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I Told You We’ve Had Too Much Rain

April 28, 2011

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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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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

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When Stuff Breaks

April 22, 2011

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Ugh, what do you do when the house falls apart faster than you can patch it up???

Yeah, it’s spring. Now that the snow has ebbed away, the busted up dregs of winter’s wrath has appeared. And blast it, I just can’t keep up.

First, there’s the front porch. Years ago now, I had to patch up the decking to put on a new roof. The decking was never properly supported (ever) and I didn’t have the know-how nor tools to dig below the frost line and support it. Now, the porch floor is tilting. A LOT. Ugh. I’m going to have to shore up the roof, remove the decking, and rebuild. NOT FUN.

To Secret Garden 1

Thank God the hydrangeas mask the slope and decrepit porch skirt trim!

 

Our garage door broke last year. The old cable and spring just gave way. We were in the house (thank GOD no one was in the garage) when we heard a huge slam. One of the cables that holds the door up on the track had split in half, like a weary rubber band. We tried to fix it then, but to no avail. This kind of work is a little beyond my capabilities, and the husband is concerned that the door may spring out or the other cable break while we’re trying to fix it. It’s just too dangerous.

Sad thing is, we don’t even use the room as a garage. Right now, it’s just a place where we keep our tools and junk (we have no storage space in the house, as the basement floods and there is no real attic). When we want to get the lawn mower or rakes out, we need a team of people to hoist the garage door and place a wooden post in the track to keep it up. :-p I have plans to eventually renovate the room into a media room or family room, but that’s not for a while yet. Nuts. I’m stuck.

So how’s your spring turning out as you survey your property? Is the to do list adding up? Still, even though there’s a lot to do with a home every spring, it’s SO worth it, owning your own home than renting. 🙂

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Oh No. More Snow.

February 25, 2011

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We expected it. It’s still *only* February in Upstate New York. :S We really can’t breathe a sigh of relief until about mid-April, really. And I honestly don’t mind the snow, except that… well, this late in the season, it’s not that nice, fluffy Lake Effect snow from Lake Ontario. It’s monster snow, loaded with moisture chugging up the Eastern seaboard from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s obese snow, it’s snow that weighs about 100 pounds per shovelful! (Well, it feels that way!).

I’m watching it, before my eyes, turn from a grainy, misty kind of snow to flakes that are increasing in size. Last night, the weather dudes said maybe 5 inches. Today, it’s been upped to 10 of 12 inches.

Whoa!

Here’s a quick 1-minute video I took of the snowfall this morning. If the weather dudes are correct, multiply this by 10 and that’s what we’ll have by the end of the day. Yeehaw.

Winter is nice, I think. The fresh snow covers all the mud and debris left over from fall. I’m pretty happy right now about it, because all the ice dams are gone from the roof. 😀 Last week, it was over 50 degrees, which melted everything off the roofs! I was elated. Then, the next day, it was near 0! Such is New York.

Have a great weekend. 🙂

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Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You

February 21, 2011

20 Comments

My husband is a part-time mail carrier. It’s not an easy job, especially in Upstate New York in the winter. Since the United States Post Office is in the news a lot right now (with all their financial problems and the threat of cutting Saturday delivery to make ends meet), I thought it would be cool to mention a few things about the post office– things you may not know because the media fails to report it.

Just for the record, I am against the USPS ending Saturday delivery. I think it would be fatal to the USPS, a really stupid move. What they SHOULD do is end the mandatory (super-expensive) pensions and perks that they dole out to retirees and veteran workers. [Note: I know this is a touchy subject, especially in light of the hooplah going on in Wisconsin. I feel the same way about things in NY– it’s too expensive to maintain a top-heavy government, and painful choices are being made.] There’s also quite a bit of waste in the USPS that can be slashed, but it takes acts of Congress to make these changes. The USPS is under government control, but they don’t receive a PENNY in tax money. Another example of waste is that some postal areas blend delivery areas– this doubles the expense of delivering mail because TWO or more offices serve ONE area.

Anyway, I saw a list at rd.com/13-things/13-things-your-mail-carrier-wont-tell-you/ 13 Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You at the Reader’s Digest website, and thought it was very worthy of passing on. These are all things my husband has brought up in one way or another. I include the best here. My own comments are in regular type.

  • Maybe your dog won’t bite you. But in 2009, 2,863 of us were bitten, an average of nine bites per delivery day. That’s why I wince when your Doberman comes flying out the door. My husband has told me quite a few stories of some VERY close calls he’s had with dogs that “wouldn’t hurt a flea.” Uh huh. Folks, do you want your mail? Keep the dog inside. My kids need their dad home, not in a hospital.
  • Remember this on Valentine’s Day: It takes our machines longer to read addresses on red envelopes (especially if they’re written in colored ink).
  • Photo from Wikipedia

  • Media Mail is a bargain, but most of you don’t know to ask for it. Sending ten pounds of books from New York City to San Francisco through Media Mail costs $5.89, compared with $16.77 for Parcel Post. Besides books, use it to send manuscripts, DVDs, and CDs; just don’t include anything else in the package.
  • The USPS doesn’t get a penny of your tax dollars.
  • UPS and FedEx charge you $10 or more for messing up an address. Us? Not a cent. My husband will even make up the difference if an envelope is not properly stamped.
  • Paychecks, personal cards, letters—anything that looks like good news—I put those on top. Utility and credit card bills? They go under everything else. Junk mail, flyers, and mail for stuff like is cased at the bottom.
  • Mail carriers also have to endure- day after day– the smut and glut of porno and “ladies” magazines. Some magazines, like Playboy, are required to conceal their magazine covers with plastic or paper, but the “ladies” mags like “Shape” or “Cosmopolitan” do not, and those covers are sickening. I feel so sorry for mail carriers who have to endure that junk. You know, if the USPS forced such magazines to pay a little extra to cover their stuff, I’ll betcha that would solve the USPS financial problems in a one week, not to mention a whole lot of consciences and marriages.
  • Sorry if I seem like I’m in a hurry, but I’m under the gun: Our supervisors tell us when to leave, how many pieces of mail to deliver, and when we should aim to be back. Then some of us scan bar codes in mailboxes along our route so they can monitor our progress.
  • Yes, we do have to buy our own stamps, but a lot of us carry them for customers who need them. Very true! My husband always has a stash of stamps and he adds them gratis. He’s such a swell guy. Sad thing is, no one ever seems to realize how generous he really is. He also gets out of the car and moves your trash cans that have blown out in front of your mailbox, even though he does not HAVE to legally deliver your mail if there’s an impediment to your box.
  • Please dress properly when you come to the door. A towel wrapped around you doesn’t cut it. And we definitely don’t want to see you in your underwear—or naked! My husband has had a few very uncomfortable encounters with ladies who treat the mailman as if he was some kind of nobody, not worthy of respect. It’s not fun to have to deliver mail to jiggly ladies who wear less cotton than an aspirin bottle. :-p
  • We serve 150 million addresses six days a week, so we’re often in the right place at the right time. We pull people out of burning cars, catch burglars in the act, and call 911 to report traffic accidents, dead bodies, and more. My husband actually came to the rescue of an older, heavyset gentlemen living in a rural area who had fallen and couldn’t get up. His wife was trying to help him, but she was too weak to lift him. Together, my husband and the lady couldn’t even lift him, so my husband waited with the couple at their home until a rescue team arrived, because the wife was so stressed. It took the rescue team half an hour to get there, and that was time out of my husband’s day (and he was late for his second job, too).
  • Most of us don’t mind if you pull up to our trucks while we’re delivering and ask for your mail a little early. But please get out of your car and come get it. Don’t just put your hand out your window and wait for me to bring it to you.
  • We go to great lengths to deliver to every address, no matter how remote. That’s why, in the most rural areas, even UPS and FedEx rely on us to make their final deliveries. True. And some places are VERY remote. I have had to rescue my husband out of some places, too. One rural place, he ran out of gas. And another time, during a snowstorm, the van slipped into a ditch and fell in sideways. I had to try to tow him out (couldn’t) so we called a tow truck. All the while, the mail delivery was delayed. What was really sad was that, while we were out in the storm waiting for a tow truck, a customer on the route with a honking big SUV roared by us, didn’t even stop to help. 🙁 But he got his mail with a smile, anyway.
  • Those plants around your mailbox are beautiful, but I’d like them better if you kept them trimmed back. Please don’t plant flowers because bees and ants like them.
  • Is it hot enough for me? The heat index is 110 degrees. What do you think? (Instead of asking that, offer me a cold drink.)
  • Despite the “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” motto, we’re instructed not to deliver to a mailbox if the snow and ice around it isn’t cleared. Most of us take the motto to heart, though, and do our best to deliver in even the most hazardous conditions. My husband does everything humanly possible to deliver the mail, even for rude people who do not shovel their boxes out. And you know what? If the mail can’t get delivered that day, it has to be delivered the NEXT day– that’s TWO days mail that has to be delivered in ONE day in the same amount of time. And my husband has actually had to call in unavailable for his second job because the mail delivery was so heavy that day– so, he LOST money because he lost HOURS on his other job, because some folks didn’t shovel their mailboxes out and that made a chain reaction with the mail load. So give the mailman a break.
  • I have people who leave a letter in their box and tape 44 cents in change to it. I’ll take it, but the next day I’ll be waiting in line like everyone else to buy you a stamp.
  • It’s a small thing that makes my job so much easier: Please park your car in the driveway instead of in front of the mailbox. I live on a busy street, and while I never park in front of my mailbox, lots of people do. That means, I don’t get my mail because their car is in the way. 🙁

I hope this gives a little perspective on the USPS and the millions of men and women who work there. These people work very hard and deal with a multitude of mail products, people, weather and animals. I think they deserve our support! Thanks for reading. 🙂

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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:

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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. 🙁 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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The Blizzard That Never Was

February 3, 2011

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I’ll always remember Christmas Day 2002 and February 2, 2011. Both were weather freaks.

On December 25, 2002, local weather forecasters thought they saw a monster storm coming, but for some odd reason, predicted only a few inches. Well, maybe he should have said a few inches per hour, because when the snow started, it wasn’t going to stop. When all was said and done, we had 28 inches of new snow that day. For most people, it was not a great inconvenience, since most businesses and schools were closed for the holiday. My husband, however, had to work that day (restaurant), and it took him forever to get home. (The weather wise guys later said they “knew about the massive storm all along” but hesitated for this or that reason.)

Then there’s the February 2, 2011 “storm.” It clobbered the midwest/western side of the Rust Belt pretty well (have you guys finally dug out yet, huh?), and our weathermen here in Upstate New York were quaking in anticipation about this one. They originally predicted 8″ then 12″ and then 18″! Since we already have a good snow mass packed around us, 12″ is a pretty good amount. Some businesses and nearly all the schools in a 250-mile radius issued closings and cancellations. Folks raced to the store to get bread and milk, prompted by excited news outlets.

But the whole thing fizzled out somewhere along the Pennsylvania border, no? We got a whopping THREE inches. It ended almost as quickly as it came. By 10am, the snow had dissipated. I saw glimpses of sun peeking through the clouds later that morning.

Oh well.

Later that evening, we got about 2 inches more– lake effect stuff from good old reliable snow donor, Lake Ontario. It’s fluffy and light, not at all like the slushy stuff that crawled through the Ohio Valley.

So anyway, here we are. The skies are bright blue and I decided to take camera in hand and venture out into the deep for a photo shoot. It’s cold out today, temps in the mid-teens.

Perhaps the first thing you notice are the enormous icicles looming atop the eaves. Grrr, these nasty things are responsible for some of the ice dams.

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Snowbank in the driveway is about 18″ high.

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The grill is buried. I’m not feeling like having a barbecue yet, anyway.

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The sky is blue, like a sparkly sapphire.

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Snow-covered bunny tracks. Since my good old feral cat died a few weeks ago 🙁 the rabbits have been bolder. Their tracks are everywhere. Maybe it’s all this bunny traffic causing the dogs to bark their heads off all night long.

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The mailbox with monster snowbank.

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Blue shade from the trees. Pretty.

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So thus ends *another* storm of the season. And gee, just think– we only have two more months of winter yet! 😀

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The Mangled Mailbox

February 2, 2011

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“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” is the old postal proverb. Those mailmen must be in tip-top shape delivering mail, but my poor old mailbox has seen better days. You see, the snowplow has been through.

My mailbox actually fared pretty well than some others this year. Some poor folks have their mailboxes ripped right off of the posts by the sheer force of the snowplows roaring by.

Did you know that in most municipalities, the snowplow operator is not responsible for damage to your mailbox, even if he used it as target practice during a dull night of plowing? It’s true; the property owner swallows the cost of replacement.

Photo courtesy of chagrinvalleytimes.com

My own mailbox has been slowly waning for a few years, anyway. When we installed the mailbox a few years ago, carefully set the post into the ground, making sure the post was level and plumb. But the post has become as crooked as Harry Lauder’s walking stick. Not sure how this happened. Either the wood warped pitifully (it looks like it’s turning around to see who’s coming), or perhaps the ground has shifted so badly that the pole is a-kilter. We get a lot of water running underground here, I wouldn’t surprised if the fish took off with my mailbox one of these days…

Anyway, it’s always a sorry sight when winter is over– the seas of snow recede only to expose the ugly gray clumps of old sand and road salt littered all over the yards… and poking up through the crusty brown snowbanks are the mangled spindly legs of all the neighborhood mailboxes– well, those that survived the vicious clutches of the snowplow, that is. Some say that we never do find out what happens to some of them…. Old mailboxes never die, they just…. fade away….

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Let It Snow, Let It Snow, PLEASE OH PLEASE Let It Snow

December 1, 2010

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We’ve got rain.

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Rain rain rain.

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I hate rain. Rain is my enemy. My property lies in a low spot, surrounded by asphalt parking lots. The water table is very high here… so when it rains, all that precipitation usually goes into my basement. I have suffered through some serious flooding here. The years 2004 through 2008 were terrible, where EVERY SINGLE TIME it rained, we got water measurable in feet in my basement. I just can’t handle the flooding. Things have improved since we rigged up a super-duper double sump-pump system with large pipes of PVC dumping water into the town basin.. and the kids and I built a French drain outside, which helped immensely. So PRAISE GOD we haven’t had such severe flooding in a while. But if the pumps are unplugged, the basement fills fast. And if we get torrential rains, like we’re getting now (2+ inches an hour, all day)…. I get nervous.

Everything is sopping wet. Everything rots. I am tired of all this rain! It’s December, for crying out loud! I want snow!

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I do like snow. I enjoy the muffled stillness, the white nights, the cozy evenings cuddled in blankets, sipping hot tea and talking with the kids. Now that we have a better heating system, I expect the heating bills to lower, which will increase my ecstasy all the more.

Arbor at Daybreak

But it’s raining. 🙁 *sigh*

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Plugging Holes For Winter

October 19, 2010

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I’m busy trying to get all my Internet writing work done these days, and at the same time, scrambling around trying to winterize before the snow falls (which, they say, will occur Friday morning). Eeep! I’m not ready for winter. I mean, I’m READY— there’s nothing I’d like more than to cozy up in front of a toasty fire, cuddled up with cat and blanket. But we have a LOT of loose ends to wrap up before anything cozy goes on in this house. For one, there’s this:

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Yes, that’s a hole in my basement window. The window fell out.

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That’s the original 1855 basement window. The old cut nails are still in it. It had been patched at some point in the past 100 years or so, but I’m amazed it’s lasted this long. We have a few other ones that are seeing their demise, now.

Rather than figure out how on earth to replace the window (and figure out how we’d afford the custom craft), we decided to close off the window. This area of the house is extremely soggy, and water tends to pool beside it. Instead of exacerbating a water problem by keeping a hole here, closing off the window will seal out the moisture. Next year, we’ll remove all the top soil and lay a slab of concrete, to further direct water from the roof from collecting here.

I’ve got some kids who help me haul the concrete, and mix it. Yay!

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I lay a thin layer of sand mix to give the cinder blocks something to grab as they sit in there. After the first row of blocks, I fill them with concrete. Then I slather another layer of sand mix, and add another row of blocks. I will eventually smooth out the entire side, to make the wall look seamless.

This is just the first row of blocks. I have since added two, and need to wedge in a narrow third before the window is entirely sealed off. Problem is, I’ve been SO swamped with work that I haven’t been able to get back out to the project.

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I’d better hurry. We have a mass of water and drain pipes right in front of this hole. God forbid they should freeze.

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ItssoHOT

July 5, 2010

3 Comments

LivvyHot

Gonna have a regular, old fashioned heat wave this week! Temps in the mid 90s are expected. Nice thing about old houses– if you keep the doors and windows closed, the temperature stays relatively cool.

Unfortunately, the attic is 1,000 degrees… and because the walls are still open, the smell of the attic insulation is throughout the house. Makes me gag, ugh. All the more motivation to close up these walls very soon!

I’m scrambling to finish the electrical wiring today (heat or no heat). Hopefully, we’ll have an inspector here later this week, and I can finally install the insulation. After that, it’s SHEETROCK time! Woooo!

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