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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ready for freon

Don and his dad were busy this weekend. They spent Saturday at Chez Brinkley, ten blocks over, working on installing a trailer hitch on one of the vehicles over there. Then Sunday it was our turn, and the dangerous duo were over here at our place to wire up the last piece of the HVAC system.

The HVAC guy says he'll be here tomorrow or Friday. I don't have high hopes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

keeping up appearances

Longtime readers of Ancestral Pile may know that we've been waging a long-term battle with our yard. Our particular area has extraordinarily fertile soil; I don't know enough about biology to know if it's because it was once a plantation or if it has more to do with our height above sea level and humidity and stuff. Whatever causes it, plants grow like gangbusters 'round here. Which was great for Pop-Pop Brinkley, when he had his lush vegetable garden on the back half of our property. Not so great for Pop-Pop's grandson, who's been battling the weeds back there since we moved in. No traces are left of the garden, sadly. We've been trying to control the yard since we bought the house two years ago; last year we lost the battle rather dramatically. This year, we've given in to reality and hired a lawn service. Our grass gets cut every two weeks and it's worth every penny.

The lawn service can't do anything about the huge weeds and shrubs, though -- we just pay them to cut the normal stuff. So Don was out this weekend, strapping on his Ghostbusters backpack and spraying the property with weedkiller. This is what we did after last year's drama, in the back half of the property, and the end result of that treatment is that the lawn service mows that area just like the rest of the lawn these days, because it's not a jungle anymore. So now we're on to the second stage; the new jungle: the front and side yards.

Isn't he cute with his little sprayer? The not-so-cute side of the situation is that Don is actually allergic to mosquitoes (I know, it sounds weird, but he's MORE allergic than regular people just like I am with poison ivy) and the vines growing along the fence and over the rosebushes at the side of the house have created a little shaded flooded area for standing water, which we didn't realize. The mosquitoes have been taking advantage of this little resort facility, and Don came back inside after finishing his spraying in a LOT of pain. His legs and arms were completely swollen and gross.

Hopefully when the sprayed vines die (they're wilting already, thank goodness) the area will dry up and the mosquito problem will be solved. If not, I see rubber bodysuits in our future.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

the latest

What you see in the photo above is not, sadly, an old-school Dr. Who-style robot living in our attic. It's actually the tail end and some of the ductwork for the upstairs HVAC unit, which is almost all the way installed. We had our friendly neighborhood plumber come out and install a gas line to the attic, and then the HVAC guy got to work in a relatively timely fashion. This time around, the delays have been mostly our fault. There were delays in getting the attic ladder put in, delays in calling the plumber, and finally the most recent delay, which is actually not entirely our fault but still rests on our shoulders. After the unit itself was placed in the attic and the ductwork was run, Don and his dad had to install the electrical setup for the unit, running wire to it so that it would do important things like turn on. They eventually got together and did the work, but then they ran out of wire -- they were short by approximately seven feet of wire. So things got put on hold until Don could run out and buy some more wire. Well, it took us approximately three weeks and five stores to find the damn wire. NOBODY had it. Apparently everybody else is running wire, too, because the stores were all sold out. We finally found some a couple of weeks ago, and now it's on Don's shoulders again to get the wiring finished. Once that's done, the HVAC guy will come back out and put freon in the lines and fire the whole thing up and we'll be done, finally, with this ridiculous saga.

Monday, August 04, 2008

household duties

The cat likes to help me fold the laundry.

Friday, August 01, 2008

a ladder for the ages

This house, like many older homes (and, for all I know, lots of newer homes) has a big huge attic, accessible by one of those trapdoor ladder things. The original ladder was installed by Don's grandfather, and, like many of the things in this house, was both very clever and very frightening. It was held up by a terrifyingly visible pulley that involved steel cable and a screw eye sunk into the guest room floor. Folding the trapdoor back up into the ceiling was a two-person job; one person had to stand on their tiptoes and push the unit up into the ceiling and hold it there while the other one pulled with all their weight on the pulley cable to get the hook to slip over the edge of the screw eye.

In addition to all that, the ladder itself was... shall we say... nonstandard. It was approximately one foot wide, ensuring that nobody with hips could get up into the attic; it was constructed -- possibly by hand -- entirely out of wood; and, mysteriously, it was blue.

Our HVAC contractor, on his very first trip out here (something like TWO YEARS AGO ARGH), told us flat out that there was no way he could install our upstairs HVAC unit without a new ladder. Aside from the safety issues, which didn't concern him overly much although they terrified me (did I mention that there was a LIVE WIRE crossing the opening, for no good reason?), the hole in the ceiling was simply too small to fit the unit through. So one of the things that had to be accomplished before we could have the last of the HVAC installed was to replace the ladder.

Fortunately, it turns out that you can just run over to your local home improvement superstore and buy attic trapdoor ladders. In boxes!

The original ladder was in the middle of the three upstairs bedrooms. We decided that if we were going to replace the darn thing anyway, we might as well put it in a much more convenient location so that our use of that room would be unfettered. The upstairs landing, as most of you know, is absolutely gigantic, so we decided that the landing was the place for the new ladder.

So Don and his dad framed in an appropriately sized hole, and installed the new ladder over a weekend in April, with much swearing. Like everything around here, it took longer than they expected and involved a lot of shimming. But it's in, and it works, as you can see.

We haven't taken down the old blue ladder yet -- it's bolted into the joists, and we just haven't gotten around to dealing with that. Just ignore it and admire the shininess of the new one.