Archive | June, 2011

Deer in Garden

June 27, 2011

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Well, well. This will take care of the weeds in the garden.

deerinweeds

I came right up to the thing, about 3 feet away. It’s a young buck, can you see his stubby antlers? He kept rubbing them on his leg. When I tried to touch him, he jumped out of the garden and wandered around the backyard for a while.

The deer here are incredibly tame. He sat in the grass, swishing flies from his tail and munched on my lawn.

Later, I was sitting in the screened gazebo with Livvy when the deer came around again. My other cat, Fuzzy, was with us, too. Fuzzy was oblivious to the deer, because he was facing Livvy with his back to the deer. The deer spotted Fuzzy and for some crazy reason, started to approach him quietly. It looked like the deer wanted to play with Fuzzy! Slowly, slowly, the deer gingerly crept closer to Fuzzy. Livvy and I watched, spellbound, from only about 3 or 4 feet from them.

Suddenly, Fuzzy turned around and saw the deer. BOING!!! His tail exploded into a bushy rod and he sprinted for the basement doors (where he sleeps). The deer snorted several times and chased after Fuzzy!!! It was pretty wild! I’d never heard a deer snort, and I don’t think Fuzzy had, either. Fuzzy peeped his little head up from the basement steps as if to ask, “Is the coast clear?” The deer stared after him, wondering why the pretty kitty didn’t want to come out and play. It was a “Bambi and Thumper” moment. LOL.

6

Well, the deer eventually gave up and wandered back into the garden to eat more weeds.

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Rose Vinegar for Soothing Sunburns?

June 23, 2011

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I’m not going to wait until somebody gets sunburn to try this out, so I’m mentioning it here now in case any of you have heard of such a thing: rose vinegar for sunburns. Some gals in the natural herbal section of the blogosphere are praising it’s benefits. I am definitely going to try it. I’m curious like that.

Here’s how you make rose vinegar:

  • Fill a glass jar with fresh rose petals and leaves.
  • Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar.
  • Cap the jar with a PLASTIC lid! Vinegar will eat through a metal one and discolor your vinegar solution.
  • Allow the glass jar to sit for 3 to 6 weeks.

To treat a sunburn, pour 1/4 of a cup of rose vinegar into a bowl. Mix in a few cups of fresh, cool water. Dip a clean, cotton cloth into the rose vinegar and wring lightly. Dab the sunburned skin with the rose vinegar. Apply as needed. Rose vinegar also helps cool insect bites and stings and heat rash.

I am definitely going to make it! I’ll have my scientific results for you in a few weeks. 🙂

LivvyDarling1

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Sloooowly Starting to Rise Again

June 23, 2011

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It’s almost July. Ya think I should be getting back to the garden and home renovation projects yet? 😉

We purchased an air conditioner. Hurray! It’s the first air conditioner I’ve ever had. It’s the window kind, so we’ve been having *fun* trying to fit it into our old 1855 window frame…. more on that to come. We’re still working on a unique shelf that juts out from the window, upon which will sit the A/C’s bulky butt. Man, those things are bulky. I guess they have to be.

I’m also starting to take more time off from work. I try to get my writing assignments done by the time I have to cook dinner. I don’t always make my goals, and sometimes I wind up staying up much later than I like. But at least I’m not working non-stop anymore.

Gardening is on my mind lately. I bought some hostas and a few blackberry bare roots (all died but one). I have to plug them in sometime.

And of course, I have a lot of loose ends to finish up after last year’s renovation. I still haven’t completed that kitchen bench. And my living room/office needs a lot of decorating help. I have Ethernet and cables strung about everywhere. I dislike cords all over the floor. :-p My intention is to build a very nice modern office with updated equipment (i.e., an i7 core computer with slick video graphics array or DVI cables, and… *sigh* yeah) with nice furniture and orderly shelves! I can see it all in my mind’s eye. Reality is another matter, lol.

All in good time.

How are your summer projects going? Or are you one of those lucky persons that have no projects??? 😀

homework

*sigh* To Do Lists....

 

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My Lovely But Stubborn Rose Bush

June 20, 2011

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When I first moved here over a decade ago, I knew next to nothing about gardening. I bought some books and checked some out from the library, and went to work, studying. I learned a lot. The nice thing about gardening is that it’s actually kind of easy. Plants are pretty resilient, and they will endure a good amount of abuse, lol.

So when I moved here, there were few plant: a rhododendron on its last gasps; a front flower bed FILLED with hostas (yuk); a stinging nettle bush next to the driveway (we got rid of that nasty bush the second day we moved in!); and an old Scotch rose disfigured with horribly drippy bags of fluorescent-orange spots. I later found out this was a fungus.

The rose bush, while pretty, was situated right next to the garage wall, in the shadows in an obscure area. I hacked at it to remove it. The thing grew back every year! And every year, I hacked at it again. I cut, I sawed, I weed-whacked. It just stubbornly refused to die! As a matter of fact, it grew back beautifully, free of the orange goop. I guess it had been neglected for so long that my vicious hacking only helped it!

Last year, I didn’t hack it. I was too exhausted. I just left it.

Look at it today. Photo taken this morning.

rosesgrowing

It’s still in the shadows in that obscure area, by the garage wall. I have to admire the tenacious little thing. It’s blooming like there’s no tomorrow- and I guess that makes sense because I hacked at the poor thing like there was going to be no tomorrow!

So I’m going to leave it. Maybe next year I’ll take the root suckers and plug them elsewhere in the garden. There are a few offshoots of this bush, elsewhere around the yard. They are also blooming prolifically. And they smell HEAVENLY. Oh, those old-fashioned Scotch roses! You can keep your hybrid plastic-surgery models– give me the old fashioned, hardy rose.  They are absolutely delicious. Like any true blood American, I love an underdog. And this rose bush is definitely a contender. LOL

So I have plans to put roses everywhere. I’ll incorporate them into my lilac-laden garden plans. Wouldn’t that be so wonderful– lilacs in May, roses in June. What’s for July and August?

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Renovation Tips for the Older Folks: Safety First

June 17, 2011

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installbutcherblock3

Get help from the young folks.

I’m only in my early 40’s, but I’m starting to feel the effects of getting older. Maybe it’s not age as much as very hard work. I’ve always worked rough, tough physical labor all my life. When I was a kid, my body seemed invincible. Now, however, I hear it complain from time to time. It’s not very loud complaining, but my body is hinting to me that it’s not as supple as it used to be. So I’m starting to pay attention more often.

Renovation is hard work. That’s why I love my power tools so much. 😀 It’s great to build muscles the size of cantaloupes, but it’s harmful to abuse your body for the sake of a renovation. Here are a few tips for taking care of your body– no matter what your age– that I have learned along the way.

1. Don’t forget to eat. And eat healthy foods!

I’m a tad obsessive when it comes to big projects. I tend to focus very narrowly on that one goal, even to the point where I skip meals or eat “fast foods” so I can get back to work. When I was younger, my body could cope with such abuse. But not anymore. With our living room renovation in 2007, I stuck to a rather rigid schedule of working on the house for 6 hours a day, then cooking dinner for the family. And I rested every night.

When we were working on the kitchen, it was a much larger project with many more things involved (wiring the entire house, replacing the plumbing system, etc). And I was on a time schedule. I HAD to finish the kitchen before the kids began school in the autumn.

I felt rushed and figured I could work and work and work. I skipped meals and lost sleep and also was working my writing jobs at the same time. It was really too much for my body. I lost some hair (it’s growing back as white), I gained weight (I never lose weight, ever), I was exhausted. Looking back now, I could kick myself. I just didn’t take care of myself like I should have.

12yds

We filled this dumpster. THREE TIMES.

So if you have a very physical job ahead of you: eat regular meals (no heavy meals); take your whole-food vitamins, as your body absorbs them better; eat healthy foods like fresh vegetables. Increase your protein intake, too. Nuts are good. Fish is good. Red meat and chicken are good, but I didn’t like to eat heavy meats every night, as they are more difficult to digest.

It really will make a difference!

2. Use safety equipment, when it’s safe to wear them.

This is another area where I tend to fail miserably. I wear glasses, and I just can’t stand the safety goggles! When it’s a hot summer day and I’m at the power tools, the goggles fog up. The plastic lenses are cloudy and blurry and I can never see clearly with them. How can it possibly be safer to wear those things?? My opinion is that it is not. I don’t wear safety goggles unless I’m working with caustic liquids.

I do use ear plugs, now. I didn’t during most of the renovation, but the piercing screams of the circular saw really started to bother me. Ear protection is important, use it.

Dust masks are indispensable. I forced the kids to use them at all times. They were a real pain, especially when it was very hot and humid, but they are necessary. Unfortunately, most of the dust masks available are for men– that is, they fit large faces. I am thinking of petitioning companies to consider women and teens when they make masks– we work, too!

DR Ceiling Down

Another little-mentioned safety tip is to use braces. Boy, these came in handy! Going up and down stairs, carrying buckets of bricks and plaster and stone… crawling around in crevices trying to wire the boxes…. my son developed a knee injury from all the activity, so we got him a knee brace. It worked wonders and he wears it whenever we do heavy physical work.

3. Create a quitting time and relax in the evening.

As mentioned earlier, I tended to want to work obsessively until the job was done. It was like my mind was on overdrive but my body was in neutral (and in reverse, sometimes!). I am aware that this is an area with which I’d still struggle if I was still renovating.. and I’m going to have to really force myself to cool my jets when we gut the upstairs of the house. But I do realize how important it is to rest after a hard day. Not only is it good for the body, but it helps your mind to recuperate, too.

LivvyConkedOut

Take a clue from the cat: REEEELAAAAX.

 

4. Keep the worksite clean.

I learned this from walking into my son’s room while he slept at night. When he was younger, he used to leave his Lego pieces all over the floor. Oh, those things are nasty when your foot finds them at 2am!

So when we created a few workbenches and brought in all the tools from the garage, we HAD to clean up everything before bed. No tools left around! If something like a Lego feels so awful, I could only imagine what it would be like to slam a toe into a pipe basin wrench! Oooo! >.<

Work1

Having a place for the tools also makes it easier to find what you need during the job!

5. Get someone else to do the gardening. :-p

Don’t overwhelm yourself with a zillion other projects during this time. I did the spring planting before we started the renovation, and had the kids manage the garden during the renovation. Toward the end of the season, the garden was filled with weeds, but I didn’t care. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

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10 Things About My New Kitchen I Am Thankful For

June 14, 2011

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I’m taking my dear friend Carole’s suggestion. After a particularly harried day fussing over a plumbing cob job problem, Carole said, “Go get a cup of coffee and look at before and after pics of your kitchen and cheer yourself up…” Hey, who am I to pass up a cup of coffee??

So I did. And I figured I’d write about the amazing things about my new kitchen that I am SO thankful for. Our kitchen renovation was a BIG job. I don’t think I’d ever tackled anything so intense, except maybe childbirth, lol. Even the 2007 living room renovation paled in comparison to last summer’s big kitchen blitz. We and some folks from our church rebuilt everything on our own– electrical, plumbing, heating system, insulation, drywall, flooring, cabinets and counters, and appliances. Whew, it was a very intense year. In case you missed all the tremendous fun from last year, you can check out some of my blog posts here.

Here are 10 things for which I am very thankful.

1. We’d gutted the kitchen and dining room to the bare bones. I am thankful for that because I’m a rather fussy person. I don’t like to inherit another person’s “disaster.” Old houses are almost never disasters– old houses are exceptional in that they are solidly built with superior craftsmanship and quality materials. In this, they have new construction beat. However, the common “disasters” that strike an old home is usually sub-par remodeling or neglect. My house has suffered from both, but especially from terrible “remodels” in some of the rooms. Much of my turmoil comes from fixing previous remodels. So I like to gut the walls and start from scratch. I don’t like patching up previous owners’ disasters. And I also like to see exactly what’s behind the walls. I’m still looking for those gold dubloons somewhere.

Kitchen Gutted

2. I am thankful for my dishwasher. My daughter and I STILL give thanks regularly for it. We used to wash loads and loads of dishes by hand. When I used to babysit kids, I was washing dishes for ten people three times a day.

dishwasher90273

I got a cheap dishwasher, too– the kind without the electronic panel and no fancy features. I’d heard that fancy dishwashers break easily. I got this cheapo model in case it died early– then I wouldn’t feel so bad if it broke on me. But it’s been going like a champ. And we LOVE it.

3. I am thankful for my vinyl plank flooring. My first choice was hardwoods (whose isn’t?!) but it was too expensive and I didn’t think I could install something like that myself. So I opted for easy care vinyl plank flooring. It really is very easy to take care of, and doesn’t look too bad!

DR flooring2

4. I am thankful for my kitchen window. I love this window. It’s so big, more than twice the size of the previous window. I can see the entire backyard through this thing. And when I open it, all the breezes come in. I love the woodwork and the pendant light!

Window1

5. I am thankful for my wood countertops. I bought them online and had them delivered, can you believe it?! 350 pounds of countertops! Laminate might have been a little cheaper, but it would have been too much work to custom make it to fit my large space. The wood is just so wonderful. I am just starting to relax a little about the countertops. Before, I was rather hyper about any scratch or swelling. But now I’m not as fussy, because if the wood gets a scratch or swells, I can simply sand it down and recoat the surface with oil.

BevAreaCounter

6. I love my dining room. 🙂

DiningRoomDone2

7. I am SO thankful for insulation. Maybe that sounds kind of weird, but if you have ever lived in an old, uninsulated house, you know exactly what I mean. The insulated walls make the house so, so much more comfortable. I can’t wait to have the upstairs insulated.

DRinsulation

8. I am thankful for new electric. For several years, we had no electricity in many of the rooms. After we gutted the living room in 2007 and saw the condition of the 100-year-old knob-and-tube wiring, I disconnected it for fear of fire. We were without electric in the kitchen except for a small ceiling light and one outlet. It was a pretty miserable room to be in, so dark and ugly.

When we gutted the kitchen and dining room, I wired new electricity throughout the house. I also wired Ethernet. Of course, in some of the upstairs bedrooms we only have one working outlet and a switch-operated ceiling light, but it’s one NEW outlet and a NEW light operated by a switch (before, the ceiling lights were pull-chain, ugh). I am very, very thankful for our new electric. I sleep so much better at night now.

electric2242

9. I am thankful for drywall. I adore the inventor of drywall. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. There are some “hard core” old home owners who install plaster and lathe in their homes, but not me. Plaster is dusty, dirty, ugly, it cracks, it’s lumpy and bumpy and did I say it’s dusty? It also smells. :-p I like my drywall.

DR ceiling sheetrock

10. I’m thankful for my new cabinets. They cost me a verrry pretty penny, but I love them. They are solid plywood. Beautiful doors. I love the color and they are so durable.

Window2

Can you believe I’ve counted to ten already?! I could keep going on and on!

In case you’re wondering, this is what the old kitchen looked like.

Ugliest Kitchen1

Ugliest Kitchen2

Now you see why I am so thankful. 🙂

It’s rather easy to see only the things that go wrong when you have an old house (mostly because things are always going wrong in an old house!!). But there’s a lot of marvelous benefits to living in an old home. And I am grateful to have a home. I shudder when I remember apartment living!

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Old Home Owner’s Malaise

June 13, 2011

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Maybe this is normal. I don’t know.

I’m suffering from a severe case of the Old Home Blues. I have absolutely no energy to tackle any projects around here. Not the garden, not all the undone little projects from the kitchen renovation from last summer…. and when I encounter a “new” problem, I just want to go to bed and pretend it isn’t there. Right now, if I could sell and make a profit, I would. I would get a new house (in old-house speak, a new house is one that was built post World War II). ALL the plumbing and electric and insulation and windows would be done. Maybe even have nice carpeting and a deck and a downstairs toilet that doesn’t bubble when the upstairs is flushed… It would be the next thing to heaven. yeah.

Oh, I’m down in the dumps about another plumbing problem. Honestly, I kinda thought we were over the plumbing problems, last year after we replaced everything—well, ALMOST everything, and that’s the problem right there.

The handle to the bathtub faucet broke off yesterday. I dropped a small plastic container of hand soap on it, and BOOP it snapped. Just a handle, though. Tub handles are replaceable, easy– you screw off the old and screw on the new!! EASY!!!

*violent sobbing*

The faucet handle stem is plastic. The stem is the rod inside the handle that turns the water supply on and off as you spin the handle. Every single diagram I have ever seen shows metal stems. The screw off. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

Except mine. Mine’s plastic. And they don’t screw off.  Nope, the system is all integrated. The chrome sleeve escutcheon, the valve body inside the wall. All integrated. So we can’t just screw off the old and screw on the new. We have to GUT THE BATHROOM WALL and replace ALL the copper pipes to install a new valve, stem and faucet fixtures.

tub faucet plastic stem1

You can see the plastic stem end that broke off.

tub faucet plastic stem2

The chrome sleeve will NOT budge. I think it’s welded to the valve (inside the wall). There’s no threaded flange to screw on and off. We managed to remove the plastic cartridge from the sleeve. I’ve never seen anything like it in a tub handle, but then again, I’m no plumber. I can understand the cartridge inside as plastic.. but plastic for the STEM?! The rod that sticks out upon which the entire handle spins? It’s born to fail.

tub faucet plastic stem4

tub faucet plastic stem3

I don’t think this type of tub handle set is even made anymore. We would kinda like to modernize the whole thing, but we’d have to replace the whole thing, a monumental task. This is the valve from the “access panel” behind the shower. Note that the panel covers the right side of the plumbing. There’s a wall stud there. We can’t replace the valve, anyway, unless I hack through the wall with a reciprocating saw.

tub faucet plastic stem5

Do you hear that banshee-screaming-like sound? That’s not the wind. That’s my whining, all the way from New York State.

Hey, if any of you old-timers have any advice to offer me, please do. 🙂

Update: I’ve done more research online, and it looks like the plastic cartridge is replaceable (the brand is Universal Rundle). I even found an online store that sells them!!!!! That’s encouraging. The Hubs is going to decide whether he wants to simply replace the cartridges and leave the cob job cobbed, or replace the entire valve system to something more modern. We’d have to rip out part of the wall for that…. it’s not a large portion of the wall, but I foresee some issues. I only pray that all the twisting and shaking we did yesterday to get the handles apart has not broken the seals around the copper pipes! Pray that we don’t get a leak!

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Find the Kitty Friday 6/10

June 10, 2011

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Livvy hasn’t felt like playing much this week. And I haven’t felt like following her around with the camera, either. It’s been blazing hot, and I think Liv hates the heat as much as I do. She’s rather morose, laying here or there. Not her usual perky self.

So I have a “rerun” Find the Kitty for you today. Sometimes when I am feeling low, I look through her old baby pictures. OOOOO she was so cute!

This was one of the photos that started the Find the Kitty series.

Find the Kitty

Here she is, before we renovated the kitchen. To remember how it was gives me the heebie jeebies.

FTK11.13

Here’s a video when she got her new litter box. We had to teach her to go inside the box. She was fascinated by the flaps.

Have a great weekend! Stay cool!

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Find the Kitty Friday 6/3

June 3, 2011

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It’s one of her favorite chores. Can ya guess? 😉

FTKbeddybye

From what I have seen on your blogs, it looks to be one of a kitty’s favorite things– “helping” to make the bed. LOL. Livvy LOVES it. She races all around the mattress as the sheets and blankets flap up and down, snagging and grasping the flying materials. It’s so cute. Even though Livvy is now a mature young lady (she’ll be three next month!), the kitten in her rises up when she helps to “make” the bed.

It’s so amazing how quickly Livvy has grown up. I wish kittenhood lasted longer. I really miss the cuddles and the squeezes; I miss carrying her around in my pocket all day long. 🙁 Now, she’s too grown up for that. I am SO tempted to get another kitty. But then, reality hits. I can’t have too many more pets, we are busting at the seams now. The last thing I want is to have more critters running around, needing their shots and needing to get “fixed” (which is incredibly expensive, yikes!). Non-neutered male cats, especially, are a pain in the butt. They walk around with this chip on their shoulder, whizzing everywhere, ugh. I have sworn off male cats FOREVAH.

But kittens are soooooo cute!!! Must. Resist!!!!

Funny Pictures - Cute Kittens

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Emerald Ash Borer: One Little Bug, So Much Damage

June 2, 2011

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There’s a new bug in town. And yep — you guessed it — it’s a native of Asia. With all the bugs and diseases that comes from Asia, it’s any wonder that there are even ANY trees there. Yikes.

The latest news of doom to come from the cooperative extension is the emerald ash borer, a tiny, iridescent green beetle that kills ash trees. I love ash trees. They were a hearty replacement for the gigantic elm trees that one graced Main Street America. They died off by a beetle, too, in the 1950s and 60s. So now you know where the name “Elm Street” comes from and why there are no elms. The ash trees also grow to be giants. When we moved here, there was an enormous ash tree in the front yard. It must have been 40 feet tall. Unfortunately, it had been planted smack dab on the property line, and the neighbor took it down. 🙁 So he could put in an asphalt parking lot. 🙁

Photo from Wikipedia

Anyway, between chainsaw-crazy, asphalt-loving neighbors and the emerald ash borer, the ash tree looks like it’s in trouble. Really, there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do. It’s a BUG. We all know how pervasive bugs are– there’s no stopping them when they smell fresh meat.

The emerald ash borer is native to Russia, China, and Korea. It was first detected in North America in 2002, lurking in shipping containers brought to Canton, Michigan. The bugs (in containers) spread to Maryland and Virginia, and it really hasn’t taken long for the bug to reach the surrounding states and up into Canada. Now, it’s here in New York State. There are 7 billion ash trees at risk by this dumb little bug. The emerald ash borer has already chewed through millions of trees in the Midwest.

The ash tree is a commercially important tree to us. It’s a very versatile and dense hardwood. We use ash tree wood to make guitars, baseball bats, furniture joinery, flooring, milled products, tool handles, and millions of other materials where strong but flexible wood is needed. The sugary sap from ash was even once used by the ancient Norse in making their “Mead of Inspiration.” The ash tree is also an important shade tree since it grows so tall so quickly. The Northeastern White Ash can tower to heights of 100 feet.

The emerald ash borer kills ash trees by strangulation (called “girdling”). The bug lays its eggs beneath the surface of the bark, where the larvae tunnels around the sensitive phloem and cambium layers of the tree. The tree, unable to transport nutrients from its roots to upper trunk and branches, dies within 2 to 4 years from infestation. Good Lord. Since 2002, the bug has killed 50 million trees in North America.

The only thing we can do to stave off the pandemic is to be VERY careful about firewood we carry to camp sites and report the beetle should we discover it in our area. The Department of Environmental Conservation is taking this threat very seriously and has quarantined several counties in New York State (see maps below). See their page dec.ny.gov/animals/7253.html for more information.

Image courtesy of DEC

Image courtesy of DEC

As far as we know, there is no natural predator to the emerald ash borer in North America. I read a story that a certain type of wasp was discovered on ash trees in China, so that may offer some help. I wish there was some kind of easy solution. Who knows what problems imported wasps will bring….

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