Showing posts with label mystery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mystery. Show all posts

Monday, December 10, 2012

A mystery

Do you watch Ask This Old House? They have a section where they pull out a random tool or gadget and ask "What is it?" and the guys go around thinking up ridiculous ideas for what it could be ("It's a lazy susan for Tommy's sandwiches."). It's super cheesy and I LOVE it.

I could use them right about now.

We have a bolt on our basement floor. It just sticks out of the floor, right in the pathway between the door and the washing machine. It has some sort of electromagnetic force field that draws your foot to it, which means there's a lot of swearing coming from the basement because I always step on it.

It didn't correlate to any parts on the old furnace, though it had been retrofitted for gas at some point, so maybe the original configuration used it?

Original furnace

Greg tried to unscrew it but the thing wouldn't move. It's all of one piece, which makes me think it was put there when the slab was poured.

See how it's right where you want to walk when you're carrying a load of laundry from the dryer?

Anybody seen anything like this is an old house? Is this a portal to hell? An important bolt for an underground natural gas line? Does it involve the post right there? Any ideas? My foot is bruised and sore and I'm ready to take a jackhammer to it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Two mysteries: one plant, one animal

Okay, birdnerds, I have no skill in identifying birds. Is this a Western Tanager? I googled "fat yellow bird" and this was my best guess.

What are you doing up there?

Mystery 2: I always thought this fern that I rescued from a dark corner near the foundation was a sword fern. But it looks perpetually alert, which isn't normal for sword ferns.

It has small, reddish-brown sori that don't overlap and the teeth on the fronds are smooth and very close together.

The best guess I have is Dryopteris dickinsii, common name "large peacock fern" or "crisped shaggy wood fern" (very catchy, whoever came up with that one). Anybody think that sounds right? And can I propagate it? I want a billion of these in my yard.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A hail mary from the mystery willow!

I decided the mystery willow is gone. The neighbors behind it moved down the street and rented out the house to their nephews who smoke constantly, play loud bad music, and generally make me feel 80 years old, and why can't they just keep it down so I can putter in my yard, for pete's sake?

So I want to chop it down and plant something fast growing, evergreen, and DENSE. I succumbed to the Backyard Habitat rep's suggestion of a California wax myrtle. It grows really fast, it's evergreen, and it forms a nice privacy hedge.

But the mystery willow said a hail mary! It produced fruit.

The mystery willow is a pear tree! Goddamn it.

I'm still going to chop it down. My inner 80 year old demands it.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Five dollars to whoever can identify this weed. It's new to my yard this year and it's EVERYWHERE.

Monday, April 12, 2010

One plant mystery solved

I was at the Home Depot on Saturday and I saw one of my mystery plants!  Remember this guy?

Turns out it's a Fatsia Japonica.

This plant is also known as Japanese Aralia or false castor oil plant (sexy!) and it can get to eight feet tall.  That sort of makes me want to remove it, but then I read this:

"In Japan, the shrub was traditionally planted on the north side of a home to help ward off bad spirits." (Source:   

So now I really can't remove it.  What if bad spirits take up in my house?  My roommate is already convinced we have a basement ghost, so who knows what could happen next!  Well played, mystery plant.  You can stay.

On the plus side I get to make me cookies!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mystery plants

I have a number of plants in the yard that perplex me.  This tree was chopped down once and a number of suckers came up.  Nobody has any idea what it is.

Beneath it are hordes of very tenacious suckers.  I suspect they are related.


This looks like some sort of dwarf willow.  I thought it was dead but it's actually beginning to leaf out.

I just discovered this one between a clump of bamboo and a rhododendron in the backyard.

I got excited, thinking it was a flowering currant, but the leaves don't match.  Spiraea, maybe?

And then there's this one.  It's cheery looking enough, but I wish it was something else.

These guys are on the back of the house. No clue about them either.

Then there are the mystery bushes in the northwest corner.

And then there are the plants that are just unwanted.  I was so excited that my peonies survived their ungraceful transplant from Z's house!

Then I noticed more blackberry popped up.  Grrrr.

Anybody who can identify any of these plants gets cookies!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The closet hatch

This was in the floor of my closet.  It was taped over.  I studiously ignored it.

I wanted to set up my air conditioning unit in my bedroom but I didn't have any windows.  When I bought my house there were no roof vents, so during the summer my house was HOT.  Really really hot.  I eventually got the roof vents installed (thanks, Al!) but in the meantime I needed a way to cool my bedroom while I slept.  So I bought a portable air conditioning unit and figured I could maybe vent it out this hole and into the basement.  I got brave and took the tape off the hole.  I cautiously opened the hatch and found some sort of homemade lockbox. 

I slammed the lid shut and called Z.

Me:  "Hey, what are you doing? You want to come over and have lunch?"
Z:  "Actually, I'm not feeling well so I'm heading home."
Me:  "Okay, you HAVE to come over and help me excavate this weird box in my closet floor.  There could be spiders (OH MY GOD, SPIDERS) or severed fingers or guns or cursed doubloons in there."

He came over.  I have great friends.

There wasn't anything in the box, luckily, and Z helped me dismantle the thing.  Now I had a straight shot into the basement.

I used the duct in the basement from the old stove downdraft that I mentioned earlier to vent the AC unit out of the house. Thank you, former house owners, for not leaving anything scary in that box.  I'm not even going to think about what you might have stored in there.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mysteries in the laundry room

When I moved into the house I needed a lot of electrical work.  This is what my electrical panel looked like.  Wires sticking out, no cover . . . just a tiny bit hazardous.

Luckily I have a friend who is an electrician and would work for a reasonable rate (and access to the food in the kitchen cabinets).  He did a couple of really awesome things without my asking, like putting a motion sensor on the light in the laundry room.  So if I'm carrying a basket of laundry there's no fumbling with a chain in the dark--the light just comes on.  After five minutes without motion it turns the light off.  It's awesome. 

Fast forward to now.  A few weeks back I started noticing that the light would be on when no one had been down there.  I noticed that the dryer hose had popped off the window vent and figured that must have triggered the light to go off.  Some contractor had told me that, in the hierarchy of venting, rigid metal ducts are best.  They accumulate the least dust and lint resulting in a lower fire risk.  The only problem is that I couldn't get the stupid hose to stay connected to the window outlet. I kept finding it like this:

I kept applying more foam tape and the stupid thing kept popping off.  I finally decided to screw the pieces together.

Bingo!  Why didn't I think of that before?  The only problem?  The light was still going off.


My roommate and I had a very serious conversation about the light (we had both noticed it and gotten freaked out); my roommate solemnly informed me that it could be a ghost.  I was worried it was a mouse or some other critter.  I hunted around for signs of critters: droppings, nests, chewed stuff . . . but found nothing. 

So my latest theory concerns the old stove downdraft.  My house didn't have a stove hood so the previous owners appeared to have one of those stoves with a downdraft that vented through the kitchen floor.  There was a hole in the kitchen floor with a duct attached.


That hole was covered by the underlayment for the Marmoleum and I repurposed that duct into a vent for my portable AC unit in my bedroom.  But in the winter the duct was just hanging out doing this:

My theory is that it gets windy outside and air comes shooting into that duct and into the basement, causing the duct to swing.  I should have remedied this long ago.  I'm letting cold air into the house and basically left a fun slide for critters wanting to get into the house.  Like SPIDERS, OH MY GOD, SPIDERS.  Or mice.  Or whatever. 

So I took the cover off the exterior of the house . . .

. . . cut some of this stuff I found in the basement to fit . . .

. . . screwed it in and replaced the cover.

I'll keep you posted about the light.  I really hope this stops the light triggering because I don't want to consider the alternatives.  Like ghost-rats.

Edited to add: I did finally get a cover for my electrical panel.  It feels slightly less dangerous doing laundry beneath it now.