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The Year of No Summer

July 1, 2013

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Wait a minute… didn’t I name another blog post with this same title last year? And the year before, too? And the year before that?

Oh, it’s been a long decade. :S

Upstate New York has been plagued with rain. And over-development has created massive flooding problems for communities that, before, were well able to manage extremely wet weather.

Not no more.

Flooding1

Flood3

Flood1

This is a real miracle– we only got 12 inches of water this time! Photo taken after waters had subsided. In the past, we’ve had 3 feet. And we were somewhat prepared, so loss of property was minimal. It’s taken us several days to clean out the muck, however.

Basement F1

Flood2

All this was from the June 28 flood. Communities like Herkimer, Fort Plain, and others were literally, completely under water. Some folks were carried off and we’re still looking for them.

I drove by a neighbor’s the other day and found this gem.

Sinkhole1

Sinkhole2

It’s getting crazy. We’ve had over 10 inches for June. July looks to be as soggy, too. Many of us have not been able to plant our vegetable gardens, as we had a late May hard frost and then the rains came and haven’t stopped. Now that it’s July, our summer is nearly over.

It’s another year for the history books.

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Chimney Flashing Roof Repair

September 30, 2011

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It’s all Hurricane Irene’s fault. And Hurricane Lee’s fault.

During the torrential rains, my son reported dirty brown dripping water coming from the attic hatch located in his room.

GRRRREEEEEAAAATTTT.

I hate roof leaks. It means going into The Attic (insert creepy organ music) and scuffling around the giant fluffs of dirty cellulose insulation and suffocating bat dung. *groan*

Well, we didn’t have to go far into The Attic (insert creepy organ music). As soon as we popped the hatch, we saw that the chimney was crying wet. Most likely, the flashing. Which meant that the husband would have to go clambering atop the roof to see what was up.

Our roof is scary. It’s steeply pitched and it’s a long drop down. I always freak out when he goes up there. What I want to do is run away to the store or the movies where I can not think about him being up there. What I wind up doing is balancing the ladder and biting my nails as he skitters across the shingles. He’s never fallen– never even slipped (as far as I know), but he did lose grip of a Shop Vac one time…. oh, that was an event to remember. We laid that poor thing to rest.

Anyway, yesterday, he went up to see what’s up with the flashing. Our roof is 15 years old so I can’t say we were very optimistic. The shingles are, surprisingly, in very good shape for their age. The flashing…. not. The husband reported that it appears that the roofers had “cobbed” together bits and pieces of aluminum, stuffed them beside the chimney and slathered them with caulk (which has since eroded). That probably explains the water damage in the son’s bedroom closet….

So he came down and we did a little investigation online about chimney flashing. I’ve done roofing jobs as a kid and installing a roof is actually not too difficult. But the flashing requires a lot of skill. You can’t just slather caulk on the seams and expect it to last very long. After a half-hour of slogging through boring chimney repair websites and unhelpful videos, we found this video about elastomeric paste. This stuff looks good!

I think this may solve our problem, at least until we eventually get the roof redone and the chimney removed (We no longer need the chimney since getting direct vent appliances). The husband went to the Big Box retail stores and guess what— SOLD OUT! Everywhere! Looks like everyone is slopping this goop onto their Irene-stricken and Hurricane Lee-battered chimneys.

So he wrapped the chimney in a tarp. Did a good job. I’m thankful he used the green tarp instead of the fluorescent blue one.

If I ever get the chance to take a little break from my job and build my own house– NO CHIMNEYS! I’m sure in their heyday they were a marvel of modern Stone Age technology. But in a rainy (constantly rainy) climate, they really stink. The era of the chimney is over, as far as I’m concerned.

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Collective Groanings from Central NY

September 8, 2011

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What is it with our region lately? We’re being targeted with rain. Stupid hurricanes.

Yeah, we got more rain, more flooding. We only just swept Hurricane Irene out of our homes and basements and roads. Tropical Storm Lee decided to take the highway straight up from the south. Look at that line. Crazy! In case you didn’t know, I’m smack dab in the center of Upstate NY, right where that yellow-glob is.

That is a satellite photo taken at around 10pm last night.

I’m not sure how much rain we’ve had. It’s been raining straight– fishhooks and hammer handles– since early Wednesday morning. The weathermen said yesterday that we’d probably see upwards of 4 inches. But when I checked a rain barrel last night, when we were only halfway through the storm, it was 4 inches.

This is the new satellite photo, taken at about 8am today. I can’t believe this thing, it’s a monster with more energy than a 2-year old. It just keeps churning and churning.

Sorry if I am a bit incoherent. We were up a good portion of the night. One of our 3 sump pumps gave up the ghost, and the husband had to run to Home Depot (who stayed open all night on account of the emergencies) and re-pipe a new pump. Unfortunately, it’s a smaller horsepower pump, so the water in the basement isn’t going down as quickly as we’d like. At least the yard flooding has slowed.According to the satellite, though, we’ve got another day of this, probably.

My neighbors just 15 miles north of me have it bad. Neighborhoods have been evacuated– emergency teams have had to call in hovercrafts and boats. Schools are closed on their second day of school today. And the fire sirens just keep sounding. It’s unreal.

In the county next to me, reports are “flooding” in of schools filled with water. Cobleskill college had a foot of water in the dorms, with muddy waterfalls flowing down the stairs. Another neighbor had 4 feet of water in his basement. And of course, some folks’ homes have been inundated.

I know these things happen all over the world, and Louisiana is suffering from massive flooding, too. But here in Central NY, the biggest weather events we get is snow. We don’t get constant streams of hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes (all of which we have had in the past 3 weeks). Our infrastructure isn’t prepared for it. We’ve had five “100-year floods” in 5 years. That’s just….. nutty. Yeah, I’m frustrated. What’s worse is that states like Texas need all this rain much more than we do. I wish I could send it over, I really do. Oh well. It’s the weather. Thank God we’re still doing OK even though the losses are bad. And I’ve seen God make lemonade out of lemons with stuff like this. I just need to keep reminding myself of that while I watch the waters rise.

I will be getting a canoe, though. Seriously.

When I was a girl, we suffered a lot of rain one year. That year was actually a record-breaker for Central NY, our year of the most rainfall in 12 months. I canoed in my front yard during that time. Boy, it was fun!

Well, I think we have surpassed that old record of rainfall. And I realized that my kids don’t know how to operate a canoe. They need to learn. No time like the present. LOL.

I seem to be talking about the weather a lot on this blog lately. Sorry. I wish I could talk about my latest renovation project or something. But yikes, we can’t seem to get a hammer in edgewise with all this rain. ALL YEAR LONG.

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The Silent Summer: No Crickets, No Peepers!

July 5, 2011

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Something very strange has happened. I realized it the other night while I outside in the backyard during twilight. The entire yard and forest and small creek that runs next door is completely silent. Completely silent!

No crickets. No spring peepers. Nothing. I have never experienced anything like it since I’ve lived here. Besides the mosquitoes quietly whirring around us, the only forest activity was the lightning bugs, blinking their lights in utter silence.

This is my backyard. Behind that scraggly brush is a small rivulet that fills with peepers every spring. There’s no sign of my beloved musical friends there this year.

closedeer2

At dusk, the area is usually ablaze with sounds. The crickets usually chirp so loudly that they challenge the sounds of the busy streets. And the peepers– those tiny little frogs that exhale high-pitched raspy whistles– are gone. Everything is SILENT.

I found a video recording of peepers in the northeast. This is what my neighborhood SHOULD be sounding like:

I’m devastated!! What happened?! I have lived here for over 14 years and nothing like this has ever happened. Was it the awful April flooding that swept my critters away? Is it some kind of pesticide or toxic chemical that has been sprayed in the forest and has descended into my neighborhood? Is there some evil raccoon gang or other monstrous creatures that have eaten all my precious nightly musicians in some kind of perverse thuggery??

This spring and summer has been weird, simply weird. I feel forlorn, bereft of a very necessary ecological foundation. It just ain’t summertime without the peepers. šŸ™

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Old Home Owner’s Malaise

June 13, 2011

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Maybe this is normal. I don’t know.

I’m suffering from a severe case of the Old Home Blues. I have absolutely no energy to tackle any projects around here. Not the garden, not all the undone little projects from the kitchen renovation from last summer…. and when I encounter a “new” problem, I just want to go to bed and pretend it isn’t there. Right now, if I could sell and make a profit, I would. I would get a new house (in old-house speak, a new house is one that was built post World War II). ALL the plumbing and electric and insulation and windows would be done. Maybe even have nice carpeting and a deck and a downstairs toilet that doesn’t bubble when the upstairs is flushed… It would be the next thing to heaven. yeah.

Oh, I’m down in the dumps about another plumbing problem. Honestly, I kinda thought we were over the plumbing problems, last year after we replaced everything—well, ALMOST everything, and that’s the problem right there.

The handle to the bathtub faucet broke off yesterday. I dropped a small plastic container of hand soap on it, and BOOP it snapped. Just a handle, though. Tub handles are replaceable, easy– you screw off the old and screw on the new!! EASY!!!

*violent sobbing*

The faucet handle stem is plastic. The stem is the rod inside the handle that turns the water supply on and off as you spin the handle. Every single diagram I have ever seen shows metal stems. The screw off. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

Except mine. Mine’s plastic. And they don’t screw off.Ā  Nope, the system is all integrated. The chrome sleeve escutcheon, the valve body inside the wall. All integrated. So we can’t just screw off the old and screw on the new. We have to GUT THE BATHROOM WALL and replace ALL the copper pipes to install a new valve, stem and faucet fixtures.

tub faucet plastic stem1

You can see the plastic stem end that broke off.

tub faucet plastic stem2

The chrome sleeve will NOT budge. I think it’s welded to the valve (inside the wall). There’s no threaded flange to screw on and off. We managed to remove the plastic cartridge from the sleeve. I’ve never seen anything like it in a tub handle, but then again, I’m no plumber. I can understand the cartridge inside as plastic.. but plastic for the STEM?! The rod that sticks out upon which the entire handle spins? It’s born to fail.

tub faucet plastic stem4

tub faucet plastic stem3

I don’t think this type of tub handle set is even made anymore. We would kinda like to modernize the whole thing, but we’d have to replace the whole thing, a monumental task. This is the valve from the “access panel” behind the shower. Note that the panel covers the right side of the plumbing. There’s a wall stud there. We can’t replace the valve, anyway, unless I hack through the wall with a reciprocating saw.

tub faucet plastic stem5

Do you hear that banshee-screaming-like sound? That’s not the wind. That’s my whining, all the way from New York State.

Hey, if any of you old-timers have any advice to offer me, please do. šŸ™‚

Update: I’ve done more research online, and it looks like the plastic cartridge is replaceable (the brand is Universal Rundle). I even found an online store that sells them!!!!! That’s encouraging. The Hubs is going to decide whether he wants to simply replace the cartridges and leave the cob job cobbed, or replace the entire valve system to something more modern. We’d have to rip out part of the wall for that…. it’s not a large portion of the wall, but I foresee some issues. I only pray that all the twisting and shaking we did yesterday to get the handles apart has not broken the seals around the copper pipes! Pray that we don’t get a leak!

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A Little Discouraged About the Gardens

May 21, 2011

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For the first time in years, I’m seriously thinking about skipping all gardening this year, even the vegetable garden. It’s been my custom to add a little bit to the yard every year. When we bought the property, it was horribly overgrown. Neighbors used it as a semi-park and dumping ground. It took a heck of a lot of work to build this yard, to convince people that NO you cannot use my new lawn as your doggie doo despository, NO you cannot use my lawn as your next NASCAR racetrack, NO you cannot give your kids saws to chop down my new baby trees just for the fun of it. It’s been a ferociously uphill battle, but I had some major victories. My Secret Garden is my pride and joy.

Blooming Garden

Two years ago. Mmmmmmm. :)

But a number of things have really discouraged me. The flooding, for one. Every few years, my property is flooded with several inches of flood waters. It wipes out EVERYTHING. I’m tired of it. I’m so tired of battling the town, begging them to solve their stormwater drainage problems and slow down the McMansion uber-development up the hill. I’m tired of cleaning the silt and the mud from the house and yard. I’m tired of all the weeds that take opportunity on the wings of the flood waters to sink their gritty roots into my lush flower beds.

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My gardens are under there... somewhere. See how close the water is to the house.

 

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The vegetable garden today. *sigh*

It’s been raining just about every day in Upstate New York, since January. When I step onto the lawn, my feet sink a little into the squishy mud. We can’t mow sections of the lawn because it’s filled with sticky mud. What do I do? Shovel out the lawn???

Then there’s the deer. We are inundated with deer. I live in town, for pete’s sake! But there are woods (albeit small lots) in the back. Dozens of deer come to my property for their munch fests. I think word has got out there’s a feast of free vegetation to be had here. They eat like there’s no tomorrow. They even eat the plants that deer aren’t SUPPOSED to eat. Oh sure, I could spend $6,000 and put up an 8-foot fence around the perimeter of the property…. all 2,500 feet of it…. but we put up a small fence in the front, and THAT was agonizing enough. No can do.

Then there’s the fact that I work a few jobs now. Working, coupled with doing all the mom and housewifey stuff like cooking and cleaning, coupled with all the renovations this old house desperately needs has me depressed and frustrated most of the time, when I stop to think about it (something I try to avoid!).

I can’t keep up with it all. I’m too old. I’m not even sure if I can keep up the house anymore. While we have *most* of the downstairs gutted and renovated (except the windows and bathroom and some trim work), the upstairs awaits me. And the house beams are sagging and need to be supported (a major undertaking). And the basement foundation needs to be remortared outside (requiring excavation). And the roof needs replacing. And of course, we need new siding and we have got to get gutters to direct all this water away from the house. I really wonder if it’s all worth it. Why fix up a house and yard when it floods so bad that it wrecks everything you’ve done? I just want to patch up the holes, sell the place and get something situated on a hill. It’s SO discouraging.

mudyard

We can't mow yet because there's a ton of mud sitting on the lawn still.

I guess this is normal for people experiencing flooding and other problems. I don’t see any way out and it’s terribly depressing to think about it. I think I’ll just get my zucchini at the store this year….

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My Little Cupcake

May 3, 2011

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She’s such a sweet baby. šŸ™‚

Livvy Cupcake

I didn’t want to have those flood photos up as the first post, anymore. :-p I’m sick of the mud and rain and cold. I have this terrible longing to hop in the car and drive far, far away… to some warm, sunny beach where I will sit on the sands and watch the ocean waves crash on the rocks. ***sighhh***

We’ve got good news: our insurance will cover the basement cleanup and damages. We have water back-up coverage, THANK GOD. Unfortunately, some of our neighbors do not, nor do they have flood insurance. šŸ™ Please keep them in your prayers. It’s bad enough slogging through mud and more water… it’s horrible to have to pay out of pocket for the damages.

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We Interrupt Our Normal Broadcast…

April 29, 2011

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I’m going to skip Find the Kitty Friday this week. We kinda have other things on our plates. We had flooding yesterday, and my house was hit.

oily

Good news is that all the water is out of the basement, and the oil spill is completely contained. Today, we have to scrub down the walls and floor, and haul all the damaged stuff away to the landfill.

All the water is out, and the next job is cleaning.

aftermath

watertank

The oil spill ruined everything in the basement, except the furnace! We were smart when we installed it after the last big flood in 2007– this time, we installed it on a metal stand, a good 2 feet up from the floor. The flood waters came within ONE INCH of the furnace! But it’s OK. Oh thank God!

But everything else is gone: my woodwork, my power saws, my maple flooring that was stored down there, various car parts and toys and patio furniture…. I’m not too sad, it’s just stuff and we can replace it. I’m sad about my power saws, though. I am hoping my insurance covers them.

So we have no hot water until we get a new tank. Looks like the insurance may not roll in a check until next week. I’ve convinced my husband that we can install it ourselves. šŸ™‚ The need for hot water is a great motivator. šŸ˜€

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I Told You We’ve Had Too Much Rain

April 28, 2011

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1flood2011

The husband woke me up at around 7:30 this morning, telling me he needed my help. The basement had flooded.

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll remember that my area has severe flooding problems. It’s actually a sharp bone of contention in my town, as many of us think that super-over-development of surrounding rural areas has created a stormwater crisis. We suffered severe floods since 2000, with 2006 and 2007 being the worst. After the kids and I dug a dry well and we installed a second pump, the basement has rarely flooded in excess of a few inches for several years. We kinda hoped our flooding days were over. During last year’s renovation, I had to store a lot of stuff in the basement (we were using our garage as a living space): power tools, wood, everything from the garage, really. So while we always checked the basement when it rained, it has been dry thus far. And I haven’t had a chance to clean the basement and put the garage back together yet (I was going to do that as soon as the weather got warmer, which, incidentally, happened yesterday).

But we have had a heck of a lot of rain this month. Last I heard, the weather guy said that out of 28 days in April, we’ve had measurable rain for 26 of them. Earlier this week, we’ve had 6 inches of rain total for April. But last night’s torrential rains upped that a bit, I’d say.

2flood2011

To those who knew what was happening this morning: Thank you SO SO much for praying. I know it has helped. We had a complication this time, and I was very afraid of what would happen.

Unfortunately, we had stored in our basement–a lot of stuff: old engine oil waiting to go to the hazardous waste facility; paint; tools; etc. All that was washed up in the water that came surging in through our sump well. It coated everything and made water removal impossible.

3flood2011

The fire department came to help, but when they saw the oil, they had to call the DEC. It was pretty scary for a while, as I envisioned tens of thousands of dollars in bills from a HAZMAT team… but after it FINALLY stopped raining, we surveyed the damage. The DEC guy said that the oil spill was not large and therefore would not require a HAZMAT team (nor expensive bills). He said we could hire a professional cleanup crew to clean this up, or I could do it myself to save money. Guess which I chose…. he gave me a run down of what to get and how to clean it up, and how to dispose of the waste…. lots to do this week!

Anyway, we still have water in the basement. We have to control it carefully as we pump it out, because we cannot allow any oil to flow into the municipal water system (and the nearby creek). As the water goes down, we are mopping up the oil with large absorbent pads. Once the water is all gone, I begin the long process of shoveling out the sediment, removing the debris, junking the debris, and washing the walls and floor. My insurance will pay for a new water heater and for my ruined tools and power saws, thank God.

The yard is a disaster, filled with several layers of thick sediment from the flood waters. My house sits at a low spot in the general area, and seems to collect all the neighboring flood waters, so we bear the brunt of the flooding. I’ve got a lot of cleanup on my hands. I’ll have to take a few days off from work to care for this.

If you ask what we need pray for, it’s NO MORE RAIN. Please, no more rain. I know so many people have it worse off than us, so pray for them, too. God is a big God, and He cares even about my small problems. šŸ™‚

Thanks for your support, friends. It makes things like this more bearable. God bless you. šŸ™‚

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Ice Dam Damage

February 13, 2011

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I was pretty happy and contented with winter until the temperatures tumbled into the double-digit SUB ZERO numbers, causing ice and ice dams. I found myself browsing the selection of gorgeous patio furniture at CNS Stores yesterday. *Sigh* They have over 200 stores– stores loaded with furniture and home decor and linens. I’m torn between getting a porch swing or a rocker, because I am going to be OUTSIDE all summer long this year!!

Back to reality. Lots of Northeasterners groaning about the ice dams these days, and no wonder. 4snow2011We got ICE. All the snow on our roofs promptly froze. Then, the temps bounced back up, and the ice melted. Then it refroze. Not to mention that my attic leaks tons of heat because it is a) improperly insulated (another thing I need to fix), and b) there’s no insulation in the second floor walls (we have to renovate that section of the house yet).

Here’s a photo of an ice dam, for those who don’t know. Ice works its way up and under the shingles, where it meets with the warm air from the house. Leaks commence, and can be extremely destructive.

Photo courtesy of lyonscontracting.com

This house has evidence of some very serious ice dams from the past (scars of ugly, patched plaster are on some of the upstairs bedroom ceilings), but we’ve never had bad ice dams until this year. Maybe it’s because the house was never really WARM due to the disgusting forced air furnace system that was here. This year, with the new heating system, it’s downright toasty in the house. But I guess I’m paying a price…

We discovered some damage in our garage. Bad ice dams. This is the ceiling, from the inside:

IceDamdamage2

IceDamdamages

Yes, that IS old tin ceiling. I think it’s about 120 years old, maybe. And above the tin ceiling is even older wallpaper– that probably dates back to the 1870s, I assume. The previous owners before us covered all these ceiling layers over with a 70’s drop ceiling. The drop ceiling has been collapsing, so that explains why we can see the old tin ceiling and old wallpaper and original plaster ceiling.

I’ll betcha there’s a human-sized icicle in the attic above the garage. šŸ™ I’m too afraid to look.

There’s not a whole lot we can do. Our roof is too steeply pitched to climb up on it and loosen the ice. I considered throwing rock salt up on the roof…. we tried to get roof rakes, but all the home centers are sold out. Yeah no kidding.

So we want spring to come now. REAL bad. lol. I am SICK of ice!!!!

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