Installing and feeding a new package of Russian honey bees. Shipped on April 23rd by The Walter T. Kelley company of Clarkson, KY and delivered by the US Postal Service at 10:30 a.m. on April 25. Thank you.
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I was going say at this point how I spent the last weeks building a hive stand for my bee hive and setting up the bee hive in the yard. Plus some final prepping for the bees. But the Bees are here!
So today’s gardening chore is installing and feeding a new package of Russian honey bees. They were shipped on April 23rd by The Walter T. Kelley company of Clarkson, KY and delivered by the US Postal Service at 10:30 a.m. on April 25. Thank you very much.
I had spent the previous two weeks off and on planning for the arrival of the bees and doing my best as I have with my family and dog to make their new home as pleasant as possible. About 10,000 Russian honey bees arrived on the 25th of April. The day after Easter so it was a very well timed delivery. I had thought about delaying the delivery a month ago because doing something like made me want to do any thing wrong. But I brushed that fear to the side and stayed with the original date I decided on back in January.
And according to plan about ten thousand Russian honey bees were waiting for me when I came home early from work last Monday.
I did not want to cut corners for doing the best I can to make their new home one in which they can thrive. This has involved much more than just ordering hive and hoping for the best but it involved making sure I also ordered all pertinent hive parts and tools, medicine, pollen patties, sugar, lots of sugar and a few other things I will go into detail with in the future.
For now the hive needed to get outside. The outside of it has been treated with boiled linseed oil and an all weather sealant and now it was time to figure how I was going to place it on its deck. There are a number of different hive stand styles and they each have their own pros and cons. What I wanted to consider was protection from crawling insects like ants, protection from scavenging critters like raccoons and skunks and at the same time making it easy for me to access the hive and move around heavy parts. Thus, I decided on an elevated stand that was pretty simple to put together once I made up my mind. Like many things I do this is not something that I took directly from the internet but rather a combination of a few ideas. The plans for this hive stand design are listed in the show notes and are pretty straight forward.
The job required just 2 2×4 by eight feet. From that I cut 4 16” leg pieces, 2 17” and 2 26” top pieces and I had a spare 1 inch x 6 inch board that I cut into two 16” inch lengths.
To protect the stand from the elements I coated it pretty well with some all weather sealant. Under the legs of the hive stand I placed some old coffee containers and then poured some motor oil into the containers. This will help keep ants and other crawling insects from making the bee hive their home too. These are the big blue feet you see under the stand.
Later on I conducted a final prep by trying on my suit, veil, gloves and doing an inventory of the supplies. I then wrote out on a large board the steps for installing the hive so that I follow what I consider to be the best of a combination of some different ways for doing this.
The first part of the video shows me installing the package of bees and it was filmed by son. I should have put the camera on its stand but he wanted to be the film person and I wanted him to learn. It is also darker than optimum but I wanted to get them in the hive that night rather than keep them in my garage another day. Although they could have survived in the garage without trouble.
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This to do item was actually something that I was responsible for implementing back in December. As you may recall from episode 5 I purchased a foreclosed property in February of 2009 and although our home’s inspection report was pretty good I knew there would be unexpected things that would cost money in the near to distant future. What I didn’t realize at the time was just how mediocre of a job our home inspector actually did. He made it look good but for the price he could have explored the big ticket items a little further in detail. However, he did provide advice that we should get the HVAC inspected ASAP after closing. The HVAC dated back to 1992 and would be of use much longer. We agreed to having the system checked and within a month of moving in to the home I arranged for a local HVAC service company to come and inspect the system, duct work, co inspection, the whole works basically. I did not conduct a thorough enough search for a good company and went with Central Services who had the most polite receptionist. Plus they waived any visit fee in lieu of pending work. My wife had to manage this visit but I was accessible by phone and the person who showed up from Central services was polite enough but it cost $80 for him to enter the house. In a short time he concluded his inspection and wrote up a $700 estimate for diagnosing our system, removing and cleaning the blower wheel, installing an air filter box and air filter, and installing a carbon monoxide alarm. I spoke to the technician over the phone and he assured me that our system was fine, the carbon monoxide reading was fine and all I needed was the service he suggested and we would be good to go. Fear got me and I caved in to purchase the products and services which I thought were going to save me more money in the long run. It took two visits for this technician to complete the work and I felt like I had done something useful to take care of our new home.
I kept up with changing the air filters regularly and we thought we were pretty toasty that winer. During our first summer we did not use the air conditioner much and when we did it operated quite well and we were cool during those hot July and August days.
The winter of 2010 was one to rember and through the two major blizzards we endured our house held up well under close to a constant two feet of snow from December 09 through February 2010. the heating system worked well and we were confident in our our HVAC’s ability to operate under very stressful situations.
The summer of 2010 was uneventful and we encountered nothing but a pleasant air conditioned home. During the early fall of 2010 a friend from work was telling me of his completion of a major insulation project for his old home. I had been looking into insulating my place and I wanted to do something useful for the home. Although we had been comfortable our fist two winters the first level was always cold. I hate being cold and we spend most of our time on the first level. So I conducted some extensive research on how to properly insulate a home and after numerous measurements, exploration in the attic and crawl space above and below the first level I decided that I was going to take advantage of the Federal government’s tax rebate offer for improving our home’s energy efficiency. That was a project from hell but it turned out well worth the cost and effort. It’s a story in itself for another podcast.
Once the insulation project was completed I felt like I had done enough but then my neighbor had got me interested in having a professional check my HVAC again. I put this off for almost two years because of the disdain I had for people showing up at my home just to take my money and not really provide what the home required. I had a copy of Readers’ Digest New Fix It Yourself manual for a home and thought that it alone could guide me through competent HVAC maintenance. I soon realized that without the proper tools and equipment I would not be able to really determine the state of our HVAC let alone maintain it on my own.
So I spent a Saturday afternoon in late November researching HVAC companies in the area and reading customer reviews from a number of different site I found through a simple Google search. I had almost given up when I came across a review site on Yahoo! About BTTECH of Fairfax. It appeared to be a small operation but the way the reviews raved about the main service technician “David” peaked my interest. It was a Saturday and to my delight they had Saturday hours. I figured I could arrange for a visit that I would able to be present for. That was a bonus in itself since no other company I researched stated they had Saturday hours.
I called the number listed and David quickly answered the phone. Right away I knew he was an honest technician because of the way he spoke and I felt like a customer. David agreed to visit our house in two weeks on a Saturday to do a diagnostics on our whole HVAC for $80. If services were to be rendered for the diagnostics the $80 fee would be included in the cost and not counted as an extra $80.
David showed up on December 3rd and after some conversation he proceeded to ell me how he would do the diagnostics of the HVAC. I was impressed with the manner in which he explained the terminology related to the inspection he was going to conduct. I spent the next two hours with him as he conducted a variety of checks and simple maintenance including his use of a camera to see inside the heating itself. What he found was shocking. We could both see on his camera’s screen the amount of rust that was layered throughout the system. No cleaning or maintenance that I could have done would have ever been useful. One of the reasons for the rust was from water dripping down from the roof vent over the years due to condensation.
During this time David also inspected the air conditioning system and informed me that my AC must have been put in place when the home was built back in 1969. He further told me that there was no Freon in system and he couldn’t understand how the system worked the previous two summers.
I realized by the conclusion of the inspection that a new HVAC system was in order. The deadline for the Government tax rebate program was December 31st and David informed of a sale on all systems that had just started. I had feared this eventuality as I knew of others who had to replace their systems for no less than $10,000 dollars. However, once David explained the different systems that would be suitable for my home and their costs I agreed that it was limited opportunity to take advantage of. For $6,000 I could get a Bryant HVAC system that would be energy efficient. Furthermore the tax rebate would drop my total cost to $4,500. Moreover, it would be a new high efficiency system that would draw air in and expel from the lower level where the HVAC sat. This would prevent the rust build that had occurred in the old system. It was time to put the $8,000 tax credit I received for buying a home in 2009 to good use.
David and I proceed to discuss a schedule for the installation and there were some details to confirm such as how long it would it take, hidden costs, etc. The price didn’t change and David promised that job could be done in less than 12 hours in one day. That was a pretty great deal to pass on so we agreed on an installation date for later in December. Before David left he said he should conduct a carbon monoxide reading from the vents just to be safe. I agreed and was glad I did. In every location he checked the readings were in the danger level. David said by law he had to turn our gas off. He further explained that he needed to trust me to not turn the valve back on or he would have to remove the valve. He told me of story where a man would not let him turn off the gas but he did anyway and even removed the valve until a new system was in place.
It was cold that week and I couldn’t imagine living without central heat but we had to do what was safe. We had two DeLonghi Oil-Filled Portable electric Radiators and I recently purchased a Mr Heater Portable propane “Big Buddy” Heater for emergencies so I thought we could survive without too much discomfort. David confirmed that he would reschedule his calendar and make our project a priority. He promised to have everything installed within 5 days and we would be warm again by December 9. I signed an order form and David went on his way to help others.
There were some conversations David and I had early the next week about the schedule and some other details related to the rebate but what most impressed me was how David thoroughly explained over the phone the plan he would implement. I felt confident that although we were going to spend a lot of money it would be the best thing to do.
Two days after his first visit David came to deliver some paperwork and meet my family. He spoke very clearly to my wife so that she could understand what he was going to do on the 9th. He also made a good impression on my children who are always interested in the projects we do around the home. He provided an estimate and we agreed to pay half of the $6,000 that evening and the rest would be collected once installation was completed on the 9th. After he left my wife had the same confidence level I did about what we were spending our money on.
Over the next five days we were quite cold but I was the only one who complained about it. The main reason I did not reenlist in the Army when offered to after three years of service was because I had spent too much of that time being cold. I don’t like the cold but my family’s spirits were good and the investment we had previously made on the spare heaters paid off. The DeLonghi Oil-Filled Portable electric Radiators performed wonderfully and allowed us to sleep in comfort. The “Big Buddy” Heater performed beyond my expectations. I was quite fearful of having an indoor propane heater but it operates with two 1 pound disposable propane canisters and proved to be quite safe. We used it sparingly and it also had a romantic appeal to it as my wife and I would play Yatze to pass some of those cold evenings.
On December 8th and 9th David had called a couple of times to confirm his schedule and explain how he would pick up and deliver the system. At 10 am on the 9th David showed up with 2 of his colleagues and they proceeded to tear the old system out and make room for the new one. I had decided to telework that day so I could provide assistance if necessary and I was glad because if I was not home I would have missed on how professional David and his crew performed their work. When they took out the old heater David called me outside see the damage rust had done to the inside of old heater. I could believe it was working just one week before.
By 6PM the work was still in progress and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight. One of David’s colleagues explained that they would finish for the day soon and come back the next day. That didn’t bother me too much but when I asked David he said there was no way his crew would leave without making sure we our heat back on. He did not disappoint my family and by 11 PM that same day we had our new heater in operation. David stayed a little longer to finalize the paperwork and receive the balance payment. He came a few days later to double a few things and provide better insulation around the vent. I was at work and he called me to verify everything was in order. I thanked him profusely and told him I would speak well of him and BTTECH to anyone who would listen. This is one of those opportunities.
Before ending our conversation David noted that the rain gutter in the fron of my home was bowed in the middle and would cause ice problems this winter on our front walk. I knew this from when we purchased the home and in the past I had three companies look at it to give me an estimate for repair. Each one was over $700 and all three companies seemed shady. I had resigned to putting that project off until the spring and I would see about doing it myself. David informed that for $450 he could have it done within two days and I would have a better winter as a result. I had agreed to have this job done by BTTECH and once again I was not disappointed. Soon afterwards we had a big snow and this time unlike the previous two winters ice did not build up on our walkway and water drained down spouts just as it is supposed to. The hard rains we having been having so far this spring no longer require the use of our sump pump which used to run steady during heavy rains as water would drain from the foundation into the crawl space and get pumped out the back.
In January of 2011 I noticed water leaking from an upstairs bathtub down along the wall into the bathroom below it. I had noticed dampness in the lower bathroom before but thought it was from the sink spilling water across the top. Once I realized it was coming from above. I checked the BTTECH website and sure enough they do plumbing too. David came to visit again and showed us after some inspection that trouble was from a worn large washer connected to the main tub we use. It would be an easy job to repair and I decided to show hime something else that had been troubling me. I took him into the crawl space and my children followed close behind. I pointed out slight water accumulation on the crawl space floor directly below the pipes that fed water to our kitchen. David quickly diagnosed the problem and explained how the pipes in place were susceptible to leakage due to their cheap quality. Whoever put them in was more concerned with price than quality. 2 days and $200 later all of the water problems were repaired.
Taking care of the HVAC and water problems was something or house needed. It made further realize how vulnerable we are to complex systems. Everything it took to replace the HVAC, gutter and water pipes could not be done on my own let alone with easy to find materials. However, I was able to find an honest service company and one that valued customers. That is something in short supply in America. The experiences I had with BTTECH and David gave me something a little more important than self reliance. It restored my faith in people and that there are good ones out there doing good work. David will be back before the summer heat sets in to get our Air Conditioner operating and we look forward to that free visit. If you need work done on your home and you live near Fairfax don’t start without first giving BTTECH an opportunity to compete. You won’t be disappointed.
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