Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My Father's Daughter

Despite the turmoil in my head and running on maybe three hours' sleep, I had a remarkably good time at work today. We're on a new (to me, the rest of the crew started a week ago) job site down in Massachusetts, and it's not a complete tear-down the way most of our deconstruction jobs are. This one is what we call a soft strip, where the client is going to be remodeling and wants parts of the old structure removed, but the exterior frame and a lot of the interior walls stay put. The original house was built in the 1820s (sayeth the homeowner), but it's gone through some drastic changes since then, so there aren't many original details remaining.

My job today was to strip plaster off the walls in one of the bedrooms. We'll strip the lath once we get our mega-vacuum on site, because nobody wants to expose the blown fiberglass insulation until the vac is set up to contain it.

Spending six hours playing with plaster gave my brain plenty of time to engage in one of my father's favorite pastimes: writing silly songs and parodies. I spent almost half the day trying to come up with lyrics for what is, unfortunately, a pretty narrow subject, and finally defaulted to a parody of Little Boxes (note: "brown coat" is sort of a setup layer in plastering, and horsehair or some other binder is mixed in to give it some "tooth"):

Little horsehairs in the brown coat,
little horsehairs in the plastering,
and they all came from a chestnut,
and they all look just the same,
there's a red one, and a red one,
and a red one, and a red one,
little horsehairs in the brown coat,
and they all look just the same.

With that in my head on repeat for hours and hours, the comfortable monotony was only occasionally broken by something weird or interesting. There wasn't much to interest my inner window geek (all of the windows were replaced sometime in the mid 20th century, have godawful spiral balances, are poorly-proportioned, and have flat glass and failing glazing), but my inner entomologist (another link to Dad) was amused to find that, as I was pulling plaster off lath, a few beetles poked their heads out of the wall cavity, too. 

Apologies for the awful stupidphone picture. This here's Harmonia axyridis, the Asian Ladybeetle imported by the US Department of Agriculture to help with an aphid problem a while back. While H. axyridis eats aphids happily enough, it also eats Coccinella septempunctata, our native ladybugs, which the DoA folks didn't bother to check beforehand. These little varmints will winter anywhere it's cozy, including in the little gaps where the plaster didn't get keyed (squished through the gap in the lath).

I also found, under the wallpaper, this little note:

Why they wrote it, and marked a spot not quite where the plug ended up going, is beyond me, but it made me chuckle anyway.

This, on the other hand, confused me. Before we started our work on this site, a crew came through and covered all the floors that were going to be kept (including two sets of stairs) with thin plywood, and while they used standard duct tape on most of the seams, on the stairs they used Zip tape, which is designed to be used with Zip System wall panels. It's not cheap (roughly 25¢ per foot, retail), and it doesn't release well at all. But I suppose that's the GC's problem.

Near the end of the day, I got a bit of a treat. The homeowner came by to do some snow clearing, and he brought his two dogs, an older Golden Retriever and a very young Pitt Bull cross. They're extremely friendly dogs, but not well-mannered -- they love to jump on people and chew on hands to show excitement. Still, it was lovely to get to play with them for a minute, and their visit made my day.

Now that I've washed the plaster dust off my face (even with a dust mask, I came off the job site looking like a cocaine addict), it's time to put on a movie and let my sore muscles relax so I can go back and do more of the same tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment