Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   canine FOMO
Sunday, January 6 2019
When Gretchen and Neville the Dog left this morning for their Sunday shift at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock, I placated Ramona with a heel of bread so as to lessen the bite of the inevitable FOMO. FOMO is one of the biggest first-world miseries our dogs routinely experience.
I spent the late morning and early afternoon doing my weekly firewood salvage, which I hadn't done at all due to miserable rainy conditions. On my first foray, I took the big Kobalt chainsaw and felled a previously-unknown smallish dead chestnut oak a little east of the Stick Trail on the shoulder of terrace about 300 feet south of the Chamomile. Since the wood didn't seem that dry and there wasn't much of it, I augmented this with some pieces of a larger skeletonized oak remant from some earlier salvaging operation (likely from 2014 or 2015). Sometimes when I am salvaging wood, I get down to a section that has excessive moisture from prolonged ground contact. So I will prop it up on something so it can begin to dry and then forget about it. This remnant was such a piece.
After getting two backpack loads from that location, I switched to a new location: a mid-sized dead oak on the side of the steep escarpment just west of the Stick Trail at about the same latitude. I used the saw to cut it down and buck it into pieces. These had more moisture content than I would've preferred, but in this rain-soaked forest, I didn't have great alternatives.
The weather at this point was unusually warm, and by 1:00pm the sun had even come out, making for an unusually pleasant day for early January. But winds had started to blow, and the air they were blowing was rapidly falling in temperature.
In the late afternoon, I returned to the kitchen, focusing on routing the gas line from the outdoors to the center island with as few cuts into the walls and ceiling as possible. The first cut I made was through the floor beneath the southernmost of the two trap doors in the bottom of the island cabinetry. I used the four-inch hole saw, which would allow me to reach my arm into the void between the joists. Before doing any reaching around, though, I hooked up my USB probe camera to Rabbit (one of my several handy Elitebook 2740ps), taped the camera end of the probe to the stout wire of an electrical fishing tape spool, and had a look around. There were some surprises, such as a gate valve complete with big blue handle on pipe that must've been for the heating system, as well as an unexpected two by four between the bottoms of the joists near the island. I also saw, off in the distance to the east, the copper plumbing rising up to meet the kitchen sink, though the drainage pipes must've been in the next inter-joist bay to the north, Seeing that plumbing allowed me to precisely locate where my penetration would need to happen on the outside of the house, since the midpoint between the coldwater and hotwater pipes (a great place for a gas pipe) fell very near the middle of the one kitchen window. All I had to do was line things up with that. All the measuring I'd thought I would be doing was unnecessary.
After climbing up on a step ladder and drilling a half-inch hole from the outside, I thought I could maybe shine a light through there and see it with my USB camera probe. But when I tried various lights, all of them proved invisible. Only later, after jamming a piece of straight copper pipe through a now-enlarged 3/4 inch hole, did I remember that there would be a bat of insulation at the wall-side of the inter-joist bay to keep the nearby plumbing (and the bay itself) from freezing. I had no problem, by the way, getting that straight copper pipe to show up nicely underneath the four-inch hole I'd cut. But the pipe I would be installing was the flexible kind.
By now the light was becoming murky and temperatures had dropped away to a seasonal normal, made all the worse by persistent penetrating winds. Pushing the flexible pipe into the hole I'd drilled, I eventually ran into an obstruction somewhere short of where the pipe needed to be. An examination with the USB camera probe showed the pipe running into that two-by-four cross member. I didn't think I could reach far enough into the inter-joist space to fix the problem, so initially I tried prying up the pipe with a flat bar. While doing this, I realized that I could actually get my arm into the space all the way up to somewhere on my bicep. This was far enough for me to grab the pipe and pull it forward. Now all that I needed to do was gradually bend it so that it would arc up through the floor and present a workable end for the gas company to deal with. Half inch copper pipe is tough material and not easy to bend, particularly when you can only reach it with a single hand. Fortunately, it was passing beneath that stout 3/4 inch hot water pipe, which I could use as a pressure point for successive locations along the flexible pipe's length. Once I had a good three feet of pipe coming vertically out of the floor, I made a little custom removable plug for closing the four-inch circular hole I'd made into the floor, a space full of evidence of mouse activity. I then cut a notch into the side of the hole around the trap door in the bottom of the island cabinet so that the pipe could come through even when the trap door was closed.
I'd expected that gas-line running job to encounter many more unforeseeable problems than it actually had. It had only taken me about three hours to do, and I'd successfully minimized penetrations of existing structures. Best of all, I hadn't damaged any existing utilities.
Fresh off of that success, I proceeded to do a light sanding of the drywall repairs around the metal brackets that will support the floating shelves. And then I taped off the cabinets and started painting the finished wall with a mid-sized bristle brush. I completely painted the east wall and then painted most of the west wall as well.
Gretchen, who had been dining at the Garden with Eva and Neville the Dog, came home at around 9:00pm and marveled at the fact that the walls were nearly painted, though she was a little disappointed by the color of the grey as it appeared at that hour. In the context of all the yellow of the maple cabinets, it looked vaguely lavender. Since she wouldn't've noticed otherwise, I made a point of showing Gretchen the gas line I'd installed. She was amazed and delighted. It was important that she fully be able to communicate the pipe's routing to the gas company whenever it was they finally would be coming out; I didn't want any more confusion to bedevil this project. So I took Gretchen out in the cold, windy darkness around through the bushes east of the house and pointed out exactly where the spool of copper wire I'd just installed emerged (there were a good 45 feet remaining in that spool) as well as the location of the existing gas line.
With all that out of the way, I could take a much-deserved bath. After all the firewood gathering, stoop work, and overhead pipe pushing, my 50 year old body was in surprisingly good shape. My hands and fingers, though, were a mess of minor injuries from reaching into holes, scratching at labels, and being splattered with purple PVC primer (which had left an itchy rash in the palm of my right hand).

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next