the wall. It seems the threads may differ. I may need to visit a plumbing store or last resort call a REAL plumber! 😦

I did just fine in removing the old GLUED towel & TP rods. I used a box cutter to slice around the glued parts so when I eased the ceramic off it wouldn’t tear off a large piece of drywall paper. I applied spackle a couple times, sanding in between each layer. Then I covered the spackle with a primer and sanded again. Finally I rolled on the paint to match the walls. When dry, I installed the rods. VOILA!

UPDATE EDIT: I called a plumber to help with the final connectors. He was impressed with my tools (pictured) and thought I did a great job considering how narrow my cabinet was. He said I did the hard part. That made me feel good.