Friday, October 30, 2009

Haunted Woods

When our house changed hands in the late 70's, the family knocked down the old greenhouses to the north and partitioned the several acres of land into lots. A cul-de-sac was put in and houses built on those lots. They intentionally made the lots large, some almost an acre in size. Some of those lots have been partitioned again, but two houses on cul-de-sac still have large lot sizes. One is .44 acres and the other is .87 acres. Both lots are heavily wooded and they have no backyard neighbors. The land behind them is owned by the factory and is used as a maintenance road. It is essentially junk industrial land that no one uses. It's unfortunate as it runs alongside the river and could have been prime residential land instead of worthless, unused industrial land.

For the last 12 years these two families have hosted Haunted Woods on their land. Every two years the venue changes from one back yard to the other. This gives time for the woods to recover from the abuse they receive. The families create a maze-like path in the woods and decorate it with a seemingly limitless supply of cobwebs, animated spooks and props. They have landmarks like the "Wall of Severed Heads" and the "Tunnel of Terror." There are three tours that they offer. The first is early in the evening, while it is still light out and there are no live spooks. The second has spooks, but if the tour guide has a red light, the live spooks are put to sleep. The third is the full on, no holds barred, live spooks tour. The live spooks are mostly neighborhood kids dressed up in costumes who jump out you and try to scare you into wetting yourself.

The families have a suggested donation of $1 a kid and $2 per adult. They take any profit from the event and donate it to a local charity. It runs every weekend in October and then for a few days leading up to Halloween.

We took the girls to the no spooks tour one evening before supper and Ms. Huis and I went on the full tour a few nights later. It's amazing how jumpy we were even knowing that we were safe. It's a great neighborhood activity that helps pull everyone together. We haven't had much to do with it yet, but I can see that changing as the girls get older.

Oh, and for the record Mouse, LIV.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


This was really much funnier in person than it is in writing, but I'm still putting it here because it's close to Halloween and I want to remind her in the years to come what she said. This was a conversation at the end of supper with myself, our five year old daughter (Pumpkin) and Ms. Huis as she was heading upstairs to start the bathtub filling for the girls.

Ms. Huis: Pumpkin, you can't save everything. You have to throw that away. We don't have room to save everything.

Pumpkin (thinking): Oh...well, we won't throw you out, Mom...until after you're dead. Then we'll bury you in the front lawn.

Ms. Huis (heading upstairs): Most people don't get buried in the front lawn. They get buried in a cemetery.

Pumpkin: Why?

Mr. Kluges: Well, people think that digging up the dead is disrespectful and not very nice so we put them all in one place. That way we know where they are and we don't have to worry about accidentally digging them up.

Pumpkin: Oh! So we could put a big rock over them, and then we could write "Leave Me Alone!" on it.

Mr. Kluges: Well, yes, we could. Usually though people just write their name, the date they were born and the day they died on the stone. Some people also put on an epitaph.

Pumpkin: What's an epitaph?

Mr. Kluges: It's words on the gravestone that you want to be remembered for. Things like "Rest In Peace." Or "Here Lies Our Beloved." Sometimes they are funny, like, "I told you it was a bad cough."

Pumpkin: Mine could be "Sorry, I couldn't help it."

Mr. Kluges: Yes, honey, it could.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mouse LIII

Mouse 52. Yawn. Yawn. I was becoming immune to the horror of it all - the intermittent but ongoing maiming and killing of rodentia. Then came mouse number 53. He was small and gray with big black eyes, rounded ears and a sad little twitchy nose. I met him last weekend when he tried to "hide" by my foot in the basement. He ran away before I could catch him. And he was very cute.

Monday night I found him on the basement floor, near death. We don't put out poison, so I can only surmise that his impending demise was the result of disease or insufficient food supplies. I picked him up with a gloved hand. He breathed out a labored breath and tried to arch his back. I carried him up to show the girls and then took him outside near the compost heap. If he has enough energy to forage for food, he won't need to forage far. I don't think he's going to make it though, poor thing.

Sometime ago one of the ropes broke in a double hung window of our dining room. I took both the upper and lower sashes out (quite honestly, I think just to see if I could). But so long as they are out...

One of the things that really bothers me is the painted woodwork in our dining room. The original owners were very careful about how they choose the flooring for their house. The used oak flooring in the public spaces of the house (the entryway, the living room, and the dining rooms) and "cheap" yellow birch flooring everywhere else. The trim and woodwork in the entryway and the living room are stained oak. The trim and woodwork in the dining room though is painted white. It doesn't match. I have always wanted to strip the paint off the woodwork in the dining room and stain it to match the oak floors and the entryway/living room woodwork. It's funny how one small cotton rope breaking was all that I needed to convince myself (and my wife) that the windows needed a complete overhaul, including the window trim.

The problem is that having windows disassembled in winter leaves a gaping hole. Even in our case, where I have the storms on, a single pane of glass isn't nearly as good as two, which means the race is on to get the window put back together, along with the all of the trim I pulled off. In the interest of getting the job down quickly, I took all the window trim (about 100 linear feet of it) to a local paint stripping place. If people have any experience with prices, please let me know. This place charges $1.80 per linear foot for any piece that is 6" or less in width. And another $2.20 on top of that to finish. That was a little more than I was expecting.

The upshot is that in three or four weeks, I should have the window trim ready to be stained and varnished.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'll Floss, I Promise

I've never liked dentists. We started out on the wrong foot from a young age. But that's not really what this post is about.

Our dentist's office happens to be three blocks south of our house, on the main street of our town. It's in a one story, brick building that was constructed in the mid-eighties. It has a great roof of concrete shingles and seamless gutters (I notice these things now). Across the street is a small, local mechanic (our mechanic), a real estate office and a large, empty corner lot. Next to the dentist's office are the beginnings of residential housing that line the rest of main street.

I went through the standard procedure of a dentist's visit (x-rays and cursory dentist inspection) before I was finally shipped off to a separate room for cleaning. The woman who cleaned my teeth was in her mid to late fifties and had lived in our town her entire life. And she was absolutely fantastic.

Anyone who has been to the dentist knows that it is almost impossible to carry on a conversation while having your teeth cleaned. The good hygienists in the world understand that going to the dentist is like going to a psychiatrist in reverse - they talk and you listen, all while you lie down. Her monologue was mostly confined to Brett Favre and his hometown of Kiln, Mississippi. Typically this would have bored me to tears, but I guess after 36 years of cleaning mouths and performing hours of one-way conversations, she had found ways to engage her captive audience.

Naturally, she got to talking about our town, and through my occasional grunt and head nod, I was able to communicate that we'd only been here two years. She talked about the slow decline the town had seen over the last few decades. The closure of the city swimming pool and ice rink; the migration of downtown businesses out into malls and business parks; the bars that went out of business; the local hardware store that now sits empty; the motel that burned down; and of course the closure of the local factory by our house. It was sad to hear the resignation in her voice to the inevitable failure of our downtown. Its not what she wanted for our town, but I don't think she could see a way to stop our town from turning into just another soulless suburb.

She asked where I lived and I mentioned the neighborhood without explicitly telling her we lived in the House of 42 Doors. We talked about the neighborhood and the Halloween Haunted Woods there (more about that in another post). Then she said, "And then you have the ______ House there," referring to our house by the last name of the previous owners. At that, I let the cat out of the bag and indicated we had bought the place.

I never know what I'm going to get when I tell people that. Thankfully she was one of the people who thought the house was worth saving and that the house had little, if anything, to do with the factory closing. She's not the first to have told me that the factory would have probably closed one way or another. She said she was very glad the previous owner fought so hard to save the house and the entire neighborhood. Of course I invited her to walk down some time and say hi. We'd be happy to show her around.

And she jokingly replied that she would have to make a house call. Then her demeanor changed ever so slightly, "To make sure you are flossing more."

Ok. Ok. I get the message.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Keep it simple stupid.

Repairs for the exterior of the house have proceeded from the top down, which meant a few weeks ago I needed to paint the back dormer. I took out the windows to perform maintenance on them, mostly just painting and a bit of puttying. In the process I succeeded in breaking a pane. In the past I had gone to the local hardware store for my glass, but this time I opted to visit a glazier who was a few extra miles down the road.

The store was set up with displays of mirrors and glass doors for shower enclosures. There was one small corner dedicated to modern windows that he was reselling. I found myself wondering what kind of sales he has seeing now that traditional windows with single pane glass were not the norm. I suppose if he was able to sell new windows, rather than repair old, he probably did quite well in the housing bubble of the last few years. But now that the housing bubble had burst...who knows?

The point of going to the glazier was to ask about all my options for fixing the window - single pane, double pane, inserts, low emissivity glass, tinted glass, etc. He threw in a few other options that I wasn't considering too, like replacing the entire window or putting on a new storm. We talked for about 15 minutes on all the options.

In the end, I bought a double strength pane of glass. Standard, single pane glass is about 1/16th of an inch thick. As you might guess, DS glass is 1/8th of an inch thick, so less likely to break, although twice as heavy. When I asked him how much for the 8" by 12" piece of glass, it came to $2.65. I'd say it wasn't even worth the time it took him to tell me about my options. On the upside though, I'll be going to him in the future, as I can't get DS glass from my hardware store.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mouse LI

September? What September? Where did it go? I find myself reeling at the month that never was. Suddenly we're in the middle of fall with Halloween looming and I'm not sure if I traveled forward in time or if I've suddenly awoken from a fugue.

Stepping back and looking at the House of 42 Doors, there are plenty of things going on, but in the interest of having something to write about in October, I'll limit each of my postings, rather than do one catch up post.

Fall means colder weather, a plethora of food and a search for shelter by our wee friends, the mice. I've set the traps in the attic again, and in the space of a week, we've caught two more, equaling a grand total of 51 mice since we bought the house two years ago. I knew we had at least one in the house. In the evenings, I could hear her sliding down the interior walls of the bathroom.

I had hoped that when we had the house tuckpointed, it would have solved our mouse problem. I guess that they are still finding a way in. We continue to fill in cracks where we see them. I know for a fact that plugging a hole in the kitchen has kept them out of our living space. Now they live solely in the walls and in the attic, which is an improvement.

The family has been pushing to get a cat for the last few months and I am hesitant for a variety of reasons that are not the topic of this post. I am wondering though if having a cat in the house would actually help with the mice. Not so much from catching the mice, but more from any scent that the cat would emit. Does anyone know of any evidence that cat phermones drive away mice?