Crunchy Grass and Lack of Rain

In Ottawa currently we are in the midst of drought-like conditions, where we have not had rain for many weeks, and haven’t had a lot really since March (in general). I have talked about the joys of no water with Living Without Water (a few years back we had a water main break and our section of town had to ration our water), and this year our lawn looks even crunchier than back then. There is hope that we might get rain today (but one day will not break this drought).

Our house has a water barrel left over from our water rationing time, so I have used that to water our plants, however that is now bone dry as well. If we are lucky we might get a cloud burst and that might help refill the barrel, but we haven’t even had a cloudburst lately.


Big No No! Don’t sprinkle!

What is interesting is that Ontario Hydro went to a “smart meter” to have variable rates to try to regulate peak hour usage, which made me wonder if the City of Ottawa ever thought of going in that direction for water usage?

Simply raising water taxes over and over to improve the system, seems unfair, why not get the big users, at the worst time pay more? Then you could raise rates during droughts too (to try to regulate usage).

Some of my neighbours are joyfully oblivious to the drought that we are in, and gladly water their lawns , pressure wash their driveways and wash their cars, with no consequences for these actions.

Should I care about my neighbours and their odd water usage ideas during a time of limited water? I suppose I should not, but it really does seem to get under my skin. I do want to ask the chap who pressure washes his driveway, “Why do you do this ?”

Can anyone enlighten me as to why someone might pressure wash their driveway? I understand if you are about to seal it, but washing it every week does seem quite odd to me.

There you go City of Ottawa, you want to make some big bucks ? Smart water meters and variable water usage rates! You are welcome!




Frigid North and Sunday’s Best

It seems that winter has come to the frozen North of Ottawa, with frigid temperatures, freezing rain, snow but no canal skating as of yet. The window replacement at my house is making the house a little less cold (unfortunately we didn’t do all the windows, so we are still leaking warm air all over the place).  The new windows are helping, but it seems obvious the rest of the windows have to be done this summer.

The week has been interesting in terms of money, but there are rumors abounding in Ottawa of an impending large cut in the Civil Service (the Ottawa Citizen has been rife with hints that this could be the biggest cut in years).  Will this come to fruition, it all remains to be seen.

As for me, there was an interesting cross-section with my tweets and such:

As a public service, here is a great Twitter I saw with a video from Vinnie Jones (one of my favorite actors), showing you how easy it can be to perform CPR (this is a video from the UK, not sure what the laws are in Canada in regard to performing CPR if you are not trained to do it).

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Skittering Put to Rest For Now

My normal view on home repair is to hide in my bed and claim my knee is bothering me (you’d be surprised how many times that works). Unfortunately, some times you cannot ignore some problems, because you know they are going to turn into much bigger issues if you don’t deal with them (an example would be pride goeth before a plumber, where I was so sure I had fixed my plumbing, but not quite).

A problem such as this has arisen at the Cajun Homestead with skittering and scuttering noises in one of our walls.  We noticed that thanks to our awning cover being just under the eaves of our house, some larger creature used that leverage point and pushed up the soffit in the eaves and the following hole was created under there.

Hole in the Eaves with a Mesh DIY Temporary Fix

From what we can tell this hole was then pushed further open to allow all manner of critters into an attic on the side of our house (our house has divided roof decks, and naturally I can’t get into this attic area, to make a repair).

The noise of critters in this attic finally got to Mrs. C8j and she announced to me that she didn’t care how lazy (or injured) I was we had to do something about this before the winter comes and these beasts move in permanently (and then their babies arriving in the spring could create many more problems). I hesitantly agreed and off we went to Home Depot to kibitz about how to fix this hole.

We finally decided on a temporary fix that will cover the hole with a strong metal mesh  (stronger that chicken wire), held in place with metal tapping screws. You can see the fix over the hole in the picture supplied.  This seems to have stopped the critters from entering for now, and hopefully for the foreseeable future as well.

We will eventually have to deal with this and replace the eaves and possibly clear out whatever mess exists in the attic area (figuring out how to get in there is going to be interesting enough), but for now I think our house is a bit better secured (against squirrels at least).

I realize this temporary fix will have to be remedied for real if we ever want to sell the house, but sometimes a temporary measure is needed to get you through a short period.  This kind of short period fix may also be needed with your financial plans, given how screwed up the global economies appear to be, but remember you will eventually have to put in place a real long-term fix (didn’t think I could swing this over to personal finance, did you?).

Why am I writing about this? Pride? No, but it’s important not to procrastinate too much, or you might end up with much bigger problems faster than you think.


EcoEnergy On Line and Ready to Go!

Program Up and Running

So as part of the Budget 2011 there was a mention of restarting the Eco Energy program and the government has now finally restarted the program and you can read more on this link. The first thing you’ll need to do is register with the program and then start following the steps outlined.

The program can get you up to $5000 in rebates it says, but for me, I am just hoping that my windows (which I have already had done) will be allowable. Given the rebate for windows seems to be $40 per raw opening (which sounds very rude to me), I’d be happy to get the $240 back (but then I am wondering how much the Energy audit might cost).

The program seems a little more tuned for folks that are getting big ticket items replaced like Air Conditioners and Furnaces and such, but still a worthwhile program to investigate, free money is always a good thing, and if it is the government giving it to you, so much the better.

The program is due to last until March 31, 2012, but they also mention that it could be discontinued sooner than that, so you might want to get moving on this one, and make sure you get your grants, while the getting is good.

Lousy Windows

If your windows look like this, replace them!

If you wander through the Grant Table you will find some wild and interesting retrofits that get some major pay backs (but I suspect they are mighty expensive too).

  • If you put in a ground earth-energy system you can get up to $4300, which isn’t too bad.
  • Solar hot water heating system you can get $1250
  • If you get the right furnace you are getting over $500 too, so that is great.

Go find out how much your Energy Audit might cost and then get yourself some of this free money!


Model Home Version 0.1

Written back in 2011 as the Real Estate Market in general (and in Ottawa) was starting to go berserk.

A while ago we had the windows replaced at our house. You remember my house, it was a model home and we keep learning more and more about the “tricks of the trade” (at least for this builder at the time) and some of the short cuts that they have taken, and today was no exception (buying a model home, is like using Prototype Hardware, you might get a gem, but you will get a lot of headaches too).

Previously we learned that the model home can sometimes be where the builder may have taken a few shortcuts when building it. We have more than once attempted to remove the wallpaper in the house only to find that there is no primer underneath it, so we then end up ripping the skin off the gyp rock as well. The only way to fix this issue is to paint over the wallpaper (not recommended) or to rip the wallpaper off as carefully as possible and then repair the damage done (and then put down some primer first).

We haven’t had a lot of issues with our house, and we have wanted to replace the wooden windows for a while, however other expenses have jumped up on the priority list, replacing the windows over the years, specifically:

  • Replacing the roof. We knew this was a problem when we moved in.
  • The furnace and air conditioner had unforeseen issues.
  • Every appliance in the kitchen
  • Losing my job, delayed many different projects.

However, finally this year we decided to bite the bullet and start replacing the windows on the house. I know normally folks say get 3 quotes before deciding (we did that with the roof and the furnace), however I know someone who is particularly fastidious and cheap, who had already done the work so I simply borrowed his good work, and use the company that he had used (on his own home and on his mother’s home).  The estimate was comparable to what I thought, and we ended up ordering the windows and they were installed on Monday.

The Throne Speech, another fun part of living in Ottawa
Another Model Home That Needs a lot of Fixing Up

The installation started off with not too much fanfare, but while work was being done one of the installers called me over to point out that in fact the original windows seemed to have no insulation around them at all (no foam, no fiberglass, no cotton, nothing) which would explain why the windows managed to rot out so nicely (good air circulation around it from both sides, lots of water seepage around it and condensation too). The windows were letting a great deal of heat out in the winter and heat in, in the summer.

So with these new windows I will end up doing two good things for my house:

  1. Effectively hold or maybe increase the value of the house, as it no longer looks like a “crack house” or a “grow op” (OK, I should also cut the grass more) which are not that uncommon in our section of Ottawa. Curb appeal is important.
  2. Save me some money on heating and air conditioning charges. I don’t think I’ll delude myself into thinking I am going to recuperate the values of the windows, just that it might be nice to think that my electric and gas bills may not increase in value quite as quickly as they have in the past.

What is Next ?

What’s next on House Version 0.1 (maybe with this upgrade it is House 0.32)? The rest of the windows (the back of the house still needs to be done), the deck and  the flooring will be repaired soon.

An interesting thing if the ceilings are not primed, and stippled plaster is used, it bubbles and falls off. Yes there is a lot of work still to do on the interior too.

Note also, if you are buying your home new, a Home Warranty is in place in Ontario and also always get your home thoroughly inspected before buying.


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