Most of the physical work that needs to be done has to do with critter control.
There are many feral cats, many rodents, lots of skunks, many Deer, and the occasional Bear. The evidence and damage from Bears usually comes early in the Spring when they are waking up. Then we never see them again all summer.
I have never needed to use poison for the skunks, although there were times I came close to making that call because it was getting to be too much. Skunks do not get the message that they are not welcome, unless you do something that deters them. Throw a couple of rocks at the cats and they remember to steer clear of the front and the porch.
A light connected to the timer, pointed to shine under the front deck will keep he skunks away. They are nocturnal and do not like light very much. When there is a skunk outside walking near the house, it smells like it is inside. Use a yellow bug light in the fixture that is shining under the porch to attract fewer bugs. If you do not do this, you will learn your lesson… fair warning.
Keeping the garbage under control is also very important, and frankly, probably the most important thing
The smell of the garbage attracts critters, again, critter control. The smell also wafts around into the screen door and under the eaves into Apt. 2.
Check the garbage twice per day. Once in the afternoon to be sure that a tenant has not just thrown garbage in there without using the cans, which they do all the time. Also, you might have to break down cardboard and open the bags they use and crush the plastic bottles so all the trash will fit. You can ask the tenants to do this but very few of them do it, and even the ones who do usually give up on that after a couple of weeks. I usually separate the cardboard and burn it every two weeks. This helps be sure I am leaving enough room to get everyone’s garbage into the cans in front of the house. You have to do this because of critter control. If you put plain garbage bags out there without cans and the cover on the cans, the crows, the feral cats, and the rodents will make you pay… every time. You will be cleaning up the garbage they spread all over the road, EVERY TIME. There is no reason for me to make this up. What would be the point? Summer is rife with life around here and they love stinky garbage.
Also check it at night, before retiring. Make sure it is locked down. You can tell the tenants to remember but you are the only one who can make yourself remember. You have to be sure that the garbage bin stays locked down and tight at night, because cats get in there and scare the heck out of you when they jump out, thankfully I never got scratched. It takes a long time to train people about keeping the garbage bin pin in place, but cats know instinctively how to get in there without being trained… And they come every night as part of their routine hunting and gathering to see if they can get in. 11:30-11:45, every night I hear noise by the bin, cats. If the cats get in there, you may not know it right away, or at all. But pretty much assume that if you do not lock it down over night that they have been in there.
You will know if Bears have been in there because they just take the whole bags to the other side of the hot-tub room and dump everything out, so once every couple of days check on the other side of the hot tub room for garbage. If there are Bears around, that is where they hang out, in the lot next door to the hot tub room, it does not happen very often, but if you walk around over there, along the property line, you will see Bear feces from time to time, again, usually only early in the season. Although this year, 2012, there were quite a few Bear sightings. Sometimes the garbage that gets dumped out over there isn’t even from here, it’s from some other place. So be sure to check that area because the tenants will not tell you, they don’t care, they’ll let garbage sit over there for weeks and not tell you, it’s not their job, they don’t have to, and they are not going to. If they leave their garbage out, and it gets strewn around by critters, they will not clean it up; at least don’t assume they will. This might seem like some kind of easy job but you are a Hotel Groundskeeper as much as anything else. You have to clean up after them, and they know it, and you will do it. I GUARANTEE you will be cleaning up the messes of other people so it does not look like you live in a ghetto, GUARANTEED.
The garbage truck comes Tuesday, by anywhere from 9 am-10:30 am. I get the cans out there by 8:30 and if I have bags, I keep them in the bin and run them out to the truck so the birds and other critters don’t get into them.
Make sure the Hot Tub House stays locked
People store their things in there, there is a decommissioned Winter hot tub, and on top of that, there is a phone. The hot tub house has been broken into in the past; I have had to fix the door, probably just because someone knows there is a phone in there and wanted to use it. You have to take this seriously. Not just because it’s private property, but because the other line of that phone number belongs to the owner, and the caretaker lives on site. If someone is using that phone for crimes, they can get traced back to that line, and the caretaker could become a suspect in something. TAKE KEEPING THE HOT TUB ROOM LOCKED SERIOUSLY. There is a lot of poverty and weirdness that goes with that around here. Yes, there are wingnuts and tweakers and bored kids who are future criminals, just like anywhere else.
The best timing for mowing the lawn is about every 10-14 days. In June and July it can get pretty long in 10 days and it doesn’t look great, but ten days is the pollen cycle for the insects and I like to keep them busy and not kill them off. I never use chemicals on the lawn for anything, or fertilizer. I have noticed that even if the lawn is short, the tenants have rarely used it for anything. I have never mowed the lawn more than 5 times an entire Summer, once in June, twice in July, and once or twice in August.
Mow the front all the way to the street on both sides, and next to the Building. Mow the back, and make a path the width of two lawnmowers all the way to the back road where the big stone is, the guy who lives across that road is weird and possessive about mowing all the way to the road because he owns that part that is overgrown, and there is no need to spend money on his lawn. The property markers are all obvious back there. But a path to the road is nice. There is a triangular area next to the property where the tree is that is not all this property, but mow it anyway, it provides clearance from the wild animals, and there is a nice shade tree back there, just do it. Then make a path from the other side of the french drain, around the pine tree, along the side of the hot tub house. Make that 1.5 – 2 width of a lawn mower. Now you have a clear path all the way around the property to walk around and see everything you need to see for security and maintenance and what not.
In front of the building, right in the driveway in front of the rock garden and also next to the empty lot is a bounty of chamomile. There are other edibles too, but they are more obscure. When you get up in the AM and there is dew, and it smells sweet and sleepy out there, that is fresh, raw organic chamomile. It’s a very nice thing to smell, and to keep around. It peaks for about 5 days in late June I think. Don’t mow that!! Pick it and store it and give it away. This year it was SUPER heavy, so it probably will be from now on.
I planted mustard in the rock garden this year and it completely ended any serious weed problem. Mustard outgrows weeds, it takes up their root space and it repels many insects. This is not the invasive wild mustard, this is non-threatening, good old fashioned Mustard Greens. It is not the prettiest thing in life, but you can eat it and it keeps it all low maintenance. Between that and all the other edibles out here you never have to buy salad from the store unless you want to.
Wasps and Hornets
You have to walk around regularly and check for wasp and hornet nests. They are everywhere and we do use chemical sprays on those. The tenants will wait until it is really bad before they say anything. Walk around and look under the eaves and under the decking and stairwells at least once a week, but twice a week in August when it is really dry.
Grilling is permitted on the decks, but the decks are really dry. I always tell the tenants and remind them to keep a bucket or pot of water near their grills at all times when they are using it. Hardly anyone grills, but when they do I remind them. I have never had to tell anyone twice about that. The image of a wood framed-building burning down is sticky. Be vivid and descriptive about how quickly dry wood burns when you remind them.
The security lights are on a timer. You have to adjust it based on the time of year. It changes fast between Winter and Spring, and Autumn and Winter, especially with Daylight Savings Time. It’s really nice to have that light out there. It makes the place more secure, and it keeps a lot of critters away. It is easy to lose track of setting the timer as the seasons change. The lights on the hot tub house are motion sensor lights. Those are nice too. It might be nice to hook up another light on the other side of the building in the front. It would be easy to do with a cord connected to the T connector that is coming out of the bottom of the timer, or do it proper with some Romex coming from the outlet box.
The fire pit is the real deal. It is not a joke and it exceeds the building and fire codes around here. It is the nicest fire pit around here for miles and I am very proud of it. (link). Keep the bottom clear with a shovel. The bottom is concrete with some rock drainage, when you are scraping concrete with the shovel that is the bottom. Use it for burning refuse or having a nice fire. It is deep, so if you want to have a warming fire in the evening, fill the bottom with rocks. The reason it’s not filled with rocks is for burning refuse. Refuse needs to have a deep fire to be safe. A warming fire should be shallower so it radiates. If you start a real honest fire in there in the evening, and let the coals smolder all night… which is fine because it is deep, the ground all around the pit will be a thermal mass. The ground will still be warm and you will have embers 24 hours later. That thing is no joke. If it was lined with ceramic it would be a proper cook oven… for sure. I do not recommend cooking in there now though. The concrete and blocks could leech toxins into food. Cooking above it would be fine, but not in it. A cook spit would be perfect for this, and incredible. (Picture of a really nice cook spit)