Friday, October 10, 2014

under our hood

It's been a weird week.  I have had oodles of men traipsing through the house, and getting lost in the house (apparently it is very confusing here in terms of how you get from one place to another) in strangely porous and gauzy hazmat suits.  They keep coming upon me, no matter where I hide and try to work on my laptop.  And I think hiding in Julia's obviously child's room bed covered by her polka dot comforter for warmth may not have given me the privacy I was seeking.  And may not have made a particularly I am a normal person impression.  These white onesie wearing men in gas masks have been removing the sad and inadequate insulation from the attic.  I think it might have worked better if it had been unrolled...

And spraying foam insulation up there.  Now our former cotton candy paradise looks like the inside of a jar of Fluff.  Or as though the Pillsbury Doughboy exploded.

I tried to take a picture of the men.  But these creatures move too fast.  Here, instead, is one of their trucks.

But come winter, no matter how ugly, the insulation will make the house warmer and much less drafty.  Because apparently our house was more like a colander than a bowl.  The draft testing revealed we had four times the amount of circulation needed.  Perhaps I will put all the noisemakers in the house up there.   Because this foamy substance not only holds in heat.  It is also a sound barrier.  And you happen to know this how, you ask?

Well.  Because, for a few hours last week, I had a crowing rooster in the basement.  Of course.  A space which has also been sprayed with foam.  A rooster in the basement?  Yes.  Let me tell you why.

Using our tried and true approach to identifying chicken gender during their coming of age -- since there are no visible differentiators in the underareas of poultry (how's that for fowl euphemisms?) -- we wait for the cockadoodledoo.  We believed we had finally re-homed all the roosters that had infiltrated our flock of hens.  Jonathan had taken two to the farm a few days ago, hoping that was our final trip with roosters in the Subaru this year.  Though we had one more questionable individual.

Peep.  You remember Peep.

Peep who we all loved, so gentle and fluffy and friendly was she.  And I was really hopeful that Peep was just a rather large and well endowed girl.

Even as a chick, Baby [Peep] Got Back.

But as soon as those two learning to crow boys headed off into the world, Peep decided to step up and try out his pubescent voice.  And started crowing loudly.  Shortly before 5:00 AM one morning.

We ran outside and tried to distract her.  I mean him.  Let him out of the the coop.  Gave him some special treats.  He was quiet for a bit.  And then began crowing again.  I ran back down and gave him his favorites.  Carrot greens.  He was quiet as we blearily fed the kids breakfast.  And I mentioned that I was going to need to take Peep to the farm that day.  And Elliott started sobbing into his oatmeal.

I promised not to do it until he got home from school so he could say goodbye.

After I dropped the kids at school, I returned home to get writing.  As I rounded the corner from the driveway, I heard it.  Nonstop cockadoodling.  We were going to get in trouble with our neighbors.  I ran around trying all kind of things that were silly, embarassing to admit, and not really worth mentioning.

In the end?  Peep ended up in a nicely outfitted dog crate placed in the kiddie pool, all luxurious with food and water and clean fluffy wood shavings.  In the basement.  The newly insulated basement. (You wondered where I was going with this, didn't you?) Buying time and sound insulation until Elliott got home.  So he could say his goodbyes.

I sat one floor above Peep, using my laptop at the counter in the kitchen, working.  Though it was hard to forget the two hours I had spent getting him situated in the basement, each time he crowed -- and he did this just about every seven minutes -- I jumped three feet in the air and banged my knees against the underside of the counter.  I stepped outside.  You could not really hear him from outside.  Neighbor complaint issue addressed.  Keeping promise to Elliott addressed.  Whew.

But the arrival of the very nice man installing a new furnace?  Not really something I had considered.

Explanations were made.  I got a chuckle out of him for that one.

He was constructing this thing of beauty and my rooster didn't seem to phase him.

I feel so proud of this new pretty, efficient boiler that I might need to continue taking pictures of her because otherwise no one will  ever see her.

So -- there I was working and jumping and giggling in a perfectly melodious rhythm when the appliance repair man knocked on the door and interrupted.  Why had I invited him to the party?  Well, I had put it off for several weeks.  But there was no denying it now.  The washing machine was broken.

Every time I ran a load, come spin cycle time, a large puddle of water appeared on the floor in front of it.

We attempted to address the situation.  We went to the basement.  Well, Jonathan went to the basement (because I do not go down there except in emergencies -- and I considered a possible revocation of our chicken permit to be one such emergency) and I stood upstairs and pressed buttons on the washer, trying to get it to fill enough to drain.  And we yelled to each other through the floor.  He removed the plug in the drain that allows us to clear the pipe.  This had worked the last time the washer was not draining -- that time the culprit had been a large ball of goo from washing our clothes during mud season.

But removing the plug and draining the pipe this time?  Did not help at all.  Puddles continued.

And so, we had called the awesome appliance repair person that we love.  A guy who makes a lot of money off of us.  These are the same folks who came once and informed us that our dishwasher was not working because there was a handful of "organic material" blocking in the drain in the bottom of the machine, including what he referred to as popcorn kennels which I knew were chicken feed, a tea bag, and hay.  We are the kind of people that break things often.  By just being us.  And with our incompetence.  And weird activities.  We began rinsing better, or at least scraping our dishes better, after that visit.

This day, the repair person laid down on the floor in front of the washer and removed the front panel.  Knocked and poked around a bit.  I gave him some privacy and lurked nonchalantly around the corner.

Well.  He said.

Yes?  I answered, perhaps a bit too quickly for someone who was being nonchalant.

I found the problem.


Yup.  You have a puncture in the rubber sleeve that drains the washer.  And the water is coming out through the hole in the tubing.


It looks like an underwire.

Silence from me.

And a glance at the basement door.  Because a crow right then was only going to make this situation more awkward.  But perhaps Peep can smell testosterone.  Because just like when the other two roosters were still here, he was silent.  Not a peep.  Or a doodle.

Well, he snapped the panel back on.  Stood up.  Tucked his shirt into his pants.  You would be amazed by how often this happens.  They are a menace to washers.  But there's no way around them.  You've gotta have them, right?

Right.  Blushing purple.  Please be quiet Peep.

The repair man needed to order a part.  I was glad when he left.  I texted Jonathan, and apparently brought great amusement to his friends at work.

Problem with this theory?  I wasn't missing any underwires.  I knew this.  These things I would notice.  And once my mortification had passed, I started to puzzle this through.  What could be mistaken for an underwire that was not an underwire?  And what of these possibilities could make their way into the laundry machine?

I figured it out.  The wire I had snipped and twisted and shaped to create the man cave for the possible rooster in the chicken area.

Indeed.  I had stuck small pieces of wire in my pockets to pull out as I worked.  I knew I would need some industrial strength twist ties of sorts at the ready.  Perhaps I had left them in there.

I updated Jonathan, and apparently several of his amused friends, of my brilliant deductions.

I texted: I think it is the pieces of wire I used on the rooster man cave, and nothing to do with underwear.  #becausethatshowiroll.

Problem solved for now, I then moved to creating a posting for Jonathan to place on his email group at work.  Trying to find a home for Peep so Elliott could go visit him sometimes.  I was very clever.  Hoping to win someone over with his good looks:

Word has it that this gorgeous example of fowl masculinity,

has found his voice. This morning. At 5 am. In the city limits of Portland.

Like any teenager, he alternates between feeling a little bit embarrassed about his behavior.

And being angry at you for even looking at him.

Beside the white chicken. Red wheel barrow. Get it? Never mind.

Baby's really got back these days.

Free to a good home.

But, Cape Elizabeth is not a very hospitable place for fowls of the boy persuasion at the moment.  He received many joking response --  You should have advertised him as an organic, sustainable alarm clock was the best one liner -- but no offers of a home for Peep.

Later that day I placed Peep in the back of the Subaru.  Elliott said goodbye.  He was headed to the farm store like his predecessors.  With a further destination unknown.  We had, quite intentionally, never asked after their fates.

Yet, despite how sad this sounds, strangely, it all worked out.  The owner of the store opened the Subaru hatch and was immediately so pleased with Peep that she decided to make him her new breeding rooster.  Moreover, she has promised us some of Peep's babies next Spring.  Elliott is beyond excited about this.  And honestly, so am I.  Peep lives on.

And so, we returned to the placing a towel in front of the washer method each time I ran a load to sop up the end of cycle puddle.  And waited for the all important replacement part to arrive so it could be installed.

I wondered how long this would need to continue before the wood beneath the machine rotted and the washer ended up crashing through the floor to the basement during a particularly vigorous spin cycle.

A few days later, we received the call.  The part was in.  The friendly and understanding appliance repair man arrived.  And laid down upon the floor again.  And replaced the rubber connector.

Bang.  Knock. Slide.

Here it is.  I assumed it was an underwire.  That's what it usually is.  But this is different.  I have no idea what it is.

I thought,  Ack!!  It's gonna be worse than my underwire.  I know it.  Oh man.

Then, because I am a very reasonable person in emotional situations I thought, Wait.  What could possibly be worse than my underwire?? While I began spiraling with possibles for this, and realizing I am rather boring and don't really have many worse than underwire possibilities in my life, he slid the culprit toward me.


I pulled a thick wire sticking out from the rubber thingy, needing to twist it a little bit to ease it out when it turned 90 degrees and then 90 degrees again.

It's a landscape fabric stake.

What's that?  He asked.

I told him what they are.  I even threw an explanation of what I had recently used one for.  For the fabric I laid under the mulch on the garden paths.  I went on.  I also used them to hold down the edges of the chicken wire I placed as a skirt on the chicken coop area fencing to keep a predator out during it's nighttime attacks.

Well.  That's a new one.  He smiled in a way that suggested amusement.  And a more general this woman is crazy/back away slowly feeling.

Yup.  It's a landscape stake.  Make sure you tell your friends where you learned about that one.  You may be seeing more of them.  It's just as likely a source of wire lodged in washer tubing wire as is anything else here.  I had guessed it was going to be a piece of wire from when I built a coop a few weeks ago for the roosters.  But no.  Huh.  And, I may have nerdily giggled, or maybe snort laughed as I said this.  This was me pushing the urban homesteading cause to the appliance repair company, of course.  I am an excellent spokesperson.

He paused for a moment.  Handed me the bill.  And said, let me show you how to run a diagnostic on the washer in case you need to figure out where a leak is in the future.

I took notes.  But with this many visitors and issues and repairs and upgrades, those notes and my unsuccessful rooster advertisement, were some of the only writing I did this week.

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