armpits and wine
Saturday, October 23 2010
We've been living here in Hurley for slightly more than eight years but I've never performed a systematic chimney cleaning. Our woodstove benefits from a nearly-vertical chimney stack, and at some point some years ago I'd assumed this geometry would prevent creosote build-up. The replacement of a section of pipe two or three years ago seemed to confirm this theory; the old pipe had very little creosote in it. But last year when I replaced the entire stove I noticed that the higher pipes above the stove had substantial creosote in them, and I realized at some point I'd have to do something about those pipes or risk a chimney fire. But before doing something to clean those pipes, I wanted to put a system in place to make cleaning those pipes easy. If cleaning them meant disassembling the stack every few years, chances were good that'd I'd put it off until too late; after all, eight years of burning marginal firewood hadn't resulted in a chimney fire. Today I finally got around to putting that system in place. I installed a T-fitting in the six-inch pipe just below a 45 degree bend. The idea was that this would give me access to the pipes both above and below that fitting; I could remove a cap from this fitting and thread in a fibreglass pole tipped with some sort of pipe-cleaning brush to scrape those pipes from the inside, and the creosote would fall into the stove to provide fuel for my next fire. Today I installed that fitting and then attempted to clean the pipes using a system of flexible thread-together poles tipped with a large wire pipe cleaner, but I quickly found that this brush wasn't capable of making it around the bends in the pipe. So I made my own custom pipe scraper from two springy stainless-steel strips salvaged from a pair of old windshield wiper blades (chalk one up for hoarding!) which I attached to a brass fitting using a wormscrew hose clamp. The brass fitting screwed onto the threaded end of a fibreglass pole, allowing me to poke it all the way up to the rain cap at the top of the chimney. Using this system, I was able to scrape about a quart of creosote from the walls of the upper pipes. As I did so, most of it fell into the stove, but some escaped from the T-fitting as dust, settling like 19th Century grime on the floor and coffee table.
The custom pipe brush I'd made from old windshield wiper springs is on the left, while the useless one I'd bought is on the right.
The pile of creosote from today's cleaning.
The T-fitting port I installed in the chimney pipe today.
Most of what I did today was collect firewood from Ray and Nancy's Silver Maple. On my first trip there, I found Ray knocking small hollow plastic golf balls down the fairway of his backyard. He'd gotten his set of clubs for cheap at a yard sale, but no matter how little he'd paid for them, they didn't really suit him.
I used the gas chainsaw to cut up some of the larger pieces of the maple, and as I was preparing to do so, one of the kids from Ray's neighbor to the south came over and chatted a bit. He was maybe 12 years old and seemed to be especially interested in the chainsaw. His father (or whoever runs his household) is typical of Old Hurley in that he is displaying Republican yard signs in anticipation of the upcoming election. Unlike others on Old 209, though, he's only displaying a sign for George Phillips (Maurice Hinchey's opponent); evidently he's decided he doesn't want to be associated with the crazy yammerings of Carl Paladino (whose poorly-designed yard signs feature red text on a black background — perhaps as a sign of rage — and are hard to read).
On my last trip to pick up Silver Maple, I came upon Nancy with her sister Linda and Linda's husband Adam, along with their dogs. They'd just come back from a hike and were about to start drinking wine. I had a glass of that wine in the dining room, wearing nothing but my overalls. Gretchen had noted that my armpits were particularly ripe today, and I'd warned Nancy about them, but she hadn't seemed to mind.
Later Nancy, Linda, and Adam picked Gretchen and me up at our house and we all drove out to the Woodstock Lodge for drinks. The Woodstock Lodge is uncommonly cozy and pleasant, particularly in these days of autumnal chill, but the young woman who was bartending there tonight was kind of bitchy to us. When we asked about food possibilities, she suggested we go to some other bar. In the end, Adam (who was the only one of us who was really hungry) managed to order a perfectly good portobello-based item, after which the bartender seemed to realize she'd been a bitch, and from then on she was supernice as a form of overcompensation. Gretchen noticed that the bulk of the Woodstock Lodge's customers were "beautiful people" of the sort one doesn't normally see at other Woodstock establishments. (At this point we know the faces if not the names of most of Woodstock's regulars.)
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