When I was an itty bitty thing, California went through a terrible drought. Since I was so little, my memories are few and mostly involve not being allowed to play in the sprinkler when it was hot outside, but it made a major impression on me. My formative years were during a time of water scarcity, and I have striven to never take it for granted.
Once again, California is experiencing crippling drought. In fact, this is the driest it has ever been on record. Having grown up in the arid West, I have many water-conserving habits and try to incorporate more all the time. Some of the things on this list may be a little controversial, but hey, being a Northern Californian, I’m used to controversy. I still remember the last water wars and how they threatened to tear our state in two.
1. Let your lawn die. California is a Mediterranean and/or desert climate. While there are a few micro-climates where lawns can live naturally, for the majority of California, it requires way too much water to have one of those lush, green rectangles. Instead, look into drought tolerant and native plants and landscaping fit for a dry environment. Of course, if you have HOA requirements, this can be a no-go, but if you can, go for something that doesn’t require watering.
2. Turn off the water when it’s not being actively used. What do I mean by that? Don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, shaving, etc.
3. Fix any leaks right away. One leaky faucet can waste 1,000 gallons of water a year.
4. Only do laundry when you have a full load. Because of this rule, I’ve had delicates languishing in the hamper for quite some time, but eventually, I’ll have enough to justify a cycle in the washer.
5. Invest in high efficiency appliances. We’re almost there. We have a high efficiency washing machine (and dryer). While our dishwasher is somewhat new, we’re planning on investing in something even more efficient this year. Something to keep in mind – dishwashers typically use less water than washing by hand.
6. Use low flow attachments – faucets, shower heads, etc. I’ve been using a shower head that I turn to drip when I’m not actively rinsing since I moved out on my own. (So um, just under two decades now.) It saves a considerable amount of water. Since we’re experiencing a water hardship, I’m now going to go a step further and turn off the shower completely while I lather up and soap, shave my legs, etc. Keep your shower to under five minutes, and you’ll save up to 1,000 gallons a month!
7. Collect the water that you use to rinse veggies, that is running while you wait for the tap to warm up, etc. and use it to water your houseplants.
8. If your county/city codes allow it, have a plumber reroute your greywater to trees and outdoor plants instead of it going into the sewer, and collect the rain water from your gutters for use in the yard.
9. Install a water-saving toilet. If that’s out of reach, install a dual-flush system in your current toilet until you can upgrade. Young House Love has an awesome tutorial on how to switch out the old handle for a dual-flush system.
10. Use a drip irrigation system for your garden. Fresh veggies are good. Losing water to evaporation… not so much.
Only 2 percent of the world’s water is fresh water. It’s a very precious resource. While you may not be able to implement everything on this list, every little bit helps so much. More resources are available at bewatersmart.info, wateruseitwisely.com, and epa.gov/oaintrnt/water.
If there’s one thing long-time readers have discovered, it’s that my goals for the year always end up taking way longer than I’m hoping. Each year around this time, I list my “resolutions.” Many of the items on this list are repeat stars, since there always seem to be issues that present themselves that have to be addressed NOW. In other words, this yearly to-do has become as much of a reflection on what was accomplished (or not accomplished) in the previous year (or years) as it is a list of goals.
So (deep breath) here’s the list for 2014, including many repeats from preceding resolutions – think 2013, 2012, 2011…
1. Replace the carpeting in the house.
Still hasn't happened. I’m hoping we go with engineered hardwood.
2. Paint the outside of the house.
In progress – two sides down, two to go.
3. Fix and/or replace the deck.
In progress. Everything is done except the deck boards!
4. Build a railing for our concrete steps.
We’ve got a post hole digger and posts. We just need to do it.
5. Finally build a pergola over the front door (and maybe a second one for the deck).
I downloaded some plans, so hopefully this year.
6. Finish the bathroom (sink vanity, flooring, medicine cabinet, toilet).
This is much higher on the list now, thanks in part to Disco Stu and California’s drought. We need to be saving as much water as possible!
7. Replace the kitchen countertops, change faucet, add backsplash.
Man I hope we get to this in 2014.
8. Install one more base cabinet to add much needed storage and countertop space.
We purchased a base cabinet from Ikea, but we still need to add a countertop to it. We’re planning on giving it a counter at the same time we do the rest of the kitchen. We hope to install butcher block and stain it the same color as our cabinets, something like the bottom photo in this post.
9. Re-fence Bodie's yard.
A bear broke into his yard a few weeks ago. The scary part is, we think the bear was trying to get our dog. It's been so dry this winter, food is becoming scarce. We fixed the damage the bear caused, but we really want to reinforce the fencing and string a line of electric wire across the top. That way, it couldn't hurt Bodie, but it would deter a bear from tearing down the fencing. This is a top priority, obviously, because of Bodie's safety.
For all intents and purposes, 2013 was a pretty brutal year. I went through a very bad bout of depression, as did my Charles. According to the parts of the blogosphere in which I hang, this was pretty typical for most of us. I feel it, in my gut, even down to my toes, that 2014 is going to be an excellent year.
While this year was pretty darn rough, there were also a myriad of good things and progress in our little house, and lots of things were a-cookin' in my brain pan.
2013 marked our fourth year of home ownership. My, how much we've learned in that time! Wherever our next house resides, we won't be nearly as intimidated with a bit of DIY. In fact, as long as it has good bones, I think we'll be good to go.
We finally finished the repairs, both on the inside and the outside of the house, due to the original leaky sliding glass doors that became one of the banes of our existence.
In fact, we finally got all of the dry rot dealt with on the outside of the house, and everything is now sealed up, and the rain (if we had any. 2013 was also a very, very dry year.) will no longer have a chance to puddle and snuggle with the house's siding.
My horizons were also broadened when it came to plumbing. Our tub surround, whom I've dubbed Disco Stu, and I still have some things to say to each other. Will Stu get to stay? Find out in 2014.
Not everything was about repairs. I rearranged and updated the look of our bedroom this year, and even after living with it for a few months, I'm still amazed at how much more cozy it is -- and how much more lush it feels.
I did some minor crafts, just to keep things interesting, and realized how much that bright blue color that I chose for the door, and more, makes me smile.
I even made sure to get a good dose of vitamin D and participated in a Pinterest Challenge this spring. The path I made is holding up beautifully, and I've planted some green, crawling leafy things around it that will probably fill-in in about ten years.
While I didn't make a lot of art this year, I did acquire a bit more, especially in the black velvet painting collection. Charles and I even got to host the artist at our house this fall, when Chris came through town on business.
Though I'll never be too keen on driving, I did get an awesome vehicle this year. It's zippy and I love it, and I listen to tons of music during my commute to work. I continue to tweak my play list, and it continues to bring a smile to my face.
2013 also involved a lot of soul searching for me. I realized how much the ocean is a part of who I am and made sure to seek it out a few times this year. And while currently, I only get to visit, I realized it's home, both because of the Pacific's proximity and because of the folks who live there.
Charles and I also got to take a two week vacation, something we hadn't done in quite a few years, and it was wonderful and filled with beauty.
While it may have been difficult, there was still a lot of joy and wonder to be found this year. Our neighborhood may have its unique challenges, but it's a pretty place to live.
So long 2013! We're all really glad you're done, but there were still a lot of lovely things you gave us. Thank you for the gifts, old year. Now bring on 2014!
There's a new law that goes into effect January 1, 2014 that all of us California DIYers are going to have to follow. If you do home improvements, or are even planning on hiring out any improvements after the first of the year, read this.
Thanks to my Aunt Jan for making me aware of the article. I'm all for water conservation, but I guess I'll have to go full-throttle now. Expect a major bathroom overhaul post early next year, folks.
Sometimes, even when a shut off valve looks and acts like the shut off to the water main, in reality, it isn’t. At least it’s not your shut off valve. It could be the neighbors’.
My Charles and I had been sharing our worries about completely replacing the tub surround. Since no project goes as smoothly as planned, we feared days without a working shower. Being the nerd that I am, I scoured the internet, searching for options, watching YouTube video after YouTube video.
The consensus on the ol’ web was that it HAD to be the washers.
“Well,” thought I, “it won’t hurt to take a look, and if I succeed, what a hero I shall be!”
Do you see where this is going?
The video I followed showed how to take the inner workings of the faucet apart in order to replace the worn out washers. I purchased a box of washers of all shapes and sizes, got out my wrench, swung my legs into the tub, and got to work.
There seemed to be a lot of pressure behind the faucet, but I persevered. As I unscrewed the valve, KABOOM! Water gushed out of the hole in the surround, drenching me from the waist down. My cat-like reflexes (yeah, right!) saved me from being hit by the faucet parts. I put my journalism training to full use (reporters put pirates to shame when it comes to “colorful” language) and raced outside, yelling to Charles that the water still needed to be shut off.
Charles stopped his work on the deck and ran up the stairs to the street.
“You opened the wrong box,” he yelled down the hill at me.
Evidently, our water valve is to the left of the box I had opened.
I returned to the house. The blue streak was just beginning to dissipate within the bathroom, but the water was not. My heroic effort had just flooded the room. Using every towel we own, I began the mop-up process. Then I picked up the faucet parts, laying forlornly in the bottom of the tub, and tried to figure out how to put everything back together.
None of the washers I had purchased matched the ones that had been blown out in the torrent, so I ended up putting the original stuff back in. Once I figured out how everything fit together – I may have painted the room blue a couple more times during this process – I slogged back up the stairs and driveway and turned, ahem, OUR water back on.
Once I had returned to the room of my failure and despair, I made sure the faucet and showerhead was working and discovered something rather odd – there was no drip. The leak had abated. What, what?
My theory is that the massive geyser cleared out the calcium deposits or what have you that had built up around the washers. I’m not holding my breath that the drippy faucet is completely fixed, but for now, dryness is king when the shower is not in use.
Dos and Don’ts:
Do shut off the water.
Don’t take the faucet apart until you’ve checked that the water is actually off.
Do follow the dude on the video’s instructions completely.
Don’t clean the tub right before working on the faucet. You’ll just have to clean it again, duh!
Do follow that dude on the video’s instructions. Seriously. Including the part where you take the faucet insides to the hardware store so you get the right washers.
Don’t do what I did. Of course, if I actually did manage to follow instructions completely the first time and everything worked, the world would probably explode, so don’t expect me to ever be as thorough as I should be.
Drip, drip, drip, drip drip drip, plonk.
Recently, this has been the soundtrack at our house, less soothing than the drumming of rain on the roof. And because wasting water is a cardinal sin, I collect it all and give it to the plants.
When we bought the house, the inspector pointed out that our tub surround lacked the reason for a tub -- a spout. There was a shower head, but the hardware to draw a proper bath was sadly missing. Since my Charles and I are both shower people, we shrugged our shoulders and went on with life.
I suppose that attitude wasn't good enough for our tub, and it opted to revolt. A couple of months ago, we noticed a very slow drip. We took the tub handle apart to see if we needed a new washer, to tighten the screw in the handle itself, etc. I've fixed plenty of slow drips this way in years past in places I've rented. (It wasn't nearly that simple to get rid of the drips I met in college.)
This is when the maniacal bathtub spirit began to rub its tubby hands and bwa ha ha in a deep, burbling voice.
When we took the handle off, we discovered that plumbing actually needed to be replaced, and that required removing our Disco Stu version of a tub surround. We'd been dreaming of something more updated since this fiberglass wonder with its amazing accents became ours, but we only have one bathroom, so it wasn't on our priority list. Usually after doing reno work, we appreciate a shower. Fixing the shower means not having a shower for however long it takes to get everything back together, and as long time readers will know, nothing is ever quick in Our Little House repairs.
Since I love me a shower in the morning, here's the game plan:
I think I should leave some sort of offering for the house gods on this one. I sure hope it goes smoothly! We'll all soon find out.
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