Three Apples

I grew three apples this year.

It’s been six years since I planted our apple trees.

Late this spring I decided I’d try to prune the apple trees in hopes they would actually, you know, grow apples.  I have a dozen books on growing trees, and that included instructions on how to prune them. But for the life of me I can’t understand what I’m reading when it comes to this topic. And there is like no one who will just swing by the house and show me. Luckily we have the internet and more specifically luckily we have YouTube. This dude, James Prigioni, on YouTube has a great video that I watched. It gave me the confidence to go out and massacre my little apple tree friends. (You can watch the rest of his videos here).

I went to the store and bought a hand saw and sharpened up my clippers. I did the best I could to remove the branches crowding the center of my trees. And I trimmed off dead branches. Generally working to shape up the trees. I removed up to 30% of branches on some of the trees. I pruned a little late in spring but I did the best I could when inspiration struck me.

The fruits of my labor were three apples on two trees this year. Not much progress but one of the apples was red, which is the first time we had a red apple tree produce an apple.

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A red apple on a tree.

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A green apple on a tree.

I plan on pruning my trees again this fall, or in the spring. They got very large this year after I pruned them. Watching the video helped out a ton because the books just weren’t explaining it to me in a way that I could understand. I really need someone to show me.

I’m sure I’m not taking very good care of my trees in terms of fertilizer or whatnot, but it is nice seeing them grow up, and maybe I’ll get lucky next year and they’ll start magically growing fruit.

I don’t know what happened to the apples. It’s late summer and they must’ve fallen or rotted off the trees. I don’t spray the trees so maybe that’s part of the problem too. Regardless, three apples is hardly anything to get excited about yet. So I just let nature take its course.

Pruning was fun and therapeutic. I look forward to playing with my apple trees some more next year.

Mouse Update

Over the holidays I bought a cage trap for the mice. This is better than the teeter-totter humane traps I had been using because I can actually see if there is a mouse inside which means zero false alarms.

For the last few weeks I had noticed a mouse nest near the storage room rim joist and wasn’t sure it was occupied or not. I figured it was since piece of fluff would fall down onto the storage shelf. I placed my mouse cage on that shelf, but towards the front edge. And for weeks nothing. So yesterday I reloaded it with some fresh peanut butter and put the cage along the wall where I know mice travel back and forth.

And “Yay!” this morning there was a mouse in the trap. He had eaten ALL of the peanut butter and pooped all over the inside of the trap.

It is super cold in Ohio this week and today it’s like zero degrees so as a compromise I let him go in the garage. I know there are other mice in the garage and there is no hope of evicting them from the garage so honestly it can’t hurt anymore than it already does. And I can’t bring myself to dump the tiny thing in a foot of snow on a zero degree day.

Yesterday I cleaned out one box in the storage room that had a mouse nest in it at one time. That was gross but I used sanitary wipes to wipe everything in the box off and put all the contents in a Rubbermaid bin. That is a huge step in combating these mice. Once I get the basement organized and clean out the storage room I can start to figure out where the mouse hole is and plug it up. Until then I’ll keep catching them in my handy cage trap.

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Mouse in the cage trap this morning.

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Cage trap set up on main mouse thruway.

Chirp

Chirp.

What’s that?

[a few minutes later]

Chirp.

Oh.

Chirp.

Well I hope it’s not the one in the bedroom.

Chirp.

I was in my office working last week when I heard one of the smoke detectors start chirping. Immediately I hoped it wasn’t the one in the master bedroom because that one is not a chair or stepladder away. It is well over twenty feet in the air, attached at the zenith of the 12/12 pitch vaulted ceiling.

I walked upstairs and sure enough, yep, it was the one in the master bedroom. Originally we had put a lithium battery in the detector, a battery that was supposed to last ten year. Well, we got almost six years out of this one. Not too bad and better than trying to replace it every year like you’d have to do with a regular 9V battery. Honestly I’d almost rather die of smoke inhalation than change this particular battery every year.

The biggest problem with changing the battery isn’t necessarily the height, though I hate heights and that is definitely a big problem for me personally. No, the biggest problem is I didn’t know if I had a ladder tall enough to change the battery. When we installed it we had a giant A-frame ladder that we borrowed from my brother.

Once we picked up a new battery at the store, I brought in my extension ladder. On the side it has a little label explaining that the ladder extends to 16′ and the maximum standing height is 15′. Hmmm…not sure that’s enough. I’m about six feet tall, plus I can reach a foot or two above my head. But that would mean I’m on the top rung almost. Just to confirm my suspicions I went up the ladder. Yeah, no way. I got up there and still had six feet to reach the smoke detector, and was as high up as I felt comfortable going.

Time for plan B. I exchanged the extension ladder for my other ladder, one of those Little  Giant folding ladders. Its label said it extends out to 18′. This seemed too short too, but worth a shot since it was my last shot. The ladder weighs a lot but it’s solid and with a little help from my friend we got the ladder up there. It looked promising.

As long as I didn’t look down, I felt comfortable climbing up there. And sure enough, i was able to reach the smoke detector. With a shaky hand I undid the cover and replaced the battery. Stopping just long enough to get a picture for the blog.

It all worked out well. And the chirp is mercifully gone. I think the new battery will last just as long, and now I know I have the means to replace it when it loses its charge.

Please no more chirp for a while.

Summer Flowers

A few photos from a sunny summer day in the yard. Not as many cone flowers came up this year. I think they’re are being over grown by weeds. Daisies, sun flowers and black-eyed-susans are here and there.

Our day lilies finally started blooming after two years since planting them. Only three of them so far but they are beautiful.

 

 

 

Transplanting the Window Tree

I’ve been watching a tree grow up in our from bed for a year or two now. It started as a wild seed and is now 12′ tall. I figured I’d better move it now since there is no sense in it growing up where it started growing.

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The “window tree” growing up in front of the foyer windows. We didn’t plant it, rather it just started growing there.

I didn’t want to just chop it down, so I tried transplanting it yesterday to a spot along the nature trail, near where another old tree had died. I dug around the base of the tree and tried to preserve as much of the roots as I could. That being said, I didn’t go overboard in my care either.

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The tree transplanted along the nature trail.

After planting it I checked on it later in the day and it was not doing well so I gave it some water. I’ll check on it this morning, give it more water. Hopefully it can figure out it has a happy new home and not die.

As best I can tell it is an ash tree, which means it’s probably doomed even if it survives since we have emerald ash borers, an invasive species of insect from overseas that destroys ash trees.

I’ve not had much much with transplanting trees this year. A nice little maple that was growing wild outside my studio got transplanted a couple weeks ago, but I forgot to water it. So it’s dead now.

 

Driveway Moss

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After six years the driveway has turned into virtual cement infused with living moss and grasses. I’ve been watching it grow all this time. I know the moss. I know the trees. I know their stories. I’ve been watching them grow. Seeing what we’ve become.

Amityville Horror (but with mice)

Caught what I believe is baby mouse thirteen and fourteen tonight. Once again within like twenty minutes of each other. Around nine o’clock, the mousing hour in our home, the wife said “Did you set the trap because the cat is playing with it”.

“No I didn’t set the trap. Let me check and see if there’s anything in it”

Well I picked it up and about jumped out of my skin, for a mouse was concealed under the trap. In fact the whole family jumped and screamed. It was quite a site. The mouse darted from the hall into the bathroom with cat in tow. I closed the door so we could get the mouse box, yes we have a paper box that is the official mouse box.

I opened the door and this one was a jumper. I cornered it behind the toilet, and it was trying to jump up the corner of the wall. Quickly I got it in the paper…er, mouse box. The kids and I took the mouse out. There was still some daylight so we were able to take the mouse far down the driveway. Along the way we saw the milk snake sitting silently in the middle of the driveway. I so badly wanted to drop the mouse right in front of the snake and watch the snake kill it, but the kids begged me not too.

Darn.

A half hour later, as we were relaxing in the family room, my kid says “Dad I think I hear squeaking!”.

“Turn the tv down” and I jumped up to go find the cat. Not on the main floor, in my bedroom or foyer. But I could kind of hear squeaking too. Damn it.

Then my cat comes prancing up the stairs from the basement with a mouse in his mouth. The bastard brought the damn thing upstairs like it was his little stuffed animal or fuzzy ball. The cat dropped the mouse of in the bedroom. I’m scrambling for the mouse box. The cat has the damn thing under his paw against the baseboard. I make him let it go and the freaking mouse goes under the dresser. We get a yard stick, shove it under the dresser. I move a little chest at the end of the dresser on the floor and the mouse pops out and jumps into the mouse box.

We took the stupid mouse outside and let it go in the driveway.

This is so annoying. All I can think of is we have to totally go through the bedroom and storage room to exercise any nests and plug any holes we can find. I don’t know if the damn things live in here or they are coming back repeatedly. We have two cats for the love of god. These stupid mice should not want to be in our house.

I need more snakes.

Milk Snake

The other day, after days of releasing baby mice outside of the house, I saw a big snake moving in from the front planting bed towards the front deck. I called for the boys to come take a look. We had no idea what kind of snake it was. So I googled it and found this keen article on Cleveland.com about the 25 types of snakes that live in Ohio. The wife and I narrowed it down to milk, rat and fox snakes. I sent a message off to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park asking them to help me identify it. Turns out it’s a milk snake. The milk snake is a constrictor, meaning it squeezes it’s prey and swallows it whole, and their primary food is mice. So it is a very friendly animal to have in our yard. I’m hoping this two foot long snake eats up all the mice it can find around the perimeter of my house.

One note on the mice: number 12 and 13 baby mouse were caught and released last night. Ugh.

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2′ long milk snake

 

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Milk Snake by front deck.

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Garage Loft Support

Earlier this month I noticed the 4×4 post near the center of the loft was bowed in two directions. Could there really be that much weight up there? As you may remember, we built the loft back in October. So here we are in May, five months later and now the post is bowing.

I was worried the whole thing would come down, so I had a friend come over and help me unload some bins I had stored on the loft. We installed a temporary 4×4 to help support the bowed post.

This past weekend I was able to run up to Lowe’s and drop about $50-$75 on some lumber, brackets and construction adhesive. The plan I made was to install two wing walls at each end of the loft. Each would provide 24″ of support under the LVL header. These wing walls will basically disappear once I complete all of my wood shelves I want to build along the perimeter of the garage. The primary part of my plan though would be two 4×4 supports in the middle of the loft. These two posts would be 3′ apart, leaving 9′ of open span to each side to the next 4×4 post against each wall.

I built the 2×4 wing walls on my saw horses and installed them. Under the bottom plates I used construction adhesive, then secured the plates with concrete fastening screws. I screwed the wing walls to the existing 4×4 posts that support the loft where it meets the walls. And lastly I screwed the top plate to the underside of the LVL.

In the center of the loft area I placed a 3′ bottom plate on the cement and a top plate on the underside of the LVL. Between the plates I inserted two 4×4 posts. I secured everything to each other, using metal brackets to help reinforce the 4×4 to plate connection.

I don’t think these new supports will hinder access to a parked car. I can’t imagine the loft is going anywhere now.

What I really believe is the single 4×4 post just warped as it dried out. I don’t think there was any danger of the loft collapsing, but it was scary at first until I could really assess the situation and reinforce it.

Pictures below. Enjoy.

Mice

I may be premature in saying this but we may be on vacation from the mice for a while. Baby mouse number nine was found brained in my bedroom two days ago. Baby mouse ten was caught in a box ten minutes later and released by the porch. And finally baby mouse eleven ran into the live trap and was released the next morning out by the driveway.

The wife says an average litter of mice is 6-8 baby mice. Two mice being low, and fourteen mice at the high end. So of course we were at the high end.

No, we haven’t found the nest yet, and no I haven’t working on closing the hole in the rim joist behind the air exchanger (which will be pretty much impossible. I did line the siding a month or two ago with steel wool where the mice are coming in. They can not eat through steel wool, so clogging up the termite gap behind the siding with steel wool should impede them until I can find the hole and close it.

The cats have returned to normal in their routine so I’m thinking that’s it for mice for a while.

I’ll keep you posted when…er, I mean…if, we see more mice inside.

 

Baby mouse ten

Baby mouse number ten after being released.