Gail of Green Living

If we just had rain!

My Knollwood neighbor has the most amazing rain collection system you could ever imagine!

4 tanks, each holds 650 gallons of rain water

About six weeks ago, we had 3″ of rain in one day and my neighbor’s tanks were 60% filled!  That is the only measurable rain we have had since…well I can’t remember!  The rain runs off the light-colored metal roof into various places that keep leaves and other rubbish out of the water.  They chose the metal roof for their new home, not only for the rain water collection, but because it would reflect heat and have a long life.

The condensation from the air conditioner runs in to this 80 gallon barrel, and he figures the air conditioner produces a gallon per day, at least.

The water in these tanks is meant to take care of watering all the yard and landscaping.  In case we ever have a few days of rain, there are two 1,000 gallon reservoirs on the other side of the house.

Notice the foundation required for the tanks.  Now, if we could just get some rain, we could gather around and watch it work!

Do you know anyone with such a sophisticated rain water system?  I think this is incredible!


Not a Greenhouse!
July 24, 2011, 2:46 pm
Filed under: Gardening, Green Living, Houston Neighborhoods | Tags:

Garden Enclosure

This is no greenhouse, but a garden enclosure.  This structure is perfect for our warm climate, because where we live, a greenhouse is good about two weeks a year.  The rest of the time it gets too hot.  Made of vinyl coated hardware cloth, this structure is rodent and bird proof.  The owner puts toads and lizards inside to keep the bug population down.  The plants are protected somewhat from the harsh sun, hail and wind.

Tatume, a squash-like plant

The Sweet Millions and Sweet One Hundreds continue to produce inside the garden enclosure.

This is a green Tatume parked on the stone foundation that is about two feet high.

This is the port for the irrigation system inside the garden enclosure.  The black is like the white plant cloth that is used to cover plants during a freeze.  But this black cloth keeps out weeds and keeps the soil from splashing up on the plants and causing disease.

If you wonder how the tomato plants have been doing, notice how far they have grown out of the top of the garden enclosure!  I am so impressed with the garden system.  The owner has okra growing in the front beds, here outside the enclosure and I think I saw one in the enclosure, too.    He includes flowers and vegetables in his garden design to make a beautiful and productive landscape!

Have you designed your vegetable/herb garden to be mixed with flowers and shrubs?

Hot Water on Demand

An example of the Pex Plumbing System

My neighbors in Knollwood Subdivision chose to install a Pex plumbing system in their new home instead of a tankless water heater.  I had not heard this, but it takes a long time for the tankless water heater to go from the source to the faucet.  There is lots of water waste with this system.

Pex plumbing systems have been around for 30 years. Because I am not a plumber nor an engineer, I investigated this system further and found great explanations from the owner/architect and a builder who uses the system in his homes. It is a very durable system, not breaking in sub freezing weather, because it is able to contract and expand.  The material does not corrode, or experience mineral buildup.  And the methods used to construct the system do not call for blow torches.  It is easier on the contractor and the homeowner.

The owners also have installed filters that take the chlorine out of their shower water, their ice maker water and drinking water.  I really like these ideas!

What other water-saving construction methods do you know?

The picture above was found from my web search on BuildIQ.

The “Bird Feeder”
July 18, 2011, 2:44 pm
Filed under: Gardening, Houston Neighborhoods | Tags:

The Bird Feeder

This is an unplanned feature of my Knollwood neighbor’s backyard.  They call it “the bird feeder”, because House Finches have found it to be perfect for their appetites.  The sunflowers are about 3-4″ in diameter and when the seeds are mature, the petals fall off and the fiches use their delicate beaks to retreieve the seeds.  When they are finished, they almost look like a dandilion.  When this routine is finished (probably not until a winter freeze, if we get one), the owners will replant their citrus trees they had removed for construction of the new house.

This photo shows a “after” and “before” the finches:

From left, after the finches and before the finches

Green New Construction

Front flower beds include okra plants and cosmos

I have a treat for you blog readers!  Neighbors on my street in Knollwood have recently built a new house where their old house was, and I have learned a great deal from these architect/home owners regarding new construction and the options that are available to consumers.

Why did they want to build a new house?  They had lived in their home since 1972 and wanted to remodel kitchen space, put the utility room in the house, and thought about remodeling the bathrooms, as well.  As they thought and dreamed about what they wanted, they found the foundation needing repair, and more than likely, it was because the plumbing waste line was rotting under the slab.  Putting remodeling money into this house became an unrealistic plan.

Then they began thinking about a new house, one that would be comfortable for them for the rest of their lives, with wide doorways, open floor plan and space for enjoying hobbies and interests.  They were very budget conscious and with thorough research, they developed very strong feelings about their needs and wants.  They wanted features that would cause this home to be durable and require minimum maintenance.

Recycling parts of their old house was accomplished by giving their recently installed insulated aluminum windows from the old house, to their daughter, who lives a few blocks away.  They also gave her the interior and exterior doors and carpet from this home.  So she was able to upgrade her home with these products.  The salvage company saved the hardwood flooring, so it was not wasted.

I will take you through some areas of their home that are very different from any I have ever seen as a Realtor.   And I hope you will comment freely with questions, and I will get answers for you.

Eliminate Ants in the Kitchen!
July 12, 2011, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Green Living | Tags: , , , ,

Since I’ve become conscious of toxins present in common household cleaners and pesticides, I have become a huge fan of distilled vinegar…plain old cheap, cheap vinegar!  If you need a drain cleaned out, put one part baking soda down the drain followed by one part vinegar; wait 10 minutes and flush with boiling water.

It’s a fantastic deodorizer; it will clear up fish smell in your kitchen by placing a 1/2 cup or so in a shallow dish and leaving it on the counter top.

It’s a great glass cleaner, mixed with water.  It’s anti-bacterial.  You can soak your shower head in a jar of vinegar and it will clean off all hard water deposits.  It’s powerful!

Today I learned another use…as a pesticide.  We had annoying little ants in the kitchen.  When I sprayed them, you would have thought I was using Raid!

What have you found to be a good use for vinegar?

What is compost?
July 9, 2011, 11:44 am
Filed under: Gardening, Green Living | Tags:

Compost is newspapers, dryer lint, cucumber peelings, tomato cores, celery strings, a strawberry stem, orange peel, melon rind, or wine cork.

Compost is an apple core, coffee grounds and banana peels, getting started on my kitchen counter top.

Compost is weeds, leaves, grass clippings, thrown out cut flowers, clippings from pruning mint and Impatiens, and pine needles from the street gutter.

Compost is the neighbor’s bag of lawn waste put out for the city pick up in a compostable bag or the dirt from my vacuum cleaner.

Compost is ALIVE with bugs and worms doing almost all the work!

Compost is NOT the label from the skin of last month's avacado!

Compost is rich dark soil I add to my plants to help them retain water, add valuable nutrients, and protect exposed roots.

What do you put in your compost to vary the nutrients?