Monday, September 17, 2007

Rats! And a silver snake.

Sunday: another clear-as-a-bell, cool fall day. When did it get to be fall? All of a sudden, the nights are downright chilly, which we agreed this weekend feels more threatening this year than any other time in our lives. After all, we're still putting in the heat system. Apparently time grows short.

It's so great to be done with the stapling now. Although, actually, there was STILL a little more stapling to be done Sunday morning. First we had to do the rest of the crimping along the manifold downstairs, which John handled like a pro with me as the dental-style assistant, and there were a few plates to staple that we'd waited on until after the manifold was in place. So I stapled those and nailed tubing hangers to the joists where the return manifold runs across the basement wall. There: nice and neat! Looks like a finished system now--a good feeling.

As I did that, John attacked what had become a royal mess on the side of the basement where our water lines will enter and the "plumbing package"--a series of valves, pumps and pressure tank--will reside. We'll be doing lots of work over here and were already more than tired of stepping over pex scraps, tools and boxes of wood, all drifting on a sea of wood chips from drilling holes into the joists. Ahh: much better.

This brought us to a new and scary phase of the heat system project. Naturally, we put it off a little further by making yet another trip into Nellysford to buy bread, a tomato and two more coffees. Then lunch on the grass.

OK, no more stalling. Next thing was to run the supply and return lines between the basement and the outside boiler--through the three-foot trench we dug, then filled in, back in July. First we had to get the lines stretched out from the all-too-familiar coils they came in. These are 1" and 3/4" lines--mighty stiff, not at all interested in relaxing out of their tight circles. We spread them out on the grass and put rocks in strategic places. Then we started bundling three of the four together with duct tape.

Once that was done, we broke into the big roll of reflective silver insulation that we needed to wrap 'round our tube bundle. Decided to cut narrow strips from the 4-foot roll, then wrap diagonally. Tons of duct tape. We worked our way from one end of the 60-foot tubing to the other on our knees: John wrapped the insulation and I was constantly breaking off duct tape and wrapping it tightly around the bundle. Now we had a thick silver snake.

Over to the boiler to suss out the openings where we'd have to feed in the tubing. A couple bugs greeted us, the same grasshopper/cockroach weirdos that we know too well from the crawlspace. John says they can teleport!

John asked me to stand here and pull on one of the strings running through the two lengths of black conduit we'd laid in the trench before filling it. These strings were to act as our "leads". I was pulling and didn't feel too much resistance even though he was holding onto the other end near the house. Hmm. Is there really that much slack? Nope: here comes a broken end.


Literally: looked like it had been chewed through by our friend the rat, who may well have been using this conduit as an underground highway. For us it meant that unless we could get another lead through that conduit, we'd have to get all four tubes--the three in our insulated bundle, plus a fourth cold line--into one conduit.

We determined it should in fact fit, so we bundled the cold line onto our big silver snake. Tension was running pretty high. There was a weird pile of entrails on the ground near the boiler--what the heck?--and I thought of how people used to read the future in animal intestines. I positioned myself inside the basement, wearing gloves, to pull on the lead string. John tied the other end to the silver snake, using the top of a plastic bottle for an aerodynamic tip and employing a super-amazing crochet knot his dad taught him. (The elder John learned it in the Navy and would use it to secure a bundle of mop handles, which he'd then drag undersea off the aircraft carrier to clean the mopheads! This is one hefty knot.)

And, well, we got about a foot and a half of that snake fed through before giving up.

A, the string we have as a lead--cotton clothesline--is going to break as soon as I really lean on it. B, the silver snake has a mind of its own. C, we should go from the basement end, not the boiler end.

We laid out the snake on the grass again with more stones and a bunch of blankets to keep the sun off. Hopefully 24 hours of this treatment will straighten it out and make it more cooperative. And we'll pick up something better than clothesline to use as a lead.

Wish us luck.

We also set a rat trap in the basement. Hey rat, want some all-natural peanut butter? Uh-huh. This morning we had ourselves a dead rat. Sorry, dude.

- Erika

1 comment:

zoe krylova said...

i think that's a cave cricket or camelback cricket. we have them in our basement and they're super creepy. you guys are doing amazing work!