City Life · Construction

Finally – the house is sold!

 

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The house, 2003.

In the past, we have always looked back on a home with nostalgia during the process of selling a house.  Over a 20-year period, I’d even drive by my first house to look at the trees I’d planted as Arbor Day twigs and enjoy the sight of them as mature trees.  Maybe that will come with the house in Columbia, but at this point we prefer to just forget about it!

As I blogged about at the start of the month, a supply line mysteriously sheared off the weekend before our original closing date and the first floor was flooded.  The insurance paid everything for the $11,000 of repairs except the deductible,  but we are still out $1,000.   There were also a couple of other minor things that the seller wanted fixed (caulk over the garage door, etc.) and we ended up with a fantastic contractor.  (Bomb Island Builders.)   The owner even worked over Memorial Day weekend to ensure that everything was complete by closing.

Then the buyers showed up after lunch on the day of closing and wanted to nitpick things.   At closing, the attorney decided to hold the checks for the repairs until the buyers are satisfied.  They went to the house yesterday (the day after closing) and started requesting that the contractor fix things that were never on the list from the home inspection.   We are now worried that the contractor will not be able to get his check in a timely manner.

Now, the buyers have wanted to test the sprinkler system for over a month, but it didn’t get checked until Tuesday morning.  So, as I’m driving to Columbia, my phone keeps dinging.  The sprinklers won’t turn on (you have to wait a minute or two for the lines to fill when the sprinklers have been idle for six months), sprinkler heads are broken (uhh — how did that happen? It turned out to be two of the misters in the side garden, which the contractor fixed in about 5 minutes), we need a letter from the contractor that states that the window about the garage is not cracked, the contractor needs to paid in full before closing…..  on and on and on.   The entire 300 mile drive was filled with stress about things that had been left to the morning of closing.

Then closing:  the buyers didn’t do the final walk through until well after lunch.  They showed up to the closing appointment 20 minutes late.  They made a couple of comments about the house before they realized that I was the seller, and I set them straight on a couple of things.  (It takes a long time before I’ll snap, but they were claiming that the kick plates were missing from the bathroom cabinets.  That was never on a list of things to address, and the cabinets have kick plates built in.)

Then they met with the attorney first and carefully read every single piece of paper.   I didn’t get to go in to sign my paperwork until an hour after closing, and the attorney’s next clients were already waiting.

Deep breath:  I feel my blood pressure rising. I need to go sniff my calming lavender blossoms.  I need to go listen to the hum of bees. 

It’s done.  The house is now theirs.  I’m back at the farm, and counting my blessings.   We are never going to sell this place.   Tomorrow I’ll post a happy post about blackberry-blossom honey, but I think I’ll turn this last burst of stress on the bugs trying to make a home in the cucumbers plants!

 

Construction · Gardening · Honey · Lazer Creek Apiary · Natural Food Sources · Nature · Products and Vendors

4 days away from selling the house, but….

broken line
Broken Water LIne

….the buyer’s home inspection showed a slight leak under the master bath and a couple of other minor issues that we needed to take care of.  (There was no leak at the time we had a home inspection done.)  We had someone come in to do estimates for the repairs and he said the wax ring on the toilet needed to be replaced.  We’re not sure how he knew that, but sometime over the following weekend, the water supply line to the toilet sheared off (not a normal PVC break) and flooded the house.    The bamboo floors in the master bedroom and closet have to be torn out, some of the bathroom tiles have cracked because of damage to the sub-floor, the padding has to be replaced under the brand-new carpet in the dining room, and the dining room wallpaper may need to be replaced.   Luckily, the insurance adjuster is working directly with the contractor on repairs, so things should be moving forward, but work will almost certainly not be done before closing on Thursday.   Of course, we’ll have to pay our deductible and we’re really concerned about how much our next water bill will be, but so far the buyers want to move forward with the sale.

buckwheat-COLLAGE
Buckwheat May 2019

Still, life is good on the farm.  We are back up to 37 hives and most are packed with nectar.  The blackberry flow was really good this year, and the wild flowers are continuing to bloom.  We have buckwheat planted in a few areas, and it is coming along quite well.   There are even a few over-achievers blooming already!   The rest should bloom when many of the wild flowers fade, so we’ll be able to delay the nectar dearth.  We should be able to mow once the buckwheat goes to seed and then let it grow and bloom again.  By then it may be too hot for that, but as buckwheat is an excellent soil conditioner and  cover crop, it will help either way.

May 5-COLLAGE
Plants May 5, 2019

The first lavender blooms are opening and all of the plants have survived pruning!    I let the lavender in the city get too “leggy,” and it’s been scary to prune this batch as much as is recommended.   In fact, I pruned a little less than recommended this time, but the results show that I need to have faith in the multiple sources I read.

We already have a constant supply of strawberries.  Grapes, thornless blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons all look promising.   I plan to harvest some wild blackberries for jam, but the thornless ones are so much easier to deal with!   One blueberry bush has twice as many blueberries as last year, but don’t get excited — we had 5 last year!   The other two bushes are doing well, but didn’t flower this year as we moved them a couple of months ago.


SchoolSurprise, surprise, we are also almost at the end of the school year.   I’m so used to teaching into June that I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that next week is the last one for seniors.   Some seniors stopped coming to class over a week ago, which has me concerned about them maintaining a passing grade, but hopefully they’ll be back tomorrow.   We also got to the end of standardized testing last week, and teachers and students alike are glad to have that over with!    It’s been an interesting year, as any first year at a new school is, and I’m glad that school will be over before Memorial Day.  It was always such a struggle to keep students focused after Memorial Day, especially students who took AP and IB exams at the start of May.

Workshop
Workshop

So, soon I’ll be back in the bee yard and garden full time, unless I’m in the kitchen canning the results of our labors.   We only have half a cup of honey left from two years ago, so we’re looking forward to harvesting this year.  The exterior workshop construction is complete, but we won’t start on building the honey extraction room until after we sell the house, so we may be extracting in the kitchen again!

With the workshop done, Hubby was able to change the blades on the cutter, so we’re taking it in turns to get “tractor therapy” and bush-hog the cleared areas.  After 3 years, the blackberries have given up and the Dutch White Clover has settled in, so we want to keep that maintained.  Plus, I don’t want to have to worry about what’s hiding in the long grass when I go to the well house or compost pile.

Here I am, starting another topic, when daylight is burning and I have trees to plant!   We bought a healthy black walnut at the Cotton Pickin Fair yesterday, and I’m going to ride down to its new home on the golf cart and get it in the ground before I start another hour writing and uploading pictures.

Here’s hoping life is as good in your world as it is here at the farm.   Let’s just forget about the annoying house in the city!

Construction · Lazer Creek Apiary · Nature · Products and Vendors · Queen Bee · Supplemental Feeding

Swarms and Storms

We have our first 2019 swarm capture!   Swarm might be an overstatement, but while we were adding and removing supers yesterday, Hubby went to grab some frames from a hive I’d baited with Swarm Commander and found a fat, active queen with a handful of bees in the center of the brood box.   We’d just split a hive, so we ended up doing a newspaper introduction to the queenless hive as the poor girl didn’t have enough attendants to get her through a 38 degree night.   Hubby just took a peek in the hive, and all looks good.   He didn’t remove any frames, but the bees are very calm and clearly bees have broken through from the very full bottom box to where their new sovereign is housed.

Hubby purchased two Rapid Bee Feeders to try, so we gave that hive and a weak hive one each.   We like the Pro Feeders, but we’ve also experienced some robbing with those when we’ve used them in a weak hive during a dearth.   It’s tough to keep the girls fed when temperatures fluctuate as much as they are currently doing.   Our goal is to build strength first and foremost this year as we have to get the hive beetles under better control than last year.   We’ll move hives out of the lower apiary and into a sunnier area just as soon as we can install more hive stands.  As any beekeeper knows, there are more things on the to-do list than there are hours to get them to-done at this time of year!

Red Oak
Red Oak – Struck by Lightning

As for storms:   a couple of months ago, we had such a loud clap of thunder that the dog sat on my lap shaking like a leaf for almost an hour afterward.   The weekend before last, Hubby and BIL wandered around in the woods and came across a red oak that has clearly been struck by lightening, probably that night.  One piece of the tree is splintered, but still attached, while other “splinters” are in concentric circles around the tree.   The largest of these is about 12 feet long and was flung 100 yards into the woods.    That’s certainly a tree we need to keep an eye on and not one to take a walk close to on a windy day.

The recent floods have also moved sandbanks around in the creek and washed soil away from tree roots, so there are a couple of large trees down in the creek that also look precarious.  Even so, it was such a joy to walk the property boundary and watch the dog play in the creek yesterday.   Sometimes we have to just put work aside and enjoy our home.

Talking of work, in anticipation of the new raised beds this spring, I’ve filled the greenhouse with seed trays!   I have a few types of heirloom tomatoes and some heirloom carrots.  The carrots are in a grow bag as I anticipate them being ready to eat before the raised beds are ready.   The strawberry plants are in bloom, the blueberry bushes have been relocated to a better spot, and boysenberries have been added to that bed.   We have a new pear tree to replace the one that died, although we don’t know which one survived as its tag disappeared.  We had two varieties so that they could cross-pollinate — now we either have two different trees or two Kiefer pears.   We’ll figure that out sooner or later.

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Workshop – February 2019

Other than that, we’ve been busy with teacher stuff!   Oh – we’re also making progress on the workshop.  Did I already blog about that?  Looking back, I guess not!  I’ll snap some more pictures and blog about that next time we have a sunny weekend.

It’s amazing what a difference both of us living here makes.    We’re able to accomplish so much more and I’m already envisioning jars of fresh honey and baskets of tomatoes in May.    Of course, we’re also both happier living in the same city.  Eighteen years and one day since we met and we still love spending time together –life really is good!

Construction · Lazer Creek Apiary

News from the Farm – December 2018

Tomorrow is the last day of the semester and a student holiday, so today is a day free from writing lesson plans or updating grades and I finally have time to blog.   Even better, this is the first year since I started teaching IB that I don’t go into winter break with 40+ hours of grading to do, so it will actually be a break.   As with all new jobs, this one has brought good things along with challenges.  I find myself working more hours than last year, but that is probably more because I am teaching 9th grade for the first time in 7 years and am pretty much starting from scratch with planning what to teach them.    But on to the really good news…. 

Next semester, Hubby will be living full time at the farm and teaching in Georgia.    We are so excited, albeit a little overwhelmed with getting the house ready to sell and downsizing from 2400 to 760 square feet!     Eventually we’ll have a house half-way between the two sizes, but this stage of moving is making us think even harder than before about what we want to keep and what is simply clutter.    We already know that the new house will not have a dining room as in the past 16 years, we’ve used the dining room about 4 times a year — well, to eat in at least.  The rest of the time it became a junk-magnet.     

Back to Hubby’s new job.   He’ll be working at a school that is starting up a brand new JROTC program, which is incredibly exciting.   He did this with his first school, so we know he can be very successful with it.  His new school just added a new CATE (Career and Technology Education) wing, so he will be moving into brand new classrooms designed with JROTC in mind.  They even asked him what color markings he wants on the floor of the rifle range.    And yes, he has a designated space for the rifle team.   I already envision us back at nationals!

Magnolia grown from seed.

We have been able to make a lot of progress at the farm this fall with me being here to stay on top of the most important things.  We are going into winter with strong hives and looking forward to a good spring.   We didn’t pull any honey this year because we have no room to extract here and didn’t want to haul honey supers back to South Carolina, so almost all of the hives have plenty of resources.   When it warms up next week, I’ll add candy boards to hives that need them.  The relatively wet summer set the hives up for success and we did not experience any robbing, unlike last year.   Right now, I have two syrup feeders and 3 pollen/powdered sugar feeders out and all are busy, even though it’s not quite 60 degrees out.

Our big winter break project will be the workshop.   We were supposed to build it Memorial Day weekend, then over summer, then Thanksgiving weekend — the weather got in the way of those plans over the holiday weekends and getting the mobile home set up got in the way in summer.    It can’t wait any longer as we need somewhere to put all the stuff that’s currently in the garage as soon as the house sells.   Plus, as every beekeeper knows, winter is when the building and repair of hive equipment needs to happen.    I’ll be posting pictures of the build over the next couple of weeks.  

Well, Hubby will be showing up next weekend with another load of miscellaneous stuff, so I need to find homes for what’s in the plastic totes that I haven’t emptied yet as there’s no room in the office to put even one more box!    He’ll also be showing up with his clothes, so I have to stop using his closet as my overflow closet and decide what to donate to Goodwill!   I still can’t believe how lucky we are to call this place home.   Even on the exhausting days, life is good! 

Winter rye and clover

Hubby here: I’ve been long in getting around to blogging here myself, as life seems to be one challenge after another. Somewhere I read once that you must experience the rain in order to enjoy the sunshine. I feel when life rains on you, put on a rain jacket! I can see the sunshine of life on the farm, but currently I’m a city slicker hoping to get everything boxed and moved in time along with dealing with a multitude of potential buyers for all the “downsize” items. While I’m excited to move to a new chapter in life, as I look out the office window I can’t help feel a sense of depression to leave all the hard work behind that we have put in over the last 15 years here. The Magnolia tree that was shorter than the Missus when we arrived that is now nearly 45′ high; the garden swing that we built to enjoy the southern summer evenings; irrigation sytems, etc. etc. But I do enjoy the challenge of creating things and this move will give me more than enough challenges. A life in the military moved me every 18-24 months for over 20 years. This has been the longest I have ever lived anywhere my entire life. Even as a child we moved several times. But like the trees on our farm, as time goes on, I simply want to grow my roots deeper every day, enjoy the sunshine with its country beauty and when necessary sway in the moment when the storms of life pass by us. Well it’s time to fill more boxes and curse the fact that our city house has two floors to walk up and down to.  Five days and counting to becoming a beekeeper and farmer again.

Construction · Gardening · Lazer Creek Apiary · Relaxing

Cattle Panel Greenhouse

Last weekend was all about curled hair and eye-liner as I gussied myself up to go to the school’s homecoming dance.   The DJ played a good mix of music, my students were all handsome / beautiful, and I had a whole lot of fun.   The students were very appreciative, and that made the evening even more special.   Of course, getting ready took up much of Saturday and recovering from a late night (anything after 9:30 is late these days) took care of Sunday — well that and the normal Sunday grading and lesson planning stuff.   I still hadn’t really recovered by Friday, and I was creaky and achey from sitting around too much all week, so I welcomed a day of walking, tractor driving, and construction yesterday.

Homeless plants
Plants on the move!

Apparently people buying houses in the city don’t appreciate beautiful flower beds that require lots of maintenance, so Hubby has been digging up and re-potting plants while simplifying our garden.    This is just a fragment of the things we need to overwinter and plant. We gave our greenhouse to a friend when we started getting the house ready to sell as we didn’t think it would survive a 300 mile trip, so we needed a new solution.  Hubby has been watching videos about greenhouses made from cattle panels — they are inexpensive, sturdy, and don’t take much time to build, so that became yesterday’s project.

Greenhouse 1
Planning size and location

He’d already done the math and knew what to buy, so, after a trip to Tractor Supply and Home Depot, all we had to do was put it together.   First we laid the boards out and then moved them a few times.  We’re both very visual people and just have to see whether we’re going to have enough room around anything we build.    Hubby then used the tractor to level the ground while keeping a slight slope to enable drainage.

The next step was to see just how much headroom Hubby would have.   With the original configuration of the foundation boards, he wouldn’t have been able to stand up and we’d have a lot of unusable space under the slope of the sides.   Reducing the width by just one foot made a much more usable and comfortable workspace.

 

Hubby cut the boards and created a nice, square foundation which we placed on top of heavy duty landscape fabric covered with gravel.    He hammered spikes into the ground to keep the foundation in place and then we started putting the cattle panels in.   We chose to overlap the panels by 4 inches to give a little more strength to the middle of the structure.    Cattle panels also have a section with smaller mesh at one end, and we made sure these were on the ends for stability.   We also made sure that the ribs that go across ended up on the inside to reduce friction on the plastic.    (That sounds so simple now, but it involved a lot fighting 12 foot lengths of panel!)

 

We secured the panels to each other with cable ties and covered the ends with plumbing insulation to protect the plastic.   Hubby then framed the supports and the door frame at either end and stapled the panels to the wood frame.   While he finished that up, I put the more delicate plants in the greenhouse with the least cold tolerant ones in the center.   We’ll plant some of them over Thanksgiving break, which will free up some room to get our shelves in and make the space usable for spring seedlings.

By this point, I was tired and hungry, so I abandoned Hubby and headed for the kitchen.   He managed to get the plastic over the frame without me — something I thought we were going to do this morning — and today he is finishing up the door.   He’s also decided that we need a window in the back — preferably an automatic one as today’s sunshine has turned our greenhouse into a sauna.

 

But for now, I have a place to keep the plants alive on frosty nights.   With the spring-fed creek on two sides of the property, we have frosts when the weather forecast predicts temperatures in the low 40s, and I’ve already had to scrape the windshield once this week.

As for the bees, I only saw about 30 yesterday, but today’s sunshine has them on the move again.   They are now taking an interest in the pollen substitute so I’ll be sure to keep the pollen feeders stocked.   I still have some pollen patties made with sugar syrup in the freezer, but I’ll save them for cooler weather as they tend to be beetle magnets.   I’ll also put a test syrup feeder out up by the greenhouse.  I don’t want to put one anywhere near the bee yard as I’m still seeing yellow jackets and hornets and don’t want to lure them into the apiary.   I think all the hives are able to defend themselves now that we’ve collapsed them down for winter, but European hornets might still be in the neighborhood and they won the battle with one strong hive this time last year.

It’s amazing how physical labor can make a mind and body feel so much better, but it does.   As teachers, we also don’t always see the results of our hard work for quite some time, so a project that we can actually finish in a weekend always does us good.   Even more than that — I just like working with Hubby!

Greenhouse 10
Finished Greenhouse

He just sent me one more greenhouse picture and the dog is so cute I just have to add it here before I go hit the books!

Life is good here on the farm, and I hope it is equally good where you’all are!

 

 

 

Construction · Lazer Creek Apiary · Natural Food Sources

Dog-gone confused

Maggie
Maggie after a hard day’s supervising the humans.

Maggie has been quite happy to spend her days running around the farm for the past 6 weeks and made it clear that she thought her humans must be insane to go back to a 98 degree house in the city. How do you explain a broken air conditioner to a dog? Needless to say, none of us was very happy, but Blythewood Heating and Air rearranged their Tuesday schedule and came out first thing Tuesday morning to replace the failed part.  The humans have been so happy with their service over the years.

After the air conditioner was repaired, Mrs. Human went shopping while Mr. Human went to work and Maggie spent the afternoon in her crate. Then the humans came home and started putting stuff in boxes, especially Mrs. Human’s leave-the-house-all-day-and-don’t jump-on-her-until-she-changes clothes. That got worse today when the humans came home with a truck and put “Maggie’s” loveseat in there followed by a whole lot of other furniture, including some from the forbidden-to-dogs guest room. However, Maggie is now happily back at the farm, stretched out on the bed in the RV because Mrs. Human has the laptop bag on her spot on the couch.


We were able to put most of the furniture we intend to keep into a 16 foot Budget rental truck, and Hubby is currently about an hour away from the farm. We need to build the workshop before we can move much more, but what we have in each location is more than enough. Spending summers in an old FEMA RV has really changed our attitudes about our definition of enough. I will be really happy to get my food processor and mixer down here, but as we don’t have much of a garden going yet, I won’t be canning anyway. The fig tree in the city doesn’t even have many figs this year, so I wasn’t tempted to try any new fig recipes in between packing boxes and shopping.

UPDATE:  I was unable to save or publish this last week, but the mobile hotspot appears to be in a better mood today.   Hubby’s wonderful brother helped us unload the rental truck last Friday and I’ve been living in the mobile home for a little over a week.   Ferrell gas hooked up the propane on Tuesday, but I haven’t tried the stove yet as we have yet to move pots and pans.    Hubby completed the front deck yesterday while I was at work and it is beautiful (and safe).

I am very excited about my new job, even after the ubiquitous  meetings in which teachers are reminded about federal and state laws pertaining to education.    Tedious as these meetings can be, they are crucial for new teachers and a good refresher for the rest of us.    I really like my co-workers, administrators, and the policies that are in place.    Best of all, I get to drive through beautiful countryside at the end of every day, sometimes watch a train (or two) go by, and then spend my evening at the farm.

It’s been too hot to get into a bee jacket in the evenings, but the hives I checked this morning have done very well without us while we’ve been busy with other things.   Unlike other years, there does not appear to have been a pollen or nectar dearth this summer as all the established hives are jam-packed with resources.   We’ve had a lot of rain this summer, and I think the bees are finding a lot of wild flowers on the forestry land that was cleared over winter.

We’ve been too busy this summer for me to blog much, but I hope that changes now that we are almost settled.   There are so many things that I’m excited to write about, but for now I have to go write about what I’m going to teach next week!

Construction · Lazer Creek Apiary · Products and Vendors

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock….

Yes, that’s the sound of time ticking away as the end of my summer approaches.   My first day at work is just over a week away and we have so much left to do.   I don’t feel stressed, but last night I dreamed that I left school to run errands during lunch, got lost, the GPS on my fitness watch wouldn’t work  so I didn’t know where I was, and I couldn’t contact anyone at the school until after my students left for the day.   I have never left school at lunch to run errands, but the rest is understandable.  My iPad GPS can’t figure out where we are, so The Weather Channel keeps giving me the weather forecast for Columbia, SC, which is driving me crazy.   I bought a new fitness tracker watch: It went through 2 CR2025 batteries in under a week, and the seller only gave me a partial refund for what is clearly a defective product, so more frustration.   And I guess I am a little stressed about starting work at a new school, although I really like all of the people I’ve met already and the school has great policies in place.   For one thing, they are really serious about cell phones — there’s a time and a place for them, even in the classroom, but they can be such a disruption and distraction.

Sonotube footers
Sonotube footers

But, back to the farm, while we still have time.   We now have electricity, air-conditioning, water, septic, and a land-line phone for when the one-and-only cell phone tower takes a day off!   The propane company is coming out tomorrow to discuss where to place the propane tank, and Hubby is working on the foundation for the front deck as we speak.     He’s trying to get the footers in before the rain returns so that the cement can cure.

Cement mixer
Cement mixer

His brother, thankfully, has an electric cement mixer which is making life a little easier.    I am being no help whatsoever having succumbed to a bad cold!   I couldn’t get through a summer without one, I guess.   The front deck will be built in two stages — the first giving us a way into the house that meets code and the second a place for the whole family to hang out.   While the footers are curing, we’ll add the underpinning to that part of the home before building the actual deck.   Of course, the back deck will take precedence over the family deck as we don’t want anyone to break any bones by trying to exit through the back door.

Clothes line
Clothes line

I’ve been very happy to put laundry baskets in the back doorway and walk around the trailer to retrieve them and hang clothes on the line.   A family friend gave us his old washing machine and it has been wonderful to wash clothes at home, even if that does currently involve climbing up and down shipping-pallet steps!    I don’t know why the machines at the laundromat never seem to get clothes clean and barely rinse the detergent out.   I love the way clothes smell when they’ve been dried outside, but I had forgotten that they don’t feel very soft and fluffy if there’s no breeze while they are drying.   I may need to bring the iron and ironing board down here.    Sigh…. I hate ironing.

Curcuma and hostas
Curcuma and hostas

So now that we have closet space and 765 square feet of home,  we’ll start bringing furniture and work clothes down here.    I have a couple of teacher-workday outfits here, but no dress shoes, makeup or jewelry, so I guess a trip to the city is in my near future.    I also want to dig up some daylilies to add to the hostas I planted over the septic tank so that we know where NOT to drive the tractor.    Talking about the septic tank — we decided to have the septic system installed and are very happy that we did.   We realized that we were in over our heads when we measured the slope of the land.   What looked fairly level was actually a seven foot drop over the length of the leech field.   It was well worth paying a professional to work with the inspector to get the permit approved.    It’s not like we don’t have plenty of other things to keep ourselves busy!

It’s been a short summer for me, but a great one, and I don’t have to go back to the city when school starts.   Sadly, Hubby does, but that will make getting the house on the market easier and it will all work out in the end.    At least this way, one of us can keep an eye on the bees while the other tidies up loose ends in the city.

But it looks like the afternoon rains are coming, so time to sign off and grab the clothes off the line!