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Arlington, TX 76010

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Travel Prep: Preparing for Home Repairs

Given our tendencies towards a more nomadic lifestyle, when we moved into our first home back in 2018, I made my husband promise me we wouldn’t sell it for at least 10 years. The market has fluctuated wildly since then, and even though we’ve mulled over the idea of renting it out from time to time, we are still just really grateful to have a place we call home. We have come to love our neighborhood haunts, and have made some good friends here as well.

As you might have guessed however, there are still a few things we would like to change about the place, and have even done a few DIY projects to get some practice. The first thing we changed about the home were the doors — there were several that opened into a room, drastically cutting down the space by almost half. We knew that if we put sliding barn doors in the main bedroom we would gain tons of space in our bathroom and closet; we also decided on a glass door that opened outwards from the kitchen, instead of the solid brown door that open inward originally. While we did a pretty good job for beginners, it was clear there were a few details we were desperately lacking in our construction projects, and we had waited over a year to finish them!

The next item I was desperate to change on our home was the outdoor paint, and if you take a look at the picture below, I think it’s easy to see why.

House: Before

When we first moved into the home, I remember asking the inspector what type of energy qualifications homes needed to meet in order to be ready for sale. He nearly laughed, and simply said, “None?” Since our house was built in the early 2000s, there wasn’t anything too outdated to be a major red flag, however we knew the thin window panes might not hold up for much longer. We had been gathering quotes for some time, however after the winter freeze when our windows started to fog up on a sunny day, we knew it was time: we needed to replace our windows.

Windows: Before

The final and likely most significant piece to all of the changes we wanted to make to the home was adding gutters. If you’ve ever been in Texas during a rainstorm, you know just how quickly a light rain can turn into a flash flood, and our home had started to show some of the tell-tale signs of the rain. See photos below for greater detail, however we had water stains on the brick in the front where water would flow off of the rooftop, and the foundation for the back yard porch had started to move slightly — something we were told would continue to happen with the heavy rains each spring. In order to protect our house, we knew it was time to add gutters — and of course I knew just who to call to help me out.

With just a few phone calls, a down payment on the project, and some carefully coordinated planning, we hired SUNTEX to help us out with all of the repairs.

 

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Home Gardens: Farm to Table

Farm to Table: Sunflower GardenEver since I was a little girl, I wanted to live on a farm, and the idea of plucking my own eggs each morning, and harvesting fresh herbs for spaghetti still excites me. Luckily, the farm to table movement is already underway, and even though it seems ‘trendy,’ (as we learned in yesterday’s blog post) this practice is centuries old.

People aren’t just thinking of ways to improve curb appeal anymore — we’ve also started to see an emerging trend of community gardens cropping up (pun intended), as well as a resurgence of local farmers and artisanal markets. What’s causing this recent demand for local produce? If you’re likewise a fan of Chef’s Table, you might credit Dan and David Barber of Blue Hill Farms for really promoting this idea, which aligns perfectly with their slogan, “Great cooking starts with great ingredients” (https://www.bluehillfarm.com/know-thy-farmer).

So what exactly is farm-to-table food? Check out a helpful link explaining the overview of the modernized movement, including some of the earlier roots of the movement: https://www.webstaurantstore.com/blog/postdetails.cfm?post=1532. One major piece of the food-supply-chain puzzle is processed foods, particularly in the United States where convenience is king, and as companies have discovered more and more re-heatable recipes, processed foods have increased all over the world, with health taking a backseat to pace. For this reason, as well as the environmental costs associated with large-scale farming and slaughtering practices, people are seeking out ways to mitigate these factors as a part of their diets.

Recently, I was introduced to someone who has a small plot of land (less than an acre) in a neighborhood right at the tip of metropolitan Austin. You can see the Austin skyline from a couple of blocks from her home, yet she has pet chickens that produce eggs for her family daily! Now, admittedly, when she told me this, and then handed me a carton of eggs with three different colored varieties, it was safe to say I was a little nervous to try them — after all, they’re not even FDA approved. Having done her research, she rattled off the names of each breed of chicken and their corresponding egg, and also provided several personal case studies of delicious breakfasts and chicken-pot-pie recipes that would impress any Top Chef, while briefly noting the perk of Homestead Tax exemption as the cherry on top (I’ll have to get the specifics on the applicable exemptions, but for a short list of Homestead exemptions in Texas see here: https://www.traviscad.org/forms/forms-exemptions/). Home Gardening

At the end of her speech I was hooked — and dying to try one of the fresh eggs she’d supplied us. The next morning my husband and I cooked eggs, toast, and bacon — in attempt to really highlight the flavor of the eggs — and I was pleasantly surprised with, no joke, one of the best tasting eggs in my entire life.

So is farm to table truly worth it? In my opinion, and not just on the egg harvest but also based on my own small garden, I’d definitely say so! Whether you’re raising one, or fifty goats for milk and cheese, or growing your own veggies or herbs to spruce up dinner, your farm to table experience is awaiting you, and is probably a lot easier than you think. What plants are local in your area? How much space do you have? Researching the answers to these questions will be your very first step in creating your at-home-farm. What will you grow next? Feel free to add comments about your farm-to-table experiences below!

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Managing the Farm: Home Gardens

While it didn’t feel appropriate to call this blog post part of the “Right to Capture” series, the theme is similarly linked by reducing your overall cost of living, and/or carbon footprint, using techniques that have been around for centuries. This blog post focuses on an ancient favorite: the Home Garden!

The worlds very first ‘home garden’ — think hunting and gathering humans — is thought to have been developed around 9000 BC, according to gardenvisit.com (https://www.gardenvisit.com/blog/where-was-the-worlds-first-garden-made/). While the tools used to build today’s home garden may have changed drastically, the practice of growing flowers and (fruits, and) vegetables really hasn’t.

Returning to a previously helpful site, check out the City of Arlington website for some great ideas about planting edible home-gardens: https://www.arlingtontx.gov/city_hall/departments/stormwater_management/stormwater_education/texas_smart_yards/integrated_pest_management — I mention edible, because if you’re treating the soils and pests naturally, you’ll get better produce! The first few steps really outline my own personal philosophy on maintaining a healthy home garden, so I’m adding it the excerpt below for reference:

“Step 1: Plant Healthy

Build and maintain healthy soil. It is important that you know your soil. Homeowners should order or purchase a simple but reliable soil test to find out what essential nutrients are currently available in their soil and to determine what additives may need to be added to provide the environment for a healthy landscape. For more information about soil testing procedures and prices go to soiltesting.tamu.edu. If you use fertilizers to add nutrients look for products that contain natural organic or slow-release fertilizers. Your yard is made up of a community of beneficial organisms that can help maintain your landscapes and the improper use of fertilizers can damage beneficial organisms in the soil which are essential for healthy soils and plants. Composting helps certain soil types hold nutrients and water, loosens clay soils which allows air and water into the soil and strengthens root growth. It also feeds the beneficial organisms so they will feed and protect your plants. Mulching stabilizes soil temperatures, prevents weeds, conserves water and helps feed soil for healthier plants. For more information on local Composting classes visit City of Arlington Recycling and Garbage. Plant Native – Planting with native or adaptive plants will provide beauty all year round in your garden.
Make sure your plant selection is appropriate for your region. Develop a placement plan that uses native plants and drought tolerant species to decrease maintenance requirements. Seek the advice of a Texas Master Gardener, local nursery or local garden club about what plants or grasses are right for your landscape and soil type.”

(https://www.arlingtontx.gov/city_hall/departments/stormwater_management/stormwater_education/texas_smart_yards/integrated_pest_managementHome Gardens: Vertical Farming

The additional steps outlined in this article are useful so please do continue on using the links provided above, but also note that you’ll likely need to read about what plants are local to your area, and when it’s best to plant them — along with some trial and error — as you get started on your own home garden! For example, while I’m by no means a green thumb yet, this year I’m experimenting with winterizing my tomato plants in hopes of re-using the same plant that grew tomatoes for us all summer long. I’ll keep the blog updated sparingly as we winter the winter together this year, though so far I’m planning to keep the tomatoes inside in the southern-facing window(s) of our home just in case we experience any fluke freezes this year!

Keep in mind also that there are a ton of ways to garden outside of adding a garden box to your backyard! There is also hydroponic and/or vertical farming (featured left) — which is a particularly helpful option to those with smaller yard space or for people living in apartments. Additionally, vertical gardens can be really effective in helping you offset not only your cost of veggies year-round, but also are effective in managing the adverse effects of poor weather, since they’re slightly more mobile than your typical raised bed.

For those of you advanced gardening students that are ready to move on to the full farm-to-table lifestyle, please continue to read on this week for more tips!

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“Right to Capture State” – Part 1 of 2

You’ve likely heard it from your realtor, contractor, or perhaps even at the local pond and garden store — but even if you’re hearing it here first, in Texas, we live in a “right to capture” state.Capture the Water For those of you interested in learning more about what this means, check out the following links towards the bottom of this blog post that explain the applicable Texas laws in greater detail. In laymen’s terms, the idea is that *any oil, water, sunshine, or other natural resources* that fall within your property line belong to you (*deferring to local laws and common sense of course). Not to mention, there are incentives for you to do so, for example, for…

⦁ Austin, Hays County, Georgetown, New Braunfels, Round Rock, San Marcos, San Antonio, (and more!): https://www.watercache.com/rebates/austin#:~:text=City%20of%20Austin%20Rainwater%20Collection%20System%20Rebate⦁ &⦁ text=The%20rebate%20program%20is%20structured,exceed%2050%25%20of%20system%20cost
⦁ Dallas / Frisco: https://www.friscotexas.gov//357/Rain-Barrel-Program; and some helpful information about rain-water catchment systems in Texas can be found, here on Arlington’s website:  https://www.arlingtontx.gov/city_hall/departments/stormwater_management/stormwater_education/texas_smart_yards/rain_barrels_and_cisterns

⦁ Houston: https://www.rainwatersolutions.com/products/city-of-houston-gbrc

There is a TON of great information online about what a ‘rainwater collection’ system is, as well as how to build one. If you’re curious to learn more about others in this space, check out the following links, here:

⦁ Rainwater Harvesting Laws and Incentives in Texas: https://www.twdb.texas.gov/publications/shells/RainwaterHarvesting.pdf; including an annual rainwater collection competition(!): http://www.twdb.texas.gov/innovativewater/rainwater/ Right to Capture: Rain Barrel

⦁ Details about the efficacy and importance of rainwater collection, from watercashe.com: https://www.watercache.com/education/rainwater-harvesting-101

⦁ How-to Build a Rainwater catchment system in your home: https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/tips-for-installing-a-rainwater-collection-system/

 

Have you build one already? Please feel free to describe your experience in the comments section below!

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Product Deep Dive: Energy Efficient Windows

When I bought my first home, I remember asking the inspector whether or not there were any energy efficiency requirements for new homes, and whether or not our potential home had any of these upgrades (I know this is still fairly new territory in terms of construction and legislation, however I was mostly curious about two things: kill switches, and window energy efficiency. According to Instructables.com, a kill switch is “is a separate electrical AC switch to be used for cutting off the electrical power that is consumed by a device. This is convenient for reducing stand-by electricity consumption and for manually switching devices. In most cases, a luminous switch is being applied.” (https://www.instructables.com/Hack-a-power-outlet-kill-switch/) – though unlike the steps outlined in this article, I would not recommend modifying the kill switches in your home without an electrician present, this article does outline what they are and how they’re used, as well as how to disable the indicator light on your kill switch to make it even more efficient! My other home energy efficiency concern came from years of living through Texas summers with the AC on high, only to hear my mother shriek when the electric bill came in – so I knew energy efficient windows was something I wanted in my home one way or another. Typical to houses built prior to the 2000’s however, my windows were no where near efficient – and one even had a crack potentially letting the nice cool air from the AC unit escape in the summer time! We knew it was just a matter of time before we needed to replace our windows, and until having heard a few quotes we had no idea of the cost! Thankfully, SUNTEX was able to provide a bid that gave us the high-quality, energy-efficient (and easy to clean) windows at a much lower cost than we’d originally found, so owe decided to move forward with them! Here are some options below that you can consider for your window renovation project. Windows

Because windows come in a variety of shapes and sizes, it’s important to think about your dream home as well as your desired budget when considering a new window design. Typically custom windows are more expensive since they require additional labor, materials, and design work – though they can also add curb appeal and higher home value. The following links provide you with a range of products so you’re able to make the best decision for your dream home:

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Product Deep Dive: LED Lighting

One key example of a simple and cost effective innovation is Light-Emitting Diodes, or LED lighting. While LED Lighting can really be found almost anywhere – grocery stores, hardware stores, or online for smart lighting, check out the following products by Philips: https://www.philips-hue.com/en-us/products/smart-lightbulbs. If you’re curious to learn more about how this works, feel free to read up on the ‘Hue Bridge’, here: https://www.philips-hue.com/en-us/p/hue-bridge/046677458478#overview.

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SUNTEX Home Improvement Deep-Dive

With years of industry practice in residential construction, we’re poised to help you answer questions you have regarding both small and large-scale projects, and specialize in saving energy. This is a top focus for us because it can truly help, and has helped, our customers save money both short and long-term. Solar energy is an investment, but if you’re able to find a solar payment that’s less than the average monthly cost of your energy bill, and offset your energy usage by 85% or more, it’s likely that you’ll see some real savings by going solar, with or without our company. The reason you choose us is our dedication to you, the consumer, and our superior products and workmanship.

SUNTEX is committed to the quality of their products and services. We utilize industry-standard practices and tools to help our customers analyze their energy consumption and cost reduction goals – from the initial energy audit, to project financing products – to solar panels and full system monitoring. Because of this focus, we seek the best quality products to exceed customer expectations and anticipate their needs.

Innovation, as well as information and technological knowledge, are the core competencies of the company, and are essential for current business progress. This innovation refers to the continuous improvement of all products and processes, not just technological ones. This week we’ll do a product deep-dive so you can check them out for yourself!

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Budgeting Tips and Tricks

You’ve probably heard this word over and over again – perhaps you’ve built one and stick to it rigidly, perhaps you’ve set it loosely and try to monitor it sparingly throughout the year – but something that’s important to think about when you’re looking at home improvements: your budget. The good news here is that a new roof or a new solar system can actually add value to your home, so unlike other luxury goods, home improvements can actually pay off in the long run. Additionally, these items are typically financed through a financial lender (such Sunlight Financial or Loan Pal, for example) or through your bank (through a Home Equity Line of Credit, or HELOC), which means you don’t have to pay them all off at once, however you will still need to think about these types of projects ahead of time and plan accordingly. Having said that, there are a ton of ways you can seek out a financial planner, but for some quick tips, feel free to check out the following article, and share your favorite budget hacks in the comments below: https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/how-to-budget.

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