Trip #7:  March 21, 2024 – March 31, 2024

Utility trailer load count:  1 (mainly because the convenient, free brush pile was closed during this visit)

Thursday and Friday, March 21, 2025 – March 22, 2024

In early January, after a significant windstorm that affected most of the eastern seaboard, I received a text from our immediate neighbor in Virginia, who we’d not yet met but with whom we’d exchanged a Christmas card as a way of introducing ourselves.  She wanted to let me know that one of the trees lining the driveway had fallen down, and sent several photos.

(Note:  I had to enlarge these photos, since they were sent to me highly reduced in size and tiny, so they’re fairly pixelated.)

Fortunately this tree was already dead, having succumbed to the vines some time before, and was on our list to take down anyway.  It was a good-sized double-trunk tree, which had actually been three trunks, but one had fallen before we started coming to the Lodge, and I’d actually cleaned up the fallen trunk from the depths of the ivy during a previous visit.  These photos–the first one mine, the second the newer one–show the tree before and after. In the first photo, it’s the second tree on the right, the one covered in vines. The tree fell in about the ideal way:  on to our own property, not blocking the driveway at all, and in the opposite direction from the overhead wires running in (which might have been too far away anyway, but we were glad not to have to find out).

Anyway, I hated this tree being on the ground, and while it was a while before we could think about getting away to head down to the Lodge, we made some tentative plans for late March, when we hoped work pressures would have eased a bit, and when the weather would hopefully allow safe travel.

As the time of our hopeful trip approached, of course the forecast started to turn against us.  We’d planned to leave early Saturday morning (i.e. the wee hours), but the forecast was calling for (at this time) snow probably changing to rain for southern Maine, and snow to rain for Connecticut and NJ at least at the onset (I always check the forecast for a couple different places along the route down).  All to happen Friday night, and extending well into Saturday evening or even Sunday morning at home, which meant delaying the trip to depart Saturday night instead didn’t look like a good choice.

Determined to have our trip, we decided instead to leave a day early, on Thursday night/Friday morning.  Since this was a weekday, we elected to leave even earlier than usual to give us a good buffer and stay far ahead of any rush hour traffic in Metropolis, so we departed home at 2330 on Thursday night, after a few hours’ rest beforehand.  It’s always exciting to head off on one of these trips.  We made our usual stop at the Mass turnpike service center in Charlton, three hours from home, for personal needs and a quick diesel top-up, because with our usual mid-point stop on the Garden State closed for renovations (the James Gandolfini rest area in Montvale, NJ), I planned to steam through and get fuel at Middletown, DE, on the “good” side of the worst part of the trip, and wasn’t positive we had the range to make it without the interim top-up.

Anyway, blah blah, me and my traffic avoidance/fuel stop convenience requirements.  I’ll try not to bore you with too much of this.  The trip down was fine, though traffic on 684 from Danbury to White Plains was strangely heavy (heavy being a relative term, but it was 0400…where are these people going, other than us?  We have our reasons, I suppose others do too.).  We hit Middletown at 0715, and arrived at the Lodge about 1040 with most of the day still ahead of us.  All was in good order inside and out–just a few broken small limbs here and there, as usual, plus the tree we’d come down specifically to cut up and deal with.  The camellia bush next to the house was in full bloom.   Like all the plants here, this bush had desperately been searching for light in its confines of overgrowth, and was a bit taller and leggier than ideal, but we hoped to fill it out down low with time.

We also found another tree had fallen over, this one actually from our northern neighbor’s side of the line, up by the turnaround at the end of our driveway.  This tree had fallen partially into the bushes that had grown up along the fence line, and threatened to crush them if not handled properly.  So we’d have to cut up at least the part on our side and try to save the bushes (and the old wire fence beneath).

The Lodge had old and quite minimal electric, with ungrounded outlets scattered haphazardly around the baseboards–not enough, and the old type that wouldn’t take new plugs.  There were a lot of adapters and outlet strips and extension cords being used everywhere.  In addition, the old service panel was pretty full (through there was 200 amp service), and there were some other issues with the old meter box outside.  In December, on the recommendation of the fellow from Thornton,  we’d fortunately come across Matt Mabalot, an electrician, who we’d met with then and hired to do the electrical upgrades in the house.    In our absence since December, he had worked to install a new panel and outside service, and replace and add outlets and switches inside.  With block walls, we were limited where and how we could do this, at least affordably and practicably, and we’d OK’d surface-mount everywhere with exposed conduit as needed.  Even the interior stud walls were covered with heavy wire metal lathe and plaster, and it seemed prohibitively difficult to cut outlet boxes into this material,

Matt work so far was well done and the house cleaner than expected.  There was still some work to be done, but he’d made good progress.  I discovered the heat pump in the office–the “old” one that predated us–had no power for some reason…it had been OK before the panel was replaced in January, but now I couldn’t figure out how to power it up..  I talked to Matt about it a bit (text) and we are unsure why.  He will look into it, else I will call Thornton if needed.  In old panel labeling, my guess was it was the breaker marked “AC”, but I’d never had cause to think about it before.  Anyway, this would get sorted out eventually and wasn’t a major problem for us now.  I took photos of many of the new outlets, mostly metal surface mounts (somehow I’d expected plastic, but this was fine), and some of the wiring awaiting new fixtures and such.

We took a walk around the property (Korby!) with the doggies down the driveway etc., and unpacked the truck and did some general organizing and such inside.  Weather was OK, partly cloudy to mostly sunny at times, 50s.  I had ordered, and now set up, a little wifi thermomenter  so I could monitor temps in the house from afar (in addition to what the Kumo app told me about the heat pumps), and we cleaned up from the old electric heaters Matt had removed, and general work dust from the project.    Wanting to have fixtures on hand for Matt to install later, we found and ordered additional light fixtures from Lowe’s and Home Despot to be ready for pickup later in the week.

Around 1600 we headed up to Walmart for some couch blankets and the most rudimentary of supplies, as I’d not really thought about any household needs yet.  Then we stopped at El Maguey for our traditional first night dinner, and home for early bedtime.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

The expected rain–the same system that was hitting Maine (and everywhere in between) started overnight, and continued through the morning, sometimes heavy, sometimes almost stopped.  Maine was not looking good–the lines between rain, snow, and freezing rain were unclear even to the forecasters (and they’d never really talked about freezing rain in the earlier forecasts), and it actually looked like southern parts of the state were having a fairly significant ice storm, with power outages expanding quickly.  Fortunately, we never lost power at the house in Whitefield, as this storm seemed to be worst (ice-wise) for southern, coastal Maine.

With the rain, it was a lazy morning, time to get unpacked and organized, and start setting some things up.  I’d brought down an old computer to keep here–I like using a big screen and desktop computer–and now I set it up in about the only possible place for now, the rickety dining room table.  I hoped to set up the new Ring camera I’d bought to give us a view to the waterfront (not for security, just for our interest when not here), but the battery required charging first, and this took just short of forever.  I’d also bought a wifi extender, thinking it might be needed (or at least helpful) since the block walls might be a problem for good wifi signals in the office or outdoors, but I couldn’t get the setup to work, and after wasting too much frustration on it I put it aside and planned to return it.

Our rain mostly ended by lunchtime, with only some brief showers thereafter.  Warmish out, near 60.  We were mostly pretty happy to be missing this one in Maine, as it wouldn’t have been a “fun” storm, though I had a bit of worry about the house, as normally I don’t like being away during winter storms.  Fortunately, Heidi was talking with our neighbor (text), and they confirmed all was well on the homestead.  We spent some time looking at light fixtures and outdoor furniture online…this year, we vowed to do better than the cheap plastic chairs that had come with the patio outdoors.

During a break in the weather, I decided to put some marker flags in to mark the supply line coming in from the well.  Dee had drawn up a schematic (using the term loosely), but it was detailed and used some reference points that might not survive the season at the Lodge, so I wanted to mark it out while I could, since we were considering some changes, maybe.

Late in the day, the Ring battery was fully charged, and I set up the camera indoors.  This was pleasingly easy, but my enjoyment was tempered when Heidi let me know that Ring was part of Amazon, which I’d not known.  Amazon has lost its shine for us, and we avoid ordering there whenever possible (frankly, this makes life a whole lot harder and time consuming, I must admit, but we try to stick to our convictions!)  I looked forward to mounting the camera with the bracket and solar panel I’d also bought tomorrow.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

It cleared overnight and now was colder and windy, around 38.  Maine looked awful, with precipitation still coming down, and a lot of freezing rain problems.  Happy to have missed it, particularly since Whitefield had no real problems from this storm.  I wouldn’t have been happy if we’d lost power at home for any length of time, but we lucked out this time, no thanks to the weather forecasters.

We headed out just after 7 for some quick grocery requirements and a sausage biscuit requirement.  After eating when we returned home, I set up and installed the new camera on the south gable, facing the water.  I was impressed with the wide-angle cover and and quality of the image.  You even get me in the corner as I login and check it out on the fly.

 

When Matt replaced the service panel, he’d found that the wiring to the range in the kitchen was in bad shape.  When I found out about this, well before our trip, I asked him to wire in a temporary outlet in the small back room, so we could have a place to use the range later in the year once we demo’d the kitchen.  He agreed, and now I moved the range with a hand truck so we could do some rudimentary cooking.

Once it was late enough (my rule is after 0900 on Sundays before making any big outdoor noise), we headed out to cut and clean up the big tree that had fallen, and that was really our main motivation for this trip.  When this fell, it broke what was left of its stump pretty much right out of the ground–the whole thing was so rotten–so this was good news overall.  But the top part of the tree was totally vine-ridden, and what remained of its branches and foliage took a long time to clean up and cut free.  We started with our trailer about half full from the last trip, so it wasn’t long before it was totally full and, we decided to head off to the dump at 1145 to empty it.  Unfortunately, when we got there we discovered that they were not accepting brush, as the chipper was broken, so we were left without a way to easily (and cheaply) dispose of the trailer contents.  This was disappointing, but what can one do.  We were told we could take it to the landfill, but as it was Sunday the landfill was closed.

So we returned home with the full trailer, and continued work cleaning up the trunks of the tree.  This turned out to be an all-day job for the two of us, even just cutting the hefty trunks (the base was about 18″ in diameter) into pieces small enough to move with the tractor; I piled these in the so-called “clearing” on one side of the driveway for later disposal into a dumpster, since these were far too large to take to the brush pile another time.  We had plans for another two or three dumpsters later in the year anyway.  During the process, our neighbors, Sherri and Tim Prettyman, stopped in for an introduction (they are the ones who told us about the tree back in January).

Cleaning up was a lot of work, but it was great working weather–warm sun but not too warm, windy to disperse the sound but not too windy–and it looked great once we had finished the work.  There were several frustrating moments, particularly the 2-3 times the vines ripped the chain off my saw (the final time ruining the chain in the process), and I only had another old chain to finish the last cut or two, which made the work take even longer.  Fortunately this tree was rotten and not nearly as hard to cut as it could have been.  Finished up around 1545 and relaxed a bit before dinner.

 

Monday, Marcy 25, 2024

38 and clear at 0530.  I’d arranged to meet with a plumber today, finally calling the last name on the list I’d received from Tommy Arnold last year–Precision Plumbing.   I’d set up the appointment from home a few weeks earlier, and was grateful to not only finally have a plumber to come look at some of the things we wanted to do, but also a professional organization that returned calls and seemed interested in the work.   I’d had too many frustrations with one-man shows (who normally I would prefer using), but I just couldn’t get anywhere with anyone.  So it was like a gift when anyone deigned to appear interested and willing to work with us.  So we had a quiet morning awaiting the appointment, scheduled for somewhere between 0830-1030.

I texted Tony Melody to let him know we were in town in case he needed to come discuss the roofing project again.  He replied he might be able to come out late in the day.

Cody Lewis arrived at 0930, after first calling an hour before (the shop is an hour away), and we went through the house to talk about the potential jobs.  First, I wanted to install shutoffs on the supply lines beneath the kitchen sink, so we could remove that terrible thing at will.  I’d been apprehensive about doing this on my own, though I was capable of it.  But not knowing much about the plumbing and well situation here, I worried about not being able to succeed, or losing the ability to have water in that event, and decided it’d be better to hire a plumber.  Plus, I really hate plumbing, by far my most unfavorite trade to do myself.

We also wanted to install a new water heater, to replace the ancient (but fully functional) one in the kitchen.  We needed the space for other things.  Originally, we had hoped to turn the back room into a utility room, for the water heater and (see below) expansion tank, but this seemed less likely with time, and ultimately we decided it would be best to install it in the office, which shared a wall with the kitchen.

I’d hoped perhaps to relocate the expansion tank and related plumbing from its current position under the kitchen counter, next to where the stove had been, but had worried all along that this would be too big a job, and too difficult to do without tearing up the whole house and grounds.

Finally, we wanted to install two outdoor spigots, as there were none at the moment.

Cody looked everything over, then worked up a series of estimates on his tablet, giving us all the options before he departed.  He had provided two alternatives that could help us relocate the expansion tank, and while they weren’t as expensive as I had feared, they were both destructive, and required at least some of the plumbing to run through the attic, a less-than-ideal situation when we weren’t always at the house.  But the estimate for all the other work was fair, and we expected to move forward.

Once Cody left, we went out to cut down the tree from the neighbor’s that had fallen partially across the fence at the turnaround.  Part was impinging on some bushes there that we didn’t want to ruin.  Used the tractor to secure the lower end, then cut the top off and eventually pulled it free with the truck.  Then we had to cut the lower section below where the tractor was secured, and pull the top part free to avoid damage to the bush.  We eventually succeeded with no further damage to anyone or anything.  Cut up the remains–it was a loblolly pine and was otherwise healthy, other than being uprooted, so it was quite a challenge to cut, and I had to use my smaller saw since the big saw was temporarily out of commission with no chains.  We eventually got through it all and stacked it in the corner to be loaded into the trailer when it was empty again.

Tried going to lunch at the taco truck, but it wasn’t open for reasons unknown, which was disappointing, as I’d really been looking forward to some gorditas.  Instead, we went to Ace for a new chainsaw chain, gas, etc, then settled for a chicken sandwich at Hardees.  Quiet afternoon, and I eventually went out to fit saw chain (totally the wrong size even though the box said 18” and the other specifications were what I needed), and play Korby.  We also located property lines–found a continuation of the wire fence on the Prettyman side that ran right to the water’s edge, from about halfway down from the road.  I didn’t know it was there.  The line from there to the stob at the roadside is clearly the line of large trees, as expected.  The deed mentioned a marked pine that was supposed to be part of the line, but didn’t necessarily see it.  But the fence is clear evidence of the border.  Not sure why they cleared past their line last fall (and possibly more since).  Looking to get the property surveyed so we have standing.  Not that this is rising to a confrontation, but we want to maintain a buffer between our properties and don’t want anyone encroaching regardless.

Beautiful afternoon.  Tony Roof texted at 5 to say he couldn’t make it…big surprise.  He’s about the only game in town or I probably would have moved on, but at least he is always responsive, even if I can’t really get a commitment; I’ve been “the next job” since January.  Dinner was  Pea soup from home and garlic bread cooked in the “rear kitchen”.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Cloudy, around 40, seems like rain but forecasts and radar suggest no rain till at least Wednesday afternoon.  After talking yesterday, we decided we could install sheetrock in the office, other than the wall leading into the kitchen (still needed for running wires for water heater), so we made plans to go to Home Depot in Salisbury and pick up the lights we’d ordered earlier in the week, and 12 sheets of sheetrock and related supplies.  We would have gone to Lowe’s in Pocomoke for all this but HD had the lights we needed for a few areas, and since we had to pick them up anyway we made the longer trip to Salisbury.   This was an unexpected project, or I would have brought more supplies and tools from home.  But I figured we could duplicate a few things since the cost wasn’t too high.  With rain in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, this seemed an ideal project, not only to stay busy indoors, but also to get a step closer to another finished room.

I took photos of the unfinished walls to document all the wiring and such.

On the way, Heidi heard back from Frankie, at Sharp Energy, wanting to come out right away (Sharp was another place that had been giving us heartburn with poor callback).  We demurred till tomorrow as we were on Onley at the time.  

Departed 10 or so, home by 1445 after a stop at Salad Works for lunch.  12 sheets drywall, mud, hawk, 6” knife, tape, t-square, 1” and 1-½” screws, and two motion light fixtures for outdoors.  Salisbury is just busy sprawl along Rt 13, but everything one might want is there (like sprawl everywhere).

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Cloudy and 46, with rain in the forecast for the afternoon, overnight, and tomorrow.  We went up to Sage Diner for breakfast (we went there once for dinner 2 years ago, and have been joking about the sign they have up, which reads “2 egg, 2 pancake, 2 bacons”, which we find hilarious in its wrongness.  Anyway, we had a great breakfast, and after a quick stop at WM on the way home for some essentials, we got home in time to receive Frankie from Sharp Energy’s call and then visit, around 1030, to discuss propane service and installation.

Afterwards, we started sheetrock in the office.  I started by installing a plastic vapor barrier on the walls.  The surface-mount outlet boxes proved to be even more challenging than I’d expected, since the cover plates aren’t removable (not easily), as they alone held in the outlets beneath.  So I had to attempt to make extra-accurate measurements and cuts so the sheetrock would fit around, and of course the very first sheet I was somehow way off–1/2″ too wide on one side, and too close on the other.  I eventually got it to fit, and did better on the switch on the same panel, but I’d have to do better all around.  That said, I had a plan for making the sheetrock as nice as possible around all the boxes later.  As one who sheetrocks only occasionally, I’d never earn a living at it, but do well enough considering.  And I can patch and mud just fine.

By 1600, we’d gotten the north and west walls covered, and a bit of piecing in of the ceiling where the closet used to be.  I thought it looked great overall, and tomorrow we planned to finish up with the south wall (the east wall faces the kitchen and would have to stay open for now till the water heater wiring was done later).  In any event, it was good progress.

We were surprised (but pleased) halfway through the afternoon when Tony Roof came by for another discussion, unannounced.  We looked over the job again, I asked again for some idea of the cost, and we discussed the roofing choice.  Later, we had a chance to look online, and  chose Oyster gray from the Timberline shingles collection.  Little Italy for dinner…pizza and antipasto salad, good.  Diesel on the way to dinner was 3.89…nice.  Picked up paint chips for office and LR.  Thinking a yellow for the office, pale green for LR like home/cottage, but we’ll see.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Rain overnight, and all day.  Sometimes heavy. Quiet morning, then got to work around 0830 – 0900, and finished up last sheetrock in office–two sheets on south wall, piece around the heat pump,   I’d asked Aaron from Thornton about moving the heat pump here, since it had been installed over the old paneling, and he had made moving it sound like kind of a big job, so we elected to just leave it in place and work around it. I pieced in around it, leaving a bit of space as I expected (at the time) to install some trim to finish off the area.

I also decided also to do one section where the water heater will go, in the south south corner, so I took it out 29” to the first firring strip, but left the rest of this wall open till Matt can come back and do the electric supply for the water heater move.

Meanwhile, Heidi worked on removing base molding (quarter round) from all around the house/floor, to give room for new flooring, and also cleaned up along the way. 

Once I was done with sheetrock, I filled in and mudded around the outlets, patching where necessary and using paper tape to fold and create a clean line.  This is a good trick I learned when building our house in Whitefield, where there were many junctions between sheetrock and the log walls or overhead beams.   When the folded edge of the tape is carefully cut away later, it leaves a nice clean line, flush with whatever one is edging against–in this case, mostly the exposed outlet boxes, and also around the heat pump, where I decided to do this instead of relying on trim.  

Then I fiberglass-taped the seams and applied the first coat of mud all around.  Very satisfying, and looks great.   This little room had a lot of issues–unevenness in the walls, floor, and ceiling, and the imperfections in the existing sheetrocked ceiling.  So there were some pretty good-sized gaps at  the edges where the walls met the ceiling, but mud hides all ills eventually.  The ceiling framing was substandard where I installed the partial sheet to replace the damaged one where leakage had occurred sometime in the very distant past, but I made do with what was there and, since the ceiling had a texture, could hide the imperfections pretty well once all was said and done.  I did a bit of patching here and there in the house, where some of the electrical work had apparently knocked loose sections of plaster, so I filled these with joint compound, along with a slightly lower strip where the old vanity light in the bathroom had been installed.

Friday, March 29, 2024

The rain held tough all day Thursday, and into the evening past bedtime, but finally ended by morning, leaving a mostly cloudy day with sunny breaks.  Around 0900, I started work on the second coat of mud in the office.  The mud wasn’t totally dry in some of the thicker joints, particularly the ceiling joint, but I pushed it because I wanted at least two coats on before we had to leave.  I was pleased so far with how things were coming out, and while I hoped to do a third coat Saturday morning, I had a feeling too many areas would still be curing and I’d not be able to do the third coat.  Regardless, this was a sort of bonus project, and had greatly advanced our cause.

With that done, we decided to take the very full trailer down to the “real” dump down in Cape Charles.  We’d never been down to this landfill, but rather than go to the one in Painter (which is Accomack county), we thought, in case they required proof of residency, that we had better go to the Northampton dump.    We had to go to the transfer building since the back, where the brush goes, was muddy from all the rain, which I’d not thought of.  (Lots of water in the low spots on Occohannock Neck Rd too).  It was a tough unload with all the vines, large pieces, and especially a dirt-covered root, I think from the big yellow thing that the falling tree crushed, but we got it done.    Weigh-in, weigh-out ($48), so over half a ton of brush. ($75/ton tipping fee)


Upon our return, Heidi discovered the special order light fixtures were in (when ordered, they had been due on Wednesday, but the tracking had been suggesting they were late and weren’t due till after we had departed), so this was good news and we decided to go to Lowe’s and pick them up.  Bought out trash, recycling, and construction debris from yesterday to the local dump on the way.  Wendy’s for lunch on the way.  IN addition to the fixtures, we bought lightbulbs for various fixtures, and some packing boxes and moving paper for the stuff on the mantle, which we wanted to pack up before the interior work began in earnest, and most of which wasn’t ours anyway and therefore was just clutter..  Home just before 5, wow, that was a fast day!  Nice weather, 60 or so, sunny. 

Saturday, March 30, 2024

We went back up to Sage Diner for breakfast around 0800, stopping first at Royal Farms for fuel and a truck wash (we saved 20 cents per gallon with a pump-purchased car wash).  Wash was just OK and didn’t; clean the tires or take the mud off the running boards–sort of annoying for $14.00.  It was our first time through this wash.  Back home, I scraped the second coat of mud, but decided to wait on the third coat since, as expected, many areas were still too wet.  I moved the remaining sheets of sheetrock to the opposite wall so as to leave the kitchen wall open for plumbing and electrical work soon.

As usual, our last day was somewhat listless, with not much to do and time to fill.  We took our time with the few chores remaining, including packing the truck, packing up the mantle, and the usual, and spent some time just hanging outdoors to enjoy the nice 60+ weather.  I cleaned up a few brush piles from around the property, including the second tree we cut up and some windfalls from our previous absence, and put the brush in the trailer for next time.  While just sitting on the tailgate enjoying the sun and the view, both dogs just jumped up into the bed, and interesting and first-time occurrence.  We did the usual languid property walkabout to soak it in and document things till next time, and I put away the tractor and trailer and so forth.

  Early dinner and bed before getting up at 2300 for 2324 departure.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Departure 2324, home in Maine 1033 after 2091.3 miles (27.5 MPG average) total during the week since our departure.  It was Easter Sunday, so probably the least possible traffic for all portions of our trip as a result.  That said, I had several drowsy moments and chewed three pieces of gum between about 0600 and when we got home (gum chewing is my drowse-buster when driving).

Next trip coming up at the end of May 2024!