November 15, 2003

Gutter Snipe

I thought it would take about 20 minutes to clean the gutters. BWAHAHAHA!!!

Chris and I began renting this house a year and a half ago and, after having moved in, realized that it's been pretty neglected. Years ago (I'm not sure how many) the thing was moved, as a unit, about 1000 feet from where it was originally built. It now sits on the former site of a florist's greenhouse. When they demolished the greenhouse they apparantly decided to just bury the glass. Now whenever I dig up the soil to plant tomatoes, peppers and/or cukes I strike a mother lode of green glass.

The door bell had never been hooked up (until last summer, when we finally had it hooked up), and neither has the back porch light and several of the electrical outlets (mainly in the living room). One other thing we've noticed is that the gutters probably haven't been cleaned in decades. As the summer progressed the weeds in the gutters grew to heights of four feet. The house had become One with the garden.

So, at the behest of our landlady, Denise (who lives next door), Chris and I borrowed neighbor Jim's ladder and set out to clean them gutters. Piece o' cake.
It's a cape; two stories plus a crawlspace attic. There are six gutters: two at one story, two at two stories, one at a story and a half (above the front porch roof), and one at nearly three stories (eek!).

The first gutter we decided to liberate was the lowest; just above the den and at the front of the house. The ground is so uneven that it took a while just to set the ladder so that it didn't slide left and right everytime you shook it. I climbed up the rickety aluminum ladder about seven feet that felt like seventy.
"Uh..." I looked down at Chris, "You ever been this high up on a ladder before?"
"Sure," he said. "But not in years."

I climbed back down and Chris climbed up to one rung lower than I'd made it.
"uh..." he muttered, bouncing the ladder to check it's sterdiness, "I dunno about this..."
After a few starts and stops Chris finally made it to the gutter and cleaned out the left half of it. We shimmied it over and he cleaned the right side.

The next gutter was the story-and-a-half one; just above the front porch roof. You can't get to it with a ladder, which means one of us had to climb onto the roof. Since Chris cleaned the first gutter, I decided that I'd better go for it.

I climbed up a few rungs higher than I had in my previous attempts until my butt was at roof level. I leaned to my right and grabbed the peak of the overhang and pulled myself upon the roof and crawled to the center and straddled it, facing forward with the gutter above my head and my back to the wall.

"Alright!" Chris encouraged. "Now all ya gotta do it turn around."
The gutter itself being the only thing grabbable I grabbed it and struggled myself to face it; trowel in hand. This stuff was packed in there. I mean, this wasn't just spoonin' and flippin', it was a real effort to dig that crud out of there.
Landlady Denise came out of her back door and headed for her truck.
"Hi, guys!" she waved.
"Hi, Deniiise...!" we waved back with affected enthusiasm. Did I mention that we're not getting paid for this?

Cleaning the mounds of leaves-that-have-turned-to-heavy-soil out of the gutter was the easy part. Sliding back and onto the ladder was the scary part. But, with heart a thumpin' and knees a-slidin' I made it back down without falling and breaking my neck.. like Grammaw always said I would.

The next gutter was two stories up; the one above my bedroom. Chris went first and cleaned out the right side. We shimmied the ladder over and I went up for the left side. After climbing on the overhang above the porch this was gonna be a cinch.

Most of the caked in dirt was dug out pretty easily, but the stuff just in front of me was stubborn. I dug and pryed and tugged and cried; this crud wasn't budging. Finally I just put all my muster into it and extracted a three foot long body of well-rooted soil. Yep, nearly half of the gutter-crud was in one piece.
"Holy shit!" we both laughed.

We moved the ladder to the back of the house and got the next gutter -- as high as the last one -- with relative ease. We were gutter-cleaning like pros now. But the next one was the one above the crawl space.
We set the ladder until it was reasonably stable and took turns trying to climb the three stories to the gutter. Nope. The gutter's too high and the ladder's too shakey. We each tried again. And then again.

"Well," Chris suggested, "We could climb onto the roof over there (where the last gutter we cleaned was) and walk over to that gutter."
The highest gutter was at the edge of a section of roof that -- compared to the rest of it -- was relatively flat.
"The scariest part is gonna be getting onto the ladder to come back down."

"Okay, let's picture this:" I shuddered. "Even though that section of the roof is relatively "flat" compared to the rest of the roof, yer gonna hafta sit there with your feet low and your butt high and lean forward.. nay, push forward to dig out the crap in the gutter. Up there.
I'm not gonna do it... and neither are you. It's up the ladder or nothing"

It was nothing... We let that one go.

The last gutter was above the den, the same height as the first we'd cleaned. But by this time we were so used to climbing to gutteral heights that it was a piece o' cake.
Six gutters: five cleaned. If Denise wants that high gutter cleaned she can hire some illegals to do it.
And if she thinks hard enough to remember to come by to thank us for cleaning five of the gutters, well, at least the door bell works.

Posted by Tuning Spork at November 15, 2003 11:42 PM

The Adventures of Gutter Man! I can just see the big "G" emblazoned on the front of your superhero's uniform...

Posted by: Susie at November 16, 2003 08:58 AM

You're a braver man than I. I can't deal with heights.

Posted by: Ted at November 16, 2003 12:42 PM

First time I ever cleaned gutters, I reached up blind and came back with a big drippy handful of very decayed pigeon and squirmy friends.
Yeah, I cleaned a gutter once... ONCE!

Posted by: LeeAnn at November 17, 2003 05:13 PM
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