The Sounds of Progress

The driveway looked like a fresh-plowed bean field. Deep furrows creased its length, but the spindly spines of pressed dirt betrayed not a plow, but the dual rear trucks of a delivery vehicle. I’m honestly surprised at the amount of damage they can do considering the deep bed of gravel that pre-dates our efforts, but there you go: You can’t make an egg without breaking a few omelets, and you can’t get loads of lumber delivered without turning a dirt drive into a cow pasture. As they say.

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Two Steps Forward…a Nickel each please

Optimism reigns: Mid-September and Clark makes the scene. Note the sun, and the neat jobsite.

Optimism reigns: Mid-September and Clark makes the scene. Note the sun, and the neat jobsite.

And the time ticked away again without anyone using it.
–John le Carré, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

I wanted to weep.

All the forms were collapsed: filled with water, or mud, or both, or completely obliterated, just the wrinkled and flaccid stalks of our carefully measured sonotubes, listless and sagging from the center of a soupy depression. It was the perfect picture of lost and wasted money and time coupled to a crystal clear forecast of brutal work to come.

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Digging in the Dirt

My father was born in Washington, D.C., in 1945 to the wife of a young naval lieutenant, serving out his time at the end of the war. They lived with another family in a two-room apartment. (Lest you think it’s tough to find a D.C. place in 2014.) The sailor, Kendrick, had been on an ordinance demolition team in the South Pacific but was now close to the end of his hitch and serving stateside. When his service was up he and Mary took their young family back to Connecticut, to Ansonia, where they piled into Mary’s overpopulated family home with her parents, her five brothers, and assorted spouses and offspring, all split between the house and a surplus Quonset hut in the yard.

Suddenly, this is more than a clearing in the woods: it is a jobsite.

Suddenly, this is more than a clearing in the woods: it is a jobsite. (Click any image for a larger version.)

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Fair Labor

Everyone needs a break — even from taking a break.  I went up and felled a few more trees, submitted our application (about which more below), came home. And then we took some time for Labor Day weekend to visit the local fair.  Our particular “agricultural” fair has been going on for the last 103 years on that particular weekend. It’s pretty early in the fair season and before the fair season (autumn) really begins. And it’s pretty small. And, like most, it has been largely given over to the midway and the truck pulls.  But it’s still small enough to retain some character. Continue reading

Like Clarkwork

Time for a trailer update before I head north for the weekend.

Clark is coming along. The roof is as good as I’m inclined to get it — let’s call it “water resistant.” Anyone who has any knowledge of restoring these old tin cans and has stumbled upon this record has probably been laughing up his sleeve at my efforts, knowing they aren’t exactly doomed, but not exactly according to Hoyle, either. Jamie helps, reminding me not to take our eyes off the prize: do this cheaply because the cottage is going to be expensive.

Everything is temporary.


Front cabover deck before.

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You have died of dysentery


Mallet and wedges, to make trees do what they’d rather not.

You know, I’m too damn blind.

It’s true. About 25 years ago my eye doctor told me that without corrective lenses I’d be legally blind.

I can tell you that my prescription has not gotten any weaker in the last 25 years and now, just when I thought I might’ve sorted myself halfway to respectably realized personhood, it’s getting worse in new ways. Used to be, I was near-sighted. Now, it’s looking like I’ll need — soon, not this year, but soon — both my contact lenses and readers. Or bifocals.  (No, I will never have bifocals. I can live with toenail fungus, but not bifocals.)

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Start by making a mess

Try this, if you can:

Go into the woods (sneak, if you must) or your yard, and choose a tree to cut. Make it small, about six inches in diameter.

Cut it down.

Now, cut it up.

I’ll wait.

Having to do a lot of work yourself means you have a lot of work to do.

According to de Tocqueville, your American pioneer “is, in short, a highly civilized being, who consents, for a time, to inhabit the backwoods, and who penetrates into the wilds of the New World with the Bible, an axe, and a file of newspapers.”

Well, we’re no pioneers. We have a chainsaw instead of an axe (so, so thankfully). Access to the world comes via the web rather than the newspaper. I suggest the original frontiersman likely had a team of oxen or at least a horse, while we have this: Continue reading

What is good enough?


An old screw, drilled out from inside, through the edge cap. To the left, a nail (!), to its left, an open hole.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the roof of this little trailer, lately. Scraping, sanding, patching, filling. Replacing missing screws. Removing the ones that bite into nothing but rot and rust and putting back bigger ones, swathed in silicone, hopefully to bite a bit more soundly and even if not, to plug a hole that would be a leak. Continue reading

More ants.

Just out of law school, I had a chance to be a judicial clerk for a remarkable man. I think that most law students who want to and are lucky enough to clerk find their Judge to be remarkable. And if I think that’s true, then it may be that my Judge wasn’t, really. Anyway. He always knew where the weak link in your argument was. The piece you elided or glossed, or just knew wasn’t quite sound — that’s the place he would put his finger and push.

The sting was that you knew walking in that spot was weak — at least in the back of your mind. And he knew right away, like, immediately. And you’d drag back across the secretary’s space to the law clerk’s office and go back to work on that one logical false step, the one plank in your bridge to conclusion that wasn’t sound (or maybe even wasn’t). See if you couldn’t shore it up, and if not, bin the whole memo and start over again. You knew. But you sent it on anyway. And now you’re back where you started.

Well, we can’t start over again. This is the trailer — or, as Paul Newman had it in “The Verdict,” “There are no other cases; this is the case. There are no other cases. This, is the case.”

There was this dark spot of wood on the cab-over deck. I knew it was wet. I didn’t want to look under there. I’d pulled down the ceiling in front, and ripped out the ceiling in back, and torn out the rotted frame and shored up the skylight and, and, and. I didn’t want to deal and I hoped that fate would let me slide. The fact is that the whole thing could be disassembled to the axle and rebuilt — probably should be torn to the axle and rebuilt. But, “budget solution to a temporary problem.”

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In the beginning, was the trailer trash.

And we looked upon the trailer and saw that it was good.

The sand in the oyster.

Needs a bath…for starters.

And also that it would need a lot of work.

Step one was to find the land. So of course we’re starting this blog with step two, which is to procure job-site living quarters and a tool security structure. Or as some have so astutely pointed out: a trailer.

I stole this idea from my friend Marc, who did likewise.

Home sweet home.

Home sweet home.

This beaut, Clark, had a price. A princely sum of $200 which I, using my shark-like marketplace skills, bargained down to $180. Then I paid the guy $20 for his temporary trailer lights to get it home. Sharp, right?

You get what you pay for. Continue reading