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Flood, Paint, and Honey

OK, we’re back. Actually, Aunt Toby never left, but things both here at Chez Siberia and in our area have been, shall we say, challenging for the past couple of weeks. Hurricane, tropical storm, biggest flood ever recorded (at least locally), and DOG help us, FROST IN THE GARDEN. I’m amazed I’m still standing straight up.

First and foremost, Chez Siberia is a very very lucky spot, from a topographic standpoint. Literally five minutes south of my house, our road was closed for several days from the flash flooding across the roads and five minutes north of my house our road…was closed for several days from the flash flooding. The first day this happened, the DH and The Boy ended up having to synchronize watches, cell phones and vehicles to find a spot that a) was not flooding (and they got lucky with that one too), b) that they could both get to (which was a challenge given the road closures in the area, and c) that they could use to somehow do a ‘back country switchback cha-cha” to get back to our house. The spot was about 10 minutes from our house, in a drug store parking lot but it took them literally THREE HOURS of going hill and dale, up and down, back and forth, finding every dog leg they could find (how the dogs felt about this, I don’t dare to ask) in order to find a little back road that somehow came down to our road BETWEEN the two closed spots. And even that one had an area where it was flooded and they did the ‘cross our fingers and drive slowly through it’ thing. Considering the number of people who were evacuated out of their homes and the number of homes that basically have been either destroyed or need to be completely gutted, the fact that my boys got home safe and we ended up with a bit of water in the basement was blessings indeed.

OK..water in the basement. We have the biggest sump pump made for residential use and we never lost our power (another incredible piece of luck and a blessing). How come we ended up with 4” of water in the basement? Well, the whole deal at the ‘getting rid of the water end’ of things out in the ditch next to the road is that the pump moves the water up out of the sump, through a pipe which goes out the upper wall of the basement to another pipe that is buried next to the house which goes to the ditch. As long as the ditch is empty or the water level in the ditch is BELOW the level of the pipe going into it, we’re in great shape. Once the water level goes above the level of the pipe in the ditch, something called a ‘check valve’ closes and the pump turns itself off so that the water doesn’t come back into the basement from the pipe. Which doesn’t stop the water coming up through the sump from getting into the basement, mind you, but this is how it works. Once things started to calm down rain and flooding-wise, the water level in the ditch came down and as soon as it uncovered the pipe, the check valve opened, started up the pump motor and the basement was empty in about 20 minutes. Not dry mind you, but empty. It took a couple of days with a dehumidifier to make it dry. If we had lost the power (and many people in our area lost their power for days and days) we would have been in big trouble.

Hence, “The Meeting”. Once we’d gotten through the worst of it, we all sat down and talked about what worked, what did not work or did not work as well as it should have, and what could have happened if things had been worse. Like –
If it had been the winter.
If we had lost the power for more than a day.
If other roads had been closed and the DH and The Boy had not been able to get home at all.

And, from that, we came up with a shopping list:
First item to be bought (believe it or not) was a water sensor/alarm for next to the sump. Because we never lost the power, no one thought to look at the situation down in the basement. If we’d known that the pump was not working due to the ditch level, we’d have hauled our Plan B. Plan B is the sump pump which we have in the FRONT basement (long story – our house has two basements – the front basement which is the old part of the house and which doesn’t have very much of a problem in terms of flooding especially since we built the addition onto the house, which is in back of it, has a double dug basement with French drains and a second sump), and a long enough pipe to go from the back basement, up the basement stairs, outside the house and all the way to the driveway. That pump in the front basement is rather ‘long in the tooth’ (as my mom used to say) so…
Second item to be bought will be another big sump pump which will be kept with the emergency pipes out in the garage (that’s another thing we talked about in ‘the talk”, which is that not all of us knew where all of the stuff was that was necessary to do this magic).

Third item to change – gasoline in cans. Just having a five gallon can of gas for the generator is sort of useless since gas degrades over time in cans. So, we will be making sure that by using the gas on a regular basis, the gas in the can is as new as it can be, we’ll be in good shape.

I’m sure we will be finding more ideas to discuss at a later time, but that is it for the moment.

Next: Paint.
As discussed before, a project that I have been putting off and needed to do were the door frames on the south side of the garage. Between the beating they get in the winter, the direct sun all summer and moisture from who knows where, the paint job that was done when the garage got installed was in very tough shape: peeling, cracking, and MILDEW (Aunt Toby hates mildew). So, because we had a dry week and a dry weekend coming up, I took out the scraper and cleaned off all the loose paint. Then I took out a wire brush and brushed them off thoroughly. I then washed them down with water with some chlorine bleach in it. And then I primed with a product that I seriously can recommend highly. Zinsser water based primer. This stuff is mildew resistant and rust inhibitive and is great used in challenging environments. Zinsser Primer

We’ll be following this up with two coats of exterior latex paint. This should last, even in this area, several years. I became familiar with Zinsser mildew-resistant products years ago when we had issues in the hallway by the upstairs bath. Nothing we did seemed to help that situation. We replaced the window with a bigger window. We replaced the bathroom fan with a bigger fan. No dice. Once we scrubbed down the walls, let them dry and painted with Zinsser bathroom enamel, we had no more problems at all. The whole product line is great and in terms of price it is highly competitive with anything else on the market that claims to do the same things.

Third: Honey
WE BEAT THE BEARS TO THE HONEY!!!! Finally. Years ago, when we kept bees, we did not have bear problems. The reason for that was because we did not have bears up here; they were still over the border in PA. Twenty years later, their range extends to about 60 miles north and west of us (bears move a LOT), and we did not realize the problems when the DH set up his new hive a couple of years ago. We lost the honey and because the bees no longer had their winter stores (bears don’t share well), the bees starved and died over the winter. The next time, the DH set up his hive on different property where they had not seen any bears, but he also put up solar powered electric fencing around it. In general, bears respect that. And this year, it worked. We got about 60 pounds of honey from that one hive, which given how horrible the weather has been from beginning to end was a pretty respectable harvest. We left the bees with a super that they had partially drawn out and filled with honey, plus they have the honey in the hive body (that’s where the bees snuggle down for the winter and where all of the baby rearing and pollen storage takes place – you want to make sure there is plenty of food there for them in the winter because bees don’t want to use much energy to get food when it’s cold outside). The picture at the top is pretty much at the end of the harvesting process, after the DH visited the hive, took off the honey supers (which look like drawers without tops or bottoms on them), brought them home, cut off the tops of the honey cells with his hot knife and spun out the honey in the centrifuge that we have. It’s then filtered and put into jars. Yes, this is raw honey. We don’t boil it up first; if we were going to sell it to the public, we would do that but for our own use, we do not. At this point, we will let the bees do their thing and get ready for the winter. We’ve had several frosts, but there will still be lots of plants such as asters and goldenrod in bloom for the bees to collect nectar from to fill up that other honey super so that they will be have plenty of food for the winter and the early spring before the new crop of flowers starts.

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