Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sheep seeking shelter, and an archeological trove

We've had a little rain, nice for the garden and for the sheep's grass which hasn't been growing much lately because of the heat. It should take off again now, as the weather cools going into fall.

Aimee and I happened to look out of the kitchen window and caught this vision of nearly all our sheep crammed into the small shelter we keep in the main paddock.

It looks like one of those "how many folk can you fit in a phone booth" type contests. There were two or three sheep that couldn't get in, bless 'em. Those were standing stock still, not moving a muscle, in the wide open rain. Strange, because there are any number of spruce trees they could get under.

Done with the Land Rover for now, I turned my attention to the harvest and to some odd jobs to set us up for the fall and winter. In particular, Aimee wanted me to strip the vinyl siding off the north wall of the house so she could shingle it, an easy job for me because the north wall is our smallest wall, consisting of the gable end of the kitchen, partly covered up by the garage.

There's a rather damp corner back there behind the propane bottles that feed the hot water tank and kitchen stove. I eased the bottles away from their concrete pad, to get them out of the way, and wrecked out not only the siding but also the old clapboard underneath and a section of sheathing.

If I was going to re-side this corner, I wanted to inspect the sill and corner post of the house there, just to make sure it was sound, before sealing it up again for what could be fifty or more years.

Here's the short section I wanted to see. The pipes are for the gas supply, while the wire, which is new, is for the porch's 110 volt electrics.

And here's the overall setting with the propane bottles eased out of the way temporarily.

After I had wrecked out the sheathing, I was faced with some rather nasty debris to clear out, the makings of a century's worth of mouse nests. The stud bay here used to be clear open to the attic until I put in a fire block soon after we bought the house, and the debris was full of stuff that had dropped into the stud bay from the attic, or been dragged into the stud bay by rodent "collectors."

There were a couple of old antique bottles, a tobacco tin that was certainly pre-World War II, a child's purse with a "5 ¢" price tag, and several clippings from what looked like an old newsprint catalog, probably the Sears-Roebuck catalog. There were no dates in the margins, but judging from the wares on offer, which was mostly sewing stuff, the material dated from the pre-World War I era.

That was interesting, but not interesting enough to save me from a severe gagging reflex as I cleaned out the rest of the disgusting mouse-nest crap that was in the stud bay. I almost lost my breakfast. I held my breath, but after I was done I had to retreat to the garden for a while.

The good news is, the sill and corner post are sound. The sill in this corner is a 6 by 8 squared hemlock log, while the corner post is 4 by 4, also hemlock. The house isn't post and beam, but partly balloon-framed, partly post-and-beam, with post-and-beam construction in the floors and corner-posts and around some doors, and balloon-framing in the long run of each stud wall.

After I had recovered my composure I painted as much wood preservative in that corner stud bay as I could get in there, made a patch of three-quarter inch plywood, covered it with wood preservative, and covered my hole up for another fifty years. 

There won't be a treasure trove for the next home owner to find in this stud bay (if there ever is another owner) because of the large amount of fire-proof insulation stuffed into the top of the bay from the attic, intended to work as a fire block. Balloon framing is so prone to fire, I thought this a sensible precaution, and did all the attic walls this way. Elsewhere in the house we've filled the stud bays with fire retardant cellulose insulation.

But there are dozens of other stud bays I haven't penetrated, so someone may find more stuff some day.

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