Be alert and listen to your house


Have you listened lately to your house, especially if it is an old house?

Over the years you’ve learned to identify its creaks and cracks, its rattles and bangs, without becoming alarmed. You also know its smells, not just from the kitchen, and if a skunk is passing through.

But with these teeter-totter temperatures, it would behoove you to be especially alert because just as our old bones and muscles react to these changes so do those structural portions of the house.


Here is a perfect example. The other morning as I stepped into the barn, I detected an unusual smell. Not exactly skunky, but strange. A friend here the day before thought she smelled a skunk, too.

Nothing seemed to be amiss, but then I recalled the house lights flickered intermittently the last few nights, just as they had before I got a new pump.

Better I call my friend Lester Baringer, of Baringer Pump Service, who over the years has literally baled me out of several water calamities.

Meanwhile, dear kind Jimmie arrived — he comes daily to do things, large and small, that are such a huge help and has been faithful ever since this whole rigamarole began. A plumber by trade, he is also a jack of all trades. What a blessing he has been to me for more than 60 years!

Checking the furnace room, he had bad news: There was a big leak in the wall with water pouring in. No wonder the lights were flickering each time the pump tried to keep up. Jimmie knew where to shut that line off to stop the flow.

Once again, Lester to the rescue, bless his heart. He came promptly, checked the mess, shook his head, and pronounced the situation dire, but declared it could be repaired by cutting through the barn’s cement floor to reach the broken pipe.

Fortunately, the barn water was not affected but there was no water in the house, so I learned how to live out of a bucket with the help of the microwave for a little hot water.

Single-handedly, Les worked — so far and we’re not done yet (Feb. 2) — for two days and not once did he track any mud into the house, putting rubbers on when he came in, took them off, carried them down the cellar steps, took them off when he came back up. Amazing! His wife has taught him well!


The strange smell? Sodden dirt under the floor.

The crises has passed. I have hot water, and it is such a simple pleasure to turn on the faucet and have water come out! My nerves are beginning to relax.

A chipmunk ventured out on the last day of January, the resident woodchuck stirred, there was a duck on the pond, and daffodil tips are showing. Surely the other shoe will have to drop soon.

Pet death

With all the horrible stories lately of animal abuse, one wonders if we are becoming barbarians. And then I heard about Richard and Norma Brooks of Campbell who recently had to have their darling 28-year-old Paula, a small mixed breed dog which Richard had rescued from Calvary Cemetery where he had worked for 31 years, put to sleep.

For the last six years, Paula had been paralyzed and Richard and Norma took turns being with her 24/7. When they knew the end was inevitable, they planned ahead for her funeral. Richard even made a little coffin for their beloved pet.

There is much more to this tender story about these very caring people. The funeral, with all the amenities, was at Becker’s Angel’s Rest Crematory in Struthers.

Makes you realize there are still a few nice people out there, doesn’t it?


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A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



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