Category Archives: Property Maintenance

20240415-21_Spring-is-finally-here-3

NOTE:  There are four (4) photos with captions in this post, taken by me (Bruce) with a Google Pixel 6 Pro.

 

MONDAY 15 – SUNDAY 21 April 2024 — The third week of April

 

Monday 15 … TAX DAY!

  • Nothing of note on our calendar for today. Personal tax returns needed to be postmarked by midnight, but Linda had already filed or delivered all of the returns that she prepared.

 

Tuesday 16 … A delivery, a project, and a guest.

  • … The towable lawn rake was delivered today by XPO. The truck had a lift-gate service and dolly, so the driver was able to unload it and move it into the garage.  ABIR, the shipping weight was about 180 lbs., so I was glad to have this service.
  • Delivery of the lawn rake meant that I now had a project assembling it and connecting it to the lawn tractor. I had previously moved the F-150 out of the garage to make room for all of this so I could work on it inside.
  • Our first Boondockers Welcome (BdW) guest, RamTam9, arrived today.
  • Linda met Diane at the Metropark for their weekly walk.

 

Wednesday 17 … The project continues; and a birthday.

  • … ABIR, I unpacked the lawn rake and did some preliminary assembly, but did not finish the job until the next day. I also needed (wanted) to get a properly sized bolt and lock-nut to secure it to the pin hitch on the lawn tractor.
  • Today was Nancy’s birthday. Happy birthday, Nancy!

 

 

Some of the components for the towable lawn rake.  (The furniture was eventually picked up by our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.)

More lawn rake components.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The nuts and bolts of the lawn rake, literally.

 

Thursday 18 … Dinner with friends.

  • Our BdW guests left for their next destination.
  • We had dinner at John and Diane’s house and visited well into the evening.

 

The assembled lawn rake attached to the Cub Cadet lawn tractor, ready to clean up branches, twigs, and leaves around the property.  I do not recall when I actually used it for the first time, but it was relatively soon after this photo was taken on the 18th.

 

Friday 19 …

  • I think Linda started proofreading the backlog of blog post drafts, beginning with our AK-HI cruise. (I did not start uploading them to our WordPress site until she was well-along with this work as I wanted to post them in chronological order and wanted all of them ready to go for any given time period or event, such as this cruise.)
  • I continued to trim trees that were not part of the work done by Davey Tree Service
  • I arranged for Keith to do the first mowing of the property this year in early May.

 

Saturday 20 …Another BdW guest, and continued work on the property.

  • Our second Boondockers Welcome guest of the season arrived today; WildCoddieWamplers.
  • I suspect that we spent at least part of the day continuing with the tree trimming and yard clean up, but we do not tend to record things like that in our calendar.

 

Sunday 21 … Just another day at home.

  • Nothing of note on our calendar today. We might have been busy, or we might have relaxed, or we might have visited with our BdW guest, or all three, or none of these things, or something else entirely.  No idea.

20240401-07_Spring-is-finally-here

NOTE:  There are no photos for this post, but it is quite long.

 

MONDAY 01 – SUNDAY 07 April 2024 — Transitioning into Spring

 

Although the first day of Spring in 2024 was officially March 19th, here in SE lower Michigan, April is the month when winter really transitions into spring.  During the first full week of April, we were still having overnight low temperatures below freezing along with episodes of light snow.  But we also heard the “spring peepers” (frogs) start their evening mating chorus.  Indeed, spring is heralded as much by sights, sounds, and smells as it is by hours of sunlight and seasonal weather.

Notable among the sounds, along with the spring peepers, was the cacophony of gaggles of Canada Geese, the unmistakable calls of the Sandhill Crane, other bird song, and the loud drumming of distant woodpeckers, the latter suggesting that Pileated Woodpeckers were in the area.  Robins had already appeared in late March.  Plants started erupting from the ground, trees/bushes started to flower, and the grass started to grow, all sure signs of spring.  (Our property, however, was still too wet to mow, which is one of the challenges of spring in this part of Michigan.)

While we waited for warmer/drier weather, so we could work outside comfortably, and took care of several important tasks during the first week of the month.  Although a bit mundane, we broke down a large amount of corrugated cardboard packaging and recycled it; all of it accumulated from various things we have purchased over the last many months.

We have now lived “in the country” for over a decade, some 30 miles farther out from the downtown hub of the Detroit metropolitan area than our previous house.  During that time, we have maintained core medical, dental, optical, and veterinary services with the providers we have used for a long time; 48 years in the case of the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) and almost as long for the others.  Those providers are now anywhere from 30 to 50 miles from our house, and getting to those locations has become ever more challenging for us because of traffic, road construction, and weather.  We have talked about finding closer, more convenient, providers for a while now but, absent a compelling reason to change, it’s always been easier to stick with what we have.  The travel distance/time/difficulty has finally become compelling.  The same is true of lawyers, financial advisors, car mechanics, house and property service providers, etc., of course  We purchased our current vehicles locally and have them serviced by those dealerships, about 4 miles from our house and property maintenance providers come to us.  We need to find an attorney in our area who specializes in estates, wills, trusts, and elder law, but have not gotten around to it yet.  Although not local, we are very satisfied with our financial advisors.  We mostly interact with them via e-mail, phone, and ZOOM calls, but make in-person appointments if we are going to be in the St. Louis, Missouri area.

Top of the list was my decision to change my (Bruce’s) primary care provider.  While I wanted a more convenient location I also wanted a more specialized focus.  I turned 72 this year, and although my health is generally good and I feel fine (most of the time), I am also realistic about being in my 8th decade and part way into my 73rd trip around the sun.  It seemed an appropriate time to move my care to a clinic with a specialized focus on the health issues of the elderly.  (I would have liked a setting that was also focused on men’s health and plant-based nutrition, but that proved to be a bridge to far.)

Yes, both of us are now considered “elderly.”  Indeed, we entered that category (broadly speaking) when we turned 65.  I might not be “old” yet (in my mind), but I plan to be someday, and want to be set up in advance with appropriate medical care.  After checking what was available from the HFHS and the University of Michigan Health System (UofMH), I decided to move to the Geriatric clinic at UofMH in Ann Arbor.  As a bonus, UofMH also has clinics for some specialty services in Brighton, the city closest to our home.

Early in the first week of April, I had my first appointment with my new doctor (Dr. N), and it was very interesting.  He is Nigerian, and did his medical training in London, England.  Besides getting acquainted, checking the usual things, ordering comprehensive blood tests, and modifying my blood pressure medication dosage, he examined strength, range of motion, and gait (motion and balance), this being a specific interest of his.

While I was there, the med-tech (MT-V) removed impacted/hardened wax from my left ear using a 50/50 solution of diluted hydrogen peroxide and warm water.  I had already had a “new patient” intake ZOOM call with a social worker (SW-S) the week before, but had a second, in-person, meeting with a social worker (SW-A) as the first part of my new patient office visit.  SW-A confirmed some of the things I had self-reported or told SW-S, but her main purpose in seeing me was to administer the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA).  (She did not identify it as such at the time, but Linda found it online afterwards and I confirmed that it was the exact set of questions and tasks administered to me.)  This is one of those assessments where you are not supposed to practice in advance, which might distort the results.  That would not be in my best interest anyway; what I want from such an assessment is an accurate evaluation of cognitive status.

Starting at age 65, a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit is supposed to include a cognitive assessment, but this is the first time I have had such an evaluation, and Linda has never had one.  I was slightly apprehensive at first—no one wants to have problems with a cognitive evaluation—but it was interesting and I apparently did okay.  More to the point, however, is that I really appreciated being evaluated to establish a baseline with my new doctor, and look forward to repeating this from time-to-time.  Indeed, the fact that the UofMH-Geriatric center includes social workers as integral team members is a big deal and underscored that I had made a good choice.  Mental decline is often a major health issue as people live through their 70’s, 80’s, and into their 90’s, and this decline can impact their physical, emotional, and social health as well.  Early detection means earlier treatment, including changes in lifestyle and living arrangements, with the possibility of better outcomes.

As long as we were dealing with medical arrangements, we checked out the UofM Kellogg Eye Institute (UM-KEI), a world-class center for eye health, that came highly recommended by a neighbor of ours who is a nurse.  The main Institute is in Ann Arbor, as is the case for all things UofM Medicine, but they have a satellite clinic in the UofMH specialty clinic closest to our house.  The specialty care facility is less than an eight-mile drive with no highways.  We made appointments for both of us to have routine vision/eye examinations in the second week of April and get new prescriptions for glasses.  Linda definitely needs new spectacles, and I probably do too.  The only downside to moving our eye care here is that they do not accept our EyeMed vision insurance.  We can submit bills for services to the insurance plan and get some reimbursement, but we will likely get our glasses at one of the local optical shops that accepts our insurance.  It’s just easier that way, and I think we get slightly better insurance coverage as well.

Linda has her ENT/audiology services through the Michigan Ear Institute, which is affiliated with Ascension/Providence, located in the northwest suburban part of the Detroit metropolitan area.  Although not as convenient, she really likes her doctor and audiologist, who did her Cochlear implant surgery and maintains her Cochlear and ReSound hearing aids, respectively.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had my hearing tested and thought it was probably time to do that.  UofMH also has an audiology clinic in the nearby specialty center, so I called to make an appointment.  Unlike the vision/eye exam, however, audiology requires a referral.  I messaged my new doctor and asked for one, but did not have a reply by the end of the week.

In terms of medical providers, we are still considering what to do about dentistry.  Our dentist’s office is 50 miles from our house and getting there takes over an hour on some combination of highways and surface streets.  It’s road construction season in Michigan.  This year is a dozy, and the next year or so will be just as bad.  All of the reasonable routes into Metro Detroit have major construction projects in process, and are usually chocked with traffic, so getting there is very inconvenient and frustrating.  But we have been treated by this clinic for almost 50 years; initially by our current dentist’s father, and now the son, who is the 3rd generation to have the practice.  It’s a good clinic in every way, and it’s hard to walk away from that, but it’s just not convenient for us anymore.  Unless we have some dental issue, we won’t have to go there again until early September for our bi-annual cleanings, so we have time to figure out what to do.  My guess is we will keep the September appointments and deal with changes next year.

Along the same lines, we have used the same veterinary clinic, near our previous home, for over 40 years.  That location is now 35 miles from where we live, with the same attendant road construction projects and traffic issues.  When we lost our last cat (Juniper) we decided we would not get another pet, which would have made the issue moot.  Cabela (the cat) had different ideas, however, and has effectively adopted us.  She originally belonged to the neighbors across the street before they moved and left her behind.  We know that she had two litters of kittens and was then spayed, and we know what veterinary clinic in our area was used for these services.  We will eventually need to get her examined and inoculated, and will probably use the same local clinic since they (should) have that history in the files.

In terms of non-medical things, we took a large load of corrugated cardboard and Styrofoam to our local recycling center.  It always feels good to get this stuff out of the house without throwing it in the trash.

Other tasks during the first week of the month included:

  • Taking the cover off of the outdoor furniture set and cleaning it (the cover). I also took all of the bird feeders down from their hangars in preparation for cleaning them and putting them back in service.  We have always suspected that the many birds who come to our yard are return visitors if they have survived the winter and the journey back.  One of the challenges this year will be where to put bird feed for the Mourning Doves.  They are ground feeders, which poses a dilemma now that Cabela has claimed our house and yard as her own.  She is a very skilled and determined huntress.
  • Getting the lawn tractor/mower ready to use. We have a lawn tractor (riding lawn mower), so one of my tasks over the first week of the month was putting it back in operational condition.  This specifically involved re-installing the battery.  The tractor lives in the shed during the winter, but the shed does not have electricity (yet).  As such, I bring the battery into the garage, which is heated and stays above freezing, and where I can attach it to a maintenance charger.
  • Linda wrapped up several tax returns and mailed them to the family members and friends who are out-of-state so they could sign them and mail them to the IRS. For family and friends in Michigan, she files most of them electronically, or delivers them in person.
  • Linda also continued to work on period and year-end accounting tasks for the bakery, where she retired as the controller a little over a decade ago. Like all accounting and tax-related work, January through April tend to be the busiest time of the year, but the period accounting work is steady and evenly distributed over the calendar year.  She also works on special projects, as needed.  Those are harder to plan for, but she works closely with the controller of the bakery (who was hired when Linda retired) and lets him know when we will be traveling.  She can do much of the period accounting work remotely, but year-end work is more difficult, and special projects can be a challenge depending on what they are.

Our lawn maintenance guy (Keith) texted me last month to let me know that he was ready to start mowing for the season whenever we were, but the yard soil is still very wet, and we are at least a few weeks away from having him start mowing.  Indeed, we had snow again late in the week; not much, but it was still moisture that ended up in the ground.  The snow seems to be alternating with rain, but no surprise there.  April is typically our rainiest month, but we can have ice storms as late as early May, and we have had years where Keith could not mow the west part of the property until sometime in June.  (That was before Phil installed a French drain in that part of the property, so Keith can now usually get started sometime in May.)

We have used Keith for all but our first year in this house.  He does a great job and does not ask for a contract or pre-paid amount for the season; we just pay him each time he mows.  He doesn’t mind if we occasionally have him skip a week, and will adjust his schedule and/or make an extra visit, if we ask and he is able to do so.  We don’t do that unless we have to, and skipping weeks usually corresponds to either very wet conditions, making the lawn un-mowable, or conditions when the grass is not growing very quickly, such as an extended summer dry spell or late in the season as fall gives way to winter.  The only reason we would ask for an extra mowing is if we had an important weekend gathering, wanted the grass cut on Friday so it looked nice, and I did not have time to do it myself.  Our usual day is Tuesday.

20240301-31_Return-to-home-life_the-end-of-Winter

NOTE:  This post contains 20 photos with captions and some narrative.  All photos were taken by me (Bruce) using a Google Pixel 6 Pro, except for the last one, which was taken by Linda with a Google Pixel 6.

 

March 2024 — Return to normal home life; tree pruning and house/home/family stuff

Upon returning from our Disney DREAM family cruise at the end of last month, we quickly settled back into the routine of normal home life.  Besides the usual chores of cooking, laundry, paying bills, and tending to the cat (Cabela), this included extensive work catching up on blog posts (which included processing a LOT of photographs), making and attending appointments (medical/dental, automotive), providing child care (Ann Arbor public schools were on spring break the last full week of the month), hosting or attending get-togethers with friends (walking, dinner, phone chats, and ZOOM), doing some travel planning (for the fall and next year), and a few special projects.

Special projects included the following:

  1. A chat with Phil Jarrell of Precision Grading to firm up trenching and grading work he will do for us this year, including a French Drain and sump drainage in the back yard.
  2. Taking delivery of the new furniture that we ordered last month for our recreation/TV room.
  3. Purchasing comprehensive travel insurance from Allianz.
  4. Getting CoVID-19 booster injections.
  5. Successfully booking a full-hookup site at Wilderness State Park (Michigan) for a couple of weeks this September.
  6. Meeting with Dan from Everlast Doors & More to firm up our options for new garage doors.
  7. I (Bruce) also signed up for the MyUofMHealth Portal and completed a new patient intake ZOOM meeting with a social worker in advance of my early April visit with my new primary care physician in the Geriatric clinic at UofM Health in Ann Arbor.

Most of the photos that follow, however, relate to one special project on March 11 and 12.  Not too long ago we contracted with Davey Tree Service (DTS) for “dormant season pruning.”  This term applies to the pruning of trees that must be done between late fall and early spring; in our case, mostly Oak, Ash, and Maple trees.  (Elm trees, and perhaps some other hardwood species, also require dormant season pruning, but we do not have any of those on our property.)  We do have a lot of Oak trees, however, and we still have some living Ash trees.

It doesn’t hurt to prune other trees during this same period of time, so we contracted to have DTS do some fairly extensive trimming, including the large grove of diverse trees in the northwest portion of the property.  This stand of trees had not been professionally pruned under our ownership of the property, and I doubt that previous owners ever hired anyone to do this work.  Over the years, I have done what I could removing deadwood with a pole saw or chainsaw, but these trees are large/tall and needed more serious attention, especially higher up where I cannot reach.  We did not have DTS prune most of the pine and fir trees, however, as they can be trimmed any time of year, and I can usually do that myself.

In addition to the debris from their own work, DTS cleaned up most of the brush piles that we had created around the property over the last many years.  I think we had 13 of them, and they disposed of at least eight (8), but it might have been 9 or 10.  That meant we did not have to cut them up, transport them to our “burn pile,” and set them ablaze.  Money well spent, in our opinion.

 

A boom truck positioned to work on the Oak trees near of east driveway entrance.  The small tracked vehicle, left-center, has claws on the front for picking up limbs, branches, and other related debris and moving it to the chipper/truck.

 

The chipper and truck in the east section of the pull-through driveway in front of the house.

 

Looking west at the boom truck positioned in the street just beyond (west of) our center driveway entrance.  Most of the large trees that are visible here are Oak trees.  The crew has set out orange safety cones around the truck as well as “Workers Ahead” signs.  DTS is a very safety conscious company that uses good equipment and knowledgeable, well-trained crew.

 

The tracked brush loader moving limbs and branches to the chipper, visible in the lower right corner of the frame.

 

A view of the bucket truck looking east.  As mention in a previous caption, DTS is very safety conscious.

 

The crew leader studies the Ash tree behind our house.  The central trunk above the large branches is dead.  It’s unattractive and not good for the tree, so it will be removed.  DTS cannot get its boom truck back here without damaging the yard, so the crew will climb the tree using climbing gear.  DTS’s technicians do NOT use spikes to climb trees, something we very much appreciate.

 

This is the Tulip tree behind our house.  (These are often called Tulip Poplars, but that is incorrect as they are not poplar trees).  Again, climbing gear was used to get up into the tree.  This tree had a lot of deadwood to be removed.  Unfortunately, the entire southern trunk (closest to the house) is dead.

 

A wider view of the back of our house and the work being done on some of the trees.  L-2-R:  Tulip tree, Mountain Hickory, and Ash.  Barely visible at the left edge of the frame is our Crimson King Norway Maple, which also got some deadwood removal and decorative pruning.

 

The Locust tree at the SE corner of our house.  This tree tends to put out lower branches that swoop down, posing a risk to someone (like me or Keith, our lawn care guy) hitting their head when operating a riding lawn mower.  DTS has very nicely trimmed it up.  Not visible in this photo are the power and phone lines that are just out of the frame at the top and relatively close to the tree.  Dave is not allowed to work on any limbs or branches within a certain distance (10’ I think) of the power lines.  Again, it’s a safety thing, and might be a power company requirement.

 

Our small stand of Black Walnut trees in the yard ENE of the NE corner of the house.  Barely visible just below the center of the frame is a pile of logs, the remnants of a Pear tree that was long dead.  We try not to remove dead trees that show signs of use by woodpeckers, squirrels or other critters looking for food or shelter, but at some point they have to come down.

 

The nicely pruned Crimson King Norway Maple.  This is a beautiful tree when it’s leafed out, but they grow prolifically, and in a somewhat tangled way.  As such, they require a lot of maintenance to keep them under control and attractive.  They are also not native to this part of Michigan, and are considered somewhat invasive.  I do as much of that as I can with this tree, but it was nice to have the DTS professionals have a go at it.

 

I just liked the composition and exposure of this photo.  It’s hard to provide a context for it, but basically this tree had a long, large limb that was rubbing on the trunk of a nearby pine tree and damaging the pine tree.  Removing the limb ensured the health of the affected pine tree, and opened up the area where the limb had been to allow light to get to other adjacent trees.

 

A portion of the stand of trees in the northwest part of our property.  The crew leader and the newest hire are discussing how to approach pruning the tree closest to them.

 

The crew leader (L) explaining to the new guy (R) how to prune this tree.  I walked over and ended up getting a lesson in how to properly prune a limb or large branch.  Basically, an enlarged area called a “collar” forms around the base of the limb and, ideally, the limb needs to be cut cleanly right at the collar without cutting into the collar, and without leaving any of the limb protruding.  ABIR, the tree produces four (4) different types of growth to heal the wound left by the removal of the limb, and pruning it in this way maximizes the tree’s ability to do that.  Even with hiring DTS, I still end doing a lot of pruning every year, so I was grateful to have this in-person lesson.

 

The boom-truck and the chipper/truck combination have moved just beyond the third/west driveway entrance (by the barn) to work on the trees on the north side of the road.  The trees on the left side of the road (and the grassy area leading up to our neighbor’s pole barn) are also part of our property.  This portion of the property also includes a stand of large Oak trees, but it was not part of the work order for this job.  Next year, probably, maybe, hopefully.

 

Another view of the trees in the northwest portion of the property, to the W and NW of the barn, showing the telltale signs of having been pruned.

 

A wider view of some of the trees in the northwest portion of the property.  Showing this entire area required a panorama, which I could not take as the DTS crew was moving around as they worked.

 

The new furniture for our recreation/TV room.  L-2-R:  Metal end table with metal lamp, 3-cushion sofa with two power loungers (one each end), metal end table with metal lamp, 2-cushion love seat with two power loungers, metal coffee table.  We purchased custom cut protective translucent matts from Linovent for the top surface of each of the three tables.  The matts feature beveled edges and appear to be a high-quality product.

 

A panoramic view of the new furniture in the recreation/TV room showing its relationship to the repositioned television set and associated equipment.  As a result of this rearrangement, both of us now have the same viewing angle and distance from the TV, with no glare from the lighting, and much more comfortable/adjustable furniture to sit on.  We really liked our old furniture, but it was over 30 years old, and we were ready for a change.  The old furniture was still serviceable, and will be donated to the local Habitat For Humanity ReStore, if they will take it, or somewhere else if they won’t.

 

Linda provided childcare for a week at the end of the month while the Ann Arbor Public Schools were on spring break.  She snapped this photo of Madeline (L) reading a book about dinosaurs to Sadie (R) at their house.  (Photo by Linda)