"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, October 10, 2008

This... is my life.

My house is 70 years old and was cheaply built and not especially well-maintained, so it's not too surprising that it's the only one in the neighborhood that doesn't have a cap on its chimney. This means that during heavy rain, there's a puddle of sooty water that collects in the clean-out in my basement. It evaporates eventually, so I've just accepted it as a self-cleaning feature. Unfortunately, it lead to the corrosion of the opening of the clean-out and I now get a trickle of sooty water in my basement on occasion. This, and the occasional dead bird that I find when preparing the furnace for winter explains why a chimney cap is a good idea and why your house probably has one.

I had a squirrel fall down my chimney this week. It knocked out the door of the clean-out and ran amok in my basement, searching for a way out, leaving greasy sooty footprints wherever he went, including on the laundry I had taken out of the dryer, but hadn't yet put away (if you see me in an animal print t-shirt, it's not a style statement, just not having found an appropriate cleanser). I opened a window whose wooden frame he had been gnawing at in a frantic attempt to escape - this actually requires several steps to open, including a trip outside - and tried scaring him in that general direction. He left, but not without grabbing a sock out of my laundry pile, apparently scared out of its tiny little brain, but prudent enough to find the very nesting material most likely to aggravate; I had just paid a fortune for those racing socks and there was perfectly fine dryer lint in a wastebasket inches away.

Time to buy a chimney cap! I'd made that decision before, but couldn't recall what had gone wrong, yet was certain I'd soon rediscover the problem and that this time determination would overcome difficulty. The problem: no one carries chimney caps for round openings, as these have not been standard since, well, actually they probably have never been standard. I found that I could order one (meaning I'd get it after it snowed and I'd put off installation until spring, when I'd forget until a squirrel came calling and then wouldn't be able to find it...) or could try adapting a standard one with a little know-how I don't have. I figured I would learn. No stopping!

My extension ladder goes 30 feet, which means that if I plant it among my rosebushes at a precarious angle, it just makes it to a point I can climb, clinging for dear life, to a point I can reach, just barely - by a fingertip - the top of my chimney. I can't get there and carry the chimney cap. Even if I could, I couldn't place it in position. Even if I could do that, I couldn't secure it. Even if I could do that, it's not likely I could do it with one hand not working.

New ladder or time to call an expert. The budget says neither. The budget says: time to use that 13 years of college to find another solution. It also says: you spent 13 years in college and you don't earn enough to just get a new chimney? What gives, cheapskate?

Let's review. The problem wasn't the chimney; I'd lived with that, as improbably slovenly as that may be. The problem was the squirrel. All I needed to do was trim the trees away from the house... again. The right hand's not strong enough to support a chainsaw yet, so it means hand sawing left-handed while tying myself to a support, as the right hand can't support me.

Seven wood saws. All dull. I have the tools to sharpen a saw, but not good tools, so it means doing each edge separately. New saw? Bring one to someone who sharpens saws? Spend eternity sharpening? I choose sawing with a dull saw. It's fastest and cheapest, just hard work. No delays!
I actually find the missing sock just outside the window.

The branch I need to cut forks above and below a power line. The lower one is okay, but the other one gives me pause. The plan: cut on one side, then reposition and cut on the other. I climb the ladder one-handed, saw in my teeth.

And the squirrel runs up my back.


Jean said...

You know, back in the house where I grew up, we had a similar problem with squirrels occasionally falling into the chimney and running around the basement. It freaked out Mom, but the cat seemed to think it was pretty cool! :)

wildknits said...

So - did the branches get cut?

new injuries from falling when the squirrel ran up your back?

Want to know the end of the story!

Helen said...

that is the funniest post I've read on anyone's blog in quite some time!!! i have no idea if any of it is true but i don't really care. except of course i do care if you are actually going to use a chainsaw with a dodgy hand??!! not a good idea. time to use a few more of those brain cells cultivated over your 13 years in college to come up with another solution to the chimney situation.

bryan said...

If this is an oblique way of hinting that you wrote this post left-handed while stranded on your roof or up a tree with the ladder knocked over, a bum hand, and only a chain-saw and a frenzied squirrel for company, please let us know outright so we can mount a rescue effort.

I have to second Helen, this gave me a really good laugh.

SteveQ said...

Saturday morning: I have another squirrel in my basement - so, no, the branches didn't get cut. And the cap didn't get put on. Essentially, I worked all day and got nothing out of it - this is my life. It's been pointed out to me that I only spent 9 1/2 years in college, there was a break when I travelled with... that's another story.

Live traps and glue traps aren't working. Time to get liquored up and start shooting. Then, tomorrow, drive to Glacial.


Thanks for the laugh!
Have fun shootin'

Kel said...

When I saw the headline on WCCO "Squirrel catches on fire, neighborhood loses power" I thought of you.


Matthew Patten said...

Want to borrow my chainsaw?

On second thought, giving you a chainsaw might be a real stupid thing.

Why don't you just get some wire mesh and screw or anchor it to the sleeve or masonry?

Even liquid nails might work.