Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Retrofitting lighting — adding LEDs

July 19, 2013

IMG_3282We have had some seriously ugly and dated lighting in our dining room.  It was so ugly, that two of the lamps tried to run away to hide.  One got as far as the laundry room, but the other only made it a few feet away from the mother fixture.  Operated by a different switch.  On another circuit.  Why?  I don’t know.

With a new paint job, and reconfiguring this room a little (more on that later) the time had IMG_3318come to replace the lighting.  Which is harder than it should be — lighting seems to fall into 2 categories, inexpensive and unattractive, or beautiful and wildly expensive.  Naturally, I have an eye for the wildly expensive.

IMG_3330We thought we’d replace the runaway light with a recessed can light, to minimize the appearance.  Either that, or make it go away all together.  Wandering the aisles of Home Depot, we came across a knowledgeable employee, who introduced us to what we eventually selected — a retrofit LED can light.  This light is an engineering marvel.  It is a shallow fixture, designed for supremely easy installation into a standard 4-inch junction box.  No cutting a bigger hole and all the rigmarole that comes with retrofitting a can light.  The light is generated by a computer chip via the four tiny yellow diodes seen on the open lamp in the photo on the right.  The computer chip is beneath, protected by the lamp housing.  The plastic light diffusing lens snaps back into place following installation.  It is amazingly bright.

Of course, in our situation it wasn’t quite that easy (because it never is).  The junction boxes in our dining room were 3-inch boxes, sigh.  This required IMG_3361swapping them out for modern 4-inch boxes, not difficult, just another step in what was supposed to be an easy task.  Ah well, that’s how it usually goes.  While Dan replaced the box, I painted the lights to match the new ceiling color.   Soon enough the runaway was replaced.  The IMG_3360other lamp, by the doors to the dining room/kitchen and the laundry room, is also in, but we still need to do a little ceiling repair to smooth out the ceiling where the old light fixture was. That fixture was not my favorite style, but OK, just a little big for the space, and several times suffered close calls with destruction when we were moving furniture, lumber, etc.  So that light moved upstairs to a bedroom which needed an update.

Finally, we replaced the main light fixture.  This was the difficult one, we looked and looked but could not find something we liked for less than $350, way over budget.  Finally, Dan had a brilliant idea.  We selected a basic boob light, and around it, we’ll stencil a subtle mariner’s compass.  The boob light will become the center of the compass and will look far less boobish.  We both love the idea.  So for now, the boob light is installed, sans stencil.  I hope we’ll get to it soon.

Overall, I’m really pleased.  The LED lights use far, far less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs.  The can lights really are not very noticeable in the ceiling, yet we have light when we need it.  The light quality is not the same, even with warm LED bulbs — it is a little too reminiscent of the dreadful compact fluorescent bulbs of a few years ago that made us all look ill, but for lights that are primarily used for a purpose rather than general lighting, they work.  I would highly recommend the LED fixture for anyone looking to replace traditional lighting with can lights, these are terrific.

A waiting game

July 18, 2013

Picture 38Holy heck it’s hot!  First a cool damps spring, then an overnight switch into hot & humid have marked our summer here at Henbogle.  The very wet June has led to a bumper crop if mosquitoes and biting flies, here, IMG_3296and those, combined with the  heat and humidity during the day, are making gardening exceptionally unpleasant.

The garden grows, though a lot of things got off to a very slow start.  Still, the shallots look good, the potatoes are blossoming, there are green tomatoes on the vine, and the spring broccoli and cauliflower was good.  The broccoli, though, even my beloved Piracicaba, has been slow to give me side shoots.

The snap peas came and went in a flash, and I’ve had some destructive nibbling of my lettuce crop, so garden eating hasn’t been super to date.  It is a IMG_3301good thing I’ve got fabulous nearby farms and farm markets.  Late blight has been confirmed in Western Massachusetts, sigh, meaning it is more than likely we’ll have it here sooner than later. I’ll hope I can get some new IMG_3297potatoes and fried green tomatoes if nothing else.

Of course the weeds are flourishing with the early plentiful rain and hit weather/absent weeder.  Sigh.  Dan Man and I watered and weeded a bit last night, until the biting flies drove me inside.  The watering brought on a nice thundershower, so the other gardens we did not water got some needed rain, and we got a lovely light show.  No such luck that the storm would usher in cooler air, we have more of the same until Sunday.

At least inside we have air conditioning on the first floor, so we’ve been IMG_3305keeping busy with painting and house projects.  I’ve got some dear old friends coming to visit next week, so Henbogle is being buffed and waxed to a glow.  More on that next.

A quick peek at the garden

June 26, 2013

IMG_3177I snapped some photos early in the day Monday and Tuesday.  The garden is looking good, except for a couple of weedy patches that need major remediation.

The shallots are looking good despite the late planting and their being nearly over grown by weeds.  The first IMG_31782 years I grew them I planted them in the fall for overwintering (2010 and 2011).  After being away all summer, the fall was crazy and I did not get them planted, so Dan helped me get the shallots in on May 6 in hopes of at the very least having a fall seed crop.  They don’t look quite as lush as they did in June 2011, but I’m happy, especially as they have regrouped nicely after a thorough Dan-man weeding, followed by a good watering, treatment of fish emulsion, and mulching with grass clippings.

The potatoes, planted last Monday, are up and after a rain shower are even bigger than pictured.  More rain IMG_3180showers are predicted today, after which I’ll fill them in with some more soil to encourage more taters.  My cukes, zucchini and Futsu Black winter squash are up.  I was fortunate to discover some Johnny’s Diva cukes at a local nursery, and purchased some when my Socrates cukes, in the back of the first tomato cage cuke trellis, were slow to sprout.  Since then, two of the three Socrates cukes have sprouted but I’ll leave them just in case.  I have room for an additional cuke trellis for a later planting if the striped cucumber beetles are bad.

IMG_3182I also discovered some Flying Saucers summer squash at the same nursery that had the Diva cukes, and purchased them as I had forgotten to buy seed.  I love their nutty flavor and funky shape.  I’ve got the squashes all covered with floating row cover to deter the striped cucumber beetles and squash bugs.  I’ll pull the cover when the plants begin to blossom.  I’d like to make some kind of cover for the trellised cukes, but haven’t managed that yet, and given the extensive home improvement project list, it probably won’t happen this year.  Ah well.

Today it is very humid and sticky, as it was yesterday, ugh.  Perfect weather for sanding our living room floor.  NOT, but oh well.  I’m working on the edges today but the majority of the sanding is done and looks great.  When and if we have a break from the humidity, we’ll put on some polyurethane, and until then, we take our shoes off at the door.

Good advice well heeded

June 5, 2013

IMG_3110Daphne gave me good advice.  With the threat of 3+ inches of rain approaching over the weekend from a tropical storm and an army of weeds standing between me and planting, I was feeling IMG_3111overwhelmed.

Daphne said If you aren’t sure you will get the weeding done on the beds that aren’t planted up yet, cover them in black plastic right now…. At least they won’t go to seed and make the problem worse. And the plastic will keep the beds from being too wet when you want to work them.

Before my dentist appointment this morning I managed to prep two beds and lay down the plastic mulch.  I even managed to plant my pepper seedlings.

This evening, Dan turned over most of the rest of the beds and covered them with plastic tarps to keep the rain off.  I hope this will make it possible to work in the garden once the worst of the rain passes.

Thanks, Daphne!  And thanks Dan, too.IMG_3112


May 14, 2013

alewifeSpring is alewife season in Maine.  No, it isn’t when we go hunting for the wives of ale-drinkers or -makers, it is when the alewives, a sea-going fish in the herring family, using their sense of smell, return to the freshwater lakes and ponds where they were spawned to themselves spawn. IMG_2985 Alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus), are fairly small fish of less than a foot in length, whose number used to be so great that bears would wade into streams to eat their fill as the millions of fish made their way upstream.  They have long been smoked and preserved for winter use, or harvested for lobster bait in Maine, but the damming of Maine’s rivers and streams for energy interrupted their passage and the number of alewives has plummeted in recent years.

Maine is working to restore the populations of alewives and other sea-running fish by dam removal aerialand the construction of fish ladders and passageways.  Even in the 12 years I’ve lived next to the Kennebec River, several dams have been removed, hastening the return of salmon and even sturgeon to the river.  Community groups, municipalities and state and federal agencies are working together to restore fish passageways and fish ladders across the state to keep the alewife and other sea-run fish from extinction.  IMG_3020

Sunday we took Dan’s mom to the historic Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder to see the alewives. The ladder allows the fish to pass from Great Salt Bay into the ladder, marked with a yellow arrow in the photo, and then upstream along the yellow line into Damariscotta Lake at the second arrow.

A coalition of local community groups has been working hard to restore the ladder and educate IMG_3028the public about the alewives and the role they play in the ecosystem.  It is an amazing, inspiring sight.  Thousands of fish fill the stream, swimming as one body, packed so closely together it is difficult to see them as individuals when you first look.  The new fish ladder is engineered to add oxygen the water and has 8 resting pools where the plucky fish can catch their breath, so to speak, before continuing.  Netting over the pools prevents eagles, osprey, seagulls and other birds from excessive snacking as the fish make their way up the ladder.  The fish IMG_3033ladder is abutted by homes on one side.  In the photo above you can see some of the resting pools looking down the ladder.  At the top of the fish ladder is a concrete dam.  The alewives fight their way through a small opening in the dam into Damariscotta Lake.  After all their struggles to return to the lake, they are met with hungry ducks and cormorants (as seen in the photo) eager to dine.   The alewives form large schools, and eventually move to quiet water to spawn.  After spawning, the fish return to the sea, IMG_3041traveling downstream tail first, much like they traveled upstream.  A female alewife might lay 60,000 to 100,000 eggs, but only a tiny fraction survive to adulthood.  It is truly an amazing journey.

(above aerial photo from the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder Restoration webpage, my graphics added)

Henbogle’s new theme song

May 13, 2013

Thank you, Jimmy Fallon for being one of the funniest people on the planet.


Truer words…

May 9, 2013

were never spoken. Or written.


Urban greens are on the rise

April 9, 2013

I just read this story about a new urban farming operation sprouting up.  Gotham Greens will build a greenhouse on the rooftop of an industrial building in Jamaica, Queens.  How cool is that!

Maine makes the Colbert Report

March 5, 2013

Maine is a big small town, and astonishingly, when some research materials were stowed in the wrong vehicle last fall, a few Facebook friends made it easy for the researcher to re-connect with her research.  Somehow, the Colbert Report picked up on this unlikely story, put their special twist on the tale, and there you have it.  In yet another small town connection, it turns out that Gail is Dan’s grad school professor.  This is definitely worth seeing — it is hilarious!

Snowy weekend

February 25, 2013

The forecast initially called for 1-3 inches, then 4-6, then 6-8.  By the time the last snowflake fell, we had over a foot of snow.  It was very pretty this morning.  Twenty five days until spring!  I’m hearing the spring bird calls, it is coming.IMG_2727