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March 18, 2013
The heartbreak of… woodpeckers

    
Some new mountain home decorations: Christmas presents from our sons. Joss woodburned a sign with the new name of our house. Cameron (who is color blind) drew a montage of our multi-year construction.

In our last letter, we said that we might post less often about our mountain home construction. But honestly, we didn’t expect it to be this long!

It has been a very busy winter for us. For health reasons, our son Joss decided to take a break from university and move back home for a semester. He is currently attending the local junior college, but we are reluctant to leave him home alone for extended periods of time. As a result, our mountain trips have been limited.

Gail has found time to make a few solo trips. Her priority has been to keep the weeds from overgrowing the property, so she has been doing a lot of spraying. She discovered that cheap vinegar is just as effective as expensive weed killer, and she has been walking the roads with her backpack sprayer. When she has extra time, she tries to do what she can by herself on the construction. She has done a lot of re-sealing the house: finding and fixing leaks around window frames, door frames, wall joints, etc., where wind, rain and mice can get in.

She has also been treated to some spectacular wildlife sightings. We had installed red spotlights around the outside of the house for animal watching at night. Gail likes to sit in the house in the dark at night with the red spots on, and just watch to see what came wandering by. She has seen bats, deer, a fox and a rabbit. She has even seen three skunks, the first-ever sighting on the property. Russell is very jealous.

    
Before and after: In January, Gail stained the stair landings to match the dark cherry treads

But Gail’s most memorable solo trip occurred in mid-March. She drove up on Thursday, March 15, arriving near dusk. It wasn’t until the next morning, when she walked around outside, that she noticed various bits of hard insulation blowing around on the ground. Looking up at the house, she saw a small round hole in one of the exterior walls that she had never noticed before. Had we forgotten to cover up a vent hole?


The first ominous sign that things were not all right

Gail walked around the house. There were several more large round holes, each several inches in diameter. Some of them went all the way through the insulation to the interior drywall. There were numerous other smaller holes perforating the exterior walls.


One of the downstairs walls, pockmarked with lots of smaller holes

Gail did a more detailed search of the house exterior. Almost every screen door had been chewed through. Fortunately the sliding glass doors were intact, but the weather sealing around the frames was also chewed up. Some kind of vermin was trying its best to get into the house, and it was on the verge of succeeding.

    
A sliding door screen and weather insulation, both chewed up by something

Gail phoned Russell in an absolute state of panic. Russell said it would be impossible for him to get all the way up to the house, so he recommended she call someone local for help. Gail called Dennis, our county building inspector.

Over the years, Dennis has become a very good personal friend. He came through for us once again today. Not only did he drive all the way over to our property, but he brought his large ladder. Given Gail’s fear of heights and edges, he voluntarily went up on the ladder and patched all of the large holes.


We hadn’t planned to see Dennis, our building inspector, so soon after our final inspection… and we imagine the feeling was mutual


The master bedroom wall after Dennis’ handiwork

Dennis confirmed that the holes in the walls were the work of woodpeckers. (The screen holes were from mice.) He told Gail that woodpeckers are very territorial. Once they have laid a claim to your property, you will have great difficulty getting rid of them. Dennis and Gail discussed bright lights, noise makers, plastic owls, scented sprays and all kinds of other deterrents, but none are considered foolproof.

For the next couple of days, Russell and Gail exchanged web links to various anti-woodpecker devices. Every one was accompanied by forum comments from angry users declaring that the solutions were worthless. Nevertheless, Gail needed to do something before she left the mountain.

Her solution is both cheap and elegant. She drove to the local Wal-Mart in town and bought a couple of reflective thermal blankets. She cut them into strips, then tied them to the netting we have been using for our stair rails. By stringing lines up between corner posts, she created eave hangings that would glitter in the sunlight and move in the wind. She was able to reach six of the eight upper-story walls; the other two had no balconies.

    
Gail’s thermal blanket solution, before and after installation

It is a short term solution, but it will have to do. A longer-term solution may unfortunately involve completely resurfacing the entire house with stucco or sheet metal. At Dennis’ recommendation, Gail called a stucco expert. He looked at our situation and will come back with a quote. Has anyone ever seen the movie, “The Money Pit”?

Gail finally departed on Monday, March 18. In a last communication to Russell, she warned him that something under the sink doesn’t smell good, but there’s no way she’s going to open the cupboard by herself to see what’s in there. We will both try to come back up here in a week to finish repairs. Russell can hardly wait…


The current state of our mountain home

 

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