Confession time. I wrote this 'Green and Thrifty' post last week sometime, and it has been sitting here ever since waiting for photos. I am now reluctantly conceding that a post without photos is all that there is. You will just have to make the pictures in your head..
It is school holidays here at Chez Blueday which means... craft! All I have to do to drive my children to creativity is turn off the TV. Then wait for the whole house mess to begin. It doesn't take long. This holidays the girls have taken up woodworking. I have had to warn other children's parents that if their offspring are at my house they will inevitably end up in the shed, sawing pieces of wood into marvellous creations. Unsurprisingly there are parents who object to their ten year olds using saws, hammers and nails unsupervised, so on those days Posy has been going mad with papier mache. You have to be impressed at the frugality of a craft that requires only newspaper, glue and paint, but, oh, the glorious sticky mess..
I have spent the holidays in the garden, planning a chicken hotel, and reluctantly cleaning the laundry. Oh, and waging war on ants. All the ants in the world have decided to come and live at my house this winter. I was trying to strategically ignore them, because, you know, they are just ants, right? The Man, no lover of bugs and critters, was always launching offensives with ant poison, but I decided that now he is gone we will live in harmony with the ants and all the rest of creation, and possibly start singing 'Kumbaya' as well.. that lasted until the day I opened the pantry door and the wall of one whole shelf was black with ants. Still, I didn't resort to ant poison. I informed Posy that I was going to implement my secret anti-ant weapon. Eyes wide she watched me reach for... the dishcloth. I wiped those pesky ants out of existence, only to discover that they were the world's most incompetent ants and hadn't actually got inside any of the food containers in the pantry. Heaven knows what they were up to. Now I needed to know where they were getting in, and the answer was, through the millimetre-wide gap in the rubber window seal at the corners of the kitchen windows. So I solved that problem with another high-tech solution - blu-tack.
The next day however, more ants. Now I realised they were coming up from under the house through the internal walls, and out through the millimetre-wide gap between the tile splashback and the window sill. This time I had to get out the big guns - the caulking gun, that is. Believe me, if you have never played with gap sealer and a caulking gun, you haven't lived. It is just like piping icing on a cup-cake, and you can fill up all those annoying cracks and gaps around the house that are letting cold air and ants in. Because if an ant can get through a gap, so can frigid air, straight up from the Antarctic. At last, success! No more ants. For two days I had the unholy joy of watching small groups of straggler ants emerge from the pantry and cluster in pathetic huddles around the newly caulked window sills, trying to come up with Plan B, until I decimated them with a damp dishcloth.
This exercise gave me an idea, and last night I went around all the doors holding my hand to the edges and yes, there was (literally) freezing air getting in. The back door was splendidly air-tight from last year's weather-stripping, but cold air was coming in through the rather large key-hole. The front door is weather-stripped, but all along one side the gap is bigger than the weather strip. I will have to double it up there. The downstairs door has all the cold air blowing in around it, and I can also see daylight through it this morning, so clearly, just weather-stripping around some doors is not enough. I will have to put a couple more layers on there, and we will all be much toastier.
So the ants were a blessing in disguise, and clearly worth a rousing chorus of 'Kumbaya' at least. Their sacrifice was not in vain (for us), because now we will have a warmer house, with less expensive hot air leaking out. Speaking of which, I got our winter electricity bill yesterday - it was just over half the amount of last year's winter bill!! Oh, happy days:)
When not committing ant genocide or running around turning off lights and heaters I have been in the garden. My front garden is very small, and a positive jungle. I am actually quite enamoured of The Secret Garden look, but when four-foot high rose bushes are disappearing under neighbouring trees and swathes of lavender, it is time for a little judicious garden editing. For instance, when I finish taking out the five-foot high and wide lavender tree I will be able to do some more edible landscaping which will be fun. I have also removed a number of blueberry bushes which are suffering in our alkaline soil. I have popped three of them into wine barrels where I can keep their soil suitably acidic, and have given the rest away. Now I can replant a whole fence line where the struggling blueberries were languishing. I am leaning towards stone fruit, because they seem to be thriving in the front yard, and you can never have too many peaches and nectarines.. I also have plans to plant raspberries, so come back in a couple of years for the most spectacular fruit salad..