Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Cat Door and Abrupt Climate Change

Cats as they say always seem to be on the wrong side of the door wanting in or out depending on which they are not at present.

 I've felt a little the same way during the always nerve jangling May/June transition back away from full time office work and onto the water. I felt as though the good weather only happened when I needed to be inshore for business and once I finally got to the island, some urgent business inevitably popped up on the mainland.

I also maintained an umblemished record of only showing up on Matinicus when it was unusually cold and damp. April was cold gray windy and sour and lasted until the second week in June.

When the weather finally snapped, we went from putting on 4 or 5 layers before even thinking about going out on the boat and needing a fire every night to panting in the heat on the water at 7 a.m.. There was no transition during which to acclimate- somewhat like getting helicoptered into base camp and wondering if there just isn't very much air this far up.

Loading and trucking five pickup loads of traps, rope and buoys to the wharf and I was dehydrated like jerky. Then the gear gets stacked on the boat. Then it's time to actually go to work.

It's been a dismal slow start to the lobster season, so being behind schedule is in hindsight not such a problem

Back to the cat. Seamus does not care for traveling. He does not enjoy being menaced by other cats out here either. Last year, it was "Crazy Eyes," so named by Megan loosely after an Orange is the New Black Character. Crazy Eyes is a siamese with divergent or overly convergent visual fields for each eye, and who was found sleeping on our bed one day, and on another occasion chased our cat through our house, hissing and slashing. My super soaker eventually connected enough times to get the hint across. This year a large orange cat and a fluffy black one are intruding on our peaceful enjoyment of the manor.

In the old days, during which I would've lasted about five minutes here, I expect a menacing cat's owner might get one conversational attempt at settlement before the animal would be stapled to the owner's shed door. Seamus and I, both being fairly timid souls, haven't figured this out beyond keeping the supersoaker- as is our sacred 2nd Amendment right- loaded with the safety off next to the door.

The next idea is a cat door where he can let himself in, and where I hope other cats do not invite themselves in. This way, he can stay here on his own when we have to be inshore and can come and go as he likes. Without thinking it through too much, I picked such a door up at the hardware store and opened the package to discover that it was designed to be embedded in a people door, not installed in a wall. The hardware, specifically screws, were not going to make it work where I wanted it to.

After a little Matinicus problem solving with surprisingly little profanity and drilling my own holes in the pet door frame and screwing each piece onto either side of the wall, it was time to introduce Seamus to his new portal of independence. I put a dish of his favorite treat on the outside and showed him. He walked right through and paid no attention to the dish.

Hearing strange noises upstairs a half hour later, I encountered Big Orange coming down the stairs and hurrying out, having already memorized the location of the cat door which was not intended for his benefit. Now what?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Opening Up, 2016- Before Rodent Friendly Pex, America Once Made Real Pipes, Nails and Battery Connectors

After a winter of desk work, I was more than ready to get back to the island for the year.

My personal abrupt climate change started with me in a suit on Wednesday afternoon when, after a transaction, I met up with Eva to pile roofing supplies into the recycling truck. On Thursday I was happily decked out in comfy well worn work clothes.

The crossing was sunny and beautiful. The malfunctions came as they usually do.

1. My first task was to get a truck going so that I could drive to the recycle barn and retrieve my groceries and other stuff before the seagulls got to them, or the freezer items melted. The black truck was four for four on flat tires, but my handy new compressor had her back to proper elevation in a few minutes. Next I needed ignition and combustion. After a couple of unsuccessful turns with the battery powered jumper go-go box, I went to politely wiggle the battery connections, one of which promptly transformed itself into four or so partial battery connections and fell through engine area and onto the ground.

So now since the battery wire is caput, I can't start the truck to go get my stuff that I need to do the work I came to do. @#%^&

Knowing how they built things in the 1940s, I pushed up the hood of the once dark green pickup truck parked in the trees out back. "It was running not that long ago," I was told when I moved here; not that long ago being possibly during Ford's term of office. By amazing good fortune, one of the battery terminals came out easily, and if melted down could make a dozen of the new ones.

The go-go box still couldn't quite bring Black Beauty out of hibernation. Samantha's full size GMC was another story. Black Beauty sensed the roar of 8 cylinders and whinnied to life instantly.

2. Megan and I reroofed the middle section of our house, and refurbished the cedar shingle siding with nice clean white solid color stain. Aside from discovering that my knees and confidence at heights are not what they were a scant few decades ago when this was my work, setting and moving staging humbled me the most. Being on the roof and needing to dismantle one set of planks, move them up and restage the next layer are plenty enough of a challenge. As a bonus, though, one of the 16 pennies I set to keep the planks together lost its head as I - again politely- encouraged it to let go. So here we are, up on the roof and ladder jungle gym with a spike firmly holding two planks together and nothing to reef on. Profanity, a pry bar and a nail punch did the trick.

It was good that we pushed the roof and siding job through on the early side of our time here because as I write, inches from the wood stove, I am counting 6 consecutive days of sour cold damp weather.

2.5. How to bury two- not one- two chainsaws.

Thursday morning came in around 37 degrees and promising little warmth and no sunshine- perfect weather for tree clearing. Bucking up blown down spruce trees and hauling off the obstinate, tanglesome brush are things to do when it's chilly because it is impossible to be cold while doing these tasks.

There were many new blow-downs awaiting us at the property we help look after. The whole island, or at least large swaths of it, has spruce trees that have either over matured or picked poor places to try and stand up because there are many large trees down every spring. When Fiona was enjoying the view from the roof ridge pole, she could see water in two directions, which was not the case when I first began cleaning the chimney and enjoying the view 10 years ago.

Our mission for Thursday was a half dozen blow-downs intruding onto the yards and roads of the friend's property. One in particular was a non-conformist. I believe it was a fir tree rather than the spruce, whose eccentricities I have learned. This tree was bent like a rainbow and partially split near the base. That made me wary. I decided to work from the top to the base, lightening up the remaining portion.

I thought the potential large heavy wooden surprises were accounted for because all that was left was 5 or 6 feet of trunk at the base. I figured I'd just cut through it and knock it over. Usually, when the weight is off a tree, so is the tension and the hazard of getting the saw stuck. This tree, though, had memories of standing straight up and was, unknown to me, planning on doing just that, so when I cut into it on the uphill side, the saw was quickly entrapped in a vise of fiber memory as the small bit of remaining trunk tried to stand back up straight. Fortunately, we had a second saw. I figured I'd just run that one through a ways up, and take the strain off, except that it's not strain but recoil. The tree trunk, even a few feet of it, really, really wants to stand back up and so I buried the second saw in exactly the same way.

Rope, pry bars and fishermen's prayerfanity eventually freed saw #2 which helped liberate saw #1, but only after more splitting and unpredictable tree behavior.

3. Waterfalls are lovely in their proper place, which is not in a closet.

Since the mice and rats had an extra enthusiastic time in empty houses this winter, and since the weather made other outdoor pursuits pointless, we decided we'd go take a swipe at decontaminating Megan's family home on the south end.

This started with turning the house-closing checklist from last fall upside down and starting where we finished a few months ago. Faucets were closed, valves opened, main breaker thrown and all seemed just fine for a few minutes. Then there was a vigorous running water sound where it was not welcome or anticipated. Water cascaded down through a bedroom closet. The upstairs bathroom was flooded, but not from any visible source. Under the sink, I pulled up the bottom of the vanity cabinet and could see with my practiced eye, that it was garden hose kind of wet in there.

Megan turned the water back on and I saw the leak in an awkward but not impossible place. Pex plumbing- using poly ethyl something instead of copper tubing for water supply lines is apparently as delicious to rodents as it is quick and convenient to install. Not only did they parade their rapidfire pooping, jar knocking over selves all around the house, but they also ate into our water lines.

Good fortune or common sense planning again paid off as there was a full pex kit in the barn. After trying to recall the one time I helped install the stuff and fiddling with the cutter and crimper tools, I started dismantling the vanity because of course the little shitters had to chew into where I couldn't fit the tools or my hands to mend the line.

Feeling ever so puffed up, I asked Megan to turn the water on to test my mending job. The repaired spot looked great, especially compared to the additional two chewed places further into the space that I hadn't seen before, but which were now spit-in-your-eye obvious.

The next two fixes were easy enough and nothing sprayed when Megan turned the water on for the third time.

I reassembled the vanity, and Megan soon had the craptracked biohazardous wasteland turned once more into a shiny and inviting place. With heat starting to reach the corners, and things smelling and looking much better, we stepped back out into the cold rainy easterly and headed for Aunt Belle's.