Friday, November 20, 2009

A Mopping Opportunity

For me, late fall is a season of melancholic, pensive moods. A time punctuated by bipolar ups and and downs while I remember the beauty of previous weeks and adjust to the impending gloom of another winter. As we do not have any major projects in progress at the moment (compared to last year) I've considered many topics for this week's post including:

The True Opportunity Cost of Owning an Old House
Why Aren't My Rain Gutters Leaf Gutters Too?
How We Lost Our Souls to Mechanization
What is Lost in Keeping Online Privacy and Anonymity?
Accustomed to the Outhouse
Geothermal - Here We Come
Why Fusion Will Never Save Us

But the House of 42 Doors always has a few tricks up its sleeve, and has given me something to write about. Some time ago, I made the mistake of allowing our radiators in the sun room to freeze and crack in the winter. We have yet to repair those radiators. We've kept the pipes to that heating loop turned off and all has been fine, although colder.

We scheduled our annual boiler maintenance and tune up yesterday. John came out, checked the pump, the emissions, the intake valve, the overhead storage tank and did an overall tune up of the system. And then he opened up all the valves to make sure everything was working OK.

Meanwhile, several minutes later, my wife noticed a growing pool of black water growing in the sun room and leaking into the living room. She could see the water squirting out of the radiators. The floor in the sun room is tile. The living room floor is wood. She called me to find out where the shut off valve for the sun room loop was, ran down to tell John, turned off the valve, and then proceeded to mop up the mess (Thanks!). The water was black because of the years and years of coal dust built up in the walls, cracks and crevices of the house.

No damage was done, and we are only out the gallons of water that was spilled. The sun room tile floor is cleaner than it probably ever has been since we bought the place. The wood floor and living room carpet have dried out. It caused a good deal of stress to my wife (because she had to deal with it), but I found the whole incident somewhat amusing.

It's made me think about directly attributable causality and the interaction of temporal events across seemingly large amounts of time. In this case, all the months that occurred between the radiators cracking and this incident could never have existed, or for that matter could have been double, triple or more. Any time that those valves were turned on this could have happened. Its as if time does not exist, as if there were the equivalent of a spatial wormhole, but in this case a temporal one, connecting two events, regardless of the distance in time...

Autumn - a pensive season indeed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Indian Summer

Last weekend was a bonus weekend. It was the kind of Indian Summer weekend that makes autumn my favorite season. I finished a few projects that I never found time for during the rest of the year. It was the "Weekend of the Gutter."

We inherited a 26 foot fiberglass extension ladder with the house and it seems that several times a year I am climbing up it to clean out the upper gutters. I hate doing this. It is dangerous. One fall would result in serious injury. Anything I can do to cut down on the need for this is a plus.

Last weekend I finished putting gutter guards on the upper gutters, which turned out to be much more involved than I had anticipated. But it's done now and with luck, I won't have to clean out the gutters more than once every year or two.

I cleaned out the garage gutters. And I was able to sand, wash, paint and caulk the integrated gutters on the back porch. I really need to squeeze another five or ten years of functionality out of them. The previous owner replaced them with galvanized steel some years back and they are starting to rust badly. Replacing them is not in the budget any time soon. I also took down the railing on the back porch for repair. Sadly, it is mostly rotten and may require a complete rebuild.

And I was able to rake, level and seed in a few more areas of the "lawn" that need grass. Hopefully next year it will come up, more grass than weeds or buckthorn.

I should have definitely worked on buttoning up the house. I still have windows to finish, cracks to caulk, insulation to add and trim to stain. But when it is 65 and sunny the first week of November, the last thing I want to do is be inside.

The mad march of mice to the inside continues. We've caught two more in traps and this weekend I found one that fell down our floor drain in the basement. The poor thing swam around until it was too tired and then drowned. I'm not sure if that counts as a mouse for the count, but I'll add him in anyway. That puts the current count at 58.

I think that beginning January 1st 2010, we'll start a contest to see what the mouse count will be like at the end of the year. Guess the mouse count! Win a faux fur coat!

Friday, November 6, 2009


I'm done stripping. The hours are long, it ruins my clothes, it makes a huge mess, the smell gives me a headache and I can pay somebody else to do it for me. I am of course talking about paint stripping.

Yesterday I picked up the trim from the paint stripping place. They are in the middle of moving their business, so things are a bit chaotic for them right now. In talking to the owner, the current economic crisis has also hit the commercial real estate market. For those businesses that are still solvent, there are opportunites to relocate to bigger or better locations. They've moved from the middle of nowhere, sandwiched between a roofing company warehouse and a scrap metal business, to one of those locations off of a major highway that you can see, but you'll never be able to figure out how to get to. Thank goodness for online mapping.

The shop is a mess at the moment and just walking in gives me a headache from the fumes. It's a very good reminder of why I don't want to work on stripping the wood in the first place. Originally they weren't planning on getting my pieces done for another two weeks, but a few of the pieces of trim are 14 feet long, and they were getting tired of tripping over them in the chaos of the move. The shop has all kinds of beautiful pieces of furniture in various states of repair and refinishing there. We have a broken, vintage Morris-style chair that came with the house that needs repair and refinishing (looks like this). It may end up going to these guys.

So now that the window trim is back, it still needs staining, varnishing and then adding back to the window frame. And of course I need to put back the window I took out in the first place, replace the ropes with chains and add brass weather stripping. It sounds like a lot more work than it is, I hope. I'd post pictures, but several weeks back our digital camera met the ground a tad bit forcefully (dropping will do that) and now it's being repaired.

We weathered through Halloween just fine. We decorated the house a little more than last year and we were again asked about the ghost in the attic. My wife had a prime opportunity to perpetuate the myth, but missed it. She had been putting a strobe light in the attic on some nights to create a "spooky" light in the attic. When one of the neighbors commented that it looked creepy, the wife said thanks. I would have looked at them and told them, "What light? What are you talking about?" Ah well. Maybe next year.

We also caught mouse 55. So Great Stuff foam and I have been busy filling anything that even looks like a hole in the basement. I found several that I had missed last year, including two holes, one inch in diameter left over from when we upgraded our electrical service in 2007. From a mouse's perspective, all that was missing was a porch light and a little mat that said WELCOME!