Thursday, May 27, 2010

Smell That Squirellosaurus

My wife reminded me in one of her comments that just before (potentially) shutting in the squirrel, I had an exchange with my youngest daughter that went something like this.

"Come on honey. Let's go pound on the porch and see if we can scare that squirrel out of the roof."


"I hope he comes running out this time."


"Well, if I close up the hole before he gets out, he'll die in there and stink."

"Yeah. Just like the dinosaurs."

"That's right. He'll go extinct."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shifting Priorities

After this weekend, I'm happy to report that there is one less squirrel hole in the house. I hope there is one less squirrel as well, but I'm not sure. I guess if I'm wrong, we'll find out based on the smell.

I know I scared at least two squirrels away before I started repairs, but the third one found it amusing to peek at me through the holes in a junction box while I was repairing the soffit box. I got him back though. I reached through the hole with a needle nose pliers and pulled out some of his hair.

Hopefully he got the hint and left some time over the last four or five days before I shut him in.

I was hoping to put off roofing the back porch for awhile yet, but while repairing the soffit, the amount of rot in the corners became apparent. It doesn't look good. I guess we'll get a bid for the back porch too when we get our bid for the front entry. I hoped we'd have that bid already, but our contractor tore his bicep a few weeks ago and has been out of commission.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Evicted. Homeless. Eaten?

One of the people I went to college with recently described blogs and twitter as "narcissistic banter." If anything, I'd say he's being generous. I'd call it narcissistic drivel. It's one of the reasons why I waffled for a very long time about blogging. What could I possibly say that would be so important or interesting that someone would want to read it? I thought that the initial experiences with the house would provide sufficient humor or interest, but now that we've been in it as long as we have, more and more it feels like the House of 42 Doors is turning into a giant to do list, with some items checked off and others not (see last week's blog to see what I mean).

While I struggle more and more frequently defining topics of interest, I do find a great deal of value with the blog as a historical document. When did the kitchen flood? How old was Pumpkin when she played in the cabog? How many mice have we caught? Does this make the content narcissistic? I suppose so, but so long as I find value in the content, perhaps I can avoid the appellation of drivel.

We've been having problems with a squirrel in the soffit of our back porch. The fix is easy enough - cover up the holes, but in the never ending list of things to do on the house, those holes were never high enough on the priority list. They are now.

Last night I saw said squirrel hanging upside down on the soffit, with its head poking out of the hole. I was able to scare it away and thought that was the end of it, until I heard ANOTHER scritch scritch in the soffit. More thumping on my part caused another squirrel to fall out, only much smaller. My immediate thought was, "Crap. She's got kids." Junior ran around on the ground before he finally found his way to the giant oak tree in our backyard and climbed to the first limb. He sat there yipping and crying for mom.

It turns out that the distress calls of a young squirrel also happen to attract red tail hawks, which we happen to have nesting in a pine tree not more than 100 feet from our house. I spent the next 15 minutes or so watching mother squirrel trying to corral her baby to safety while a red tail hawk sat in branches just above, waiting for its chance to snatch junior. The squirrels chattered and the hawk screeched, knowing it unnerved junior.

I didn't see the end but here's hoping that this is the end of the squirrels in the soffit. I'll pick hawks over poison any day. Regardless, I guess I need to board up the holes this weekend.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Intelligence is knowing the right thing to do. Wisdom is applying it.

My folks came out this weekend to visit and to help with various projects. We opted to have have my mom paint and my dad work on assembling the playground for the girls. We did a lot of work, but somehow it doesn't feel like we got ahead. I sat down after they left and compiled a list of all the things that need to get done.

  • Finish the playground - My dad and I made good progress, but the slide still remains, and until it's done we're paranoid about letting the girls play on it. There's a hole in the side of the playground that ends in a six foot drop. This also includes landscaping around the playground with mulch, grass and a few shrubs, flowers or bushes.
  • Assemble 18 screens - Our house came with only three or four full screens. Last fall I built frames for 18 more screens, so that every room would have at least one screen. The frames are assembled and thanks to my mom, they are now all primed and painted, but the screens still need to be stretched on them and then trim placed around the edges to pretty them up.
  • Mulch our yews - The area where I took out the honeysuckle recently is a large black spot that all the neighborhood weeds and buckthorn are eyeing hungrily. I've had to wake up a few times at two in the morning, just to go out and wave a torch or club at them. "Back, back damn invasives!" It's the only thing keeping them from walking over and transplanting themselves into the fecund soil. A little mulch and grass seed might keep them at bay.
  • Paint the dining room windows - I've refinished the majority of the trim, but the double hung windows are still shockingly off white. They need to be painted a nice shade of brown to match. Unfortunately the current paint on them is in bad shape and needs to be scraped or stripped. I had hoped we could paint them, but after looking at them I now see this is not an option.
  • Repair and reassemble the dining room windows - To make it easier to paint the windows, I took all the dining room windows apart. Now is the time to replace the old cotton sash cords with metal chains and add some spring bronze weather stripping. Two windows above the buffet were nailed in place. We'll be converting these so that they open.
  • Repair or replace the dining room picture rail - I wrote about this one recently. No more to say here other than that I can't make up my mind what to do about the picture rail.
  • Cut, split, haul and stack the various pieces of firewood that has found it's way into my yard - I swear I don't know where it came from or who put it there.
  • Make four storm windows - This has been extremely time consuming. I don't really know what I'm doing so it's a lot of trial and error.
  • Repair the plaster in the guest room and paint the walls - This was meant to be a winter project. Now it's looking like a next winter project.
  • Re-roof the garage - The shingles are getting old and don't match the new house shingles. I ordered extra when we shingled the house. They are sitting in my garage, waiting to be put on. That also includes new gutters and new fascia where it is rotting.
  • Do the spring trimming - Various trees, forsythias and honeysuckle.
  • Put in the garden - It's still too early, but in two weeks or so, it's going to be time. And as an aside, I've been reading Teaming with Microbes. If you are a serious gardener or just like microbes, pick it up. It's a fascinating read and will change the way you look at soil. Although, I'm not sure it's good party conversation - bacteria, fungi, slime molds and protozoa - yum!
  • Start the front entry project - This is the main house project for the year. This is the one project that must get done this year. The roof, gutters and soffit need replacing. We're hiring this one out, so it won't need any work from me - just a lot of oversight.
  • Set up blacksmith forge - My dad put the word out back home and he thinks he found me a portable forge. If so, I should have a forge within a month. That will open up a whole new list of projects for me!

There's an old saying, "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." I know this, but every time I look down, I always seem to have a shovel in my hand.