I cover the waterfront #2

mcvx79116The New York Times reported today on crude oil flowing down the Hudson – not flowing in it, at least not yet, but flowing on it and along side it. I am so happy that Jad Mouawad is following this story.

A Times article in January annoyed me. It reported that this oil was traveling across our country, but there was no mention that it was happening right here in New York. The  article on February 25th annoyed me – it didn’t make clear enough that the Department of Transportation was playing games with its mind-boggling order promoting the shipping of crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars, the ones that have been involved in explosions, fires, destruction, and death because they were not built to do the task at hand.

But I applaud all the coverage.  It appears that the articles are being read and that there is a flurry of scurrying by rail, regulators, politicians and citizenry to at last act. Please continue.

The Times Union in Albany has been feeding us the scary news for a while (see the previous Waterfront post).  In fact there was a derailment of a thankfully empty oil train near Kingston just this Tuesday. A locomotive and a sand-filled car in the 97-car oil train derailed near the Hudson Valley Mall in Ulster County. A southbound train carrying crude was waiting nearby for this train to pass before it continued on its way. This was the third oil train accident in the state in the past three months.  Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for the DOT-111s to be phased out by July, and for the lowered speed limits put into place for tank cars in New York City and Buffalo to be extended to all upstate communities.

If the DOT-111s are phased out, new tankers must take their place.  If we need this oil so badly, there should be a law that they be built at home.  Come on job creators.  Just think of all the men and women you could put to work.  I bet the rails could be brought up to higher standards also.  There’s got to be some positive side to destroying the climate.

Today I received an email message from the Environmental Advocates of New York, asking for money, of course, but also telling me about the “ 1.6 million gallons of oil moving through our state each year by train.” The email goes on to say that EANY is working with “community activists and organizational partners to stop Big Oil in its tracks. . .” Isn’t that clever?

Why do I keep wondering if all this concern about the trains is a ploy by the pipeline proponents to get their project approved? There is no safe way to move this oil around.

Personally I would like to see all this oil stay in the ground. It is not helping us in this country to save on energy costs or to make us self-sufficient in our energy needs. The extraction of the oil is destroying our landscape, disrupting geological formations, and poisoning our water and air. We need meaningful regulations and constraints on the corporations involved to build an infrastructure to support such huge operations and to force them to clean up after themselves. The workers need to be adequately trained to do their jobs safely to lower the rates of deaths and accidents on fracking sites.

There are issues at every stage of the process. It is a dirty fuel that only the profit makers and the suckered are promoting. The profit makers don’t want it in their back yard and the suckered will live to regret.

I cover the waterfront

This morning’s New York Times article, “Accidents Surge as Oil Industry Takes the Train,” by Clifford Krauss and Jad Mouawad, is a tardy but welcome look at one more dangerous and irresponsible aspect of the shale oil industry and the need for common sense and regulation to prevent further destruction of our environment, cities, and homes, and avoidable loss of lives.

Last night I watched the first half of Harlan County, USA, an Oscar-winning documentary about the 1973 coal miners’ strike.  Working and living conditions were deplorable.  The action of the police and the lack of concern by the government was expected but nonetheless depressing.  The courage and unity of the coalminers, both as workers and as strikers, and their wives were perhaps naive but definitely inspiring.  The double-speak of the mine-owners was nauseating.

Granted working conditions have improved since then, but definitely not enough to convince me that we are living in a land of opportunity and equality and respect for the working man.  The American ideals taught in grammar school (or which at least used to be taught in grammar school) and which are touted as making our country exceptional, are lost somewhere in the daily voracious onslaught of stupid and ugly politicking, the distracting hype and expensive investigation of non-existent conspiracies, the hate mongering media establishment, and the distortion that evil money brings to the interpretation and presentation of reality and to our government.  I still believe that good money, decent bosses, and politicians and government officials with integrity and honor exist, so don’t get on me that I am anti-money or anti-capitalism or anti-government.  These honest hard-working capitalists and politicians are just not having their day right now.

Some big industries still look upon workers as replaceable parts to be thrown away when they are too damaged to keep functioning.  Innocent bystanders are also just part of the cost of doing business.  Somewhere priorities are lost.  What is more important:  industry? or the people that industry is to serve?

2012-11-29 11.06.11This December I gathered together information from my personal research on what I see from my window overlooking the Hudson to share with the people of my town.  Included were pesticide spraying by the railroads and electric companies, new electric lines from Canada to Manhattan, effects of the rising sea level, and the transport of crude oil from the Bakken fields through Albany to east coast refineries.  With just a few updates, the section on the transport of oil along the river follows.

*

Global Partners and Buckeye terminals in Albany are hubs for the passage of shale oil from the Bakken, North Dakota fields to refineries north and south along the east coast.  The oil comes in by train and goes out by barge or rail.

Surete du Quebec photo of the Lac Megantic derailment

Surete du Quebec photo of the Lac Megantic derailment

Roger Downs, conservation director of the Sierra Club’s Atlantic chapter in Albany is quoted in a July 2013 article in the Albany Times Union:  “People in the Capital District are horrified by the catastrophic train derailment and the subsequent loss of life in Quebec – but have no idea that the same Bakken crude oil shipments rumble through the heart of the city of Albany every day – presenting even greater risks to the lives of our own citizens. .  . If we are truly serious about facilitating a renewable energy future and protecting public health from these man-made disasters, Albany lawmakers can and should act to ban crude oil shipments through all our urban corridors.”

Downs was referring to the tanker train collision, fire, and death of 47 people in Lac-Megantic in Canada, just 10 miles out from Maine, a few days earlier.

Area agencies and residents are also concerned about the possibility of other accidents, such as the one in December of 2012, when a double-hulled tanker, the Stena Primorsk carrying crude ran aground 10 miles south of Albany.  No oil spilled from the tanker although the outer hull was breached.

Training of first responders as well as purchasing of emergency equipment in the Port of Albany and surrounding areas has been ongoing.  In November, officials from Orange, Dutchess and Ulster counties, the U.S. Coast Guard and New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation enacted a simulation of an oil spill from a Global Partners subsidiary’s terminal in New Windsor. Over 100 people, including representatives from NOAA, observed.  The results showed that if floating booms were not used, the oil could spread as far north as Wappingers Creek and south to Storm King Park, a total of 15 miles.

Financial reporters are emphasizing that the less expensive shale oil will boost the east coast refineries that have been suffering from the high costs of imported oil.  Shipping crude oil by rail to and through Albany is only going to grow.

Schumer in Kingston, photo by Paul Kirby, Daily Freeman

Schumer in Kingston, photo by Paul Kirby, Daily Freeman

Railroad companies are asking for more regulation on the construction of railroad cars so that new cars, which are in demand, will be safer than the currently used DOT-111.  The DOT-111s are the tankers that derailed and burnt in Lac-Magantic and again in Alberta this October.  New York’s Senator Schumer called on the Federal Department of Transportation to phase out the DOT-111 in July, and this January he reiterated his appeal after the North Dakota derailment.

Sen. Schumer reported that between 100 and 200 DOT-111s pass through Kingston daily.  Most freight trains travel the western bank of the Hudson.  The tracks on the eastern shore are being restructured to make commuter travel more efficient.  However, the difference in how a railroad disaster would affect us if it is on our side or the other side of the river is only a matter of degree.

*

Nothing in today’s New York Times article today mentions that oil trains are running across and down New York state, nor am I able to find any mention of Schumer’s concerns on the issue in the Times.  I’d like to think that our Senator’s second round of concern was sparked in part by the letter I wrote to his office – but that is a bit presumptuous.  Why don’t you write him one?

I’m not a rabble-rouser..  I don’t want to start a revolution.  I’m not a Joe Hill.  I just want to be safe and healthy and leave a good place for my children and their children.

It’s 1:30 and there are only 15 comments on the article.  There are however 400 on Ross Douthat’s contribution on marriage, sexuality, morality and poverty.  There are 212 comments on Maureen Dowd’s coverage of the emerging marijuana tourist business in Colorado.

Come on, people.  Come out of the clouds and think a little.

*

Call to action issued after North Dakota oil train wreck, 01/07/2014  http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2014/01/07/Call-to-action-issued-after-North-Dakota-oil-train-wreck/UPI-75251389095711/

CP Rail oil shipment deal signals rail transport no longer stopgap measure, by Jeff Lewis, 09/01/2013  http://business.financialpost.com/2013/01/09/cp-rail-oil-shipment-deal-signals-rail-transport-no-longer-stopgap-measure/?__lsa=c6f7-eda2

Global Partners boosts Bakken shipments to eastern refiners, by Aaron Clark  Bradley Olson, 04/18/2012  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-18/global-partners-boosts-bakken-shipments-to-eastern-refiners-1-.html

How an oil spill could spread in the Hudson River, by Brian Nearing, 11/13/2013  http://blog.timesunion.com/green/how-an-oil-spill-could-spread-in-the-hudson-river/4485/

Hudson spill drill will test skill:  many agencies plan for first river exercises since tanker accident, by Brian Nearing, 11/08/2013   http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Hudson-spill-drill-will-test-skill-4968951.php

New York turns into hub for shale boom, by Gregory Meyer, 02/14/2014  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5afe2abe-7564-11e2-b8ad-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2mMKhLZNS

Oil by rail:  are we safe?  Quebec disaster puts focus on busy Albany oil corridor, by Eric Anderson, 07/10/2013  http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Oil-by-rail-Are-we-safe-4656040.php

Schumer calls on FEDS to require phase-out plan of DOT-111 cars carrying oil through Western New York. . ., press release, 08/13/2013  http://www.schumer.senate.gov/Newsroom/record.cfm?id=345541&&year=2013&

Tanker carrying Bakken crude to Canadian refinery runs aground, by Eliot Caroom & Dan Murtaugh, 12/20/2012  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-20/tanker-carrying-bakken-crude-to-canadian-refinery-runs-aground.html

Unsettling echoes of Canada rail disaster, by Chris Churchill, The Advocate, 08/03/2013  http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Unsettling-echoes-of-Canada-rail-disaster-4705390.php

So let me tell you about my Tower #10: Topping Off

20120503_105536Putting the top on the tower was not a celebration, but we all seemed to know something special had happened.  The Tower looked good.  It was high up and the crow’s nest measured 11 feet by 11 feet.  Like a sailing vessel, it was designed to withstand stress from the winds.  And it was windy.  Dave and his crew came every day, always shaking their heads because the wind didn’t blow until they reached my street.   I had very little to do with it – the wind and the work.

IMG_0725Everyday the sun was shining and the sky was crystal clear and bright blue.  A north and a southbound Amtrak train with a shrill whistle passed by almost every hour.  Throbbing tugs pushed barges up and down river.  The trees were not yet full, and we could see and hear freight trains across the Hudson several times during the day. It was bass season and people came to fish from the park or from boats that they launched from the landing.  Families came for picnics.  Couples came to kayak.  Men came to pee. There was a lot to see and take in.  And then there was the wind. 

2013SBcontestmainlogoworkjWorking in the wind was exhausting and the crew was tired by the middle of each day.  But they were definitely having an adventure working on this house. 

Duke, our architect, had given the plans to his engineer to make sure the wind would not rip off the roof.  Perhaps I had put too much emphasis on the wind?  When Dave studied the final plans he thought it was overkill and I’m sure he was thinking money and how to reconcile the increase in materials and time with the quoted cost.  I’m sure Lee was annoyed with me for being so obsessed with the wind, because he now had some hard drilling ahead of him.

20120501_144424The hurricane-proof construction made it difficult if not impossible to build the tower’s deck — which is the second floor roof — with enough of a slope so that rain and snow could run off easily. At least that’s how I understand why we will have to be diligent about removing water from our roof deck.  We also are currently trying to decide how to best attach both gutters and railing posts to the edge of the deck.  This might always be a problem with any type of construction, but if it were, I would think there would be several routine ways to deal with the situation from which to pick.   

Fortifying the roof, however, was the right thing to do.

We’ve had some very windy days and nights since the tower has been up.  We hear the wind blowing through the passage under the bridge and around the two structures. The noise is a bit disconcerting.  We still haven’t learned what is normal.  We woke one morning to discover two saw horses had blow over the side, thankfully not hitting anything or anyone.  Our main criterion for choosing furniture and potted plants for the deck is that they be heavy.

During design phase I talked about how nice it would to leave the ceiling open on the third floor.  Nobody joined in the conversation.  When we actually got up to building the third floor I brought it up again, and again received no encouragement. Perhaps then, I suggested, could we have a cathedral ceiling?  No takers there.  I thought mmhmm and crawled back into my hole.  When I finally saw how hardcore the rafters and beams were in the peak, I understood a little better.  Yes, I could have insisted. It would have taken a bit of time and patience to come up with an attractive pattern and a search for quality, but, after spending the past few days painting trim in the room, I am content with the ceiling.

PlanChecking the plans in hopes of finding a design worthy of an open ceiling, I instead found a “flitched beam” here and a “flitched beam” there.  This is what wikipedia says about flitch beams.

Flitch Beam 14-40-37Due to the high cost of labor, use of this type of beam has greatly declined.  The advent of high- strength engineered lumber which uses modern adhesives and lower cost wood fibers has rendered this system largely obsolete.

Dave seemed to love challenges. Hopefully his memory of constructing a roof based on an obsolete concept and building it in the wind, will evolve into one of the stories he tells for a long time.  It will be something I speak of with a fond memory. Doing something the “old-fashioned” way gives me a buzz.

I’m still not comfortable with the deck.  The roofline does not extend far enough over the deck to protect it from the evening sun and the rain can come in the windows because of the wind.  Double hungs would have allowed me to open just the top window and the overhead would probably have kept the rain out.  Sliding windows would have given us more room to walk on the deck when the windows are open.  It’s tight especially on the northwest corner.  But I like casements and if I wind up being unhappy, I’ve only got myself to blame.  The surface of the deck is made of some space-age elastomeric and fabric combination that has yet to prove itself, and the color is not one I would have chosen.  Why do we need such a big deck in the first place?  These concerns and doubts may vanish after our first summer enjoying it.  I no longer think about what color I might have liked.  I’m keeping an open mind and hoping for a small container garden on the southern side and beautiful sunsets with a glass of wine.

20120622_140412

Thank you Lee for this view of last summer’s lightning and hail storm — 

It is really a wonderful space.  I want to be up there looking out at the river and the mountains while I enjoy my morning coffee, while I work at my computer, while I curl up on a couch and read, while I lie in bed and gaze up at the stars, when I wake up and see the sun reflecting off the snow and ice or the colors of the autumn.  I want friends to enjoy it.  I want it for Lee’s and my private nest.  It has less than 100 square feet of floor space, barely enough room for a bed let alone a couch and a table and chair.   

Lee reminded me:  “You wanted it this small,” and he is right.  I love it.  

Can’t wait to move in.

So let me tell you about my tower #9: Breakthrough

frontDave is gently ripping apart the second floor landing of the house.  He’s poking around to see how to support the dormer and the bridge that will connect it to the tower.  I had been wondering about the integrity of the sagging roofline since buying the cottage.  Today’s  demolition reveals there is no ridge pole and the old front walls bow out.

I visited my mom today so was not home while Dave was working.  Lee and I had already moved the bookcases out of the hall so Dave had room to work.  I expected the landing would be in chaos upon my return, but. Lee had cleaned up so well that only some sheet rock dust and some stray insulation remained.  He’s wonderful.  But I didn’t expect the closets and laundry room to be emptied into my office/guest room.  It’s crowded.  I can live with it.IMG_0433

I also wasn’t expecting to find the dark somewhat rotting wood of the original 1870 roof.  It makes me so nostalgic for my 1780 barn in New Hampshire. But it’s just nostalgia, not regret, and now I have a new old home to keep alive. 

Drafted pre-May 22, 2012, and unfortunately revised & revised & . . .

 *

The thought of writing about the construction of the addition was with me from the very start of the project.  I knew it wouldn’t be Tracy Kidder’s House, but who wants to do what has been done.  It would be my addition.  It was a start.

Finally I had bonded to the project.  I felt a responsibility and a love towards the old beams and the buckling front wall.  My little cottage had stood through 150 years of pelting rains, heavy snows, and the winds that blow down the Hudson, whistling around the cottage walls year-round, occasionally even driving my “outside” dog Tuck inside.

Pulling this portion up now that it fits into the chronology and anticipating reliving that rush of emotion, I was so let down.  The revised draft began:

Work on the tower has been on hold for a week. It is totally discouraging since I don’t feel I can do anything to speed it up.  I’m at the mercy of the contractors and the weather.

My first rewrite was written when I was down, when the weathermen had been forecasting rain just about every day for three weeks. It hardly rained during that time, but who knew.  Dave wouldn’t break through the roof in case it poured, and it did, but only once or twice.

Lee couldn’t start work on the inside until Nick, our concrete man, came and poured the slab over the radiant heat pipes. Nick wouldn’t schedule the truck for the foundation because he worried the truck would sink into mud if the rain should come. Mud never happened.

20120522_190623Dave said he was going to pull out the sheet rock along the staircase to see if there were any supporting posts, but he wouldn’t do that until he was further along with the other work.  I lived with fears of the worst:  the first floor cabinets torn out, the floors destroyed, and all my careful planning of the addition to keep the integrity of cottage intact having been done in vain.

That high that I expected to find in the writing, the high from discovering the old house, is no longer evident in the writing.  Was it ever there?

A lesson learned.  Don’t discard the old when revising.

*

We were on hold for quite a while, both the house and my writing.  Tower #1 was written on June 29th.  It took about five weeks for me to become inspired again.  I didn’t want to write about my tower while down.

Unfortunately other dates are mushy through this, but I believe the slab was poured and the roof was opened up by the first week of June.  It was gloriously sunny and windy weather.  The winds had come in and lasted for several weeks.  Dave and his crew loved working by the water, but hated working in the wind.  It is a miracle no one was blown away carrying plywood.

They opened the roof, and you can see the bedroom door off the second floor hallway. The third picture in this run, taken after the framing had begun on the dormer, shows how the closet, stairway, and laundry closet line up under the new LVL.  Hopefully you can approximate how low the ceiling was at the top of the stairs, low enough to bump one’s head repeatedly, and why we wanted to bump the ceiling up into a dormer.

IMG_0486 cropped

IMG_0485

IMG_0498

IMG_0714If you need help envisioning how low the ceiling was, imagine two bedroom closets built into the front sloping wall that are sized for children, or maybe men, but definitely not women who wear dresses that cover more than their bums. Definitely nothing longer than mid-thigh.  Now imagine bumping your head when stooping to get something from the closet.   We have the former owners who lived here and orchestrated the 2004 redo of the house to thank for this.  Lee bumps his head probably more than I do. My only consolation is that the former owners must have bumped their heads also.

IMG_0713The ceiling on the landing is now extraordinarily high for such a small room, and with the sun pouring in the round corner windows we installed, and the niche in the wall that Lee built with a leftover window from a house he renovated, I feel as if I am in my personal chapel.

Dave found a very non-intrusive way to add posts on either side of the staircase to support the new LVL that became the major support of the cottage and all the new weight it was to bear.  That only required redirecting a few water pipes in the basement.

My office was a disaster until two weeks ago when we  finally decided we wouldn’t be making that much dust for awhile.  We put stuff back into the closets, at least temporarily, and moved some of the furniture over to the second floor of the tower. Yes, I did survive the clutter, but very grumpily.

I should let you know too that Lee has moved into his man cave two weeks ago.  It looks like a squirrel house to me.

My Mast Hoop

There is always something new to learn.

Yesterday I attended half of a workshop on making mast hoops at the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration and Sailing Society in Hudson, New York.  We built a steam box, cut the jigs, sliced and planed the strips for the hoops, placed them in the box and broke for lunch.

Is this called a J spike?

Is this called a J spike?

I stayed to help sweep up the sawdust and listen to the director of the group speak with the press, and then left.  As we crossed paths at the door Casson Kennedy, the workshop leader and chief builder on the Eleanor restoration project said:  “Oh, the best is yet to come,” and I’m sure he was right.  It would have been a hoot to actually curl one of the strips round the jib, clamp it, and take it home to dry. The hoop would settle into its proper place among my other prized possessions, maybe next to my J spike.   Perhaps I should keep my J spike a secret. Two men in Natick, MA were arrested for gathering railroad debris.

But I had tons of things to do yesterday, one of which was to write about my mast hoop experience while I was still excited about it and before it melted into the blur of all the other stories I compose in my head on the spot but never make it to paper.

The original mast hoops

There was a group of volunteers helping to make the hoops, most of them regulars who work on restoring the Eleanor — woodworkers, carpenters, sailors, and some of them, like me, the curious.  There was one school age boy getting great hands-on experience with power tools and the power of collaboration.

I mentioned the workshop to Don, one of my neighbors who is always building something – bookshelves, shoji screens, stone walks, steps and walls, other interesting projects that Adrienne conceptualizes.  He was at the table saw when I arrived.  We spoke during a down time and he told me has fantasized about building a small motored boat that would fit under the railroad trestle that separates a tidal cove from the Hudson behind his house.  This may have been the little push he needed to do just that.  And Louise may have a new member and volunteer to help rebuild the Eleanor.   I hope so.

Louise Bliss is the head of this group.  She is a competent and energetic dynamo.  She has the necessary ingredients to get people enthused to donate time or money.  She makes everyone vital to the project.  Some of us do not suffer fools.  Louise knows no fools.  She discovers talents in the people around her and encourages them to make use of them.  Everyone benefits.  Everyone is happy.

Louise’s new initiative is to try to organize a wine and cheese of all the organizations that rent space at Grossinger Management Building 1, where the restoration work is taking place.  It’s a large drab warehouse – a former furniture factory.  There is a lot going on inside though.  The boat that takes passengers from Hudson to the Athens Lighthouse spends the winter next to Eleanor.  Nearby is the shop of a reclaimed wood furniture maker.  Louise thinks other tenants include a welder and a gym. Whenever I’ve been to the cavernous space, it is dark and and does not invite exploring.

The night before the workshop I eavesdropped on a business meeting of 12526.com, which functions as Germantown’s unofficial chamber of commerce.  It was nice to learn what’s going on in my town and what is available locally.  It would also be nice to know who shares Eleanor’s home and hear their stories.

When I lived in New Hampshire I used to run out to the barn to use the table saw to cut up scrap wood for kindling in order to get the stove going before the sun went down.  Occasionally I would cut a piece for some emergency repair.  I missed my saw terribly when I moved to my small house in the Hudson Valley and had to leave most of the barn treasures behind.  The saw and the tractor made me feel very independent.  Now, with my addition going up there are saws and power tools of all kinds lying around but I have been hesitant to use them.  I Eleanorhave no real need first of all, but also there are too many projects in progress that I could mess up, and there are too many people around to watch me do things in my own clumsy way.

Before the workshop I fretted about about my lack of carpentry skills. In spite of my lack of confidence  people at the workshop encouraged me to lend a hand.  I am so thankful.  Because of them, in the future when the Eleanor sails past, I will be able to claim some ownership.  Louise said she would try to make an extra hoop for me, but this morning’s article in the Register-Star doesn’t give me faith that she could do that.   I’ll have to get the full story.

So let me tell you about my tower #7: The Foundation & the Stories it Dug Up

Looking up the slope and over the shed.

It is fitting that my first tower post after Sandy is about its foundation. The house is perched 20? feet above the Hudson River.  I’ve always worried about the slope giving way.  Now I can also worry about the Hudson rising and sweeping the house down to the city.

Some say the world will end in fire
Others say in ice. . .

Water will also suffice.

Please, please, please:  may all those who admonish me for worrying about “worst-possibles” be the smart ones, and let me be the dummy.

*

Dave started to dig, but I didn’t watch.  Probably petrified.  Up until now the project could be put in a box and stored in the lower yard shed.

I had done that before – designed a new home and then put it in a box that now actually does sit in the lower yard shed.  It was a very happy time for me, one of those times when I was glowing.  Clark and I were starting a new chapter in our lives.

Building a new home was not even a fleeting thought until our neighbor told us he was selling his lot across the stream behind our house.  We lived in a small town with two dairy farms, on a quiet street near a pond with a stream that separated us from a beautiful large lot that belonged to the Davises.  We loved where we lived.

Every now and then the bridge over the stream would cave in and we were at the end of a dead end – that was best.  The boys in the neighborhood (and there were many) used to climb down to the stream and do good old fashioned outside play.

The lot intrigued us.  We were thinking of closing Book Nooks & Krannies.   Morgan and Alex were growing out of children’s books, Clark had actually gone back to high tech so that we could have health care, and without the family all involved, the store was not as much fun for me.  I would be able to devote my time and energy to the house.

The lot begged for a barn. We agreed on a price for the lot, and went up to spend a night at the Yankee Barn show home in Grantham, New Hampshire.  The boys were still sleeping and Clark and I were downstairs in the kitchen having our coffee and talking about how much we liked the casual, comfortable look and feel of the barn home.  All of a sudden a moose walked by.  It’s amazing what influences my decisions.

We spent several months designing our home, studying the sun and views and the slopes and the wetlands.

The timing was unbelievable.  We had already closed the store and were going to pass papers on the land in a day or two, right after the perc test.  But during all this, unbeknownst to me, Clark was dealing with another issue.  His father had just died, and he must have been thinking about his own mortality, because the week before the perc test he went to the doctor to have a swelling checked out.  He had non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  We decided not to do the house.

It was a very sad time for me and a terrifying one for Clark.  We had already closed the store, and I actually had taken a new job – librarian at Lowell National Historical Park. In fact, I started the job the day he received his diagnosis.  I cried a lot in private and in public.  It was Rosh Hashanah and the boys and I always met our neighbors at the temple.  Tears ran down my checks the entire service.

Life went on.

*

The front yard of my home slopes down from the street.  Dave thought if we went with the foundation as originally planned we would need to put in a retaining wall.  He asked if we wanted to raise the foundation slightly.  It would require a step at the door, but that rise would be offset elsewhere.  I can’t remember the details, but it seemed logical.

Nick came and built the forms and poured the foundation and then Sean laid sleeves between the cottage and the tower for the plumbing and heating, and Dave did the same for the electricity. When connecting the waste water pipes from the tower to those of the house we hit a snag.

Besides my obsession about the slope giving way, I also have a thing about septic systems.  This constant worry grew from having to build a new leach field when Clark and I were selling the house mentioned above because ours failed Title 5 in Massachusetts.

Considering all the hassle and money Clark and I spent to replace that leach field I never felt comfortable with the fact that no one could provide me with a plan of the septic system when I was buying my current house.  The county health department needed the date the work was done.   My realtor looked at me funny when I asked who did septic inspections. All I learned was that the septic tank was under the stone that pointed north in the walkway leading to the house.

If one worries long enough about something happening, it will happen.

Sean was connecting the waste water pipes from the tower to those that led to the septic tank and found a mess.  We had pumped the tank about a month before we started construction, so when we now found it full we knew there was a problem.  The 3-inch pipe that led out from the tank ran uphill.   Sean put in a bigger pipe, adjusted the pitch, and now I know all I want to know about the septic system.

A load of stone for the foundation arrived on May sixteenth.   Lee and Derrick spread that and laid insulation, and then Sean came in to lay the tubing for the radiant heat. We weren’t home when Sean was doing this work, but he told us later that our neighbor came down on his tractor to tell him that he was uncoiling the tubing on his land.  About a week later this neighbor installed a green plastic fence at the property line.

Then we had to decide if we wanted a polished concrete or painted concrete floor on the first floor, or did we not want a concrete floor at all.  Research on the subject proved inconsistent,  but it seemed like a cumbersome, expensive process, with lots of possibilities for disaster.

We unfortunately had lots of time to decide.  For the next month or more, rain was forecast at least every other day.  Nick, our excavator, was wary of having the cement mixer sink into a muddy front yard, so he held off until sunny skies were the norm.

We chose to forgo the smooth, slick look of concrete.  It wasn’t until we actually were going to buy flooring that we learned that outside of carpet or laminate there were very few “affordable” options.  We did, however, find a very good looking and well made laminate, and are happy.

By early June the slab was poured and we could move about on the first floor. In the meantime Dave had been building the tower and pondering the bridge.

Sandy at Cheviot

Something woke me from my sleep at 2:30 last night and I went to my window. I could see the glimmer of water where it shouldn’t be, but where I expected it to be. Tuck and I went down to the porch to look.  The Hudson had risen to the tracks but did not go over them, and the puddle in my lower yard was even higher than during Irene.   The electricity was still out.

The basement was dry.  Water in the basement has been an obsession with me since the year waterfalls of the Las Vegas ilk poured through the bulkhead at the street and down the front yard, and again formed waterfalls through the stone foundation into the basement.  I lost so much of my life and family history in that four-foot flood.   But having my sons at the house to go through their damp possessions filled me with bittersweet pride and joy.

Relieved about the basement I dressed and walked down to the crossing to see if I could get a few photos.  I’d never seen the river this high and hope never to again.  Sorry.  I don’t use the settings that often on my camera, and in the dark getting a picture was impossible — even tho the flash kept going off.  I should go back to my rangefinder.

I went online for any other information I could find, but finally went back to sleep.

In the morning, the Hudson had receded, but the backyard duck pond was still at high tide.  When it went down I checked the shed.  It had flooded during Irene and so we had raised it by two cinder blocks, and the day before Sandy I put boards under the snowblower.  Still when I looked inside, water was sitting in the open ash catcher on my charcoal Weber grill.  The water was at least a foot deep in the shed.  I wonder if it will come back up during this afternoon’s high tide.  It’s like living on the Nile.

The electricity is back on and the generator has been tucked away. I heard from my boys that the streets they live in on Brooklyn didn’t flood, no trees hit the car, one spent yesterday making pickles and today has been commandeered by the city to help with the relief effort, the other is on tour with his band JP & the Gilberts and missed the storm completely.  My mom’s assisted living in Jersey has water and gas and is getting a temporary generator for power.  My sister in Jersey has a tree in her driveway but is happy that that is her only worry.  Lee received no calls from tenants.

The sun came out and my dentist called to make sure I went to my appointment this afternoon.

Sunset after the Storm

We in Cheviot did pretty well.  We missed the big winds and heavy rains.  My heart goes out to NYC and the Jersey Shore and to all who suffered losses.