Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Operation SOS - Part 5

After a very productive day last Wednesday we were rained out early on Thursday.  There wasn't any rain on Friday, but there wasn't any sun either.  I went out at one point, but decided quickly that trying to pick up wet, heavy rocks with wet gloves and then carry them across the slippery ground while increasing amounts of mud were clumping up on my shoes probably wasn't the safest idea.

But it was back to work on Saturday.

I found this little guy when removing the tarp we had put down for the earlier rain:

I carried him to the safety of the woods along the creek before we began shoveling into the dirt pile he had been burrowed into.

Thanks to the help of a family friend, my mom and I were able to focus almost entirely on the stone walk and wall outside the springhouse.  Inside the springhouse, Adam (a once-upon-a-time preschool student of my mom's who still likes to spend an occassional weekend at The Farm) put in a hard day's work completing the job of knocking out the old plaster ceiling. 

It was very neat to see the original cedar shingles and rafters (which are small tree trunks) revealed. 

Work progressed outside of the springhouse as well:

I was originally planning a loose gravel or mulch walkway, but when digging we uncovered an old fieldstone sidewalk buried under about a foot and a half of dirt.  Two large stones were broken by the backhoe before we realized what they were, but the wide stone in the middle of the walkway is from the original sidewalk. 

And remember this?  That second step in the picture above is the right half of the old lintel above the front door.  (The left half is now a lintel over a window on the south side of the house.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Operation SOS - Part 4

Lots to update here, but it's finally stopped trying to rain and I should head back outside, so I'm going to rely on pictures more than words to show what we've been up to around here the past two days.

First - the springhouse after the work earlier this spring:

Our masons did an amazing job making and installing the new door:

Tuesday we kept busy clearing overzealous trees and branches away from the building.  I spent much of my time sanding and priming while my mom removed several areas of rotted wood.  Here's the sill of the back window just before she removed it:

This back window had one original sash still in it.  When mom removed it she noticed that around the edge a thin strip of the original paint color remained.  We were both thrilled to see that it is very similar to the color I am putting back on the springhouse's woodwork.  The old paint is on right edge of the sill in the below picture (the door frame in the background has the new color on it).

Springhouse with door and window frame primed and painted:

Yesterday's work was backbreaking.  The first few hours I spent beginning to remove the plaster ceiling in the springhouse:

I had walnuts (and heaven knows what else) falling on my head until my dad arrived with his backhoe and we switched to a different job.  Here's a picture looking along the front of the springhouse before my dad began digging:

Over time, erosion has carried so much dirt down this hill that the ground was about 2 feet higher than the threshold of the springhouse door.  The plan is to dig out a walkway level with the springhouse floor, and build a stone retaining wall to hold back the higher ground.  So the digging began:

Once the backhoe had done it's worst, mom and I set in with shovels.  Here's my mom working on the trench for the drainage tile:

We tackled tree roots:

And we tackled rocks:

Lots of rocks:

The barn kittens kept us company on a nearby stump:

And, finally, here's a picture with the drainage tile in place, just before we quit for the night:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Operation SOS has resumed...

That's "Save Our Springhouse" for anyone who wasn't around here last spring.  And I'm on vacation from my desk job this week - so there should be lots to post about the next few days.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bat Exclusion, et al.

Thursday night I took the last formal count for our bat exclusion.  The results:

Bats leaving the attics - 0
Bats leaving the south chimney - 0
Bats leaving the bat boxes - 62

I think we've accomplished our goal and can remove the one-way door and close that last access hole to the attic.  But (as the comments to my last post so clearly show!) there's one last step we must take before we can consider our bat issue completely resolved.  Namely, we have to clean up the mess in the attic.  There's bad news and good (or at least less bad) news here.

The bad news is obvious.  Our attic has to be full of guano.  And because handling guano can cause serious illness in humans, cleaning our attic is not a job we want to or should attmept to do ourselves.  I've called a few places who handle this type of cleanup to get quotes and it appears this will be a very expensive job.

Kathy left a comment after my last post asking, "Do you have access to the attic from inside the house?".  The answer to this question is no.  In fact, we don't have access to the attic period.  There are no windows to the attic, no vents, and no opening through a bedroom ceiling beneath.  This is both bad news and good news when it comes to cleaning up our bat mess. Bad news because it means accessing the mess to clean it up will require some type of structural change to the house.  However, it is also good news because this complete lack of access means that the bat mess is currently entirely contained within the attic.  I'll freely admit to looking at our bedroom ceilings and wondering what lies above, but from inside the house there is absolutely no evidence of our former attic residents.  The ceilings are not discolored or sagging.  The only time we found bat droppings inside the house was while working on the exposed stone wall at the top of the stairs (this was also the only time a bat entered the house from the attic).  The top edge of the exposed wall has since been finished, and just to be sure, before we began our exlcusion I ran a bead of clear caulk along the seam where the exposed wall meets the ceiling.

For now, we plan to simply plug the last exterior access to the attic and let whatever is up there stay up there.  Quotes for having the guano removed are quite high, so this is a project we will need to plan ahead for.  We will keep a close eye on our bedroom ceilings for any sign of strain or staining.  And we will keep our eyes open for "bat bugs", who often enter homes after a bat exclusion in search of a new food source.  The thought of these bugs getting into our house is quite disturbing, but I'm hoping that the lack of access to the bedrooms from the attic will keep these tiny blood suckers up in their current home.  The isolation of our attic from the rest of the house is complete - no ductwork enters the attic, nor are there any electric lines or ceiling light fixtures in any of the bedroom bedrooms to provide access.  But we will definately be watching for any signs of infestation.

Ugh.  After typing all that out I'm feeling rather squicky.  So let's move on to some cleaner topics.  So - I mentioned a few posts ago finishing up the back bedroom.  Here's the semi-finished room:

Cecilia is quite happy with it, and the dresser from the Leaning House is a perfect fit:

With Celia moved into her new room I've been able to focus on the hallway, getting the wood floor painted and the handrail and other woodwork finished:

The color and tight grain of the old walnut wood in this house really is amazing.  : )

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bat Exclusion - Night Four

Actually, I don't have a report for last night.  (Unless you want to hear about Neil and Cecilia's bed-time routine.)  But I went outside this morning and quickly found evidence that everything is continuing as hoped:

I never thought a pile of bat guano could make me smile, but it did this morning. 
Here's a picture of the bat box hanging directly above the droppings pictured above:

I have no idea how many bats are now using the east facing box, but the numbers are clearly going up each night.  Despite this, the bats in our bat boxes are still only a small portion of the colony evicted from our attic.  Wherever the rest are I hope they too have found sufficient shelter. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bat Exclusion - Night Three

Last night's tally:

Number of bats to exit the attic through the one-way door: 10
Number of bats seen flying out of new bat houses: 26
Number of bats seen flying away from the south chimney: 1
Number of bats unaccounted for: over 200

Here's hoping those 26 tell their friends and family about the wonderful new accomodations they found. : )

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bat Exclusion - Night Two

Yesterday just before dusk I stood directly under our new bat boxes and shined a flashlight above me. I thought I could make out one bat in each box (although it was hard to tell if I was seeing bats or wasps nests). As darkness fell we settled in on the patio outside the kitchen to wait for the second night's show. One of the things I've learned from this adventure is that not every bat in a colony will be active on any given night. We will need to leave the one-way door up for at least a week before we can be confident that all of our bats have had sufficient time to exit the Einsel House attic.

By 9pm last night we had counted 47 bats leaving the attic. We didn't take a count on Sunday night, but considering that last fall my sister-in-law stopped counting at 200 one night even though bats were still coming out we're pleased with an under-50 count for the second night with the one-way door up.

Unlike the first night, the bats that came out last night did not attempt to immediately reenter the attic. (I admit it's possible they were intimidated by the larger spot light we had last night.) :) Regardless, once out, last night's bats headed for the creek.

Of course the big question for the night was - where did the bats that exited the first night go? We saw only one bat fly out of the bat boxes we put up earlier this summer. We also saw at least 3 bats coming from the capped south chimney of the house. It appears that the bats did not enter the actual chimney proper, but instead found shelter behind a gap in one piece of flashing used to cap the chimney. We'll be watching this chimney closely to determine if it continues to be used by the bats.

Early this morning I sat down at the computer to check email. Within a few minutes I noticed there were bats flying outside the office window. I slipped on some shoes and went outside to watch. As before, the bats would fly straight to the top of the one-way door then abruptly turn around, loop back and try again. Each bat made around five or six tries at the door before giving up.

I walked around the house and saw bats swooping toward the eaves all around the roof. As I watched two bats went back into the south chimney. They actually landed on the roof first and crawled over to the chimney before climbing behind the gap in the flashing.

By 6:45 there were only two bats still looping through the air outside the one-way door. When they finally gave up I followed them around to the south end of the house. Again they began circling above me, each flying repeatedly up to the south gable peak of the house. Finding it too blocked, they proceeded around to the back of the house. Yet again they flew repeatedly at the roofline. By this time I honestly felt sorry for the two things so quiet in their frantic flight above me. They did finally admit defeat, and I watched as they flew together towards some woods just north of the house. Their repeated failure to get back into the Einsel House has been our goal from the start, and yet watching those two poor bats was poignant somehow. Most of the creatures forced out of this house in the past two days have called this place home longer than I have.

I'm curious to see what tonight brings.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bat Exclusion - Night One

Last night was wild. Just before dusk Charles predicted that we would have "a boatload of angry bats by morning." He was wrong. We had a boatload of angry bats within about an hour.

Any other night, our bats came out two or three at a time and flew basically straight down to the creek. Last night the bats the bats came out right on time, and most had no problem finding their way out the one-way door, but they seemed to know almost immediately that something was different. Almost as soon as the bats came out they circled back and began trying repeatedly to reenter the attic. By nine o'clock last night we had at least 30-40 bats circling in the air just above us. "It's like a swarm of giant gnats," Charles commented at one point.

We took a lot of pictures and video, but our camera is nothing special so the quality of what is below is pretty pathetic. Some still pictures are first:

And some video next. I really wish these were better quality, but they at least give some idea. This first video was taken as the first bats began to find their way out. You'll see (and hear) the first bat to try to reenter the attic:

This second video is short (the flashlight was needed to locate Neil's lost quarter), but I still thought the video worth including:

And finally, the poorest quality video yet, but it's longer at least. And it gives some idea of the number of bats swarming the house last night:

I took the kids to The Farm shortly after the last video was taken. Charles stayed at The Einsel House. He stayed up until 2am and said the bats were still circling the house and attempting to reenter the attic when he finally went to bed. So far we haven't had any bats find their way into the house.

The bats were gone by this morning. We have no idea if they eventually found a way back into the attic, or if they gave up and spent today in some other roost. We're going back outside tonight to see if any bats return, and if so to try to determine where they come from.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Here We Go...

That's a one-way bat door. At least we hope that's what it is.

Many thanks to my Uncle J for being willing to spend half an hour on an extension ladder to install the thing.

We'll be spending tonight at The Farm, but I plan to hang around here long enough to make sure that our bats are indeed able to find their way out.