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Day 5: Trying to Get Heat

Monday, November 6, 2023

 Saturday, October 28 was a doozy. A real doozy. I'd spent much of Thursday and Friday making calls, trying to get someone to come and hook up the gas line coming out of the house to run into the new lean-to, and to install a heater for me. I got nothing but no's. My seventh and last call was to my friend Walter Dean. You see, I didn't want to lean on my friends to help, but I simply couldn't get any heating/cooling company to come do this in less than several weeks to a month from now. Who knew I'd hit a roadblock like that at this stage of the game? I should have figured on it, based on how everything else had gone, but I guess I'm the eternal optimist. 

Walter swooped in and rescued me, grasping my situation and knowing about the frost coming by Monday night. He and his son Colton came out on Saturday to take a look at the job, and Walter measured everything out and made me a shopping list.  I had offered to go into town and pick up the stuff he'd need, because I didn't want him to have to make a trip to the hardware store. Again, the eternal optimist. 

It was good to see Colton soaking in his dad's instruction, so willing and eager to help.

He followed close on Walter's heels wherever he went, and lit out running for the truck to fetch supplies when asked.

Before I went to town for materials, I had to do two things. I knew it was going to rain a ton and very soon, so I took the Rudbeckias I'd been nursing in pots all summer long out to plant them on Bill's grave. I had to dig the whole thing up again to weed it, and then I dug holes for the seven plants. It was rather huge. 

While I was digging, I unearthed not one but FOUR Ravine salamanders. I tell them from the "lead-backed" form of the very common red-backed salamander by the fact that they look like Graniteware, the aluminum roasters my mom passed down to me. Black, with tiny speckles of silver and blue all over. 

Needless to say I dug very carefully, dreading hurting one, but all four were perfectly intact. One was even chewing on an earthworm when I dug it up! So cute!

I also found a beautiful Lactarius indigo (Indigo milkcap) mushroom.

When I was done, the skies were lowering and it was starting to rain. I was so glad I'd gotten those plants in and the weeding done. But my work was only beginning.

I felt bad asking Walt to drop everything and put in a heater for me, so I mad the decision to dig the trench for the gas line. He's recently had shoulder surgery and there's no way I wanted to see him dig a trench in clay.
It turned out to be 2' deep and 9' long and buddy, it was work. I still felt it in my thigh muscles three days later.

Trench dug, it was time to take a break and get in that new space and just revel in it. The Japanese maple, seen through the glass...

A couple of plants waiting outside to be brought in.

It would never be this empty again, and I wanted to enjoy the space. And rest for a few minutes.

I went looking for a chair in the basement and stumbled across these sawhorses that Bill had made many years ago. They were hidden under the basement stairs. I couldn't help but feel he'd led me to them, because I was about to buy a sawhorse kit and make my own. And poof! There they were! 
This keeps happening. Today, I was adding a greenhouse thermometer to my shopping list when I was moved to clean out all the birdseed trash cans in the garage. It was a terrible job; the seed was infested with every awful thing you could imagine. I had to wash everything, including the cans. And there, face down on the garage floor where I was sweeping, was a greenhouse thermometer, still in its packaging. Thanks, B. Message received.

Thanks, B. These will do very nicely.

Evening was coming. I warmed up and wolfed down a small piece of frozen pizza and headed for town. By then it was getting dark. I walked into Lowe's with the shopping list Walter had given me. Here's the list. Seems straightforward, right? It took me awhile to even find the gas plumbing section. Forget finding someone to help me.

 I stood in front of the enormous bank of fittings, looking at the array of pipe sizes (let's see, was it half inch, 7/8", 3/4", or 1"? I remembered seeing two different sizes of pipe when I was digging). I looked at the fittings. 90 degree. Straight. Reducing or not? But what diameter? How could I not have measured the pipes? This is one of those things Walter would know, just looking at it, and I would not.

I realized I was beaten before I even started. I ran aisle to aisle looking for anyone who might be willing to help me. Right. I dragged a teenager from Tools down the plumbing aisle. I might as well have just asked myself the questions. An older man who actually worked in plumbing walked by, trying not to let me catch his eye. That's a high art at Lowe's. Hide, and avoid eye contact especially with clueless women. I started to ask him a question and he cheerfully waved at the fittings section then announced he was going to lunch. It was 6:30 pm. "Wouldn't that be dinner?" I asked. He smiled, ducked his head and kept walking. I was on my own. Welcome to Lowe's. Have a great day! I pretty much hate trying to shop there, except for the racks of dying bargain plants. Those I can peruse with a knowing eye, and I don't need help. Everywhere else in the store? Ugh. I'm lost.

So I went to the space heater aisle, thinking I would buy a vent-free blue flame gas heater one size up from the one I had, because the greenhouse is so much bigger than the 8 x 12' Groanhouse. Again, nobody within a mile to help or answer questions. Finally, a teen even younger than the tools teen showed up to answer my call. He knew even less about gas heaters than I did. Hopeless. I broke away and roamed about a half mile up and down the deserted aisles until I found an employee with a little silver in his hair, some age and wisdom on him. I showed him the heater in my cart, showed him photos of the greenhouse, told him the dimensions. 

"That thing you're buying would heat an entire mobile home. It would run you out of that place. The heater you have at home will be more than enough." FINALLY. Somebody who knew ANYTHING. He saved me $200 and a LOT of trouble. OK. We'll go with the heater I already have. Then I finally got Walter on the phone and asked him to do the shop himself. I had no choice. I had tried, to no avail, and it was almost 10 pm. 

I was beat, done in by my own optimism. Just let people who know what they're doing do this, Zick. There are many things you are unqualified to even attempt, and this is one of them.

I grabbed an overpriced Panera sandwich, drove home, fell into bed exhausted, and didn't sleep for wondering whether I'd get heat in time for the big freeze. This would become my pattern for the next nine days.


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