Sunday, November 22, 2015

The hairy eyeball

It's the first weekend of our nine-day Thanksgiving Break. Thanksgiving, as in in thank heavens we don't have to go to work for nine whole days!

I began as I meant to go on, with bacon and eggs for breakfast. Roo and I shared, as we always do. Here she is with fried bread and egg yolk. Yum.

Then there was the slight problem of making the Thanksgiving Break to-do list. Usually we've had a snowstorm by this point in the year, but so far not this year. There remains the possibility of doing a few more winter prep jobs that could use to be done, that would make our lives a little easier when the snow does fly. Choices, choices.

Before any of those could begin, however, there was a plumbing leak to fix. I'd gone down to the cellar to get the bacon out of the freezer on Friday afternoon -- planning ahead for Saturday's celebratory brekkers, of course -- and noticed that there was water on the floor. Tracing this to its source, I discovered a disconnected drain leading back to the kitchen sink. For gosh-knows-how-long, we'd been draining our kitchen sink into the dirt beneath the kitchen crawl space.

Now, of all the attics and crawl-spaces and basements and cellars this old house possesses, this is my least favorite. It's so tight, I can hardly move under there. Very claustrophobic.

Here's the way in, about one foot tall by two feet wide. The plastic helps you wriggle a bit and keeps you from getting too filthy, although it also crumples up and gets in the way. My chest essentially takes up all the available room in this opening. It widens out a little inside, but the drainpipe from the extension, a four-inch PVC main drain, has to be wiggled over before you get to the plumping.

Here's a selfie taken as I wiggled out for the last time. The tool caddy to the right gives you an idea of scale. And yes, my nose is very close to the springboard.

You can see the offending pipe at the very back of this shot, right behind the four-inch drain. This is the drain that I have to wiggle over every time I go down there. You can only do this bit belly down. My butt snags on the hemlock sub-floor board splinters each time I do this, and there's always a moment of panic when I think, "Oh shit, I'm really stuck now! I hope I don't have to call the fire brigade! That would be embarrassing."

You can also see that the kitchen floor joists are hundred-and-fifteen year-old pine logs that run the whole twenty-eight foot length of the kitchen. This makes the floor very springy. Gosh knows why the original builders, the Amsden family, did that. If they'd used them the other way, the joist length would have only been fifteen feet and the floor much less bouncy. Maybe they didn't want to make all those extra cuts. The sills are six-by-eight hemlock, built to last -- if the previous owners hadn't allowed the kitchen sink to essentially drain down through the inside of the wall for several years. We had to rebuild the kitchen floor before we could move in, and a large section of the west sill and wall before we could add on the extension.

In the end it took two half-days' work and about sixty dollars of plumbing parts and cement to fix what could have been fixed for ten bucks and ten minutes anywhere else in the house. I came out after each session underneath the house bruised and mentally battered and a little shaky from claustrophobia.

I also managed to gas myself with plumber's PVC cement, by spilling a whole pint container onto the dirt Saturday towards the end of the session. The smell even penetrated to the house through the cellar, so if we all get cancer next year, we'll know why. Luckily this was the cold-weather stuff, and so it set up overnight, so I was able to remove it today, along with a conglomeration of wasted parts, shown in the shuftie above.

Then, to add insult to injury, just five minutes after the start of the second session down there today (Sunday) I got a big old clod of dirt in my left eye. I had to finish the job, though, and so even though I needed to rinse my eyeball, I kept on at it until I was done. What misery!

But imagine what it would have cost to hire a plumber to do it!

I still need to seal up the entry to the crawl space with banking and insulation for the winter, then check the other crawlspace under the extension for humidity and mold and other problems. But I'm just going to sit here in my comfy armchair and recover from all this for a while before I do any more around-the-house jobs today.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Grey November days

October was brilliant, at least what I remember of it. November is shaping up to be a bit cloudier and greyer, so far. The clocks were put back and it's now getting dark at 4.30 pm, earlier on the cloudiest days. Yesterday was Veteran's Day, and we had the usual ceremony at school. I got a free lunch of swordfish steak and mashed potato, nice for me. Childcare was closed, so Roo accompanied me for lunch and to the ceremony, although she was too noisy for the latter and so we walked off a little, away from the crowd.

Life remains very busy, but not nearly as much as it was last week. We're counting down the days until our Thanksgiving week's holiday.

The ram, a new one bought from our friend Meg, is in with the ewes. He's a handsome little guy, but only a year old, and lacking confidence, so we may not get too many lambs next year. With Roo to look after, we may not be too upset if we get fewer lambs. There's just too much to do around here in any case. Something has to give.

I harvested about two thirds of the spuds, took three lambs to the butchers, and got both the lamb and the pork back from the butcher and into the freezer. Quetzal, the fat, dry ewe that hasn't produced a lamb for two years now, was slated to go to the butcher, but I had no help that day, and she fought me and won, and so got a reprieve. Our home-made livestock trailer isn't very good, and it makes it very hard to load animals if they are big and if they fight. I need a real trailer, but we don't have the money for one right now. Maybe next year.

Last Sunday I made a lamb leg roast, had leftover lamb cuts for a few days, and then made scotch broth with the remains. I think I got about ten meals out of one leg roast.

The sheep got out because I left their gate open one morning, and ate all the carrot tops and most of the Brussels sprouts. Our neighbor Hamilton saw them and put them back in. I was able to get the snow tires switched over on the two drive-to-work cars, as well as get them and the truck sprayed with the Fluid Film rust-proofing product, so they're all ready for winter now. The snow plow is on the Land Rover, and of course the Rover car itself is serviced and ready for snow. The tractor still needs an oil change.

Roo is now walking a lot, and likes to go off exploring on her own. This can't be permitted, of course, so we follow at a safe distance. She likes to wander down corridors, so when we're at the college together, and if no-ones around, we let her do so and follow along. It's funny to see her stump off so willfully. Here I go! Off to see what's going on down that way. She gets so mad when you try to take her hand and guide her back to where you want her. No! I'm going this way, not that way! Leave me alone! She reminds me of her mother.

Here are some of the veterans in our family that I was thinking of on Veteran's Day:

My paternal granddad, Arthur Holden Watson, Private, Northeast Fusiliers, WWI

Grandad again: private, ROAC, WWII, with my mother and grandmother.

My dad, Gordon Womersley, Private in the Royal Signals Regiment, 1953, with his brother Stan, also a private in the Catering Corps.

Me (second from left), with the troops of RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team, 1985. 

My father-in-law, SFC Dick Phillippi, LZ Oasis, Vietnam, 1969.