Saturday, December 31st, 2016

I was downstairs the other night boxing up all the beer glasses that I’d put on display on a couple of shelves in the corner of the basement that I rather grandly refer to as the brewery, because the new kitten has the run of the house now and every ounce of him is dedicated to finding and climbing up to every shelf and knocking over all the stuff on them. If I’d left the glasses where they were, it would only be a matter of time before an otherwise peaceful evening with a book was literally shattered by the sound of a dozen or so beer glasses clattering against each other before they exploded across the concrete basement floor.

As I took each glass down off the shelf, I had to upend it over the sink to get the dessicated corpses of centipedes out of them. A few of the glasses held just one dead bug, but most of them held three or four. Why the bugs felt compelled to crawl into the glasses is a mystery, but now you know: If you have centipedes in your house and want to get rid of them, line up a row of twelve-ounce beer glasses on a shelf, then wait. The centipedes will dutifully climb into the glasses and expire of thirst. No insecticide needed.

centipedicide | 7:36 am CDT
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Saturday, August 29th, 2015

I went to the laundry basket with dripping hands and started pawing through it.

“What are you looking for?” B asked.

“Hand towel,” I answered, pulling out what I thought was a hand towel.

“Don’t use that,” she admonished me. “That’s a rag. Just look at how dirty it is.” She held up a neatly folded hand towel. “We’ll put this one out, because we’re having guests tonight.”

I held out my hand for the towel.

“You can’t use it now,” she said with a verbal eye-roll. “I’ll put it out before the guests arrive, so it’s clean. You can use that dirty thing now.”

It’s like we speak two completely different languages sometimes.

hand towel | 10:45 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, housekeeping, My Darling B, Our Humble O'Bode
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Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Re-hung a door in the basement. This didn’t end well when I tried it once before. It didn’t end entirely well this time, either.

I know, in theory, how to hang a door. I don’t have much in the way of practical experience, though. If I’d kept track of the number of doors I’ve hung, I could probably count them on both hands.

And, as it turns out, the hinge at the top of door I was trying to hang is not attached the way it should be, so the door hangs just cockeyed enough that it grinds against the jamb opposite the hinges when I close it. I’ll have to take the door down again, remove the top hinge, rev up the router and grind down the spot where the hinge goes, so it won’t stick the way it does now.

But not today. Today, I hung the door. I’m done.

hanging offense | 2:16 pm CDT
Category: carpentry, housekeeping, Our Humble O'Bode
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Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Using a hydrostatic tool of my own invention, I unplugged the bathroom drain this morning and then, feeling suddenly productive, I stripped to my skivvies and cleaned the tub surround, sink and toilet, because that’s how easily I get distracted.

(The thing about stripping to my skivvies – was that inappropriate? I’m never sure how much you want to know. It seemed germane to the cleaning part of the story, and I’ve read in the paper that some people get naked to clean their house, so I thought maybe it’d be okay here.)

The tool (I can see you’re wondering) is a vinyl hose reinforced with nylon webbing, to one end of which I’ve attached a threaded hose barb so I could screw on the clog-busting black rubber bladder that inflates when you run water through it. The practical use of such a device is that, if you stuff one down the pipe in of your clogged bathroom tub, it will swell until it completely seals off the pipe and the water coming out of the tiny hole in the end of the bladder will shoot down the pipe and bust the clog, or the buildup of pressure in the pipe will, or a combination of both will. Either way, it’s a tool that every wannabe plumber should have in his arsenal.

The thing is, though, that you’ve got to be able to screw it to the end of a garden hose, and unless you’ve got a garden spigot in your bathroom, you have to run a hose in through the window, not a really practical arrangement in the winter months. Hence, the vinyl hose, the other end of which attaches to the shower hose, after I remove the shower head of course. After just a couple of deft twists and a little wrestling to get the black rubber bladder down the pipe, I can turn on the water and BLAM! Clog busted. If you need one of these, give me a call. I can whip one up in a weekend and pop it in the mail to you. Gonna cost you a sixer of my favorite beer, though, and I don’t have cheap taste in beer, so start saving up your pocket change now.

clogbuster | 3:38 pm CDT
Category: adventures in plumbing, housekeeping, Our Humble O'Bode
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Friday, October 24th, 2014

B and I have declared unrestricted warfare on mice. All mice, wherever they are, but particularly here in our little red house.

Before our declaration was submitted to the order rodentia, we were trying to expunge only the mice from our house by live-trapping them, then releasing them into the wild, where they could rejoin the circle of life. This was all B’s idea. She was opposed to killing them because, I guess, it would make her feel guilty, or she thought that karma would come around to get her, or something. I don’t feel all that much guilt about killing mice, and when I released the ones we caught in the house, it was always in the hope that they would quickly become breakfast for a snake. But I’m all about keeping B happy, so I went along with the no-kill traps, for as long as that lasted.

The best live traps, I love to point out, are little grey plastic boxes with a hatch that closes behind the mouse after it’s lured inside by a dab of jelly or peanut butter or whatever you stick in there. I say they’re the best only because I trapped one hell of a lot of mice with them. They’re also the absolutely worst kind of trap, because right after the mouse realizes it can’t get out, it almost immediately pisses itself, then shits all over, then scrabbles around in the shitty puddle of piss until it’s fur is a pasty, matted coat of shit and piss. And then, if you’re a husband who’s trying to keep her gentle soul of a wife happy, you have to deal with a shit-covered mouse that reeks of scared piss. Yuck.

But that time has passed, now that we do not live-trap mice. The moral shift occurred when B was cleaning out her gardening shed at the end of the season and learned that about forty-two gojillion mice had made their collective home in there. The one moment in particular that turned her to the Dark Side was when she pulled a roll of chicken wire down off a shelf and not only did dozens of mice scatter into the corners, raising a cloud of the mouse shit that had been deposited on the shelf over the course of the summer, but a couple dozen more mice leaped out of the roll of chicken wire and ran for cover, scaring her half to death. As B usually live-blogs most of her gardening, she immediately updated her Facebook status to, “I officially hate mice now.”

After that, she wanted me to kill ALL the mice I could catch. Inside or outside, it didn’t matter. If I had told her that I could speak a secret word that would cause all the mice in the world to drop dead, I think she would have begged me to utter it. Since that day she has never quite as bloodthirsty about killing mice, but she still wants me to get rid of them by whatever means necessary, and to that end I have laid traps all over the basement. Two or three times a week, I tramp up the stairs and out the front door with the corner of a trap pinched between two fingers to drop the tiny carcass in the garbage can. If B is anywhere within eyeshot of my path, she makes an ewww face, but she also asks what the score is now. I keep a running tally on the blackboard in the stairway. We’re up to seven since the tenth of the month.

And Boo is still doing her part. She will sit at the base of the stairs every night after lights out and wait there until a mouse skitters past, then give chase. Unfortunately, when she manages to catch one she’ll bring it upstairs to play with it, and if it’s an especially fun mouse with lots of get up and go, she’ll bring it to our bed, apparently so we can share in the fun. This usually happens at about three or four o’clock in the morning. If I could teach her just one thing, it would be that she’s welcome to catch all the mice she wants, but to keep them in the basement, or at the very least out of our bed, thank you very much.

death to mousey | 5:25 am CDT
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Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

As I was saying, the biggest thrill of the weekend was the mouse that came up the stairs into the kitchen on Sunday night. I’m not kidding. Don’t judge us. We don’t get out much.

The little booger literally came up the stairs. I’m almost one-hundred percent certain of this because when I turned on the lights to go downstairs Friday night, there on the second-to-the-top step was a mouse, frozen in mid-step. Hm? Where was I going? Me? I was, ah, just going to the bathroom! Yeah! That’s the ticket! The toilet downstairs is backed up, so I was going to use the one upstairs, if you don’t mind! Yeah! What? You do mind? Well, then, heh-heh-heh, I guess I’ll just go back downstairs and piss in the corner again. See yah!

When I spot a mouse in the house, my reaction is just a little manic. I hope nobody ever records it, because I don’t want it to be immortalized on YouTube for the rest of recorded human history. But here’s what it sounds like in print: “I SEE YOU! I SEE YOU, YOU LITTLE BASTARD! I’M GONNA STOMP YOU! YOU CAN RUN, BUT I’M GONNA GET YOU!” It goes on like that for pages as I scramble around, huffing and puffing until I have to stop to catch my breath. I’ve never caught a mouse this way. Really, there’s probably nobody who spends more energy on not catching mice than I do.

But if I have a cat as my wing man, then I can get things done. Boo spotted the little invader Sunday night after it tried to sneak under the stairway door into the dining room. She happened to be ambling by, headed for a bite of kibble from her bowl, which was probably what the mouse was thinking of doing, too. Boo let us know what she’d found by leaping into the air, scrambling back and forth across the floor, and finally sticking her face in the crack between the base of the oven and the linoleum, snorfling up more air than a Hoover vacuum cleaner. Subtlety is not Boo’s way.

When we went looking for the mouse to see if it was, indeed, trapped, My Darling B spotted it between the oven and the fridge before it scurried to relative safety behind the oven. So we worked out a way to catch the little vermin: I would sweep under the oven with a stick while B made sure that Boo wouldn’t wander away. Her attention span can be a little short sometimes.

But it didn’t take long to flush out the mouse. One or two quick sweeps with the stick and the mouse popped out from under the oven like it was shot, straight past Boo and through B’s feet. That’s when she squealed like a girl and jumped back three feet. I thought that was something that happened only in cartoons. Her reaction wouldn’t have surprised me more if she’d lifted the hem of her petticoat, jumped up on a chair and squeaked, Eeeek! A mouse!

The mouse made a hairpin turn to the right and I thought at first that it headed for the stairway door and the safety of the basement, but for some reason it went instead into the living room where Boo chased it back and forth across the floor like two of the Three Stooges. Whoo-woo-woo-woo! and Why I Oughta! would’ve been the perfect caption to the photo I didn’t get a chance to take, because I chased after them, making sure that the mouse couldn’t find another hiding spot. I had to move one piece of furniture away from the wall so Boo could get behind it, and twice I had to play goalie, slapping the mouse back into play with my foot when it tried to run for the hallway, but Boo did most of the work, finally pinning it down by the front door, the perfect place for me to slap a plastic tub over it. It was late and I didn’t want to keep it overnight, so I suspended our usual no-kill policy and that particular mouse went on permanent sabbatical.

Boo can move pretty fast for such a tubby cat. She’s usually the epitome of a princess-like cat, mincing across the floor in carefully measured steps, but when she saw that mouse, she went batshit crazy, and she scrambled across the living room like a maniac. It was hard not to be impressed.

yelp 2 | 6:07 am CDT
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Friday, July 11th, 2014

So no mouse this morning, or yesterday morning, or Wednesday morning. One mouse Tuesday morning, none Monday. I guess the mouse problem in the basement is not nearly as bad as I thought it was. Either that, or I caught all the dumb ones, and the smart ones have figured out how to take the bait without springing the only traps that have, up until now, always caught the mice. Wait, I’m gonna go check …

counting | 6:46 pm CDT
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Sunday, July 6th, 2014

I’m trying to find the best way to dispose of mice. We have what seems to be an entire legion of mice in our basement. I forget how many Roman centurions that is; let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it’s a hundred. I have no trouble at all believing there are a hundred mice in our basement. Their turds are everywhere. I see them scurrying along the edges of the rooms. I put out four mousetraps just before the lunch hour this morning, and when I went down to my basement lair in the early afternoon, I noticed that two of the traps were sprung. So in just five or six hours, I caught two mice without hardly trying.

By the way, don’t waste your time buying those old-fashioned mouse traps with the blocky wooden base and the spring-loaded wire that snaps your thumbs at least once while you’re trying to set it. Likewise, don’t bother with the modern update that you squeeze open like a spring-loaded clothespin. I tried those and they’re not mousetraps; they’re mouse feeders. I bought a couple of each kind of mouse trap, just to see which ones would work best, and slathered the triggers with peanut butter. Mice love peanut butter. They can’t get enough of it. Our mice licked the triggers clean on all those traps without tripping them. Houdini would be proud of them.

But there’s one kind of trap that’s like a gray plastic box open at one end with a little hood that drops down over the opening when a mouse goes in. I’ve caught more mice with those traps and I would recommend them over anything else I’ve tried, except for one thing: When a mouse gets caught in them, the first thing the little bastard does is piss himself. Then he shits all over the inside of the box and pisses some more. It’s like he’s trying to make the biggest, most disgusting mess he can possibly manage, and he does a pretty good job for such a tiny little mammal. If I didn’t have to clean up that mess every time I caught a mouse, I would whole-heartedly recommend them to anybody who asked. Not that anybody has ever asked.

Anyway, back to the problem of disposal: These are live traps. Forget about suggesting poison. I’m not using poison. It’s not that I’m opposed to killing mice. I would have used the spring-loaded traps that snap them in two but, as I’ve already pointed out, they’re shit at catching mice. But poison isn’t an option. We have two cats. And besides, I just plain don’t like poison. I don’t like handling it, I don’t like it laying around, I don’t even like the smell of it, but most of all, I don’t like the thought of dozens of little rodent corpses decaying in the farthest corners of our basement. Yuck.

So until somebody comes up with a killing trap that our mice won’t visit like a smorgasbord, waddling away fat and happy after stuffing themselves with peanut butter, I’m using live traps, which means I have to dispose of live mice. Right now, what I’m doing is taking them down to the marsh and setting them loose, where they’ll make a nice meal for a snake or a salamander or something. But that’s not something I want to keep on doing. The marsh is a ways down the road and besides, sometimes I just don’t wanna. Doubly don’t wanna after the snow flies.

My Darling B suggested that I leave them in an open container in the yard for the neighborhood cats to finish off, but it turns out that mice are seriously athletic. You would not believe how surprisingly high a tiny little mouse can jump. An open container would have to be at least three feet deep, maybe deeper, I’m just guessing here, to hold them for more than a minute or two. So that idea, as good as it is, is out until we can find an aquarium half as tall as I am.

I wonder if a pet store would take them, to feed to the snakes or whatever else eats mice?

mousey | 4:43 pm CDT
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Friday, April 11th, 2014

My Darling B has a whole new attitude about mice since she opened her garden shed and discovered they’d pooped and peed on just about everything in there. Before she was on Mother Nature’s side, making me trap them live so we could release them in a nearby city park, but now that she has to hose down everything that was in the shed and throw out all her gardening gloves, her ideology has gone from bunny-hugger to “Kill Every Stinking One Of Those Little Poop-Machines!”

I knew she’d come around eventually.

changeup | 1:59 pm CDT
Category: garden, hobby, housekeeping, My Darling B, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, play, yard work, yet another rant | Tags:
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Friday, November 29th, 2013

While pouring gallons of coffee down my neck this morning, I ran through the long list of frivolous things I could do with my day off, but kept coming back to one non-frivolous thing that’s been crying for my attention since the end of summer: clean up the basement.

In particular, the corner of the basement where I keep all the tools, powered and otherwise. It’s become all but unusable because of the clutter:

basement workshop

I totally suck at putting things away when I’m done with them. Also, a lot of things doing have an “away” where I can put them. A lot of my power tools, for instance. I just set them down wherever I used them last, resulting in a lot of cussing the next time I go looking for them. Lately, I’ve been setting them on a stack of black steel shelves I dragged out of another corner of the basement and that’s been working out pretty well for me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any place to put the steel shelves, so it’s been standing in what used to be a walkway, which kept me from getting to the shop vac, so sawdust started to drift on the floor and cobwebs gathered along the walls. It was getting pretty nasty.

So instead of friveling away the day, I put on some work clothes and tromped into the basement to do battle with the mess. First job: move the heavy walnut table I use as a work bench over to the left wall, but before I could do that, I had to take down the pegboard and replace it. I don’t like pegboard much. It’s one of those things that seems like a good idea until you have to use it. Those little hangers pop out and go skittering across the floor about half the time I grab a tool, so I replaced it with a sheet of three-eights inch plywood. I’ll make my own hangers out of the scrap wood I keep tripping over and screw them tightly to the plywood.

Then I cleaned up the mess on the floor before dragging the walnut table across the room. And there was quite a mess, mostly sawdust but plenty of other odds & ends: bits of wire, torn packaging, stray nuts and bolts, splinters of wood and plenty of other stuff I couldn’t identify. If it looked like it might be useful, I saved it; everything else went into the garbage.

With the walnut table finally moved, I could work on sweeping and vacuuming the other half of the room. More sawdust, more bits of who knows what. I had to empty the dust can once already and will have to empty it again before the day’s done. Ten gallons. That’s a lot of dust.

After almost four hours of sweeping, vacuuming and shuffling stuff around, it looked a little better, but I’ve still got a ways to go.

basement work shop

frivolity | 1:52 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, housekeeping, Our Humble O'Bode
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Thursday, November 28th, 2013

For my final trick today, I’ll make this box spring disappear.

mattress

Abra kadabra …

mattress

… ala kaZAM!

mattress

Nothing left but the mattress. Am I good or what?

kaZAM | 9:31 pm CDT
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There are just three things I have to do this morning, according to She Who Must Be Obeyed.

  1. Make more coffee
  2. Put away the clean dishes and load the dirty dishes in the dishwasher
  3. Get the storage tub with the holiday tablecloth up from the basement

“It should only take you a couple of minutes,” she figures. I don’t know if she’s being sarcastic or what.

I understand why she wants me to make more coffee first. You can never have too much coffee. Medical professionals say you can, but I’m pretty sure they’re wrong about that. I don’t have any clinical data to back that up. It’s just a hunch. But still.

But the coffee doesn’t come first. It can’t. In order to make the coffee, I have to clean out the coffee pot. In order to clean out the coffee pot, I have to get the dirty dishes out of the sink. The dirty dishes go in the dishwasher, but that’s full of clean dishes. So, the second item on my list is actually the first thing I have to do.

I can put the dishes away in ten, fifteen minutes tops. Loading the dishwasher with dirty dishes takes about the same, except when the mixing bowl is filled with kitchen scraps that have to be taken out to the composter. All forty-two of our composters (last count; there could be more now; they seem to be self-replicating) are so full there isn’t any more room for kitchen scraps and besides, there won’t be any actual composting going on until the outdoor temps climb back up above freezing. Our solution to this dilemma has been to park a galvanized garbage can beside the back door that we can tip our kitchen scraps into until spring. So, I have to put on some shoes, trudge through the snow to the garden shed and drag the garbage can out.

Thirty minutes later, I can wash out the coffee pot. Technically, it took only minutes to this point. Now, about that storage tub.

honeydew | 11:12 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, housekeeping, Our Humble O'Bode
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