Tales from the Office

To start off this tale, I must make a confession. Perhaps a re-confession because surely I’ve mentioned this before. I’m a tough butch. Except when it comes to moths. Spiders, I’ll scream like a girl but moths? I break out in a sweat and run. I’ll pull sticks out of wounds, dig in a dog’s mouth for something they shouldn’t have, and I pull off the large ticks that Lorna just won’t touch. But moths? I am so out of there.

We moved my office into a room we call the Rose Room. We call it that because, when we bought the place, that room had this fugly wallpaper with these huge roses. Lorna says they are cabbage roses. Whatever. It was peeling, ugly, and pink.

The Rose Room is in the back corner of the house. We’d never really used it for much. When we first moved here, it was a guest room. We said it was my room (in case anyone asked; but remember, this was 1992. AIDS and homophobia was a huge deal then; and our first home insurance company dropped us for no reason after a house “inspection” six months after we moved in. We later found out that they had a policy to not insure any homosexuals.). After a few years we said fuck ’em and it became a storage room. Someone else needed the bed so off that went. We used to foster critters and when we had cats, that’s where they stayed. It had no outlets and no light switch. The huge windows were held in place by spider webs and cracked caulk. We took the wallpaper down on two walls but finally gave up. We counted about six layers of wallpaper including this silvery metallic stuff we have found all throughout the house. It must have been lovely (she says sarcastically). One one wall we found the Saturday Evening Post from 1903. On another wall, we found old newspapers from the Asheville Citizen Times. We peeled off a huge chunk that turned out to be the entire front page. It declared “President Harding is Dead“. We have samples from the newspaper and magazine in storage. Some day we’ll frame them and up them up in here.

Like I said, we hadn’t used it much in a very long time. Now I’ve had my office in here for just about 2yrs. We are in the process of moving it again but that’s another story. Over that time span, I learned a lot about this old house. It creaks, groans, clanks, and thumps. So much so that I started saying we have someone living in our attic. It’s a fairly large space so it would be possible (except they’d cook in the summer).

Now back to the moths. Last summer, one got into the house and came to where the only light was: the office. It was a huge thing. It came charging into the room, hit the wall near me, and thudded to the floor. I hit reverse on my chair and was trying to get out without squishing it (don’t want moth guts on my wheels!). Mike comes over and is investigating it while I’m sweating because I just KNOW that son of a moth was going to jump on me. Then it does it’s buzzing thing and Mike goes charging out of the room. The damn thing starts ricocheting around the room, smashing into walls, the ceiling fan, and the window. At that point, I make it out and go get Lorna. It is, like, 2am and bless her heart, she was sleeping. I had slammed the door shut when I left so I knew the damn thing was in there. But we couldn’t find it. We looked everywhere. Lorna was thinking I was imagining things except Mike won’t come back into the room. He stood in the hall and peeked around the corner. That’s my big brave boy.

She finally goes back to bed and I go back into the office. I am wired by then and am thinking if I sit in here all innocent-like, it’d come out of hiding and I’d smash it. I had shoes now. I finally go to bed but shut the door hoping to keep the beast in there. After I get up, I go in and it starts buzzing again. I grab Lorna and we find it. It was HUGE. It was one of those moths with the harder and much larger body. Not as big as a Luna moth but still damn big.

With me so far?

Also last summer was when I started smelling something strange. Something I had smelled before but not in a long time. Marijuana. Either something else had that smell (no, it wasn’t my moth killing shoes) or we had a neighbor smokin’ the wacky weed. Although how the smell traveled all the way to the house, I dunno.

This is where I put all the clues together.

I decided that there was a pot smoking moth living in my attic. Seriously. It fit the profile! Noise, smell, and the size of that moth. Add it together yourself.

We’ve never had another moth like that one come in (thank jeebus). I think it’s because the things are too stoned.

Dog Ramp Revisited

We did some work on the dog ramp again. Nothing major, just added a railing. But the railing is about shin high to us so it is odd.

Joella does this thing we call “the bunny hop”. She barks and raises up so her front feet leave the ground. It’s just an inch or two. The more excited she is, the higher she goes. It’s funny to watch. Anyway, I was out back, on the side of the house with the dog ramp, and she was up there watching me. I can’t remember what I was doing. Anyway, she starts doing the bunny hop thing. She stumbles and her front foot slips off the top of the deck and she almost falls off.

We recently got a new riding mower (insert Tim Taylor ‘more power’ grunt) and I’ve been parking it in the back of the house. Joella loves to chase the lawnmowers and, not surprisingly, so does Mike. So I was using the new mower in the back near the dog ramp and saw Jo jumping and barking at me. Then she stumbled and almost fell off the edge again.

Then, a few days later, she is trying to come into the house but the boys are playing and they hit her. She falls down and nearly goes over the edge again.

We took the hint. We got some decking to make a nice wide railing and we put it up today. We wanted it high enough she could not fall but low enough they could see over it. We may later add a higher railing for human use but it’s not anything we are rushing to do.

This is Lorna standing on the ground as we put in the last piece. You can see how high the deck is on that side. It is even further down on the other side, where they do their looking and barking.

This is Lorna, Sam (the big guy), and Mike. Sam will no longer be able to jump from the ground up onto the deck (yes, he can do that with ease) but I think he’ll get over it. The railing is about chest high to him so it will be good. For some reason, Jo just would NOT come over to it. She didn’t want to so by george she wasn’t going to.

Finally, using her favorite treats, we get Jo to stand at the railing to make sure we got it good for her. We had to resort to measuring her and hoping we got it right because she just would not get near it when we were starting. Yes, she is a Princess. It turned out to be a little higher than we wanted but it will be fine.

We left an opening at one end because there just was no way to put in the railing without some redneck engineering. But when they do their barking and stuff, they are further down. We’re going to be watching to see if they move to that section just because there’s nothing there. (oh, and that’s my new lawn mower. A Cub Cadet.)

And here’s the finished thing. (click for larger version) And no, that railing at the end is not crooked. It is level. We think it is because the post on the left is higher than the post on the right so it looks tilted.

To refresh your memory (or to see what you missed)
Starting the ramp (12/7/09 – wow. has it been that long??)
Learning about the concept of “square”
And angles
Putting the boards down
Finished at last! (12/17/09)
Photos of it done (it snowed on 12/18 and covered it for over a week)

Alive But Unwell

Yes, I am alive. Yes, I am writing. Yes, I am also playing games more than writing.

And yes, I am unwell. I would say I am sick but that’s a given.

I have bronchitis. This is week two. I’m tired of coughing. Tired of being so damn tired. I am getting better though. I can hold up the phone while texting now. Last week I couldn’t. I went to the doc Friday and got these huge antibiotics. Huge. But by Monday night, I wasn’t markedly better so back I went. Now I am a steroid and a codeine cough syrup that, for some reason, makes me cough. Weird I am, yes.

What am I writing? Well, working on Harri’s story. It’s going along well. I’m working hard to make it funny. I am also working on a Science Fiction novel that is going well, too. That one will be in first person and is interesting to write. Being in just one person’s head is difficult!

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions but if I did, I would resolve to get a book sold this year.

Rural Water Part Two

When last we left our heroines:

The plumber finally called Wednesday. There had been a miscommunication. He was not coming that day but was calling to schedule when he’d be out. I was…upset. But he said he’d come out Saturday. Fine. It was still sooner than anyone else.

We got the hot water tank, took out the old one, put the new one in its place, got everything for it all lined up and ready to go. Just waiting for water.

Got a new water pump, too.

No call Saturday morning so I call the plumber back. He’ll be here between 1 and 3. Plumbers are like the cable company, it seems. He calls and gets there at oh, I guess 3:15 or so. We show him the mess and I go back to the house. The cold and the walk (and the going up/down steps) had me in a lot of pain. Lorna braves the cold to help if needed and answer any questions. After a while, I go back down to see how it is going.

New pump is in place. New plumbing is in. But not the new plumbing I wanted. All he’s done is cut the old pipe and make it so it fit the new pump. He says he’d have to (blah blah) in order to fit the white pipe to the black pipe (the one that goes underground to the house). And the foot valve is fine. The old pump had a crack where the pipes had it in a bind from the work this summer. BUT does he replace the 20+ yr old foot valve? Nope, puts it right back in place. So all he does is cut a pipe, glue on a new connection, check the foot valve, and set the water pump. And he has the gonads to tell Lorna that it is not a job for homeowners to do. WTF? I tell him I wanted the pipe moved so we can lift the lid. He said to just lift it and pull it out instead of stand it upright. I laugh. I should have told him to do it to show me how.

Anyway, he gets the pump running, we pay the bill (not too bad, less than $150), and he leaves. We then hook up the hot water tank and await shower times. Except the water is taking forever to heat. We run the dishwasher because we have no dishes at all at this point. We also figure that the dishes would be safe to use the “new” water on, right?

Many hours later, I’m ready for bed and am ready for a long, hot shower. Except the hot water is kinda lukewarm. I go down to the cellar to check stuff out after looking some more stuff up on the ‘net. Everything checks out. The only difference is the old tank was set to 130F and this one is about 110F. I adjust that, recheck it all again, and we go to bed.

Lorna wakes me this morning to say the water in the pumphouse froze and the new pump is leaking. Twenty years we have lived here and it has never frozen. Even the butt-cold time of no power during the blizzard did not harm the pump. We turn off the pump and the hot water tank and think it over. We go to Lowes, get a heater, a cool temp-controlled timer, and some insulation. By the time we get back, it has thawed out and the pump works again and water gets to the house again. Except it is leaking at the pump. We get some wrenches (water pumps are metric, by the way) and tighten the bolts. The upper two are very very loose. After tightening them, the leak stops. There’s another leak over at the opposite end of the pipe the plumber messed with but it is minimal. We hook up the heater, close up the pump house, turn on the hot water tank, and watch football while waiting.

We have gloriously hot water now. We’ve washed a load of clothes and it is still hot. Yay!

In the morning, Lorna will go down to the pump house and see if it is warm enough. At some point this week, I’ll be putting in a new electric line for the water heater. I don’t mind working with electricity, I just am not happy doing it in a damp place, ya know?

Meanwhile, we’ll be asking around for names of reliable, non-chickenshit plumbers. Know of any in my area?

Rural Water Systems

As I type this, I am waiting for a plumber to call.

We have a spring that is piped down to the corner of the property to a reservoir underground. Above this reservoir is a lid, a pump, a pressure tank. The lid is roughly 4×4 and is 4″ thick cement. Heavy SOB. We replaced the pump in ’05 (this post and the 4 that follow it) which was an adventure. The system works by the pump drawing water a few feet up from the reservoir, into the pressure tank, where it then sits and patiently waits for us to turn on a faucet. The pressure tank then pushes the water to the house and out the faucet. Simple, right. Well, not exactly…..

We will have lived here 20 years this January, it is expected that things are due for replacement. I just wish it hadn’t happened all at once.

It all started this summer. We had a friend who was doing odd jobs for us here like clearing the field, moving stuff, etc. We also had him raise the roof over the pump house and, while we were at it, we also got a new pressure tank. It also holds more water which means less work for the pump. And boy did we have better pressure! Holy cow! It was great! Then, not so great. This worked fine for a few months until one day I am in the shower and the water is kinda weak. Still flowing, but weak. The higher pressure had knocked some sediment off the pipes so we assumed the shower head was clogged. As I am showering, the water gets less and less then it slows to a trickle. After a few seconds, it comes back on and I rinse quickly. I mention this to Lorna and she cleans the shower head. It doesn’t happen for a few days then starts again. And again. Until we are taking very quick showers just so we get it done before the water stops. I call my bro to brainstorm and between us n00bs, we are thinking it is something to do with whatever is telling the pump to turn on when the pressure in the tank drops to a certain point. That something is, not surprisingly, called a pressure valve. Ours is located on the pump and was part of it when we bought it. Fine, I can replace that. Except the pump is against the wall and, you guessed it, that’s the side the valve is on.

Meanwhile, we’d realized our friend had never finished the roof on the pump house. I go down there to help Lorna assess the situation and that’s when I realize something he had done that is would later prove to be a BIG problem. The new pressure tank is bigger in physical size as well as capacity. It wouldn’t fit where the old one was so he had put it in another corner. Rather than get more pipe, he had used the scrap pieces we have around (I save all that stuff) and made the connection between the pressure tank and the pump. Problem is….he went at a direct angle across the lid to the reservoir. We have only raised this lid, oh, three times in 20 years.

Back to the problem at hand. When I see the angle of the pipe, I know we have to get this fixed and, frankly, I’m tired of redneck-engineering it. We knew we’d want to call a plumber to re-route it all and do it right. Fine. Except now I need to move the pump to get to the pressure valve which means disconnecting the Rube Goldberg mess down there. We did what we normally do. We procrastinated.

That would be fine except….another problem came up. On Thursday of last week, I saw that the water in the freshly flushed toilet looked kinda colored. We’d just had several days of constant rain. Twice over the years, the spring got muddy so I figured that was it. The bathroom cup is white so I used it to confirm the water color. Yep, kinda red (Carolina red clay, sigh). Then, the water spit like it had air in it. I reached behind me and flushed the toilet again. Air like mad then it settled down. In a few minutes, the water got clear. Ooookay. Later that night, it happened again. I hit the internet and consulted a friend and we figured out the problem.

The pump has a pipe that goes straight down into the reservoir and stops at about, oh, a foot or so above the bottom. On the end of the pipe is this cage like thing that I figured was, well, a cage like thing to keep critters from getting sucked up inside the pump. Gross but there you have it. Come to find out, no, that’s not just a cage like thing, it’s called a foot valve. What it does is opens when the pump sucks and closes when it stops. This keeps water in the pipe and in the pump, keeping it “primed”. Air in the line meant the foot valve was staying open, allowing air into the pump which then puts that air into the pressure tank. Following me so far? To make sure the reservoir actually had water in it (which would be another reason for air in the line), I take a stick and put it down the hole in the corner of the reservoir lid. It comes up wet at the appropriate space so we assume there’s enough water. We can’t lift the damn lid to look, after all.

Meanwhile, we are also looking to rule out a leak in the supply line. Early Saturday morning, Lorna goes down to the basement to start there and work her way down to the pump house to see if she can find a leak (it would be a soggy or soft area above the pipe where the leak is). What she found instead was…a very very leaky hot water tank. Yay. It was replaced, gee, well, hmm. A looooong time ago. We were so poor when it died, that a friend of ours (thank you Johanna!) not only loaned us the money to get it but went with us with her truck and helped us install it. We are thinking that the higher pressure (see the theme?) killed it maybe. We had always thought it would be way cool to get the hot water heater out of that wet cellar and up onto the porch but not this time. I’d love to move the water line out of there and seal the cellar for some archeologist to find someday.

Meanwhile, the water at the house is now more air than water. It is unusable except to flush the toilet because of the sediment. We go Saturday and buy a hot water heater. My god those things are expensive!! For just under $800, you can get one that has not only an LCD screen telling you the temp of the water, but it will also self-clean itself. No, it won’t do the windows but at that price, it should! We got a 50 gallon one for just under $300 that does not have an LCD screen and it does not clean itself (lazy bum). Our dead tank is a 40 gallon but we’d measured it first and there’s only a few inches in height difference. We get new pipes that are cloth (like fire hose) vs “flexible” copper.

Then Saturday night, the water stops completely. We are assuming the pump has lost its prime. Yay.

We got the water heater in place on Sunday. The water lines are loosely attached just to make sure it fits. I’ve not hooked it to the power yet. We realized that power line going to it is so very ancient. I will be running a new one as soon as the rest is done.

And Monday I called some plumbers until I found one who could be here this week. He should be calling soon with the time frame for him coming out today. Yay.

Meanwhile, Lorna’s car went in Friday (before this fun started) to get an axle replaced (a big problem with Subarus, or at least hers). After we get back from Lowes ($400 poorer) we get a phone call that her car needs a helluva lot more than just a single axle. By the time he is done, the bill is close to $800. And now we need the plumber (no freakin’ clue how much this will cost). Most likely we will replace the pump ($200) and the foot valve ($?) and then his labor costs (shudder). Lorna hit up her credit union savings account, her money market account, I deposited a royalty check I still had in my wallet, and we SHOULD have enough. If not, she gets paid Friday so we can always have him return then to finish.

Meanwhile, we gots no water. We have a trashcan under the gutter that we dip into for watering the flowers so we’re instead dipping into it to get water for the toilet. Lorna’s sponge bathing and hair washing at the post office and I, well, I’m shoo nasty. The dishwasher is full. The clothes basket is overflowing. And the dogs don’t like the bottled water we got from Ingles. Too damn bad, I told them. I don’t either.

So, yeah, fun fun. I’ll update y’all on the progress when/if any happens.

Meanwhile, donations accepted. (grin)

OH! By they way, I found a cool website that has helped tremendously with diagnosing the problem(s). Even if I can’t fix it myself, I will know if the plumber is trying to scam me. Inspectapedia.com. Awesome site. I’ve only really looked at the water system sections and wow, it’s got some great information.

The Steps To Nowhere

Okay, well, they go to the attic but for such grand steps, they really go nowhere.

Step through the front doorway (watch out for the dogs who hopefully are snarling and trying to eat you for daring to come into the house) and immediately in front of you is a staircase (and snarling dogs). If all the crap was gone from them (flat, unused surfaces are fair game), you’d see dark, probably handmade, wooden steps. Up they go into a recessed rectangular hole in the ceiling. At the top is…well, it’s a door but it looks like part of the wall. It doesn’t have a real handle, just a bit of something to grab and pull on. After you pull the door toward you (and go down to steps so you have room), you see the inside of the door is covered with pink fluffy insulation. Why? I dunno. It was that way when we bought the place umpteen years ago. Two more steps up and, if it is summer, you are now in the Attic Furnace. Enjoy! If it is winter, you are now in the Attic Freezer. Enjoy! And watch your head. Low ceiling.

But back to the steps. Now you have to climb down. Shut the door behind you. I’d hate for you to go back up there to find the cat. Shut the door hard then come on down. Kinda steep, ain’t they? Enjoy your trip to Nowhere? By now the dogs have probably forgot you were here and now remember. Try to not bleed on the floor. It’s a bitch to get blood out of that old, splintery pine.

Seriously, the steps are a waste of space other than they are a bookshelf. And dog supply storage. And shoe storage. We want to remove them and add several more feet to the living room. Except for one thing: under the steps is our only closet. We store our coats there. And two dog crates, some boxes of books, a tent, and, I hope, a roof antenna for 2 meters (ham radio speak for 144.0-148.0 MHz). From in there, you can see the blade marks from where they cut the wood. The steps also cover one of those WTFs we have with this old house. It is covering what looks to be where they cut the wall to make a door into the bedroom. No clue why since the existing door is original (it has the big threshold) and they’d have had to remove the steps to cut it but why? Then why put the steps back? If it were just to access the storage under the steps, why cut a full door size hole? The cuts are on the bedroom side of the wall, too. We scratch our heads a lot over that one.

Back to the attic. I think someone is living up there. We often come home and smell the attic like someone had the door open. And we smell odd things like food we haven’t cooked and several times we smell cigarette smoke. The other night, it was pot. Yes, the Attic Entity likes to kick back and smoke some of that wacky weed.

After reading this, you probably think I smoke it, too.