Monday, February 21, 2011

The Smiting Continues Apace

Yesterday, Sunday, I rose at the crack of dawn, donned gloves1 and went outside to clear the debris field that was now taking up the concrete patio that runs alongside our garage.

Mostly made up of twisted, bent Aluminum siding of a bilious yellow color I've never cared for but cannot afford to replace, there were veins of silver-coated expanded polystyrene sheets, often snapped into interesting shapes by the wind that ripped it from the wall after ridding the house of the Siding That Should Not Be and that blew sheets of it all over the neighborhood. It would have been an interesting sight had it only happened next door. Oh well.

Moaning a dirge of hopelessness to keep my spirits up I began to clear the yard, transporting the siding to a sheltered area of the lawn by the fence (there was the forecast of more foul weather to come and I've had the experience of trying to excavate this siding from a frozen snowbank before when the patch at the opposite corner was torn off a couple of years ago almost to the day - it was a Martin Luther King Holiday Weekend job excavating it, thawing it and putting it back on the house). It was not one I hope to repeat in this life. Nor would trying to clear the promised snow from the rear of the house be simple if there was a field of razor-sharp Aluminum embedded in it.

I soon had a pile of siding on the lawn, a pile of expanded polystyrene weighed-down with a bucket full of pool chemicals in one corner of the concrete patio and a field of nails all over the concrete patio. It seems the wind had shaken the pile of crap for some time after it had landed, allowing about a pound of nails to dribble down to ground level. What a wonderful example of mixed-particle sorting under turbulent conditions! What a complete pain in the fundament to clean up.

So I didn't, telling myself the musical jingling that accompanied a walk across he patio as nails embedded temporarily in the soles of my boots then dropped free was a pleasant change to the "wocka-wocka" sounds of siding only partially uninstalled from the wall of the house alerting me to the sudden gusts of wind that were buzzing around me trying to claim credit for the mighty work I was witness to.

Then I went round to the East Lawn to survey the damage there.

It was fortunate that I had been sobbing helplessly from the debacle on the patio and was thus unable to summon more than a groan at the sight of my once magnificent fence, now missing a panel. From the way some of the others were flapping it was obvious I was about to witness a complete and catastrophic failure of the infrastructure, fence-wise unless something was done soon. Action was called for.

There followed the usual nonsense at Home Despot as I attempted to find six pressure-treated two-by-fours that were a) straight, 2) unbowed, þ) not corkscrewed and ♥) not dinged-up to the point of unusability by the forklift used to load the banded bundles of wood onto the racks. It took forever.

Then I removed and replaced the lower rail on the fallen panel, added rails to the corner panel that was about to rip free in the light breeze that was blowing when I returned to Chateau Stevie, did the same to a couple of other panels that were looking very sad, and lastly, installed the fallen panel.

I should explain. The reason so much damage had occurred was that the fence rails, the long lengths of wood to which the fence pickets are actually fastened, were not made of cedar as I had assumed when I bought them, nor were they made of pressure treated wood. They were, in fact, just untreated spruce, what the termites and carpenter ants that infest these parts call "breakfast". The insects work from the rear of the wood, the bit that is sandwiched between the cedar pickets and the rail itself, so everything looks good until it suddenly and unexpectedly disintegrates and the fence becomes a pile of loose pickets on the sidewalk.

There are two ways of repairing such damage. The Proper Way, in which the old rail is removed in a tedious and time-consuming process and replaced with a more durable length of wood, and the I Haven't Got Time For this Crap Method in which the more durable piece of wood is laid on top of the rotting rail and secured top the fence posts, then the fence pickets are either nailed or screwed to it, which saves time at the expense of looking really horrible as the old rail falls apart and leaves dangling nails as a lingering Tetanus threat when it falls apart. I used the latter method this day as I was sore wounded and down-at-heart and just wanted the day to end.

Replacing the panel was a job and a half too. First, these panels weigh quite a bit and are a challenge for two people to work with in a tight spot. Next, replacing this panel meant I had to walk around the entire property any time I needed to get to the other side, which I did, a lot. Third, frost heave had raised the ground so much the bloody thing wouldn't fit back in the hole it came out of and I had to hack at the frozen ground for quite some time to prepare the way and still had to sit on the (freezing) sidewalk and lever the damned thing into place with the mighty Stevieplates before I could drive the screws.

The neighbors had already been given much entertainment and were pleased with the performance that entailed me sitting on the ground, kicking the fence into position and thrusting with all my might to keep it there while I drilled new pilot holes, switched bits, dipped each screw in a mysterious fluid (liquid soap, old fencebuilder's trick to prevent the screws jamming half in) and then drove it home with a battery-powered drill and rage-powered Words of Power.

It was all very trying indeed.

Mrs Stevie hoved into theater as this was going on and demanded to know whether the fence was fixed or not. I informed her, over the course of the next three minutes, that it wasn't and made enquiries as to what mental processes were at work that could infer such would be the case given the extent of the destruction and the size of the workforce deployed to deal with things. She responded in kind, visiting such much-explored territory as my genetic heritage and quality of my gonads (though what that has to do with fence reconstruction is beyond me). After that, the conversation deteriorated somewhat and harsh words passed between us, until finally she playfully punched me in the head and went inside so I could continue working.

The Stevieling swept up all those nails, which was nice of her.

I woke this morning to see it was snowing and had been doing so long enough to leave three inches of white inconvenience all over the shop.

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