Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Time to Recuperate

All the houses are rented, the bees are treated and fed, and the farm and yard work is almost at an end. We are settling in for a quiet winter in which to recover from a year of physical and fiscal efforts.

For our efforts we have a structurally sound home with a renovated kitchen, baths, and two new roofs, a doublewide mobile home rented out with acreage and an updated large rental. We donated our poor quality hay to a neighbor, who was delighted to get it due to the drought. Our vegetable garden was neglected and is now ploughed and seeded. The raised beds did not get much use.

Next year we hope to begin recovering our investments in the properties and use the garden to better effect by using the raised beds for vegetables and the flat ground for bee fodder. The sunflowers were a hit with the bees, providing pollen and nectar during the drought. Next year we plan clovers (crimson and white Dutch) followed by sunflowers and maybe asters.

Our new tenant in the Bondurant House is a single woman with no children or pets. She is excited to spread out in that huge house after long years in a condo. She leaves in June; a good time to get our target rent in a prime market. Our tenant in the other house is also single, dependable and long-term.

I treated the bees during a cool morning while they were in cluster, hoping to kill off the majority of the varroa. There was very little brood, due to the dry conditions, but they'd been storing the HFCS in the upper combs. I combined to 18 hives and gave the nucs to a bee buddy for replacement queens. If I'm lucky and my survivor bees have enough Russian genes in them they'll do OK through the winter with the small clusters they have. The larger hives have 5/6 seams of bees in the top over slightly less in the bottom (medium) boxes. They've stove-piped themselves in the middle of the boxes (a trait of Russians). I made sure they have all drawn comb so they can expand as they wish in the Spring. The main lack is capped honey. Amazingly they are still bringing in pollen. Earlier it was dull off-white, now it's bright orange. Not a lot, but it's a sign that there are still flowers open, even after several frosts. I think the off-white came from mature ivy that blooms prolifically once it's reached the top of its support, but I can't figure what the orange is. The bee sample that the Virginia Bee Inspector took showed no Tracheal Mites and only spores of Nosema. I haven't treated for nosema because of the shortage in the marketplace: Large demand and only one manufacturer.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fall Follies

We don't have a tenant for the big, expensive house. However it is pristine clean! I'm thinking of advertising in the New Jersey papers and I'll carry through with listing it with my Realtor friend. I'm inured to taking it through the winter without a tenant, which will mean daily checks and multiple cleanings to keep up the condition.

The bees need some care and feeding. Since we're supposed to have a warmer winter they will be able to eat more stores and carry on with brood rearing through the winter. This means that the varroa mites will be able to reproduce and build up their predatory numbers. By spring we will have more dead hives. I will need to treat aggressively, soon, to allow them to raise the longer lived winter bees, who will fatten up and keep the hopefully varroa-free brood warm through the winter.

The asters, last of the goldenrod, and mature ivy are blooming right now, so the hives are bringing in some pollen and nectar. With the drought there is much less than is needed, so I have to supplement with pollen patties and honey substitute. Luckily I have both, having stocked up this past spring, anticipating transportation costs to drive prices up.

Fist I have to lower the varroa population. Not wanting to use chemicals, I could remove the current brood frames treat the broodless hives and let them then start over with cleaner, relatively varroa-free winter babies. My treatment could be powdered sugar or oxalic acid mixed with sugar water; both are residue free and natural in honey. Oxalic is used in a 3.5% solution, less than the 5% we see in our cooking vinegar. It acts by irritating the varroa, and less so the bees, who groom themselves of the mites by licking the syrup, scratching the mites off (or so we surmise). Oxalic doesn't work as well unmixed with syrup, so in some way being palatable to the bees makes it work better.
Pollen Patties will make up for this fall's lack. Large-scale beekeepers make it in mortar mixers; I make it in smaller scale in my stand mixer. There are so many recipes.
So... Off I go to get ready to do... Something.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Farewell to our Sweet Dustin Frick

Dustin Frick was one of the nicest people I've known. Watching him grow up, I called him Trusty Dusty. He was a peacemaker among the four cousins. He loved his brother, Alex, and was more brother than cousin to William. He was almost Gwin's twin, just 3 days older.

We have so many stories about his escapades. He was always a charmer; sweet talking helped him smooth any troubled waters that came up during his childhood.

His life's journey came to a sudden end on a dark highway. A piece of our hearts died with him. We cry for his unfulfilled promise; We cry for our loss.

Find this Wonderful Man a Partner for Life

We've known him for 25 years. He's everything women say they want in Love, and in Life. He's the Real Deal.

Here's a wonderful man's info:

Needs a life partner. He's better looking than the picture shows. He looks and acts like a younger brother to the 'Magnum PI' guy.

Love, Susi


It's been a disrupted summer.

The home kitchen got finished; then the rest of the work finally got done... When Sam said "Enough!"

About a week later we bought the doublewide mobile home with the rest of the acreage next to the Bondurant house. We did three weeks of cleaning and updating/upgrading to bring it up to snuff for the rental market.

The State Contracting officer for the Conservation Department promised that they wanted the property for their employees, but dropped us two months later! We've just rented it, having to take a risky tenant due to the late part of the rental market year.

Now, since Sept 1, we've been putting the Bondurant House in order and hope, despite the lateness, to get a tenant. We may have to wait until spring, though.

A landlord only has the gaps between tenants to do the long-term maintenance work that a house needs. It's expensive, but necessary, to do the detailed cleaning and checkouts/repairs that will carry the property through another (hopefully) long lease to a family who will keep up the regular cleaning and repairs.

Choosing a tenant is an art and a skill. Thanks to the Internet it has gotten easier. The application is only the starting point. I ask for an applicant-generated credit report, with a credit score. Credit scores might be low, but often you will find that the actual bills due are small. I do a lot of credit counseling, too.

Gut feelings are most often wrong, especially if they are positive. If they are negative I listen to them. However, if I really like someone I am even more careful to get the paper corroboration to verify my feelings. I always do the paperwork! We have relatives who are Very Charming, but will take your gold teeth while they chuckle!

When I see money flaunted (I'll take it NOW! Here's more cash than you asked for!) I figure there's something that generated that excess that I need to understand. Suspicious old woman, aren't I? Been done wrong to and paid the price for my naïveté!

We had a family that wanted the big house ($1800/mo). A beautiful wife, three really nice children, but a marginal credit score and some worrisome items in their history. We wanted to meet the father, talk to him and figure out the situation so we'd feel comfortable renting our luxurious huge house to them. He kept ducking our questions (on the phone) and dodging meetings (forgot? stood up?). We got more leery.

The sweet wife came and helped us start cleaning. He still wouldn't show. She finally called, after a few days of no contact, and said she couldn't take the stress. Maybe she wanted it and he didn't. My instincts, liking her, said GO. My paperwork and his run around said NO. They might have been great tenants, or they might have been a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The work goes on, and On, and ON...

I really thought the kitchen would be done in two weeks. Yes, I know. How I deluded myself and poor Sam.

It doesn't help that the cabinet maker had to remake five of the doors, nor that I had to have him trim out the kitchen so the trim and cabinets would match. The cabinet maker has gone on to other jobs in his shop, but sends a guy over once a week to do a bit more. Poor guy. He's very apologetic. I'm simmering. I won't pay the rest of the money until they're completely done. I still have my living room full of boxes of food, because they're still making sawdust in the cabinets.

I'm trudging along with the taxes, while watching the bee hives make swarm preparations and the spring pass in a blur.

RJ, CC, and MR keep working on the house. So far we have replaced the brass connectors in the fresh water system, due to corrosion from the 'aggressive' water we have. It's high acid and high mineral and makes lace out of metals. The copper piping we pulled out was very fragile. We have replaced almost all of the spigots and tub faucets. This week we'll finish that work. RJ made the mistake of sending me in to get new tub faucets, and I got the single handled pressure adjusting ones. That's been an education for him and the boys. I've never seen them read directions before. They aren't sending me to town for stuff anymore!

RJ also worked on the drainage around the house, to keep the flooding in the basement down. He used his dowsing skills to locate the underground drains for the downspouts. I was very skeptical, but it works for him. They were clogged up. Now they're open there was only a damp spot after this last rain, instead of a bold creek running out the door.

They've put ceiling fans in the rooms that have little air circulation and repaired the shower that had cracked tiles. Surprisingly we found the green tile that was saved from the original tiling of that bath. It's one of those unmatchable greens. All the baths will have grab bars in the showers and next to the toilets, if possible. We installed higher toilets for our aging knees. We've also put lights in the dark places, especially the stairs.

Much still needs to be done: refinishing and reinstalling the old cabinets in the back hall, the metal sheds need to be coated to stop their deterioration, new carpeting throughout the house, and a long list of other stuff.

Sam's middle son visited for a week, and made himself welcome. I don't remember having such an easy guest in a long time. He and Sam took Macks, our shepherd, for long run twice a day, and for short walks several times a day. We're hoping he'll come back to visit soon.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Congratulations Alex!!

Pvt Alexander Howton Frick has joined a proud military family tradition and graduated from One Station Unit Training (OSUT) at Fort Knox, KY as an M1A1 Abrams Armor crewman. Frick is the son of Catherine Howton and grandson of Harry (USAF Col. Ret) and Frances Howton (both deceased) of Fort Walton Beach and nephew of Samuel V. (USA Lt. Gen. Ret) and Virginia Wilson (USA Lt.Col. Ret) of Rice, VA and former Lt Cmdr Harry M. Howton (USNA Alum). He is a graduate of Baumholder High School in Germany.
The first 8 weeks of OSUT training period, the trainee received Basic Combat Training (BCT) instruction in drill and ceremony, weapons, rifle and pistol marksmanship, bayonet training, chemical warfare, field training and tactical exercises, armed and unarmed combat, military courtesy, military justice, physical fitness, first aid, Urban Operations Training and Army history, traditions, and core values.
In addition to BCT Pvt Frick received 6 weeks of instruction in mounted warfare, field training exercise (FTX), armored capability, mastering the M1A1 Abrams tank through driving simulators, firing practice, PVS-14 Night Vision Device and driving the HMMWV (Hum-V) in combat conditions. The final week was spent in Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) training. Pvt Frick attained expert pistol marksmanship merit, the National Defense Service medal and earned a place in the Excellence in Armor program.
Pvt Frick reported immediately to Smith Barracks, Baumholder, Germany where, ironically, he spent 8 years of his young adult life. Baumholder is home to the largest concentration of U.S. combat troops outside the United States and is the European home of the 1st Armored Division. Pvt Frick is proud to join his family's rich tradition of military history and service to his nation.

Friday, January 19, 2007

"I Got a Little Behind in my Work"

So said the Butcher, as he was making hamburger. Ouch!

This has been an interesting year already.

I decided to fix the shower door on the third floor that had caused floor damage beside the tub, and ended up putting in a new shower door assembly because of the broken off screws.

Then I looked more closely at the floor. Rotted to the joists. Rats! So we tore out the floor. The vibrations burst a brass Pex connector back in the wall that had been weakened by our acid water, flooding all three floors. Again.

So I pushed even harder on the company who re-plumbed the fresh water system a couple years ago and they're coming out this next week to replace all the connectors with a non-metallic connector, hopefully before one of the brass ones bursts on it's own.

Since we were fixing floors, we started into the kitchen floor, rotted behind the refrigerator and dishwasher. After scraping off the delaminating vinyl we looked under the sink counter: rotten to the joists. We also figured out that we'd have to cut up the counter to remove it, and couldn't replace it.

Retreat and refigure.

I'm lucky to have caught the cabinetmaker at a slow point, and am the first in line in his next work cycle. He'll have the base cabinets done in two weeks, and doors ready a week later. The internet gave me great info on appliances, and the local dealer met the lower internet prices.

We'll put vinyl in the hall and laundry room and maybe in the breakfast room, all of which need to be cleaned out of furniture and storage cabinets before the men start next week. To do that means that I'll have to clean the basement and sheds so I can move stuff in those areas.

So, for lack of a screw my kitchen will be renovated.

Did I mention the roof has to be replaced? That's another story.