February 18, 2013

new (to us) fruit trees

2013.02_fruit tree tags
As I mentioned earlier, we inherited five fruit young trees from the previous owner:
  • pear (red sensation bartlett)
  • peach (diamond princess)
  • apricot (patterson)
  • cherry (2x bing semi-dwarf)
The tags contain some information: the peach and pear are self-pollinating; the cherries are on semi-dwarf root-stock; but not much else. I'd like to geek out and know allll the details. As you can probably tell from the remainder of this post.
We got in on a friends' order with a nursery, so we'll have two bare-root apple starts coming in April:
Interestingly, I learned this about dwarf rootstock from Alexis Ziegler's book:
"Dwarfs may have other problems as well. They are less vigorous, and may become stunted and unproductive if they are stressed early in life. With apples in particular, the wise choice is to simply avoid dwarfs. If you have a very limited space, get a semi-dwarf and prune it when it's dormant. That's basically what commercial orchards do."  
The Crimsoncrisp and Winecrisp should produce about a month apart–check out this cool maturity chart from Adams County Nursery.

The late winter is the ideal time for pruning, so I'm getting ready to do that. Unfortunately, I can't tell any of them apart since they're all dormant and I don't yet know their barks:
I'm looking for books/resources on pruning and tool recommendations. So far, I've looked at Growing Fruit Naturally by Lee Reich. I also might check out his "The Pruning Book."

Funny, I just started listening to The Botany of Desire chapter on apples and had an urge to rewrite this post from the point of view of the apples–evolving to be sweet and tasty enough to entice me into planting them!

criss-cross cables toque

Last year I bought some yarn made from alpaca wool from a local farm. This winter Julie picked out a pattern for me to crochet her a hat. It was the most complicated pattern I had ever seen. (Thanks to Lara Sue on ravelry for sharing the pattern)

I learned quite a few new stitches and now it is complete! I've come a long way from the one-stitch-only hats I made in high school.

February 16, 2013

huge old tv antenna

What should I do with this old TV antenna that I found in the attic? Could I use it for an FM radio antenna?

February 15, 2013

dried gourd vessel - too brittle

2013.02_gourd drying
I dried out this lumpy gourd that we got in our CSA back in October. I was hoping to use it for drinking mate, even though it is lumpy and mate gourds are usually smooth. Anyway, it was pretty brittle and cracked when I tried sawing the top off with a serrated knife. Maybe lumpy gourds are not cut out to be vessels, or I should cut it before fully dry, or maybe I just need to be more careful. We have a gooseneck gourd that I'll be trying to cut next.

February 14, 2013

Fruit Tree eBook by Alexis Ziegler

Several years ago, I came across this free ebook, Perennial Food, Easy and Reliable Methods for Growing and Propagating Fruits and Nuts, by Alexis Ziegler. Now that we have fruit trees (we inherited one pear, one peach, one apricot, and two cherry trees from the previous owner), I've been revisiting this book for tips on selecting and growing fruit trees. The author lives in Virginia, and some of the content is directed towards that climate region, but there's plenty of useful information for all climate zones. I enjoyed the book's direct-to-the-point and slightly unconventional tone that makes it unique from what you might find at the library or bookstore. Do you have any recommendations for books on growing fruit trees?

February 11, 2013

phased DER: energy audit

a slow and steady deep energy retrofit
making your home super energy-efficient doesn’t have to be super expensive

2012.12_home_energy audit
In order to take advantage of incentives like the Colorado ENERGY STAR Mortgage, we needed to have an energy audit done as part of the closing process, in order to identify the highest priority improvements. This was really fun for me since I've done quite a few energy audits in my day and we had a great auditor. I even guessed the blower door result within 50 cfm! Our utility, Xcel Energy currently has a $200 rebate (about half the cost) for energy audits.  Energy audits vary in their composition, but usually include an inspection of insulation levels, heating/cooling system efficiency, utility bill analysis, and often a blower door test and thermal imaging. The photo above shows the red canvas blower door, which pressurizes or depressurizes a building in order to measure it's air tightness.
A thermal imaging camera (or infrared camera) can be a useful tool for identifying leakage locations or spots with missing insulation. In the image below, you can see that the ceiling joists are colder than the surrounding ceiling, suggesting that there is insulation on the attic floor, but that it isn't deep enough to cover the joists.
2012.12_home energy audit

There wasn't anything too surprising in the audit report. The prioritized list of improvements is shown below. Topping the list is air leakage sealing, adding more attic insulation, and crawlspace wall insulation, so these will be our priorities in the coming months.
2012.12_home energy audit priorities
Click to see all posts in this series:
a slow and steady deep energy retrofit

February 9, 2013

phased DER: financial incentives

a slow and steady deep energy retrofit
making your home super energy-efficient doesn’t have to be super expensive

Colorado has some great incentives for making energy efficiency improvements to your home. First of all, we decided to do the Colorado ENERGY STAR Mortgage program, which is paying for almost half of our wall insulation, attic insulation, and air sealing work (~$1,500 value). On top of that, we're expecting to receive $1,310 in rebates through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program via our electric and gas utility (list of rebates pictured above).

Both of the programs require the work to be done by a certified contractor, so those three measures (wall insulation, attic insulation, and air sealing) won't be DIY projects. There will be plenty of other projects for us to do though! The Colorado ENERGY STAR Mortgage requires the work be done within 90 days, so that gives us motivation to get things done sooner rather than later.

Click to see all posts in this series:
a slow and steady deep energy retrofit