Thursday, June 9, 2016

June 9th

The latest garden plant ever.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Porch Fire by Abby

There’s a sort of foggy surrealness in the moments of waking—in that long and clunky brain boot-up when sleep is done (or done-ish).  For me, this sense is heightened when I’m sleeping in a bed that isn’t mine.  That night, I’d slept alone in B’s room, and I’d slept hard.  We’d had a roaring fire the night before, and I’d sat close, baking a particularly ground-glass case of carpal tunnel.  The heat worked wonders for my hand, but it had sapped me dry of energy and put me right to sleep. 

Through the fog, tucked into the middle of a nest of fleece sheets and down comforter, I heard voices—no clue what they were saying.  I’m rarely the first up, so it seemed a normal thing.  Then voices louder—still no coherent words taking shape in my brain.  Footsteps, fast and uneasy.  Sleepy eyes opened and fixed on a blue ceiling and walls.  

WHERE’S EVERYBODY SLEEPING????  I heard Madz through a closed door, totally frantic.

I sat up.

ABBY!!!  I heard Tyler call up the stairs.  Not in a “breakfast is ready” sort of way.  Meaning business.

I bolted out of the bed (fully clothed, praise baby Jeebus) still in a sleep stupor and opened the door.  There was the smell of smoke and a terrified Madz who looked at me and said something to the effect of “get out, the house is on fire.”  I don’t remember what she said exactly, but I knew her meaning before she finished her sentence.

I know I went down the stairs, but I don’t actually remember my feet touching the floor.  I’m a pretty gentle and deliberate mover in my life (though not always graceful), and there’s not a lot that makes me hustle (rogue fireworks, a momma that’s bleeding, a baby that’s not breathing), but I was FAST.  Madz thanked me later for having the presence of mind to shut B’s door and save the room from smoke damage, but I swore that it must have just been the draft of that much ass moving that quickly that sucked the door shut behind me—I don’t remember making that call.

When you hear that a house is on fire, you want more information, but you can’t make the words come.  HOW on fire is it?  I bolted down the stairs not knowing if active flames were taking down walls or if something was just smoldering. When your only other way out of a house is out a second story window, you don’t waste time making use of the one set of stairs.

When I hit the hardwood, my heart was beating so hard all I could hear was the rush of blood through my ears.  There were no flames visible from the living room, but black smoke poured out of the basement door and the fireplace, flowing out the open front door into the cold.  Madz was coming out of her skin and rushed by with a wooden box.  “…putting this in your car!”

My mind raced.  ARE THE KIDS HOME?  No, they were at a sleepover.

WHAT SHOULD I GRAB?  The portrait of Madz’s mom, the other pictures and albums, important papers?

Shane passed me, moving quickly and with purpose.  “Are we grabbing things??” was all I could make come out.  “No, not yet.”

Shane disappeared into the black smoke of the basement.  The power was out, so the stairwell was more like an extinguished dragon’s maw than hallway.  Tyler, Madz and I went out to the front yard.  Madz paced trying not to come out of her skin “…I NEED TO HEAR SIRENS.  WHERE ARE THEY??” 

Shane came out and got the hose.  The smoke was getting worse, pouring out the top of the chimney.  WHERE ARE THEY??

The neighbor Jenny came bolting across the field at some point.  Once she realized that everyone was ok and the kids were gone, she became the patron saint of needful things, running to Dunkin to get coffee and donuts for everyone.

Waiting.  Waiting.

I went back into the house, getting the first taste of just how hard it is to function in smoke.  I walked to the basement stairs and stepped down, eyes burning, onto the first landing.  “SHA….” Cough, gag.  Goddamn it’s hard to yell in smoke.  “SHANE—ARE YOU OK?”

Nothing.  Nothing.  I had a terrifying moment wondering if I could haul a grown man up a set of stairs.   Weak arms, strong AF legs.  Yep, I could do it as long as I could get him hoisted over my back, but damn it wouldn’t be pretty.

“SHANE, ARE YOU OK??”  ………... “YES!”  Thank Christ.  Back outside.

Then, after perhaps the longest five minutes that ever was, came the whole brigade.  Bridgton, Naples, Harrison.  Fire trucks, tank trucks, ambulances, volunteer vehicles.  Sirens blazing.

The to-do of the arrival made a sharp contrast to the first man out of the truck.  Bless him, he didn’t move very fast and had definitely seen younger days.  No one was hustling.  I think they’d received an update (which was no longer valid) that the fire was managed and out.

Shane popped his head out the door.  “We have active flames in here.”  Still, everyone moved like molasses, not hearing him.  “ACTIVE FLAMES!”

Then everyone hopped to, geared up, and went in.  They were pretty amazing.

And then I realized for the first time, standing out by the cars with Tyler, that I was FREEZING.  It was a particularly dreary and cold day, and I was wearing short leggings, a black short-sleeved dress, and patent leather flats.  My coat was in the house, but I did have snow boots in my car, and that helped some.  The fire team asked if we wanted to warm up in the truck, but my need for fresh-air-adrenaline-detox overrode my need to be warm.  Shane gave me a coat once the fire team had taken over.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur.   The verdict from all involved was a rogue electrical fire.  Everything was covered in toxic smoke residue, but the actual fire damage was relatively minimal—a portion of wall and floor, some joists, wiring.

All I could think of was how lucky we were both that Shane was able to manage so much of the fire before the department arrived and that the fire happened when it did.  We were home.  The kids were gone.  It was morning and people were up.  If the fire had happened the next morning at the same time, if it had happened just one day later, the whole house would have burned to the ground while people were at work and at school.  I’d never wish this on anyone, but all things considered, I’d say thank goddess for small favors.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Naked in Flip Flops

This photo was taken two days before the fire.
It began as a lazy Sunday morning as Shane and I snuggled in bed and planned what would be our last Maple syruping (yes that’s a word because I say so) day. I had wanted to sleep in after a late night the night before but fate didn’t have it in the cards. When I finally relinquished my hold on Shane and let him get out of bed, I stayed in bed, staring at the ceiling, and ruminating about what I would wear.

 I became vaguely aware of the sound of Shane going up, or was it down, the basement stairs rather loudly. It occurred to me that I was smelling smoke. It’s odd to smell smoke all the way up in our bedroom. We did have a fire going the night before and the wood stove had to be out by now. Just as this occurred to me, I heard the very loud and very fast pounding of Shane’s feet, distinctly upwards. Within seconds, he reappeared in the bedroom breathlessly telling me to get up, get dressed, and get everyone out of the house because we have a fire.

Instantly I found myself standing stock-still, in the middle of my bedroom, naked wearing flip flops. In my haste I missed some important steps and quickly righted them before leaving my room. I paused at the landing trying to think of who slept where and remembering that my kids were not in the house. In confusion I yelled, “Who slept where!?” to which Bruce hollered, “Abby!” which told me that I needed to open Brennan’s door to wake her. Apparently the shrill of my scream woke her as she had her hand on the doorknob when I opened.

We FLEW down the stairs and exited the house. I am not sure what actually happened in the proper sequence, but there are certain things I know I did. I know I fretted and worried about Shane being down in the basement, of course trying to put the fire out.  I know that I ran back upstairs to retrieve my jewelry box. I know I contemplated throwing a couple of antiques out the window. I know I looked at Bruce’s suitcase oddly half way in and halfway out of the door as I stepped over it. I know I went in to retrieve my computer and charger. I yelled down the basement stairs trying to lure Shane out. I confirmed the status of everyone including the dog, finding them safely out of the house, and then I panicked.

Anxiety filled my body at not knowing how bad the fire was but that my beloved refused to come out of the house. Black smoke poured out of the chimney and windows. I remember begging out loud with tears in my eyes, “Don’t let my house burn down! Please don't let me house burn down!” I realized that I needed to warn the neighbors as well as the friend that had our kids and called them both. All I could do was wait until the fire department arrived. Somewhere in here Shane came up out of the basement, left the house, and returned with a garden hose. He had a plan and was seeing it through and would not leave the house despite my begging.

Waiting is hard and I didn’t like it one bit. I started to hop up and down in place,  repeating the only mantra that seemed to keep me sane, “I need to hear sirens. I need to hear sirens. I need to hear sirens.” Abby suggested that I try yelling instead, which I did, but that failed because it made me feel angry, which I wasn’t. I was just panicking. My phone went off in my hand and I looked to find my friend who works with EMS texting me to ask if everyone was OK, as she heard the call on the scanner. I filled her in on our end of things including that I needed to hear sirens and she assured me they were coming. Our fire had been called in as a structure fire and three towns were coming. I can’t say if I felt relief or not, but I did feel an indescribable sense of comfort from her contact.

Arrive they did, starting with the police, then fire, and then EMS, filling our driveway, our road, and the street beyond. It’s hard to describe the senses and urges I had, but I can say I have never before so strongly wanted to urge someone to run. The firefighters seemed to be walking in slow motion, and the first one to reach the front lawn was old, and really slow. I don’t say that to be mean, I say it because it was surreal. Both Abby and I made the recognition and had a good chuckle over it later. At some point our dear neighbor appeared to take the kids, not knowing they weren’t here. She wonderfully wanted to do something to help so she left, went to Dunkin' Donuts, and brought us coffee and donuts. It was at that point that I realized I hadn’t had anything to drink this morning and was very thirsty so that cup of coffee was quite welcome.  Thank you Jenny!

The rest is a bit of a blur of yellow clad firefighters coming and going, in and out of the front and back of the house.  I am so thankful to so many – Bruce, Abby, Shane, Jenny, Allie, Kelly, Carrye – but especially the Bridgton Fire Department, and what ever other towns were there. Was it Waterford? Naples? I lost count. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A lazy morning saved the day? Guest post by SP


“Hey, where you going?” “I need to get started boiling sap.” “No! Snuggle me!” “But I really have to get started.” “Nooo. Snuggles.” she said emphatically.  Madz was right, snuggling sounded way better than going outside and starting work so I crawled back into bed and we fell back to sleep for a while. Upon waking we snuggled for a while more (we're really good at it) eventually we both decided it was probably time to get this sap boil started. So I got out of bed, dressed quickly, and headed downstairs.  I met Bruce in living room and we both observed it smelled little smoky. I sniffed over by the fireplace to check for a downdraft- nothing.  Upon opening the basement door I noticed smoke in the stairwell and assumed the woodstove it back drafted… Again. I headed grumpily down the stairs. When I flipped the light switch the basement lights didn't come on- that was the first clue that something was wrong. When I got to the bottom of the stairs I looked over at the woodstove but I was drawn to the glowing fire in the ceiling along the wall. Oh shit! There's a fire! I bolted up the stairs, told Bruce there was a fire, and tore out to the garage to fetch a fire extinguisher. I ran back down the basement stairs and emptied my fire extinguisher into the burning hole in the basement ceiling/1st floor. Not sure if the fire was out I dashed back upstairs to grab the kitchen fire extinguisher. Bruce met me with it in the living room.  Back to the basement only to realize that fire extinguisher does not work. At that point I pounded up the stairs all the way to the second floor, burst into our bedroom, and told Madz there was a fire, I needed to call 911 and she needed to get everyone out of the house.  Coming back downstairs I step out on the front porch, call 911 give them the details, and go back to the basement. There I discovered that the fire had rekindled so I ran out to the front yard,  grabbed a length of a garden hose, ran back to the basement, quickly attached it to the cold water tank and extinguished all the fire I could see. At that point the fire was out so I opened the bulkhead door and moved around some of the basement furniture to make access a little easier for the firemen and I carefully move the tables of Legos so they wouldn't get tipped over and the creations ruined. When I heard the sirens I went back upstairs and out on the front porch. I flagged down someone who looked like they were in charge and bade them,  “Come with me.”  I was concerned they might lead with the hose and knowing what a mess that could be, I took this firefighter to the basement and showed him where the fire had been. “Did you put it out?” he  asked? “Ya” I replied. “Good job! Now go get some fresh air.” I went up to living room and move that furniture around just like I'd done in the basement it was then that I noticed there was more fire burning in the wall to the left of the hearth. When I stepped out on the porch a small group of firemen were in a huddle discussing a plan, I got their attention I told him of the fire in the wall and said, there's some work for you guys to do too. At that point I went outside and hugged my wife and our friends, and milled around until the cleanup was over. 

*I know staying in the house and breathing all that smoke was not a smart decision.  I know that in a fire situation one is supposed to gather up the occupants, exit, and leave the work to the firefighters (I’m the son of a volunteer firefighter for gosh sakes.) but that knowledge not withstanding,  I could not bring myself to stand on the lawn while my house burned waiting for the fire department.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

I shit the house on fire. A guest post by FWB

FWB (our dear friend Fireworks Bruce) was the first person to wake on the fateful April morning. Here is his guest blog post. He is shown in this picture.

"I Shit the House on fire

A CPAP is not a sexy thing on a 45-year old obese man, but it makes for a good night's sleep, so I cut it a break for getting me off the LDs' couch first thing in the morning. I'm a light sleeper, so I'm pretty sure I'm the first one up, and a short shuffle into the kitchen confirms that. Continuing down the hall to the bathroom, I fight with the drawstring on my fleece pajamas while hopping from foot to foot in a hilarious and desperate rendition of the pee-pee dance. 90 seconds later and I'm walking back into the living room, where I attempt to turn on the TV, and after 3 minutes of unfruitful fumbling with the touch controls in the dimness of the morning, I give up and crawl back into the couch. Where it becomes immediately apparent that maybe I left the bathroom a hair too soon. Snatching up my iPad, I bolt for the bathroom, and settle down to some light reading while I wait for nature to take its course. 5 minutes later and I'm out the door again, this time bumping into Shane as I turn the corner, where he looks at the ceiling and says, "It's really smoky in here, isn't it?"

I look up myself, and realize the smudgy vision I thought was the result of a late night of drinking and early morning strenuous "exercise" was actually a moderately thick layer of smoke gathering beneath the ceiling.

As if they heard our conversation, the house fire alarms start blaring.

My morning brain tried doing its morning brain things, and the next thing I knew, Shane had donned a headlamp and gone into the basement. I crawled into the couch again once more, but was up on my feet quickly when Shane came running up the basement stairs not-quite-yelling, "There's a fire in the basement!"

Shane sprinted for the garage, and I ran for the office. I met him coming back through the kitchen with one of those industrial-sized fire extinguishers the size of a mailbox, while I had grabbed the thermos-sized extinguisher from the office. He tore around the corner and was down into the basement and out of sight when I got to the top of the stairs. Smoke was at this point pouring out of the pitch-black basement, and when I flicked the light switch, there was no response. I ran into the kitchen, looking for a headlamp, under the toaster, in an empty can of coffee, behind the fruit bowl, all the usual sorts of places you'd find a headlamp when the house was burning down.

Shane came back up the stairs and I shoved the smaller fire extinguisher into his hands as he yelled, full volume this time, "There's a fire. We need to call 911 and get everybody out of the house!" He ran up the stairs and I could hear him calmly but firmly waking up Madeleine, while I threw all of my belongings around the living room, searching for my phone. After exhausting all the usual hiding places for my phone, I realized my searching had been slowed considerably by the fact that I was only using one hand, because the other one was clutching my phone. From upstairs, I could hear Madeleine saying, "I don't even know who's here? Who's sleeping here?"

"ABBY!!" I shouted up to her, hoping that Abby would hear me even if Madeleine didn't, while I tried to make this weird black rectangular thing in my hand do something, but I couldn't quite remember what the thing was I was trying to make it do: tell time? add numbers? It looked sort of calculator-y, what with it's 9-point pattern on the front. Oh right! It was my phone! I had to put in the passcode and call 911! What the FUCK was my passcode?!? Wait, was this my phone? What if it was someone else's phone and I put in my passcode? Would I only be able to talk to their friends?

Shane came down the stairs, still calm, exuding competence, and waved me toward the door. "Just get outside. I'm calling 911." Thank fuck for that, because I couldn't call 911 with this stupid calculator! I ran the 7 feet required to get me out the door, then turned around and ran back, threw all my shit into my suitcase, slammed it shut without latching it, and chucked it out onto the porch, like I was boarding the last lifeboat on the Titanic. I took the three steps to the porch, leaving the door open to clear out some of the smoke, and saw Abby come down the stairs without actually taking a single step. Madeleine follows, carrying something my brain immediately edits out, but I do notice that neither of them are attired for the 30 degree morning, nor am I, so I step back inside the house and put on my shoes and grab my coat, all while standing next to the door. Shane quickly joins us on the lawn, as Madeleine literally hops around the yard, screaming, "Sirens! I just want to hear sirens!!" until the first tanker truck appears."

Monday, May 2, 2016

We had an electrical fire in our house.

April, on the heels of March, certainly came in like a lion. On Sunday April 3rd, we had an electrical fire in our basement. We are so very fortunate, because everything that could go right, did go right. We have been blessed during this past very busy month with an excellent insurance company who took care of us and met all of our needs. We were not displaced from our house either. The structural damage was limited to two rooms. Our babies were not home and were spared any trauma. The amazing folks at Service Master spent two and a half weeks cleaning every single surface of our house. Reconstruction began this weekend. Painting, every surface of the house requires repainting, began today.

It was decided that in order to properly share the jarring story, I would invite guest bloggers to tell the tale from their perspective, in order of who rose first at 9ish am on Sunday April 3rd.

 We had two friends over, since we were planning on making our final batch of syrup that day. Abby and FWB were both here and will share their stories, along with mine and SPs. I am so happy that Beth was away in VT because if she was here someone would have been asleep in the basement and that person might likely have been overcome by smoke in their sleep.

Our lives are forever altered by this overwhelming experience. Someone was certainly looking out for us. We are so very lucky. I have the first one ready to go.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Butter from Houlton Farms Creamery

I have been sitting on these pictures for far too long. Puckstopper is now a senior who will graduate from MSSM in less than two months so my visits to the North County will end. One of the many amazing finds I have made since he started school in Limestone is this amazing butter.

Meet Holton Farms Creamery's most amazing butter. 

We also refer to it as Butter cheese because of its amazing color.
We usually buy Cabot butter, and fill our butter bell with it.

Cabot is GOOD butter, but can you see that color difference!!??

I highly recommend buying some of it. I am not sure if it can be mail ordered or not, but it is worth it.

Spiffy new paint job

It's amazing what a little paint can do!

Monday, March 28, 2016

2.5 Gallons of rich dark Syrup!

It went from this....


Saturday, March 26, 2016

When Boiling feels like a well oiled machine

There has been so much progress in the last month.

It's hard to type this post retroactively, knowing that there's a major life changing event that has happened since. I almost have little to say about these photos since it seems so minor in comparison.

The vivid green emerging from the recovering moss.
There was a lot of beauty and color in the places I looked.

Look at all those hues of red!
I think the most amazing event of this boiling weekend was the rebirth of Junior our tractor. That is all thanks to Uncle Gerome, who fixed the Magneto and brought the spark back to Junior.

SP was very happy to be skidding logs again. All is well in this world.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


He thought they were chaps so I got excited but it turned out to be a man apron or a maple apron but we will call is a m'apron. It's still hot!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The darkest syrup ever!

Another beautiful Syrup Sunday happened at our happy Homestead.
It was nice seeing SP get to relax this time, instead of all the cutting and chopping he did days earlier.

There's that m'apron again, mmm hmm!
Getting the sap out of the pan was the only struggle and a little creative siphoning fixed that easily.

Getting it tipped up was a little bit tricky but it worked smoothly.

What was left behind was the most beautiful sediment Delta in the bottom of the pan.

It was really much more beautiful than either of these pictures capture.
It turned out to the be the darkest, yummiest syrup yet with a fantastic viscosity to boot.

We got over 2.5 gallons of the heavenly stuff too!


Saturday, March 19, 2016

The day the Bellows Died! (Sung to the tune of Ms. American Pie)

Today was the day we could finally use our fancy new evaporation pan.

Isn't she a beauty?

It really makes the unpainted boiler look horrible! We need to do something about that!
The new pan makes the most gorgeous sap!

A man uses various tools, including a piece of beveled edging.  I'm a fan of the m'apron of course. The foam sifter is pretty neat too.

 I didn't realize how nasty it actually looked in there.

Today was such a lovely day. Scout had a lovely day bathing in the sun. And wood chips.

Today was the day the Bellows died. Adios shop vac - you've been good to us.
 Luckily I am not a girly girl and really don't care about my cheap hair dryer because it has been re-purposed.

We played with some really cool sap shadows... I swear some smart Alec is putting up their middle finger.

Oggled the m'apron at work....

went for a chilly convertible ride....

and played with some chickens. Hey Slip!

Yes, Slip got her name from her slipped wing.
It was a long day, as there was over 120 gallons of sap to go through so we were out there well after dark.

I like the subtle shadow of Stephen as he leans in to smell the nearly "ready for the finisher" syrup boil.
It is such a wonderful smell.