Water, water everywhere.

#510 in a series of true experiences in real estate
April 2006, Hills Newspapers

Will it ever stop raining? We’ve had people lined up for weeks to prep our listings who either can’t do their jobs or are going ahead and getting wet while they work. Gardeners raked paths, weeded and trimmed shrubs in the rain. They used a power washer to wash away moss on wooden decks and concrete as it rained. Window washers waited for a break in the weather, steadied their ladders well and washed away until it started raining again. They returned the following day during a brief clearing to finish.

At one house the gardeners didn’t seem to mind being drizzled on. They laughed and called comments to one another, moving quickly, gathering green debris into bags to carry to their truck. We were there that day and it all seemed so cheerful. Of course it wasn’t one of those total downpour days; just a heavy sprinkle.

At another house a painter has been waiting for a break in the weather to touch up exterior paint. And a small patch of sod is going to be laid – if it ever stops raining – in a back garden.

Anet and I were in Napa a few weeks ago visiting my cousins on their family ranch. The river runs through it. And this year, the river rose up and ran over a vineyard knocking to the ground quite a few grapevine supports and the plants too. The family had been hoping for a good clear day to upright and secure the vines but unable, like the rest of us, to predict the weather, they’d simply chosen a day.

What fantastic luck that on the appointed day, the sun was out, the sky was blue, the softly rolling hills that can be seen beyond the ranch were green. We slogged through heavy, and in places, deep mud following the sounds of voices until we came to a gloriously beautiful scene. About two dozen people were standing in a vineyard side by side in a long line, one person for each plant.

On a shout, everyone lifted his vine upright and supports were then pulled taut. The colors, the sight of them was very beautiful. Sky and hills, yellow mustard, green tractor, shirts and jackets and boots every-color.

My tenant reported a different sort of water problem, nothing to do with the weather. Actually, he wasn’t sure what was causing the stain that was growing in size on his living room floor, but it did turn out to be water. When the spot was first noticed, it was only a couple of inches in diameter; the tenant emailed me a photo. But over the next week or so before I could get someone there to check it out, it doubled in size.

A pet was not responsible for the stain, no plant had been over-watered, no drink spilled. There was no trail from the closest water source, the water heater. But that’s what was leaking. A tiny amount had been dripping under the floor, running across the building paper laid there, and accumulating in a low spot.

Shaun, our friend and contractor, figured this all out without having to take up any floor boards and he installed a new water heater. He added an alarm that goes off if water leaks onto the floor and automatically shuts off the water too. A few floor boards will have to be replaced but I figure I got off lucky; my tenant told me what was happening before the water caused more damage.

At my own house the rain has made the garden unusually lush and spring green. Even tiny cactuses I stuck in a dry spot last year, figuring that’s what they’d prefer, are loving the water. But my clay soil is thick and mucky, almost gelatinous. I don’t know how slender plant roots can breathe in it or why the bulbs don’t rot, but all is thriving in the garden.

Downstairs in my house, however, there is a lot of water on the concrete floor of the garage. Water stands still in a ten foot long, fairly skinny patch. It freaks me out. There is probably a supply of water under the raised wooden floor of the adjacent finished room. I can’t see under this floor or do anything about the water except to sweep it out the door.

I do this a couple of times a day wondering all the while why I try. Within a couple of hours it is wet exactly as before. And slimy green moss marks the driveway where I’ve whisked the water. Finding water in the basement was a bad surprise. A dozen years ago when I last found water there after it had rained, I had down spouts changed and an underground drain put in to carry water to the street. These worked perfectly, until now.

This week we held open for the first time a wonderful house, a house blessedly dry in all the right places. The setting is full of nature and has of course received a recent, thorough soaking. Although it had rained the day before and also rained the day after, that good morning was bright and dry. The trees surrounding the house glistened, the creek that runs across the property made lovely, noisy water-running sounds.

We laid out new dry coir doormats at the doorways and opened windows and doors. We set out trays of sandwiches and grilled veggies and big fat cookies for our visitors. We had a fine time showing off the house and greeting friends on such a fine day.

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