The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
November 2001

Hardware Store, November 4

Squirrel, November 24

2001: | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov |

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Hardware Store
Sunday, November 4

Two weekends ago Denny and I were building a simple set of shelves for the expanding video tape collection, when the battery-powered drill went dead.

The previous weekend we had carefully measured and planned the shelf to fit into a particular part of the living room, next to the other video shelf. We took into account the odd bits of woodwork and the cords for the lamps, and everything.

That day we had measured, measured again, cut the lengths we needed and had screwed the screws on one end of the shelves, then turned it over. Then the drill died. Durn, I muttered, and went down in the basement to get the big old heavy corded drill to finish the job.

I plugged it in, pulled the trigger and it made horrible grinding noises that drills are not supposed to make. It was overdue in power tool heaven.

Well, heck, I said. it's getting cold anyhoo, so let's just put the batteries back in the charger and finish this puppy next weekend.

The next weekend we hauled the shelf carcass out of the garage, got out the drill, slipped the batteries in, and a few seconds later we had one screw half an inch in the wood and it would go no more. There were many more screws unscrewed.

Gradually, it dawned on me: the batteries were at the end of their rechargeable life. We'd used them for at least 8 years that I could remember, and the things had to die sometime. There were also two other projects that require the power drill.

Denny announced cheerfully that it was a world's record, five seconds into a job and we had to go to the hardware store! For you studiously unhandy, it is rare that any household repair or DIY project will be accomplished without a trip to the hardware store, for either a 5 cent washer or a $150 power level or some such thing. When it does happen, it tends to make a homeowner darned nervous. You know you will have to pay, and yes indeed, the previous weekend, with our measuring and cutting we had managed to get through it without going to the hardware store.

It's not just us, you know: many other DIY writers have noted this phenomenon.

Off I trudged to the car, with the drill in a canvas shopping bag. Got to the hardware store. No, they didn't have any on hand but they could order some for me. It would take a few days. He swore he would call me when they came in. He lied. Several days later I called and the batteries were in.

Friday night we stopped after work and got the batteries. I put them to charge. Looked for the manual for the drill but couldn't find it. Saturday we got out the drill and although it whirred, it didn't whirr very fast. Oh, no, I thought. Curses.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered reading something about this kind of battery needing at least 24 hours of charging the first time around. I put them back in the charger with a heavy heart, not trusting this odd bit of mind-dust bunny. The shelves seemed doomed. I would have to go and buy another big expensive drill.

This morning we hauled out the half-made pine carcass, and I whirred the drill experimentally. It worked. We were done in 15 minutes.

It only took us four weeks, $20 worth of lumber, and $30 worth of batteries to make a simple backless video shelf. A triumph, right?

But there was the world's record hardware store trip, so that's a comfort.

Next week: The Squirrel in the Attic Saga (hint, so far, the squirrel is winning)


Monday, November 19

I don't mind the squirrels living in the eaves. After all, we aren't using them except to keep the rain out, but we don't want rodents in the attic.

As some of you know, we have a large house, and the attic has three rooms with even more attics sort of tacked on. One we've only been into once just to say we'd looked and to make sure there was no hidden treasure or leftover priests.

Denny stores a lot of his books in the attic. The squirrel was knocking them off the shelves and leaving little dark, round souvenirs about. One day I heard a funny noise and actually surprised the critter, causing it to leap from a tall bookshelf to dash into the eaves, where it disappeared into a crack in the floor boards which we had not previously noticed.

We tried a live trap. The squirrel simply reached in from the sides and stole the bait (I think in retrospect that we were betrayed by my soft heart when I bought the bigger trap telling myself I didn't want the poor thing to get claustrophobia. That size was probably meant for raccoons.)

So this past Saturday we armed ourselves with a long piece of plywood, the drill, screws, tape measure, the hammer and the jig saw, and went up to do battle. The jig is up, I said, but no one was impressed.

The crack ran for several feet. It was way under the eaves in an area ranging from 0 to 2.5 feet tall, and ran between the joists. The joists were about 22 inches or so apart.

To get to this area, one had to crawl between the other supporting joists that come straight down, making a sort of open compartment, rather like a large coffin frame.

After getting one's head, shoulders and hips in, one then had to make a right angle turn in order to get to the area. I tried it. I could get through but was too fat to make that sharp turn. So Denny tried it.

It took some work, but he made it, all 6'3"! It took us about an hour. I had measured the spaces and we cut the boards and all that before we tried getting back in there. He patiently laid on his side in the dust and screwed piece after piece of wood over the long crack and a bunch of smaller ones we found with the aid of the flashlight. Occasionally he would mutter "squid" or "Petunias" when a screw rolled or a joist got in the way. A few times I had to do some fancy jig saw work, trying to remember not to leave seam allowances. It isn't pretty, but we think it will hold unless we get beavers.

Denny finally made it back out after some maneuvering. I rewarded his valor by marching him downstairs and into the back yard and beating him with a broom before he went back in and showered. Later, I went upstairs to sweep and vacuum up dust and squirrel exhaust.

We still aren't sure if we blocked all the holes. We're kind of afraid to look at the other end of the attic. Next spring we will have to have someone come and evict the tenants from the eaves.

I'm listening for strange noises and thumps up there. Haven't heard any so far. I did hear them fussing outside the next morning, probably, as Denny put it, when they discovered there had been an avalanche and the road to squirrel Disneyland was blocked. But they still have their winter cabin.

Let's remember our blessings this Thanksgiving and be grateful for the bounty of this fine land, and help distribute it a bit more evenly. The food shelves can use all the help they can get. Too bad they won't take some nice plump squirrels...


Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
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Copyright 2001 by Terry A. Garey.