Saturday, May 31, 2008

“Will, don’t panic.” The voice on the phone belonged to my general contractor and, given what we’d just seen, panic seemed like a remarkably reasonable option.

Fritz and I were showing the house to a woman we’ve known for several years who was renting the Center for a lesbian weekend workshop, when Fritz looked into the great room and said to me. “What’s THAT?

“That” was a neat cone of something that looked remarkably like sawdust directly under the king beam of the main truss supporting the roof. I got down on the floor and felt some of it. It was white so I knew it wasn’t from the rose-colored Douglas fir of the trusses, but might have been from the pale pine planking that sheathes the underside of the roof inside the room.

Outside, we discovered that the handsome stone-clad piers across the front of the house were being used as a raceway for hundreds and hundreds of big black ants traveling up from the ground to minute seams in the woodwork where the siding meets the overhangs, through which they were entering the house. With the coming, finally, of warm days in the 60s and 70s, we’d been invaded by ants—carpenter ants.

The general contractor went on to explain that this situation, while certainly unsettling, was relatively common in new construction. disturbing the ground extensively as all new houses do, displaces thousands of insects who then begin to look for new homes. Particularly as I had built using a great deal of tasty fir, pine, and even cedar, which ants normally don’t like but which wasn’t repelling this lot, my home looked to them very much like their home.

In short order it was determined that the white dust on the great room floor wasn’t sawdust but white insulating foam dust, a sign that the ants, when they arrived at the peak of the great room, had decided to nest in the softer, easier to chew spray foam insulation rather than attack wood—yet.

I was advised to get boxes of Borax—the old laundry detergent amplifier that also sends ants into a nervous frenzy to their deaths—and make a line around the house with it. I also poured some down the sloped sides of the piers so that Borax powder could accumulate on the top edges of the stones. It worked—for a day or so. Then they came back in reduced but very real strength.
They have guts, I’ll give them that.

But I won’t give them my home. An exterminator is scheduled to come Monday afternoon.


The concrete floor guys, the two ruggedly handsome brothers who had done such a lovely job that seemed to be ruined by the protective paper sticking to the sealer, came back and did another spray of sealer after extensive cleaning and scraping. We’ve peeked into the three rooms—great room, entry hall and master bedroom—that were affected and it looks like they’re back to the beautiful finish they had originally. We breathed a sigh of relief. We love those floors and it looks like we’ve got them back again.

I think we’ll also have the brothers back again. I want some walkways poured around the house later in the summer after a lot of more important outside finishing work is complete. Their work always looks great--and so do they!


I’ve been reading a lot of Byzantine and Islamic history lately, but I’m now taking a break with Farley Granger’s autobiography “Include Me Out.” Fritz had read it some while ago, saying it was an enjoyable and fascinating read. And so it is.
Farley Granger at the height of his early Hollywood career

Granger was a golden boy who grew up in southern California convinced his destiny was to act and become a star in movies. He was blessed with spectacular looks, charisma, and an innate acting talent driven by a centered understanding of himself. Referred to a small theater company because of striking acting work in high school, he was “discovered” and wound up with a Goldwyn Studios contract before his 18th birthday.

It wasn’t all a triumphal march and he’s unfailingly honest about projects that failed as well as his outstanding work in high-visibility movies with directors like Alfred Hitchcock (Rope, Strangers on a Train) that made his major talent known to a wide audience.

Granger interrupted his early career for service in the Pacific in World War II, Honolulu being the setting for one of the most remarkable incidents in the book; he lost his virginity twice in the same night, first to a beautiful young Hawaiian woman and then to a handsome, older Navy lieutenant commander at an estate outside the city set up as a resort/brothel by the Navy for senior officers and guests. Relationships of various lengths with both men and women would occur easily and naturally for Granger throughout his life. And, yes, he does name names, at least some of them. Later in life, he settled into a continuing relationship with Robert Calhoun who co-authored the book. They live in New York City.
And Granger recently at age 81

Granger loved acting and making movies but hated Hollywood culture, any idea of making it on his looks alone, and the trappings of stardom—he eventually left Hollywood for film work in Europe and for a great deal of live theater. The book is fun to read, filled with unexpected takes on familiar figures, and fascinating stories about the great movers and shapers from other professions who were drawn to him by his talent and vibrant personality. Granger himself emerges as a good colleague, an intelligent artist, and as a man at ease in the world no matter what comes his way. He’s also discreet and generous in his portraits of the people who’ve crossed his path in the course of a long and fulfilling career, although one or two who seem to have deserved it do get laid out in lavender. A most enjoyable book.


Here’s our front door bell—a lovely old brass piece that Fritz had kept on his mantle. Both doors of the house now have bells you ring by hand, which I love. I’ve never had an electric doorbell—even in Boston, my bell was an old handbell, the type that used to be rung to call children into school, that I converted to ring inside when you pulled a chain outside.

And here’s one of the Russian Olive bushes, now in full flower, of which we have several on the property.


The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush

“If he’s—the inference is that somehow he thinks slavery is a—is a noble institution I would—I would strongly reject that assumption—that John Ashbrook is an open-minded, inclusive person.”
NBC Nightly News with Tom Brocaw, January 14th, 2001

Ah, yes, the last little aggravations of house construction. At least it's all coming together. So any chance we can get some photos of the brothers? Perhaps when they return in the summer for more work, especially if they strip down in the summer heat? ;)
Fritz had absolutely the same idea; he told me to tell them we want the work dne in August. :)
As I was reading the post - and before I even got to the comment section - I thought to myself that I should leave one about sly Will having those brothers back in August when they might end up working shirtless. LOL
Oh my god, I couldn't imagine trouble with that huge beam overhead....and I cant believe that it's ant! I wish you success in getting the four-legged (they do have 4 legs...right??) creatures to DIE>
here in arizona we have a saying houses are either those with termites or those waiting to get termites, so we are more 'at ease' with bugs in the house.
I hope you get out the nasty ants and all is well enough.
Actually you should get into xsome sort of contractor with the exterminator. Mine comes once a quarter and sprays around the perimeter and puts out the bait traps during field mouse season. It's money well spent.
Oh, yes, the last little aggravations of house construction. At least it's all coming together. Perhaps when they return in the summer for more work, especially they strip down in the summer heat? I wish you success in getting the four-legged.
Oh, yes, the last little aggravations of house construction. At least it's all coming together. Perhaps when they return in the summer for more work, especially they strip down in the summer heat? I wish you success in getting the four-legged.
That was very remarkable. Rehabilitating the house is a must when it turns out to be a little damaged. Thanks for the suggestions given in your post, they will be of great help.
This foam conforms to the national building code. We have a self-contained unit that allows for easy accessibility on a variety of sites.
Hey buddy, make sure you know the right procedure of fitting your insulation before starting the installation and if you are not completely sure how it is done properly, then maybe it will be better in the long run to hire a professional.
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