rats and an overwhelmed valley
Monday, October 9 2023
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY
Gretchen had arranged for me to take the Chevy Bolt for its annual inspection (for which it was months overdue) this morning at 9:00am at Van Kleeck's Tires in Lake Katrine. But there was a problem with Gretchen's phone alarm (which I was depending on) and she woke me up from a deep slumber with just 20 minutes to get myself together and drive over there. The drive alone takes about 20 minutes, but somehow I got there with a minute to spare, eating leftover banana bread on the way. In recent years, having things done professionally to our cars has been a Gretchen thing, but since she's much more employed than I am these days, it seemed like something I could do. But I'd never waited in the Van Kleeck's waiting area before. It's a dreary place with low drop ceilings and a magazine rack full of old copies of Guns & Ammo. There's the smell of coffee, but no coffee is provided. I sat there flipping around on my phone, which is always a jarring way to take in the web, since it doesn't have an ad blocker (do such things exist for Android?) and I'm not used to how noisy and unpleasant the web is in the absence of ad blockers.
One of the good things about Van Kleeck (at least when compared to Mavis) is that the staff isn't tasked with finding every little thing wrong with your car that they then guilt you into playing enormous sums to fix. But when the mechanic came out with a pained look on his face, I knew I wasn't going to just be paying for an inspection (and a free tire rotation). Some backstory: a few weeks back Gretchen had found a drywall screw stuck in one of the tires. It was in a weird place, kind of on the side of the tire near where the tread turns into sidewall. I'd managed to fix it with a tire re[aor plug and the car had been driving fine since then (though the plug never wore flat, since it rarely came into contact with anything). Well, according to the mechanic, the plug was considered to have been in the "side wall," which, according to the rules, is an improper fix and would cause the car to fail inspection. Worse still, the "fix" had also voided the warranty, which somehow would've covered the drywall screw had we taken it to Van Kleeck's with the screw in place instead of the plug. Despite all that, though, he was willing to offer me a 50% discount on a new tire. I asked what that would come to and he said something like $120. That wasn't so bad (especially after all the money trauma I'm used to suffering at place like Mavis), so I said sure, it looks like that's what I have to do. It took them an additional hour, but they installed the new tire and I was back home before Gretchen needed to go to work. I was kind of dreading telling Gretchen about having to buy a new tire (even at 50% off) but when I said I'd gotten it all done and it had only come to $150, she seemed happy.
Meanwhile, rats have made their presence known again at the Brewster Street rental. One of the tenants had heard one trying to chew his way through the door up from the basement. So, as part of a multi-task landlord foray, I headed over there with all my rat traps, wire mesh, and various tools. When I got there, I could see that the rats had made serious progress on the basement door, which was now rounded off in one corner. I used screws to attach some stout wire mesh to the bottom of the door to keep that problem from getting worse, and then looked around for more rat holes in the basement. Under a cardboard box, I managed to find a new hole. I didn't have any concrete, so I just rammed it full of a chain of small cobblestones and covered it with slablike river stone. I then set all five of the rat traps I hadn't returned using peanut butter as bait.
Then I went over to the brick mansion on Downs Street to see if I could repair a patch of wall near the bottom of one of the roof valleys in the third floor (topmost) apartment. I'd repaired this patch in the past, but now it was all soft and mushy again. But then I realized I'd left the drywall compound back in Hurley. This forced me to drive out to Home Depot to get some of that and some mesh tape. While I was there, I also got some more PVC electrical boxes, outlets, staples, and PVC pipe clamps for further work on the electrical system in the cabin basement.
Back at Downs Street, I ripped out the rotted drywall (which was still wet after recent rains that had apparently overwhelmed roof drainage). Fortunately, the underlying stucture was sound. But how was the water getting in? I couldn't get a direct view of the valley overhead from anywhere inside the mansion. But from out in front on Downs Street, I could see that there was some debris lying in the valley. Perhaps that was damming it up. In any case, I needed more supplies to fix the wall. So I drove back home to Hurley.
By this point, I needed more caffeine than tea was going to provide, so I made myself a nice french press of coffee. I then assembled what I thought I'd need. Figuring that water damage was going to keep happening on this section of wall, I decided to repair it with cement board. All my good pieces of Durock and Wonderboard had gone to the cabin, but I had some Hardiebacker and small pieces of Durock that looked like a good size. Hardiebacker, as you know, is my least favorite cement board, since it tends to delaminate when subject to freezing. In this application, though, it should work fine. As I was readying all my supplies, I suddenly realized I couldn't find my Downs Street landlord keys. Had I left them in the Downs Street apartment? After searching and searching, I finally found them; they'd fallen on the side of the mat in the back of the Forester.
So then I was back in the 3rd floor apartment, where a scrap of Hardiebacker fit the spot so well it didn't even need to be cut (it even slipped under the metal drywall corner bead after I cut away some nails with the masonry bit). There were two triangles above it that I also needed to cut, and I also needed to build out some structure to support them. I'd only brought an angle grinder with a masonry blade (for cutting cement board) and the Forster's toolkit hacksaw, so I didn't have great tools for cutting structural wood. I managed to find some useful pieces of such wood in the basement, and after a few crude cuts and using makeshift shims to coax the pieces I'd cut into the correct positions, I had the structure I needed. I then put all the cement board in place, taped the edges, and spackled it all together. The result was pretty good considering there had been a big hole in the wall an hour before. It was 5:00pm by the time I got back to Hurley. I immediately took off my clothes and, as I was about to jump in the tub, Gretchen returned from her shift at the bookstore.
Meanwhile, something is very wrong with Ramona. She just lies in one place all day and won't do anything unless made to get up. She can be made to piss in the yard, drink water, or eat food that is especially delicious. She has an appointment with the vet on Wednesday, so hopefully she'll either get a good diagnosis or a big bottle of pain medication. (Gretchen thinks this could all be the result of arthritis pain.)
My fix to the wall under the valley in the third floor apartment at Downs Street today. I didn't take a before picture, sadly.
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