Emergency Repairs

Earlier this week we had a pretty severe thunderstorm. Rain, thunder, and lightening, yes, but mostly lots of wind. At times, the blowing was hard enough that we could feel the house tremble even while laying in bed.

Somewhere in there we heard a slam that we assumed was the door in the old barn slamming open (it has a tendency to do that). But when I got up in the morning it was clear that something else had occurred. Out the window of the laundry room I saw the eve vent laying in the yard.

well crap...

What this means, aside from the fact that the wind managed to rip a fairly tightly secured piece of siding material off the side of the house, is that we now had a gaping hole in the north side of the house.

Big Ass Hole

I've had to learn over the years to leave alone - not start - things that I don't have the time to finish around the house. It's key to not letting myself get extremely frustrated about unfinished projects. Still, we had a hole in the side of our home, and spring is approaching. While the landlocked critters probably can't get up that high - it's a tall house - spring approacheth, and the birds have already begun to return.

I had no choice but to leave it for the first day - there was simply no open time in my schedule. This meant that, when I finally did get the stepladder lined up with the scuttle hole and climb my way up into the attic, it was with some trepidation.

In a lot of big, old, Victorian era homes the attic is functionally a third floor. In our homestead there is room to stand up in the attic, and one gets the impression that there may have been a thought, in the original design, that one could have made a small room up there if it was ever needed. In my grandparent's time there was a wooden ladder built-in against the wall and up to the scuttle hole. I don't know who put it there - whether it was part of the original construction, with that thought of using the extra space as an additional worker's bedroom (the scuttle hole is in the back, worker's stairwell), or whether it was just a later addition by someone who was just tired of hauling a stepladder up and down the back stairs. Having done that very task myself multiple times, I can see how one might get to that point.

Scuttle Hole

While it one can see how it could have been a small living space, at the moment it's just a home for insulation and duct work. And, fortunately, it did not appear to become an inopportune home for anything else.

As usual, all my tools are in the basement, so any repair or work in the attic inevitably involves multiple trips up and down two flights of stairs, one stepladder, and pulling oneself up or down through a scuttle hole. I was fortunate to start my repair trip with a bit of daylight outside, but it was still dark enough to require a flashlight. Improbably, the opening in the wall seems to look smaller up close than it does from the ground.

Old Attic

I thought I'd have to patch the hole with a bit of plywood (I don't have a ladder that goes high enough to work from the outside and, besides, the outside is really, you know, high), but I was fortunate enough to be able to fish the old vent out thru the hole from the inside...

...and of course, promptly dropped it.

Out the scuttle hole, down the stepladder, down the steps, out the back door, pick up the vent, back in the door, back up the steps, up the stepladder, through the scuttle hole...

Oh - but I did stop along the way and pick up some string so I could secure the damn thing and refrain from multiple trips. Forty-six years of dropping things can ultimately teach you a thing or two.

A little bit of work with the drill and some wood screws, some careful application of silicon sealant to prevent leaks around the edges, and we have a decent, if temporary, repair.

It all serves as an additional reminder that the wind out here isn't just playing, as well as a testament to the house for continuing to stand against it 150+ years on.

Out in the Cold

I said last time that I delight in the midwestern winter, even when I'm entering it after a week in the tropics.

Fortunately, life out at the Homestead offers plenty of opportunities to spend that time outside in the snow. On our first full day back from vacation there were a handful of activities that I tackled, all part and parcel of time on the prairie.

Since we missed the first snow of the season I hadn't thought yet about picking up salt for the sidewalk. This fact was provided as a near miss at a painful reminder as I felt my feet move out from under me when I took my first steps out the back door. It was added to the list of things to pick up as I ran my errands.

But when I returned from those my primary chore - which I'd frankly left a bit for want of time to address it - was upon me. A little longer ago than I care to admit MLW sent me a text to let me know that a rather large section of the fir tree next to the back door had broken off and fallen to the sidewalk.

Limb Down!

One of the things I've had to teach myself about living out here is that it is often better to leave a project - at least one that isn't an emergency - to a time when one can handle it properly. As it stands, with the declining daylight hours I typically leave in darkness, and in darkness I return... The limb had fallen near the sidewalk, but it wasn't in the way of anything, and it was too large for me to simply pull over to the brush pile; it would need to be cut up. But this meant that I'd be working on it in the snow.

Given the size of the limb, and in the interest of efficiency and practicality, I made a suggestion to MLW:

E: Hey, you know, what do you think about just using that fallen limb as our Christmas tree this year?

MLW: ...

E: Hey honey - I said I thought maybe we could use that fallen limb as our Christmas tree.

MLW: Yeah - I heard you the first time.

It appears she was, shall we say, less than interested in that option.

So I gathered up some of my yard weaponry and prepared for battle.

Yard Weapons

I used my implements of destruction and was able to get it into small pieces fairly quickly. I keep thinking that I should get a chainsaw - there are enough downed limbs and weed trees to justify such a tool. But there is something especially satisfying about taking apart a limb like this with an axe. A few well-aimed swings can separate things into manageable pieces, and it's hard not to feel like you've accomplished something when you're done.

Once cut up, though, the pieces still had to be hauled off to the brush pile. Given that Freyja was hanging about and "helping", I tried to elicit her assistance:

E: Hey Freyja, you like to haul wood about. How about you carry these on over to the brush pile.

F: ...

E: Really - come on - you're big and strong. It'll be a good workout for you.

F: ...

Freyja is not interested

So, yeah, disappointed for the second time of the afternoon, I hauled it all off for future burning.

Anytime I do something like this, outside, in the wintery weather, it reminds me how quickly one warms up if one is actively working in the cold. I started up bundled up against the cold, but before I got halfway through I was loosening buttons and unzipping things to get relief from the heat. It's mother nature's little gift.