Tag Archives: hamster

Cleaning up the homestead

We dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, in mine the whole day through...

It's ok, that's where we wanted the veg patch anyway...

Imagine you’re in the market for a car. You see an advert for a nice looking machine and you go to check it out. The body work has seen better days, but it’s whole and intact. Maybe it needs a new coat of paint, but there’s no rust. The inside is immaculate, with the seats reupholstered in luxurious material, a new stereo system and sat nav in the dash and it runs ok. When you take a look under the hood, you can see there’s still some work to be done, and maybe some big jobs a few years down the line, but nothing that can’t be sorted out in time. More to the point, it’s the kind of car you can use right away AND stil have the final bits of the restoration as your hobby for a few years to come. It’s all good. You hand over the cash and drive away in your new car.

Two weeks later, an inspector arrives. He’s concerned about your new car. He tests the emissions, listens to the engine, has a close look at the sub-frame. He’s not happy about what he sees and he shows you a few things he’s found. The exhaust system isn’t right for this type of car, and it’s leaking badly. In fact, it could even be venting into the car and damaging you and your family as you drive around. Look here at these weld marks – this isn’t even one car, it’s two or three cobbled together. Here, he’s got a report that proves the previous owner used this car in some illegal street races, probably making a pile of money, getting the car pretty smashed up in the process. He patched up the machine and sold it on to you, you chump. Now here’s the tough break. You have to get this car up to spec within a week, or the inspector will impound it, and you’ll get a fine. Yes, he knows you’re not the one who did all the illegal stuff, but you’re the owner of this car now, it’s down to you to fix it.

That sounds like a hard luck story, but it’s pretty much what happened to us a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t a car though. It was our house. Yep, the lovely new Wonkey house, our brilliant purchase and project has proved to be too good to be true after all. Despite being cautious, using a Property Inspector and dealing with reputable Realtors, we got stuck with a house that used to be a Grow Op (a marijuana farm, for you non-North Americans) What’s so bad about that? Well, the amount of power used to run the lights that grow the weed has burned out the main power cable to the house and left it a dangerous fire hazard. The heat and damp conditions promote the growth of mould and the plants themselves leave spores in the heating system and can contaminate the drywall itself. The Inspection Team said we were very lucky to be allowed to stay in the house at all, and gave us a week to have the work completed and the house brought up to code.

Naturally we asked a few pointed questions of our Realtor, and consulted solicitors. Their opinion was that we had a cast-iron case and could expect to recover any costs through the courts in as little as three years. Provided we could find the previous owners. And they didn’t hide their assets. So we shouldn’t attempt to contact them or in any way alert them to the fact that we were aware they defrauded us by selling a house they knew to have been used for a Marijuana Farm.*

All this had me furious and raving for a week or so. The electrical folks came in and dug up the garden to get at the cable and rewired pretty much the whole house. Every inch of ceiling is now covered with smoke detectors and we have Carbon Monoxide detectors in every room. I evacuated Moose and Maxi the Hamster for a whole day while the house was filled with Ozone to kill the mould and spores, and then I tore out the contaminated drywall and ripped up the old lino and bleached the floor underneath. After a fortnight’s work and around four thousand dollars, we’ve nearly got the house we paid for, and that figure doesn’t include money lost through working days destroyed by work on the house/electricity/mould.

But with the completion of the work, we’ve achieved a bit of serenity. The house is better than it was now, and though the stigma of Grow Op will remain for years, we’re not planning to move out and sell anytime soon, so the lost value doesn’t count yet. We’ve kept careful records and kept copies of all the reports and certificates and photographs. We’re using the work as a springboard for our own renovations, starting with carpeting the basement and moving on to the deck. We have more visitors arriving soon, and we want the place to look like a home, not a stoner’s dream. There are still days when I could cheerfully throttle the previous owners, but I mostly just want to ask them why. Why sell the house and lie? For more money, obviously, I guess, but how can you tell that barefaced lie? What if we’d met them face-to-face and asked them if it had been a Grow Op? Would they have admitted it then, or continued to lie? One day I may get to ask them, but for now I’m turning the page and claiming my home back.

*Ok, legal folks, I know that’s supposition on my part, but the evidence that lead the Inspection Team to come to the house in the first place indicated that the farm was still running in the basement of the house up until the week before we visited the house for the first time, well within  the time that the house was under the ownership of the previous owners. Also, in redecorating the basement they covered over many of the signs of the Grow Op, including the place where they had bypassed the electricity meter to get free electricity. I can’t believe they could have missed all the signs. Even if they weren’t running it, they knew it was there, and they signed a contract that said the house had not been used to grow weed.

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Hamsters and puppies and rabbits, oh my!

I am not, I think, a very responsible person. That is to say, there are many things I have been responsible for, but I don’t often rush to take on new responsibilities. Certainly at the ripe old age of however-old-I-am-now, I thought the three Tiny Weasels were enough responsibility for me to be going on with.

But, we’d promised that once we were settled in Canada, we would get a dog. I argued, quite persuasively, I thought, that the best time to get a dog would be in September, when the Weasels were back at school all day and Mrs Dim would be plying her trade, and I could adjust to life with a new puppy in a quiet and controlled environment.

So we got our puppy in June, and she fitted right in with the family. Her training was accompished by me taking her to a real Puppy Training school and being taught as severely as she was. And she’s pretty good, as small dogs go. She still has a tendancy to bark too often at things that aren’t worth barking at (Squirrels, small boys, trees, paper bags…) and she delights in bringing leaves into the house and shredding them under the coffee table, but all in all, she’s not a lot of work.

I think this was the idea behind Middle Weasel getting her Hamster at Christmas. Dim doesn’t have a lot of work to do looking after the dog, so if Middle Weasel wants a hamster, it’ll do her good. Teach her to be responsible.

Now, I definitely heard that last sentence being bandied about. It was familiar because I heard the same logic behind getting Biggest Weasel her rabbit, many years ago. Back then, I was dead against it, having the aged but saintly Sydney, Prince of Dogness to care for. Admittedly, since he was 126 in dog years, he didn’t require much care either – other than the occasional mopping up. All he wanted to do was sleep and be near the people he loved, a bit like a drunk at a party. Still, the rabbit arrived and we started the large-scale importing of hay and rabbit food and the export of small black pellets and used hay. When it became apparent that the Weasels were no longer using the garden playhouse, we cut a hole in the side of it, fitted the rabbit run to that and it became the Rabbit Palace. Much easier to clean, since you could walk in, and it gave the rabbit (hang on, there was a name, wasn’t there? Er…Lucy! Yes, Lucy Rabbit) room to wander around even when the weather wasn’t rabbit-friendly.

And here’s the thing, the cry of the parent since the first cave-child brought home a partially domesticated dog: Biggest Weasel would look after the cleaning and restocking of the rabbit palace if asked. On Sunny days she would rush to release the bunny and play with her in the garden. But on so, so many days, I was the one sweeping up the damp hay and replacing it. What, exactly, did Biggest Weasel learn from owning (so passively) this rabbit? Well, ultimately she learned that rabbits can be killed by an extraordinary range of diseases. Lucy caught a weird one that convinced her the world was actually upside down. She hobbled around unhappily, twisting her head around as far as possible to try and get things the right way up. The vet said that there were three or more possible causes, but none of them were really treatable, and so Lucy passed on to the Rabbit Palace in the sky.

Moose is a real pet. She interacts with us, comes with us on walks, learns to respond to commands. The Hamster (Maxi) occasionally runs in his wheel. He comes out to roll around in his ball (much to Moose’s bemusement) and gets stroked and brushed, but he’s another passive pet. I don’t see Middle Weasel learning anything about responsibility from being Maxi’s owner, other than “Responsible owners don’t leave their hamsters unattended outside their habitat when the dog is wandering free” and she only just learned that one in time (Lucky for Maxi, Moose isn’t very quick on her feet.)

Luckily for me, my own predictions of gloom have not come true. I’m not the one who ends up cleaning up after the hamster. Mrs Dim delights in cleaning out the habitrail and rearranging it in interesting new ways. She had mice for a while, as a child, and I think we got the hamster as much for her as for Middle Weasel. So I’m not complaining about Maxi joining the family. He may not contribute much, but he’s not much of a drain, and Middle Weasel is very happy to be a Responsible Hamster Owner, and a smile from her is worth a dozen hamsters.