Thursday 6 November 2008: We Are Construction Workers

Yesterday, while Greg earned his paycheck at H-E-B, the kids and I started putting up insulation in the house.  We worked for five and a half hours and finished Daniel’s room, the hall bathroom, the office, Emilie’s room, and most of Anna’s room.  Daniel and Anna took turns operating Greg’s electric staple gun, which he found and kept when cleaning out one of Ben’s rent houses.  My job was to cut the insulation bats to fit the spaces needing to be filled.  A full bat is fourteen inches wide—just right to go between two studs—and eight feet long.  Because our ceilings are ten feet high, we need a lot of two-foot lengths to take up the extra space not covered by a full bat.  Then there are little spaces underneath and above windows, and places at the ends of walls where the studs are closer together.  All this adds up to a lot of lengthwise and crosswise cuts and plenty of scraps that can be used in other odd spaces.  It is the kind of puzzle I enjoy, like making a quilt top or putting together a meal when you don’t seem to have any ingredients.  I held all the measurements in my brain, and cut, toted, and stuffed the bats, while my taller offspring climbed the ladder and stapled the bats to the studs.  Emilie gave the house a good sweeping, removing large piles of wood chips, bits of electric wire, and general trash, and throwing away the wrapping from the insulation packages.


The packages are very tight.  To open one, I plunge a utility knife into the side and make a long, bold slash, and the bats spill out.  Doing this always makes me think of Han Solo cutting open the abdomen of his dead tauntaun to provide warmth for the chilled and semiconscious Luke Skywalker.  The spilling-out action is precisely the same.


Insulation is prickly stuff, very irritating to the skin, eyes, nose, and lungs, but altogether I’d rank it as less vexing than the spines of an icicle cactus.  The prickles got onto my arms and legs, in spite of my long sleeves and pants.  Today I’m going to tuck my cuffs into the gauntlets of my Duluth gloves, and wear my cowboy boots with the legs of my jeans inside.  After a morning of breathing in fiberglass dust, we elected to spring for face masks.  This made for a hot afternoon’s work.  Happily, the high temperature of the day reached only the mid-eighties or so, and we got some nice cross breezes through our open windows and doors.  Ann, familiar with the prevailing winds in these parts, advised us as to how best to orient our house to take advantage of cooling breezes, and she was exactly right.


At five o’clock we knocked off and went home.  I just had time to wash off most of the prickles in the shower before Greg came home from work.  He hitched up the trailer to the Suburban, and we drove off to pick up our new secondhand fridge, which we bought from a friend of Ann’s who is moving.  The fridge is only a year old and is just the color and style I wanted.  Our gas range, too, is gently used, purchased a few months back from a pleasant retired couple in Kyle.  The man, a former farmer, watched us drive up in Greg’s grandfather’s truck and immediately took twenty-five dollars off the price because we reminded him of himself and his wife back in the day.  Both appliances will have happy associations for me every time I use them.


Our old fridge will go in the laundry room.  The way I cook, it is very handy to keep two fridges.

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