Saturday, May 20, 2023

Let's face it, AC units are not cool

More and more homeowners are turning to whole house air conditioning to beat the heat. But let's face it, as lovely as indoor cool air is, your air conditioning unit (the workhorse) isn't something you want front and center. Hiding them however can be tricky as you don't want to compromise their efficiency?


When considering how to hide your AC unit, keep in mind the manufacturer's requirements and restrictions - understanding how your air conditioner works and what keeps it efficient is key. If you skip this step, you risk reduced efficiency or even cause unintentional damage to the system itself.

Ensuring proper air flow should be your top priority. Your AC unit works hard to cool the inside of your home and needs to vent a lot of heat. Check the manufacturer’s recommended distances before installing any sort of enclosure or cover. You can also consult with an HVAC professional to ensure that hiding your AC does not cause damage to the system or limit access necessary for regular system repair and maintenance.


AC systems, while they provide much needed relief from the heat, can be an eye sore. No one wants to have their AC unit front and center in their garden - it doesn't add to a home's curb appeal and can detract from an otherwise stellar landscaping! The good news is that hiding your outdoor AC unit can be easy. There are many options! Consider one of these three:

1) DECORATIVE FENCE, BOX OR SCREEN There are a variety of decorative and creative ways of hiding your AC unit. For example, you could build a wall or fence in front of or around the unit to hide it. You may also consider building a trellis and growing vines such as clematis or roses around the unit. With any of these options, make sure your decorative solution does not block air flow or limit a technicians ability to access and service the unit.

Ready made screens

These are easy to find. Stores like Home Depot and Lowes offer lots of options. I even found some great screens on Amazon (of course, what don't they have?). Online shopping sites like Wayfair also offer some easy and attractive options. 

Build your own

Looking for an easy DIY project? Creating your own can be a simple weekend project due to the size and accessibility of the AC units. As an added bonus, you can design one that blends seamlessly with your homes aesthetic - modern, traditional, colonial, cottage, etc. 

2) HIDE WITH PLANTS A natural way to hide your AC unit is to use landscaping. The best thing about this is that you can be entirely creative. You can select colorful flowers or plants, planting them to block your view of the unit. Be sure to pick plants that are ever green - shedding leaves can lead to problems. If you need more frequent access, plant in portable planters. Whatever you plant, be sure to keep plants trimmed and make sure they are no closer than 2 to 3 feet from the unit to allow for access.

3) MOVE THE UNIT ENTIRELY This is perhaps the most expensive method of hiding your AC unit. To save on costs, it is best to move the unit when you are ready to replace the HVAC system. However, it is important to note that moving the equipment does not necessarily help you in hiding the AC unit. It simply means that you are able to take it to a place that you feel does not interfere with your landscaping and entertaining needs. There will be limitations on where your system can be placed, so make sure to consult a professional.

I hope these tips help.

Until next time,
la chasse au bonheur

Friday, May 12, 2023

the bees knees

More and more people are starting to dabble in a food-focused lifestyle of self-sufficiency — whether that’s growing their own veggies, raising chickens in a backyard coop, or for some, beekeeping.

While it's easy to wrap your head around growing vegetables and raising chicks, beekeeping can be a bit more mysterious. From essential beekeeping supplies to the perfect apiary location, here’s what any aspiring beekeeper needs to know.

The Colony

If you ever had the unfortunate experience of discovering a beehive, you probably learned that bees love living together in a colony. While colonies can have upwards of 60,000 bees, there is only one queen bee, with the rest being primarily female worker bees and some male drones.

The queen is larger and longer than the others and has a pointed abdomen. She is responsible for laying 1,500 eggs a day for two to five years in order to maintain a thriving colony. She also must stay strong and healthy or she’s at risk for being killed and replaced. A special pheromone lets the worker bees know whether she is alive and well or if she’s getting weaker.

Once they sense she’s getting weaker, they focus on feeding royal nectar to a small number of larvae until the first one hatches and becomes the new queen.

Gathering pollen, making wax, cleaning the hive and building honeycombs are just some of the other daily tasks worker bees are required to do. Tasks are “assigned” based on age with the younger bees doing duties within the hive and the older bees taking on the more dangerous jobs on the outside.

Drone bees make up a small percentage of a colony and only have one duty: to mate with the queen. Mating takes place mid-flight and the successful male immediately falls to his death (egads, a bit harsh).

Mind Your Own Beeswax

Beeswax is known as the miracle of the beehive. Without it, there’d be no beekeeping. Producing beeswax is quite an impressive process. Using special glands on their abdomens, worker bees secrete wax that is then formed into hexagon shapes which are used for all aspects of daily bee life, including storing honey. Another layer of wax goes over the combs with honey to lock in the moisture.

A hot knife is used to scrape the wax caps off the frames of honey. The caps then need to be separated from the honey before the wax is filtered or cleaned.

Beekeeping Equipment

Woodenware - this creates the beehive itself, including the hive bottom, body and top cover. Durable, well-built woodenware gives the bees a safe place to live and thrive.

Smoker - smoke prevents bees from sensing pheromones that signify danger, which helps to keep them calm.

Hive tool - a multipurpose tool used to open and inspect beehives.

Protective gear - hat/veil combination with ventilated jackets or full-body bee suits provide a protective barrier against stings.

Bees - a beehive requires bees, of course! Make sure you order enough for one to two colonies to start.

Location of the Hive

After compiling all your beekeeping equipment, it’s time to decide where to put it. While it’s important to be strategic with placement, remember that people today have thriving hives anywhere and everywhere. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind when placing hives.

Pick a spot where you will have easy access to the bees. If they are hard to get to, you might go there less frequently, and they won’t get the proper attention. The hive should get at least a half-day of sun. Additionally, if the sun hits the hive first thing in the morning, it will get the bees out and working.

Make sure there is a water source nearby. If there isn’t, you can always provide them with one. A pan filled with water and pebbles above the surface will suffice. Keep in mind: bees can’t swim, so the pebbles will help with the landing.

Try to avoid placing the hives near a neighbor’s yard. If you have a smaller outdoor space, you can mask the hive with hedges or bushes. That way your neighbors aren’t constantly reminded of your buzzing bees.

Hives and Colonies

A basic hive needs a few boxes for brood and a few boxes for honey. First-time hives require at least four boxes total to make it through the season. You can stack up the boxes to make the hive taller.

Once your hives are set up, you’re ready for the bees. You can order a bee package, which is a wooden frame with screen sides containing bees that aren’t related, or nucleus hives which is a mini beehive with a laying queen and bees that are related. Packages are less expensive, easier to find and allow you to learn the whole process, but a lot more work is involved. Nucleus hives on the other hand are well established and tend to be less stressful on the bees.

Now That You're a Beekeeper

Once your hive is up and running, your beekeeping responsibilities really begin. You will need to manage and care for these little buzzers. You’ll need to inspect the hive regularly to ensure the queen is alive and healthy. It’s also important to check whether the bees have enough space and resources to live.

Remember that bees need enough to get through the winter. As a beekeeper, you should only take what’s considered extra honey after the bees have prepared enough to survive the colder months.

Other Ways to Support Bees

You don’t need to be a beekeeper to do your part in helping bees thrive. Here are some other ways you can support them:

Plant more wildflowers - the easiest and prettiest way to help the bees is by creating pollinator habitats on your land. Even a small, square space filled with native wildflowers is enough to help a bee community. Talk to your local nursery about the best native flowers to plant.

Go organic - use organic products and natural solutions when treating your garden and yard. Insects like ladybugs and praying mantises can also help keep pests away.

Support your local beekeepers - visit a nearby farmers market or check your grocery store for local honey and beeswax products. You may even be able to purchase straight from the farm. Remember, supporting local is always the way to go!

Until next time, la chasse au bonheur

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Springtime Curb Appeal

Whether you are getting your home ready for market (improving curb appeal has shown to increase not only your property's value, but also the property values of your entire neighborhood) or just itching to shake off the winter doldrums, these five tips will help you welcome spring and beautify your home.

1 Sidewalks and Driveways

This may be the first part of your property that your guests or prospective buyers step foot on, literally.

An affordable, virtually maintenance free option for sprucing up your paths is concrete stain. This do-it-yourself project can cost around $30 a gallon and requires very little prep work. Consider picking a color that is in the same color family as that of your home. A blue home could be happily complemented by a gray drive.

Another tip: fix cracks and uneven sections of your sidewalk and pathways. This project may require a bit more professional attention but will give buyers the right impression - that your entire home has been maintained.

2 Accent Door

It has been called the lipstick on the lady. It's inviting and it draws visitors, or buyers, in to your home. A plain door tends to recede into the background.

Consider a contrasting color to your home's exterior. On the color wheel, green is opposite red and yellow is opposite blue. Don't be afraid to be daring. Just a pint of paint can cover most doors and if you don't like the result you can try another color!

3 Trimming Trees


Stand in front of your home and take a close and fresh look at your trees and bushes. Are there branches that have become overgrown and now obstruct the view of your home? You want your landscaping to complement your home, not hide it. Trees, shrubs, bushes should just frame paths and entries, not obstruct them.


To trim tree branches yourself you can buy a pole pruner or chain saw. Or you can hire a professional who has experience in shaping trees. Keep in mind, however, that spring is NOT the time to prune flowering trees or maples. These types of trees should be pruned in late Summer or early Fall.

4 Early Spring Planting

The last frost date varies by area. It also varies from year to year. If you feel that your home will not see another frost then you may be safe to plant a few hardy annuals to add some pop of color to your yard. Even if a frost catches you by surprise, you can cover the plants for the evening to save them from the cold.

Some plants that can give you an early burst of color:
     Pansies - these bolts of color can even survive Winter
     Calendula - these "pot marigolds" are a versatile plant
     Violets - heart shaped petals create vibrant color spots
     Other options - cornflower, foxglove, larkspur, sweet alyssum, dianthus

Cleaning out your garden beds also adds an element of neatness that conveys the right message!

5 Outdoor Lighting

Low voltage (12 volt) and solar lighting are good options for improving curb appeal. There are hundreds of designs of solar lights. These small fixtures generally sit on stakes in the ground and can be used to accent paths or gardens and are a great do-it-yourself option.

Also, consider using uplighting on trees to create night-time focal points. This is a great way to showcase your home for those driving by after work.

I better get busy!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur