The best ideas come in the dead of night

Our story so far: My husband Tyler and I bought a 126-year-old Methodist church to turn into our dream home.

# # #

We had endured weeks of dirt, dust and debris during the demolition phase of the project, and when we began building walls, I realized we had weeks of sawdust ahead of us, but I believed we were done with the dirtiest of dust.

Until the plumber started work.

Following months of cat herding, Tyler collected bids from no fewer than six plumbers. When Plumber Number Six presented his hand-written bid with the flourish of enthusiasm for our project, it seemed our search was over. “I like him,” Tyler said to me as the potential plumber left the room to check on some detail or another. “You?”

I smiled and nodded. This prospect spoke with reassuring authority, asked questions that indicated he had a lot of experience, and his hand-written quote signaled we weren’t going to be paying for a lot of marketing. We wanted a well-plumbed house, not unsubstantiated flash.

Tyler closed the deal.

“You’re hired.”

As if to underscore the serendipity of our choice, Tyler’s hired man St. Johnny pointed out the plumber wore a burly cross necklace. Seemed like he would fit right in.

Plumber Number Six got to work almost immediately, and we learned quickly he was the night owl to Tyler’s morning lark. Tyler never met a 5:30 a.m. he didn’t like, but Glimfeather earned his nickname by proving he was most productive under bright construction spotlights at 10 p.m. (or, frequently, even later).

Glimfeather was the talking owl who helped the protagonists find a kidnapped prince in The Silver Chair, one of C.S. Lewis’s books in the Chronicles of Narnia. Like our plumber, Glimfeather was wise, spirited and most alert after dark. Exploring the progress the plumber made in the church the morning after his late-night work was often a little like Christmas morning.

Glimfeather’s first project was to jackhammer the basement floor and reroute the sewer pipe in the basement to accommodate our new bathrooms.

[On the left, the back entry to the basement when we purchased the church. On the right, the back entry after demo and the plumber’s excavation.]

Not only did the project create piles of concrete debris, the excavation of dirt was a little off-putting. I didn’t like thinking about the proximity of dirt beneath our foundation, but with holes in the floor, there was no denying it. And that sewer pipe that was supposedly in such good shape? We had a “Houston, we’ve got a problem” moment when Glimfeather pointed out the top of the pipe was so rusty it was disintegrating. So even the portion of pipe that wasn’t being moved had to be replaced.

At the same time, February forgot it was still winter for a few days, and a foot of snow melted under rainy skies. This time, instead of water coming in the front of the basement (where we had the gutters replaced), it seeped into the back in the furnace room. Muddy water everywhere. St. Johnny spent an entire day filling and emptying the shop vac over and over. And we moved the precious castle doors, which had found a temporary home on the floor of the basement, to higher ground.

Eventually the rain stopped, and a few nights later Glimfeather sealed the dirt and new sewer beneath new concrete, and he began constructing the maze of pipes that produce the modern luxury of running water.

no dirt in basement
The back entry of the church after the new concrete was poured.

# # #

Today’s headline is a partial quote from Josh Fox, American film director, playwright, environmental activist and night owl. The full quote from a 2013 interview in the Daily Intelligencer: “I’m a night owl, and luckily my profession supports that. The best ideas come to me in the dead of night. My friends know I’m up, so they can call at three in the morning. Just don’t call me at, like, eight.” After doing it once, Tyler avoided calling Glimfeather at eight, too.

Tomorrow: How a plumber dances with an HVAC guy. Read about it here.


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