Sausi the Aussie

Oh she’s pretty adorable no doubt about it. I haven’t written in a while becasue she’s so adorable. She starts being adorable at some pretty interesting times. 3 a.m. , the first night, missing her familiar digs, no doubt. The next night we made it till 4 a.m., then 4;45 a.m., 5 a.m. and the last couple of mornings she has made it to 6:08 a.m. I’ll take it! One of the things I wanted to learn from our little puppy was to get up early again. When I first retired I found I could not sleep later than I’d been used to when I was working and after all those years of dragging myself out of bed in the dark and rushing out of the house to go to work I really wanted to sleep in. Well I finally got used to it, and now I want to get back to being an early riser. What better things to train yourself than a new puppy. Sausi the Puppy is up for the task. I wake up at the slightest whimper- we keep her crated next to our bed and you really want to take care of little things. They’re so little and cute and soft. They smell like puppies. I bounce out of bed and get dressed and then open the crate door and pick her up squirming and licking and just delighted to see me. We head down stairs. I keep her in one hand down the stairs, then cuddle her as we head out. Once we’re in the yard I put her down and say, “Pee, Sausi” and she pees. And I praise her and we start our tour of the yard. We have about a two acre field which I’m filling up with stuff, so we take the tour. She is starting to poop in the woods off to the left as we walk along toward the shipping container corner. And she’ll pee again a time or two. We walk around the back where I have a couple of boats, a boat trailer, a few piles of lumber, stuff from our barn in Connecticut that I couldn’t fit in the shipping container, my little outdoor dojo. If it’s dry I will sit on my weight bench and let her explore while I just take in the morning. We planted some fruit trees last week, Sausi and I, so we look at those.

I look at the deck for the barn I am starting. I look at the dory I’m about done with, and the dingy, and the catboat I have to start on. It looks good to me.

Sausi explores. She chews. I like it outside because she can chew about anything. In the house you can chase her. No, not the couch. No not my toes. No not the table cloth. I hate to tell her no because she doesn’t understand yet. I’m trying to be kind all the time and when she attacks your feet it is hard. I pick her up and say, “Did you temporarily forget that we don’t attack our daddy?” I put her down and try to distract her with a rope or a rag or a ball. I will pick her up four or five times sometimes. I feel like a character in a Randall Jared story I read a long time ago about a man newly hired on as foreman of a ranch and the crew is giving him an awful hard time and he just keep being gentle, but strong and eventually wears them all down to where they respect him, and he hadn’t had to be a bastard. I often wonder what would happen if we were all more gentle, but strong. Can the world work without violence? Walk softly but carry a big stick? I did swat Sausi one afternoon. I was really tired from having been up extra early and I was working on a baot ans Suzy just kept yelling. “No.” Sauzi, no!” so many times I couldn’t take it. I walked over and yelled “Sausi!” and swatted her little fanny. She retreated instantly to her little safe spot in the lawn under the newer bathtub we intend to install one of these day and curled up. I worried for an hour over whether I’d ruined our pup. When I finished painting I went over to cuddle and talk. She licked me and was happy. I think about how many abused women, and men, too, there are in the world who get hit and then cuddled. It gets confusing. Love and violence?, Conditional love. Love with yelling? I don’t want that. I want to try kindness.

I hit our son once. He was just a little kid- two maybe and was being a pisser. We put him on the stair for a time out and he didn’t stop. I was tired, of course. Parenting isn’t easy. If you could get enough sleep it still wouldn’t be easy, but you never get enough sleep when they’re little. I said to him, “Do I have to get firm with you?” You know, the big man threatening a kid who weighs about ten percent of what I did.

He said, and I give him credit for this, “Yes.”

So I swatted his fanny. One quick shot. On the diaper. But it startled the hell out of him. He sat in his time out nicely after that. I was about sick over it. I swore I would never hit him again. And I haven’t, except one day when he was getting his green belt in Kung Fu and I already had my green belt at Tae Kwan Do and we were sparring. We each got in a hit or two. He got me good in the shoulder or neck or something and asked if I was alright. I was. I was also impressed. Kindness and gentleness are important strengths. We have damn few examples of that going around these days.

We’ll try to do right by our puppy. Little Sausi, the sassy Aussie from Sausalito.

Sailing, Sailing, over the Bounding Main

We got up early and were out on the water a little after seven. We arrived in our dinghy to see this ship; Mike was getting set to leave. The breeze was good-out of the northwest. Perfect for a run down to Friendship. The day was bright. We got aboard, made our dinghy fast to the mooring to wait for us when we got back, got settled. Mike had the wood stove going and heated up some scones. He’d slept aboard and it had been cold that night, but the stove makes the cabin cozy. Kind of nice to have a toasted scone on board.

We let go the mooring in pretty short order, without starting the engine and headed down channel. Mike let me have the helm while he fiddled and adjusted. I was not completely comfortable with the helm. New boat, bigger than ours, different rig and It’s a wheel; I’m used to a tiller and get confused- I pull when I should push. But I was thrilled to be on the schooner and didn’t sink us. Here’s Suzy loving it as we zip along still in Owls Head off Ash Island. Note the parka. Cold morning.

We were going right along and got a little offshore pretty quickly. The breeze was strong. It was predicted to be ten miles an hour with gusts into the twenties and temperatures in the mid sixties. After a couple of hours, all of us wet, we laughed about the prediction. Not mid sixties yet, and the wind was strong. Once we got off shore a little it was a good 15 knots with gusts into the 30’s with some four and five foot waves.

This schooner weighs nine tons and we were moving quite a lot. And quite quickly. We’d left with a reef in the main. At one point, we had the main and the foresail and the staysail, up, I think we’d already doused the jib, and I had wheel when we took a gust and I held the boat, thinking the gust wouldn’t last. The rail went down, water rushed down that lee deck and Mike, stretched out on that low rail, got soaked. He came up in a hurry and he took the wheel from me to came up into the wind. Not that we were in danger, he explained, but it’s early in the season. Pretty cold to be soaked. We dropped the main after that.

The dinghy was having a great time. I had some pretty cool video I was going to put in here, but WordPress won’t let me. Too bad. He has a Shellback dinghy which behaved so nicely all day as to be amazing. It didn’t have cupful of water in it after six hours of sailing, some of which was pretty boisterous.

You can see it streaming in back of Mike just as mild mannered as a deacon. So along we went. We made great time. We had to fire up the engine at one point. The wind had a little more west in it than the north we needed, and with the confused seas and strength of breeze we just would have slogged around for a lot longer trying to make our way a little higher into the wind without that additional boost from the Yanmar.

It was really pleasant day. We made it to Friendship before two. We’d been out in bumps and confusion and cold and it felt really good to get into the islands out of the chop and feel the warmth of the sun. At one point we were storming along on a beam reach between two islands, smooth seas, and just humming at close to 6 knots. We hit 6.8 knots at one point at which speed I figure the engine might actually be holding us back. I didn’t catch the 6.8, but I got this.

After a tremendously pleasant hour or two inside with smooth sailing and sunshine we picked up Mike’s mooring in Hatchet Cove and ate lunch on the boat- we’d brought some sandwiches. Life is good.

I lost a hat. I thought I looked a little like Doc in Back to the Future. “Marty, whatever you do, don’t set the controls for 2020.”

We rowed ashore and that was that. Back at Mike’s. You can just see the schooner out there. Then back to Owls Head. We’d cleverly worked out to have my truck down there so we all didn’t have to swim home.2021 is off to a good start.


A boat launch is often a very wonderful thing. Boats are great to look at when they are on land because you can see so much more of them, like a tree in winter- the structure is more revealed and that’s fascinating. But a boat is meant to be in the water. It becomes instantly more alive, free, responsive, ready. It’s exciting to watch. Something that is cumbersome on land and has to be moved about by an incredible piece of machinery. The modern hydraulic lift boat trailer pioneered by Brownell is an astounding piece of work. You can store a boat anywhere now. This truck with trailer backs under your boat, removing the stands that support it as you back under until the hydraulic arms have the boat steady. The trailer goes up and down, too, and has steel beams that slide out which will support the keel and take much of the weight of the boat. The first time I saw it happen I was astounded. The skill of the driver is wonderful to behold, and the way the trailer works still blows my mind.

Then you see that boat, this one with its masts still up, cruising along land is also kind of interesting.

This one went only a short way to the ramp, but you’ll see big boats roaring down the road at sixty miles an hour. You can store your boat a hundred miles away from the water. If you’ve got room in your yard it is often cheaper to transport your boat home than leaving it at a boat yard and paying their monthly or annual fee.

Then it’s backed in; the trailer separates from the truck

And in she goes!

The transformation is wonderful. Nine tons now floating as free as a gull. You can push it your self. These two guys, Mike and Joe, can walk the boat back to where they want it with ease. Water. A change in element. This boat belongs there.

It starts to make you smile.

I’n not the only one who likes this kind of stuff. This little girl lives nearby and had to come down to watch. Is that cool or what?

We motored over to a nearby dock at Sharpe’s where the Ellen C. Wells had spent her winter to do a little work before we took off for Owls Head. Mike went aloft to change out a broken block.

Suzy and I just watched while he rigged and went up.

Mike had sprinkled sawdust under the boat right off when we arrived so it could float in to where there were leaks and help slow down the incursion of water. Wooden boats have to take up a bit before they are tight. Soaking them ahead helps. I put our catboat in early last year and paid heavily for it. I soaked the engine with salt water and needed to replace a few things. Alternators and starters don’t like to be soaked with salt water. Ellen C was much better behaved. She hardly bled at all. We had the two bilge pump aboard her, and one back up just in case. Mike was ready.

After the block was replaced we were ready. Off to Owls Head. Mike let me take the helm so he could putter. Nice duty. I could get very used to this.

We made it over to Owls Head harbor and picked up our mooring where she’ll sit for a couple of days.

It adds a certain something to the harbor. Next stop: Friendship.

Schooners, Tractors, Puppies and Barns

Spring is really happening. Last night we sat in our garden drinking a couple of beers, freezing to death because the sun was going down and the temperature which seemed so pleasant all day plummets. The peepers were going and the whole scene seems so peaceful. I’d been sanding my dory and that’s exciting. We’ve used it a number of times, but it is time to pretty her up and launch her properly, get her on the mooring and get a dinghy over at the new town float, so we can row out to her instead of launching it off the trailer each time. I’ll be fishing out of it this summer- five lobster traps. I can get a non commercial license now that we are residents and I’m eager. FJ has picked out five traps to give to me, they’re a little tired for his use- he makes his living at it and likes to fish them newer, but for me, they will be great. I’ve got to rig up a way to haul them. Our son Saben heard F.J was going to give me some four footers and he said, “Aren’t you going to be hauling by hand, Dad? You might want to stick to the three footers.” F. J and I had a laugh about that, because, of course, he’s right. I’ll have to rig up a roller so I can haul more back into the boat, instead of hanging over the side. I’m thinking about how to do that, now- a roller and shelf to put the trap on, so I can work without bending over so much.

Yesterday we took off on errands- I wanted to get down to Shelter Institute to see about getting a set of plans. I’ve got one set because I took their course, but I can’t find them now in our stored stuff. Moving. I need to get the dimensions for the braces, and their mortises so I can start cutting the beams for the barn. I moved the first one up onto the finished deck.

They’re heavy. I can’t even pick up one end. I set up a ramp and got out a come along. With Suzy and a jack and a bunch of blocks and setting up places to haul from we did get it up on horses. It took a while. Next one will go a little faster.

I grabbed a couple of the posts. I have most of the posts already cut. Tim Blais helped me lay those out and got me started a while ago.

That’s the barn, and there is a lot of work ahead there. I started it in January, naively thinking I would be done with the frame by about now. Right. Now other things are demanding my attention. The garden.

I started to till with my Troybilt but the turf is too tough. I got Terry to come out with his John Deere 870. It was tough for his tiller too, but I can manage from here.

I’d bought some compost and I got a load of manure. We picked up the manure on Suzy’s birthday. We’ve been having a bit of fun with that: I give Suzy a load of shit.

We met the animals that produced the manure.

They live on 300 acres up in Hope which used to be called Barrettville. This is the Barrett Homestead Farm. We bought some beef, too, and ordered a quarter of a beef for next fall. We had some pot roast last night. Just this side of heaven.

So of course when we go out on errands I have to stop to see my latest obsession, The Ellen C Wells, a 34 foot William Garden Schooner that wintered here in Rockland at Capt. Jim Sharp’s

I keep stopping by because I want to meet the owner. This boat has a web presence: a facebook page, a bunch of images, a twelve minute you tube video. Here’s a link to get you started.

It’s mentioned in Wooden Boat magazine, and the owner, Mike Erkkinen, runs a week long course in August where you can go out a sail with him for a week. This is rock star stuff for me. I wanted to meet him.

Well no one was on the boat. I’ve stopped by a half dozen times hoping. Suzy suggested I stop in the office to ask. She’s good like that. So I do, and talk with the secretary who is nice. “Yes, Mike is around, wearing a blue shirt I think. Ask Captain Jim. Have you seen him?”

I had. He gets around on a golf cart now. He’s getting up in age, but the fire burns bright in Capt Jim. He’s adding a huge building on to his Sail,Power and Steam Museum. Another link for you.

So Suzy and I go out to the wharf where Capt Jim is and I say hi and ask him if he knows if the owner of that gorgeous schooner is around and he smiles and says he is. He points. He’s down on the float, with another man and they are handling a long ramp. I ask if they want a hand and they do. So I spend the next hour getting the ramp up with Capt Jim’s decrepit old come along. I’m going to make a donation to the Sail Power and Steam Museum of a decent come along. I’ve got an extra. And when we’re done Mike invites Suzy and me to come aboard his schooner to check it out. How cool is that? We go and this boat is awesome. It turns out Mike is an architect, and a timber framer as well as a schooner captain. Pretty impressive. And he’s owned an H 28, and a Concordia yawl. It is astounding to meet people like this. Life is good. If you like sailing, you just have to love schooners and Mike’s is pretty. And traditional. 1400 feet of running rigging. Belaying pins! That’s the way to make a halyard fast.

And a Charlie Noble for the woodstove.

Check out that wheel.

And the binnacle.

And bronze ports that open and octagonal masts; just everywhere you turn is amazing.

O.K. I got carried away. Sorry.

I realize that modern sailing yachts are also very desirable and appeal to many, like this ninety footer up at Lyman Morse in Camden

But you need multiple gazillion dollars for stuff like that. My tastes run much more to traditional boats. And of course you can drop money on them, too if you want. Katy is a favorite of ours. A gorgeous Murray Peterson design that we actually bid on a few years ago. We got outbid. It didn’t look like this when we bid on her.

One of the sheds at Artisan Marine. They have more beautiful boats than you can conceive of. Really. It just never stops. They do beautiful work, both maintaining and building boats.

And Rockport Marine is another place where you can find stunning boats being worked on and built.

I would love to have this little lobster boat.

Look at this converted sardine carrier, William Underwood. Built in 1941 to haul bait. Now a cruiser. All these boats have a sense of tradition that I love.

Sandpiper is an old model, newly built- well relatively newly built, now being painted up for this year’s sailing.

A nice little fifty footer ready to be rigged.

A friend’s lobster boat. Chris was going to launch last week, but had a hatch problem.

These things are gorgeous.

Sorry. I got a little carried away again. We are in boat country and I love it.

And our own boats exist. Here’s Suzanne, a 28 foot 1961 Rhodes design. In glass.

So am I completely insane? No I don’t think so.

Did I mention that we’re going to get a puppy?

Building Progress

I remember being crushed when I advanced to a certain grade and someone said there weren’t going to be any more pictures in our books. Chapter books. No pictures. That was a cruel way to put it, forcing me out of childhood to the adult world of chapter books. There are pictures in chapter book,s too, just created with words. I am now an avid reader, but I had a bumpy patch there for a couple of decades trying to adjust to no pictures.

Well I still like pictures. Look at this one.

I remember sitting in Mr. Mingrone’s American lit class at E. O Smith High School where I taught for 14 years. It was my free period and he taught in what I thought of as my room, so I’d sit there and work and listen. It was the best American Lit class I ever sat through and as an English major I had sat through a few. Tony was a fantastic teacher. It made me feel pretty humble, I’ll tell you that. There were some awfully good teachers at that school and I am pleased and proud to have been a part of it. Mr. Mingrone would show slides of early American landscapes by Remington and others and explain how before the advent of television and movies people would flock to museums where these paintings were being displayed, pay admission, and stand there for quite a while watching these grand landscape painting. They were epic, and worth the study.

That’s how I feel about the scenery around here. Epic. It makes getting up early to go row well worth it. That second shot is just the boat launch here in Owls Head. It’s a two minute drive from the village center, which is at the end of our 500 foot driveway. Sometimes I feel like I have to pinch myself.

So I rowed the other morning and it was just epic, visually. Seals and loons and scenery. I was tired from having done a lot lately and from getting up early after staying up late. There you are. Tired. One of my favorite sayings is Thoreau’s, “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” Do I feel guilty when I sleep late? Yes I do. But you cannot burn the candle at both ends for long, even if it throws a lovely light. I’m working on getting going earlier, but Suzy and I seem to get to bed pretty late, and then we do our read-aloud for fifteen to sixty minutes, sometimes more if the book is electrifying, then it gets late. Currently we are enjoying Kenneth Roberts’ Rabble in Arms.

And Suzy does not like it when I go out early because she doesn’t know where I am even though I tell her. She’s asleep and doesn’t remember. So she’ll be hurt because she wanted to go and I left her behind and she can be pretty grumpy about it. I think she’ll get used to it. When I’m in better shape we can row again later, but I need my alone time and a row is a wonderful way for that to happen.

So we’re sitting on the porch in the sunshine drinking tea and trying to pretend we’re enjoying life when John and Audrey drive up. These are our new neighbors. John and Barbara bought the land in front of us and we are thrilled. It is a lovely spot, up high and will have a view of the village and probably of the water, too, and their other daughter, Maya, runs the general store and they both help out there and they have been coming to Owls Head forever and Barbara is related to Ann Gustin, and Sully Reed who passed away recently. Local history, family relations, community relations. Owls Head is small to the point where it is still the good old days like that, and we are enjoying it and are thrilled to have John and Barabara as neighbors and it’s not just that Barbara makes fudge. It’s also that they are nice people and have another daughter Audrey, who came over because Audrey loves Suzy and wants to sing and talk with her.

You can see Audrey there with Suzy’s guitar, a pretty nice Martin. Suzy had just sung two very pretty songs, I stick a note or two in on the French horn, and then Audrey says, “Wanna change?” She wants to swap her plastic ukulele for Suzy’s guitar, and Suzy hands over her guitar, and takes Audrey’s. And then the show begins. Audrey loves music and starts instantly to perform. She introduces the next song, and who’s playing what instrument- Suzy on the ukelele and off she goes, singing and strumming guitar with one hand while she pretends to play chords with the other. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine….” Suzy strums the ukulele and I play the French horn. Before long I am getting credit in the before each song intro as “and Paul is on the French horn.” We must have played eight or ten songs before John suggests that the next one or two be the last one.

Pretty nice way to start the day, a row and some music.

And today we wanted to get going on the garden, so began the search for manure, rototilling services and some plants. So a little work in the garden, and we are going to be sharing some space in the garden with another neighbor- Kathryn, who also sings, and teaches voice, and has a son who is a wizard with a mandolin, and I think probably a few other instruments. We are thrilled to be having a garden partner. Both Suzy and I are eager in the spring, but when we are off to build on the Cape, it will be nice to have someone up here watering. And it looks like Terry will be able to run his tiller off the back of his tractor. I’ve been trying to bust up new sod with the old Troybilt we’ve got and it is tough. Terry got a medium sized John Deere tractor with a three cylinder diesel engine and a four foot tiller that I think will make short work of it.

So we worked in the garden a little, getting ready to till, moving stuff that has accumulated

We made a run for soil enrichment material- we couldn’t find manure yesterday, but hope to still. I can work that in with the Troybilt later after Terry busts up the sod. It’s early for plants I guess.

I was just reading this morning in my notebook/journal where I attempt to keep track of my life, an entry from February 7th saying that I should be done with the deck of the barn by the end of the week. I certainly was optimistic. You can see how we don’t always get to working on the barn, but I am happy to report that the deck, as of the end of this week in April, is done, and looks absolutely awesome. And it’s really fun to do yoga on it. SPACE! We’ll start on the timbers next, and we are also trying to get the permits for the Cape build and have some local architects- more neighbors- working on some drawings for that. I’ll have to write about the new Cape plans- smaller, but still wonderful. Am I being optimistic again?

April Morning Row

This morning I got up early. I have been being a slug. We stay up pretty late and then I sleep pretty late. This morning I had a disturbing dream just after six and decided today would be a good day to get up. It was sunny and bright. I told Suzy I was going to watch the sun come up and I’d be back in an hour. I headed down stairs, jeans, shirt, and boots.

I headed out- a little nippy, but I had a windbreaker, and headed over to the truck to load the dory trailer.

Owls Head is up and stirring. The Pepsi man is offloading soda at the General Store, but no one was out down at the wharf. Wow. That’s a first for me. Fishermen start early. I used to row all the time in the summer at what I thought was early and there would be a veritable hive of activity down at the wharf and harbor. Not this morning. I got the boat in the water. It is just six thirty. I go to park the trailer and climb eagerly into the boat. It is absolutely still. There is not a breathe of breeze on the water. Glass out for a mile out to Monroe Island. I push on the oars, so I can see where I’m going to avoid boats and moorings without having to crank around and look over my shoulder. The dory just absolutely glides. It is a big boat. Nineteen feet with an ample bow, but slim. If it’s breezy it is a lot to handle with that bow, but this morning it is a well mannered boat-joy. I get out a bit and hear three voices.
Headed out to their lobster boat, then in to bait up.

It is mesmerizing to push, slowly, through utter glass and stillness, with the sun full on my face. It has been a long time. I am in heaven. I forgot my camera, so there was no distraction from the moment. I pushed for five minutes, then turned the boat and started to pull to the back side of Monroe. Tide is coming, pushing me on the way out. Should I circumnavigate Monroe? Not this morning. I’m not in shape yet for that. The back side, into the tide, for a mile and a half could be a long slog. I want to just love this.

I beach the boat on the back side of Monroe, a small swell makes it so you need to know what you’re about. I set an anchor. I pull off my boots. Should I? Of course. I strip and jump in. Jesus it’s cold.

I dry off with my t shirt and dress. I do yoga on the cobbles. I row home.

It is a stunning way to start the day and I know I was going to write about building the barn and how excited I was to be done with all the plywood so I could insulate between the joists and finally finish the deck. but it’s going to have to wait until the next time.

March Winds

Yesterday was Easter and we had a special dinner planned, but we’re not church goers and it’s kind of just another day. As we adjust to our new life in Maine where we can’t find anything because we moved and most of our stuff is in our shipping container which sank into the frost this winter and I can’t open the doors and we’re at an age where we lose things anyway I start to see the need for some of the ritual we have in our lives. Church for some is a large part of their lives and I get that. It can be good thing. I was always upset by the amount of harm done by so many who profess to believe in some fantastic leader. Christ, I learned from my mom, was a pretty wonderful human being. I don’t think he’d approve really, of some of the stuff that goes on in the name of religion. I could get into making comments about our former fearless leader Trump and his followers who don’t seem to think anything through very thoroughly, but I won’t. I want to talk about our little dog Arfie.

Doesn’t he look dashing here with the feather? Quite like Errol Flynn we thought, in Robin Hood. He always wears his space suit so he’s ready to go to the moon when Saben wins that contest, but yesterday we just went down the road to look at a building I’d been offered. Someone sold his house in Owls Head and the new owners are not interested in this very cool building that Todd had built. It’s one of those cool arched buildings I’ve been admiring for years and have wanted to build.

I love how they look and this one is quite spacious. It’s 40 feet long by 20 feet wide. I’ve seen them finished with a clear plastic so it feels like you’re outdoors when you’re in it, so I was pretty excited when I got the call that this building was available. But upon closer inspection,

here’s Arfie inspecting, and some thinking about how much work it will be to remove it and transport everything and how much throwing out there will be and how many trips to the dump I may be obligated to make I’m not so sure I want to do this.

Hey! Good for me. I’m actually not taking advantage of a perfectly good opportunity. A golden opportunity. They’re all golden, right? But we are up to our gills right now. I am on the barn project here in Maine and we are starting the Cape Cod building project in Eastham and I do not want to frustrate myself. We had a mighty hard summer last year and I do not want to repeat that. I want to get a little sailing in, and rowing, and paddling, and swimming and surfing. I can build a frame for an arch barn that is more the size we need for less than a thousand dollars, and I love the building part. The demolition is not so much fun as it is hard work. Arfie’s inspection revealed that there are different types of fasteners used in different parts of the building. Square drive screws and Phillips style screws. For most of my life I have not been able to afford fasteners and I sometimes take things apart that i have built that have three different size/style screws and it drives me crazy. So no. I’m saying no. Wow.

So I can focus on the other projects.

With our change of plans on the Cape- switching from the drawn plans I already paid an architect for to a simpler design, cheaper to build, we have to get back to the drawing board. It’s not a total restart because much of what I loved about the half cape with an el we can still use. But I will need drawings for permit and estimates. I called an architect last week and they want way more money than we can afford and they can’t start until July. They’re busy with the Covid boom and so they are looking for about seven percent of the total build cost to do the drawings. Since Suzy and I like to pick out our own eclectic stuff and we change things as we go and we will be doing much of the building and subcontracting ourselves, and I have two friends in the business we’ll hire to help, I don’t want to pay a typical architect fee. I already paid one. So I’m hoping that the cost of just drafting my ideas will be more reasonable. And it turns out there are two architects who are staying in Owls Head whose parents we know and they may be able to help. How exciting. I’m hoping that works out for all or us. I spent some time this morning on the design of our pizza oven and chimney details and the impact those decision have on the framing, and I solved a problem pretty neatly that I had talked with Saben about last week. He and Iris talk design with us over the phone a lot. They’re doing the same thing on the West coast on a grander scale- Sausalito. Their lot cost more than everything we’ve ever built. Same game, different numbers. They’re young and make better money and have lower interest rates than we started with. They’ ll be fine.

And so will we.

I know you’re eager to know about progress on the barn. We’ve turned the corner.

This is the far end of the front of the barn. Thirty-six feet down the line and now the courses of boards get shorter by two feet every course. I’m almost done with the plywood I’m installing between joists to hold the blue foam insulation in place.

I’m all done with the tapered and irregular bays which were more difficult to fit on the east side and where the joists overlap than the joists on the west side which run parallel. I don’t think the plywood will take more than another hour or two and I have enough to finish. The foam is also almost done and I am glad. We have had the windiest month and that blue foam blows all over town. I pile boards on top of the full 4×8 sheets but we have had gusts to 50 mph a lot, and those blue boards sail off into the woods, often breaking on their travels, so I have irregular pieces to work with which slows me down more. More cutting. Suzy is the foam collector. She’ll walk around and drag it all back to the barn. The little pieces blow all over the yard, too. Another 3 hours of foam installation? You know how my estimates go. Off by a factor of three?

And then it is just the rest of the boarding, which goes quite quickly.

I’m doing it diagonally, so every board has two 45 degree angle cuts, but I’m pretty good at it now, and I have more than enough 8 inch pine to finish the job. I located a sawmill nearer to home that the Amish one I was using, and this guy has a phone so I can call him up. Not quite as cheap, but still pretty cheap- 80 cents a board foot, and I save over two hours of driving.

I hope to be done with the deck this week and then I have to winch one of those big beams up onto the deck, and onto horses, so I can start to work the timber frame part. I can’t wait.

Cape Cod 1959

My mom and dad bought a lot in Eastham in 1959, the summer that we took our camping trip to New Jersey, Cape Cod and Bar Harbor Maine. It cost $700.

I used to think, when I was a teacher, that kids would be interested to know about how I grew up. I felt like I’d been a fairly major flop in many ways, but once I was married and had a house I’d built and a son I was proud of, I started to feel like I’d made it. I wanted to assure the kids I worked with that they could do it, too. I really feel like the overly confident self promoters- of whom one is Donald Trump- are in the ascendance today and that it is not a good thing. Not at all. I want kids growing up to be confident that they will grow to be happy and productive members of a society that they can be proud of. I wanted my son to know me in a way he probably doesn’t. Who cares? I like to think there are still a lot of people who do care.

Anyway, here’s a snippet about the early days of the Cape.

After we cleared the land on the Cape the next project was to build a shed. We would camp out of the shed and use it to build the house. This is the way it is done, right? A music teacher decides to build a tool shed. Nowadays people call up the shed store and have it delivered. It is set up for you and you turn the key after you pay the man. In the good old days, you didn’t do it that way. You built it. My dad decided on 12×8 as the size, I think because a sheet of plywood was 4×8 and he was thinking a sheet of plywood would go from front to back on the sides, and a sheet and a half would complete the front runs. It was good thinking. It would have one window in the back and in the front another window and the door. We put down cement blocks and leveled those. The digging on the Cape is nice- once you’re past the first few inches of roots and blueberry and grass, it is honest to goodness beach sand. So we chopped/dug a place for each of six cement blocks, one in each corner and one in the middle of the twelve foot run, and set them in with the holes up leveling them by adding a little sand or taking away a little. Then we put down a 12 foot 2×6 flat across the front two and the back two. Then we build a big box of more 2×6’s We stood one up on its edge and nailed in through that to the 8 foot 2×6 that ran from front to back. We put one every sixteen inches. I don’t know where my dad got all this from, but it sure was exciting to do. Just like carpenters. My brother Mike and he did most of the work, but I helped as much as I could. I was eleven. My brother Mike was right into it, too. I remember spending an afternoon with him shingling when we had the whole thing up. He was in fine humor, laughing and joking . “Paul, hand me a few shingles wood ya? Get it? Wood ya.” He’d laugh hilariously. I wouldn’t get it for a while  of course because you have to see that to get it. and he’d be on to the the next bad joke, enjoying them all. I did too. I just wasn’t quick. He was six years older than me, a substantial difference. He’s 17, tall, with long black hair combed back in cool fashion. a high school kid. I’m a goofy little fifth grader short with a crew cut, mostly skin and bones. I remember with tremendous fondness his working on the shed. I was too little to be of too much help but I was in heaven. To see a shed go up is amazing. We put the asphalt shingles on the roof and just draped the ends over onto the sidewall. There was no trim piece, let alone an overhang. No drip edge. My father didn’t know. It looked a little funny, kind of rounded off where most buildings had a sharper edge. On the gables the same thing. No trim board- which serves a vital function. It is not just trim. You but the board up and then you can put drip edge on that for a nice crisp finish that will overhang by half an inch or so that protects the trim piece, which in turn protects the top of the last course of wooden shingles on the sidewall. Had we done it right that shed would still be there today. Oh wait, it is still there today. It’s just a little rotten. This was the first big building project on the Cape after clearing the lot. Oh we were pioneers now. We had a home base.

Just like now.


We had the best pizza the other day. Flatbread in Rockport. It’s a wood-fired, thin-crusted, absolutely yummy pizza. The first time we went was in a summer and I was wearing flip-flops, a surf t-shirt and my baggies. Spme fellow behind the bar asked me if I was a surfer and I admitted that I had been and did occasionally still surf and we started to talk. He owned the place, and was a surfer himself and told me of a place that I went down to check out a few days hence. It is hemmed in by people’s pretty posh places and I am hesitant to walk across such a property to get to the surf. I may never surf there from land, but when I have my skiff built, we may zip over in that with the board in the boat. I could drop an anchor and surf a few waves without setting foot on anyone’s land. There has been a pretty good sized broohahhah about beach access in this place, Mosquito Head. I guess I am not too big on confrontation.

Back to the pizza. We thought that day that it was the best pizza we had ever had. In retrospect, it still ranks very high, although maybe not at the absolute pinnacle. Our son Saben has taken us to a few places where the pizza was also superb, although I suppose the whole pizza experience, like any dining experience depends on other things as well. The ambience of the place, the particular place in your life you were when there, the people you are with, can all improve or detract from the pizza eating experience. We had pizza at Pepe’s in New Haven with Saben and Iris and it ranks right up there at the top because we were with them and we had a great time talking and dreaming of renting Pepe’s for a wedding venue.

Can the box the pizza comes in make a difference?

Well Flatbread gets the best box award. It is fun to read and expresses a philosophy I can get behind. It talks about the five faces of food. Food has faces? I’m hooked. The side of the box says that food remembers the acts of hand and heart. I really like when people become extremely aware of what they are doing and try to do what is best for many. A bit from from the Hunger box, the first face of food: “My body is the great mass and bounty of leaf and flesh. I am hunted and gathered and cleaned and cured and cooked to fill the empty stomachs of the people so that they may rest with peace. This is the first function of food.” And it goes on about flavor and the others. Quite nice. Thought provoking. I know people who mindlessly do things and it leads to trouble. I think we should all consider the impact of what we do. I realize that is luxury primarily afforded those who have enough that they can make choices, but if those of us who can make deliberate careful choices, do so, it adds up.

I was always bothered by movie stars who would take up a cause. There they are, I thought, living the life of luxury, and telling us all that we have to give up plastic bags or something. I take a different stance now. They are saying something about what they believe in and that takes courage. They are using their position and their wealth to guide us in a direction they believe in. That’s good. Isn’t it? Remember Jane Fonda who got in trouble for her actions in Vietnam? She was called Hanoi Jane. People were really mad at her. The photo that got veterans going, and you can understand why, is when she posed at an anti aircraft gun that would be used against US troops. Her version is that it was just part of some interviewing she was doing of Vietnamese people- she was concerned that the U.S. military was bombing agricultural sites- and someone asked her to sit somewhere and she complied not thinking of what was going on but wrapped up in something else. After the shot is taken and it hits her-“Oh my god” and she tried to convince the photographer not to publish the photo. There you are. Caught in the act. She waded through a lot of crap over that, and I admire her for it. She is still at it. Here I am afraid to walk across someone’s property to go surfing, and she takes a very courageous and public and sometimes dangerous stand against something. That’s admirable because there are forces that should absolutely be resisted. Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”

So are we all going to become activists? Or does the way you live your life count at all? Does what you say to your friends and people in your life count? Absolutely.

I was in Camden the other day and a sign in store front caught my eye. In large letters it said

and then had a bit of philosophy I liked, too.

Creed and not greed. I’m feeling a little bit like our current problems in the US and much of the world come from so many not having enough and some having maybe more than enough.

This sign was on a store in a pretty posh town, with an Aston Martin parked right in front of it.

It is a wicked cool car, right? James Bond drove an Aston Martin. In the rear window of this car is a sticker about a airplane owner/pilot association. So this guy has a plane, too. And a sailboat? And a grand house? Is the grand house a summer home? And is Maine’s economy propelled by wealthy people spreading largess around, building boats, houses, dining out. Lavish tips to the pretty waitresses? One summer a Russian oligarch was on some mega yacht off the coast up here somewhere. Does his yacht have a swimming pool? We did see a yacht anchored off Monroe Island that summer that was not the oligarch, but a mere rental yacht, and it did have a heliport and a swimming pool. O.K. That’s a little too much isn’t it? Or do we just admire all rich people because they can accrue so much. Or do we revile them all because they accrue so much.

This is a good question. I think all rich people are probably like any other group. Too big to be homogeneous. There are fine, high minded rich people who donate to poor people, and educational institutions, and public parks and libraries and museums and to individual artists. And there are rich people who are the scum of the earth. How do you tell? Do they break laws? Do they help people? Robin Hood stole from the rich, but he gave to the poor. Good guy? Bad guy?

And am I free to point fingers. We have two places. I ate more pizza than I should have. I drink more beer than I need. Do you need beer? Do you need pizza? Do you need two places? Should I become a monk? Do you need someone’s permission to exist. Are we all trying to please our parents in some way? Are some of us demented? Should you jsut let everybody do as they wish? Is a billionaire always right?

It’s a tricky issue. I’m thinking about it while I still work on my first million.

300 Million Guns

I have a cousin who likes Trump. I always wanted to know someone who was a Trump fan so I could talk with them without a quarrel erupting, and maybe come to understand how it is that they like Trump. I’ve let him know I don’t like Trump- I am putting a capital t on his name now for the first time. When he was the president I didn’t capitalize it as a statement. This was the statement: I don’t like trump because he is dishonest, greedy, manipulative, sexist, arrogant, either ill informed, or just ignores information, bigoted, racist, and a bully. I also don’t like his whiny voice, his orange hair, and the fact that he is so fat, but that wasn’t included in the statement I was trying to make by not capitalizing his name. Now that I am putting a capital T in front of rump, does that mean I am a fan of Trump? No. I don’t like him. I still feel the same way about him. I believe he is one of the worst forces in the world and in addition to his political sins is guilty of tax fraud, insurance fraud, letting his equally guilty buddies off the hook with a presidential pardon, and I am hoping he gets into legal trouble with the state of Georgia for his attempt to change the vote and I hope the state of New York makes some headway on their cases against him for his financial scams. I do not admire him in anyway. The one thing he is really good at, being a con man, is not admirable. I cannot believe there are as many people who like him as there are.

That said, I want to get back to guns. My cousin and I do not talk like this. It gets too emotional. He could not listen to what I just said and is what I said too harsh? I am only saying what I have gathered from various newspapers and from television news. I did not think this of Donald Trump before he ran for president. Before he ran I just thought he was an arrogant buffoon who had inherited quite a bit of money who didn’t have a chance in the Republican primary. Ooops. I sure was wrong there. I wasn’t wrong about the arrogant buffoon part, and having had a chance to get to know him more through news I am less inclined to be kindly toward him.

So my cousin sent me an interesting email about guns. Full disclosure here. I have owned a gun. I had a shotgun way back when because I was always fascinated with guns. I still am. I got rid of the shotgun though. I didn’t hunt. It was just something to have to worry about and I was into a minimal/philosophical period of my life. When I married, my new father in law thought I ought to get a gun to protect our property in Storrs CT. We’d built a house on 4 acres in a university town. He thought that people were going to come marching down the driveway to get me and his daughter. I was incredulous, and politely declined to own a gun. He insisted, and I kept politely declining. He was in the NRA. He watched Fox News way back then- almost forty years ago. I did not watch tv much. I read a paper. I was teacher. I really thought the chances of a communist invasion in Storrs were minimal. I still feel that way, although now I own a few guns. I also own a few bows and a have a dozen arrows. He had softened his position a little, but gave me an air rifle for Christmas one year. I still felt I was safe in Storrs with his daughter, but I accepted the air rifle. I still have it. Suzy grew up shooting, and she is a pretty good shot. I’m ok. I don’t practice much. I also accepted two pistols offered me by his son when Ed senior passed away: they were air pistols. So I own three guns. And I would love to have a lever action Henry octagonal barrel magnum 22, but I don’t own one yet, and there isn’t much point of my owning one right now because you can’t buy ammunition for it very readily. Ammunition is hard to find in he United States right now. I think it is a combination of the manufacturers having trouble because of Covid, and the hoarding of ammo that is going on by gun fans. I watch the private ads for guns and ammo and you can get ammunition, but it is expensive. About a buck a round for anything.

Should we be alarmed about this. Back to the pretty interesting e mail from my cousin. Here’s a tidbit.

“Legal gun owners have 300 million guns and probably a trillion
rounds of ammo. Seriously, folks, if we were the problem, you’d know

Very folksy, right? A little humor. There is not problem here with us legal gun owners. and just off hand we have over a trillion rounds of ammo so if we want there to be a problem there will be a problem that you cannot do a thing about. That’s the implication. There are implications all through the e mail. and that bothers me for some reason. So I start to think and that’s what I wanted to do a little of here today.

I believe that writing is a way to make your thinking apparent- not that it will necessarily be clear thinking, but it will be apparent and you can then examine it and change it if you wish. I taught English, and I always told kids that that was a major feature of writing: that you could clarify and solidify your thinking. I still believe it. I still believe in education. I still believe we can work though our problems, but we have to be a little less emotional about it all.

Let’s look at the writing in this e mail. Legal gun owners have three hundred million guns. First word. It’s legal They are on the side of law. Not outlaws. 300 Million? I don’t know. I believe that could be true. Is it verifiable. Probably. But let’s think about it. 330 million people in the US. Almost one gun each, right? No I think there are large blocks of people who do not own guns. My guess is that most gun owners own multiple guns. From the ones I know, I’m going to guess three or four guns per gun owner at the low end, and twenty or more at the high end. This is all just guessing, but I’m going to go with an average of four- too conservative? Yes. Five. OK. That would mean there are 60 million gun owners in the US. O.K. I like that. It may be high if people own more than five guns each. It may be low, but it is certainly more accurate than 300 million. There are not 300 million gun owners in the United States and I am wondering now if that is what is implied in that 300 million legal guns. Am I supposed to feel, as a sort of non gun owner, that there are 300 million people out there, with all this stuff called ammo and that if I do something they don’t like, they will come and shoot me? I wouldn’t have a chance, would I? Even if I knew karate. Or were a nice guy with a pleasant smile. That’s implied. Am I being threatened? And I think that’s what is floating around a little. Public discourse? Freedom of speech? Can I not say what I want to say without fear of reprisal?

I want to look at the ammo statement, too. Math fun. If you don’t like the way this works out you can’t really argue with it if you understand the conventions of math. A trillion is a one followed by a lot of zeroes. A million is six zeroes. A billion is nine. A trillion is a one followed by twelve zeroes. Divide that by the 300 million guns. It’s a little tricky to work with numbers this big. Some calculators can’t handle that many zeros. Our world is changing so fast that we can’t keep up? I do it on paper. One trillion, a one with twelve zeroes, over 300 million, a 300 followed by six zeroes. If you start crossing out zeroes from the top and the bottom of the fraction you end up with a fraction that comes more into our mind’s range: 10,000 divided by 3, or 3,333 rounds of ammo per legal gun.

If you can accept my guess of multiple guns per owner, that’s a lot of ammo. At a buck a round, and five guns per owner, that’s over 16,000 dollars worth of ammo for every legal gun owner. Even at one gun per owner it’s over three thousand dollars worth of ammo. In a country where the average person cannot handle a surpise $400 incident this seems unlikely to me. Unless gun owners are among the richest of us. And maybe that’s what it is.

Which brings us to another interesting part of this e mail.

“Folks keep talking about another Civil War. One side knows how to
shoot and probably has a trillion rounds. The other side has crying
closets and is confused about which bathroom to use. Now tell me, how
do you think that would end?”

Notice how the “probably a trillion” of the first statement I shared, now has the probably separated a bit, and I read it first as a definite “has a trillion” and you want to accept that. Fact. It’s definitive. No fake news here. Or is it definitive? I question that it is valid. But in a conversation, it is really hard to do this kind of thinking. You get distracted, flustered, by a temper or a harsh word.

And this “one side” bit. What. If you own a gun you’re on one side of the political debate? I didn’t know. Why don’t we just count guns instead of voting? Bring your guns to the voting booth and be counted! Do all gun owners think alike? Are all gun owners of one mind? If someone- who knows who- the president of the NRA? The fat man with orange hair himself-says go get ’em boys and there’s a war? And girls I should add because a gun makes a girl more equal than all the feminist movement.

This from the email again, “The Second Amendment makes more women equal than the entire
feminist movement.”

And does this bring us to the insurrection on January 6th?

So do all gun owners think the January 6th insurrection was a good thing? I know that is not true because I know gun owners who think as I do that what happened on January 6th was just awful.

But it seems to be implied in this email. Is what I am doing now the equivalent of running to a crying closet? What is a crying closet? And does being confused about what bathroom to use mean you are transsexual and is that a bad thing and are there no gun owners who are either transsexual or homosexual and is it just that real men don’t cry, don’t tolerate homo sexuality, and shoot whomever they want. Whoa.

I wanted to write about this because I think in this country we have a lot of fuzzy thinking and I think we will be better off if we get it out in the open. Thanks for reading if you stuck it out to the end.