Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Ice House and the Glass House

I drove to Warrenton Saturday morning knowing it would be a long day as it was freezing cold outside. There was still snow and ice on the ground but thankfully no wind yet I was sure I wasn't wearing enough layers. But I did remember to stuff a couple of hand warmers in my pockets and throughout the day, I was grateful I'd remembered to pick them up before I left the house.
 The last few windows had to be fitted and we all hoped that that might stop the house feeling so cold once they were in. No such luck... The boys set up scaffolding so the upstairs windows could go in. No need to worry about it sinking into that frozen mud.
 I was working with Kim today and we were learning how to install the electrical wires. We had to thread cable through drilled holes in beams, and over beams, and hammer them into place down the sides of beams. The shaft of my hammer was so cold that it felt like it was burning. Here I was feeding cables from outlets and light fixtures back to the main electrical panel where they need to be connected.
 An example of how a socket's wiring needs to be spliced. We decided to wait until after lunch to do this as our hands were too cold to work knives properly and we were running out of energy. I actually kept yawning and joked that I was preparing to go into hibernation. We all were looking forward to lunch being delivered, hoping for hot soup or chili or stew, but I wondered about where we would eat it. I couldn't sit on that cold floor. Krysta walked by with some scrap pieces of wood and commented that she was going to start a fire outside. I felt like crying when I realized she was just joking. Lunch arrived and we all clamored around the volunteers to see what they'd brought. Wonderful beef, turkey and ham sandwiches but nothing hot or even warm at all. A few of us decided to eat lunch in our cars so for a half hour or so we managed to eat our lunch without chattering teeth shredding the food, and allowing our frozen fingers and toes to lose their numbness.
It was all too soon when car engines and heaters had to be turned off and we stepped back out into the tundra. We valiantly walked back into the house and continued our tasks.
But not too long after lunch, we were so frozen again that input was minimal. We stood and debated, finally deciding that it would be best to stop for the day. The windows were all in and the cable was laid throughout the house. It would not be sensible to start splicing wires with frozen fingertips. Our toes were painful too and some of us were hobbling with the discomfort. I had visions of not realizing most of my fingers were missing until I got home and and the blazing fire thawed me out. We had to admit defeat and call it a day.
The house is looking good, with all windows in place, and starting to look like a home.
I couldn't wait to get home, rushing through the door and dragging a chair directly in front of the wood stove. I opened the doors and let the intense heat blast over me, it was heaven. I could almost feel my eyebrows singing but I didn't care.
 A little later I was thawed enough to open a package that had arrived for Kota and Rosie. A new water bowl that had a very quiet motor which rippled the water, something that attracts cats, they love moving water. They paid rapt attention to me as I pulled it out of the box, rinsed all the parts thoroughly and placed it on the floor. Showing no caution they both made a beeline for it. I quickly grabbed my phone to capture their first moments with their new gadget.
 Kota sat right in front of the bowl, "Me first, stand back!"
 Rosie was anxious as he took his first laps, "Well? Well? What's the verdict, Bro?"
 And Kota responded to me with a, "The gift is accepted."
Kota then ducked his head down and commenced a lapping marathon with little Rosie having to patiently wait until he was done. I was delighted that both of them loved it, and it has been in constant use every day.
On Sunday, having thawed out sufficiently from the day before, with the cold painful memories becoming almost insignificant, as often bad things do when time has passed, I was ready to do battle with another cold day and met up with some of Urbexia. We were going to explore the old abandoned greenhouses at Poplar Point, a large tract of land that 70% of DC residents don't even know about. There's little information on the internet about it's history except for an article here:
The area was abandoned when the soil became too contaminated from the dumping of toxic materials but apparently it once housed all the plants and flowers used in the Federal buildings and for special occasions. We wondered where the flowers come from now and joked that they probably use silk flowers from China.
We managed to get through to the old greenhouses after trekking through briars and frozen creeks.
The first buildings we found were old storage areas with desks and racks of glass still waiting to replace smashed panes. It's amazing that vandals haven't wrecked this area. there was no grafitti, the place had just simply given in to nature and the elements and was slowly crumbling as it was swallowed up by the briars and undergrowth.
A few old terracotta pots stood or laid on the ground, cracked and covered in algae.
This must have belonged to a heat lamp for some of the more tender plants that need protection from the cooler temperatures.
Jason and John had explanations for all the broken pieces of machinery that they came across and were so engrossed in their discussions of motors and engines and things that they had to stop and start looking at old photos on John's camera. The rest of us patiently waited until they were done.
And then we came across the greenhouses themselves. I think they are likely to be inaccessible after early spring, there was so many old brambles around and bushes that I think it will rather be like trying to penetrate Sleeping Beauty's castle once this vegetation starts growing back again in warmer weather.
No more seedlings or nurtured flowers here anymore, the old buckling structures are now being overcome with briars or are being pushed apart by huge trees that have grown from tiny saplings. We could still see the old benches, shelves and sprinkler systems, old pipes weaving in and out of branches, and numbered doors still standing, barely holding onto frames.
The boiler room machinery was in surprisingly good shape, again devoid of hooligan trademarks and signatures. The glass still protected the dials of meters, although I have absolutely no idea of how that paw mark on the right came to be on the wall about 4.5ft from the ground.
Even a few lamps still hung in a couple of the old glass rooms, cloudy panes lay on the floor, but everywhere the tendrils of creepers, branches of trees and twisted trunks forced their way in through open holes in the roofs or up through the thick carpet of old brown crispy leaves that lay on the ground. I took photos while pulling bits of twigs from my hair as I clambered through the shambling ruins. We gave up after a couple of hours as thick snowflakes started fluttering down, and someone mentioned beer so our priorities shifted. We walked back to the cars and left the greenhouses to their solitude but I did wonder if there were any splashes of color that would burst through those dry leaves in the spring.
We drove into DC and quenched our thirst at Penn Social where we managed to get happy hour prices on our drinks and food. People were starting to pile in to watch The Super Bowl on large flat screens but we took no notice. Not one of our group is a sports fanatic but I did manage to catch the start of the game when I got home. And it was monumental that the Ravens won.
Jim sent me this photo of The Lukester waiting to greet the Super Bowl Champions in Baltimore on their pitch at M&T Bank Stadium. That's one proud countenance!

No comments: