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Fixing a boiler and answering questions

I have finally broken down (or succumbed to intense wifely pressure) and fixed the wood boiler. I have put it off for three reasons, all related to the fact it uses plastic (PEX) pipe.

First, this involves using some tools I do not possess. I do not usually have any problem acquiring tools but these were quite expensive for something I did not plan on using very much. I figured I could pay someone to do the hook up about four times before I reached the break-even point on cost.

Since this need has historically occurred about every 15 years or so, I figured I would be 120 before it became a fiscal positive.

Secondly, it seemed sort of inelegant. I recall my grandfather resisting the use of copper pipe, complaining you did not have to be a craftsman to use it. Whereas the old threaded iron pipe and fittings required very careful measuring and planning to get everything to come out right and to wind up being able to thread the final fixtures in place, copper was a bit more forgiving.

You could even bend it a little if necessary and any logistic installation problem was easily solved with a union or two and a little solder.

Third, while I can do it, I hate plumbing and typically screw something up to make the job even more difficult.

Finally, after a period of months waiting for a plumber, my son bought me the tool and I had no excuse.

The installation went perfectly. I tore out a bunch of old stuff, ran new pipes and solved a couple problems. In the past the unions had a habit of pulling apart, causing leaks at horrible times.

Turns out the expansion and contraction of PEX used in a heating system tends to work joints loose unless you build in some bends to take up the flex. I built in the bend, making sure it ran under the floor from Dr. Wifey’s side of the bed, all the way along her route to the bathroom, ensuring a nice warm surface for her little bare feet.

This was the obligatory screw-up. She appreciates the warm floor. I cannot stand the extra radiant heating that leaves the bedroom sweltering (from my perspective.) This is a screw-up that will affect me for years.

I am on a run of screw-ups, especially one involving a couple questions I absolutely promised to address last week and somehow forgot.

I just learned about a nursery spider. OMG! Are they around here and why do they want to go into nurseries? How can I protect my children?

You should have researched further. They are named nursery web spiders, not because they inhabit nurseries, but because they create nurseries for their own offspring,

Nursery web spiders include a number of species, found all around the world. They are related to wolf spiders and include some species that walk on the surface of water or even dive beneath it seeking prey.

They do not build a hunting web, instead simply stalking and attacking their prey. They are great jumpers. I had one in the car the other day that continued to leap from the dashboard to my forearm and back, a distance of six or eight inches — pretty good feat for a 3/4 inch spider.

The mother spider carries her egg case around in her mouth until the babies are nearly ready to hatch, whereupon she spins a nursery web on the underside of a leaf to house them. There they hatch and develop, living on their yolk sack, under the vicious guard of the female spider, until they are able to go off on their own.

Why do the furry leaves on the trunks of some trees get red way before the rest of the tree?

Because they are not tree leaves but rather a vine called Virginia creeper that coils around the tree for support. Virginia creeper vines, distinguished by having five leaflets on each stem as opposed to three for poison ivy vines, grow as much as 50 feet long and may completely encase the trunk of their support tree.

Virginia creeper stops photosynthesis very early in the fall, giving the first bright red color, often earlier than even sumac.

Something horrible is screaming all around outside my house. It sounds like a monkey or something. Sometimes it even keeps on during the daylight. I am afraid to let the kids and pets out into the yard. What is it?

There have been several questions on this topic. This one is the most emphatic. In each case the answer is quite simple.

All that noise is coming from our second smallest owl — the aptly-named the screech owl. The largest female screech owl may weigh six or seven ounces, so it does not pose much threat to your kids and pets, unless you have a pet mouse.

This time of the year, there is a lot of sorting out of territory, and both genders spend a lot of time threatening the neighbors, hence the vocalization. Areas around human habitation form better habitat for these little owls than the deep woods, so we get to hear them quite often.

I put up bird houses for them that are readily accepted. Make the entrance hole three inches in diameter and four inches down from the top. Score the inside of the front piece so the babies can climb up and escape when they fledge and put the box at least seven to ten feet high on a tree small enough so a metal collar can be placed around it to keep predators like coons, red squirrels and snakes away from the three to five small eggs and chicks.

That way you can have lots of screaming to keep you awake at night. It will not bother me because I will already be awake from the sauna-like conditions of my bedroom.

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