So here I am, holed up with all my current worldly goods in an 8 x 10 room with a space heater and four blankets. Iím in bed, fully clothed with extra socks.
Let me tell you about my day. Itís not so bad, things could have been worse - the toilets could all be cracked. Then again, tomorrow may be bad if the house floods because something Iíve missed.
The day began early, couldnít sleep, stressing that I would forget something I would need later. We left my house around 9 am hoping to arrive at my Dadís old house around noon and The Big Guy could have lunch before turning back for home.
This is the place I come to about once a month as required by my guardianship papers. Iím here to check on my Dadís house and to finish the renovations Iíd begun about in the summer. The village is nice and picturesque with real bells in the church and a total of 4 stores; the hardware store - which goes on Quebec hours even though itís in Ontario; the corner store that has expensive bits and bobs of the type that everyone always forgets to get when in town - it also has fabulous local cheese and cheese curds, fresh and very squeaky; the gas station if tiny bags of chips and coke are your midnight craving and the local liquor store that has a weird way of finding vintages that are spectacular and hard to find in the larger cities.
Thereís a pub that seems more like a family room where they charge you for your drinks. In the summer, the back patio is the only place to be with music and a barbeque and conversation floating about in french and english but luckily for me itís mostly frenglish. Everyone works with their hands in some builder/tradesperson's way except for one beautiful lady that has an office job in the capitol, I always like to see her because she is the Emelda Marcos of the village.
Itís quieter here in winter with the smell of woodstoves in the air and stray cats finding comfy vents and kind people. I love coming here. Itís lonely without The Big Guy but I like the work and itís nice to take a break from life and work by my own schedule.
The renos are nearing completion and the value of the house has increased by a third. Aside from a window casement that will be like the jigsaw puzzle of a demented carpenter, I only have little things to do, nails here and there, caulking up gaps in the old walls and ceiling, paint touch ups and the doorknob for the bathroom that I remembered didnít exist as I once shut the door from the inside. Something like that doesnít happen twice, thank the gods for metal shower curtains and a strategically curled coat hanger.
Iíve been the fixer and the caretaker of this building for almost half a year so youíd think I knew all of itís quirks - wrong. Thereís a little space at the bottom edge of the old outside windows on the upper floor. It seems that when frost enters this crack, it pops the window open. Depending on which way the winds is blowing, this window can be swinging wide open, letting all the 20 degree below temperatures come roaring in, screaming like Jack Frost on steroids past the steady toasty trail of oil-warmed furnace air that obviously must have felt confined by the four warm walls. But that of course was before the furnace oil ran out. It seems like Jack and his friends from the north must have flung open the welcome gates and all the cooler characters moved in and partied.
The first clue I had was when I stepped into the back door and realized that it was colder inside the house than it was outside. I checked the thermostat and tapped it up a notch. The sound of the oil furnace not kicking in
was deafening. I noticed the temperature on the thermostat was not readable since it starts at 10 degrees celcius and it was clearly below that in the kitchen. The puff of breath that clouded out in front of me when I groaned, showed that the air was indeed much much colder than 10.
Down to the basement to make sure that the ingenious contraption that Iíd wrapped around a foot of water pipe was still working. There it was, that cheery red light telling me that it was doing itís job and keeping the first few feet of pipe filled with water in itís liquid state. None of the pipes around it looked split and the cement basement floor looked dry.
I turned my attention to the furnace and the giant 1000 litre oil tank. Yup, it was completely empty. The odd thing was that it should have only been down about halfways. Iíve been doing the renovations for only a short time but Iíve cared for this house through all of last winter and have a pretty good handle on the exact nature of how the house works, how much of what is used when.
I finally clued in when I went to use the upstairs bathroom only to find the water in the bowl was skimmed over with ice and a solid chunk of clear ice looked as though it had been extruded from the main outflow hole. Everyone has seen weird things but this was a first for me. I forgot the whole reason I was there and dropped to my knees to see if the bowl had cracked. Mercifully it wasnít and the tank on the back was empty. I guess that was the extruded Ice Creature that had made itís way to the bowl. This at least told me one good thing: the temperature must have dropped slowly enough to avoid bursting the porcelain fixtures. I turned to the sink and noticed a lovely little stalagmite of ice had formed from the drips. All I can say is Iím glad someone sometime had told me to always turn the water off before I leave the house each time. That little tidbit was worth approximately three thousand dollars. I should know since Iíd just renovated the bathroom on the main floor and put in all new fixtures.
Oh No! The new fixtures! They are new enough that Iíd only been able to use the new tub and shower stall once!
I flew down the stairs and bolted into the lower bathroom - the one without the door knob - to find that the sink was fine, the tub handle wouldnít move since it was most likely iced in place. No visible cracks on either fixture. But then there was that nice new toilet, sitting on the nice new floor that Iíd spent hours on. It was the toilet that had such small and perfect caulking that it made me realize that, yes, we all have to be good at something.
It looked fine from the outside and upon lifting the lid I was surprized to see that there was only a half inch ice disc there. Good but still threatening to freeze farther and cause the ice disc to push upward against the lip of the bowl. The resulting jagged edge would have made this toilet an instrument that the third world jailers would covet.
I took immediate action and asked The Big Guy to help.
ďGotta pee?Ē I asked.
He did and he broke the ice so to speak.
The only damage I can see so far is to the hot and cold pipes that would normally go to a washer and dryer set. They had taps on the top that allowed them to be turned on and off when not in use. They only caught my eye because the two taps were always level with each other and this time, one was not. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the copper pipe that sat directly under the one tap was clear. I donít remember ever seeing completely clear copper so I reached over and grabbed the tap gently, thinking that the new lights were playing tricks with my eyes. Maybe the lack of sleep and lunch? No, it was an ice pipe. A perfectly formed round section of ice that had again been extruded from the copper pipe like some funky play-doh. The tap sat frozen to the top of this column looking for all the world like I could just turn it and have ice water come out. The touch of my hand was enough to break the tap free of the column. The other pipe didnít fare any better, it had broken at the bottom where the pipe comes out of the wall. Thankfully, thereís enough sticking out that I can fit a cap of some sort on the end and the idea of a hot torch going right now sounds very appealing. Hardware store will be my first visit in the morning.
I phoned the oil company to see if there happened to be a tanker truck in the area that could give me an emergency fill. No luck there so The Big Guy drove me to the WalMart in the closest town to buy a couple heaters to get me through the night.
Not my regular shopping place and will never be my regular shopping place thanks to their willingness to display all the year-end space heaters with the giant sale price plastered across the front but not be willing to sell them.
ďCould I buy those heaters displayed on the top shelf?Ē
ďNo, those arenít for sale.Ē
Off to the Canadian Tire up the street from Wack-o World. I managed to get two heaters for a great deal.
So tonight Iím camping in the house. One of the heaters is gently thawing out the giant Ice Worm in the upstairs toilet and the other is shut into a tiny room with me. Itís toasty in here and I decided to use the stove downstairs to cook a frozen lasagna. If I had water, Iíd boil up some just to have the humidity give the air a pretend warmth while I wait for tomorrowís oil delivery. They say it will be most likely either the morning ...or the afternoon.
Iím stuffed full and have beer cooling in the hallway just outside the bedroom. Awfully handy.