This Is Blarney! And How to Weatherize Your Home.

Trip Start Feb 07, 2012
Trip End Nov 15, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Maine
Sunday, March 18, 2012

How long has it been? Let me count the days... Except, it feels like we've been here longer than we have, but where has the time gone?!?

March 9th was our Official Induction into AmeriCorps, marking both the end of training and the beginning of service. So with boots all shiny and looking spruced in our AmeriTuxes, we sat through some speeches and great music, took photos, and ate cake! It was a cool day, so I promptly scuffed up my boots again teaching the warm-up dance to a few other chilly corps members. I'd say people stared – you know, professionally dressed young adults jumping around like maniacs -- but this was amid 2 other games of ninja and a game of "Wah!" out in the parking lot. Yep, we keep ourselves entertained!

Then came our final preparations for departure the next day. The last day or so before induction was also spent checking over the vans, tool and kitchen kit check-out, cleaning and finally packing. My favorite. I suppose I could have bumped that up on the list, but why break tradition? My team got lucky this round and were allowed TWO bags to take along (normally it’s just the one). Our sponsor organization had requested a second work vehicle, which worked perfectly since our 3 wildland firefighters would be off in North Carolina for a week and two of them would have to drive up to Maine to join the rest of us. The other fire fighter, Lark, had actually been placed on the Phoenix 1 team (a.k.a 1st round firefighters), and so would be heading to Virginia for the entire 1st round instead. Phoenix teams train to do control burns, clear burnable material out of possible wildfire hazard areas, and lend support if a wildfire would occur – trench digging, control burning, brush removal, etc. It’s hard endurance work, which is why they are required to do extra PTs and training.

Anyway, Raven 2 rose bright-eyed and feathers fluffed on the 10th to pack up our perishable foods, load the van, and hit the road to our first project by 6AM! As we were the first Raven team to head out, a surprise passenger hopped a ride along. Edgar the Raven introduced himself to us and made a comfy nest in the back seat. He’s become a bit of a celebrity, what with all the photos posted to facebook of his – and our – travels.

After a 10 hour drive, we arrived safe and sound in Bath, Maine. After paying some 30 odd bucks in tolls. Kudos, Minnesota, for free interstates. Of course, we learned AFTER that government vehicles can often drive through free. Soooo, we were paying the government… who pays for the vans anyway! Hmmm…It’s the Circle of Liiiiifffe!!

Our original housing plan was for us to stay at the local Cosmopolitan Club in Bath, but unfortunately they had had a couple pipes burst and were still working on the repair. In a very kind gesture that has become characteristic of this community, a local church instead agreed to let us use rooms in their basement/kids’ activity center for a week before we could move into the Cosmo Club. A bit chilly (okay, Colleen and I were freezing our tootsies off), but we had a roof over our heads, a nice kitchen, large common area, and even a fireplace! The YMCA has also allowed us free access, so we visit often for PT 3 times a week and showers. This one even has a sweet rock wall available at certain times of the week, but I haven’t been climbing yet. Mostly I swim, work out or run. Or both. And then chill in the hot tub. There’s also a bunch of Navy guys to watch, if other entertainment lacks…

We met Ryan, our project coordinator, at Habitat Monday morning to get started on our first project! The morning was spent seminar style, learning about the different types of weatherizing projects we would be working on and why weatherizing is important. Edgar needed some coffee to stay awake after poking his nose out of his nest at 5:30 that morning, but luckily the Habitat staff members are caffeine addicts and so keep it in abundance at the office. Who knew that AFTER college I’d learn to tolerate coffee! After lunch, we headed over to a nearby house and learned how to properly install storm windows and a bit about attic venting (gable, soffit, ridge!) for the rest of the afternoon.

Tuesday was spent in similar style. That morning we learned about R-values (basically, how effective something is at insulating. A single pane of glass has an R-value of 1. Super low!) and how to input window measurements into a spreadsheet to create a “cut sheet” before going to actually cut the wood panes with Doug, a super amazing volunteer (and he’s 80 something! Never too old!). That afternoon, he helped us try our hands at assembling the windows and stretching the shrink-wrap to create the double pane storm windows (R-value 2. Yeah, windows aren’t that great for insulating! Single pane + storm = only R3). A couple teammates actually created a short video of the process for Habitat to post on their website; I’ll post that here when I get a copy.

Our first walk through of the Cosmopolitan Club was that Wednesday. Ryan brought us over to learn and practice other types of weatherizing that we’d be doing in homes. First, we do what’s called a “blower door test” – basically, closing all windows and sealing the front door with a plastic sheet with a fan sticking through it. The fan depressurizes the house and tells you how much air is flowing through – a.k.a. how leaky your house is and why it’s not holding heat very well! The Cosmo Club, in Ryan’s terms, is hyperventilating. Like many houses around here, the Cosmopolitan Club house is quite old, at least 150 years I believe, so it’s SUPER leaky. The basement alone is quite creepy – like, Blair Witch Project creepy – as a lot of moisture and cold air comes through so there are tons of spider webs, which is usually a sign of excess airflow. Um, so we just closed that door and keep the trashcan in front of it - you know, so nothing hiding in the basement can come up and get us. Acromantulas, Dementors… Anyway, while the blower door is running, we walk around the house and put stickies where you can feel and see air blowing through. Usually around windows, cracks in the walls, around doors, sometimes outlets. Ryan also has a thermal camera we can walk around with and find cold spots and try to find out why it’s cold so we can insulate. Baseboards, ceiling fixtures, and often parts of the ceiling if the attic isn’t insulated well. Then comes the dirty work: caulking or spray foaming (even up in the attic around protruding ceiling fixtures), putting gaskets in the outlets, backer rod in cracks. Many times, especially with the old houses, Habitat has to contract a company to come in and blow cellulose insulation into the attic and spray foam (a different kind than we use) the basement from just below the ceiling to about 2 feet below ground level. Heating ducts are also super leaky, so we use a Mastick (sp?) paste around the joints to seal them off.

I know, more than you wanted to know about weatherizing your home, BUT if you have any questions I just might be able to answer them or get an answer for you, so ask away!

Thursday and Friday marked our first project out in the field, so to speak, working on weatherizing a home in nearby Brunswick. Most projects will take at least one full day, probably two. It’s a bit hectic with 9 people working on the same house, so we’ll be splitting up the team for future projects. Friday was also our transition into living in the Cosmopolitan Club house. A few of the Club ladies had come in a couple days before and cleaned the place up after repairs were done, so things were looking better by the time we arrived. Us ladies share the third floor, which has one big room, two smaller rooms, and two half rooms. Not all of them are cleaned up, so three of us share the big room and one of the girls snagged her own half room. She calls it the Anne Frank Suite. We also went scavenging for beds on the lower floors and found 3, including box springs! I was content with my cot, so I left the fourth bed for one of the guys to snag. All four of them get to share one big, pink room on the second floor! Besides the main bathroom, there are more rooms on that level, but, again, need some clean up work. The main floor has a kitchen, small bathroom, small dining room, and a large living room with a staircase to the second floor. It’s quite a neat place to live in!

Yesterday, Saturday, was the day we were looking forward to all week: Blarney Days!! (More commonly known as St. Patrick’s Day.) In Bath, the 17th is an Irish celebration, not just an excuse to get drunk! Well, I mean, they do drink a TON, but it’s an actual heritage festival. Blarney Days was started by a gentleman from Ireland who now owns a pub called Byrnes, which a few of us visited later in the day. It. Was. Crazy. They had an Irish band with bagpipers playing and the placed was packed, even with standing room only. One guy we chatted with while squeezing our way to the far side of the room told us – in his Irish accent- that the celebrating had started at 6am that morning (“Eggs and Kegs!”) and had been going strong since! But what my AmeriCorps team was looking forward to was the Blarney Day Parade that morning. We walked with both the Habitat For Humanity sign and a couple of our own NCCC signs. It was pretty awesome to hear people commenting, “Oh there’s AmeriCorps!” and such. Another team had been here in Bath last fall (Buffalo 1, I think), so it was great that people noticed.

The rest of the day I was finally able to check out the town and visit the shops. Bath is a very historic town with a small town feel, but pretty busy. Front Street is where all the shops are located, a mix of nicer clothing shops and more quaint style shops like the sweet shop (heehee!) and old time book shop. Everything seems pretty local instead of name brand. Bath Iron Works is also located along the coastline of Bath, which is a company that builds and repairs ships. There’s one being worked on right now (which is where the Navy guys and gals are from, see?).

So today is Sunday, or first day really “off,” and we’re scavenging the house for furnishings for the girls' "apartment" waiting for our two fire guys and the Support Team Leader that is driving up with them to arrive this evening. The STL, Brooke, will be staying with us a couple days before flying back to campus in Maryland. It’ll be nice to have almost all the team together again (Lark will still be on fire round for the duration of the project)!

Raven 2 Out! - video on how to create storm windows

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Albert on

Nice work Raven 2 ! Pretty local many hills? What is the population . Is the town following the sea shore or is there a river runs through it?

kateri.gruber on

It's hillier that MN! But otherwise reminds me of MN quite a lot! Population is only about 10,000 -- the entire state of Maine is only about 1.1 million!

kateri.gruber on

Bath is technically "on" the coast, but it's an inland coast -- I believe we're at least 15 minutes from the actual beach.

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