After a major basement clean-out last fall, my son and I noticed what a 20-year accumulation of old furniture, defunct appliances, and construction and landscaping debris had deftly hidden – two foundation walls beginning to give way to the hydrostatic pressure of unusually frequent and prolonged spring rains and some deep winter snows. A year or more of clogged gutter overflow and blocked drainage conduits added to the inward push.
Eyeing the newly apparent crack and central bowing of the entire north wall, I called a foundation company, whose assessor provided an estimate for anchoring that wall with plates and rods from outside installations.
He also noted (with his handy laser yardstick) an even worse problem with the east wall along the driveway. “Bubba” and I set up a date for his crew to stabilize them both.
Meanwhile Tim, my son, rolled up his sleeves to dig new and improved outside drainage channels from the downspouts; and despite a downpour, I felt compelled to start on the gutters, which we’d woefully neglected over the past year. In the rain I could well see where they spilled over and needed attention.
Oh, the glorious handfuls of damp, leafy compost and intricately meshed twiggy dams I hand-scooped and dropped to the gardens! I watched in rapt gratification and utter dishevelment as the rain fell on, and water from the roof coursed unimpeded along the newly cleared channels.
But one gutter at the back of the house, where a dormer addition adds considerably to the height of the roof, eluded me. It was too high for our ladder. I leaned out from an upstairs window, grasping the casement to tackle part of it, but soon came to my senses and safe purchase inside.
After all, the foundation wall on the south side of the house was fine, and those gutters could wait for a professional.
Before I searched for a gutter-cleaning service, more than one showed up, in the form of nest-building birds. They found that the gutter’s contents provided ideal plastering material for their new homes. Doves, robins, and chickadees began the spring cleaning.
While they aren’t likely to remove the entire mess, I am loath, for now, to interfere with their dedicated focus on this particular mother lode of natural mortar. And so the birds come and go companionably right under the window by my desk and stereo, including a pair of doves, whose nest I know and check on daily.
I don’t feed the birds this time of year, but they are welcome to my home’s nest-building largess for these critical months – after which, sometime in late summer or fall, I will either get a taller ladder or call or email for pros with their own equipment.
As for next spring – I will wait for the first responders to tweet me before doing anything.