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Oy, such a day

The Great Foundation and Screen Porch Project, Phase II, commenced yesterday.

Somehow I wasn’t expecting The Wandering Monk to need to tear off all the siding off the east wall on that part of the house. Good thing he did, though, as it was the classic good news/bad news case.

The siding came off completely intact and both it and the upper walls were in fine shape. A pleasant surprise. The lower walls suffered rot, of course (no surprise at all). And we found termites. But we found them in a place it would have been surprising not to find them. With the vertically grooved siding off, we could see exactly where the wall sagged from lack of support. That was helpful.

The Monk said he could hear the termites inside the wall. Sounded like dry leaves rustling together, he said. I couldn’t hear them, but I believe it. Ever since the late and increasingly unlamented Handyman Mike did his botched bathroom remodel, Ava has been interested, sometimes to the point of frenzy, in the corresponding spot on the interior bathroom wall. I had no idea why she was pawing and barking at that wall. I kept going outside looking for furry creatures around or under the house, finding nothing. Turns out Ava’s a termite detector.

The Monk ended up knocking the sill plates off the walls and cutting away the flooring underneath them. We seem to have gotten the termite nest. The variety of those critters that we have here tends (knock wood) not to be invasive once their damp little homestead has been taken away. But it was weird to see the now-bottomless walls.

When I said I was worried that nothing was supporting my walls now, the Monk pointed out that nothing was supporting them before other than “termites holding hands.” Hm. Yeah, got a point there, I suppose.

Toward the end of the day we (mostly the Monk) temporarily wedged a 16′ beam into place, which you see in the above photo and which actually is giving some support despite the bottoms of the wall studs hanging in space.

Tomorrow morning the beam comes back out and I aggressively spray the area for termites, then follow that with two coats of nasty anti-rot/anti-insect copper slop for longer-term protection. All will be well, although some things will be jury rigged.

Today was rough, though. For me, it was just one of those days. I was too busy multi-tasking to remember to eat, and by noon I was crabby and tired. Merely listening to the sounds of large chunks being sawed and beaten off the house shook me. Although I’d taken vulnerable items off the bathroom walls, the vibration from the reciprocating saw knocked dozens of items off shelves onto the floor.

Then in the afternoon, as we were trying to wedge the beam in place, a shard of wood more than a foot long flew into my face. Fortunately, I was wearing safety glasses, but the pointy thing gave me a pretty good graze across my nose and cheek. Bit too close to a Phineas Gage moment for my taste. By the time we called it quits, I was ready to curl up and cry. Instead I watched an episode of Downton Abbey and ate tres leches cake and Fritos. That helped.


Here’s what I’d rather have been doing …

The bulk of my egg-tempera supplies arrived yesterday from a wonderful outfit in San Francisco called I ordered their powdered pigments (and yes, the mysterious rabbit-skin glue and French chalk) on Friday and paid for ground shipping. After a very friendly phone call from them to check a detail, they — to my surprise and delight — sent them by priority mail.

I still await a few small items from another source. But this is the bulk of what I need — enhanced by fresh eggs from a neighbor’s chickens.

Now, when will Life allow me to get back to Art?


  1. Joel
    Joel July 12, 2017 6:26 am

    Hang in there. Endeavor to persevere. This too shall pass.

    These and other appropriate cliches, sent your way.

  2. jed
    jed July 12, 2017 8:32 am

    Looks like the interior walls are covered with planks. Might be a fair amount of structural support there. I’m sure the Monk will get it sorted. Maybe you can do an icon of him — sounds as if he deserves some commemoration.

    Nice haul of painting supplies there. Of course, my 1st thought was whether that pigment would be usable for face paint. Apparently, not, at least for some of it. Yeah, don’t want to smear cadmium on the skin. ๐Ÿ™‚ OTOH, curiosity led me to some other pigments, claiming to be non-toxic.

  3. Claire
    Claire July 12, 2017 8:50 am

    “Looks like the interior walls are covered with planks.”

    Yep. Tongue-and-groove planks that back in the day were often used as exterior siding. So yes, they give a fair bit of structural stability (as the Monk keeps reminding me, to my skepticism). Anyhow, nothing has fallen apart overnight. ๐Ÿ™‚

    “Yeah, donโ€™t want to smear cadmium on the skin.”

    Amen. Nor several others. A lot of the traditional toxic pigments are gradually being replaced in pre-made paints, but because each type of pigment has not only its own color but its own unique mixing and blending properties, many of the old pigments are still in demand among the sort of people who make their own paints. Iconographers, in particular, work with a very traditional palette, as to some artists who are deliberately working in the style of Giotto or Rembrandt or some other ancient master.

    ALL these powdered pigments, toxic or not, come with warnings to wear breathing protection when mixing them.

  4. MJR
    MJR July 12, 2017 6:58 pm

    Termites, oh crap. I feel your pain, where I am we have an issue with carpenter ants. I have our place sprayed every year. Last thing we want to do is have to get a log repaired. It would be a major pain in the butt.

    BTW if you run into a situation with infested wood you can’t take out there are products designed to deal with it. Specifically to repair the wood saturate the damaged area with a clear penetrating epoxy sealer.

    Good luck with the spray and don’t forget gloves and breathing mask. That stuff is skin permeable and if you get it on any exposed skin it’s gonna make you sick, if not now then down the road.

  5. Claire
    Claire July 13, 2017 6:37 am

    There’s a site called Oh wow. Wish I’d have known about them four years ago! I’ll keep that epoxy sealer in mind.

    Fortunately, on this phase of the project we were able to cut away virtually every bit of infested wood. Then I sprayed and treated exposed surfaces. The only problem now is that the whole house reeks of copper-based wood preservative (truly nasty stuff). I left fans going and windows open all night.

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