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Part Three: Hornets, Drains, and Ceiling Fans

Yesterday (Friday July 15th) Sue met the energy audit people at the new house. They charged a fee to look around and make energy-saving suggestions, most of which we were already planning to do. The benefit of this is that after we do the things they suggest, the auditor will come back, say 'yes you did 'em, good for you!' and then we get some money for having done it. Also, they reimburse the fee. Then she went to pick up a friend from Cleveland TN who has done construction and electrical work, who is staying for the weekend and helping us out.

This morning we got up, loaded some extra things in the van and the car, had a quick breakfast, and headed to the house. Today's projects have included:

Shoring up the floor under the toilet and the laundry room area.
Patching a hole in the ceiling over the basement stairs.
Putting up ceiling fan boxes in the attic, to hold up our ceiling fans.
Replacing doorknobs all over the house.
Filling in holes in the drywall.
Cleaning out the basement and putting up plastic shelving.
Trying to track the drain in the basement, which sort of failed, and digging up a tree that is growing almost into the foundation, which we also didn't complete.
Cleaning some windows.
Taking out all the outlet and light switch covers in preparation for painting and replacing the outlet covers with new covers.

I am currently taking a break to feed the pets and pick up our dinner pizza, but I believe we're planning to install the new sink and/or the new toilet tonight, and possibly put up some ceiling fans as well.

I have three stories to relate regarding the day, and I'll work in backwards chronological order because the first event of the three makes the best story.

Chris went up in the attic to put up the new ceiling fan boxes we have, and it turns out that two supports capable of holding ceiling fans were already in place, and a third was there but simply installed incorrectly, so we'll be able to return all the new boxes we bought. Hooray! (We also have a few other things to return, including one can of polyurethane that we didn't use.) So, that's the Ceiling Fan story.

The drain story is somewhat more convoluted. There is a small hole in the basement floor in the area that Sue has designated as hers (more on that in other posts). Since the first big rain a few weeks ago it has been consistently wet or even filled with standing water there. The area is clearly intended as a drain for the basement, because a narrow PVC pipe leading from the air conditioner empties there. We have been trying to figure out if the drain is simply clogged, and thus draining slowly, or if it drains into bare earth, and isn't draining because the ground is saturated. I have a spool of 14 gauge steel wire that I use for chainmail work, and I brought that with me this morning, intending to try to shove it down the drain and see if I could get it to go anywhere. I failed, but Chris tried again and said it goes down about 6 inches and then out at a 90 degree angle towards the back wall of the house. We went out and looked, and growing right at about that spot was a moderately sized mulberry bush. I said 'Okay, I'll dig the sucker up and see if we can't find the drain exit. We want to get rid of that bush anyway because it's going to be burrowing into the foundation.'

I spent about an hour and a half working at that bush in the morning without finding any kind of drain spout. I got down to the taproot, which is about as thick as my wrist, and decided to take a break. We measured from a vent in the basement wall down to the floor and estimated how far down from the vent the drainpipe would exit...then I measured the same distance outside and realized that the drain, if it doesn't do another turn, would have to come out the wall actually above the level of the dirt outside, and that the bush was irrelevant. So much for 90 minutes of digging. We ended not knowing quite what to think of the drain situation, and decided that we would have to call in a professional at some point.

But the morning issue was hornets. I will tell this tale from the hornets' point of view, because I think it's probably funnier that way.

So four or five hornet buddies have found themselves a fantastic breakfast - congealed sugary soda on the side of somebody's recycling can. At about 8:30 somebody comes out to have a smoke. (Sue's friend.) She's not bothering anybody, though, so the hornets just keep eating. Then someone else comes out and flips open the lid of the recycling can and starts messing around in it. After a minute of this, the hornet named Joe turns to the others and says, "Somebody go sting her and get her out of here. She's messing up breakfast!" They start to argue about whose turn it is to do the stinging, and finally one of them says, "Y'know what, let's play leg, stinger, antenna for it." That would be the hornet version of rock, paper, scissors. They play a few rounds of it, and Bob is the big loser. Bob goes and stings the annoying human in question, who screams human obscenities and runs inside. Bob returns to his perch on the recycling bin to congratulations from all his friends, who promise to buy him a round the next time they go down to the dumpster outside the bar.

All is well and good for about another 15 minutes, when the annoying human comes back, carrying a small black plastic bin and smelling of hydrocortisone cream. This time, she opens the lid and starts dumping a bunch of uninteresting plastic on top of all the lovely soda cans. Joe looks up from his dripping of NOS energy drink and says "Alright bitch, it is ON! Let's go boys!" He leads the charge; all five hornets jump into the air and attack. The human screams and runs inside again, slamming the door, and the hornets settle back down. Joe says "I got her real good on the arm." Dave says "Yeah, me too, and Roger was right there next to me, weren't you buddy?" As they congratulate each other, the human is inside spreading hydrocortisone cream on her three new stings and wondering if there is any Raid in the house...

I had no idea hornet stings hurt so much. Part of the problem is that from my point of view, I'm blithely dumping more recycling into the bin when all of a sudden my arms hurt like hell. It's a good thing the hydrocortisone cream was close by. Thankfully, I don't appear to be horribly allergic to their stings...but as this was my first tangle with hornets, perhaps I simply haven't had the chance to develop a reaction. I told Chris and Sue that if it happens again next week to watch me closely.

So, that pretty much has been our day. We didn't have nearly as many people show up to help as we were hoping. One friend of Sue's showed. My friend couldn't make it today and said she'd be there tomorrow, and one friend of Sue's was sick, but other friends of Sue's just haven't said anything. It's no big deal; it meant I only had to buy two pizzas tonight.

More tomorrow. Hopefully we'll be able to get a coat or two of paint up in some of the rooms.

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