Wednesday, July 29, 2009

End of July: garden report

CadMur Manor's "Certified Wildlife Habitat" is in peak form and full of activity, even when Siegfried From KAOS and Sheba aren't living wildly outdoors.

This year's winners include the usual suspects: purple coneflowers, milkweed, lamium purple dragon, bee balm, Jupiter's beard, creeping juniper, Eastern prickly pear, shrub roses, May night sage, joe pye weed, itea sweetspire, hydrangea bush, clematis, moonflower, butterfly bushes, river birch, kousa dogwood, sweetbay magnolia and Japanese maple. All looking good. And, we've mulched and stayed on top of the weeds.

Our rhododendrons not so much. One looks good, but its two neighbors are not happy. Need to figure a solution for them next year.

While the creeping phlox is okay, the standing phlox and the hydrangea bushes have become deer salad. These had not been disturbed (much) in previous years. I'm happy to accommodate our white-tailed visitors (as well as the rabbits) in keeping with our goal of being a habitat for wildlife, but Sophie would prefer they find something else to eat, somewhere else to go. We have had more deer scat here than any of the 9 previous summers. And as I said in a previous post, they may be less fearful of visiting since we put up new "window treatments" to try to keep Siegfried and Sheba from going crazy all the time at anything that moves outside.

We're both happy with all the other wildlife we've attracted this year, including a host of birds (including hummingbirds and some nesting house wrens), a variety of bees, a few wasps and other insects, moths, monarchs and other butterflies, and an occasional squirrel, chipmunk or field mouse. And snakes. I've only seen garter snakes, but I found a handsome shedded skin in our holly, too long I think to have come from a garter. I'm not sure what else it may have come from. And I have not seen two of my favorites: luna moths (which have a one-week lifespan during the adult stage, in early June) or clearwing hummingbird moths (which have been very common here in all of the previous summers).
If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by for a visit and tour of the garden. We'd love to see you.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I Want my HVAC... follow-up

Watch those repair guys, watch how they do it
They fiddle all day with my HVAC
My system ain't workin' gotta fix it or replace it
Cool air is really somethin', and it gonna cost me

Now my system ain't workin', fix it or replace it
I know I can't fix it 'cause that just ain't me
I call a guy over, he look at my system
Maybe find it maybe fix it, if he find the leak
Maybe find it maybe fix it...
Maybe find it maybe fix it...

I want my... I want my HVAC
I want my... I want my HVAC

Next guy he want to, install a brand new system
Energy efficient, cool air for me, but...
He don't seem cool, he just keep talkin', and
He say he want six thousand dollars from me

This other guy, he say, the leak is in the coil
I make it good as new and you pay me my fee
You should get a new coil, a lot less expensive --
Only nine hundred dollars for recycled AC

I want my... I want my... I want my HVAC
By early last week we had done all the calculations and were ready to replace the coil, which, we were told, was so damaged with leaks that it couldn't be repaired. And then came Mike, a man with a plan. A friend of Sophie's cousin George, Mike repairs a/c units for businesses and homeowners. Without looking at our unit, he says, "I'll fix the leak(s) in an hour or so. Don't get a new coil until I look at it." He shows up Friday
morning. Does the bubble test (by shooting nitrogen into the
system and spraying a sticky fluid where the suspected leaks are as well as other possible places -- escaping gas creates bubbles at the site of the leak). Finds three leaks and brazes them. Tests system. Vacuums whatever gas and impurities are in the system, and shoots 5 pounds of R-22 refrigerant into the system. He's there two hours and charges $200, which is $150 for refrigerant @ $30 a pound and $50 for his time. Cool.

Mike doesn't look a thing like this guy

System works fine as of today. We don't have the latest and greatest, but at 10 years old, it's an efficient 10 SEER system that works well with a high-efficiency furnace. Both products are made by Lennox. And, we use our programmable thermostat such that it doesn't run except when it's really uncomfortable, and we're home. If the repairs hold out as Mike says they will (and we service the unit every year or two to keep it in shape) we will replace both our furnace and the a/c unit in 10 or so years, when we can match speeds / stages and take advantage of advances in efficiencies and technology that occur between now and then.
This is very similar to the coil in our system

Bottom line: you better shop around
We talked to six vendors. We got three estimates before hiring Mike with his $200 fix. Two vendors said to replace the coil for approximately $800 to $1,000. The third vendor, who told us in error that the unit was beyond repair, wanted $6,000 for a new a/c system (not including the furnace). Even had we bought the 18 SEER two-stage system he recommended, it would not work correctly with our existing furnace, even though he said it would.

Total costs for our 2009 repair job
$160 service call / refrigerant, w dye pack, 6/25
$80 service call to find leak, 7/9
$200 repair & re-charge w refrigerant, 7/17
$440 total

When Brand X was out here July 9, the service guy reinstalled the panel door covering the coil above the furnace, after he had found the leak and told us our options. But, he had trouble putting the screws back in place and told me he wanted to drill new screws to hold it tighter. He did so and left. Next day, the a/c didn't work. All the refrigerant leaked out, right through the new hole he accidentally screwed into the copper pipe behind the access panel. Whoops!
This is an update to Learning how to be cool, June 24

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bean picking in the 'hood

I met our friend Susie to pick green and white beans, in a community garden a couple miles north of Mill Creek in Slavic Village. Our vacationing Mill Creek friends and neighbors have a couple of plots there and asked me to harvest whatever I could while they're away, in Russia. Susie and I filled half of a cloth grocery bag in no time. Susie took her share leaving me still with more beans than I know what to do with.

The fenced-in and locked garden, consisting of a dozen or so small plots of about 120 square feet each, is across from a neatly kept Barkwill Community Park near East 55th and Broadway. Garden and park are a small oasis in one of the most impoverished areas of Cleveland, where empty, boarded-up homes stand in testimony to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and current economic crisis.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Targeted home security

An uncovered garage window is an open invitation to nefarious persons to come have a look inside to see what kind of cars, lawnmowers, snowblowers and work tools might be available for the taking. A garage with no cars could be another signal to see what's inside the house. To prevent such window shopping, I found a neat solution, putting up a souvenir I took home from a day at the Shaker Heights Police shooting range. Perfect fit! I had a pretty nice grouping with those 10 or so rounds, if I say so myself.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Barb Craver's Resolve -- In Memoriam

In the early 90s, my former wife and I visited the home of Barb and Mike Craver in Berea, for a special occasion -- perhaps a birthday or holiday party. My contemporaries and friends, Craver siblings Doug and Cheryl, were in their 20s or early 30s and out in the work world, visiting mom and dad at home for the occasion along with several of their friends, including us. As people mingled and ate -- the primary activities in any Craver home -- Doug and Cheryl's grandmother, whom Doug had dubbed, The Gatekeeper, was there, and when nobody was looking she just kind of lost her balance and fell backward, near the kitchen, her head making a gentle thud sound as it made contact with the carpeted floor.

The noise was loud. Conversation abruptly stopped as our eyes searched to determine the source of the thud, not immediately noticing the person laying horizontally on her back beneath our gaze, her eyes staring calmly at the ceiling. After a moment, she let out a muffled, "Oh," which gave away her location. Several family members rushed to her side to see what had happened, as blood began to soak and then puddle in the carpet around The Gatekeeper's head. It looked serious.

Most impressive in action was Barb. Apparently, she had prepared to deal with this type of traumatic event because she took charge immediately, clearing people from around The Gatekeeper and kneeling next to her, looking down intently to determine what level of trauma may have been at hand and how to deal with it. I had never seen Barb move so quickly or act so decisively. Perhaps she had special emergency medical training, necessary for her work as a drug and alcohol counselor. Like everyone else, I stood in awe, awaiting orders from the self-appointed Commander, perhaps to call 9-1-1, get ice, boil water, tear sheets. Within seconds, Barb had seen enough. Bolting upright, she searched the crowd, settling on the first person in her line of sight. "Joanne!" she said excitedly. "We were just talking about this... do you think that Resolve carpet cleaning spray will work to get this blood out of the carpeting?"

An instant later when she realized how absurd her temporarily misplaced priorities appeared to be, she laughed at herself. The humor among the onlookers was strained at first. No one yet knew whether an ambulance was required. Until that moment, Barb had not given a thought to relaying what she saw: blood aside, the fall hadn't harmed The Gatekeeper, much. Barb assessed that she'd be fine and simply moved on to the next priority, which of course was restoring the carpet to its normal condition. Barb attempted to assuage everyone's concern for The Gatekeeper; she was fine, really. As the message sunk in, the laughter spread, growing louder and longer. Barb often squinted her eyes so tightly as she laughed (and sometimes cried simultaneously) when something really struck her as funny. This was one of those times.

Moments later as The Gatekeeper sat safely in a chair and iced down her bumped head, Barb followed directions from the back side of her newly purchased carpet cleaning product, still excited at the chance to really put it to the test. She removed every ounce of blood, proud of herself and her product. This was Resolve's inaugural use in the Craver household. Probably not its last.

I loved the way Barb Craver could laugh at herself and see the many absurdities that happen simply by living life on life's terms. She wasn't always comfortable in her own skin, she had once told me. But she grew to be so over many years and through much effort and help from her higher power and others. Never taking herself too seriously and being so authentic and generous with herself and her gifts, she was a great example to me and countless others. I'm so glad Doug introduced me to his mom, Barb Craver, 23 years ago. She'll always be a part of who I am.

Barb Craver founded and headed UMACC in 1976, to help others beat their addictions to drugs and alcohol, shortly after she began her own recovery from prescription pills and alcohol. She was one of the first -- if not the first -- intervention specialist in Cleveland, and earned both compliments and scorn from colleagues in the field of recovery for her then-new and unconventional technique of confronting addicted people along with family and friends with rehearsed and scripted straight talk and a plan of action for the person's recovery. She was a frequent guest on local TV shows, appearing as an authority on addiction and recovery. Scores of sober people and thousands of their friends and family give credit to Barb for her successful assistance. She died peacefully in hospice, July 7, surrounded by family.

photo of Barb Craver courtesy of Doug Craver

-- Steve Cadwell, July 8, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Window treatments

Jack Russell Terriers are excitable in the same way water is wet or rocks are hard. Theirs is a natural phenomenon that never, ever varies under normal conditions. Doesn't take much to get the attention of our dynamic duo. And designing a backyard to attract wildlife has had the effect of presenting to them an endless stream of diverse distractions, just outside the comfortable confines of the Manor. Bird, rabbit, dear, chipmunk, mouse, fox, squirrel, shadow, leaf. The shadow of a leaf. And human-induced disturbances: meter-reader, neighbor, dog, cat. If it moves, Sheba and Siegfried want to check it out, in tandem. Immediately. Fervently. Desperately. Did I say now! They're not shy about letting us know. Especially Sheba.

Out of sheer frustration and in an attempt to diminish the frequent bedlam, a month ago Sophie taped newspaper to the bottom one-third of our back faux French doors, resulting in a more peaceful and serene household. Not a long-term solution; at least not intended to be.

Like every great innovation in history, Sophie's solution has at least one unintended consequence. Those huge urban rodents people call deer are decimating our perennial flowers like never before -- all since the installation of these view blockers. Coincidence?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Today at CadMur Manor

Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on Jupiter's beard (Centranthus ruber). Also pictured: purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and bee balm (Monarda didyma).