Sunday, December 30, 2007

No Such Thing as a Free Stone

We're up in the wild woods of northwestern Maine, staying at the incredible "camp" of our friends, D* and J*. This is the driveway, which is a thousand feet long:



They purchased a piece of property along the Kennebec river and had a small cottage built. The cottage consists of one room downstairs that contains a kitchen and a dining area. Upstairs, there's one bedroom and a bathroom. It's cozy, warm and completely unsuitable for the large number of family members and guests that drop in from time to time.



So D*, a tireless and creative man, bought a barn. Not just an ordinary barn, but a 200-year old post-and-beam monster, 40 by 50 feet. It was dismantled and transported to his property by a contractor, who laid a foundation and erected the structure, cladding the exterior in high-tech, 8-inch thick Styrofoam-insulated panels. Inside, the structure is completely open, with two complete floors and lofts at each end. The thing is huge, 34 feet from foundation to the peak of the roof. The largest timbers are 10 x 10 inches, 32 feet long. It's hard to imagine how big those trees must have been.




It's not finished yet, not by a long shot. But D* had a complex radiant heating system installed in the floors, so it's warm and comfortable. Here's the control system, which is intimidating.


The downstairs of the barn is full of rocks, which will be used to build the chimney.



The mason arrived to work on the fireplace, and we talked about his work. Maine has rocky soil, and is crisscrossed with thousands of stone walls, plowed up by farmers since the plow was introduced to North America. The mason told us that those walls are now the primary source of his building material. He has to pay the landowners to remove the rocks, then he has to get them across the fields to his truck. "Theah's no such thing as a free stone," he declared in his thick Down East accent. "In the summah, I have to pay fifteen dollahs an houah fah labah to carry them out. In the wintah, I can sled them out, but I have to pay fifteen dollahs an houah fah labah to crowbah them out of the frozen wall."

The next morning, we drove to Sugarloaf, a huge Alpine ski center.


However, living in Florida, we don't even climb stairs anymore, so we didn't feel very comfortable about the idea of flying down the side of a mountain.

There's a Nordic ski center about a mile away, and we have cross-country skis that our friends have kept for us. I was surprised at how quickly the smooth stride came back to me, and we glided through the snowy woods.



But it was tiring, and the downhill stretches were a little tricky. I fell a few times, as did all of us, except for one. My daughter, who has never cross-country skied before, took the hills in stride. Shown here is my wife sprawled on the side of a hill, and my daughter's reaction.




Kimberly said...

I'm so jealous. It looks beautiful up there!

the said...

You said, "plowed up by farmers since agriculture was introduced to North America." [emphasis mine]

Perhaps you meant, since the plow was introduced to North America?

Even conservative estimates of the antiquity of maize (corn) farming estimate the date of domestications as earlier than 5000 BC, and there is archaelogical evidence of corn being farmed in Mexico (which is in North America) 9,000 years ago.

The people living in modern-day New England were farming long before the first European settlers arrived there, growing not only corn but other crops including squash, beans and tobacco. It was these European settlers, and their descendants, who were responsible for the piled-moraine field-boundary walls still so common throughout New England today.

This is your blog and you can of course do as you please, but correcting this entry will lead to internet strangers not mistaking you for an idiot, a bigot, or both.

Tim said...

You're right about the plow comment - my mistake. But I think calling me an idiot or bigot is going a bit off the track. I'll gladly correct my plow error if you'll retract your insult.

the said...

I actually worded my comment very carefully: I suggested how you could avoid people who do not know you "mistaking you for an idiot, a bigot, or both." I wouldn't warn you about anyone *mistaking* you for an idiot or a bigot if I thought you really were one, as it would hardly be a mistake if I had believed you were either. I also wouldn't have bothered commenting.

(My usual response to finding an idiot and/or bigot on the internet is to point them out to my friends so that we can all point and laugh. Consider the lack of other comments, or even unusual traffic, on this page proof that I have not done so.)

Nevertheless, I do apologise if an over-hasty reading of my comment on your part led to any offence, as that was patently not my intention.

Tim said...

The change has been made, as promised.