Of Mice, Men, and… Fireplaces.

Well, I’ve had a ‘fun’ day thus far, being Day 3 of 2014…

I spent my entire morning, and afternoon, removing the flue plate from my fireplace and cleaning all kinds of stuff out from behind it. Ashes, soot, cobwebs, a few oak leaves, and a zillion chips of what looks to be what used to be fire clay of some kind. I filled FIVE Walmarf bags almost full of this stuff.

I’ve said it before that the guy who built this house built it himself. He did a better job than I probably could have done, but he was still an idiot. 😛

On the other hand, I would have recognized that I know jack von shizkittens about building a house, and would seek counsel from folks who know about that stuff. I’d not wing it by my underwear and just start hammering things together.

I have no idea where the fire clay was originally situated, but I’m guessing between the sandstone blocks and the fire. There is only about a foot and a half section that would be exposed thusly. But the fireplace itself where the fire rests is solid fire-brick, the chimney is regular brick. So the only reason I can think for this stuff is some kind of heat barrier between the fire proper and the sandstone hearth. But it was only utilized on one very small and specific spot.

Occasionally I’d find a small chip of this stuff it in the fireplace and I’d assumed it was concrete chipping off from the top of the chimney. (Due to the shabby mix job this guy did on the whole darn house.) But earlier this year when I physically inspected the chimney from the top down, everything looked fine. Well now I know it was this fire clay stuff. About a zillion pieces of it.

The fireplace hasn’t been used since… oh… 1999. I think I’ve had one fire in there since then but the flue wouldn’t open properly all the way and so I put it out. I assumed it was just rusted from disuse. Nope, it would not open because it had about 50 pounds of ash, soot, and fire clay chips behind it, that are now all cleaned out. I even stuck my head up there and vacuumed out everything I could with my shop-vac. It’s likely the cleanest it’s been in 60 years.

So the good news is that I have a 100% clean fireplace, so if I have to make an emergency fire, such as if the power goes out during one of these lovely -10 degree nights, I’ll be able to do so now.

I’m not worried about the missing fire clay. It only covered one little spot, and there is no way a fire in there would get that hot to worry about. Especially if I only build a smallish fire and use no overly-large logs.

I also lubed the hinge and tightened it, and it now operates fluidly in it’s whole range of motion. Something it’s never done since I’ve been alive.
My parents got this house in the 60’s, and I can guaran-frickin-tee ya my old man NEVER, EVER, took this flue vent off and cleaned behind it. In fact, I had no idea it even came off until I fiddled around with it.

I got soot places I didn’t even know I had. I now know what coal miners feel like, and have a much greater respect for what my paternal grandfather went through every day of his working life. (He was a coal miner.)

Next, after a thorough scrubbing, I went to check the mouse traps in the attic. I got the mouse that was in the kitchen the other day. About 2:30 AM I was sitting here and I heard that trademark *snap* out in the kitchen. Sure enough, there it was with bulging eyes and a crushed skull, still a-twitchin’. It was a beautiful thing.

There was a several days-dead mouse in Mr. Twitchy, my hair-trigger perfect mouse trap in the attic. Gets ’em every time. That should be it for the mice. It’s cold enough out that they aren’t moving around, and no new ones will try to get in until it warms up a bit. They’re never a problem any other time of year, just when it’s super cold and they try to come in to escape the weather. Every since I was little, there have been mice in the attic in the wintertime here. And every year, we get about a half dozen mice via mousetrap. Then Mr. Twitchy sits there for several months until they decide to come in again, and go for what is (by then) Petrified peanut butter. Then… *snap*

I checked those other traps that were all licked super clean but not set off to see if there was a problem with the latches. Nope. I held the snappy end of the trap and barely brushed the trigger and it nailed my thumb but good. Luckily, I had hold of the snappy end, and even though it slipped out of my other hand, my grip on it slowed it down considerably so it just stung a bit and didn’t do any damage to the ol’ thumb.

So, seeing as how the triggers weren’t the issue, I re-coated them with peanut butter, all the way around this time, the theory being the more they finagle with it, the more likely they’ll set it off. So,if there are any more mice up there, this should do ’em.

So, how are the rest of you enjoying 2014 so far? Mine’s been cold and verminous.

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Categories: Self Reliance, Weather | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Of Mice, Men, and… Fireplaces.

  1. goingplacesbr

    Okay, new persona from wvfarm2u and wildramp because of our move west to Oregon. REALLY enjoying the bounty here. Learned to can tuna, and a whole bunch of veggie things. Dried more. Foraged for chanterelles and more recently truffles. So much more to learn!!!

  2. I got the new woodstove installed and it has been toasty warm and I’m saving a bunch of money on the electric bill this winter.

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