dreamshark: (Default)
 Beast Wildlife Exclusion has mostly come and gone. They spent two days nailing metal sheeting over the many squirrel holes in our eaves and installed a couple of complicated exterior squirrel traps that I can't entirely explain. There's a long chamber of wire mesh hanging from the eaves that is supposed to entice and then imprison squirrels exiting the premises. And then there's another ingress trap that is mostly up on the roof over the egress trap that... I don't know how it works. I think that squirrels trying to get back into the house get redirected into the egress trap, but at least one ended up stuck in the ingress part so who knows?

Honestly, the whole arrangement looked really unlikely. But somehow it managed to ensnare 6 squirrels over 3 days! I am cautiously optimistic. 
dreamshark: (Default)
 Inspired by [personal profile] pameladean 's posts detailing her odyssey of home repairs and adventures, I finally nerved myself up to call the squirrel whisperer she recommended. Should have done this 20 or 30 years ago, but I find dealing with home contractors so terribly daunting. We've had the squirrel holes sealed up several times as part of other repairs, but within a few months the little buggers had gnawed their way back in. Last summer I finally bought a Havahart trap and relocated 5 of them to Hidden Falls, but after a few squirrel-free months a new one showed up and has been terrorizing us ever since. This one is an absolute Houdini. I set that trap at least 20 times with results that were satisfactory only to the squirrel (who now thinks of our attic as a Squirrel Buffet). Sometimes it extricated the bait without springing the trap. But more often the trap was sprung, bait devoured, but no squirrel to be seen. I think it must be muscling it's way out, which none of the previous squirrel iterations could do.

Anyway, I called Beast Wildlife and made an appointment for Thursday afternoon. The inspection costs $125 up front, so this is no minor commitment. But our homegrown, half-assed methods haven't worked, so here we are
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
The City of Minneapolis just sent us a thick packet of information about the Organics Recycling program (which has been running in other parts of the city for several years, but not in our neighborhood). There's a list of items that can and cannot be included in the Organics bin, helpful suggestions for how to organize your trash inside your house, and even a free pack of organic recycling bags. All very nice.

Missing from all of this information is what we are supposed to DO with the organic waste once it is collected. Are they going to bring us a 3rd bin to put out in the alley? Or are we supposed to go out and buy one on our own? Or pick up a free one from someplace? When is the city going to start collecting organic waste in our neighborhood? Or have they been doing it all along but never told us about it?
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
This one was a real Houdini. We've been  trying to catch it for more than a week. The trap was sprung over and over, but no squirrel. Sometimes the bait was taken, sometimes it wasn't. On the occasions where the bread was eaten and all the peanut butter licked off the strike plate, I think the squirrel must have actually been muscling one of the doors open.

I switched to single-door mode, and wedged the unused door closed with a pencil. That door seemed a little looser than the other one, so I was hoping it was the escape hatch. Squirrel managed to get out of that configuration once too, this time eating half the bait (which bewilders me. Did it eat half the bait before the trap finally sprung, and then it zipped out before the door closed tight?)

Since there was still some bread in there I quickly reset the trap and left it for a day or two. Finally remembered to check the trap and lo! There was a squirrel inside! I hope it wasn't actually stuck in there for 2 days. Probably not, since it seemed plenty lively.

Houdini has been relocated and I'm setting it again. Does this ever end?
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
It took most of the day for that squirrel to overcome its better judgement and go into the trap. This one seems more terrified than the first two, who were extremely indignant but not too upset to devour every crumb of bait. This poor little thing didn't even finish supper before curling up in a frightened ball at one end of the trap. It does seem to have finished off the orange slices Richard gave it (because he's got a big soft heart), but there are lots of scraps of bread still uneaten. Waiting for R to get up so we can add one more to the colony we are establishing down at Hidden Falls.
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
... is squirrel #3. This one managed to escape the trap somehow (probably streaking out the door of the trap as it was closing - those little buggers are FAST). It was then sufficiently full of adrenaline to crawl under the closed attic door and run down to the kitchen for a snack. Then it came back to the 2nd floor to explore, which is where I surprised it. Now it's hiding in Amber's Room behind the daybed. I reset the trap and put it in the same room. If this is the squirrel that triggered the trap this morning, it should know better than to venture into that trap again. But squirrels are forever caught between their cocky inquisitiveness and their better judgement, so you never know. 
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
Can anyone recommend a carpenter/handyman type who could do a complex ceiling sheet-rocking job possibly involving a little carpentry and maybe fiddling with the insulation? Also want the floor sanded, but that could be a different person.
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
We're heading out of town tomorrow to help Amber move, and our kitchen sink has sprung a leak. I'm desperately trying to find a reliable, honest plumber who is available today to fix it before we leave. Probably going to be impossible, but I'm making calls.

Backup plan - wrap the pipe with plumbing tape for a temporary fix and get the plumber in after we come back in late July. Still could use a recommendation.  Anybody?

[ETA] After several fruitless calls I finally found a plumber who was able to fit us in today and had good reviews on Yelp:  Uptown Plumbing. They're supposed to be here between 3 and 5. Here's hoping they show up, since we're on a plane to San Jose at 7am tomorrow.
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
That's the estimated number of abandoned underground fuel oil tanks in the metro area. Yikes! So anybody who thinks that Dean's Tanks is limiting their future by doing only one thing (residential fuel oil tank removal) should think again. And if you happen to have one in your back yard, these are the guys to call.

I know that hiring a contractor is supposed to involving painstakingly interviewing multiple candidates and choosing among competing estimates. But so far in our oil-to-gas boiler conversion, the first one was so obviously the right one that I just hired them on the spot. Pete the Boiler Guy and the Asbestos Abatement firm formerly known as Aardvark really were just perfect, so I'm trying for a hat trick. Just one look at the Dean's Tank web page makes it clear that we're talking about another little family-owned business that has been doing one thing for decades and takes pride in doing that thing really really well.

Anyway, I called the number and got Doug, the owner (Dean was his father). He just happened to be in the neighborhood doing another estimate, so he came right over. Took a few measurements and concluded that the tank runs under the backyard retaining wall and would be impossible to remove without wrecking the yard. Which makes it a perfect candidate for "in-place abandonment." That requires a removal waiver from the city inspector, but no problem - Doug works with him all the time and was sure it would be no problem.

The estimated price sounded very reasonable, considering it includes $500 worth of permits, removing and recycling the oil in the tank, removing all filler pipes, and even patching the basement floor after they dig the fuel line out of it. So I said sure - when can you start?

20 minutes after he left, Doug called back. He's already gotten approval from the city inspector, sight unseen. So I guess he was serious when he said the inspector trusts his judgment. If the permits come through without delay he hopes to have it done in the next two weeks. 
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
There are horrible crashes, clangs, and grinding noises coming from the basement as the Aardvark Asbestos Abatement Company destroys our 100-year-old boiler. 
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
Okay, all the sff paperbacks are on shelves with their spines visible! Well, for certain values of "all."  I'm not counting the anthologies, but those will fit on the shelves downstairs in the den if I don't find a better place for them. And, most important, I'm not counting the probably THOUSANDS of books that Richard has hidden away in the den - many of them on shelves but probably not all of them. These are newer, bloated size paperbacks, mostly of a genre I have no interest in. So for the purposes of this project I'm pretending they don't exist, except for when I find little caches of books that I feel are longing to be reunited with their sisters in the back room (like all that Mercedes Lackey).

However, I am not satisfied with the way things are arranged: A's and B's in the hall, B's in the shelf by the attic step, C's and D's on the shelves in the middle of the office, and so on. I want them to flow logically from A-Z, and I'd rather not use so many of the hardback-sized shelves for paperbacks.

So ideally I will finish up this project by adding a new set of paperback shelves in the hall where the tipsy pile of books and comics used to be. Unfortunately, as far as I know, nobody actually sells paperback shelves. The best I can probably do is a much-too-deep cabinet with movable shelves (and preferably extra shelves for sale as piece parts). Width should be somewhere between 36-41" and height between 45" and 60". Ideally, depth would be no more than 6" but I don't think anybody sells shelves like that. Depth could be as much as 11-1/2" without exceeding the space. Richard has some in the den that more or less fill the bill (except that they are in use, of course). He thinks he got them at Menards. Anybody have any other suggestions?

ETA: It looks like the best bet is to search for DVD or "multi-media" storage units. I still find it mind-boggling that NOBODY makes shelves for paperback storage, but as far as I can tell that is in fact the case. And even compact DVD shelves are hard to come by. A CD/DVD case is less than 6" deep, but most of the storage systems have shelves that are 9.5" deep. Why??

But this one doesn't look too bad. The shelves are only 7" deep and adjustable and the whole unit is about the size I want. I'm more in the mood to just go out and BUY the shelves I want, put them together and finish this project. But if that is just impossible, I can order these.
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
Making beer bread was a good idea. Warmed up the kitchen - AND it was delicious. It also occurred to me that if the problem was that the heat was not being conveyed away from the radiators fast enough, what we needed was more circulation. I turned on the ceiling fan in the dining room and moved a small couch away from the radiator near the stairs to give it room to breathe. Also closed the door to the attic. With one thing and another, the heat downstairs is up to 65, and it's now a little too warm on the 2nd floor (at least with all these clothes on). More importantly, the furnace is still running!

For the next stage, I brought up a fan from the basement and aimed it at the living room radiator to dissipate the heat some more. I'm hoping to get the temp up to 70 before the furnace shuts off.

As part of my new exercise program (stand up every 20 minutes), I am running down to the basement to check the furnace at least once an hour. All part of the grand plan.
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
Had a moment of panic this morning when I noticed that it was only 60 degrees in the living room and the furnace wasn't running. But after a little experimentation and reflection, I think it's working as designed, just not keeping up. The radiators are all smokin' hot, even the one in Amber's room (Christmas miracle! For the first time in 28 years, it started heating up all the way to the top!). When the radiators start to cool down a little, the heat comes on for a while, then goes off again. I think it must have a cutoff of some kind to stop running when the water reaches some maximum temp, regardless of what the thermostat says. It's not supposed to be steam heat, after all. Unfortunately, this is a cavernous house with lots of heat leaks and one little radiator in each room just isn't keeping up with the heat suck.

It's actually perfectly comfortable upstairs, heat rising and all that. Oh, brain attack! How's about I close the door to the attic (which is heated entirely by heat rising from the lower floors). *duh* And maybe now would be a good time to turn on the oven and try out that beer bread mix my sister-in-law gave us for Christmas!

For the record, it was -22 this morning and breezy. Pretty cold for post-climate-change Minnesota, but I note that it is neither as cold nor as windy as the weather services predicted. I still think it's kind of an over-reaction to close down the city for this (especially since this is pretty much what winter was always like back in the '70's when I moved here). But my management went with the flow and sent everybody email telling us to "work from home," so that's what I'm doing. 
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
For years I've been telling people that Dream Park was built in 1916, because that's what I remember. But I just looked up my house on Zillow (an interesting exercise, btw) and according to them it was built in 1912. Hmmm. I google my address and find a few other listings for my house in real estate databases. They differ WILDLY in estimated square footage (1985 vs 2995!) but both agree on the build date of 1912. Does anybody know how to look that up in the definitive public record?  
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
Look what I found inside my window - an old wasp's nest!! Even though it looks like it's been there since ancient Roman times and is obviously empty, I'm afraid to touch it.

There's also a lot of dust and not two, but FOUR sash weights. I'll be darned - double hung windows! The top casements are so thoroughly cemented in with layers of paint that it never occurred to me that they could move.

dreamshark: (sharon tire)
You know what a sash weight is, right?  You've got your old window casement made of solid oak and it weighs a ton, so there is no way to raise the window without a counterweight. So there's these little ropes running up the inside of the window frame and over a pulley and into a dark place where they are attached to heavy iron weights. This works great for about 80 years - then the ropes start breaking. To replace the sash weight cords, you remove the window casement and open up the little doors on either side of the window frame so you can get at the sash weights and replace the cords. When we first moved into this house (almost 30 years ago) I found most of the sash cords broken, and spent a week or so industriously replacing them so I know how to do this.

Then I got to the master bedroom and was stymied. There are 4 windows in that room, and none of them have sash weight doors. Some of the windows still had one sash cord when we moved in, but in the intervening years all but one has broken. This makes those windows damn hard to open, as they weigh a TON. Every now and then I take out one of the window casements, stare at the interior of the window frame in perplexity, and then put the casement back in. Really, NO DOOR.

Today I was hanging some mini-blinds in there and decided to try one more time before I screwed the blinds bracket into the window stop, thus making it that much harder to get the window out. Once again, no sash weight door. So I decided to just dismantle the damn window. Specifically I am prying off the piece of woodwork between two of the windows, hoping against hope that the sash weight for the right side of the left hand window and the left side of the right hand window are in there. More to come...
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
Richard went out to turn over the compost yesterday, and guess what was living in it? Ouch. Fortunately he got away with only 3 stings, but he wasn't happy. Now he's trying to figure out what to do about it. The usual methods (e.g., pouring kerosene down the hole and setting it on fire) would result in destroying or poisoning the compost. He's wondering if soaking the pile with water would flood them out.

My suggestion is to wait for the first frost. But I think he was hoping to use some of the composted material before then. Any ideas?
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
After we had to construct a makeshift bed in the attic for [livejournal.com profile] vgqn and [livejournal.com profile] magscanner when they honored us with a visit last month I've been thinking that it's time to give Amber's old room a makeover. It is now used primarily for sorting laundry, occasional sewing, reading or napping, and occasionally as a guest room. It's not functioning especially well for any of those uses.  It's a small room (10' x 12') with windows, doors and radiator in awkward places. But I have an idea how to rearrange it to make it more usable. This requires the dreaded Sorting and Winnowing activity. I've been working on it sporadically for several weeks and just last night got to the point where I could vacuum the closet floor. As anybody who has done this sort of thing before understands, this is a major turning point. Although the room is now a complete mess, I am nearly to the point where I can start restowing the stuff I've decided to keep. Yay!

So it's time to start getting rid of stuff that doesn't make the cut. I'm starting with this darling little Zen Garden that has been sitting sadly on top of Amber's radiator since she went off to college. I put on some New Age music and spent a happy hour raking and arranging it for pictures, so I can attest that it is rather soothing to play with. Wouldn't it make a lovely gift?

I've posted it on Freecycle, but if anybody on LJ would like it, you can have first dibs.
ZenGarden
dreamshark: (sharon tire)
On March 31, 1985, we picked up the rental truck and started moving from Toonerville (on the unfashionable south side of Seward neighborhood) to Dream Park (Kingfield). There was about 8 inches of fresh snow on the ground that morning, over a layer of ice so slick that I seriously wondered for a while if the rental truck actually had brakes. Oy! It was a long, exhausting move in very inclement weather. Thanks so much to everybody that helped. You know who you are.
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