Sunday, May 21, 2006

Adventures in the attic

(Preface: one of the reasons I go on these no-posting binges is that when I neglect the blog for a few days, I feel like when I post again I either have to have a really good story or to come up with some sort of apology for not having posted, and that sense of obligation becomes burdensome enough to keep me from starting a post. So the solution is to avoid the good story and the apology and just write this explanation instead, and to try to convince myself to duck the guilt, because it is just a blog.)

So anyway. Since we’ll be gone for two months, I’ve had a whole list of fixy things to do with the house before we go. Ostensibly the easiest of these involved replacing the little screen over the dryer vent where the vent exits the house. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds, because it’s high enough up to need a small ladder, and there’s a flowering tree on that side of the house that makes it difficult to get the ladder just where I need it. But through some rather clever ladder-yoga I managed to get everything teeteringly in place, and got the new screen on. There were a few bits of grass and straw poking out of the vent, and though it didn’t seem obstructed, I suddenly had a flash of memory of having seen little birds hopping around that tree and ducking into the vent. That was about a year ago, and I’d realized then that the screen was loose – the birds were just pushing it aside and getting into the vent, which was like a nice little shady front porch for them. At the time I fixed the screen back into place (having seen no obvious evidence of nesting) and didn’t think much of it. This spring I noticed the screen was entirely gone, and though I hadn’t seen any more bird activity there, I wanted to get it fixed before we left.

Having done so (hey, that was easy! look how handy I am!), I thought I’d double check and make sure the vent wasn’t obstructed. Turned on the dryer – and only the faintest breath of air came out the vent. Hmmm... this is going to require an expedition into the attic. So I clambered up the wobbly pull-down ladder in the garage, crawled up into the dark, hot, dusty corner where the vent reaches the outside, wrestled it loose enough to ease an arm inside, and just at an arm’s length inside the vent there was an impressive wad of grass and shredded newspaper.

Having cleared out that wad, I triumphantly turn on the dryer again, and… just the faint little breath of air. Now I'm starting to take this personally, muttering foul curses against cute little birds and their cozy little porches. (For full effect, please keep in mind that it's well over 90 degrees in the attic and I'm doing this by flashlight, balancing on the ceiling joists, in a space that's only a few feet high). I manage to unattach the vent from the frame of the roof and un-duct-tape the last three-foot section, which turns out to have three separate grass-wads plugging up its length. How long have they been at this? Dryer on again… and still nothing. Somehow this has gone from a five-minute fix to something that will involve me dismantling my entire attic. So I turn to the next section of vent, disconnect that, and remove several more feet of grass and newspaper. It’s a bit late to make a long story short, but suffice it to say that I ended up cleaning astonishing amounts of crap out of about fifteen feet of dryer vent (and I looked like I was wearing most of it by the time I climbed back down). WTF? I can’t imagine birds nesting that far back, but they were probably irritated by the hot and mysteriously Bounce-scented wind that blew through every Sunday afternoon, and blocked it off for that reason.

Sorry, birds. But I bet my dryer will sure work better tomorrow.