Friday, January 29, 2010

Keeping Warm (continued)

In my last "Keeping Warm" post, I forgot to mention Mortite putty. Every fall, I buy a box or two from Eric and Lex at the Parks True Value Hardware Store on Newbury Street. When the cold winds begin to blow, we put down the storm windows, such as they are, and I patiently caulk our seven 19th-century windows with strips of gummy gray putty, stuffing rags into the larger gaps. I stuff it in cracks between our outer walls and the floor, too. I have a little Mortite party.

I usually feel like a pauper when I do this, wistfully wishing we had new windows. Seven replacement windows, built and installed in accordance with the local architectural commission's guidelines, would cost at least $20,000, probably more. I saw some fancy new windows that were installed in an apartment like ours, and didn't like them. They looked "fake" and clumsy, even if they do tip inward for easy cleaning. (To clean ours, someone brave has to stand outside on the window ledge, with an assistant, strong and brave, kneeling inside, holding tight to the window-washer's ankles. Meanwhile, I curl up in a corner on the floor, hands over my face, listening for screams.)

Mortite helps against drafts, but it's not great. Icy breezes drift across our bed at night. Every year, my father, in his stifling (thermostat @ 78) split-level in Pennsylvania, recommends the old plastic-wrap-and-hairdryer solution for drafty windows. Every year I point out our cat ownership and he laughs. Cats have claws (those "Soft Paws" caps eventually come off). And we also have very deep windowsills, which belong to the cats. I don't even need to get as far as telling him that I think the plastic wrap looks tacky. He knows about cats.

Yesterday I walked into the kitchen in my bare feet. (I hate slippers. No matter how cold my feet are, my toes demand their freedom in the house. Socks are all I can stand.) My toes encountered something new on the floor....  about 8" of Mortite.

The kittens had found some, pulled it off whatever crack it was covering, and dragged it over to their food bowls, like captured prey. I threw it out, and found more little bits of it all over the kitchen. Clearly, the Mortite had put up a struggle. I've had struggles with it myself, especially when I try to use it up high; it likes to fall down. I can't count on victory, either.

Later in the night, I began to wonder if the kittens had eaten any Mortite. I looked it up online: it's mostly titanium dioxide, which is pretty inert. But I called the vet this morning just in case. They told me what to watch out for, but confirmed that the stuff is non-toxic. I guess it's still possible that it can gum up a kitten's innards, so I am watching and waiting. They are running around and eating, so so far, so good.

This morning, I found another long piece of Mortite on the kitchen floor. I carried it back to the bathroom and stuck it the crack along the outside wall, where frigid airs blows across our feet. An experiment. A few minutes later, Possum came trotting into the kitchen with it in his mouth. Aha. I took it from him, threw it out, and then pulled up the rest of the Mortite on the bathroom floor. I guess it's going to be a very chilly winter, but that's better than a trip to the ER at Angell.

Possum rests on a sunny windowsill after hunting the wily Mortite.

1 comment:

  1. That's such a good story! And how refined of the cats to drag their 'prey' to their bowls! Millie did the same with fur toys, during the time that she saw them as food. I have one window covered with plastic film, and yes, it looks terrible, and I notice it's broken away from its sealing strip. But it still stops the icy knife-like draught whistling straight into my ear as I type, so it can sit there till Spring!


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