New stray dogs

Leah and I have lost count of the stray dogs that have passed through here in the last 10 years. Lately it seemed to have slowed down, but a few days ago two new strays showed up. I call them “strays” but they were almost certainly abandoned here by someone who doesn’t want them. Makes me wish there was a hell.

On Tuesday or Wednesday we started hearing a dog barking somewhere in the woods. Then I saw a small white dog running away up the far side of Lavender Trail. On Thursday I heard a dog barking when I took the dogs for their walk. I followed the barking, but the dog kept moving. Eventually I caught sight of a small reddish brown dog. Sometimes the shy strays will run away but stop at some distance and look back. This one didn’t stop.

This was obviously not the white dog I had seen earlier, but it looked to be about the same size.

On Friday evening when Leah and I drove back up Fouche Gap Road we saw the brown dog again. He didn’t run from the car, so I got a good enough look to tell that he was an unfixed male. Leah got out and tried to get it to come. A couple of times it came within a few feet, but then turned and ran away.

Later that evening I took the dogs for a walk up Lavender Trail and saw the white dog. It ran at first but then followed us. It was mainly interested in Lucy. It had little interest in Zeke and absolutely no interest in me. This is a blurred shot I got with my phone. It was so dark and the dogs were moving so much that I couldn’t get a decent shot.

white stray dog

It looks like a puppy, but it seems to be an adult, unfixed male slightly taller than Lucy. Zeke was not polite. You can’t tell from the photo, but Zeke was holding his head and his tail up, while the stray held his tail at half-staff. If Zeke knew how to act around other dogs, he would have mirrored the little dog’s behavior.

The dog has a hint of a goatee and its body is a little elongated. It may be a mix of some kind of terrier and maybe a dachshund. It’s almost exactly the same size as the brown dog. I’m convinced that they’re brothers. It’s odd that they aren’t staying together, but it may be that there is some rivalry since they are both unfixed.

At least three people, including us, are putting out food, so they will probably not starve, although there are plenty of other dangers around, like cars and coyotes. If we could catch them, we would probably take them to the pound, where a local rescue group could save them. We contacted the rescue group but haven’t heard back.

Leah and I have taken photos of only a few of the dogs that we have rescued. This was one of the first. I really don’t remember where he came from. He was fairly young.


He was probably one of the many dogs that a former neighbor brought home for his kids and then basically abandoned. They always ended up at our house, and we always found new homes for them.

This was one of the saddest cases. I found him on Fouche Gap Road one day when I was walking Zeke.zepplin

He was afraid at first, but he came when I called him. I got him to follow us home, but he kept lagging behind. Later we found that the pads on all his feet were worn off. They looked like they had blistered and then peeled. I think that meant he had been traveling a while before we found him. He stayed with us for some time and Leah named him Zeppelin. Eventually we sent him with a rescue group up to a shelter in some midwestern state. We checked the shelter’s Web site and found a reference to him. They said he had special needs and would take some work before he could be adopted. He didn’t have any particular problems (other than not being housebroken) when we had him, so we think the special needs were caused by the stress of the trip north. We felt pretty guilty about that.

This is one of the later ones. Zeke and he got into a fight, so he ran away. The rescue group told us to let animal control take him and then they would rescue him from the pound, so that’s what we did.


There were so many others we can’t remember. We did the best we could for them. We hope they were, or are, happy.


Dangerous shiny metal

Of all the things my brother and I had to clear out of our parents’ house after my mother died, probably the most dangerous was a dark, scabby-looking lump almost covered with a clear liquid in a pint Mason jar. The dark lump was around one and a half times the volume of a golf ball. The lump was solid, metallic sodium. The clear liquid was mineral oil, which is intended to prevent exposure of the sodium to the air.

Despite the fact that sodium is the sixth most common element on Earth, it is never found as a pure element (metallic sodium) in nature because it is very reactive with water. It’s so reactive that it will strip off a hydrogen atom from a water molecule and attach itself to the remaining oxygen and hydrogen, forming sodium hydroxide. In the process it releases heat and a free hydrogen atom. Hydrogen can react in the presence of oxygen and heat, so the sodium-water reaction can be dangerous.

My father got this lump of sodium sometime in the distant past, maybe even before I was born. He stored it and other odd chemicals under the house we lived in. When my brother and I were kids, he would occasionally take the sodium out, cut off a small piece, toss it into the grass and sprinkle water over it. The sodium would hiss, smoke, burn, and sometimes pop as the hydrogen ignited. After we moved from our original house, my father stored it in a metal Post Office storage box. I don’t think he even touched it after he put it in that box, so it was left for us to dispose of.

I had kept the jar in a cooler cushioned with a pillow for the last couple of years. The chemistry department at Berry College in Rome offered to have their hazardous waste disposal company remove it, but the cost would be $275. I looked into the recommended methods for disposal, which involve a vent hood and repeated exposure of the sodium to various alcohols until the sodium has fully reacted. At that point, the remaining solution can be dumped down a sanitary drain. However, even chemists can make mistakes.

The recommended procedure seemed to be beyond my capability, so I decided to take the simple and crude way out. I took a wheelbarrow, five gallons of water and a Mason jar of sodium up to the site of our new house. This process can be dramatic, not to mention dangerous.

I was a little surprised that the jar opened so easily, but I guess I should have expected it, since it was well lubricated with mineral oil. I dumped the sodium and mineral oil into a plastic bowl.


Excuse the poor focus. I was using one hand for my phone and the other to manipulate the sodium.

The dark look of the lump is a coating of partially reacted sodium on the surface. Even though the lump had been partially submerged in mineral oil, there was enough water vapor that was either in the jar or that leaked slowly in that the surface reacted.

Metallic sodium is a soft metal that is easily cut with a knife. The unreacted metal is a bright silver. Here is what it looked like when I cut it. It’s actually quite pretty.


I was using a regular Swiss Army knife and wearing thick household gloves. It’s not a smart idea to touch metallic sodium with your bare hands because of the moisture on the surface of the skin. I cut the sodium into pieces a little smaller than a grain of rice. When I was careful to manage the size and number of pieces I put into the water, the sodium formed a small, smoke-filled bubble that zoomed around the surface of the water.


You can see a few smallish bubbles here. Perhaps surprisingly, sodium, although a metal, is actually lighter than water, so it floats.

If I cut a piece a little too large or got too many pieces together, they produced a flame. A few times they exploded and sent pieces of molten sodium through the air followed by trails of smoke. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do my work and take pictures of sodium explosions at the same time.

The sodium hydroxide that the reaction produces is known as lye or caustic soda, so after I finished reacting the sodium I was left with lye solution and maybe a few small pieces of sodium on the ground. I dumped the lye solution; I’m not worried about that since rain will dilute it and it will end up buried under our driveway anyway.

I’m also not worried about the small pieces of sodium that popped out of the wheelbarrow. Sodium is so reactive with water that even the water vapor in the atmosphere is sufficient to take care of that. When I initially cut the sodium, it had a shiny surface, but that shiny surface began to turn dull within a few minutes of exposure to the air. The small pieces that I cut also began to react immediately. I felt the heat of the reaction in the palm of my hand through my glove as I carried the pieces the few steps from my cutting board to the water. At one point I noticed a small mass of bubbles, maybe the size of the tip of your little finger, next to the cutting board. I apparently had brushed a very small piece of sodium off the board and onto the bed of the Mule I was using to hold the cutting board. That little piece of sodium was reacting to atmospheric water vapor and was busy fizzing away. I’m confident that any small pieces of sodium that I left around the site had fully reacted within hours at the most after I left. In fact, they were probably all gone by the time I left.

I had no idea that metallic sodium is still available, but I found a vendor on Amazon. You can buy one pound for $185. I recommend that you not do so.

Late evening house update

We’re back. Uncertainty is still with us, but I guess that’s always going to be the case. So, on to the blogging.

This was the eastern sky at around 7:30 pm EDT on Monday, Sept 7.


This was the same view at about the same time on Tuesday.


It had been raining a little and was still sprinkling up on the mountain. The bright clouds are quite high, since they are further in the distance than the darker clouds above them in the photo but they are still illuminated by the setting sun. The taller one might have been a weak storm, but the radar on my phone’s weather app didn’t show much happening down that way.

Not much has been happening with the new house. Neighbor John did some grading where the septic system was installed, and our well is now in. The well driller finished about three weeks ago at a depth of 310 feet, a flow of about five gallons per minute, and about 200 gallons in the well itself. That is slightly deeper than our current well (280 feet), and a lot shallower than our next-door-neighbor’s well, which is about 500 feet and produces about three gallons per minute. Hydrology escapes me.

I told the well driller not to install the pump since we don’t need it right away.

There was a rumor that our framer will start soon, but I haven’t actually heard anything from the framer himself. This puts us about a month and a half behind where I wanted to be on the new house.

The current house is coming along, although somewhat slowly. I have almost finished the lower section of wall in our downstairs den, a problem which has been delaying starting the flooring. This picture, taken Tuesday night, tells the story.

den progress

As you can see, the floor is bare concrete. The beam you can just see at the top of the photo has been sheathed in stained pine like the upstairs beams. There is a stack of flooring to the left of the stairs. The stair treads are finished and laid in place but not nailed. I have all the finished wood I need to complete the stairs. That should go reasonably quickly. The wainscoting on the far wall is what has taken so long. Here’s a closer shot where it joins the hearth.


The wainscoting is made from plywood beadboard. We used the same stain as on all the upstairs trim (Colonial Maple), but in the years since the upstairs was trimmed out, Colonial Maple has developed a redder hue.

The part of the process that took the longest time was finishing the wood. All the wood took multiple coats of stain, and then two coats of polyurethane.

The unfinished wood going up from the wainscoting will eventually be covered with stained boards, but I can do that after the flooring is done, and I really want to get the flooring installed.

The flooring is done in the bedroom right next to the den.



I haven’t finished installing the baseboards because I can’t hang the door because the flooring in the den is not done.

The downstairs bathroom is complete (yay!).


I am waiting to floor the bedroom closet to make sure we have enough flooring for the den. Once the floor is down in the den, I’ll do the closet. Then all we will lack to have a completely finished downstairs is a little trim around the sliding glass door, baseboards and three doors.


We are in the midst of some uncertainties here, so I’m not sure what kind of posting I’ll be able to do — maybe none in the immediate future. I hope things get enough better that posting can resume before too awful long.

This is one reason we’re moving

We have been working on routine maintenance finishing our downstairs for some time now. I finally got around to painting the roof overhang. “Got around to” is not really right. Faced up to is more accurate. Some of it is not hard to reach, but some of it is. This is where I was on Saturday afternoon.


When I built the house, I wanted the farmhouse look, so instead of soffits, I kept the rafter tails exposed. I still like the look, but I would never do it again. It was more work to finish than soffits, and now it’s more work to repaint. I painted two rafter bays at a time and then had to move the ladder. When I got to the last pair of rafters, I painted some and then saw some debris inside the vent. The attic vents are just holes drilled into a two-by-six that spans the rafters. I stapled screening to keep insects out of the holes, but spiders and other things sometimes get in. I assumed what I saw was old spider webs, so I stuck my finger in and dragged some out.

That’s when I saw the wasp I had almost touched.

I climbed down the ladder with all due haste and gave up on painting that part of the roof overhang for the day. I planned to paint it later at night, when the wasps would be dormant. Unfortunately, I found them at still active, possibly because of the floodlights right outside their nest. So I climbed up with some wasp spray and gave the vent hole a good dousing. Wasps kept coming out, so, once again I retreated.

I found another wasp nest just under the outside of the handrail on the front walk. At the time I was propping a ladder on the edge of the walk, on the outside of the railing, and painting the garage overhang. I saw that nest just as I was preparing to move the ladder right next to the nest. That meant another delay in painting. Later Saturday night I sprayed that nest. It was easily accessible, so I eliminated it.

I did not, however, eliminate the nest in the attic vent. This is what that looked like Sunday afternoon.

wasps on the overhang

You can see how far I got with the painting, and you can also see two wasps, one at each rafter vent. You can also see something else that is going to force me to climb up again — I knocked one of the floodlights out of alignment. That means another climb up. I’m going to be as stealthy as I can. I’ll adjust the light and then give the vent hole another good spray. I haven’t been stung so far. Maybe my luck will hold.

I think I’ll wait to paint that part of the overhang until cooler weather.