Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

We're gearing up for a night of trick or treating, even though a certain someone has a belly ache and has stayed home from school today. We'll gather candy and eat it later, I guess. It's been a long time since I strung up ghosts that flew through Mom's yard, freaking out young and old alike. So, it's been fun spooking up our windows and carving our pumpkins. The photo below of all the lighted eyes was taken from the street. I used the six windows in the master bedroom and front parlor as my palate for spookiness. The two little faces seen in the bottom right hand of the photo are the two jack-o-lanterns spooking the top step of the porch. (Double click it to enlarge it for better effect.) The second photo is a close-up of our two scary sentinels.

It hasn't snowed for a hundred . . .

As you can see from Mr. Scarecrow in the previous post, we got a little snow earlier in the week. Below, I post a little video of the first snowflakes, which you can barely see, but whose soundtrack makes me smile . . .

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bundle Up!

Everyone needs a warm scarf and hat!

And don't forget to dust off your pumpkins!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Walking Home

When I lived in the City, most especially during the last eight years, I often wished that I could walk to work. I often threatened to apply for a job at the Starbucks at the top of our hill. I even went so far as to read up on Starbucks on their website, and I bought a book about their philosphy and success. I never applied for a job there because I can't stand their coffee. Had that not been the case, my wish to work within a short walking distance from home might have been realized earlier.

Once we put in an offer on the house, I began to do some internet research into the businesses close by in hopes of finding a job. What I found was The Southfield Store maybe a three minute walk just up the road from our house.

The Southfield Store used to be the General Store for the village. This is what it looked like around 2003.

There was a couple who had owned and ran the store for 25 years or so and had decided they were done. This little store sold all the necessary groceries and newspapers that kept you from having to drive 25 minutes into Great Barrington. There are a few remaining General Stores like this in the little villages around here and most have adapted to the changing times by adding cafes, liquor corners and live music. But in 2003 The Southfield Store was for sell and a guy from California with a mediocre writing career who had come to town to help his daughter find a home - which she bought next door - decided to buy it and give it a go. He completely renovated the building adding a professional kitchen and all the stuff the other village stores had been adding to keep business alive. Here are a few pics from the website he set up. It's not been updated since he sold the business, but the store looks pretty much the same as in these pics.

I still hope to work in this part of the store one day:

Apparently, and as usual, he eventually found he was in over his head. So, in 2006 I think it was, he sold the business to Chef Peter Platt and Meredith Kennard, owners of The Old Inn on the Green, two miles up the road. From what I understand, Peter purchased the store primarily so he could have the kitchen for the pastry end of his Inn operation. But it was silly to use the store for just baking, so they decided to offer the pastries for breakfast and then they added soups and sandwiches for lunch, and then dinner Thursday through Sunday evenings. There is no liquor corner, although they do have a full liquor license so they can serve drinks and wine and beer, and there is no live music. The chef that cooks the dinners at the store for Peter is from Oaxaca, Mexico, and they have designated Thursday's dinner "Mexican Night". The other nights the menu is New American, similar to what Peter cooks up at the Inn.

Before our offer on the house was accepted, I found a job posting for the store online. They were looking for a pastry cook. How I wanted that job! But since we couldn't be sure we would be moving in anytime soon, I did not apply, but I was resolved to work at The Southfield Store when the time came. After a few weeks of laying on hay - which I could do full time, let me tell you - I decided to look for a job. I sent my resume with a cover letter to Peter and Meredith but did not hear back from them. Of course, I didn't even give them a week to respond, but I didn't have time to wait. So, I decided to march forward and was on my way to apply for a job at Guido's, a gourmet super market specializing in organic and locally grown offerings. As we drove passed The Southfield Store on our way to Guido's, I told Tom to stop, I was just going to go in and ask if they were accepting applications. Not only were they accepting applications, they were desperate! Perfect. I love desperation! At least in others. When it benefits me. This was on a Wednesday. On Thursday I stopped back by to talk to the manager and on Friday I began working at The Southfield Store. Needless to say we never made it to Guido's.

So now I work the counter, make sandwiches, bus tables and clean, clean, clean. And make no money. BUT, I get to wear jeans - another characteristic of what I consider an ideal job - and I walk to and from work. Usually I work the closing shift, although I'm hoping to work the opeing shift once Tom isn't commuting into NYC. That would mean I would be in to work at 6:45 a.m. and home by 3:05! It's nice in the store when I'm sweeping and mopping and putting away, getting ready to close. And then the occasional all-day coffee drinker comes in for a latte or iced coffee, and then I go back to puttering. I putter fast though as there is SO much to get done by closing. I like it because it gives me the feeling of what it must be like to be a little shop owner. At the end of my shift, I throw my dirty apron into the hamper and clock out. By then, Meredith, the real shop owner, has arrived to close out the cash register and lock up. I leave her behind and I head down the road to home. I can't tell you what a beautiful walk it is, and it's so quiet. Rarely does a car pass. The sunsets are to die for. And I often think of Grandpa Foon, not because he walked home from work - he didn't - but for some reason I picture him walking home from Basey's grocery store up the hill from where he and Grandma used to live on South Boeke. I recall Mom's story about Grandpa walking home from Basey's with groceries in his arms, singing, having shared some Old Crow with Basey's butcher, happy. And then I'm home.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Autumn Leaves

About a week or so ago, just before all the digging started in the north yard, Tom and Mickey went out where it isn't soggy and played in the leaves. Once I got home from work, I joined in. It was a glorious fall evening with fun had by all.

Running and jumping:

Burying and hiding:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Time for a New Name

Well, it appears, thankfully, that the name Soggy Bottom will have to be retired. Mid-week last week, our contractor, Michael White, and his excavator, Lindsay, and three of his men dug in, as it were, and started laying the curtain drain across the yard to drain it of all the spring waters. This drain will also come in handy when it rains and water comes rushing down the mountain. There are springs all over the mountain, including our yard. Michael tells me that water runs laterally and, as we all know, water follows the path of least resistance. So, when there is a curtain drain nearby, all water wants to flow to it, since it's the easy way out, and then the drain takes it away. Sounds like hocus pocus to me, but guess what, it works. The yard has already begun to dry out, AND, the basement has also started to dry out, but this drain does not fully take care of the basement problem and this week they are going to begin work on the drain around the base of the foundation. These guys worked so fast on the curtain drain, and there is so much that has happened, it's going to be hard to recap, but I'll try.

The first thing Lindsay did was remove a few scrubby shrubs from the south side of the house:

Their initial plan was to first dig the trench around the south, east and north sides of the house to install the drainage system and pour the concrete walls against the foundation and then see if we even needed the curtain drain across the yard. However, they decided that there was so much water in the yard that if they didn't take care of the yard first, the trench around the house would fill with so much water, they would be fighting a loosing battle. So Lindsay began to attack the hillside and clear even more overgrowth than what Paul Hess and I did. It it was decided to install the curtain drain on the east and north side of the well instead of on the south and west side of it, which meant Lindsay and Mike had to take down some trees and clear a whole lot more nonsense. As they cleared brush they found all sorts of stumps of trees that had been taken down in the recent years. Lindsay's little back hoe had no problem yanking them right out of the ground.



Once Lindsay had more land, he started digging the trench. They discovered huge boulders underground and a ledge, which I guess is a stone formation that isn't just a rock that can be lifted up and moved away.

From this ledge they found a couple of veins of water.

They feared that once they installed the drain, our well would dry up. We don't have a deep, artisian well, down inside bedrock. We have a shallow well that collects surface water and underground spring water. Apparently it was only 8' deep. So, they decided they would dig us a new, deeper well, that would extend below the curtain drain. It was during the digging for the new well that they discovered the ledge, so placement became a bit tricky. They did find a place beside the underground ledge and they tell us there was a bit of apprehension as to whether it was all going to work. They did some futzing around to find a balance of water flowing into the well and water flowing into the curtain drain.

The yard was so wet Lindsay's back hoe really sunk into the yard.

The old well is covered in plastic in an effort to keep bacteria out of our drinking water. The big pipes to the right of the old well are called tiles and are for the new well being installed just to the right of where they lay.

By the time they had gotten to where you see above, they had already laid drain pipe from the street and up to and around the wells.

To install a curtain drain, they dig a deep trench, put in a layer of gravel, then the blue pipe with holes in the sides, then sand, then a mesh fabric to keep too much nonsense from getting into the pipes, then they cover the whole mess back over. The whole thing has to be pitched correctly so that the collected water then flows downhill.

Once the well nonsense was taken care of, the rest of the trench went in very quickly. Stretches of the blue pipe are deep under ground, while the very end of it appears to be only a foot underground, but they tell me that it actually lives a foot below the bottom of our basement floor. It just doesn't seem to me that the yard slopes that much.

And here is how they have finished it for now.

The blue pipe sticking up out of the ground will eventually be buried. They are leaving it exposed for now so if they run up against more water as they dig the trench around the foundation and dig out from under the the two rooms that will eventually be the kitchen and den, they will pump it right into that end of the drain.

Lindsay has done some temporary grading of the yard just so it's tolerable for the time being. They still have to connect the new well, the grey hump on the left above, to the house. To do that, Lindsay will have to dig another trench from the new well to the house. Presumably, he will then dig up the old well, the black hump in the middle, once we see that the new well will remain stable and provide us with potable water, and smooth out that hump so it blends into rest of the yard. Mike says that they will have back fill left over from digging the trench around the house. He is going to have Lindsay dump it out in the the middle of the north yard and create a less drastic slope between the front yard, where the leech field for the septic system is located, and the north yard.

As for the rest of the overgrowth and the piles of nonsense Lindsay made when clearing the hill, Lindsay may come back sometime this winter and help me clear the rest of the overgrowth so I can burn it. The town apparently lets yard stuff be burned between January 15th and April 15th. He says that I can then rototill it all under and plant grass or wildflowers in the spring. The difficult thing about rototilling it is there are those huge boulders all over the hillside.

For now, I leave you with one last shot of all the water that now comes out of the curtain drain now that it is in place.