filling a wall with stones
Sunday, September 10 2023
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
This morning after I got up, I went to the upstairs bedroom (where Gretchen usually sleeps at the cabin, mostly for the bliss of having a bed all to herself with no dogs or other humans). I figured she and should talk some more to unpack what had happened last night. I knew she was still a little upset that my attitude once the crisis was over was one of concern manifesting as anger that turned immediately into a practical effort to come up with ideas for preventing her getting lost in the future. I believe strongly in developing habits that lead one to do the right thing even if those habits are slightly inconvenient. In her case, since she tends to get disoriented in the wilderness, such a habit would be to always carry a phone. Or it could be to never leave the vicinity of a road (the kind our Bolt could drive on) except in familiar places. But Gretchen doesn't really think this way. She thinks that every case is different so "of course" you can make exceptions to such habits because... and she'll give some reason. The cats will know to get out of the way of the car. Of course the manufacturer will have made the grill out of iron, not aluminum. Logging roads have to go somewhere. I need to remember to write these all down, because she makes such assumptions about the way the world works all the time, and the world occasionally proves itself more complicated than the model of it in her mind. That's all background for what I was thinking about the circumstances that led Gretchen to march into the wilderness yesterday afternoon and get lost.
We ended up having what felt like a very gendered conversation. She would ask why I didn't want to know more about how she felt when she was lost, and I would say that such things weren't really a big mystery and that I was much more interested in figuring out ways to make it so she would never get lost again. She also found a way to compare my concerns about her habits and proclivities that had led her into that wilderness to her concerns about my drinking and drug taking. I agreed that it was a somewhat valid comparison, but the difference was that, unlike her habits, at least to this date, my substance consuming habits have not resulted in any known bad outcome. I have never gotten a DUI or experienced a drug-related health emergency. (Though back in 1996, I did get arrested for public intoxication, though, perhaps due to the history-altering powers of white privilege, that charge seems to have vanished from my record without my having had to do anything to make that happen.) During this part of the conversation, Gretchen said that she likes me best when I'm not on drugs or alcohol, which, at the time, felt like a sweet thing to say. I think part of the reason I take drugs and alcohol is to make myself a more interesting and uninhibited person for the benefit of others. I don't think anyone had ever told me that they like me best in my unaltered form, though some have probably thought that.
The day started out foggy and then a light rain began to fall. This may have kept us focused on the day's New York Times Spelling Bee longer than usual. As for further work on the foundation project (which was now mostly a Durock installation job), my hands and fingernails were now so torn up that I wanted to give them a rest, and might have done so even if the weather had been sunny. But I nevertheless found some things to do this morning. Instead of working on the more visually-satisfying task of installing full sheets of of Durock, I installed smaller pieces at the foundation wall's northeast corner. That is the place where the foundation wall is buried beneath the least amouunt of soil. I've got the sheets of Wonderboard cladding (yes, in that location I was using Wonderboard, not Durock) oriented in "portrait mode" so they cover five feet of vertical styrofoam instead of the three feet they'd cover in "landscape mode." But even five feet of coverage isn't quite enough at the northeast corner, where the final landscaping will likely expose nearly six feet of foundation wall. This meant that I had to add some additional concrete board cladding below the five feet of vertical Wonderboard. Fortunately, I had a number of scraps that were ideal for this purpose, mostly the 14.5 inch-tall rectangular pieces produced by cuts I'd made to accommodate basement windows. I dug down deep enough to install one such scrap on the east wall and another on the north wall, and only used Gorilla Glue as my adhesive (partly to see how it holds out as a long-term adhesive in a low-stakes application).
After her ordeal last evening, Gretchen had no interest in going down to the dock today, particularly with any kind of precipitation falling from the sky. Eventually I went down there to put away the canoe and collapse the zero-gravity chairs so they wouldn't get blown into the lake. When I got back to the cabin, I saw Gretchen had completely cleaned the kitchen (one of the informal prequisites for our leaving for Hurley), though if she hadn't, that would've been the next thing I would've done.
Gretchen had been trying to get me to eat some little bits of partial containers of food and leftovers that had been languishing in our refrigerator (sometimes for weeks), and I kept not doing it. So today at some point she asked if I wanted her to make me a sandwich, so I said sure. She ended up making a complex sandwich containing things I probably didn't want to know about (including the contents of a vegan breakfast burrito, which, though egg-free, had "breakfast" connotations that I found unappetizing). It also contained slices of extremely hot jalapeño peppers (evidently not from our Adirondack garden, where the jalapeños are as mild as sweet peppers). Those peppers had me gulping down cold water after having eaten only half the sandwich. So I picked out the peppers in the other half and put it in a container to be eaten later (for dinner, as it would turn out).
As I was eating the first half of that sandwich, Gretchen got a message from our tenants at the Brewster Street rental saying that the rats were back in the kitchen. They'd supposedly chewed through the spray foam I'd put in their rat hole near the refrigerator's electrical outlet. Between the ongoing light rain and the urgency of dealing with the rat problem, we decided to head back to Hurley early. Again, though, we took the scenic route through Middleburgh and avoided the Thruway (except for the short leg between Saugerties and Kingston). Along the way, we listened to an interesting interview of Mark Ronson, the hip-hop-DJ-turned-record-producer who did a lot of work on the soundtrack for the recently-released Barbie movie. I knew a few vague things about Ronson, such as that he had produced the big Amy Winehouse album Back to Black. What I didn't know was that he was the step-child of Mick Jones, one of the founding members of the schlock rock band Foreigner, which was likely how he got his early (and highly life-altering) exposure to music mixing equipment. Ronson comes across as humble and even-tempered, and I found what he said about his contributions to the Barbie movie had me wanting to see it for myself. I especially liked his description of the soundtrack composition he'd made to be played whenever there is a scene involving Mattel executives (uniformly cast as somewhat-bumbling men put in charge of spinning a fantasy world for little girls).
Back in Hurley, I immediately began assembling supplies to be used to fight rats over at the Brewster Street rental. This included a live-capture steel trap, some hardware mesh from the cabin that'd I'd bought for temporary trench-wall stabilization that I never ended up using, and two different kinds of sheet metal (including some CorTen steel that has been gathering dust in the garage for well over 12 years). I also grabbed some scrap pieces of glass and a glass cutter, figuring I could incorporate pieces of glass into spray foam to provide a chew-proof blockage to any possible rat holes.
On the drive to Brewster Street, I stopped first at the bridge across Englishman's Creek on Dug Hill Road to gather small river rocks of the sort that could be stuffed down rat holes. Such rocks are impossible to chew and difficult for a rat to push out of the way. I also visited Herzogs to get more pet-block spray foam, as well as plug-in ultrasonic audio rat repellers (which I immediately forgot about).
When I got to the Brewster Street rental, I saw one of the tenants parked in a car talking with a guy I presumed to be be her boyfriend out front. People in that situationd don't want to be disturbed, so I went into the house and immediately began my ratproofing. A rat had definitiely chewed through some of the foam I'd sprayed into the rat hole near the refrigerator, though the resulting hole didn't look like it was quite big enough for a rat, meaning that whoever was chewing it was not quite finished. It turned out that the new hole was mostly through wall material, completely bypassing the steel mesh I'd installed. Still, the willingness of this rat to chew through pest-block foam was disheartening. Fortunately, for this particular problem, I had a good solution. I proceeded to push rocks through the new rat hole, gradually filling the inter-stud void with them until the rock pile reached all the way up to the steel-boxed electrical outlet (the one the refrigerator was plugged into) directly above the hole. I then sprayed this mass of rocks with pest-block spray foam, forming a matrix that no rat could ever chew through. Hopefully these rocks not only block access to the part of the wall the rats were coming through, but also wherever else in the wall was allowing them in from the outdoors.
I also checked out the situation in the basement. The concrete had all set up nicely and formed a nice solid (if decidely ugly) surface in the places where I'd put it. There was no evidence of rats coming or going through the new barricades I'd installed last week, though I found a number of small holes that I'd missed last week that a rat could possibly wriggle through. I filled all of these with steel mesh and spray foam.
At some point the tenant and her boyfriend got out of their car and chatted with me briefly about the rat situation. I told her what I was doing and what little I could think to say about rat behavior. I suggested that rats must exist in the neighborhood in high enough concentrations for them to decided to attack this particular house. I then saw a couple very lazy cats wandering on the sidewalk in two different directions. One crossed the street and flung him or herself on the sidewalk at our feet, as adorable cats sometimes do. I wondered aloud why these cats weren't doing more to fight the rat problem.
When I'd satisfied myself that I'd done enough to fight the rats, I baited the live-capture trap and set it in the basement to catch any rats that I might've trapped in there. And then I drove back to Hurley and had a well-deserved bath. (Nothing makes you feel like you need a bath more than dealing with rats.)
The cabin's south foundation wall today viewed from the southeast.
Click to enlarge.
The cabin's south foundation wall today viewed from the southwest.
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The cabin's west foundation today wall viewed from the west. The left side is still covered only with naked styrofoam.
Click to enlarge.
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