Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mint Update

After using the Mint automatic floor sweeper (aka Max in our house) for a few weeks I am happy to report that he has met my expectations and been worth the money.  Here are some observations and tips on my experiences in case anyone thinks they may be in the market for this handy device:

  • Our house is approximately 1200 square feet of all laminate flooring.  I use Max about twice a week.  We have one dog that sheds and rarely have dog hair tumble weeds floating around the house anymore.
  • I purchased the 2 hour turbo charger (otherwise it’s a 4 hour charge).  The 2 hour charge isn’t exactly necessary, but if you want to sweep and mop soon after the 2 hour charge it is nice to have.  I can sweep the whole house and mop a room or two on one charge.
  • I’ve found that Max runs more efficiently if you confine him to certain rooms (close doors, block off exits).  Our main rooms are all in one big circle and he seems to just roam around aimlessly if you don’t contain him.  If he’s left for long enough I’m sure he gets everything clean, but I can’t stand to watch him be so inefficient.
  • Because of the above, it’s best to deploy it while you are home.  It only takes 10-15 minutes to complete a small sized bedroom and then you need to move it to the next room.
  • Mint sells additional microfiber towels but I purchased some other towels that were much cheaper.  They work just fine.  I would recommend getting extra towels if you plan on using it more than once a week and your house is all hard surfaced floors.  This way you can use up a bunch of towels and then wash them every two weeks or so.
  • I was unsure of the mopping capabilities at first, but am quite impressed with it now.  For everyday dirt it works wonderfully with minimal streaking.  I mostly just use water but have also tried a water/vinegar mix.  However, after a few weeks I think the floor could use a Swiffer mop to look it's best and tackle the stubborn spots.
  • Max cleans under the furniture that he can physically fit under (one bed, dressers, tables, chairs, microwave cart).  I don’t typically vacuum under some of these pieces on a regular basis so it’s a nice bonus to know that there are rarely any dust bunnies under the bed.
  • We still have to pull out the vacuum to get under the couches and to vacuum the various rugs.  I do this once a week and it takes less then 10 minutes.
  • The dog isn’t fazed at all by Max.  Well, I think he gets more annoyed with him because Max forces him to get his lazy butt off the ground!
  • Max rarely gets ‘lost’.  I have had to retrieve him once or twice from locations where he couldn’t find his way out of.  This was more of an issue before we started confining him to one room at a time.
  • Since purchasing Max I have now had time to clean such things like the ceiling fans/fixtures and spot paint the bedroom doors and the trim in hallway.  Once all that piddly stuff is complete I can just sit on my butt and watch tv!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cutting the Garlic Mustard

A few weeks ago I noticed that the ‘woods’ along our property line were really overgrown with weeds.  This area is full of various trees, shrubs, and plants; some healthy and some not so healthy.  When we moved in almost four years ago the area was already overgrown and we didn’t really do much to it since then.  We liked the natural look (to an extent) but mostly liked the privacy it gave us from the neighbors and the busy street behind us.  We knew at some point we would have to do something about it as many of the trees were growing into the power lines and just generally looked bad.  The super infestation of weeds prompted us to think about a HUGE landscaping project. 

We discovered that the weeds that are taking over are garlic mustard; an invasive plant that out competes native plants.  Garlic mustard has a two year life cycle.  In the first year the plants are small and low to the ground.  In the second year they are much larger, flower, and produce many, many seeds.  This year is the second year for our crop.  We realized we needed to get busy and try and pull out all of these weeds before they go to seed or else we’ll have bigger problems in the years to come.  What a pain in the butt!  It’s nearly impossible to maneuver under and around the pine trees without poking an eye out.  I carried a tick into the house after pulling the weeds.  Gross!  And we’ve discovered how many dead, leafless branches there are and how much larger our lot could be if these ‘woods’ weren’t there.  It really seemed like a huge undertaking.

We contemplated hiring someone to clear cut this area, get a fence, and plant grass and some new bushes.  However, we've already made a huge dent in the area ourselves.  We pulled and weed whacked the weeds
(disposing of them in the regular garbage so as not to spread the seeds in the cities compost), trimmed up many of the dead branches and cut down some spindley trees.  Next we will apply some weed killer to kill any garlic mustard we missed as well as any other weeds that are there.  Then hopefully we can clean out the remaining leaves, pinecones, and other brush.  It will never be a completely manicured area, but it's a lot cheaper than hiring someone to clear cut.  Plus, I was feeling guilty about tearing down all the bird hideouts and homes!
This is what the plant looks like after we tried killing it with some weed killer!

The dirt area was filled with garlic mustard.

Trimming the dead branches of the pine trees.

Thick with garlic mustard.

This whole area was covered with it!  And who knew we had more land back there?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Favorite Things – Preen Garden Weed Preventer

Does it seem like weeds sprout from your garden only days after your last weeding?  That’s how I felt, until I bought Preen Garden Weed Preventer.  Preen is advertised to keep weeds at bay for up to three months.  Three months!  I was so sick of trying to weed all of our flower gardens and trying to keep that viney creeping Charlie at bay that I decided to give it a shot.  Now, first things first; Preen is not a weed killer.  If you already have weeds in your garden it’s not going to kill those.  You need to get down and dirty and pull those babies out yourself.  Once all the weeds are gone you can sprinkle the Preen granules one top of the mulch and then rake them into the mulch or give them a quick shower with the hose.  I like to apply it before it rains.  ‘Cause I’m lazy like that.  I applied Preen in May of last year and didn’t notice an increase in weeds until August (at which time I chose not to reapply because it seemed too late in the season to waste money on weed killing).  It’s not a miracle drug for gardens though.  I still saw weeds in June and July; just not nearly as many as usual (c’mon, don’t be THAT lazy!  Gardening IS a good workout you know.).  I have already applied Preen to all of our mulched beds this spring.  That March heat wave didn’t just cause the flowers to bloom early.  I did this in early April and I’m expecting to have to reapply in June/July.  Preen makes lawn weed control and organic vegetable garden versions too. 

Preen Garden Weed Preventer

Being only semi-environmentally conscious, I have never bothered to look at the chemicals in this product.  I know I should care about the Earth and the potential for contaminating ground water sources and all that hooha.  But.  I don’t.  I recycle and I don’t flush over the counter drugs.  That’s how I save the Earth and that’s good enough for me. If you do care, go and read the fine print and decide for yourself.  I do make sure that the granules have been well soaked and wait a few days before letting the dog munch on the mulch.  So far, he’s still alive and hasn't grown a third ear on his butt or anything crazy like that!

As with most weed preventers, this stuff isn’t cheap.  But, I think it’s worth it.  Both times I’ve purchased it I got it on sale for about half off.  This year I bought a 13lb bag for $10 (normally $20) at Stein’s.  That took care of all of our mulched beds (we have many, including a large circular butterfly garden) and we still have almost half a bag left.  It’s a great deal for not having to spend the hot and humid summer on my knees pulling out dandelions and creeping Charlie.  I’d much rather sit on my deck with a margarita while something else does the work for me.  ‘Cause, I’m lazy like that.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Is Your Nose Clean?

So, this post might fall into the ‘too much information’ category but I’m going to share it anyway.  If you are someone who suffers from allergies or sinus issues this might be your solution; or at least a ticket to feeling a little bit better.  It might even help with the common cold.  It brings new meaning to the phrase that my childhood neighbor’s dad always said to me when I rang their doorbell; “You can come in if your nose is clean!"  I never really knew what that meant, but maybe this was what he was referring to.

About 7-8 years ago I somehow developed seasonal allergies.  Every fall for two or three years I’d start sneezing, get a runny nose, itchy eyes, and be stuffed up.  It lasted for a few weeks so I figured it must have been some sort of pollen.  Most over the counter drugs helped with the sneezing and runny nose, but I had terrible post nasal drip that no drugs could help.  This was something I always sort of had issues with no matter what the season but it became worse with the allergies (my sister always made fun of me because drinking milk made me phlegm-y).  It was so bad that I would get a sore throat from it and I had enough of it.  I consulted Dr. Google and read all about neti pots and decided to give it a try.  I went to Walgreens and ended up buying a saline rinse bottle, which is a similar concept.  The point of the rinse is to eliminate all the impurities you breathe in before your body notices them (your body sneezes and causes a runny nose to get rid of the allergens).  You’re just avoiding the allergic reaction to begin with.  It's preventative medicine.
FREE NeilMed Sinus Rinse Kit

Now, how does this contraption work, you ask?  It may look/sound a little odd, but it’s pretty simple.  Basically, you fill the bottle/pot with warm water (they recommend sterilizing the water or using distilled, but I never have…I used to test that water afterall!) and add a packet of salt.  You tilt your head down towards the sink, stick the nozzle in your nostril, and lightly squeeze.  The warm water will travel from one side and drain out the other side.  Then you switch sides and repeat, lightly blowing your nose in between.  It feels a little odd at first, especially if you are one to plug your nose when you go underwater.  At this point, it reminds me of my vacations to the ocean; snorkelling with the fishies!  Depending what’s living up there, it can sometimes be surprising at what comes out!  Especially if you are sick or were working in the garden.  Ewww, gross, I know!

I’ve been using the rinse for a good 6 years now and I love it! (I realize that makes me sound like a total nerd with a pocket protector)  I rarely use OTC allergy medicines anymore (to be fair, I think those allergies have subsided quite a bit on their own…maybe my apartment was near a tree I was allergic to.).  Whenever I feel like my post nasal drip is ‘acting up’ I use the saline rinse and it’s fixed!  They recommend using it once daily, but I typically only use it when I feel the need; every two weeks and maybe more if I have a cold.  It’s helpful for the common cold if you can’t seem to get your nose unstuffed.  It helps to loosen up all that mucous so that you can blow your nose. I would proceed with caution if you are super plugged up though….the water sometimes can't get anywhere and will just come back out the same nostril it’s put into.

So, there is my TMI post for you.  If you haven’t cleaned out your nose the all natural way, I highly recommend giving it a squirt.  You might save yourself from spending a boatload on all of those OTC drugs.

Dr. Oz explains how a neti pot can clear the sinuses.

The neti pot was even featured on Oprah by Dr. Oz.  So, it's got to be good!