Tuesday, January 31, 2012


In May of last year I built an owl shack to hang in my big pecan tree in the front yard.  I often heard owls outside at night and thought that was so awesome that I wanted to encourage them to live in my area. 

I found house plans specifically for the eastern screech owl online, and used wood I had on hand to put it together.  I had some huge pieces of tree bark I had been saving for fireplace kindling, and I used it on the outside of the house like siding for camouflage.  Lastly, I put a layer of wood shavings in the bottom as directed for bedding.  Instructions for hanging it in the tree were also rather specific.  With the tree that I have, I was able to abide by all of suggestions except for the direction that it faced.  I initially hung it facing the direction suggested, but quickly realized that at night my neighbors' driveway lights lit it up like an airport runway.  I moved it around to the other side of the tree.  It faces the sidewalk now -- not recommended -- but it met the other recommendations, so it was a start.  And I waited.

When I told people about it, they told me I would probably get bees in it.  Or squirrels.  I shrugged them off -- who knows what would happen? 

My previous posts about my owl shack are here:


At Halloween when I had the ladder out I mustered my courage and peered inside.  Nobody home.  At Christmas, again with the ladder, I lifted the lid and peered in.  Empty, but there was a well in the wood shavings.  Hmmm.. had something been resting there?

And then last week -- on the way home from a dog walk at dusk I looked up, and...


(Okay, so that is a photo I found on the internet -- but it's what he looked like!  I took a photo, but it was too dark to see anything in it.)  And then as I wheeled out my trash bins that evening for next day pick up, he craned around out the front and to the side and watched me.  It was awesome.

I haven't seen him since.  I hope that my staring or my trash bin noise didn't discourage him from returning.  But regardless, it is an encouraging start... I don't know how long he had been there, but I will be watching for him again.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Crawl Space Excursion

Last weekend I went on an investigative trip under my house to see if I could figure out why my kitchen is always the coldest room in the house*, and why, if I put my face down near the floor in front of my washer/dryer that there is enough breeze to blow my hair back.

Last year in a fit of desperation I put Gorilla Tape all along the bottom of my baseboards where they met the floor (just in the laundry area, you can't see ii I swear!)  It helped a tiny bit but not enough.  With the washer/dryer pulled out I simply cannot see any big holes that would account for the draftiness.

So under the house I went.  I knew that at some point before my time someone had reconfigured the back of the house mostly because when I tore down the old wooden deck it revealed a set of concrete stairs 5 feet to the right of where my back doors are -- and when I looked closely at the brick above them I could see that there used to be a door there and it had been bricked in.  

Here is a post with a photo of the old deck.  So to the right of the doggie door and to the left of the electrical meter is where the old door was.. http://my1929tudor.blogspot.com/2010/12/foundation-to-build-upon.html

(This renovation also explained how a 1929 house had a doggie door within the brick wall -- I am pretty sure doggie doors with metal sides and sliding doors didn't exist in 1929...)  Anyway, the view under the house also confirmed the reconfiguration, although it didn't shed any light on the specifics.

Last week I went to the Dallas Public Library to get a copy of the original house plans -- multiple sources had told me they were on file there -- they are not -- and the librarian said she wished she knew who had started that rumor -- but I did find other information about Nettie and her family which is just SO interesting -- but alas, another post!

I could see that while the sub floor in the rest of the house was diagonal planking, the area under the laundry area was simply plywood.  And it was clear that some re-jiggering had been done before me -- and sort of rigged.  And I found a huge hole where the electrical for the dryer ran up from under the crawl space up into the wall, and I could see all the way up, through the wall, to what I  believe was the ceiling!  My light wasn't strong enough to reach all the way up, so who knows if it went to the ceiling or all the way into the attic.  Um yes, hello drafty...

Fast forward to yesterday... Red and I went to  Home Depot and bought some R 5.0 rated foam insulation in a 4'x8' sheet.  (As it turned out we should have bought 2.)  We were able to cut it and fill 2 full "bays" -- we put it up against the sub floor and tacked it up with blocks of wood on the sides of the joists.  Red also stuffed some regular pink rolled insulation up into the opening that the electrical runs through and we blocked another similar hole nearby.

I also have an area of hardwood floor right inside my back door that has a little too much give in it when you walk on it.  I measured inside the house to pin point where that area was, and then did the same measurement down under the house and discovered that the sub floor had been cut off (where the plywood began) and that the ends of those sub floor planks weren't supported.  We added a 2"x6" on its edge with hangers between the joists to support that.  It helped some, but taking a closer look at the floor from up in the kitchen, the hardwood floor boards aren't properly attached to the sub floor.  It is an area that is maybe 6-8 planks and it's maybe 1-2 feet lengthwise.  (For now I'm not doing anything about that, now that I know it isn't a structural issue.)

I took my phone down with me, intending to take photos (and I won't lie, I wanted a form of communication in the unlikely event I somehow got locked in down there.  Irrational.  Whatever.) but it was in a zippered pocket under my zippered zoot suit, and I never did retrieve it to capture the moment.  Here is one photo that I took last week on my investigative mission -- it shows a split in one of the sub floor planks.

I have a few others too, but it's difficult to tell what they are out of context so I won't torture you with them...

I also discovered that the pipe that leads up to my front of the house water spigot must have a leak in it.  The dirt around it is damp...The good news is, all but about 2 feet of the pipe is already above ground and exposed so I don't have a ton of unearthing to do.  And the part that is underground is not very far underground.  And, it isn't a gusher leak -- the area isn't muddy, just damp -- but I do need to take care of that.

We are both sore today -- lots of duck walking while carrying things, lots of sitting on piles of rocks and brick and then working overhead.  I will see next time it gets cold here if it's improved, but it seems like it will have to be.  Maybe when I am doing there doing that I will also pile up the broken bricks and larger rocks to the middle area, away from the perimeter which is the path of travel... And this time when I go I will definitely wear a breathing mask in addition to the Tyvek zoot suit.  It's super dusty down there.  (But bug free, which is the most important thing of all in my book.)

*  Another thing to check off on my 2012 Manifesto!  Yay me!