Somehow, up to this point in my life, I have managed to avoid gutter cleaning duty. That streak ended Wednesday, May 29th, 2013. That day I realized it had to be me and it had to be immediately. I had little idea of how I would do it, but I stepped outside in the flood on the back patio and looked for a ladder.
I have also avoided ladders pretty well until this year. I am beginning to suspect that my husband’s shoulder surgery is an evil plot to spoil my princess existence. That sounds like a depressing story, though, so I’ll just think of myself as a princess with new power tool and climbing skills. But I’m not one of those adventurous princesses that thrive on finally being let out of the castle to become independent. I was just fine inside of the castle. I was just fine being a helpless princess. I am the helpless princess drug out kicking and screaming into the realm of the unknown. I am waiting for my prince’s shoulder to heal so he can rescue me…
Meanwhile, the gutters needed to be cleaned because there was a lake forming on the back patio next to the
castle house. I have dealt with enough unexpected water in and around the house lately to be motivated to immediate action, even if I have only a foggy idea of what that action will be. Okay, maybe the fog was condensation on my reading glasses.
The folding ladder was sitting just outside the back door. No excuses for me this time. I learned to use the ladder last month when operating the staple gun to build the chicken pen. Once up on the-rung-that-was-the-highest-I-could-make-myself-go, I could see over the side of the gutters. Wow. I had my work cut out for me. It was a canal that needed to be recut. I reached my gloveless hand into the muck and began throwing it in globs on the patio. In the pouring rain, any thoughts of taking time to put it in a bucket were quickly abandoned. I just moved the ladder a couple of feet at a time and proceeded with the excavation.
I can think about it more now that I’m done. Something surely lived in the gutter. Maybe it was drowned by then. During the scooping, I braced myself for what might attach itself to my skin for a ride to the surface. I only really started once, but it ended up being a cable. I am going to have to ask if that should be there and if it could electrocute me next time.
The patio section was only about half of the length of gutter that needed cleaning. The water was still collecting and spilling over like Shoshone Falls, so I had to keep going. I hadn’t yet realized that the water was not getting down the spout. I thought it was just blocked from flowing along the edge. Still, I knew I was going to need a taller ladder for the rest. There was one in the shed I could try. I briefly considered just climbing on the roof, but decided my first visit to the roof should not be in the rain. I was pretty sure I’d get in trouble if I fell off.
I extended the ladder to lean reasonably on the edge of the roof. I thought I noticed some pads that seemed to rest on a rung to hold the ladder out. I attempted a couple of slow steps up the rungs. The extended portion began to slip back down and I got off in controlled terror. What had I done wrong? I was relieved to notice the hooks that needed to be attached to a rung in order to hold the ladder to a certain height. I was able to pull on the ladder and see that it stayed this time.
The next challenge was that the new sidewalk around the swimming pool is slightly slanted for drainage. This meant that it was very hard to get the ladder to lean with both sides “securely” against the house. Fortunately, I was able to use the side of the swimming pool cement box to hold the bottom of the ladder in place at a workable angle. If the cement box had been any closer to the house, this would not have been possible. I hugged the ladder on every trip up and down, trying not to let my normal height-induced dizziness get the better of me.
All of a sudden, the water gushed out of the downspout like a dam had broken. The water carried with it much of the silt and debris that had been left in the bottom couple of inches of the gutter. Ah! I had unplugged the downspout! I felt sheepish, but consoled myself that if I had not cleaned so much of the gunk out first, it would likely have gotten very plugged again. As it was, I had to remove a small clog of leaves one more time. The thick dirt trying to go down might not have worked so well.
My mom happened by not long after I was done. She said my otherwise meticulous father ends up with the same situation every year, but they don’t have any crucial areas of flooding. So his preferred method of cleaning the gutters is to wait for the next sunny day and go up on the roof with a hose. Using a forceful spray, he washes everything down the downspout. I’m going to see if I can get that method cleared with my boss, because it sounds much more pleasant than what I did this time.