Solar panel-tax return-audit update

Posted October 12, 2015 By Ruth

It occurred to me last night that I’d never updated on this.  We got notice a couple weeks ago that “the audit is complete and the file closed”.  Which appears to be legalese for “ok, you passed, this time, don’t screw up again”.

For anyone reading this consider this your warning.  If you install solar panels (or other tax rebated forms of energy production) remember to keep all your files for it in the same place!

Don’t get me wrong, we mostly had saved the paperwork, repeated in multiple spots.  Part of the problem was that what the audit paperwork called a couple things and what the title on the actual forms said wasn’t quite the same, and I ended up having to call into to the auditor to make sure I had the right stuff.

The other problem was that we couldn’t find proof of how much we actually paid.  I know we got receipts, but god be dammed if I could find them!  So that meant tracking down the checks with the bank.  SHOULD have been fairly simple.  But the one bank account that we’d used, we ended up closing a year later.  So we no longer had access to the account online to just go back and pull up the checks.  It necessitated a trip to an actual branch for Husband, which is difficult on his schedule, to actually talk to someone who could check his ID and do a search.  Then we hit computer problems.  Not our computers, the bank computers.  The third and final check was paid out at the end of Sept of that year, and for some reason the bank’s system was refusing to access that month’s info.  It took several weeks, and several trips, and several phone calls, to finally get a copy of that check.

So here’s your warning!  When you pay for the panels, SAVE the RECEIPT with the rest of the paperwork.  And while you’re at it, get a copy of the canceled check(s), and/or your credit card statement showing the charge, and save that WITH the receipts.  Trust me, it’ll come in handy!

As for us, we made EXTRA copies of everything, including all the checks, and tucked those copies in with everything else.  Cause if I’m reading the tax paperwork right, the Fed’s have another 4years in which to decide to audit us too…..

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Long Pie Pumpkin, thoughts and review

Posted October 11, 2015 By Ruth

According to the internets, the Long Pie Pumpkin was brought to the USA sometime in the 1800’s, where it was dubbed the Nantucket Pumpkin.  Sometime after it was dubbed the Long Island Pie Pumpkin, which was in turn shortened to Long Pie Pumpkin.  Apparently they were quite popular in Maine for a while.  Anyone with grandparents from the area who gardened who might be able to confirm that?  I’m curious.  Supposedly lore states that they were “stacked up like firewood” for storage.  I can believe that.  I paraphrase, there are several pages out there with the history written out if you hit google and do a search for the Long Pie Pumpkin.

Like many heirloom varieties they faded in popularity as the general public was taught to expect pumpkins to be round and “normal” looking.  However they have qualities that make them potentially ideal for growing in colder climates and shorter seasons, on top of being a tasty pie pumpkin with almost no “stringy-ness”, as well as storing well.

They’re listed as having an approx 95-105 day growth period.  Actual reality is that the time spent on the vine can be quite a bit shorter than that implies.  These pumpkins can be picked as soon as the “ground spot” turns orange (from yellow).   Pick that green fruit, store in a cool place for long term storage, or in a warmer place for faster ripening, and they’ll continue to ripen just fine off the vine.

And my own experience backs that up.  I planted out my seedlings in Mid-May.  Admittedly we were having an abnormally warm spring and summer, but I could have picked the first “ripe enough” pumpkins before the end of July.  Two months to produce fruit that could be picked and stored for future use.  Now I left mine on the vine to ripen since we were having a decent summer.  I pulled 6 little (orange) pumpkins off the vines that died early, but left the 4 big ones to finish up.  Picked them back at the end of August/beginning of Sept.  Here’s a photo of 3 of them:


The biggest of those three was 13.5 inches long and weighed in at 5.5 pounds.  Not a bad size for a pie pumpkin!

The little pumpkins had a fairly soft skin and were easy to cut up for cooking and pureeing.

The big ones?  OMG.  I ended up resorting to a clever and soft headed 3lb mallet to get through the rind.  THAT worked quite well.  Every other knife I tried?  Barely scored the skin, no matter how sharp it was.  So if you grow these, be warned, vine ripened fruit have one hell of a rind!

That biggest pumpkin got processed first, so I kept track.  I removed 1.5lbs of seeds/guts and stem ends before putting them into the oven to bake.  When I pulled it back out of the oven I had 2 3/4lbs of puree.  Not a bad harvest!  However that’s where I hit my next problem.

I’ve not processed a lot of whole pumpkins, but I’ve done a few.  Cut them in half, gut them, place them face down on a baking sheet with a pan of water in the bottom of the oven, and bake at 400degrees till you can pierce the skin with a fork.  Right?

That hard rind struck again.  Instead of softening, like every other pumpkin I’ve done, it hardened even further while the flesh softened and fell off.  I over baked that first pumpkin by at least 20 minutes because I didn’t realize what was happening.  Not a big deal, the puree tastes fine, but consider this your heads up!  Now, I haven’t processed the other larger pumpkins, so I can’t swear that it wasn’t something I did wrong, but still….

Very tasty flesh.  Not sure how to compare it to other pie pumpkins as I don’t have a ton of experience with others, but definitely tasty!  I will absolutely grow them again, and will highly recommend them to other folks looking for a pumpkin to grow in a cold/short season summer!

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What do you have in your hand?

Posted October 3, 2015 By Ruth

What’s right next to you within easy grabbing reach?

What do you have to hand if a gunman burst through your workplace door right now?

Obviously, for those of us in the firearm community, we hope, and plan, and practice, to have our guns on hand.  But in many situations that’s just not possible.

In most colleges a gun is just not an option, but I remember what my college backpack looked like.  What my classroom desk looked like.

Pick. Up. That. Textbook. And Throw IT!  Throw your pen.  Don’t throw your phone, you’re going to need it to call 911 after you and your classmates pigpile the shooter.  Notebooks, calculators, ebook readers, ultra-light laptops, they should all be headed for the shooter as soon as your brain processes the gun.

Might you get shot during this attempt to stop the shooter?  Sure.  But we have ample proof by now that huddling in the back of the classroom and hoping you’re not his target isn’t any safer.  And if he’s ducking things pitched his way he’s not going to be aiming.

Course, today’s college students are practically taught to freeze instead of act.  They’re being taught to stop and think through every action and even every thought, lest they give offense.  THROW something at SOMEONE?  How could you?!

We’re raising a bunch of victims.  The students who’ll be entering the workplace over the next several years wouldn’t dream of defending themselves, lest they cause offense and become a target themself.  We’ve turned our colleges, and very shortly our workplaces and lives, into places where we are victims, where shooters who want to publicize a thought process with their own deaths know that they can find willing and ready victims to add to the media cry.

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Any one out there with small robotics or electrical experience who’d be willing spend a few minutes to help me set up a wiring diagram for a project?  I can PROBABLY figure it out, but I’d appreciate assistance in making sure I’m getting it right…..

I could also use a link to a decent source for “stuff”, such as a (dimmer type) power control knob, etc….I think I miss Radioshack!

Your time waster for the day

Posted September 24, 2015 By Ruth

Cornell has a new Hummingbird bird cam.  Its located in western TX, and I’m MASSIVELY enjoying seeing types of hummingbirds I’ve only heard of before.  Here in NY pretty much all we see are Ruby Throats.  Lovely birds.  But I envy the variety other parts of the country get!

So far while watching I’ve managed to ID a Magnificent Hummingbird:



A Rufous Hummingbird:



A Lucifer Hummingbird:



And I MIGHT have seen a White Eared Hummingbird, though I didn’t get a screen shot to be sure.




If you have the time switch it to full screen and enjoy!

Last garden update of the Summer

Posted September 24, 2015 By Ruth

If you’re curious, THIS is the link to look back at my garden costs tracking for the summer.

Based on my lackadaisical method of record keeping I spent $90.15 on the garden.  Round it up to $100 since I’m sure I forgot to record SOMETHING.

And “made” $184 (plus whatever all the melons, carrots, radishes, lettuce, pumpkins, etc would have been which I never did manage to check prices on)

So, definitely a profit, especially since I’d have likely never bought half as much if I’d had to actually buy it all.  But not really thousands and thousands either.  Course, I’m not being massively OCD about keeping up with the garden, nor do I have a full 1/4-1/2 acre in garden, but it’s still a good sized garden for a home garden.  I’ll take it.

The compost tomato plant succumbed to Late Blight, but I managed to salvage a few ripe tomatoes off of it that didn’t appear to get touched by the blight, so I’ll be planting those seeds again next year.

Here’s what mature Long Pie Pumpkins look like:


The biggest is 13.5″ long, and weighs 5.5 pounds.  The other two are closer to the 12″ mark, and weigh about a pound less.

Anyone want Rattail Radish seeds?  I massively over planted, and since you eat the seed pod on these, instead of the bulb like normal radishes, I have a million seed pods drying now too.  Ok, not literally a million, but since I packed a gallon ziplock (and I do mean packed, I smushed them in) of the largest seed pods that were dry enough to empty out as I get time, and still barely made a dent in the seed pods, I have plenty of seeds for the next few years!  Seriously, if someone wants some email me at ruthcatrin (at) scaryyankeechick (dot) com with “rattail radish” in the subject line (otherwise your email might get filtered as junk).  But unless you have a HUGE radish loving family 4 or 5 plants is plenty!

I planted three tires with Purple Early Sprouting Broccoli and some more normal radishes for fall/winter gardening.  The Early Sprouting Broccoli is designed for the winter garden, and infact HAS TO experience a winter in order to produce heads.  Its supposed to be hardy down to 10 degrees (F).  I’m making plans on how I want to cover it for the winter since our chances of dipping below 10 are pretty good.  I’ll try to remember to keep updating on that.

On the deck side of things, the worst of the bad electrical is fixed, but we’re going to have to have an electrician out at some point to basically re-wire the garage and carport.  Now that we now to look for it, there doesn’t appear to be a single junction box in the entire garage, and in several places they wired in “additional” stuff using lamp cord wire instead of proper electrical wire.  And since the carport was added after the garage its safe to assume that its the same way.  The paperwork for the permit for the new front steps and landing is into the town, they agreed to waive the requirement for footers since this is a “temporary” set of stairs.

My Summer/Fall project

Posted September 11, 2015 By Ruth

Well, lets start by saying that this wasn’t the project I’d PLANNED to do for the end of summer/fall.  I’d PLANNED to be putting in all sorts of ice dam preventatives, including proper vents in that attic space where the wood burning stove chimney is.  I’ll still be putting in vents, but I won’t be doing any of the rest of it.

On the evening of August 15th our front deck collapsed, with me, my husband, and both dogs standing on it.  Thankfully it was less than 3 feet off the ground and we’re all fine (though Arty is now terrified of the front door).

A look at it in daylight and we assumed that the ledger board must have rotted out.  But we could also see that it had been attached to the house with nails (3″ nails).

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Since it was safe to assume that the entire length of it was attached to the house with nails (vs screws or bolts) we made the decision to just pull the entire deck down, salvage what we could of the wood, and toss up a set of stairs.  We’ll figure out a replacement deck at a later date.

That wall where the front door is, is the living room addition done by previous home owners.  Not sure if it was done by the folks we bought from, or from before them (I suspect the folks we bought from though).  When they built the outer walls, the wall sits on a heavy timber that sits on the concrete block wall, then outside of that they put a (NOT pressure treated) chipboard before wrapping the addition with house wrap and putting on the siding.

The deck ledger board was NAILED through the house wrap into that chipboard.

It wasn’t the ledger board that rotted out.  The ledger board was fine, a very nice 2×12 piece of pressure treated lumber.  It was the chipboard that rotted out.  Right up under the housewrap and siding.  The ONLY thing that was holding up the deck in that corner was the small portion of the nails that made it into the heavy base timber.  I have no clue how it didn’t collapse under the snow-load last winter.

We’re going to have to pull down the siding and housewrap, remove the rotted chipboard, make sure the rot didn’t damage anything else, replace it all, and redo the housewrap and siding.

But thats not the worst of it.  We found a few more things when we pulled down the deck.

1: the guy who installed our Direct TV really was as big of an idiot as we took him for:


Yes, we knew he’d run the cable under and then up through the deck, but we didn’t realize till we were pulling it all down that he’d drilled through the ledger board.


2: The former homeowner who installed the security lighting likely did it himself:


That is the wire up to the indoor switch for the outdoor security lighting, with the wires running from it to the fixtures.  Just hanging like that in the crawlspace.  No tape.  No box.  No support.  And I’m pretty sure those are the ground wires just sticking out random.  That all by itself caused some profanity to be said.


3: The fact that the whole house was crooked last winter wasn’t a fluke and we should have checked ALL of the house supports under the original structure as soon as things thawed (we checked the rest of the house, but this corner is hard to get to so we assumed that since the rest of the house looked ok……)

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A bit more profanity was let go as we all looked at that.

We called our homeowners insurance, and they informed (this past Tuesday, cause the local guy is a massive PIA to deal with) us that its “wear and tear” and therefor not covered.  I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to argue the point.  I have to dig through the policy and look at the exact wording of whats covered…..

Yesterday (Thursday) we had the whole house re-leveled and new supports put in.  The sales guy for the company we hired about drove me batty, but the guys who actually did the work were great.  It was done quickly, with minimal fussing.




I’m still waiting for the town to get back to me on whether I need footers for a small landing and 3 steps up to the front door.  If we do then we’ll need to breakup the 6″ deep slab that was poured under the deck since there was no permits done on it and I can’t prove there’s footers under it.  I’m really hoping I don’t have to.

And now I need to dig through the electrical code paperwork to figure out if its legal to have a junction box in the crawl space or not (I suspect not, at least technically, though its certainly accessible since that portion is still skirted).  And get those wires supported and taped, and……we still have the side of the house to deal with.

Oh, and its looking like there were no permits on the living room addition either…….

Garden update, and a small outburst…..

Posted August 28, 2015 By Ruth

Another $3 or so of tomatoes

Say another $6 of hot peppers

Another two cantaloupes

Another Early Moon Watermelon

Two more Charentais

A million (only slightly an exaggeration) Rattail Radishes



Oh  yah.  If/when you do home additions, major repairs, deck building etc, I don’t care how far out in the middle of nowhere you are.  Please check building codes.  They’re there for a reason.  Even if enforcement doesn’t care about your area its very likely that the folks who live in your house after you will care ALOT when they discover stuff that’s not up to code.

And while we’re at it, nails are not appropriate for attaching a deck to a house (regardless of what your code says).  And if the deck is supposed to be “only temporary” then damn well reveal that fact to the folks buying the house.

We’re all fine, but the bank account is taking another hit.  And it could have been ever so bad.  So please.  Please.  Please.  Check building codes!  (and get permits, if only so that the folks after you can tell if you put in proper footers under that slab without having to break it up cause you didn’t follow code with anything else so why should we expect footers??)

My first Charentais melon and a garden update

Posted August 24, 2015 By Ruth

I think the tomatoes are finally slowing down (thank god, I’m not planting that many again, well, probably not, maybe…..).  I got half a colander this time.  About $9 worth

Two more Early Moon Watermelons.

Another Cantaloupe.

More Jalapenos and a couple more Habaneros, call it $6

My first two Charentais melons EVER!  I took a picture of one, when they call them “about softball sized” they’re not kidding.  But oh gosh are they tasty!  I’ll definitely try these again next year.



If anyone else tries to grow these, the warnings about them splitting, within a day or so of turning ripe are correct.  The reason you didn’t get a picture of the 2nd one I picked was because sometime in the previous 24hrs it had turned color and split.  I cut it open to save the seeds and tossed the rest of it.  The ripen and split that quickly.

My Mystery Compost tomato plant is HUGE.  Its officially taller than me, even with the stem being bent the way it is.  The tomatoes on it are looking like Black Plums.  What I can’t figure out is how its getting enough sun.  Admittedly that probably explains some of its hugeness, its spreading like mad to get leaves into the sun.  But that doesn’t explain the decent amount of tomatoes that its about to produce……

I’ve now pulled a total of 7 little pumpkins (6-8inches long) out of the garden as the vines they were on were among those that have died.  Still another 4 large pumpkins out there turning orange.

What else am I forgetting?  Oh, I need to decide if I’m going to actually eat any of the okra I planted, or just admire it (it is a very pretty plant with pretty flowers)……

Garden update

Posted August 20, 2015 By Ruth

Two more colanders of tomatoes: $18

4 more cantaloupes (I’ve lost track of how many total that is, 10? something like that, they’re little, but tasty!)

Two of the Early Moon Watermelons

a gallon ziplock of rattail radishes

a handfull of carrots (dammit, was at the market again, forgot to check prices)

Another handfull of jalapenos: $3