Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stinking, Sinking and Re-thinking

If the words in the title of this post all referred to one thought, you may think we have become disenchanted with our new life style rather quickly, but that is not the case. These words just came to mind this week with a couple of projects we were working on and a future project we were discussing.

First, the stinking. You may recall the condition we bought the house in, and in particular the carpets I pulled up from several rooms. Ever since then, while the overall funky smell in the house has dissappeared, on wet humid days this not so pleasant odor permeates the air in the house once again with the main source being from the room we are going to turn into our office, the one that had the broken sliding glass door as well as the worst of the carpeting in the house. On previous trips, I have scrubbed that floor multiple times with Pine-sol, yet every time the weather turns rainy we discover we have not yet completely conqured the beasts that used to occupy that room.

Alan wants to get the office set up this weekend, so this week I was determined to irradicate the funkiness once and for all. First on the list of solutions was wetting down the floor with water that had a strong concentration of bleach. The plan was to use enough water so the bleachiness could soak in and eliminate the elusive stinkiness. The result - better but now there was a distinct bleach smell along with a less strong original odor. Step 2 - sprinkle a large box of baking soda over the entire floor and let is sit for several hours before sweeping it up. These results - much better and we thought we had conquered it until it rained the next day and the smell once again returned for an unwelcome visit.

We were running into town for some project supplies that day, so we picked up two products designed to eliminate pet odors. One was specifically for hard surfaces, while the other emphasized use on carpet, but it said it worked by soaking in and breaking down the odor causing stains, and it could also be used on hard surfaces. So Step 3 was a spray bottle, followed by Step 4 which was a squirt bottle. The spray completely covered the entire floor while the squirt bottle more or less drew squiggly lines on the floor. This fourth step actually turned out to be very beneficial because I could squirt along each seam in the plywood floor so it would soak into the gaps just as I am sure the 'offensive odor causing stuff' had also seeped into the cracks. The result - SUCCESS! I got down on my hands and knees, put my nose to the floor and crawled around while inhaling deeply. Not a pretty sight (no pictures) and I felt like a human bloodhound but I was extremely happy because the odor was completely gone.

As one final step, I had picked up some 'Kilz' paint (on the 'oops' rack at Home Depot) that was supposed to cover odors. We had planned on using this on the floor first, but wanted to make sure the odor was not so strong that it would still be smelling after we painted, at which point there would no longer be any other recourse for the taming of the pew. After the Kilz came the actual floor paint. Well, not technically floor paint, but an exterior semi-gloss enamel, Another gallon of Oops paint I had picked up for $5. As this is the first floor we have painted in the house, and did not use true floor paint because I have not found any within the price I am willing to pay, this floor will serve as a testing ground to see if the exterior enamel will suffice as floor paint.

Next is the sinking. After moving in the wood burning stove last week and then several heavy pieces of furniture, Alan commented that the deck felt like it was shaking when we walked on it. He went under the deck to check it out and discovered the deck was no longer attached to the house below the French doors in the kitchen, which was the doorway we used to move all the heavy items into the house. We have since picked up four floor jacks and a couple of 4x4 pieces of lumber and have jacked up the deck, Next we will run some lag bolts through the deck beams and into the house beams to join them together.

And now the re-thinking. This past week we attended an emergency preparedness fair as well as a county fair and each event has had several vendors displaying storm cellars. Well, for several weeks Alan has been listening to me go on about how I want to build a root cellar on the property, probably into the mountainside behind the house, but it is very rocky. Alan even found an altrnative solution showing how to turn an old chest freezer into a root cellar. That sounded even better to me, but we would still have to dig a hole large enough to bury the freezer. This would probably require a pick axe in our yard.

Now back to the storm cellars at the fairs. There are two types, ones that are built inside the house that are basically a closet constructed from reinforced steel and ones that are buried in the ground and look like a concrete vault. While driving home, discussing how a storm cellar could double as a root cellar, Alan said "You realize, we already have a concrete vault buried right out in the yard." Of course, our cistern! Because we have always thought of it as being used to store the rain water we capture, we never considered it could be used in any other way. Many people in the area store water in large water tanks that are sold at local farm stores, and in fact, you often see these large water tanks in the backs of pickup trucks as people are heading to the nearby spring to fill them up. A large tank like this would be more convenient to catch and store rainewater in than the concrete cistern plus that would enable us to convert the cistern into a root/storm cellar. It already has a large round opening at the top with a cover that could be used as the entrance. I am sure more details will be included in a future blog post.

Writing about rain water reminded me of yet another unplanned project this week. I tend to have ideas that pop into my head several times a week that end up pulling Alan away from his planned projects, and this was one of them. With all the news about hurricaine Isaac this week, including reports that we were in for a lot of rain,  I came up with the idea of attaching one side of a tarp to the north side of the house about 6 feet above the deck and than taking the bottom of the tarp and stretching it towards the deck railing so that the tarp was rising at about a 45 degree angle from near the deck railing up to where it would be attached to the house. We could then place plastic totes under the lower edge of the tarp and all the rain falling onto the tarp would be collected in the totes. While this would not collect as much water as when we had caught run-off from the roof,  the water would probably be much cleaner as it was running off a brand new tarp rather than the roof.

After dragging Alan out to the north deck and explaining my plan, I then had another thought. Our solar panels are all located on the south deck and one thing that we have been pondering about them is a way to devise some sort of protection during bad storms with possible hail. With the remnants of Isaac approaching, hail was a possibility. We had saved all the styrofoam sheets the solar panels came packed in and our initial plan was to accordion them all together, sort of like the old Jacob's Ladder toys, so they could be pulled out and attached over the long row of solar panels in some manner (obviously from that description we had no solid plan, yet). So, I started rambling on to Alan about my next thought. If the experimental tarp works well on the north deck, we could place hooks above the solar panels, get a longer tarp, or multulple tarps that could be used as water catchers over all the panels and they would serve the dual purpose of gathering rain water and protecting the solar panels from possible hail. Plus, I thought we could deploy this system much more quickly than the styrofoam accordion if needed. Alan said it would be easier to go head and put the prototype on the south deck rather than the north so we set it up before the rains arrived last night.

Isaac never got to us, so the weather has not been nearly as severe as was predicted, basically a gentle rain that started after midnight and has continued off and on today. This morning we discovered several inches of clean rain water in each of the totes. We were able to fill a couple 5 gallon bottles as well as Maycee's automatic waterer (she has about doubled our use of potable water since we brought her down to the property). The beta version tarp only covers about a third of the solar panels and later in the morning we saw the uncovered solar panels were still providing a low charge to the batteries despite the overcast day. So, we unhooked the tarp from the deck railing and folded the bottom up to attach it to the hooks on the house as well so all the panels were once again exposed to whatever sunlight was available on this gloomy day. As I am writing this, night has fallen and the wind is picking up indicating possibly more rain tonight so I am going to take a break and go set out the tarp once more.

OK, The rain catcher is deployed and I am back. Just one more story about this week's activities. We have accomplished a lot this week and I have discovered another way in which Alan and I make a good team. He excells at one type of project while I am better suited for another. Basically, Alan can plow through projects with lots of intricate steps much more quickly than I, while I can stay on task with the more monotonous chores longer than he. Case in point, while Alan was building various pieces of the furniture we purchased, all of which involve pages of numbered instructions and dozens of screws, nuts, bolts, etc., Maycee and I spent hours walking around the yard picking up much of the tiny debris that covers the property. I have included a photo of a small area of the yard (several square feet) so you can get an idea of what is currently considered 'ground cover'. The yard around the house is littered with beer bottle caps, shattered beer bottles, rusted hardware, various car parts and a myriad of other small items. The crew that was hired to clean up the property and the house before it went on the market probably expended their allotted time on the 'big stuff' and thus our interesting mosaic of yard art.

This stuff has been bugging me for weeks but I could not bring myself to start the hundreds of deep-knee-bends or toe-touches it would take to make a clean sweep of the property (actual sweeping would not work because half the stuff is partly buried in the ground or wedged between rocks). On several trips to Harbor Freight, I had noticed they had a long handled 'grabber' made out of plastic. It was only $1.99 and has a squeezable handle at one end that operates opposable 'pinchy fingers' on the other end. At $1.99 I did not think it would be able to pick up all the tiny items I need to 'grab', but then at $1.99 it was worth a try before I contemplated walking around the yard like Quasimodo for hours on end. Guess what? the pinchy fingers worked phenomenally, I was able to pick up items as small as shirt buttons and shards of glass.  I mentioned that I was better at the monotonous jobs, but that is probably because my mind keeps me so entertained while doing them. Here is a list of some of the thoughts that were running through my head as I traversed the yard with the grabber in on hand and a large, bright orange Home Depot bucket in the other:

Pinchy fingers in action.
Hmm, the density of beer caps decreases relative to the distance they are away from the deck. Does that mean the more beer you drink the less distance you get on you beer caps when you toss them?

At least they were consistent, every single one of the hundreds of beer caps that are still legible are Busch Light.

My arm is getting tired of working the pinchy fingers, it is like squeezing one of those stress balls hundreds of times. I am going to go find some of bigger items to fill the bucket quicker.

Why do I keep counting each time I grab somthing, even with all these other thoughts running around in my head?

I hope the tick repellent granules are still working in the yard.

I wonder how heavy of an item this plastic rod can pick up. OK, to be honest, I just didn't want to bend over and pick up the heavy items, like broken disc brakes, adjustble wrenches and a meat cleaver, but I convinced myself it was to test the durability if the grabber thingy.

Want to play 'I Spy'?
There are at least 20 bottle caps in this photo. 
I wonder what percentage of all this garbage is comprised of beer caps. Per item it is probably over 50% beer caps but by weigth is is probably about 15% beer caps.

I would probably make a good archeologist the way i am fiding all these little bits of stuff in the dirt and rocks.

I should blog about this.

That was the fourth rotting dog collar, I guess that helps explain the stinky floor.

Oops, almost missed that styrofoam cup. That just about tops off this bucket full. What is that rumbling noise? YIKES! There are about a dozen wasps crawling out of that styrofoam cup and I am still holding the bucket. At that point I dropped the bucket and quickly but carefully walked back to the house so Alan could perform a wasp check to make sure there were no wasps in my hair or on my clothes.

Maycee likes helping with this project
One other thought I had while filling buckets with a vast array of interesting debris was trying to come up with a way to make this post interactive. For some reason I started counting each item I clunked into the bucket from the pinch fingers. I think it was because I originally started doing this chore every time I let the dog out into the yard. I would go down off the deck with her and tell myself I would pick up 100 items before coming back in. Well, I actually found this chore to be addictive and rather then setting a goal I had to reach each time, I instead had to set a limit at which I had to get back to work on another project.

So, for the interactive portion of this blog, guess how many times I have picked up something from the yard with the pinchy fingers and plopped it into the bucket? One hint, all my thoughts above contain no exaggerations. Have a number in mind? Good, click on the  tab at the top of the page called 'Do Not Peak - Read The 9/1/12 Post First' and you will see my total so far. Note the 'so far' there is still visible debris and there are also piles of dead leaves that need to be raked after tick season and I am sure there will be much more fun to be had when I see what the leaves have been covering. I think I may be wearing out the mechanism that operates the pinchy fingers so I am hoping to find $1.99 in change on the ground before it breaks so I can get a replacement. So far I haven't found a penny, but maybe beer bottle caps can be sold as scrap...

1 comment:

  1. Scrap prices did come to mind reading this. And some of that hardware may have a use.