Our Maryland Farmhouse

real food recipes, heirloom gardening and farmhouse adventures

Gutter Compost

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According to what some of our neighbors have told us, they’ve seen the Wife and I outside working on the house more in the 2-1/2 months since we moved in than they saw the previous two owners in total.  And while we have plans to upgrade and improve the property, a lot of what we’ve been up to so far is simply correcting years worth of deferred maintenance.

After the major rainstorm a few weeks back (which kindly deposited over a half-foot of di-hydrogen oxide onto our land) we noticed some undesired water flow around the house.  Water had ponded in the driveway, dumped over the sides of gutters, and found ways into the basement.  I had to bring in a second dehumidifier to the cellar for backup.  I didn’t even need to climb up onto the roof to see what some of the problems were.


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Gutters typically have an opening, you see, and this opening needs to be pointed in the opposite direction as the water coming off of the roof is going.  But in this case, the gutter opening is facing at a 90 degree angle.  Not so useful.

Once on the ladder, I noted another problem:

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Rather than being used for carrying watershed from the roof safely away from the house and foundation, the gutters were instead being utilized for some sort of composting experiment.  While this experiment appeared to be surprisingly successful, it was doing no favors for the water control.

Gutter cleaning is a fairly straightforward affair.  You get out the biggest ladder you own, don a set of rubber gloves, ascend the ladder, and sludge out the gunk using your gloved mitts.  After approximately 15 seconds, the rubber gloves will catch on a gutter nail, or a pine cone, or a piece of old gutter screen, tear and be worthless.  At this point, you can either don a new pair of gloves (which, if you continue on this way, will blow through a 100 box of gloves in about 30 minutes) or suck it up and continue to dredge out the gutters.

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A word on gutter screen.  This word is: useless.  All gutter screen does is allow twigs, leaves, dead chipmunks, bird poop, and other fun things to lay on top of your gutters until they biodegrade to the point that their particles are smaller than the screen openings, at which point they sluice through the gutter screen and compost in the gutter.  And then you can’t clean the gutter without removing them.  Our farmhouse had gutter screens installed by some surely well-intentioned previous owner.  I removed them.

After cleaning all the gutters, and re-fixing various dropping and dislodged portions to the roof with new gutter clips, I rinsed them out with a good blast from the garden house.  This does two things- it cleans out all the little crap you couldn’t get with your torn-rubber-gloved hands, and it tests the water flow and let’s you make sure the gutters are in fact doing what they should be.  It also lets you spot leaks and cracks, which can be sealed with Gutter Caulk.

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I like my gutters clean and well hung.

Finally, while you’re up on your roof and ladder, be sure to take a second and take in the view and remember why you’re spending your Sunday afternoon elbow-deep in rotting biomass, instead of watching spandex-clad grown men fight for a funny-looking leather bladder full of air.

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