Saturday, January 29, 2011

That dam ice

We have a mild thaw, 40 F, and so I decided to deal with the porch roof. The colder than average weather a few days ago meant we turned on the electrical heater for the dogs while they were confined to the porch during the working day. That extra heat meant that snow melted on the porch roof and froze again at the eaves, forming what Mainers know as an "ice dam."

There is nearly always some icing on this roof whatever the weather, and I nearly always have to clear it if we get a suitable thaw. But this year it's worse than normal, and drips are occurring inside the porch.

Usually the worst ice forms where the porch joins the main roof. Heating duct twists through the attic space up there, and there's also a metal chimney. Both are insulated, and the attic is also insulated from the conditioned space in the rest of the house.

But the attic can still warm to 40 or 50 degrees, and so there's ice that forms at the drip line and icicles that droop down to meet the porch roof.

They are generally easy to clear. I usually shovel the snow at the same time, because this much-repaired porch was an afterthought to the building design, and definitely has too low a pitch.

Today's ice won't be easy to clear. It formed differently and is in a different place, under the snow, not on top of it, and dripping onto the gutter, which is also heavily weighed down with ice.

It can't be chipped yet. I'm using ice-melt crystals to weaken it. It might take through tomorrow afternoon, and two or three bags of ice-melt, to get rid of it all.

Then I bought some electrical heating cable designed to prevent ice dams.

This is all a bit of a pain for me, because I have been meaning to blow some cellulose insulation into the crawl space above the porch, where there is only R11 fiberglass, as well as put metal roof up on top of the old shingles, which in any case are quite worn from shoveling.

If I did all that, the problem would be cured once and for all.

But that's more money for materials than I care to spend right now. We need to pay down all our debts now that we're settled and the house is mostly repaired, and I'm working pretty hard on that.

So the cable will have to do for now.

Haggis supervised from the driveway the whole time I was up there, making sure I didn't fall off. He looks out for Aimee and I constantly. He must clearly think that without him we'd surely get hurt or lost all the time.

At least he has a job to do. Shepherd dogs without a job go nuts. Haggis is a great watch-dog and guard dog.

The view was quite nice. We live in the valley of Great Farm Brook, a nice meandering dale about a mile wide, three hundred feet of elevation, and four miles long, running west to east and then north to join the Marsh Stream in Jackson Village. But you normally couldn't tell any of this because of the heavy forest cover. From the porch roof, you can see above the trees and right across the dale to the south and southwest.

I expect Jackson must look like what Yorkshire looked like a thousand years ago before all the trees were cut down.

Of course, all Jackson's trees were also cut down once, or most of them were at least. The whole countryside was cleared for farmland between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. After the Civil War, depopulation set in as Maine folk moved west to take up better farmland in the new territories, or to take industrial jobs in the cities.

This is mostly second-growth forest now, although there are some patches of quite large white pine trees here and there that are original. I know of one small patch in Monroe to the east (well hidden from the loggers) where the pine are five and six feet around at the base.

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