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October
28

Making Memories With Fall Leaves

Our Golden Ash Tree dropped its leaves today... yes, all in one day!

When the kids were young, this event called for a festive time beginning with a long day of raking huge amounts of golden leaves into piles. Then it took several more days for pets and children to tire of playing "hide and go seek" in their huge forts. Before it dared to rain on our fluffy mounds, we rolled the leaves onto tarps and dragged them into garden beds where the leaves worked thier magic throughout the winter!

Our children are grown now, with yards of their own. However, on this perfectly beautiful fall day, with a new leaf blower in hand, I took great pleasure in revisiting memories of assorted hand rakes, children's laughter and smiling faces and playful pets.

Best Wishes for pleasant fall days with your family! Here are some tips on how to use your leaves this fall...

Why Are Leaves Valuable to the Gardener?

It's simple. When incorporated into soil, fall leaves:

  • Add nutrients, including phosphorous and potassium
  • Increase the soil's microbial life
  • Boost its water-holding capacity
  • Improve its structure, known as tilth

And did I mention that leaves are free? It takes little effort on your part to get them working for you, so instead of sweeping them to the curb, here are several ways to use leaves in your garden.

Protect Outdoor Potted Plants

When the weather turns cold and potted plants (the hardy ones, not houseplants or tropicals, which must be brought indoors) go dormant, pick a sheltered place on the north, west or east side of your house. Cluster the pots together against the house, ideally beneath an overhang. Pile dried leaves over, under and between the entire grouping of pots.

If the area is windy, corral the pots with chicken wire so the leaves won't blow away. Pile the leaves inches deep, covering the pot and as much of the plant as possible. Under this insulating blanket, both plants and pots should come through the winter just fine. With this method, even terra-cotta pots can stay outdoors, as long as water can't get into them and freeze.

Make Leaf Mold

Leaf mold is simply wet leaves that have decomposed into a rich, black, soil-like substance that makes a perfect mulch for plants. Pile the leaves in a spot where they're out of the way and won't blow away. Or make large (3- or 4-foot) circles of chicken wire, 3 feet high, and pile the leaves in them. Wet the leaves as you go so they'll rot. Turning the pile a few times during the winter will accelerate the process.

Mix Leaves — Shredded or Not — Into a Compost Pile Now, Where They'll Break Down Over Winter

Even better: Stockpile dried leaves, in garbage bags or piled in that out-of-the-way place, for summer. In warm weather there's an abundance of succulent green material (nitrogen) for your compost pile. But to keep the composting process aerobically working, and not rotting, it needs lots of "browns" (carbon), in the form of dried material.

Add Them to Vegetable Beds

You can incorporate whole or chopped leaves into any cleared-out vegetable beds. They will mostly decompose over the winter, then in spring you can mix in whatever is left. If you don't want to see leftover leaves in your beds, shred them first.

Don't have a shredder? A garbage can and a string trimmer will work. Use a 55-gallon garbage can. Fill it three-quarters of the way with leaves. Put the string trimmer in, turn it on and move it through the layers of leaves. Be sure to wear eye and ear protection.

Mow Them Into the Lawn

Then there's the easy way but much less fun for the kids- just mow them with your mower.
Together, shredded leaves and grass clippings add carbon (leaves) and nitrogen (grass) to the soil, reducing your need to add store-bought fertilizers later.

Memories of Fall contributed by Carol Solis, always enjoying the country life and family fun!

October
15

If you have been putting off outside maintenance on your home because of the summer heat, not to worry, the weather has changed! Fall is a great time to do dive into outdoor work and start preparing your house for winter and the cold weather ahead. Here are a few things you should be doing to make sure your home is ready for the changing colder temperatures ahead. 

  1. Clean Your Gutters Make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris so water doesn't pool and cause damage to your home. 
  2. Check For Leaks and Water Damage Give your home a good look over to make sure there are no leaks, potential leaks, or water damage that you may have missed. Make sure to look thoroughly at your roof and attic to make sure there are no problems. 
  3. Winterize Your Outdoor Faucets Close off shut-off valves for outside faucets and fully drain the line of all water so they don't freeze and burst when the temperature drops. Consider using a cover on outdoor faucets. 
  4. Maintain Your Home's Heating System Make sure your filters are being replaced regularly and schedule a service check if you are due or haven't done one in awhile. Make sure your heating system is ready to get you through the cold winter months without issues. 
  5. Fireplace Maintenance If you have a fireplace, schedule a chimney sweep to make sure your fireplace is clean and ready to go this winter. Also, make sure to check your flue and vents before using the fireplace for the first time. 
  6. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans Reversing the rotation of your ceiling fans to clockwise makes heating your home more efficient. 
  7. Drain Your Hot Water Heater Draining your hot water heater helps flush sediment and debris which can cause your hot water heater to work less efficiently. Draining the hot water heater yearly may help your system last longer as well. 

If you have questions about anything on this checklist or if you are looking for a professional to help you with any of these services, get in touch with one of our Montague Miller & Co real estate professionals who will help answer your questions.

 

August
14

The much-welcomed summer season can bring with it some unwelcomed problems- humidity and mold! It's always easier to prevent than to remediate, so here are 10 tips to help set you up for success in efforts to combat mold in your home.

1. Control Indoor Climate

Mold problems often emerge during hot, humid summers when you're tempted to play with the air conditioner. But set the thermostat too high, and the air conditioner won't dehumidify your air effectively; set it too low, and you create cold surfaces where water vapor can condense. To prevent moisture problems and maximize energy efficiency, set the thermostat at 78 degrees F.

2. Monitor Humidity

An indoor humidity monitor will help you keep track of moisture levels that, ideally, fall between 35% and 50% relative humidity; in very humid climates, at the height of summer, you may have to live with readings closer to 55%.

But if you reach 60% relative humidity, it's time to look for the source of the added moisture; above 70% relative humidity, certain species of mold can begin growing.

Indoor humidity monitors start at less than $20; more sophisticated models that simultaneously and remotely track several rooms can climb to $200.

3. Eliminate Clutter

Cast a critical eye on household clutter, and pare down your stuff. Clutter blocks airflow and prevents your HVAC system from circulating air. Furniture and draperies that block supply grilles cause condensation. All this moisture creates microclimates in your home that welcome and feed mold growth.

So throw out things you don't love or don't use. Push furniture away from vents and grilles to keep air circulating. On humid, still days, run a couple of fans to keep air moving.

4. Shut Windows and Doors When AC Is On

When you open windows and doors, you let air conditioning escape, waste money, and invite humid air into your cooler home. This causes condensation, which mold loves. So keep doors and windows shut when the AC is humming.

Also, maintain your home at around 80 degrees when you're on vacation or at work. Too often, we bump the thermostat up to 85 degrees or turn off the AC when we're away. This raises temperature and humidity, which creates the ideal home for mold.

5. Properly Size Your AC Unit

Make sure your air-conditioning unit is properly sized for your house. If it's too small, the unit will run constantly, elevating costs but not the temperature; too big, and the unit will constantly start and stop, which wastes energy, too.

Install an HVAC unit that's just right. For guidance, call an HVAC professional or consult Energy Star's square footage/AC capacity chart.

6. Evaluate Your AC

If you get a high humidity reading of 60% or more, make sure your air conditioner is doing its job.

  • Is it set to the proper temperature?
  • Is it cycling on and off periodically?
  • Does it blow cold air when it reaches the set point?
  • Are the coils clean?

Inspect the condensate drain pipe (the narrow white pipe sticking out the side) to make sure it's dripping regularly. If it isn't, the pipe is blocked and water may be accumulating inside the unit -- or on your floor. If you suspect a problem, call your HVAC professional. To prevent blockage and mold buildup, pour a cup of bleach mixed with water down the drain annually.

7. Look for Standing Water

If the air conditioner isn't the issue, search for standing water or chronic dampness that's increasing indoor humidity and providing a lovely environment for mold. 

Check for puddles or dampness around hot water tanks, sump pumps, freezers, refrigerators, basement doors, and windows. Inspect crawl spaces for ground water dampness or foundation leaks.

8. Cover Your Crawl Space Floor

Groundwater seeping into crawl spaces can add gallons of moisture vapor into your house every day. The simplest defense is to cover crawl space floors with a plastic vapor barrier -- 6 mil polyethylene (landscapers' plastic) -- that traps moisture in the ground.

If you regularly crawl in your crawl space, use a heavier plastic that won't rip as easily: Some 20 mil plastic coverings are on the market.

9. Add a Dehumidifier

A dehumidifier removes excess moisture from the air.

You can buy a whole house dehumidifier ($1,100-$1,800) that attaches to your furnace, treats air throughout the house, and connects to a drain so you never have to empty a tank. If you live in a very humid area, a whole-house system is the way to go.

If you have occasional bouts of dampness and musty smells, a portable dehumidifier will suffice ($150-$200).

Most models have an auto-shutoff that keeps the unit from overflowing when the storage tank is full. Some portables have a hose hookup that automatically sends water into a nearby floor drain.

10. Call a Professional

For peace of mind, if you can't find the moisture problem on your own, or how to correct a problem, call a home inspector or indoor air quality consultant. The American Society of Home Inspectors or the Indoor Air Quality Association is a good place to start if you don't have a recommended professional

 

January
20

Congratulations to our Montague Miller & Co, Top Producers 2019!

January
20

Congratulations to our Montague Miller & Co, 2019 4th Quarter Top Producers!

March
5

Photo by Steve Zamek

Invite a Family of Bluebirds to Share Your Yard

A peaceful farm in the country, just minutes east of Charlottesville, is home to our horses and an ever growing population of deer, squirrels, foxes, groundhogs, beaver, rabbits and just about every bird native to Central Virginia.  Even Canada geese who fly to and from neighboring ponds call it home, as well as titmice, house wrens, chickadees, and nuthatches, woodcocks, woodpeckers and especially our good friends, Eastern Bluebirds.

This seasonally warm first weekend in March beckoned bluebird scouts back for a brief visit in quest of making sure last year's nest boxes had been cleaned and readied for their return migration from North Carolina later this month.

But you don't have to live on a farm or even have much acreage to invite a family of bluebirds to share your yard, even if you live in town. Birds adapt quite well, in fact, "If You Build It, They Will Come"!

In more developed areas, bluebirds are likely to be found around large open lawns, quiet roadways, old railroad paths, parks, cemeteries, golf courses, new housing developments, and neighborhoods on the edge of cities. They usually don't hang out in heavy woods or city centers. So, rest assured, your yard will do just fine! But beware… your invited guests may return year after year!

When installing a bluebird house, consider:

  • Location: While scattered trees or shrubs are fine, choose a fairly open spot away from woods.
  • Mounting: A pole or fence post is ideal, especially if you can add a baffle to keep out predators such as cats, snakes, and raccoons. Mount the house at around 5' high, so that you can easily reach it to monitor and clean.
  • Orientation: Ideally, face the opening toward a safe perch, such as a small tree or fence. Also try to face it away from prevailing winds, and away from midday sun in hot climates. If you are installing the house near a road, face it parallel to the road, so the birds won't fly out directly into traffic.
  • Spacing: Bluebirds are competitive and usually claim two or three acres, so be sure their houses are widely spaced. Ideally, Eastern bluebird houses should be 100-150 yards apart.
  • Organic Garden: Since bluebirds eat insects, they can provide natural insect control, but avoid areas with heavy application of pesticides.

 The Challenge of Competitors:

One of the biggest challenges for bluebirds is the threat of other birds competing for the nesting space. European starlings and house swallows pose the largest threat to bluebird nesting, and these non-native birds will attack bluebird nests and destroy the eggs.

You can reduce the risk by making sure your bluebird house has the right size opening by purchasing (try Tractor Supply, Lowes or Amazon) or making it yourself using bluebird specific dimensions. Here is a link to How To Build Bluebird boxes by Audubon's specifications.

These gorgeous birds are so sweet and charming, swooping from tree to post to guard their nests and checking you out. And if their stunning beauty weren't enough, they're also great for natural summer insect control!

Enjoy your new neighbors and many thanks for helping reestablish our Eastern bluebird's diminishing natural habit! 

By Carol Solis, Montague Miller & Co. When not assisting REALTORS® with their marketing needs, Carol can be found "on the farm" with her family enjoying everything country living has to offer.

 

October
29

 
photo credit: Carol Solis Downtown Mall Charlottesville
 
The fall season in Central Virginia, with its crisp days, chilly nights and vibrant fall foliage, beckons visitors from miles around to Charlottesville and surrounding area!  This time of year, the area's leafy greens leisurely transform the landscape in a breathtaking exhibit of oranges, reds, and yellows and can be enjoyed just about anywhere! We invite you to visit and take in just a few of the area's top must see places to view fall foliage! 
 
Charlottesville's Downtown Mall 
Take in Mother Nature's fall gifts on a leisurely walk on the historic downtown mall lined with large mature oak trees,  quaint shops, restaurants and coffee shops.
 
University of Virginia
Founded by Thomas Jefferson nearly 200 years ago, this university is one of the top-ranked public universities in the country. A treat to visit anytime but during the fall months, every turn is an unexpected treat of vibrant pops of color while touring The Lawn and Academical Village and everywhere on grounds! 
 
Albemarle County Country Roads
Just a few minutes outside of the city limits of Charlottesville will place you in the gorgeous landscape of Albemarle County.  With countless back roads and scenic byways, this is the perfect place for a leisurely drive and take in all Nature has to offer! Travel through eastern Albemarle County and view fall foliage surrounded by gently rolling hills decorated with beautiful horses or head south, toward the quaint town of Scottsville, nestled against the banks of the rambling James River. Follow any of the winding roads you come to and see what beautiful sights and towns you can discover along the way!
 
Presidential Homes
Three former U.S. presidents have called the Charlottesville area home, including Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison. You can visit their respective homes of Monticello, Highland, and Montpelier, and take a trip back in time while enjoying the vibrant colors throughout these historic surroundings.
 
Wineries & Vineyards
Did you know that Wine Enthusiast named the Charlottesville region, boasting its 30 plus wineries, as one of the top wine destinations in the world? These picturesque vineyards are even more beautiful when the leaves start to change colors. Relax and sip your favorite Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or Merlot (many of which have national and global accolades) while admiring the fantastic colors in the heart of Central Virginia's wine country.
 
Hot Air Balloon Ride
For the adventurous, a hot air balloon ride is sure to be an unforgettable experience and a completely different and unique way of taking in the Charlottesville area colors!
 
Carter Mountain Orchard
Don't miss Carter Mountain Orchard, popular among visitors and locals alike especially during the fall months - and for good reason! Enjoy some of the most stunning views of Charlottesville in every direction while you pick apples, enjoy warm apple cider donuts, sip freshly-pressed cider, sample wines and hard cider or even take in a hay ride!
 
Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive & the Blue Ridge Parkway
Located just a short scenic 30-minute drive from the Downtown Mall is an entrance to Shenandoah National Park to the north and the Blue Ridge Parkway to the south where you will encounter some of the country's most splendid spots for viewing fall colors, picnics, hiking and photography!
 
The Charlottesville area offers plenty to see and events to go to any time of the year. It's also a great place to live! 
 
Read more about places to visit at www.VisitCharlottesville.org and plan your trip soon!
October
15

Central Virginia is a special area especially in the Fall.  Lush with presidential history, vineyards & breweries along with gorgeous scenery, the area outside of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia is loaded with exciting adventures that pair with being in the center of Virginia's wine industry!

Designated as Virginia Wine Month, October is the oldest wine month in the country. It began in 1988 as a way to support the state's young wine business – with just 40 wineries at the time – and promote travel to Virginia wine country. Today, Virginia ranks 5th in the number of wineries in the nation with more than 280 wineries and over 400 vineyards.

"Virginia's 420 vineyards growing 3,800 acres of wine grapes are dotted across the commonwealth and are becoming an increasingly important part of Virginia's diverse agricultural economy," said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden. "We are proud of the caliber of wines our growers and winemakers are producing. October is a perfect time to get out and explore the vineyards and see the grapes being picked and taste the wines."

Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Todd Haymore adds,  "Virginia's wine industry is an important part of our tourism economy, and serves as a major competitive differentiator for the Commonwealth, making us an ideal destination for travelers who are seeking authentic, experiential culinary attractions. With our 15 million acres of beautiful fall foliage, breathtaking vistas, and a large variety of events and festivals taking place across the Commonwealth, October is truly the perfect time to discover why Virginia is for Wine Lovers."

Join in celebrating Virginia Wine Month! It's the perfect time for all wine lovers to experience the very best of Virginia winemaking during dozens of state-wide events, including festivals, special dinners, vineyard tours, tastings and much more. Visit Central Virginia wine region #7 to see all this area has to offer at  https://www.virginiawine.org/events/results?region=7