Friday, April 25, 2008

This One's Hot

The previous owner of the House of 42 Doors, who is an American, is married to an Australian, and after many, many years of living in the U.S., they moved to Australia. Similar to our situation when we moved to Ireland, they chose to keep their house in the U.S. and rent it out. In retrospect, I understand why. A house is something that people really get attached to and just giving it up to go somewhere completely different is a lot of change. Having the house to potentially go back to is comforting.

At least until you get renters into the house. Our first tenant was not a success. He didn't pay rent for about five months, broke the lease and then skipped the state. He didn't do any permanent damage, but he did some things that we did not like. I won't enumerate, since this blog is about the House of 42 Doors and not our last house.

From what we have seen and heard from neighbors, the renters in the House of 42 Doors were not a success either. Their kids wrote on the fireplace brick with chalk. The kids used markers to write on the newel posts of the stairs. They installed a satellite dish on the garage and ran cable into the house by drilling directly through the bricks of the second story. Not content with those holes, they then drilled another one through the solid, red oak, wood floor to run the cable up from the basement. They had a cat and the closet they kept the litter box in still smells a bit musty. One neighbor said that when she visited there was cat pee standing on the wood floor. It makes me almost faint thinking about it.

The very fact that Midwesterners would even hint that the people living here were inept implies they must have been real knuckleheads. Say what you will about Midwesterners, but they do cling tightly to the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" philosophy.

My impression is that there was a short conversation about them buying the House of 42 Doors until they saw the winter heating bills and lived in the house for awhile. Then at the end of the year they moved out and it went on the market, where it sat and sat and sat for two years.

Like us, the previous owner did not move everything over to Australia and what better place to store the leftovers then at the house? So he built a storeroom in the attic and kept a few things there. The funny thing about keeping stuff in storage is that after awhile you forget what you set aside, and you realize it really wasn't important anyway.

The upshot of all of this is that we got a lot of stuff with the House of 42 Doors. Some it is cool and some of it is junk. I'm going to try and post more pictures for awhile and show some of the stuff we inherited. The first is a real gem. It looks a bit like a satellite dish.

It is actually an old space heater. The plug had been cut off from it, so I wired on a new one and plugged it in. It still works. Of course it is a huge fire hazard, especially with kids around, but I like that it is functional AND pretty. There's some nice detailing around the base of the space heater, and of course, the copper is gorgeous.

I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with it now. Maybe I can put it in storage up in the attic...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lipitor for Radiators

I always find that when I sit down to update the blog, there seems to be nothing to write about, and then as I type, the flood gates open and before long, I have this horrendously long post. I'm standing at the top of the Hoover Dam. One side is dry and the other is full. Now I wonder which way the water is flowing...

We had our heating guys out again today. We had a little fiasco in January when our boiler stopped working. We were able to get the boiler fixed under our home warranty, which was good, because in the end they replaced the entire heat exchange system, which would have been something like $3,000. Ever since then, there's been water standing on the floor in the boiler room. I wasn't sure if it was outside water leaking in or water leaking out from the boiler. Last week I vacuumed up the water and when I went down the next day, it was obvious that it was coming from the boiler.

So, I finally got around to calling the boiler guys to have them out to do a few things. First was to repair that stupid leak. Second was to flush the radiator system. Third was to get a quote together to repair the radiators that froze and busted over the winter.

In looking at the drain at the bottom of the boiler, they found that the plastic part was cracked. And of course, they no longer make replacement parts. It is illegal to use plastic for that piece now. It must be metal. So the guys used some glue and caulk for the short term and will be getting back to us with a cost to get a custom stainless steel tube made. Make me a part indeed.

Draining the radiators should be interesting. I'm not sure if they have ever been drained. I know that when we replaced the heat exchange earlier in the year, air got into the system and we had to bleed all the radiators for several days. The water that come out initially was disgusting. It was black and oily smelling. After awhile, it came out clean so the gunk did settle out. We do have one radiator though that just won't get warm anymore, so I'm guessing that all the gunk settled in the pipe to that radiator.

The heating guys dumped chemicals into the water that are supposed to help dissolve any deposits in the pipes and help keep the water flowing around a little more. Sometime in May they'll be back to flush the entire system. We'll fill it back up and then, short of replacing the boiler and iron pipes, I'm not sure sure that there is much more we can do to improve the heating.

As for the repair of the radiators, we should get a quote in short order. The radiators in the sun room were put in sometime around 1990, so there should be little difficulty in getting replacement parts. They come in sections, so the only question is whether they can just replace the broken sections or whether they need to replace the entire length.

We like our heating guy, Ted. He's a bit younger than us, or maybe the same age and reminds us a lot of one of our college friends. For those of you who know us, it's the one that was in charge of the trebuchet (which can be the subject of a post another day). He's got many of the same mannerisms and the same humor. Heck, he's even a military guy (on the side, of course).

We haven't made as much progress as I'd like on planning this summer's work. I've been paralyzed with indecision. The total bill to fix all the structural items on the house is higher than my bank account, so picking and choosing what gets done first is proving difficult. I've asked a restoration specialist to work with us for a few hours to come up with a plan. It's a bit of money up front, but hopefully it will keep us from spending our money foolishly. We meet with him next week.

This weekend we'll be focusing on coming up with a list of things to work on while my parents are visiting. They'll be here the first week in May and have offered to help. considering how much they got accomplished last time they were here, I'm expecting to have the house pretty much down by the time they go.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Take Me to Your Cabog

I have a coworker who I think is just barely 60 and he was out for a few weeks. Here are two versions of his story.

He gets a cold and within a week it turns into pneumonia. After another week, he starts getting short of breath and has a hard time doing anything without losing his breath. Doctors treat him with chest compresses to try and get the fluid out of his lungs. He's confined to bed rest for weeks. Within a few weeks or months he dies, presumably from the pneumonia.

He gets a cold and within a week it turns into pneumonia. After another week , he starts getting short of breath and has a hard time doing anything without losing his breath. Doctors do medical tests on him and determine that he has 90% blockage in a coronary artery. They schedule an immediate surgery to expand the artery. They make an incision in his leg, feed a wire up into his heart, expand the artery and put a stent into the artery. He is also given antibiotics for his pneumonia. Now that sufficient oxygen is getting to his heart and the rest of his body, he heals quickly. The next week he's feeling fine and is back to work.

We've come along way in 87 years. Amazing.

Tuesday we're having the heating guys come out again. This time it's for a bit of preventative maintenance though. They'll be putting some chemicals into the boiler system. It circulates through the pipes and helps clean them. Then we'll flush the system in May and we should have clean pipes. This will help keep the hot water flowing and increase the life span of the new pump we put in last January.

There have been several bad thunderstorms hitting us as of late, like a good portion of the U.S. And the basement has stayed dry. There's a bit of darkness at the base of the walls where moisture is wicking it's way through the walls, but no running water, which is good. The soil is completely waterlogged. It rained an inch to an inch and a half (2.5 to 4 cm) and now there's a good two to three inches (5 to 8 cm) of standing water out in the front lawn. which reminds me of a funny story...

There is a children's book written by Sandra Boynton called "But Not the Hippopotamus." It is a good book and our eldest likes having it read to her. The first pages starts "A hog and a frog cavort in the bog, but NOT the hippopotamus," and it has a picture of a pig and a frog dancing in a mud puddle.

Wednesday I was outside with our eldest, carting sticks to the curb. Our city has this fantastic service where they will do curb pick up and chip any branches you have, up to a 12 inch diameter, for free. And then even better, if you call them and make a request, they will drop off wood chips at your house too, for free. But I digress.

As I was carrying sticks to the curb, Pumpkin had found a puddle, as all children do, and was splashing in it. This particular puddle was in the middle of our lawn and of course, as she splashed in it, it got muddier and muddier and deeper and deeper. She was in heaven and she noticed me watching her. She said, "Yook, yook, I'm in the cabog! Daddy, Daddy, I'm in the cabog!" It took me a bit to realize what she was on about.

"Ohhhh. Honey, do you mean you're cavorting in the bog?"

"Yeah! I like to vort in the cabog!"

It took several tries, but eventually we got it sorted, and I was smiling the entire time.

Thanks to Ms. Huis, below is a picture of the front yard, with the location of the Cabog marked.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Name This Bird (Please?)

(Cross-posted at Musings & Mutterings and the House of 42 Doors)

Loved the weekend we just had. Well, other than the cold I'm developing that looks fair to knock me on my tuchus. Had a college friend contact us Thursday to say he'd be in the area on Friday and could he stop by. So we very much enjoyed visiting with him, and since he didn't have pressing plans the next day, he stayed over and went to the wonderful book sale with me on Saturday. I must confess *cough* that I got even more books than Mr. Kluges. In my defense, I went to both the sale he went to PLUS the kid books one. Even so... now we've got to find a lot more bookshelf space....

But to get back to the title of this post, we've noticed a fair amount of birds of prey in the area, and recently have seen them around by our house and neighborhood A LOT. Like, all the time. And now it appears that we've got a pair of ... hawks? falcons?... building a nest in a tall conifer right across the street from our House of 42 Doors. And there's one tree at the front of our driveway (right in front of our sign) that is apparently a favorite perch of theirs. Which is cool because we were able to get THIS CLOSE today....

(Click on the picture to see it bigger.)

...but on the side of the cons, we've (and by "we" I mean Mr. Kluges) already had to clean up what was left of either a squirrel or a chipmunk from underneath on the driveway. Yuck.

We're not exactly sure what they are, so we were hoping somebody out there would have an idea. Here's what they look like.

They make a very loud "kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek" (or "kak kak kak" or "kuk kuk kuk" or some sort of hard to spell vowel sound combination thereof). Like I said before, they appear to be making a nest in the tall conifer across the way and eat small mammals. We've seen them fly and do sort of a mini-swoop in mid-air that was cool to watch.

Trying to find out on-line, they sort of resemble peregrin falcons (but the nesting habits don't seem to match up) or Cooper's hawks or Northern goshawk or ???

So, can you help? Any ideas?

(On a side note, this counts as about as cool as those deer!)

**Edited Monday afternoon:
Ok, after doing more research, and with Mr. Kluges finding the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on-line, (I love teh internets!), we're pretty confident that they're cooper's hawks. They look about right, and the area is about right and the sound of the call is dead-on with what we've been hearing all the time. Dissenting opinions or further discussion still welcomed in the comments though!

Friday, April 4, 2008

New, Old and Furry

As I'm sure anyone who read it figured out, we are not selling the house any time soon. And even if we were, with the current market and flaws in the house, it'd probably be on the market for years. We're committed to this one for awhile yet. Hopefully the recession will leave us untouched.

On to more cheery subjects. I have discovered the joys of Ebay. Naturally I knew of Ebay, and what they did, but I'd never really gone there to see what it was like. I probably would not have even thought of going there, except at the suggestion of an anonymous poster on my site. At his suggestion, I started looking for the keys I need for the house. And I am absolutely thrilled with the results.

I have a total of 28 locks, of 11 distinct types. I only had 7 keys, of 6 distinct types. After just a few weeks, I have increased the number of keys to 11, of 9 distinct types. I'm only missing two kinds of keys. When I have the whole set, I'll be able to lock or unlock any of the doors in the House of 42 Doors with the original locks. It's not really a big deal from a functionality stand point, but it does give me that "collector's rush" of having a complete set.

As I've looked around on Ebay, I've also discovered some other items that are "necessary" for restoring the house that I could never find locally - great Arts and Crafts decor, lights, mortise lock parts, Sash repair parts, etc.

There is no doubt that I could not own and would not own this house without the Internet. It seems like a strange juxtaposition of old and new. Using the Internet to restore, repair and learn about a house that was built before the invention of insulin, traffic signals, the self winding watch, spiral bound notebooks, aerosol cans and penicillin.

I used the Internet to find the house, to do research on the house and now to buy things for the house. There is a huge antiques market on Ebay and most of it looks better than the average junk that's available at roadside antiques shops (of course you never know what you're getting until you hold it in your hands). I can't even begin to imagine the hours of research I'd have to spend searching at a library through books and the card catalog (remember those?), corresponding with experts via letters, visiting antique shops and talking to people. Thank goodness for the Internet.

Oh and lest I forget, number 44 has joined his brethren in the great rodent nest in the sky, where cheese is abundant, cats are taunted and humans are crushed in giant traps (Wow - Look at that big pile of free money. I'll just a take a little...arrgghh...)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Painful Decision

I called a Realtor today and asked her what she thought we could sell the house for. With the leaking roof, the expensive gutters, the crumbling mortar and the rabid dogs, we've decided that enough is enough.

We're selling the place.