Sunday, July 25, 2010

More Cautionary Tales...

If you know you are invincible, you can skip this bit of friendly advice.

I was first going to work on a blog of my recent trip to Winnipeg.

However, over the past couple days, while browsing pics in a few folks Facebook photo albums of places they have been into, I took notice of a few. They made that exclamation point jump out of the top of my head like in cartoons...

Aren't I talented?

Anyway, the various pics showed some rooms, or rather, areas/corners/ceilings of rooms. The one thing they had in common was they had black stuff in spots on various parts of the walls/ceilings/stuff.

And what was this black stuff?

It is highly likely it was black mold.

No, not Beverly Hillbilly Jed's black gold...but, black MOLD.

Good old Stachybotrys.

You can click on the word there, for a definition if you like, But, Y'all come back now, ya hear?

You back?


So, anyway, as you have possibly read (or already know), it can be nasty stuff. Looks innocent enough, but a bomb can look innocent until it goes off.

I had my own nasty encounter with it, and man, it really messes with your head & body. Created things like depression, physical weakness, breathing issues and more. Went from being quite fit to getting winded going up a single flight of stairs. I wasn't able to lift things I had no trouble lifting a few months earlier. I find I am now really sensitive to it, and can tell there is some in any building I go into, just by my body's reactions.

I won't bother going into further details, as there is enough info online as to what it can do to you. Your imagination can take it from there.

So, get familiar with it, and if you are involved in a situation where it is growing, especially in abundance, wear a respirator type mask that can filter out the spores.

NO, one of those cheap WalMart dust masks won't cut it.

Plus, when you bring items into your home, storage, etc, that is from a building where that mold is, you are bringing spores into your own space.

I don't want to create paranoia, as it is going to happen in this business, it is just a fact. But, you can take steps to prevent excess exposure. Sealing items in a bag prior to putting them in your vehicle, washing them well, DRYING them well, etc before your bring them into your shop, house, storage, etc will all help.

There is all sorts of info on what kills mold and what doesn't. The information I found is that bleach actually isn't strong enough to eradicate it. The company who cleaned the mold from the building I was renting, which was the source of my problems at the time, used a product called Benefect. It was actually safer to humans than bleach (you could drink it without ill effects), but deadly to mold.

They also filled the place with ozone, which kills everything.

I have no idea what long term effects the exposure will have on my health. I guess we'll see. I know it has affected my lungs, and has increased my sensitivity to dust and other things.

SO, if you are out picking or just exploring old buildings, take my advice, and wear a decent mask into those damp basements, buildings, etc. Will be cheaper to buy a decent mask than pay for the long term effects the stuff could have on your health.

Another thing that concerns me as of late, with the interest in picking brought out by the popularity of the TV program American Pickers (History Channel), is the issue of private property.

Just because a building is alone, unattended, looks abandoned, etc, etc, DOES NOT mean it is not valued, ripe for raiding, etc.

I go to great lengths to find out who owns the buildings that I am interested in digging through.

There is actually a couple reasons for this, and one that you are likely unaware of, or have not thought of.

One is that I can legitimately be there, without any concern about looking up into a rifle barrel as rise up from picking something up, or perhaps a shotgun blast of buckshot or rock salt peppering my body, or being pulled over by the police later and charged with theft.

I will buy the items I want, (or occasionally I will be told to take what I want, but I always try to pay them something if there is anything good) and thus have no worries.

Another reason to get permission is that they will know you are rescue you from the cellar when the stairs collapse, you get stuck in the hole you stepped through in the floor of the attic, etc.

Or, at least, they will know where to generally look for your body.

Scary, yes, but factual. It CAN happen. Even seasoned pickers sometimes get into what could be dangerous situations, and ones that, while they make good stories (like the one you will read below) they could have had very different endings.

And that story?

I checked out a barn, with old field stone foundation, and stalls that were made of more field stone and concrete, and an old concrete floor.

Was magnificent in its day, for sure. Likely the creation of a wealthy farmer, circa 1890.

It had a huge lower portion, and a split level loft.

The half with the upper portion of the loft had not been used for a much longer time than the rest of the barn, and thus, the roof over this portion had been neglected longer. There was light streaming through the boards on the roof, shingles long gone. The walls also had sunlight streaming through them, their once tight joints opened by years of wind & dust, then dampness & rot.

I viewed this picturesque sight through a door about 3' off the floor of the lower section of the split level loft.

It was pretty much empty, save for a few scattered planks..and a lone crock, about 20 feet away from where I stood.

It was a 2, maybe a 3 gallon; that I could tell by its size. A whitish glaze, so, in this area of the country, it was quite likely a Red Wing.

But, I could not tell if it was a birch leaf, had a printing variation, was an advertising crock or was just blank.

I'd have to turn it around to check for those things. There was no chance of climbing up the other side of the walls and peer through the boards, it was just way too high up.

The reason I was not about to just hop into the loft and walk across the floor was the fact that there was not a chance in Hades that the floor would hold me.

I suspected they were barely holding the weight of the crock. The once tight floor boards now had about a 1/2" of space between them, like the walls, except more extreme.

I could clearly see the 2' thick field stone stalls, the tops of which were easily 12 or more feet below me.

Yes, this barn was HUGE.

The fact that I could not see the other side of the crock annoyed me, and I soon figured out that the beams were essentially solid, being that they were very thick, and only had a small amount of surface rot on the tops. There looked like there were a few planks within reach of the door, and a few further out, between the crock and myself, that I could create a bridge to crawl over.

So, I grabbed the first board within reach....and set it down, across the closest beams...and then quickly rejected the didn't seem very solid either. I grabbed a much wider and solid one, and put it down beside the reject.

The start of my bridge!

I lifted myself carefully through the door, and onto the first board.

I reached out, and grabbed another plank nearby.

Hmmm..the end of the other planks within easy reach. No problem, I would just grab the first one, and put it in front of the other one.

I then repeated the process.

I then managed to grab another nearby board, then another, and another.

The crock was finally within reach! A TRIUMPH!

I reached over, keeping myself steady on the boards, being ever so careful, and grabbed the crock.

To my dismay, the bottom of the crock stayed right where it was. It had had water in it form the rain, frozen, then cracked it.


It was an error crock, but Mother Nature had rendered it worthless with her powers.

Well, I had come all this way across the gap toothed floor...and a Red Wing crock would look good in my garden....and I wouldn't have to worry about the bottom popping out of it in the winter now, would I? And, I wouldn't have to actually water the plant I put in it, either...with the access it would have to the ground. Genius!

So, I carefully turned around, walking on my knees and hands, and carefully made my way back towards the door. I moved the boards in reverse order, using only two for most of the last half of my knee splintered journey.

Nearing the door, I, for some unknown reason, stood up.

No, I didn't go through the floor....

Well, not until I stepped forward towards the door, on the reject board.


I suddenly had one leg dangling in the air above the rock and concrete stalls far below, and my crotch was resting on the floor, with one leg splayed out, angling the rest of my body awkwardly on the floor of the loft.

My thought was: "Now that was stupid."

I waited a minute for my heart to go back to my chest, from its position in my throat. I then carefully assessed the situation.

I was still holding the crock in one hand.

More importantly, I was basically straddling a beam.


That's a relief.....wasn't about to fall right through, as long as my earlier assessment of the beams was accurate, and it wasn't rotten, also.

I carefully set the crock down, reached back, and grabbed the piece of wood I had stepped off of into my near death (or at least a near foray into extreme injury), set down alongside me. I positioned it so that the one end was near the door, as I still had to have something to stand on to exit the loft.

I also made sure the plank was carefully angled across a couple beams, with the ends resting on beams. Got to make sure I wasn't making a see-saw of death.

Leaning on it, I gingerly pulled my leg up through the hole, and positioned myself on the plank.

I took a deep breath of relief, and shakily got out of the loft, trying to softly land on the floor of the lower loft, lest the floor gave way.

I then turned around, and grabbed the "prize" I had just risked my neck for.

I still have it, though it is now for sale....price: $5...makes a great planter!

Hmmm...come to think of it, it might be more valuable as a little reminder....


  1. I can imagine this is true in many picking adventures. One would need the skills of an acrobat to climb around like this..LOL As a nurse, have cared for people on vents that had their fare share of you give good advice about wearing a mask.

  2. I recently did a post about mold. It was more about how to attempt to get rid of it. It is interesting that some of my readers had success while a few said that nothing can remove mold from fabric and books. But yes, there is a danger there. I spent one weeks at my parents house with mold and during that time I got a migraine, another bad headache the next day and I had breathing problems. It is nasty stuff.