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Fighting the rot fungi

For several years it has been so that around this time of the year I've got a feeling that I'd like to try a period of fasting. But I've felt that my schedules haven't quite allowed that - for example, if I've had two rather long working days in a week, that probably won't make a good week for fasting. Rationally speaking, I don't even know if there are any benefits to fasting, but it is has been more like a bodily feeling. Hoping to give my digestive system a few days of rest, maybe it resets something there and works like a spring clean for the gut. The type of fasting I'm referring to is to abstain from any food, consuming only juices and water, for three or five or maximum seven days. I've tried that only once, when I was 19 or something, and I remember that the first few days were hard but the third day I felt light and energetic and my mind was clear and joyous. Around the fifth day I slowly resumed eating. So, that definitely was a positive experience, and this year I decided to organize my timetables so that I can try fasting again.

On Monday morning I ate buckwheat porridge, and after that I only consumed fruit juice and water. I worked for four hours, coding at the office of the mill. I didn't suffer from hunger, on the contrary I felt happy that this year I can live true to my inner bodily temptation to fast for a few days. On Tuesday I had a few customers for massage, that was okay. But later on at home I started to feel increasingly tired with a little headache. These first days of fasting, they never are easy. It takes a while for the body to adapt. Wednesday, the third day - if we can count the Monday with only one portion of porridge as the first day. The mental clarity was nowhere to be found. I felt like turning inwards, meditating and taking a nap. Before going to bed I felt slightly fewerish and couldn't tell if I was becoming ill or if it is just my bodily reactions to not eating. Overall, it is funny - as my job is to go to homes to give people massage, I probably get exposed to all the bacteria there are spreading around the local population. But I seldom catch cold nor an influenza. Maybe my body has built up a good reserve of resistance? But then, on the other hand, there often are periods when I feel that I'm not fully hale, but there is a vague feeling of a mild inflammation simmering somewhere in my system. Maybe it is that I do catch a flu, but my immune system wrestles it down before I fall ill, so that I'm only half-hale half-ill, every now and then? Or maybe there are other factors involved? Anyway, on Thursday morning I decided to eat a little of porridge, to carefully quit my fasting. Althogh I didn't find that state of joyous clarity I remember from the fasting experience in my youth, it certainly wasn't a disapointment - it felt a lot like that 'reset' I felt I was longing for. As I'm writing this it is Friday, I'm back to almost normal diet and I feel half-hale half-ill.

Oh, but what are the 'other factors involved' I mentioned? Well, apart from chronical depression being connected with a persistent mild inflammation, what I've been thinking about is the possible effects of Serpula lacrymans fungi. It is said to have mild ill effects on human health, but luckily nothing quite as severe as mold does. But the Serpula lacrymans, a notorious dry rot fungi, has been growing under the floor of the smaller room for several years. And I sleep in the smaller room, so for a long time I've been constantly exposed to any and all the chemicals the fungi might emit. Last October, when I finally faced the situation I felt that I can handle the situation, one way or other. So, since that I've been slowly taking steps to tackle the issue. If left unchecked the fungi is well capable of destroying the entire house. (It reminds me of the story of Baobabs in the book The Little Prince - there are problems which are manageable when they are still small, but if you neglect them while they are small, they grow to be overwhelming.) I read that the rot fungi likes still air, too much draft and it can't grow. And that it survives freezing temperatures, stops growing at +22 °C and starts to die when the temperature rises above +30 °C or so. So I bought an electric heater with a fan. I put the hot air blower under the floor of the smaller room, and tried plugging in on for a period of few days every now and then. Having it constantly on would consume so much electricity that I'd be in trouble with the electricity bill. So I hoped that occasional heat and draft is enough to stop the fungi growing, and when the outdoors temperatures won't be that cold anymore then it might be cost efficient to try a proper hot air treatment to kill off the fungi.

At one point I removed some of the floor planks in the smaller room so that I could access the underlying supporting structure. I scraped off a lot of the fungi. It had fruit bodies about the size of an ordinary dish plate. And brown powder of spores spread all over. I'd guess it won't be practically feasible to try removing all of the infected materials, as some spores might be hiding anywhere. So the best I can do is to stop it from growing, remove as much as I can, try to kill the rest, and take care that the conditions aren't favourable for the fungi to start regrowing. Also, this made me realize that it is wise to design my floor structure so that there is a hatch for maintenance. And to place the hatch so that there aren't any pieces of furniture on top of it, so that the hatch will be always easy to open, so that I can regularly check what is going on under the floor. This, again, is a good example of the way I like to learn things. Just go on trying stuff you haven't done before, and if or when you encounter problems, then figuring out improvements and rebuilding if necessary. And, I just checked the papers and this spring it will be 10 years since I bought the place, and the contract of sale clearly states that the house in itself didn't have a price - I practically paid only for the piece of land, the well, the driveway and the electric connection, for the sellers said that the house might be so badly damaged that it is beyond repair. So these ten years of living here have been kind of a good bet, a surprise bonus for me. On the other hand it also means that for me this is kind of a learning opportunity - if the house initially was only good for demolition, then nothing I do can ruin a house which would've otherwise been decent. No need to be afraid of mistakes, so I feel free to experiment with my learning-by-doing attitude. (I've also started to think that, as a backup plan, if I can't stop the rot fungi, or if something else goes seriously wrong, I could consider building one of those tiny houses on the piece of land I own. Or, thinking of it, at some point I'd like to do so in any case - that could serve as an artist residency, and / or an AirBnB place for adventurous backpackers to stay. Oh well, that much of long-term half-plans-half-dreams. Oh where was I? Yes, fighting the rot fungi, so let's go back to that.)

This week I moved to sleep on the sofa in the main room, and closed the door of the smaller room. Having the hot air blower on makes the smaller room smell like dried fungi. Which isn't that much of a surprise, if I'm effectively drying a lot of fungi under the floor. Now when the outdoor temperatures already have a hint of spring approaching, I've experimented with longer periods of having the hot air blower operate on maximum levels. Today I finally got to tinkering with the Raspberry Pi -mini computer my son once gave me. First I plugged in a thermal sensor and googled for a piece of software to read the sensor data. (For those who are interested in nerdy coding stuff; for me this was first time I used Python. I ended up with a script which appends a string of time and temperature to a text file. I then scheduled cron to run the script every 15 minutes, so that I'll have a log file of temperature readings.) Placing the sensor next to an analog thermometer I confirmed that the readings made sense. Now the problem was that the accessories my son gave me only had these short jumper wires which are about 10 cm. But I wanted to have the Raspberry Pi in the main room, and the temperature sensor several metres away, somewhere under the floor of the smaller room. So I collected some left-over and second-hand wires and cords I've saved, and attached some connectors so that this make-shift extension cord would neatly fit the Pi on the other end and the thermal sensor in the another end. All set and ready, and then the temperature readings; directly in front of the hot air blower the air temperature is +53 °C - enough exposure to such temperatures, and the heat will slowly creep deeper into the timber thus killing all the tiny mycelia which might be inside the wooden structures. I relocated the sensor behind the blower to get the ambient temperature, and it was +40 °C which is more than I expected. But this is good, so good! If a single hot air blower can generate such temperatures, it seems feasible to fight off the rot fungi with dry heat. In modern houses a hot temperature treatment often is a hard way to get rid of the rot fungi, as all the insulation materials are spesifically designed to stop heat and coldness seeping through the structures. But the way my floor structure is designed makes the heat treatment easier, as there is this empty space under the floor, so all of the inner side of the floor structures are directly exposed to air. And when most of the floor planks are on, the space under the floor doesn't have that much volume, meaning that it doesn't take that much time to heat up all the air under the floor.

Hehe, now that I've learned the basics of using a Raspberry Pi I'm already starting to think of possible ways to use it. The next step would be to buy and to install a few more sensors to measure air temperature and humidity in different locations of the house. And maybe having a few motion sensors programmed to control led lights. At the moment I have a ready-made commercial led lights in the entrance hall and outdoors above the front door. The outdoor model is better, for it combines both a photoswitch and a motion sensor, turning the light on only when it is dark and someone moves near the door. The model in the entrance hall is cheaper, it only has a motion sensor, so it ignites the leds no matter if it is day or night. Although, leds consume so little of energy that I don't know if it really matters. Well, but because of my DIY-mentality I'd like to experiment with building my own system of sensors and lights, so that I could program the control logic just the way I want. Well, but these are future plans. As, for now the main thing is to get rid of the rot fungi. And, if and when I get it removed, it will be interesting to see if it will have any long-term effects on my overall health. Will there be less of those periods when I feel half-hale-half-ill? That remains to be seen. At the moment of writing this the Raspberry Pi reports a temperature of + 40.75 °C, and it is said that to kill the fungi you need to expose it to heat for six hours. I'd guess I'll leave the hot air blower on for the night.

Ah, and I hope the pictures below speak for themselves. (Although there is a tooltip box which appears if you hover a mouse over a picture. I've been thinking that someday I should tweak the underlying code so that the tooltip text is displayed as a caption above the picture, for I don't know if touch-screen devices have anything like the mouse hover function). Just for the sake of detail, for those who are interested, here is a bit more of description for the last picture. Starting from the right, there runs my make-shift extension cord, and the bright white piece is a connector - after that there are smaller wires which take to the thermal sensor, it is a small black square hanging in the end of the wires. To the left there is a ventilation shaft, and around it is the support structure for the floor. On the top right corner you see a floor plank - I removed a few of the planks to take this picture so that we can see what there is under the floor. And all the support structures around the ventilation shaft have that brown and white stuff, which is the rot fungi growing on top of the timber. I think I'll blast this corner with hot air for a night, and tomorrow I'll remove as much of the visible fungi as I can.

Fruit bodies of the rot fungi
Fruit bodies of the rot fungi
A raspberry pi on the main room floor
A raspberry pi on the main room floor
A hot air blower and a temperature sensor
A hot air blower and a temperature sensor
The temperature sensor near a corner where the rot fungi grows
The temperature sensor near a corner where the rot fungi grows
tags: 
diary
homesteading
programming
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Nasty things, fungi are known to be as hard to get rid of as cancer... Good luck on fighting them, by the way. Maybe there're some specially designed liquid antibiotics that could help?
Regards from Saint Petersburg :)

I've got a Finnish book, the name would translate like 'Doctoring Houses', and here it is considered to be the bible of traditional house building and renovation. The book has a chapter about rot fungi, and it also lists chemical treatments which have been used to combat fungi. The result; those chemicals either are so mild that they have no significant effect on the fungi, or they are so strong that they are also harmful for humans. So, even if there was a liquid killing the rot fungi, I don't know if I could ever feel safe sleeping in a room treated with such chemicals - if I'd happen to pass out because of being exposed to toxic chemicals, it might take weeks until someone pays a visit to check if I'm okay...

Today I've spent few hours scraping and vacuuming away almost all the visible parts of the fungi. I collected the dry pieces of fungi into a metal bucket, and finally emptied the bucket into a camp-fire on the yard. As I watched the fungi burn I thought that this reminds me of the movie Aliens; there is this creepy stuff growing on surfaces, you find yourself fighting against an enemy which is not just a collection of individuals but more like a hive. No matter how many of 'em you kill, if a single egg is left somewhere it might regrow the entire hive. So the best option seems to be to take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

But, luckily enough, the 'Doctoring Houses' book gives a lot more optimistic look; "just make the conditions unfavourable for the fungi and it will stop growing. (Take care of proper ventilation, make sure that no wooden structures are constantly exposed to moisture, and such basic stuff). And, to kill it, blast it with a hot air blower." - Oh I know how to do that, so let's rock! =)

Terve Erkka!
We also have these problem with mold or funghi under our house. It is so expensive to get rid of it if you contract people to do it. So thanks for sharing your thoughts on doing on fixing it on your own!
Good idea about the fasting with juice. Seems better than only doing it with water. It is so good to feel clean from inside out!
And.... today is Easter. How do you celebrate it? And what do you think of it - these type of religious celebrations/consumerism?

Terve!

Ah, mold and fungi are everywhere where the conditions are right for them. If they grow in such places you can spot and access, then yes I encourage you to try to get rid of it yourselves. They need moisture so make them dry, that's my bet =)

What comes to your question about my Easter habits (and thoughts), I replied by a new blog entry.

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