I’m sure he’s handy at something, just haven’t figured out what…


Mornin’ all.

-11 to start today.

Just thought I’d explain why the coffee is so extremely hot. Be careful. It’s also strong as paint varnish and tastes about as good as licking the underside of a leaky ocean liner. But there’s plenty, so help yourself.

“Thanks, Bethie! *sip* *gak* *choke* *choke* *spasm* *twitch*”

You’re welcome!

The weather people are calling this a cold front. It used to be that in the winter, we just called cold weather “winter”. I don’t know when that changed. Now everyone’s gotta be freaking out and looking for new names for the things that suck.

“Arctic blast!”…it’s just a breeze in the winter.

“Deep freeze!”…yes, well that does tend to happen up here at the old 44th parallel around this time of year.

Winter’s cold and it sucks. That’s all that needs to be said. You don’t have to freak the eff out every time it’s nippy in January. Even the local stations have taken to this type of weather reporting, as if they’ve never in their lives paid a lick of attention to 1/4 of every single year they’ve spent in NH.

Ah, but everyone’s got to sensationalize everything these days. Everyone’s got to add punch and pep to their reporting. They’ve even gone so far as to give winter storms NAMES.

Stop it, weathermen and women. Stop it right now. I will give you a pass on making up fantastical terms instead of continuing to predict “wicked cold weathah ’round heah”. Fine. You can do that. But naming a snowstorm is just asking for trouble. When you give something a name, you give it credibility and power.

Do not name the enemy!

The cold is making a few people very happy, though. Oil companies are loving it. They’re living high off the hog at the moment, even if the price of crude is low. In this neck of the woods, many homes are still heated with oil furnaces. It’s actually technically not really “oil” so much as a blend of kerosene and diesel…potato, potahto I suppose. Anyway, the point is, it’s gross, smelly, expensive and, most importantly for the oil companies, very inefficient.

Now, before you start saying how horrible we are in these parts, cut the NHers a bit of slack, eh? We’ve got 200 year old houses all over the place. An oil furnace that was installed in 1973 is super modern in comparison.

Our house used to be heated with oil. Now we’ve got these small electric baseboard heaters. They’re also pricey, so add the electric companies to the list of folks who are totally into this chilly weather. On top of the cold, we had an ice storm that took down many power lines on Thanksgiving. Remember that? Yeah, well when that happens, the local utility companies say, “Hm. There’s profit to be had here…” and you suddenly have a $200 increase in your bill for “storm damage”. No, it doesn’t matter a bit that nothing on your end was damaged. And no, that was NOT an exaggeration. A $200 increase from one month to the next, with NO bump in meter usage.

Man, I gotta hurry up and build that backyard wind farm…

Road crews are feeling pretty good right now, too. We haven’t had a lot of snow, but what we’ve had has mostly fallen in annoying times and ways. We’ll get a burst, just a couple inches, right before the temperatures plummet. This means that if the roads aren’t continually salted until there’s enough salt on them to dry out any moisture that could possibly freeze, then we’ll have Olympic caliber ice for our cars to drive on.

Have you ever tried to drive on Olympic caliber ice? Do it some time and you’ll get the gist.

* The writer of this blog feels the need to gently remind you that this is for comedic purposes only. In no way should you ever, ever drive your vehicle into an official winter Olympic training facility, no matter how badly you now find yourself wanting to. You think Michelle Kwan wants to triple salchow into your bumper? “Axel,” not “axle” my friends. *

Anyway, the road crews are finding themselves with a whole lotta overtime pay right about now.

But the folks who are really raking it in at the moment? Plumbers.

I must say we here in this rickety old shack have not been immune to winter plumbing woes this year. Not our side, but Neighbor, the one who makes up the “du” of this “plex”. I don’t know if she just didn’t leave the water a’tricklin’, or if it was just that freakin’ cold last week, but a pipe on her side froze. And boy, did it turn into a saga.

I believe I have said before that the state of this abode is what most would find lacking. Our landlords have not seen fit to do much with the place, and that includes refusing to buy into the lie the Illuminati calls “insulation.” Add to that the fact that we’re in a 100+ year old house on an old dirt cellar foundation with natural springs running directly through it, and we tend to have plumbing issues in the winter.

Bear with me a sec. I’m about to drop some science on you. Ready for it? Bare pipes dangling in an unheated, uninsulated dungeon tend to freeze once the temperature around them drops.

Shocker, right? I mean, who could have ever predicted that the basic laws of thermodynamics actually apply in a basement?? I should write up my findings and go for a Nobel.

Usually it just takes a bit of constant planning and round-the-clock attention to keep the pipes from freezing. This winter, things were apparently exacerbated by the fact that the handyman the landlord paid to install a full bulkhead with a storm door down there did not actually complete the task. He installed a frame for the outer door, slapped on the 16 ga steel doors, knocked a huge hole in the foundation for the frame of the storm door, and…

Actually, there is no “and”. He left it. He didn’t even cover the outer frame with plywood.

Picture this. In your head, create two metal triangle frames. Got that? Now, put them on either side of a gaping hole leading away from a house so that they taper to the ground. Add a sheet of metal on top of that, but only on the top. Leave the sides gaping open for all of Nature. THAT’S what happened.

Perhaps there was nothing Neighbor could do to keep her pipes flowing when faced with that count against her.

The handyman was called down here to fix the problem he created. He set up a kerosene heater and an old kerosene pump and a kerosene pipe shaker that looks like it was from 1920. He set up all these kerosene gizmos, right in front of a gaping hole in the cellar on a windy day. I think he believed that the fumes would be sucked up and out. Hey, cut him some slack. We already know his grasp on the basic physics of our everyday world is tenuous at best.

About half an hour later, things started to get a bit fuzzy and woozy in here. Not only were the pump and the pipe shaker loud and trembling, but the fumes were actually carried by the wind from the hole right on up to our side of the house. I saw my landlord pull up so I went out to tell him I didn’t really want to be monoxide poisoned by an incompetent handyman. After pondering for a minute, he saw my point of view.

Ya know, it’s a rare day indeed when my landlord is so quick to agree with me. I think he probably knows how much more work would be involved for himself if a tenant kicked the bucket on the living room floor. I mean, it’s hard wood, folks. There would be stains.

I’d like to think he was at least a tad concerned for our safety, but in actuality, I think he was more pissed at the handyman and searching for more justification for his murdery feelings toward the guy. Whatever the case may be, he had the idiot actually vent the fumes, so all was well. After a lot of shaking and baking and quaking, the ice clog melted enough to be flushed from the system and the pipes were once again functioning. Though the storm door cannot be installed in the winter because of the frozen ground, they did stretch a thick tarp over the gaping hole, and another one over the frame of the bulkhead. The landlord made the handyman get some foam pipe insulators, and replace a section of pipe that had frozen because it was now bowed. All in all, could have been worse.

…that was on Friday. On Monday, guess what? Yep. Another plumbing issue.

I went to take my shower and noticed that the water pressure was low. I figured that Neighbor had learned her lesson and was keeping her water running. Alas, such was not the case. After the shower, when I was in the kitchen reheating some coffee, I heard a distinct trickle noise coming from the direction of the basement door.

Now, I am a trying-to-recover hoarder, as I may have mentioned. I got that area by the basement all cleared out. …and then we got the parts car, and had to have a place to store all the tidbits we stripped and cleaned for sale.

Oh, Bethie. *sigh*”

Hush. It’s a process.

My point is, I stood and sipped the scalding coffee and really, REALLY didn’t want to be hearing what I was hearing, simply because of all the work it would take to make a visual confirmation. It didn’t matter, though. The trickling noises continued and there was nothing to be done for it but move all that shit out of the way. Even as I worked I was certain about what I was hearing. I didn’t even get the jump seat moved away from the door…

* The writer of this blog would like to take this opportunity to advertise a w123 diesel wagon jump seat, in palomino coloring. Excellent condition! Hardly used! Looks brand new with plenty of padding and lot of life left in her! Our rock bottom prices can’t be beat for this bottom pleasing seat!!! Call today before it’s too late!! Operators are standing by. *

…before I heard the unmistakable rush of a broken pipe. I got a flashlight, eased my way down into Gollum’s lair on the Stairs of Doom, and stepped onto the dirt cellar floor.

Folks, remember in Star Wars Episode IV when Luke steps on the pile of trash in the compactor only to discover that it is not, in fact, a solid pile of trash and he sinks into mucky, filthy, dianoga infested water?

*sigh* Yeah. That.

I hope it was just mud. I really, really do. And while I didn’t stick around long enough to let a dianoga pull me under, I’m fairly certain I heard it slither.

I hopped up on a cinder block and shined my flashlight through the Pit of Hell until I saw the broken pipe alllll the way at the other side of the basement where I could not get to it without further contaminating myself in the Bog of Eternal Stench.

I do a lot of maintenance around here. *Could* I have shut the water off and replaced the pipe myself? Sure. But I was not risking life and limb to finish a job a half-ass handyman failed to do right in the first place.

I called my landlord, and within a half hour, the loud, shaking, stinking set up was back on, only this time, the handyman not only did not vent the fumes, he up and left. Left everything running and took off. Later he was on his way back, saw me out in the drive shoveling, and took off. You know, like a baby. I think he was pissed that I called the landlords. He did this again, and finally I went back in the house. Not two minutes later he returned, shut off the machinery, ranted and raved in the basement before finally peeling out of the driveway.

He laid rubber on the road, folks.

Like any professional.

*rolly eyes*

Believe it or not, that wasn’t even my worst plumbing story every.

I can’t decide if the worst plumbing incident would be the Chronicles of the Zombie Mouse, wherein our heroine finds herself being stalked by a one-eyed robo-mouse run amok in the pipes that just WOULD. NOT. DIE…

…or The Man Who Knew Too Little About Pipe Snakes, and the Ceiling That Paid the Price. That one’s a cautionary tale, really.

Ah, but those are stories for another day.

Thus concludes a Morning Musing for Wednesday, January 14, 2015. I’m off to take a shower, and hopefully this time it will not set into motion a series of unfortunate events. Here’s hoping that Neighbor learned her lesson and has her water trickling. I gotta be honest, I’m a little dubious.


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