a massive (and seemingly indestructible) chisel
Wednesday, September 17 2014
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York
Susan the Artist (of Susan and Dave) came over this morning with her two dogs Olive and Darla to walk with Gretchen and our dogs in the forest. Everything was fine until Eleanor found something interesting on the forest floor and Darla (who is unusual in being completely ignorant of cardinal rule of dog treasure: finder's keepers) challenged her for it. Nobody knows who threw the first bite, but within seconds the two dogs were having a to-the-death fight over the matter. After pulling them apart (using the "wheelbarrel technique"), there was a moment of calm before the tension of the fight catylized a second fight, this time between Ramona and Olive (who perhaps still harbor grudges from the fights they have had over at Susan and Dave's place). After breaking up that fight, it was decided that the walk must end, so Gretchen hurried back home with our dogs, locked them up in the laboratory, and then waited for Susan and her dogs to return while I superglued closed a fingernail-sized flap of skin on Eleanor's forehead (that was the worst of several small injuries). After Susan got her dogs loaded into her vehicle, we sat around and discussed the sorry state of our dogs' relationship. We might be friends, but it's clear that our dogs are not. It's going to be a big drag on our friendship if our dogs can't get along. Susan says that Darla is in training to work on her issues with food and toy guarding, but perhaps we could try carrying a kind of ultrasonic air horn that is supposedly effective at breaking up dog fights every time. Otherwise, there are far too many moving parts when a four-way dog fight breaks out if there are only two people available to pull them apart. The strange thing is that all these dogs used to get along just fine; indeed, Olive and Darla have stayed over at our house for days at a time. Something has changed, but we're not sure what that is. As for the injury tally from today's fight, Eleanor definitely got the worst of it. Ramona appeared to be uninjured while she evidently gave Olive a small injury on her neck. I don't know what if any damage Eleanor managed to inflict on Darla.
Today's greenhouse task was to use portland cement to fill all the surface voids in the new girder support. Unfortunately, the cement is old and a lot of it has begun to solidify into chunks. Though annoying, these chunks don't seem to represent a large loss of curability for the cement. So I poured a bunch of the chunky cement into a bucket, broke it up as best I could with various metal tools, and then used an old blender to powderize small portions of it until I had enough to mix up a batch. (I was a little aggressive with the blender and overheated its electric motor enough to produce an acrid smoke, forcing me to stop and let it cool down. I can get away with one or two incidents like that, but if I were to keep it up, the motor coils would eventually short out and render the blender useless.) Once spackled over with portland cement, the support had a convincing solidity to it, like an inverted Egyptian pyramid.
A little less than a month ago when I began the ongoing span of work in the greenhouse, I found a dead rat (I think that was what it was) floating in the open trashcan full of water that I keep down there to supply water when the basement is dry. The only way into the greenhouse for a creature that size is via the four-inch-wide drain pipe, which runs 60 feet to the east and ends at the escarpment without any sort of grate (though it used to have one). Not too far from there, across a shallow gorge, is the cabin where Crazy Dave and his mysterious wife (supposedly a professional in the psychiatric services) live, and I could imagine rats regularly fleeing the cluttered chaos of that place. Today in the greenhouse I found a nest belonging to some smallish mammal, perhaps the rat that had drowned. It was in a triangle between the various horizontal "joists" of the northern "plant table," a slightly-raised surface for placing potted plants. While the southern plant table is surfaced with random large pieces of bluestone, the southern one is surfaced more completely with a layer of scrap cor-ten steel. The steel served as a roof over the nest and the floor decking over the eastern half of the greenhouse served as a floor, though it was low enough beneath the table's "joists" to allow a gap where a rat could come and go. I have yet to investigate what might or might not be in that nest, though I wouldn't be surprised to find a bunch of rat babies that had died of starvation.
Now that there is a solid support for the floor overhead, I've resumed jackhammering in the greenhouse sub-basement, mostly removing chunks of rock that had served as a root for the crumbly rock holding up the girder (back before I'd replaced it with the new concrete structure). I'm pretty hard on my jackhammer, occasionally using it as a crowbar as I run it (this works great for lifting stones out of rocky matrix). Today, though, the bit twenty inch chisel bit on the jackhammer suddenly snapped off as I was using it. Evidently a crack had appeared in the 1 1/8 inch hexagonal shaft at the weak spot where a notch allows the jackhammer to secure the bit in place. I still have a pointy bit I can use, but I much prefer the chisel bit. Fortunately, the kind of bit used by the Harbor Freight jackhammer is a common one, and I managed to track down a replacement costing only $25 (with free shipping). That's a good deal, considering the sheer mass of such bits. One side benefit of the bit having broken off is that the break is almost perfectly square relative to the length of the bit and I can now use it as a massive (and probably indestructible) cold chisel.
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