Monday, June 23, 2014

A Sweet Surprise

My wife was kind enough to bring me an unexpected present on Sunday.  I was cleaning up the kitchen after lunch when she came in with a whole frame of capped honey from our bees.  She's been having a few problems with one of the hives and needed to move a frame of eggs from one hive to another, which meant she needed to remove a frame.  And if you're going to remove a frame, why not remove a frame of honey!

Wasting no time, I opted to get it processed immediately.  There are a few ways to extract honey from honeycomb, and if all of the right equipment is available, it can be relatively easy with minor impact to the honeycomb.  It takes a lot of energy for bees to make the wax that they store their honey in.  I've read several books which state that for every pound of wax the bees make, they are consuming about eight pounds of honey.  I like beeswax, but I'd rather have the honey.  So ideally, we'd get the honey out of the comb and then return it to the bees with a little note saying, "More Please!"

But we did not have the right equipment, which meant brutalizing the honey comb. And I did. It wasn't pretty; honey on the counter, honey on the floor and my hands shiny with it, from wrist to finger tip. In small amounts, fresh honey is sticky, but in large amounts (really large) its actually slippery, which makes it hard to grab things.

In the end, one full frame of capped honey held 5 pounds of honey, which is between a third and a half of a gallon of honey. The spring honey this year is to die for, light colored, sweet and very floral.  Much better than last year's honey whose smell reminded my of freshly trimmed tartarian honeysuckle bushes.  I'm hoping we'll have a good harvest this year.  It's hard to say how much honey we'll get out of the two hives we have, but an average year should see us net 100 pounds of honey.  Ms. Huis may be in this for the bees, but I'm in it for the honey.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Some Things Never Change

Scott was supposed to be on site yesterday at about 2:00 pm to do some initial wiring. Scot was a no show, with no call to tell me he'd be a no show.  I can only assume, based on my experiences and on performance of 80%+ of the contractors that I've engaged with that this is normal. And it drives me crazy.

Scott called me early today to say that with all the rain we've been having, he wouldn't be able to plow in the electrical cable from the house to the garage, and would it be fine to wait a week for the ground to dry out.  Naturally I agreed, as I'm not really on a tight schedule with this project.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Little Heat

Winter is cold in the House of 42 Doors.  It wouldn't have to be.  We could turn the thermostat up to 68 or 70, like most people who live in modern houses, but as my wife reminds me, we can buy a lot sweaters for what the increase in our heating bill would be.  So we drink a lot of tea, wear a lot of sweaters and take hot showers.  But then there is the garage.

The last few years I've started woodworking projects in October.  At that time of year, the days are getting shorter, the outside work is essentially wrapped up and I'm still brimming with energy from the flip side of seasonal affective disorder.  Because the wood projects are done on weekends or evenings, they can take six to twelve weeks to complete, which means I'm working in my unattached garage into November, December and even the beginning of January.  And its cold, really really cold, too cold to work without gloves. Then when its January, February and even the beginning of March, I have nothing to do except dream about Spring and summer.

That's going to change this year.  I've taken one stall of my three car garage and put up a dividing wall.  Today an electrician is coming out to wire in a 60 amp circuit for a new heater and the future option of an electric car plug in.  Its the first time I've dealt with contractors in a few years, so we'll see how he does.  It happens to be the same company that rewired our house back in 2007 and 2008 and they were very good, but this is a different guy.

I am very much looking forward to a heated, tidy workshop and hoping for an electrician who thinks like I do.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I'll name you Beatrice, you're Beulah, and you can be Bea... I'm gonna need more 'B' names...

We've been thinking about doing this for a while and Mr. Kluges finally talked me into it last September.  We ordered our equipment, put it together, and today, picked up the final and most necessary component to our new endeavor...
That'd be a box full of bees, folks!
We are now beekeepers!  
Mr. Kluges and the girls watched from the back roof/balcony while I installed them into their hive.  To start we got a "nuc," which is basically 4 frames out of the middle of a hive.  They should have an active/laying queen and a bunch of her daughter bees along with eggs/pupa/larvae in various stages, and honey and pollen, too.  All I had to do was carefully remove them from the cardboard box they're in and put them into their prepared permanent home.  I looked for the queen, but didn't see her, which isn't too unusual considering my lack of experience. :)  I'm not too worried (well, not too worried), but I'll look again in a few days and see if I can find her then, or at least eggs, which would mean she's there & doing fine.
Here are some photos of the process.
This is the nuc of bees riding home in the trunk of the car.
After I took the first frame out of the nuc, I showed it to my 3 observers. There are bees everywhere on that thing!
Taking a look at a frame of bees to see if I can spot the queen, observing the capped brood, looking for eggs, etc.
Adding 3 new frames to each side of the hive for the bees to fill with pollen and honey for themselves.
Putting on the inner cover.
Since they're just getting established, I put an empty box on top of the inner cover, then a container of sugar-water for the bees to help feed them until they get going finding nectar sources.
Finally I put on the outer cover and a big ol' rock.  The empty nuc box was placed in front of the opening so the couple of dozen bees still in it could find their way out in their own time.

I retrieved the camera from Mr. Kluges while I was still geared up and took a few pictures.  This circled bee is sticking her rear in the air and giving off the homing pheromone, to help the other bees find the opening and realize that this is now home.

I've already been out to look at the hive quite a few times today because it's just so dang cool.  I even saw a bee returning to the hive with the pollen baskets on her legs packed full of bright yellow pollen (dandelion?) less than an hour after I'd installed them.  The bees seem to have settled in fine, but I'm looking forward to continued observations.  Yay for honey bees!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

An Unexpected Early-Morning Wake-up Crash

Not that I mean to only write when we've had something bad occur with the house, but this happened...

About 10 days ago, while Mr. Kluges was in Ireland on a business trip, Mother Nature decided that what this extended late winter, is-spring-ever-coming season needed was an ice storm.  A BIG ice storm spiced up with just a little bit of wind.  Yay.

About 5:30 am, I was woken by the sound of some small branches breaking off the tree outside my window.  I didn't think too much of it, as it's a weak tree that often loses a small branch or two in any sort of wind or ice. I lay there, listening to the tap of the freezing rain on my window, and the occasional tinkle of a small branch breaking off and making its way through its brothers to the ground.  Then there was a sudden HUMONGOUS snapping, loud and extended crashing, and a giant, house-shaking BOOM!  I knew right away one of the main branches on one of our neighbor's trees on the property line to the south had come down and definitely hit our house. I tore out of bed into Penguin's room, sure I was going to see branches poking through her window and an hysterical child in bedFortunately, and unbelievably to me at the time, the window was unbroken and Penguin remained asleep.

But I could see out her window that it wasmore than just that one branch, big as it was.  I then raced over to Pumpkin's room 'cuz the branches obviously went that far - she was awake& asked what that big thunder was.  I told her it was a tree hitting the house, then threw on some clothes, grabbed a flashlight & went out to see what Icould see. 

Turns out I was wrong - it wasn't the one large branch we'd always thought would eventually give way and hit our sun porch.  Instead it looked like the entire tree itself had broken off right at the ground and hit our sun porch, with at least some branches hitting the toproof, and it was resting mostly on our sun porch roof, which was obviously damaged and partially crushed.  I couldn't see very much because it was still so dark, but after determining that apparently none of the tree had gone through walls or windows, I wentin and messaged Mr. Kluges, who was, with the 6 hour time different, awake and at work.

Once it got light, I went out and snapped some photos so Mr. Kluges could get a better sense of the damage and what had happened
.  Here's how it looked.

The red arrow is the base of the tree, where it broke off from its roots. The yellow arrow shows branches coming completely over the top of the sun porch roof, and the blue one shows branches hitting the top roof.
Our side yard
The poor smashed sun porch roof

The reach of the tree up onto the top roof
Penguin's window, the original one I'd expected to be broken out
Pumpkin's window view, with roof completely covered with branches
The view from the backyard
This WAS the gate to the backyard.

Once the girls were off to school, I contacted the insurance company, and then our tree guy, who wasn't able to come out that day because, gosh, he was really busy and we didn't have any branches actually breaking INTO our house (thank God!).  Later that morning, one of our other neighbors called to say she was sending her husband (and his chainsaw) over about 1pm when he got home from work.  They showed up, and between the three of us and his chainsaw and some ropes, managed to get the tree off of the house.  It got easier to see some of the damage then.

Of course, the branches did a number on our custom gutters!

Since then the insurance adjustor has been out, and so has our contractor.  We're waiting for progress with that.  Mr. Kluges and the neighbor whose tree it was decided to take care of the rest of the tree themselves, so it's now all chopped up and off our yard.  The sun porch roof is going to need significant work, the main roof might need some (thankfully we have some of our special shingles around!), and the gutters are obviously in need of repair.  Surprisingly, it looks like just the gate took the brunt of the tree, but the rest of the fence looks ok.  Somehow, no windows were broken and nothingcame through the roof or walls!!!!  I'm counting my blessings on that one!

(Cross-posted to Musings & Mutterings.)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Not the Way we Planned to Spend our Saturday

(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at musenmutter.blogspot.com

I went for a run this morning.  Not that unusual - my schedule is to run on Friday evening, but if I don't feel like it, I'll often go on Saturday morning instead.  At some point during my treadmill run, I hear Mr. Kluges come down to the basement, rummage around in his work room, and go back upstairs.

When I'm done running, I head up for a shower, 'cuz yuck, I've definitely inherited my family's sweat genes.  Oh, but Mr. Kluges is snaking out the slow bathroom sink drain. Ah ha! That's why he was in the basement.  Ok, I'll just wait.

Mr. Kluges isn't having much luck, in part because I think the snake came with the house and isn't working right.  In frustration, he asks me about the clog cannon I got from Flylady that I haven't tried yet.  We get it out, read the directions, stick a wet rag into the little the-sink-is-going-to-overflow hole and give it a try.  

We pump up the air cannon and poof!  Nothing.

We pump it up a little more and Poof!  Nothing.

We pump it a bit more yet and POOF!  Some gurgling.

We give it almost the not-more-than-30-maximum pumps and POOF!!!!!  THE RAG FLIES OUT OF THE OVERFLOW HOLE AND BLACK GUNK IS EVERYWHERE 

And by "everywhere," I mean on me, all over Mr. Kluges, covering the sink, on the hand towel, on the shower curtain, on the side of the toilet, on the toilet paper... everywhere.

But the drain works.

I could end the story here.  You would think that this was the end - little funny anecdote, gross but successful home-improvement story, yadda, yadda, yadda.  WE thought it was the end, and started cleaning up the disgusting black-gunk-splattered bathroom.

...until the children came running up the stairs shouting, "It's raining in the kitchen!  The kitchen is raining!  Through the light!  The light is raining!!!!"

Thaaaat's right.  We apparently have water under the bathroom floor/in the kitchen ceiling and its only egress is the light fixture.  From which is it steadily pouring.  

(Now in case you don't know/remember, this is the same bathroom floor/kitchen ceiling that we've already had rain on us.  At least this looks like cleaner water.  But still - it's one of the only replastered ceilings in the place.)   

Mr. Kluges figures the air pressure probably caused a crack/hole/blew out some rust in the part of the main drainage pipe that hadn't been replaced that leads from the tub to the sink to the toilet and out. ("Oh crap!" I think, "So much for my awesome Flylady tool that not only blew out the clog, but blasted our bathroom with gunk AND broke our plumbing! Mr. Kluges is never going to let me try anything again!")  So we wait until the kitchen stops raining, (and I clean up the black gunk and entire bathroom while we're waiting, 'cuz this takes a while!) and then he has me run the water in the tub to see if it begins dripping again.  I turn it on and let it run and run and run.... 

"Ok!" he shouts up, "turn it off - it's not leaking.  Now try the sink and we'll see if the leak is by there."  I turn off the tub, barely get the handle turned on the sink faucet and, "No, stop!  It's leaking again.  It must be the main drainage pipe!"

This begins a discussion about the relative merits of just doing a basic fix, or taking advantage of the fact that we're going to have to be ripping into walls/floors/ceilings and just redoing that bathroom the way we want it.  I'd always said we had to put in a main floor bathroom (or half bath or 3/4 bath) before we could mess around with the upstairs, but hey, what're ya gonna do?  At least we've got a toilet in the basement that is functional.

In fact, in the basement there's also a "shower," if you're willing to use the term loosely enough.  It's a (rusty, rusty) pipe, with no showerhead, over a drain in kind of an in-between, hallway-ish sort of room. Doesn't work, I don't think, but Mr. Kluges figures it would be pretty easy to fix it up enough to be a primitive shower while our other one is out of commission, what with the not wanting it to rain through our kitchen light fixture and all.

I hop on the phone to my very dear (and local!) friend G, who is in the process of moving (Wah!, btw!!!!), to ask if I can bring my sweaty, and possibly still slightly black-gunky, self over to use her shower.  Finishing up the conversation, I hear Mr. Kluges calling for me.

Turns out, he had already begun the getting-the-primitive-basement-shower-to-work project, and in the process discovered he needed his BIG wrench.  Which was upstairs in the guest room by the open panel exposing the back of the tub with its plumbing and piping.... and the plug he'd taken out to try snaking that pipe.  The plug that was still lying on the floor, NOT back in place where it would keep water from flooding out.   

Hooray!!!!  I call back G, we rejoice in the simple fix, and I tell her I don't need her shower after all.

But then Mr. Kluges tells me that there's no shut-off valve to the basement "shower," that he's already got it partially disassembled, and that he's discovered, the hard way, that the control valve is frozen in the "on" position... and that therefore he's had to turn off the water to the whole house.

I call G back and go find my travel toiletries bag.


I am clean and smell much better.The water is still off to the whole house. Mr. Kluges and Penguin are at the hardware store.  The kitchen light fixture is disassembled and the part with the cloth-wrapped wiring is drying on the radiator.  The power has been shut off  to much of the kitchen, including the refrigerator.  The plug has been replaced and I'm about to point a fan through the access door at the back of the tub/guest room panel at the sodden kitchen ceiling.  Mr. Kluges says he should be able to get us water back by tonight.  I sure hope so.    

(Cross-posted to Musings & Mutterings.)