55. The Cave under the Cottage

If you’ve ever been caving, you might know the feeling — a generic uneasiness as you’re thinking about it and hiking to the cave; several gulps and maybe some sweating when you see the entrance and realize it’s barely big enough for you to get your shoulders through; deep breaths to keep the panic away when the darkness envelops you; the urge to shout when you emerge from the dark hole in the ground. YES! I LIVED!

I went caving once when I was younger, braver, skinnier, and more bendable. I had to crawl downward into the entrance head first and had to stand on someone’s shoulders to be shoved out the exit. I never had the desire to go again, although I did feel euphoric when we all emerged from that tiny hole unscathed.

There is a cave under our cottage.

No, it's not a coal mine.No, it's not a cave.It's our very own access to the bowels of our cottage. And it's right in the kitchen!

No, it’s not a coal mine.
No, it’s not a cave.
It’s our very own access to the bowels of our cottage. And it’s right in the kitchen!

The opening is about 18″ square. You don’t have to go down head first, but you might have to stand on someone’s shoulders to be shoved out… There is another way in and out, but you still have to shimmy through the crawl space in the dirt and rock to get there. And that’s where the plumbing is. And that’s where the wiring is. And that’s where the gas line is.

caving 002We knew that Mr. H.C. would have to go down there. The gas line needed to be moved for our stove; the mouse chewed wires needed replacing with mouse proof aluminum BX cable, and the plumbing to the refrigerator needed to have copper line run to it. And we were hoping to add to the duct work to have another register in the kitchen floor.

We kept putting it off. There were thoughts about Spiders and Mice and Snakes, oh my, but the snakes were the biggest worry. We looked it up. (Mr. H.C. isn’t married to a librarian for nothing!) Rattlesnakes (not likely) hibernate in Pennsylvania until April. Copperheads (more likely) hibernate in our area until March. Hmmm. I tried to be upbeat, but after all, it wasn’t ME going down there. I would have taken his place, but I don’t know nothin’ ’bout nothin’. Let alone plumbing, wiring, and duct work…

Our neighbor said, “Ah, you’ll be okay. If you see a snake, just don’t corner ’em.”  That was the confidence Mr. H.C. needed. He packed up his biggest hatchet, put on his hat light, and strode off to the mines.

We sent Mr. Henry down first as a scout. Sort of like the canaries they send into the mines? He took one look at the opening in the wall and hopped right in — down the rabbit hole — eager to explore. He disappeared and in a few minutes was back, with only some dust on his whiskers and seemingly unconcerned, at least about mice or snakes.

the cat in the cave

The work went just about as smoothly as it could. Of course, I’m the one writing this, and I was also the one who was upstairs holding lights, feeding gas and copper lines, and handing down tools. The easy job. The clean job. Yep, those are the ones I like…

Mr. H.C. did not have the clean job. No, he didn’t. To grab the flexible gas pipe you see in the photo on the left, he had to slide up on his back in the dirt. The workable space diminishes as one gets further in — there is about an 11″ clearance between the floor joists and the ground. Did I mention dark?

caving 009
It looks as if he should be able to jump right out, but there is duct work in the way, so he had to slither through the crawl space to get out. Thank goodness he was the only one slithering — no snakes or critters of any kind, alive or dead, were spotted during this adventure.

caving 012And as if we don’t have enough holes in this floor, Mr. H.C. cut another one and in 15 minutes had the duct work fitted for a new register in the kitchen floor. With two registers and all the holes patched, this kitchen might be downright toasty next winter.

And Mr. H.C. was indeed, euphoric when he had climbed out of that tiny hole unscathed. How about a shower and a glass of wine?chardonnay on the porch