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30 Dec 2015 

When you can pick up a lovely old Bulgarian village house for around 10,000 Euros, it is easy to get carried away. But you need to consider carefully just what renovations will be required, who and how you will get to do the work and most importantly, what the cost will likely be for renovating your new Bulgarian property.

When you purchase a cheap Bulgarian property there is usually no internal bathroom, no proper kitchen and the need for re-wiring, plumbing, plastering, new windows and doors and complete internal decoration. Very few cheap Bulgarian houses are habitable and many of the Bulgarian properties for sale have been empty for many years.

So first you need to consider the cost of renovating your Bulgarian property. You will need to install a septic tank and all the waste pipes and internal plumbing so you can have a toilet inside your Bulgarian house and not have to run down to the bottom of the garden to use the toilet. The wiring inside your new Bulgarian holiday home will probably be rather old and to be on the safe side (and to lower sockets from eye level to a more user friendly position) it would be best to get the Bulgarian property re-wired. New windows and doors are usually needed or at least some serious repair of the old wooden frames that most Bulgarian properties have.

Unless you are a builder yourself or a DIY expert then you are probably going to need some local assistance to source materials and do the renovations to your Bulgarian house. If you opt to use a Bulgarian builder to do some or all of the work, there are certain aspects you need to watch out for.

First you need to negotiate and put in writing a specific price for each job you want doing on your Bulgarian property, otherwise you will find the price suddenly doubles when it comes to paying. Then there is the actual work. When you get new windows put in your Bulgarian house, that is what you will get literally new plumbing PVC windows held in position with yellow expanding foam and no brick or plasterwork done around. And if you have the walls of your Bulgarian property re-plastered, you will simply have plasterboard nailed on top and no skimming layer of plaster put on before the paint is splashed on. Yes splashed on it never occurs to a Bulgarian worker to put masking tape around the edges of your nice new PVC windows or cover the glass to keep it clean. You will find you can hardly see out of the windows of your lovely new Bulgarian house as they are covered with paint and plaster!

And always keep in mind that there will be unforeseen costs in any renovation, unexpected complications, more work required than originally envisaged. You should always add at least 50% to any renovation quote for your Bulgarian property.

But all said and done, at the end of the day you can still buy a rural Bulgarian village house for 10,000 Euros, spend a further 15,000 Euros renovating it and finish with a lovely holiday home in Bulgaria or even a Bulgarian property for permanent living.

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19 Oct 2015 
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) this month completed a special registration review of the corn herbicide atrazine for the State of Minnesota.

According to the MDA, "The review finds that atrazine regulations protect human health and the environment in Minnesota."

"Minnesota's independent and exhaustive evaluation determined that atrazine use, as currently managed and regulated, is not harmful to humans or aquatic life and that it is rarely detected in Minnesota's public water systems," said Dr. Tim Pastoor, principal scientist at Syngenta Crop Protection. "Minnesota's findings affirm what 6,000 scientific studies and 50 years of experience have told us. When the science does the talking, atrazine is found safe to use."

Atrazine is a well-studied herbicide applied to corn, grain sorghum, sugar cane and other crops in the U.S. that farmers rely upon worldwide to produce safe, affordable and abundant food. In addition, atrazine is a key component of soil conservation programs.

Small amounts of atrazine may run off certain fields during heavy rains following its application. However, the Minnesota review states that "Detections of atrazine in public water supply systems in Minnesota are rare." State scientists also monitored private water wells. The review states "atrazine concentrations in private wells are expected to be absent or below established health benchmarks."

MPCA work is cited in the review stating "existing state standards for atrazine are protective of surface water aquatic life uses. Surface water monitoring since 1993 has not shown any waters with atrazine concentrations that violated the state's water quality standards resulting in any impaired waters determinations." Data from monitoring programs suggest that atrazine for concentrations may be make declining over time.

Benefits to Farmers

Farmers rely on atrazine to control weeds on more than half of U.S. corn, and a 2003 EPA review said "the total or national economic impact resulting from the loss of atrazine to control grass and broadleaf weeds in corn, sorghum and sugar cane would be in excess of $2 billion per year if atrazine were unavailable to growers."

The Minnesota review also discusses the importance of atrazine to farmers. It states, "Atrazine continues to be an important weed-control tool in Minnesota corn production." University of Minnesota weed scientists are quoted for as saying "there are no direct replacements for atrazine in preemergent weed control that are currently registered for use in Minnesota."

"Syngenta is an active steward of all its products including atrazine," Pastoor said. "We work closely with farmers and farm groups to help promote agricultural best-management practices to minimize runoff and to inform applicators about products containing atrazine and the label requirements of those products."

The review incorporated public comments at the beginning of the review process and is in the midst of a 60-day public comment period which ends March 19.

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19 Oct 2015 
Examples of Point Source Water Pollution

Point source pollution was once the most common way US rivers were polluted. Due to regulations, this number has gone down, but it's still a huge problem for American waterways.

This type of pollution is dumped directly into a body of water through a number of ways including pipes, damaged containers, and overflow. Examples of point source pollution include:

Water treatment plantsLandfillsOil spillSewage dischargePipes carrying chemical wasteRunoff from minesHow to Control Water Pollution

There are a number things that can septic tank plastic be done in order to control water pollution. NPS pollution can be controlled by avoiding the use of harmful insecticides and fertilizers. Consider growing organically! Organic fruits, veggies, and meat tastes better anyway!

By recycling garbage septic tank size and not littering, you can help prevent against trash ending up in waterways. You can also join a group that cleans up litter left by others. Whether you're doing major litter cleanup by installing a litter trap in a river, or just collecting piece of garbage from a ditch, you can make major difference.

If chemicals are being septic tank vent pipe dumped directly into a waterway, contact the company responsible for the mess. If they're not up to helping, contact a representative. If nothing is being done, get loud: contact the local newspaper, blog about it, and get your local news station involved.

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09 Sep 2015 
Hi Mason,

My husband and I installed a cheap laminate hardwood. Everyone says you shouldn't apply polyurethane to laminate. I tested two planks, and they seem to be fine. My goal is to seal the edges/seams with the poly and to add more high gloss sheen. When moisture sits on a seam and is not cleaned up right away, the edge will pucker. Thanks for your advice.


Im on a pun-roll, so I have to say this. Should the edges pucker-up when wet, that would be just swell! But seriously

Laminate flooring (known by such brand names as Pergo, and many others) is essentially a photograph rendering or pattern laminated to a medium-density or high-density fiberboard, and protected with a hard wear layer of clear melamine or resins. The joints between planks snap tight together, but perhaps not tight enough to completely prevent water penetration. The fiberboard core may swell when exposed to water or excessive moisture and for that reason, there are significant limitations to the product when installed in water exposure areas. Water left on laminate flooring may irreparably damage your floor.

I do not know of any regularly-available products that will adhere well in the long term to the wear layer of a laminate floor. Even though your test samples with polyurethane may seem to bond, I can pretty much guarantee that such a finish applied to your laminate floor will separate, scratch and scuff-off in fairly short order when foot traffic is applied. Keep in mind that the wear layer of your floor is engineered specifically for things NOT to stick to it (like stains).

If you flooring was not already installed, I would say to 1) consider the best, highest-density core product available for potential moisture areas and 2) glue the edges upon installation and seal the perimeter to the extent recommended by the manufacturer.

At this point, I suggest that you and other home occupants practice extreme care with water around the floor, including perhaps protection with area rugs, and wiping-up any spills that may occur, immediately.

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06 Sep 2015 

We have a cultured marble countertop in our bathroom, bought from a home center less than two years ago. Some visible marks have appeared in the surface not deep scratches, but the top no longer looks new. What might be done to restore the original appearance?

DH, Midlothian, VA


Cultured marble is a mix of finely-ground stone dust, polymer resins, binders, fillers and pigments. The finished surface is gel coat, not unlike the hull of a boat, or the body of a Corvette. If the scratches are very light, you may be able to apply a coat or two of automotive wax or a special wax known as Gel Gloss (look in marine supply stores), which should hide the marring for a year or so, at least until the wax wears through.

Longer-lasting renewal may be accomplished by buffing the surface with automotive polishing compound, either by hand or with an electric buffer.

Unlike solid surface products (like Corian), deep scratches may not be easily repairable, since the finish is only surface-deep.

I hope this helps. Good luck with your visit to the boat store (I always find some neat hardware or doo-dads to buy there), and best wishes for a sparkling new countertop!

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