Monday, June 6, 2011

The Romance of an Old House

Back about a month ago, as we were gearing up to have company for the weekend, we noticed an odor.  At first it smelled fishy and soon became obvious that it was coming from the laundry room.  I initially suspected wet running clothes to be the culprit, but then, on a rainy day when the windows were kept shut, the smell became obnoxious and it was clear that something had died.

That evening, Jamey set out to find the deceased culprit.  We were certain it was a mouse, possibly stuck under the upright freezer.  Or the chest freezer.  Or the washer.  Or the dryer.  After sliding, scooting and much searching with a flashlight, the search was called off.  Nothing was found.  But the room wreaked.  Being just off the mudroom (the main entrance into our house) and the playroom (where we do school and spend much of our time), it was impossible to ignore.  We tried closing the laundry room door and opening the laundry room window wide.  I bought air fresheners (which I despise), but still it stunk.  As soon as I walked into our house, I could smell it.

A day or so later, Jamey went into our small mudroom off the main mudroom only to smell the smell in there as well.  He searched the little room to no avail and we finally had to surmise that something died in the shared wall of the laundry room and small mud room.  Wonderful.  Company was coming the next day.

We managed to keep the laundry room door closed and our guests (possible fibbing to our faces) kindly said that they couldn't smell anything.  Over the next couple weeks, the smell faded away as the deceased dried up and the laundry door was opened back up and I no longer had to hold my breath while doing laundry or retrieving something from the freezers.

End of story?  Not so much.

Fast forward a couple weeks to the middle of last week.  We live in the country and every year, at a certain time of the year, we notice a surplus of flies.  They sneak in the back door, hover around food and poop (or spit up or whatever they do) on my clean windows.  We get out the flyswatters and hang the fly tape and in a few weeks, the worst of it has passed and only the occasional fly annoys me for the rest of the summer.

This past week was different.  As I was expecting the fly population in our house to wane, it waxed.   More and more flies began appearing and these new flies were different.  Size-wise, they were in between houseflies and horseflies and they were green.  I suspected an open screen somewhere and sure enough, in Sam and Sadie's room I discovered two windows open a couple inches at the top (the screens are only at the bottom).  I closed them up and repeated the no-messing-with-the-windows-lecture, killed the remaining flies and thought that was that.

Until the next morning.

I knew something was up when I heard Sam downstairs whacking away at the windows with the flyswatter before I even had Miriam dressed.  I went downstairs to find dozens of flies hovering around each window (we have 12 downstairs).  Where were they coming from?!  I checked windows again.  I even looked on the outside of the house trying to discern where they were congregating and possibly entering.  I was dumbfounded and getting very frustrated.  Sam and I killed hundreds of flies.  Sadie, bless her heart, followed us around with the dust-buster vacuuming up the carcasses until the battery ran out.

Then, my mother-in-law called to ask me a question.  I shared my conundrum with her and she suggested that maybe they were coming from our cellar.  Ha!  I hadn't thought of that.  She mentioned a fly poison that they had used in the past that was helpful and I quickly shot off another fly-related email to Jamey at work.  Yes, in the midst of his continued orientation at his new job, I thought he should know the play-by-play status of our fly situation.

Next, I headed outside to check out the cellar.  We have a very primitive cellar- a small concrete slab with cinder block walls that don't even reach the "ceiling" of the cellar, but stop so that the crawl space under the house can be accessed.  Yuck.  On my way out the door I had to dodge the bottom half of a chipmunk (thank you, Somersault) which turned my already queasy-from-killing-hundreds-of-flies stomach.  I got the the door of the cellar, lifted the lid (it's one of those tornado-shelter looking doors) and gazed down the steps at the storm door at the bottom.  Even from that distance, I could see thousands of flies buzzing against the storm door.

I went for reinforcements.  I needed my eight-year-old boy.

Brave little Sam went down those steps fascinated by all the flies and pushed open the storm door.  Flies poured out of the cellar, happy to alas be free.

I.  Almost.  Gagged.

The rest of the story wraps up as you'd expect.  Jamey came home with a fly trap and over a few days, our fly problem went away as the odor in the laundry room had.  I can't help but wonder if the two problems were related.

So, who wants to live in those brand-new, tightly-constructed and efficient homes anyway? Pin It

14 comments:

  1. Oh, Dear Lord! That is yucky! I have to wonder if the two are in some way connected as well...I pray you have no more of that nonsense! :)

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  2. Ok, you're scaring me... we recently looked at an old farmhouse, with the primitive type basement like yours.... and now I'm a little freaked out, maybe we should be looking for a newer home instead? :)
    Randi

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  3. Eeeuuw! Shudder! Gasp-gag! Condolences sent.

    We once lived in a really old house that had metal heat ducting from the ancient furnace in the basement. A mouse (or meese??) died somewhere in the ducting IN THE WINTER TIME. We couldn't do without the heat, but it was hard (really hard) to live with the stench when the warm air was blowing through the ducts. Through the whole house. Both two floors.

    Who wants to live in those brand-new, tightly-constructed and efficient homes anyway? None of us should because of all the harmful out-gassing of the chemicals and poisons used in nearly all aspects of the new materials!!

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  4. Ewwwwww.....

    I think I'll skip breakfast this morning... thanks!

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  5. I'm smiling over the play-by-play emailed to Jamey while at work. I would have done the same if Todd wasn't signed into yahoo im where I can normally ping him immediately with news on the homefront while he's in the real office.

    Glad you eliminated the fly problem and chipmunk!

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  6. Oh, Randi!
    I certainly didn't mean to scare anyone. Old houses can be wonderful- all the character and charm and knowing that you're recycling a home. BUT, you should also take into consideration the trials that pop up now and again. If you and/or your husband are handy and enjoy the occasional project or problem-solving that's involved, OR if you have funds to spare to have repairs made, old houses are wonderful:-).

    We had a home inspection done by someone who specializes in old homes prior to closing. We looked over the list of needed repairs (both present and pending) and made a decision that Jamey could take care of most of them. We then brought our offer down $20,000 to account for the repairs (the inspector estimated the cost of it all) and the seller accepted our offer.

    Some of those repairs haven't needed addressing yet, so it wasn't stuff that needed doing all at once. We moved right in and have been addressing issues as they come up, although a few of the most pressing ones, we dealt with right away. Better insulation is our our list for the next year or two, but we've lived here 6 years and have survived without it (partially due to lack of funds).

    Just some things to think about:-). Sorry I wrote a book on it!

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  7. Ok, my 2 absolute favorite parts of this story are #1 that you were keeping your hubby updated on the situation while he was at work (I do that too...except mine was a bee thing a couple weeks ago!) and #2 that you sent your 8-year old son into the swarm of flies! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who sends my 8-yr old son in first! :)

    I've decided I found you by God's greater plan! I read your blog for a while now and so often I think...wow, how does this wonderful woman know so much about my life? :)

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  8. I remember this happening in an older home when my husband was in seminary and we were living in a parsonage next to the church he was pastoring. No flies, but the smell!!!

    Fast forward to our newly constructed farmhouse in the country...

    at least 3 times a year we get that horrible smell! Mice are country dwellers, but they have no heart for the harsh elements. They prefer our wall space! Thus the reason for 5 cats on our homestead. They're outdoor cats and they're job includes gophers, mice, and other such delectable cat edibles!

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  9. I KNOW THE FEELING ABOUT A BAD ODER. WE HAVE HAD A STENCH IN THIS NEWER BUILD HOME-SAY LAST 1/2 CENTURY.IT SEEMS TO BE COMING FROM THE DUCK WORK ALTHOUGH WE HAVE NOT RULED OUT THE SUMP PUMP IN THE CRAWL SPACE. BUT NEIGHBORS HAVE TOLD US STORIES ABOUT THE OLD OWNERS.IN THE BURBS YOU HAVE TO HAVE A SERVICE [ A GARBAGE SERVICE ] I'M NOT BAD MOUTHING ANOTHER NATION OF PEOPLE BUT THEY DID NOT BELIEVE IN THE SERVICE FOR 4 YEARS. DON'T ASK?--where did they put it? don't know! don't want to know

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  10. Oh, I'm so sorry! I have these moments of HUGE sighs at times when the charm of our old house is outweighed by the ridiculous frustrations.

    I have to share our story--we had the same smell coming from the garage and it took us days in 90 degree heat to realize that our deep freezer had come unplugged and the LARGE amount of meat had completely rotted. The smell lasted FORever.

    Maybe it'll be charming tomorrow:)

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  11. Too Too funny! My favorite part is the enlisting of help, the 8 year old boy!. Maybe because it resonates. When we were having mouse problems. I enlisted the help of a 5 year old boy! Why do we become such wimps in these moments? Sending our sons into "danger".....:)

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  12. Yucky. Mysterious odors are never fun. We had one in our basement recently, and we thought a mouse had died in one of the freezers even though we have never had rodent trouble. Afters days of searching for the culprit I came across a pound of hamburg I had put in a basket of books that was near the freezer. Gross, gross, gross. Mommy brain strikes again! Couldn't tell you why I put the hamburg in there, but clearly I forgot about it the second I did it.

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Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

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