The last day of June is the perfect time to think about buckthorn

There are buckthorn hedges growing in various parts of St. Paul. Buckthorn is not a native species but was imported from Europe long ago and seems to like growing in our yards and parks.  The plant was originally used for hedges and I still see buckthorn hedges here and there.

Buckthorn is on the Minnesota DNR’s list of restricted noxious weeds.  You may recall a couple of years ago goats were hired to eat the buckthorn growing in Indian Mounds Park.

This year I found some buckthorn in my yard and my neighbors are growing a large buckthorn bush along a fence. The way to get rid of buckthorn is to pull it out and dig out the roots. The plant I found was fairly small and easy to remove. It was hiding near my lilac bushes.

The plant is fairly easy to identify. When in doubt look for thorns at the base of the leaves where they join the stem.

Buckthorn plants that are two inches in diameter or larger are best controlled by cutting the stem at the soil surface and then covering or treating the stump to prevent re-sprouting. Cutting can be effectively done with hand tools (for a few plants), chain saws, or brush cutters.

The Minnesota DNR has a lot of information about the plant and how to remove it. You will need a permit to have goats in your St. Paul yard but I suppose that is an option too.

Buckthorn Bush



My favorite small home improvements

Some of the smaller home improvements can have the greatest return on the dollar and bring a lot of enjoyment.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Storm doors
  2. Exterior doors
  3. Backsplash
  4. Window treatments
  5. Bathroom vanity.
  6. Faucets
  7. Light fixtures.
  8. Doorknobs
  9. Kitchen cabinet hardware
  10. New shades on existing light fixtures
  11. Paint exterior door in a primary color
  12. Landscaping
  13. Fencing
  14. Interior painting

My husband and I have made many home improvements over the years. If I had to pick the one or two that we have enjoyed the most it would have to be the new back door with the window in it and the faucets in the kitchen.

I love my newish quartz countertop but I wouldn’t have spent the money if we had been planning on moving. Our countertop was shot but a less expensive countertop would have been just fine.

Sometimes we make improvements because we will enjoy them for years to come, or maybe we really need a change but don’t want to move. Other times improvements are made just so we can sell the house.

gray siding yellow doors
Yellow doors


Hiring a pro Vs asking on social media

I never respond but I cringe as neighbors post about issues with furnaces or plumbing or an electrical problem and manage to solicit advice from random people they have never even met. The people who respond never state their qualifications. All we really know about them is that they are on social media most of the time and always ready to comment.

Gravity furnace
Gravity Furnace

Chances are your neighbors are not HVAC experts, plumbers, or electricians. They may have had one experience once and want to share their knowledge.

People who do not want to ask an expert or do not want to hire a licensed professional would be much better off consulting YouTube or in the case of a furnace the owner’s manual.

Hiring a qualified licensed, reputable professional is often the best and even the least expensive option.


Plants make January Better

January is a great time to brighten things up. Especially this cold January in the third year of the pandemic. We will be spending a lot of time at home.

I have 13 or 14 varieties of plants growing indoors during the Winter. Most of them will spend the warmer months outside on the front porch. I have a couple of jade plants in my dining room that look like small trees. I have an ivy plant that I have growing up and around a window frame.

There are begonias and violets blooming in the kitchen. There is also some rosemary and some lavender. I have a couple of Christmas cacti and some succulents. One of my favorite plants is the large umbrella plant in the living room.

I am not convinced that a house is a home without plants.

House plant collage
Ivy, coleus and violet


Retrofit your old house, make it smarter

queen anne house
Queen anne

My house was built in the mid-1800s.  In fact, it was built without central heating, electricity, central air conditioning, or plumbing. The house has all of that today and more.

It was built during before the modern washer, dryer, refrigerator, or dishwasher were invented.  I wouldn’t even want to guess how many different refrigerators were used in my old house over the decades.

They didn’t even have wifi in the 1800’s but we have it today. We had cable for a time and a landline-type phone too. I wish we still had the old TV antenna but we make due with a digital antenna.

We have added some smart technology over the years. There are some smart electrical outlets and liight bulbs too.

I have one of those smart thermostats that I can control with an app or by voice the Amazon Echo. I don’t have to be at home to know what the temperature is in my house or to change the temperature.

There is a camera in my office that I can access from anywhere and I can be alerted if there is motion in the room.

I am interested in upgrading some of the locks to smart locks. There are an almost overwhelming number of choices.

As we add smart devices to our homes those devices will become obsolete and will need to be replaced with newer devices or some other kind of technology altogether. It wasn’t all that long ago that central vacuums and built-in speakers were all the rage.

You don’t have to buy a new house to have smart home technology, which is a good thing because not many new houses are being built and those that are being built are very expensive.


Internet of things

Time to turn it off

I write this every year. Now is a good time to turn off the water to your outdoor spigots and disconnect the hose. Last year I wasn’t able to remove one of the hoses.  I did turn off the water off.  In the spring when I went to turn it back on there was a leak in the house. A few hundred dollars later I had a new spigot.

The plumber removed the hose by heating the connection with his trusty blow torch. None of the people who gave me advice that I didn’t ask for on how to disconnect the hose came up with that one.

If you are a new homeowner or one who hasn’t winterized your outdoor spigots before there is a valve inside the house, usually in the basement a short distance from the spigot. Turn that valve off. I like to turn the faucet back on to drain any water.

butterflies on a zinnia
Monarch Butterflies on a Zinnia in my garden