I am not sure how many of you follow me on Facebook. If you do, then you know all about where I work.  Almost 2 years ago I left my position as Director for Tioga County GIS and joined the team over at Wildlife Specialists, LLC. My good friend, Merlin Benner, began the business in 2007 after leaving his position as a Biologist for Pennsylvania DCNR.

Wildlife Specialists, LLC was founded in 2007 to provide clients with comprehensive wildlife assessment, planning, and monitoring services. A lot of our work is with endangered, rare, or threatened species. We also provide nuisance white tailed deer and feral hog management.

Timber Rattlesnake tracked, tagged, and released via telemetry

Timber Rattlesnake tracked, tagged, and released via telemetry

Long story short, after talking with him, they asked if I would join them to help their GIS program and also their Nuisance Deer/Feral Hog Management program. After getting certified through the Game Commission as a Nuisance WIldlife/White Tailed Deer Agent, I joined them formally as their GIS manager in March of 2012. Since moving over, I have enjoyed a great many days in the field rather than in a stuffy office in front of a computer every day. I have gotten to learn so much about the various species and habitats that we work with.

I have had the chance to work on Timber Rattlesnake habitat surveys, Goshawk

Telemetry equipment picking up a transmitter frequency inside a rattlesnake.

Telemetry equipment picking up a transmitter frequency inside a rattlesnake.

surveys, wetland delineation, rare plant surveys, invasive plant studies and removal, rattlesnake telemetry studies, Allegheny Woodrat habitat improvement projects and so on. This is the kind of work I have always wanted to be doing.

Timber rattlesnake marked.

Timber rattlesnake marked.

Consequently, a lot of the work has come from the natural gas activity in the area. As that slows down, so does the work. We are still keeping relatively busy and hope that New York will soon open up for natural gas drilling. Pennsylvania has really benefited from all the survey work that has been done due to the gas industry. The records of what is really out there in the wilds is now more robust and better documented. And I am glad to be a part of it and see it all for myself out in the woods.

The timbering gear that we carried up the mountains for woodrat habitat improvement.

The timbering gear that we carried up the mountains for woodrat habitat improvement.

Woodrat habitat improvement. Steep rocky terrain!

Woodrat habitat improvement. Steep rocky terrain!


DSCF2563I have been thinking a while about some of the local businesses around here and how they really deserve a little recognition for their services to the community. Some are not well known and often do not advertise. Their reputation goes before them through their satisfied customers, and frankly, that’s really the best kind of advertising.

Today I would like to talk about A & A Metal Shop. This small business is run out of  the owners shop at 464 Collins Hill Rd, Ulysses, Pa. The owners name is Aaron and his son Amon, hence the A & A in the name. I happened upon them through a friend of mine and through Mapletrader.com,  as I was looking to purchase a maple syrup evaporator. I had found one in New Hampshire and my friend told me to check out A & A before I made a long trip. So after looking him up, I found a few threads mentioning his business on Mapletrader.com and they were all praising his work.

I decided to take a road trip one day after work since it was only about 40 minutes away.

Typical  Amish house. Picture credit: amishtrail.com

Typical Amish house. Picture credit: amishtrail.com

As I crossed into Potter County and on to Collins Hill Road I was entering an Amish community where Aaron lives. The homes are large, white , well kept, simple, and efficiently serve a purpose as they are spacious to large families. Out in front of Aarons home is his red metal shop with a small sign hanging on to the mailbox with the words “A & A Metal shop”.

I entered through the door and stepped into his little office. I could look through a doorway into the main shop and see all the men diligently working with metal in some way or another. You would think of a metal shop as loud and industrial like, but this was quiet other than the occasional sound of metal on metal and conversation in Pennsylvania Dutch. The shop was warmed by a wood stove. No electric lights, though the windows all around gave ample light by which to to work.

Inside the shop.

Inside the shop.

Aaron eventually came over and inquired as to what I needed. He was dressed in simple work clothes, and a caring face, kind of like a real nice Grampa. We talked about the different kinds of evaporators he made and their pricing. I had settled on their smallest model, the Hobby Model, which is actually a bit larger than the large manufacturers version. I didn’t measure it but it looked to be almost a 2X4. I was really impressed with all the options that came standard: a pre-heater pan, 8′ chimney stack, fire brick for the arch, and fire cloth. That set up came in UNDER $1000. I had ordered a tin tester cup ($12) so my total order was $987. I may order a steam hood which would be around $140.

Hobby Evaporator

Hobby Evaporator

The construction of their stainless pans is done without welding. He uses all 304, 24ga, B2 finish stainless steel. They still use soldering which some people frown upon due to the old kind of soldering which uses lead solder but all joints are crimped and are lead free soldered. He also does not use the shiny anealed stainless steel as it is hard to solder.

I am very glad I stopped in to visit his shop. If you want to order from him, you’ll have to either write a letter or stop by as he does not use a telephone. Its actually quite refreshing to see a business run the old fashioned way with a smile and a handshake instead of an impersonal email or long distance phone call.

Large evaporator ready to be shippped.

Large evaporator ready to be shipped.

Sugar Shack mailbox

Sugar Shack mailbox

Large drop flue with pre-heater piping.

Large drop flue with pre-heater piping.


Above pic used from www.omegacleaning.net

Above pic used from http://www.omegacleaning.net

Yes, I know, you say “Another project??”  Well yes. I started this business last spring (2008). It all started when I was at a mens leadership conference conference in Lancaster, Pa. During lunch one day there was a man at our table that told us he was a window cleaner. We were mildly interested until he told his story. We were all ears. He said he used to work some high-level corporate job and never had time with his boys. One day he decided he’d had enough and quit. He went to Home Depot and bought about a $100 worth of supplies and started cleaning windows. He claims that he now works half the time he did before and makes more than twice what he did before….not only that, but he is working WITH his boys!

So needless to say we started asking more in-depth questions about the details of his business and he freely spoke. He offered to send out start-up kits at no cost! He said he would go buy the buckets, rags, squeegees, and scrubbers and mail them out to everyone (4 of us) along with notes on what he learned. There was nothing to loose. He didnt want any money or recognition. He said that the Lord blessed him and its just a way to pass it along to others. Now, one thing has to be mentioned about his success…he lives in Texas. we all live in Pennsylvania. The climate in Texas is a bit more suitable for year round window cleaning.

Never-the-less, I went at it in the spring. At first it went slow. I looked up some techniques and read a lot of forums and learned what I could from those already in that kind of business. During the summer it really began to pick up steam. I was only doing this part time, on the side. Before I knew It I had 30 businesses and a few residential customers. I am looking to start a web site for the business, which by the way is called Tioga Window Cleaning. I will also be looking to hire some help come springtime. I have a few large jobs coming up and will need all the help I can get. I am also hoping my brother can move up by me and we could expand the business with more services such as power washing..which I have done  a little already.

One of the things I have kept foremost in my business outlook is that I want to provide a professional service to businesses mainly, and to residential customers. I don’t want my customers to feel like the are hiring Joe Shmoe with a bucket o’water and a squeegee. I provide much more than that, and the results show it.

I’ll keep you updated as things progress. Below are some of my customers.

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Wellsboro Diner

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Lambs Creek Food and Spirits

The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season

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The Wellsboro House