December 2011 Newsletter

MOUNTAIN TALK

News From Them Thar Hills!

Volume 2, Issue 10, December 2011

Complimentary Home Services

When was the last time you received a free examination of any kind? The last time there was ice skating in Hades? I thought so.

Actually, it was the last time you had Complete Home Services perform any service at your home. When we are performing any task at your vacation/rental home, we strive to keep our eyes and ears on full alert for sights and/or sounds that are out of place. Sometimes it’s just the little things like that tiny dark spot in the corner on the floor that, upon closer inspection, just so happens to be a lonely mouse dropping. It doesn’t take very long to find a few more and a quick email later we are setting traps, removing the offender and finding and sealing the entry points. Cleaning gutters and rooftops are no exception. On a recent gutter clean job, one of my crew was on the roof and called for me to come up and have a look at a possible issue. Sure enough, the siding under the eave of the roof was beginning to show some signs of water-induced rot. Upon further inspection we found a couple of more spots as well. Later that afternoon the client had an email, with pictures, informing him of our findings. He informed us that he wanted a full inspection of siding and molding and to replace any offending pieces. Small spots like these often go un-noticed until a wet spot appears on an interior wall or someone notices the smell of mold inside the house. By that time wall studs and drywall may well need replacing, increasing both the scope and cost of what could be a significantly smaller job.

Ongoing inspection of both home and property are just one of the benefits of being a client of Complete Home Services. A little lagniappe goes a long way!

Season’s Salutations!

With Thanksgiving’s gluttonous repast entrenched in places we’d rather others not see, we are off to the second celebratory commemoration in this year end trifecta of festivities and merriment. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Chanukah as part of a religious observance, gift giving holiday or just to spend time with family and fiends (or is that friends?), I think we can all agree that, for most, it is a special time of year.

Here at Complete Home Services, we want to let everyone know how much we appreciate their business and the kind words offered up throughout the year.

We hope that the time spent with friends and family brings you all the warmth and joy that one comes to expect at this most propitious time of year.

The Chill Cometh!

As I sit hear tapping away at the keyboard, wind blows and snow falls. It is down right raw outside! Pretty early for these here parts (Nov. 29). The forecast lows for the next 10 days range from the mid 20’s to the mid 30’s. Highs will be mid 40’s to mid 50’s.

If you recall last months’ missive, it is definitely time to winterize! Fall has been surprisingly mild. My hopes are for an equally mild winter. But, alas, my hopes are often dashed upon the rocky shores of reality. Don’t let those rocky shores be your reality! Old man Winter is unmerciful! Mitigate his glacial wrath with the warmth of preparedness.

If we may be of assistance, please contact us.

The Unmitigated Gall!

We have cleared out literal mountains of leaves so far this year. Our hand-held blower just wasn’t making the grade so we had to get one of those raucous back-pack models. What a difference! It can really move the leaves.

While dealing with so many leaves from so many species of tree, one can’t help but notice that there are many oddities afoot. At one locale in particular I found some perfect little orange golf ball sized galls. The picture on the left depicts the intact gall of the gall wasp Loxaulus maculipennis. The picture on the right of a gall (dissected by yours truly) shows the empty egg casing suspended in the center of the gall by fibrous strands. The larva has already pupated into an adult gall wasp and emerged, shown in the left half of the dissected gall.

The picture above shows two kinds of gall, the aforementioned gall and the Eastern oak bullet gall. It is normally formed from the twig section of the oak, hence it’s tough exterior shell. While some view the gall wasp as an invader of the oak, and many other species of plant, there appears to be something more mysterious at work. After the egg has been laid inside the leaf (or stem, bud, bark) the larva hatches and begins to feed. The activity of the feeding causes a chemical reaction that results in the formation of the gall. In the example above, the gall is actually leaf material, although it is sometimes made up of stem or bud material. The “not fully understood” mutation is the mysterious part. As the larva feeds and continues to grow, likewise grows the gall. There are at least 750 different galls that have been identified on oak. That’s more than any other type of plant! It’s a good thing the oak is so tough and long-lived. Gall producing insects do not seem to cause the tree much distress. Some limb galls can kill limbs if numbers become excessive. For some it is a matter of distracting from the aesthetics of the tree. To each their own, I suppose. They kind of have an attractiveness all their own, like tiny Christmas ornaments.

Galls can be caused on virtually any species of plant from several causal agents. Wasps, mites, beetles, etc. Some are even formed by bacterial or viral infections. I find the wonders and intricacies of nature sublime, both in their complexity and simplicity, great and small. As should we all.

One More Tree Tale!

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it makes a sound? While this philosophical query obviates the need for an answer, I can say with certainty that the tree pictured below emitted a thunderous crash upon its irrevocable descent to the waiting earth.

We discovered the monolithic White Pine soon after purchasing our land here in 1999. Since most of the land around and below the tree was covered in white pines ranging from seedlings to 70 feet in height, we dubbed her “The Mom Pine.” She was truly spectacular! Just over 11 feet in circumference and close to 100 feet in height she was the second largest tree on our place and the largest tree I’ve ever had to fell. Just a few months ago she was a vibrant beauty without a flaw. Then one day I was inspecting a pad we had leveled out for a hoop-house we are installing when, lo and behold, there were brown branches all over the top. Shortly thereafter the brown spread to the entire canopy. Dead! We supposed that lightning from a recent storm must have committed the murder most foul. Just this past weekend I brought my work crew over and felled the tree. We then limbed her and chopped her trunk into 10 foot lengths. Upon closer inspection of her carcass, we found her upper bark and limbs riddled with tiny holes. The dreaded pine beetle. There were signs of other invaders as well. Since the holes were at the top, that would explain why she died from the top down. The top of the trunk and the limbs were very dry and light. Under the bark, the phloem layer was grooved with the pathways that wood-burrowing larvae cut as they consume the nutrient rich tissue that moves sustenance up and down the tree.

It was a sad day at the Caraway house.

…a note from Cindy

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye.One of the things that is different about my life here in Blairsville versus Atlanta (my previous residence) is holiday shopping.You can’t just run over to the mall to pick up this or that or stop somewhere on the way home from work to grab a gift on your list.You have to do some real planning!Once you have purchased all the tools your husband wants from Home Depot and you have scoured the halls of Wal Mart, where is one to go?

One of the things we do not have here in the mountains is a large selection of stores. Not that I am much of a shopper but during the holidays it can be a challenge.So, after I have purchased as much as I can from the local small stores I hit the internet and then as a final resort I have to make that dreaded trip to the big city to finish my shopping with my list securely in hand so I can get in and out as quickly as possible.I always liked living in Atlanta but now that I live here in the mountains, I love it so much more.No traffic, friendly people, beautiful scenery, and nothing is more beautiful than seeing Christmas lights on a mountain side.

So, yes shopping here can be a challenge but how can I complain.I have the best gift of all, living somewhere I love.BUT…….It is difficult to make a fashion statement dressed in Camo!

Larceny Afoot!

At the risk of repeating myself, I must once again relate a cautionary tale.

Just down the road from me there have been several break-ins in the Loving road area. I just learned moments ago, from one of my sources, that the offending party has been apprehended. While that is certainly good news, there has been a rise in burglaries as of late. I know I have said it before, but, if your yard/lot is overgrown and there is no presence at the house, it makes it appear abandoned… or as a foreclosure. If there is no garage then it is much easier to see if anyone is home or not. Sometimes even having a garage provides no surety to confuse a would-be thief as to whether the home is occupied or not. Case in point: One of our clients in this same area was at his vacation home when he heard the rumble of a pick-up in his drive. When he went outside to have a look-see, there were two old boys helping themselves to his pile of firewood. When asked, they replied that someone had told them they could have the wood. He informed them they most certainly could not and they left empty handed.

So don’t leave the “Rob Me” neon sign on at your place. If you don’t get us to keep your lot clean then, for heaven’s sake, get someone to do it! This, in and of itself, will not necessarily prevent a visit from the late-night flat screen tv dealer, but it would help!

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