Sunday, 13 January 2013

The eco-friendly, green kitchen REVEAL!!!!

We are finally done! The kitchen is completely finished except for some DIY blinds but they can wait.

We love our new kitchen. We really enjoy the extra counter space we gained and being able to cook at the same time. I am not a big fan of open concept, but I must admit that by removing the wall between the kitchen and the living room the space just filled up with light. It's so pleasant. There is nothing comparable to the morning sun shining through your kitchen while making breakfast. Here are the before and after pics.



After - cabinet extended 

Before - kitchen as an enclosed room
After - wall removed and open concept created
After - the view from the living room
Newly installed shelf by Misha

 Here is a list of the green renovation products that we have used and where we got them from:
  1. DRYWALL - CertainTeed Easi-Lite™ Lightweight Gypsum GreenGuard Certified. Purchased from Rona. Read about it HERE
  2. ULTRATOUCH COTTON INSULATION- Used as a wall insulator. Purchased from Eco Building Resource. Read about it HERE
  3. FORMALDEHYDE-FREE CABINETS - Custom made using PureBond plywood from Columbia Forest Products. Read about it HERE
  4. IKEA NUMERAR OAK COUNTERTOP - Purchased from IKEA. Finished with natural walnut oil. Oil purchased from the Big Carrot. Read about it HERE
  5. LOW VOC PAINT - Used for the wall and cabinets. Purchased from Homestead House. Read about it HERE
  6. ALUMINIUM WINDOWS - Made by Aluminum Window Designs. Installed by Encore. Read about it HERE
  7. DURAFOAM 0-VOC SPRAY FOAM INSULATION- Used for sealing the windows. Purchased from Eco Building Resource.
  8. LOW VOC CAULKING - Used for sealing the windows. Supplied by Encore.
  9. LOW VOC GLUE - Used for gluing down the cement boards. Purchased from Home Depot. Read about it HERE

Lessons learned:
  • Be vocal about your green priorities and don't be afraid of micromanaging the work. We found that contractors in general are unfamiliar with using green products and they tend to default to products they know.
  • Avoid renovating during the summer. It's renovation season and it's challenging to book a good tradesman for smaller jobs. We had contractors not even returning our calls.
  • Be prepared to spend time researching and sourcing green renovation products. While they do exist, local options are still challenging to find. 

The best part of our renovation is that we are experiencing no off-gassing or ill effects from any part of the work. We rest easy knowing we did everything that we could to make our house a safe and healthy home. It is totally worth the time and effort to use healthy, green alternatives.


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Kitchen shelf installation

The kitchen reno is almost done but we were still struggling with what to do with the blank wall above the stove.

Convention would have us install a range hood over the stove but after considering two styles we took a long hard look at whether we really needed one. We realized that we never used our old range hood and that we could vent with our recently installed casement windows. It would also feel more natural, be environmentally friendly and save electricity.

The wall over the stove still needed something and Mia came up with the idea of installing a shelf. We found oak brackets at Lowe’s that would add to the country look of our kitchen and also picked up a nice piece of pine. Our contractor was long gone so it fell to me (the not so handy man) to install the shelf.

We measured and marked the drill holes on masking tape then wet the masking tape. The wet tape helps prevent the drill bit from sliding around on the tile.

I used a ceramic drill bit to get through the tile and not crack it. 

I inserted the plug into the hole then the screw into the plug. 

The bracket has a slot that slides over the screw head and then gravity and the weight of the shelf  holds it in place.  It took a little bit of trial and error to get the correct screw depth until the brackets fit snugly.

I put the shelf in place and secured it with a couple finishing nails and easy peasy, it’s done! Mia was very impressed by my skilled work.

This was the last piece of the puzzle and our kitchen renovation is officially finished. It's time to take some pictures for you to see the final look.


Sunday, 6 January 2013

DIY Duct Work

We are getting close to being done with our kitchen reno and ready for the big reveal.  This duct work was a last minute job that was overlooked by us and the contractor. The job fell to me (the not so handy man) to get done.  We are extending our cabinets in the new kitchen design and they will cover the only heat register in the kitchen.

We needed a solution quickly. I did an internet crash course on vent and duct work and picked the brains of the staff at Rona to get the information I needed to get the job done.  I contacted our cabinet maker to determine that a 4 inch diameter flexible duct would fit under the cabinets.  I purchased a register boot to fit the vent hole and divert the air towards the “kick” of the cabinet.  I inserted the register boot then attached the flexible duct and cut it to length with a hack saw. 

I then sealed around the boot and the flex-duct joint with metallic duct tape.

I had to order a 2 ½” x 10” white register with a round 4” inflow from an H & V supply store to fit on the cabinet kick.  We picked up the register the morning that the cabinets were coming.  I wasn’t sure if everything would come together in time; I didn’t want to hold up the cabinet installation as our cabinet maker was coming from Guelph, Ont.  We put the register in the hole cut into the kick, attached it to the flex-duct, sealed it with tape then put the kick into place by compressing the flex pipe.  It took a little finessing but was not too hard.  The finished look is great.

Not bad for a rookie ductworker and Mia likes the heat blowing on her feet when she is cutting vegetables on the counter.


Friday, 4 January 2013

Garden pests of 2012

Our spring garden started out well ...

Spring back garden

Spring kitchen garden
... but little did we know there was trouble brewing for our young vegetables. A variety of pests and critters would descend on our garden and we were hard pressed at times to manage them with our limited knowledge and commitment to organic practices. 

Here are the list of invaders we encountered in this past year:

1. Leaf Miner
The Problem - Leaf Miner causing spinach leaves to yellow and die.
Leaf Miner damage

The Solution Pick infested leaves and throw in garbage.  Do not compost.  Continue daily picking until no evidence of infestation.  Problem can be solved within a week.  We had a similar problem with the beets and I solved it the same way.

 Healthy spinach growing after pruning off infested leaves.

2. Cabbage Loopers
The Problem - Cabbage Looper caterpillar eating cabbage and broccoli leaves.

This is the caterpillar that grows from the larvae of the white cabbage moth.
The Solution - Hand pick caterpillars, encourage bird predators, catch white butterflies before they lay their eggs.

3. Flea Beetles
The Problem - Flea Beetles eating tomato plant leaves and stunting their growth.  The Flea Beetles are the small silvery black specks on the leaves.

Tomato plant ravaged by Flea Beetles
The Solution - I received a variety of advice from my online gardening friends and I tried them all.  I disturbed the soil by howing then mulched around the tomatoes to disrupt the flea beetle life cycle.  I then planted lovage, parsley, marigold and basil to act as trap or repellent crops.  Other suggestions were vacuuming them off the plant,  applying diatomaceous earth around the plant and spraying horticultural oils. I am not sure which intervention worked but the tomato plants recovered.  

Healthy plants after a variety of treatments.
4. Slugs
The ProblemSlugs are probably our greatest challenge. They can consume a whole cabbage and strip the leaves from bean plants.  Here are the small ones that we hand picked at night with head lamps and a drowning jar.

After a night of slug hunting!
Imagine our shock to find this monster in our garden.
This guy is scary!
I did not realize slugs this size existed.  Not sure if it was the size but I could not bring myself to drown these mammoths so I practiced catch and release and let them go in the local ravine as I walked to the subway.

The Solution - We have tried numerous strategies including hand picking with headlamps at night, orange peel traps, watermelon peel traps and beer traps.  The orange peels seemed to work the best as a passive trap.  
Giant slug in orange peel trap at night
Other organic suggestions to try are diatomaceous earth, coffee grounds, egg shells and attracting frogs and toads by digging a pond (I’m still working on Timea for the pond option).  Still debating whether to use what is reputed to be organic slug bait but not sure about the ingredients.

5.  Ground Hog
The ProblemThere are ground hog holes under our neighbours' sheds and garages adjacent to our property.  We were the most vulnerable from the west side where the fence does not go right to the ground. Here is some of the damage to the broccoli; they ate it right down to the stem!

Broccoli plants chewed down to the stem
The Solution -  We bought some chicken wire and dug a 1 foot deep trench under our west side fence.  We attached the chicken wire to the bottom of the existing fence then buried the chicken wire.  

It felt like we were digging in for an enemy assault, but it worked.
6. Squirrels
The Problem - Squirrels love to dig holes in the garden in spring often digging up recently planted seeds and seedlings.  

The Solution - I found that sprinkling bloodmeal over the garden stops this activity really well.  Yes, it is dried pig’s blood.  Cayenne pepper sprinkled or sprayed can also work for the vegetarian purists.

The Problem - Squirrels were eating all the seeds from our sunflowers.  

The Solution - Cover the sunflower heads with chicken wire.  Ensure that the chicken wire is attached securely as the squirrels managed to remove the wire from some of the sunflower heads.  Next year I will attach  the chicken wire more securely and pick the sunflower heads sooner.

Make sure to secure the chicken wire well as the squirrels are adept at removing them
The Problem - The squirrels are also prime suspects, along with slugs and earwigs, in chewing off the first leaves of the bean plants leaving only a stem.

The Solution - The only solution I found for this was to plant mature seedlings rather than seeds.

Our mudroom grow-op
Despite the plethora of pests, we had a great harvest this year with minimal interventions.  Overall, pests had only a minor effect on our crops; the drought, over-intensive planting and lack of time were bigger factors. I have determined that the approach with pests is not extermination, but keeping them and the garden in balance.  Pests can devastate a crop but they can be managed effectively with eco-friendly methods.  It has been a fun challenge, kinda like Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf at times, but in the end we had a great crop.

Summer back garden

Summer kitchen garden

... and we are still eating kale from the garden!
Still picking and eating the wonder kale on January 1, 2013

We look forward to planning our garden for 2013 and exploring new organic pest management practices.

Lessons Learned:
  • Plant seedlings instead of seeds when possible to give plants a head start. 
  • Plant companion plants and decoy plants to keep pest from your crops.  
  • Plant a variety of vegetables in your garden to avoid over population of one pest.  
  • Keep plants healthy with good soil and adequate watering.  
  • Rotate crops each year.  
  • Visit your garden regularly to catch problems early.