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Hopi farging carp on a popsicle!


Today we had a surveyor in to look at our deathwatch beetles. We got his name from a local real estate agent who deals in ancient buildings. It’s no good sending out a green surveyor; he would take one look at an old pile like Badger House and pee his pantses.

Our guy tapped and frowned and frowned and tapped and took a little dust sample in a 35mm film can (luckily we had one to spare). And then declared the house whole and sound and (almost certainly) in no danger at all, tappingdancing beetles or not. He offered us the use of a stethoscope for the Summer: if you can identify exactly where the little bastards are hanging out, he told us, it might be worth opening the wall to kill them. But otherwise, the damage you’d do tearing the place apart to find the infestation would be far more than the insects will do.

They don’t do much harm. They don’t do any harm fast. Their life cycle is (up to) twenty years. And they won’t spread in the absence of damp.

“After all, they came in with the wood and they haven’t knocked the place down yet,” he said, klonking his fist against a great oak beam.

And I said (proudly), “haha…oh, yes. We have documentation on the house going back four hundred years.”

And he said, “oh, no! These beams are MUCH older than that. Some are probably a thousand years old.”

And Uncle Badger said, “!” And I said, “!!!!!!!eleventythousandholyshit!!!!”

He explained. Nearly all the wood in the house would have been reclaimed from some earlier use: another house, a barn, a horse-cart. Wood was scarce around here and hard to come by and EVER-so-hard to work with. We’re talking hand tools and OAK. When we were looking to buy, we seriously considered one house built in the 15th or 16th C from beach flotsam (very common) and they even knew the name of the French shipwreck it came from.

It’s clear that some beams (top picture) weathered outside for…oh, hundreds of years, maybe. And I spent months poring over mysterious pegs and slots and cut marks, trying to figure out the original shape and purpose, when these artifacts probably had nothing whatever to do with Badger House.


No, seriously. Whoa.

It’s probably just as well I’m psychic as a potato.


Comment from TimB52
Time: April 21, 2009, 9:00 pm

Wow, that’s a fascinating story Weaz. Srsly.

I’ve got some oak I reclaimed from some old shipping palettes. Six chunks like 3″ square fenceposts 4 feet long. It is the hardest wood I have ever met. It makes my 3 HP table-saw cry! Gotta be torture shaping it by hand.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: April 21, 2009, 9:26 pm

Stroo, TimB52 – the surveyor told us the oak beams are so hard that we if we tried to drill into them we’d break the drill bit.

Not that we would of course…. We’re so in awe, we won’t even pin up a poster.

At times, it feels less like being a home owner than a curator.

Which, curiously, is rather a nice feeling.

Comment from Gnus
Time: April 21, 2009, 10:01 pm

Oak is a beech to work with…

Comment from bad cat robot
Time: April 21, 2009, 10:26 pm

oh, a wythe guy, eh?

I live in a Depression-era house. It also was built from components collected/recycled from a number of disparate sources. I uncovered one board I believe once formed a crate containing a Navy thing-that-went-burbleburbleBOOM.

Comment from Deborah
Time: April 21, 2009, 11:39 pm

If the wood is that hard, I don’t understand how the deathwatch beetles could do much damage anyway. Those critters must have an awesome jaw …

Comment from scubafreak
Time: April 22, 2009, 12:18 am

Thats a relief. Having to tent a house is a MAJOR pain in the ass.

Comment from Roman Wolf
Time: April 22, 2009, 12:22 am

It’s indeed amazing how long a house and wood can last, if constructed well.

Ya see, I’m a university student and all the new buildings seem to have probably been contracted out to the University President’s brother. Let’s just say, despite being new, most of the new buildings on campus are already falling apart. All the meanwhile the old 100+ year part of campus stands tall and strong still. Too bad the ginks in the administration stole half of them.

But yeah, you’re house sounds like a testament to sound construction.

Comment from Allen
Time: April 22, 2009, 12:36 am

Well, I graduated rodeo clown school. So I’ve got that going for me. It hurt… bad.

Weas and Badge, if you need me to flag your beetles gimme a holler. I haven’t quite figured out how to rope those suckers. Details, details.

Comment from Machinist
Time: April 22, 2009, 2:21 am

It’s OK for the oakcasional job.

Comment from Machinist
Time: April 22, 2009, 2:28 am

I think that time period was when the demands of the ship building industry for wood timbers and pitch, which was boiled from wood by heating with other burning wood, had stripped the island of wood. Later the need for wood fuel to make charcoal for steelmaking and glassmaking made things worse. It was bad and the need so great that it was one of the important resources that brought colonists to the new world. They had abundant wood to burn and boil pitch out of, plenty to make charcoal, and timber to ship back with the pitch, turpentine,and charcoal, all higher value cargo than raw wood. These were the main exports of early colonies if I recall.

Comment from dfbaskwill
Time: April 22, 2009, 7:41 am

More discussions of icky bugs! I’m starting to suffer from formication (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formication )now. Blogs will be the death of me.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 22, 2009, 8:02 am

I forgot to mention! We dropped in on the real estate agent to thank him for recommending this surveyor, and he told us they used to hold dialogues with his sister’s death watch beetles. The tapping is a mating call (they do it with their feet). He said they’d tap on the wall, and the beetles would answer. (All the better to find the little bastards).

Comment from Scott Jacobs
Time: April 22, 2009, 8:39 am

It’s probably just as well I’m psychic as a potato.

Sure, you say that now, but inside a month Badger will find you in a room painting “REDRUM” on a wall across from a large mirror.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 22, 2009, 9:04 am

Yeah, Scott, but his handwriting is so bad, it would totally ruin the effect. I’d be in there going, “reomum? Rumdum? Rumptytum? No, sorry. No idea.”

Comment from David Gillies
Time: April 22, 2009, 11:46 am

The density of truly old buildings in the UK is astounding. My sister’s cottage is 17th C., but in her village that’s nothing unusual. I recall Bill Bryson saying something to the effect that in his tiny Yorkshire hamlet there were more 17th C. buildings than in the whole of North America.

Comment from Gibby Haynes
Time: April 22, 2009, 12:29 pm

He offered us the use of a stethoscope for the Summer

Outstanding. Now you can impersonate a doctor and people will do your bidding unquestioningly. ‘Fetch me a packet of Jaffa Cakes, stat! It’s an emergency, damn it!’

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: April 22, 2009, 1:09 pm

She does that already, Gibby.

Except no Jaffa cakes. Curiously, our beloved leader doesn’t do orange flavoured chocolate.

My handwriting may be bad, but at least I’m not so weird I don’t enjoy a Terry’s chocolate orange!

Comment from Nicholas the Slide
Time: April 22, 2009, 3:36 pm

But yeah, you’re house sounds like a testament to sound construction.

I concur. Too bad we can’t have that sort of stability out here these days.

Then again, I live in the frickin’ desert. If you think Britain’s rough for getting ahold of wood, try Arizona on for size… we have mesquite, I think that’s about it!

Comment from winston75
Time: April 22, 2009, 4:52 pm

Visited a friend in Chard, England (south of Taunton) who lived in a 400 yr old thatch roofed house. Her fiancee gave me the tour and pointed out that a lot of the wood came from sailing ships. Never did figure out the square hole in one big beam. When you grow up in the flat land corn fields of Illinois that stuff is pretty neat.

Comment from mesablue
Time: April 22, 2009, 7:46 pm

Better check for one of these — http://www.phenomenica.com/2009/04/400-year-old-cat.html

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 22, 2009, 8:17 pm

Thanks, mesa. Poor pusso. Yes, I’ve often thought of digging under the hearth. Or around where the front door used to be. You see lots of this creepy folk magic preserved in little local town museums.

I posted it about it way back on my WordPress site.

Huh. Looks like WordPress is slapping ads on stuff now.

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