Sunday, June 1, 2014

How to get free HDTV and improve your view in just a few hours

What do you do when your new home has a massive satellite dish dangerously perched high above your garage, looming over your backyard? A satellite dish so large that it is the first thing you see each morning when you open your bedroom curtains. Well, you could try to ignore it and pretend that this visual blight does not belong to you. Or you could use it to communicate with other planets. Or better yet, you could convert it to a digital antenna and stop paying outrageous cable TV fees!

I was very annoyed with Rogers Cable when we moved because my old analogue cable package is no longer available and I could not move it to my new house. Instead, I had to upgrade to digital cable plus they charge extra for a second TV. Don't like! I told them so, but unfortunately was unable to get a better deal. Well that was the tipping point. The big dish and Rogers had to go.

Now, I'm quite a handy gal and I like to get stuff done myself, but I'm also afraid of heights. The idea of wrestling this mammoth dish to the ground gave me visions of ambulance rides after dropping it on my partner's head or law suits when I crush the neighbour's cat. Instead, I called Doctor Antenna!

OK. I called a few people but I chose Doctor Antenna because he could install a sleek new HDTV antenna on the roof (tucked away out of sight!!!), safely remove the old satellite dish, dispose of all the waste, and he's fully insured. I have experimented with indoor antennas and I got pretty good reception, but I didn't like having it in my window sill and I really hated tripping over all the cables running to the TV. It was time for a real pro!

The Doctor (a.k.a. Chris) and his assistant had that old satellite dish down in no time, but it wasn't easy. They had to cut it in pie-shaped pieces and lower them down individually. He used a reciprocating saw and a variety of grinders, twisting and bending into all kinds of strange angles -- all while attached to a safety harness. He worked quickly, efficiently and safely -- plus he's a great guy with lots of interesting stories to share. And as a bonus, he used his powerful grinder to remove a few of the vertical fence posts from the old chain link fence. Beauty!! BBQ season is going to be so much better without that ugly dish watching over us.

I really enjoyed watching the Doctor at work while both my feet were safely planted on the ground, but I had to get back to my primary project for the day (painting the front bedroom before our new furniture arrives tomorrow morning!). So the Doctor is going to return to install the HDTV. Stay tuned for that post!

Thanks to Doctor Antenna, no ambulance rides were required and no cats were killed in the beautification of my view! If you're interested in upgrading to free over-the-air HDTV or removing your own visual blight, give him a call at 416-835-1764, and please say hi from me.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to make a vertical garden from a wooden pallet

I feel in love with this vertical planter at the Toronto Home Show. I wanted to buy one on the May long weekend, but they were out of stock, and I'm impatient. That, and it will cost over $300 to buy one (but it does have a kickass irrigation system).

So I decided to make my own with a wooden pallet. Finding the pallet was the first challenge but then I just walked down the laneway behind the shops on Bloor Street and I found several at a corner  market that sells produce. I asked permission before taking it and then carried it home.

The pallet was a bit danaged so I reinforced it with a few screws. Then I took off every other plank on the front and then lined it up with one of the remainig planks and screwed it into the back, forming a bottomless shelf. Then I took some of that black weed membrane you see in the garden centre (it is perforated to allow water and air to pass) and cut it to line the shelves. Then I stapled it in place with a staple gun. I put soil in the pockets and started to plant. But alas, I discovered that my pockets were very droopy because I made the pockets a bit too roomy, so they sagged below the "shelf" when full of wet soil. To remedy, I used the two additional planks and cut them into squares the same depth of each shelf and then fastened them on at the bottom (two per shelf) to give each pocket some support.

Only time will tell how durable the weed membrane will be, but my herbs are growing nicely. I had intended to add an irrigation system to it as well, but wasn't sure what type of hosing to use, so I left it off this year. I'm sure that I will regret this in those dog days of summer.

An excellent side benefit is that when you water starting at the top, all excess water filters down to the lower shelves. Economical and efficient.

Total cost of my solution: about $10 for the weed membrane and a few bucks for staples. I also bought a staple gun, but it is not really fair to place the cost of that here cuz I'm going to use it for lots of other stuff.