Late-September Update   Leave a comment

26 September 2021

It’s been a busy – and WET(!) – few months at the Ballot-Box in mid-coast Maine! We’ve owned this house for twelve years now, and this summer has been wetter – BY FAR – than any of the others. Our lawn is lush, the gardens are happy, even the goldenrod is flourishing in the untended area on the east side of the driveway!

The much-anticipated pre-assembled shed was delivered on the 29th of June, and placed on the pre-prepped “landing” spot next to the driveway turn-around area. Pretty impressive! They were able to maneuver the assembled shed like a feather, placing it within a fraction of an inch tolerance exactly where we wanted it (see a YouTube video of the delivery process here). Once our shed was in-place a licensed-electrician friend (the husband of Lynn’s Maid-of-Honor, oh those many years ago!) came and helped me wire the shed properly for electricity (I had an underground cable installed from the back of the garage to the location of the future shed when the landscaping was being done last spring). Then I had five 4×8 sheets of CDX plywood and fifteen kiln-dried 16-foot 2x4s delivered to make large sturdy shelves across the inside back of the shed to effectively increase the shed floor-space and (hopefully) accommodate all the boxes and “stuff” we had to store (in rented storage space about a mile from the house, AND in MY side of the garage). The empty shelves make the shed look more like a bunk-house, but I’ll have my car under-cover for the winter for the first time in many, many winters! (we got Lynn’s car undercover last year by squeezing all the “stuff” on her side of the garage into my side!)

 

Garden creation/expansion continued this spring and summer. Our butterfly garden along the front of the house has filled in nicely since it’s creation last summer. The cone flowers (back-center) have had butterflies fluttering around all summer, and the other flowering perennials are pollinator-friendly and apparently appreciated!

 

We also created a second perennial garden in the front yard, out a bit from the house, easier to view and enjoy from inside the house. It’s a kidney-shaped garden in the front yard with a decorative (and potentially usable) birdhouse on a post, hopefully to re-attract the swallows that occupied the birdhouse that sat on our pre-construction garden picket fence (https://flic.kr/p/nWNiz1). Time will tell. Lynn designed the garden and picked out the plants, Spring River Horticulture built the garden and planted the plants, and I dug and poured the footing (~5 ft. down, below the frost line) and mounted the post for the birdhouse. We’re not enamored with the birdhouse being the same width as the post… perhaps a wider apartment house should replace it. We’ll see….

I gathered some of the webcam noon-snaps and collected them into a stop-action video so the new-garden progress could be viewed much easier… there were gaps of days with no visible progress so I streamlined it to skip over periods of inactivity.

 

Lynn’s been working on a couple of quilts this spring and summer. One was a baby-quilt in a stylized “fox” pattern for the newest member of the MUNROE side of the family (a grand-nephew born in Montana in June). She also spent a lot of the COVID quarantine keeping busy building other quilts. One was an over-sized (120″ x 102″) king star-pattern quilt (pictured below on the queen-sized bed in the guest suite) that has no as-yet intended destination, and also a stack of small lap-quilts (see further below). Note that each “star” on the star-quilt is made up of ten separate fabric squares (nine in the center of the star, and one off to the side) and eight triangle star points, on a bigger white square. There are 42 “stars” on the quilt (6×7), so that’s 756 separate little pieces of fabric cut up and sewn back together, never mind the white background squares and the border pieces.

 

We’ve had some vaccinated day and overnight visitors this summer… a former MITRE colleague and his wife stopped by for a few hours during their June vacation in Maine, and some long-time friends and their new rescue-dog came for an overnight visit. My sister and brother-in-law came for a few days as a break from the prepping of their house for sale. Another MITRE colleague and his wife stayed with us for a few days on their multi-destination holiday in July, and a Massachusetts quilting-friend of Lynn’s came up for an overnight visit towards the end of July. Another sister of mine from Colorado came and stayed for a week in September (she stocked up on lobster to make up for her lobster-drought in the West), and a long-time friend who’s an Appalachian Trail volunteer-maintainer (he has a few miles of the trail assigned to him) stops by for an overnight on his way home from occasional grooming trips. A few more visitors may be dropping by in October! Newcomer visitors get driven around the Pemaquid Peninsula if desired, often with a stop somewhere for a lobster roll; tougher to find – but not impossible – in the winter!

(click to enlarge)

Posted 26 September 2021 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

Not Much Better With The Timelines, Are We…   1 comment

13 June 2021

I was flagellating myself for a five-month time lag last entry, then I go another four months! Sheesh!

Lets see, what’s happened the past four months… The pandemic seems to be over… anything else?

Oh yeah… I published a book – A TAYLOR DOUBLE ANCESTRY! The what and why is on my TAYLOR GENEALOGY Blog, but the timeline for that started with the scanning of the first of 156 hundred-year-old onionskin pages of text (some typed, some hand-written) on 20 October 2020, and ended with the acceptance (by me) of the “final” finished version (V25), which happened on the 11th of June 2021. The biggest surprise was how hard it was to ferret out all the nitnoid typos and inconsistencies scattered over the pages of the book – some caused by inaccurate OCR-ing of the scanned pages, some caused by inconsistent choices of phraseology by the typist (ME!). There are 216 pages, 61 chapters, 55 tables and 75 footnotes in the book, and all of them have to be accurate in placement, sequence, and references. All repeating generational references have to be consistent, and locational references have to be temporally accurate (e.g., a birth in Salem MA in 1859 would refer to “…Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, USA,” but a birth in the exact same place in 1659 would refer to “…Salem, Massachusetts, British Colony in America”)… the good old US of A didn’t EXIST until 1775 (July 4th to be specific!). V1-V7 was on computer only, V8 was in a loose-leaf notebook on 8½x11 paper [for red-pen corrections], V9-V13 was back on computer, V14 was back in a loose-leaf notebook on 8½x11 paper [for more red-pen corrections], V15 [and all following printed versions] was printed in A5 paperback size [the intended final format] but without the cover artwork. Two draft copies of V15 – one for me to proof-read with a red pen, one for my OTHER proof-reader [fresh eyes] to take a red pen to. V16 &17 was back on the computer, V18 was printed in A5 format and had the final cover artwork but without the ISBN number. V19 & 20 was back on the computer. V21 (the assumed final version) was printed in A5 format with final cover artwork AND ISBN number. I THOUGHT I was done with V21, until I found some PDF-app-inserted gobbledy-gook in the page headers of 24 consecutive pages, so we had V22 (same gobbledy-gook in the page headers), V23 (discovered page heading errors on 2 OTHER pages), and V24 (an overlooked typo on a chapter heading). V25 looked clean on 3 separate readings, so I pushed the DONE button and released it to the world. My “camera ready” advertisement copy starts off like so: “A man honors his parents (coincidentally, both born with the same surname) by researching their ancestors… sometimes back nine or more generations… capturing 49 unique surnames… with certified heraldic evidence of descent from 13 Earls, 4 Counts, 2 Dukes, 1 Prince, 22 Kings, and 3 Emperors… and collects it all in a manuscript finished in 1923… then dies before publishing. The manuscript is organized into surname chapters, each with descriptive narrative, descent charts, and reference/source notes. The man’s son retains the manuscript after his father’s death, and eventually passes it on to his daughter, who eventually passes it on to her daughter and son-in-law, probably because this son-in-law is ‘…into genealogy.’ Ninety-eight years after completion and 73 years after the author’s death, it’s finally published.” Eastman’s-Online-Genealogy-Newsletter™ reviewed the book here: [https://tinyurl.com/e964k5bj].

On other fronts, the no-extra-charge crabgrass seeds that got mixed in the the huge quantity of loam that was paid for, delivered, and dispersed last summer decimated the hydro-seeded grass we had applied and so sweatingly tended and watered during blisteringly hot drought-like conditions last summer (many 18-hour-days of dragging hoses and running sprinklers to try and save the hydro-seed investment). I’ve battled crabgrass before, so I knew how to prevail… Scotts® STEP® 1 – Crabgrass Preventer Plus Lawn Food. Three bags after the first mowing this spring did the trick, and I have three more bags for a mid-summer treatment if needed. If not, it’ll be next spring’s treatment.

Our first gardens are showing progress (pictures from late last season here). We’ll be starting a new “focus” garden out in the front yard this summer, with maybe a flowering tree and an accessory or two for the focus part. We’ll keep you posted on what we decide.

We’re having an 12’x16′ pre-built shed delivered at the end of the month. I priced out the wood I’d need for a build-it-myself shed of the same size, and the pre-built one was cheaper than just the wood I estimated, never mind the time and effort of building it myself! This will let me finish clearing out MY side of the garage to get my car undercover for the winter (Lynn’s side got cleared out last fall), AND let me empty out the $170/month storage space I rent down the street to keep the not-often-needed-but-not-trash stuff we still have. Saving $170 a month means the shed will pay for itself in less than 3 years! AND… the shed will be sided with the same siding we have on the house (not a perfect color match, but close) and roofed with same-color-as-the-house shingles.

The deck is in full “summer” mode, with the sound-system in full swing, hanging plants hooked up to the automatic 2-minutes-twice-a-day watering system I built into the deck last summer, and the terraced rock garden (click for photo) by the deck waiting for a few missing parts to get a second zone of automatic watering up and running for it. I traded our surplus Rinnai propane furnace for equipment, piping and labor to extend the propane line to the exterior of the deck so the Weber Genesis® II E-410 Gas Grille doesn’t have to have a 20-lb/4-gallon tank be replaced/refilled weekly (we grill a lot). It’s hooked up to dual 120-gallon tanks out by the garage that get auto-filled on a regular basis. The 4-gallon tanks seen in the photo are for the lobster pot boiler/stand [photo from our Memorial Day Weekend Annual Family Lobster Feed, 30 May this year].

We had some serious woods-thinning done a few weeks ago. We can almost see down to the Deer Meadow Brook that is our property line on the deck side. Early spring, when the Deer Meadow Brook is a torrent with snow-melt, we can honestly say we have “waterfront” property – and it SOUNDS like it too!! White-water rafting, anyone??

Our post-COVID life is starting to return. We’ve been out to dinner a couple of times with local friends, and had a pre-announced drop-in visitor (a former work colleague and his spouse) last week. We visited for a while, gave them a tour of the “new” old house, then piled into the “limo” and tootled down the peninsula in search of seafood for lunch! Haven’t done that in a LONG time! It was great! Old friends are scheduled for an overnight visit – with their new rescue dog – this coming week, and then an overnight guest the next week, and another couple booked for mid-July! It’s starting to feel normal again!

Posted 13 June 2021 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

Blog Neglect (and other sins)…   2 comments

4 February 2021

Jeez… 5 months of nothing! I could make excuses that during this pandemic we haven’t been doing much of anything, but that’s just what it is… an excuse. Lets do a little catch-up…

In September we had a professional land surveyor (who happens to be married to my second cousin) come and demarcate the property line (to within inches) between our lot and the lot behind us that has a right-of-way over our property for access. We’ve made a few offers to the owner to purchase the lot and reunite the two lots back into the original one (and eliminate the implied threat of activating that right-of-way), but no luck so far. We found that the dividing line is a little closer than we thought. We knew where the survey rods were coming up the hill from the brook, but didn’t know where the line was as it cut across the open (but closing fast with fast-growing white pines) field in front of our house. Turns out we own less of that field than we thought. No wholesale cutting of white pines yet! It gave me a visual of where the to-be-built storage shed needs to be placed to maintain the proper set-back. Disappointing, but better to know than to encroach.

October was quiet. On the techno-front, I initiated weekly backups of the hard drives I have up and running on my workstation in October. My new main machine (purchased about a year ago) is configured with a Terabyte solid-state drive (SSD) for OS and apps [boots in a relative flash, apps fire up almost instantly] as drive C:, then a 2-terabyte SATA (platter) drive for general files, a 2-terabyte SATA drive for digital images, another 2-terabyte SATA drive for general files, an 8-terabyte SATA drive for video storage, and a 2nd 8-terabyte SATA drive for extra online data. It also has two DVD reader/writer drives, one for regular CD/DVD disks, and the other for archival M-Disc platters. So six disks (C: [1TB SSD], E: [2TB SATA], H: [2TB SATA], L: [2TB SATA], M: [8TB SATA], V: [8TB SATA]) need backing up, so I bought six SATA drives of matching size and back up an online disk to an offline disk weekly using a SATA disk dock. Takes six weeks to complete the backup cycle, but everything is backed up (within reason). Any one disk goes six weeks before getting backed up again, but the backup process gets piped over a USB3 port so it’s not as blindingly fast as it might be… an 8TB drive takes ~12 hours to get fully copied. A good task for overnight!

November saw the presidential election (’nuff said) and the start of collecting our annual Christmas gifts to send to the widely scattered great- (and great-great-) nieces and nephews in the family. We started out many years ago giving yearly collectable coin sets to the nieces and nephews, children of our sisters (neither Lynn nor I have brothers, just brothers-in-law). We stop after their 18th Christmas, and start up again when THEY start having children. Kids 12 and under currently get uncirculated coin sets, and kids 13-18 get proof sets. I was always fascinated with coins and collecting them, so we’ve lit that spark in a few of the kids… but not all.

December ushered in the Holiday season in a pandemic way. The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens that we are members of (one of the premier botanical gardens in the entire country) has put on a “Gardens Aglow” display of “Holiday” lights for the past few years, and it’s been spectacular (see here for photos of their 2016 show – the first – and our first of many visits). We missed last year because of the bitter cold, and we expected they would cancel it because of the pandemic…. but no!… It was a “drive-thru” exhibition this year! Stay in your car, follow the signs, keep moving… SLOWLY! Very pleasant. Not quite as pleasant for the driver (keep one eye on the lights, and the other two eyes on the car in front and the car behind!), but still enjoyable! We had a small live tree – a far cry from the giant sequoias we used to set up to fill the cathedral-ceilinged living room in the Woburn house! New Year’s Eve was quiet. We watched our usual DVD of “Dinner For One,” a New Year’s Eve tradition we picked up while living in Germany (1991-5), then tried to watch some of the “Ball-Dropping” shows but it was all Greek to us… we’re too old I guess.

January was MOTS (More Of The Same), not much happening. I hit 68 in January, roasted a boneless prime rib for the party of two, drank some whiskey, and watched TV… like every night. Our local healthcare providers are taking pre-registration for vaccine shots. First wave was healthcare providers, second wave (75 and older) is happening now, 3rd wave (65 and older – that’s US!) is coming soon.

And that catches us up. 2020 was mostly boring, and 2021 is a continuation.

Posted 4 February 2021 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

Feels Like Treading Water   2 comments

30 August 2020

Lynn and I are wrapping up August, the sixth month of the COVID pandemic. We’re still married [ 🙂 ], still retired, still on speaking terms! We’re working down a final punch list for the house construction, the “terraforming” stage of the landscaping (“reshaping the earth”) is done, and the “gussy up” stage of the landscaping (shrubbery, flowerbeds, ornamental trees, etc.) is just beginning. Neither of us is getting any younger, and the thought of planting possibly dozens of shrubs and laying out possibly a half-dozen flowerbeds makes my back ache just thinking about it, so we’re hiring young muscle to assist us. If not, it could take years for us to get to it all, if ever! We’re too impatient for that!

Lynn’s been having a rough six months. On top of the stress of the effects of the pandemic on everyday life and the unexpected and devastating effects of the family discord with our children, she’s been coping with a half-completed surgical procedure that got interrupted by the pandemic and it’s effects on elective surgical procedures, and got blindsided by a somewhat rare and extremely annoying affliction.

The surgical procedure was/is cataract surgery. In February of this year she had the first of two surgeries on cataracts that she has been dealing with for a few years now. We wonder if the onset was accelerated by the auto accident in 2014. Anyway, the worst eye was repaired in mid-February, and the results were amazing… clearer sight, more vibrant colors, just magic. The second eye was scheduled for repair in mid-March. Mid-March…

By mid-March all “elective” surgeries had been cancelled, with no hint of when they could be rescheduled, so Lynn has been walking around for the past six months with one eye in superb shape, and the other with a bit of a hazy veil over it. Luckily, she had the worst eye done first, where the cataract was so serious that she was approaching the point where out-patient surgery would not be possible. But still, it’s been an unpleasant six months, sight-wise, for her.

Finally, elective surgeries have been recently re-allowed, so she’s on the calendar to have it done soon. She does have to work a dovetail in to fit the surgery in during a quiet time in her 30-year battle with a neuro-esophageal condition that brings on 6-8 weeks of violent bouts of coughing between 3-4 weeks of relative quiet – not good for surgical stitches, especially microscopic ones inside an eye.

And if that wasn’t enough, she got hit with a bout of Bell’s Palsy last month. Bell’s Palsy (aka idiopathic facial paralysis) is a sudden weakness in the muscles on one half of the face, possibly a reaction to a viral infection. It is characterized by muscle weakness that causes one half of the face to droop. And just to kick the anxiety meter up a few notches, the symptoms can mimic those of a stroke. Her symptoms (inability to: blink her left eye, smile symmetrically, move the lips normally on the left side of her mouth [she bit her lip a lot when eating]) manifested themselves on a Sunday (primary Doctor’s office closed, of course), so we headed off to the local Emergency Room (at Miles Memorial Hospital, 4 miles away in the next town over) to get a professional diagnosis. Lots of tests to rule out stroke later, it was confirmed as Bell’s. She was prescribed a week’s course of Prednisone™ (a corticosteroid, used to treat nerve inflammation). Worst-case infections could last up to six months, but hers was mostly gone in about three weeks. Her ability to fully close her eye when blinking is still a bit deficient, so her eye waters more than before.

Our last construction phase – the Guest Suite – is finally done, except for installing a heat-pump “head” in the room for heat & A/C. We’re working on it. There was heat in that space (via a Rinnai propane furnace) but no A/C or dehumidifying, so we had the Rinnai removed – it was in front of one of the new windows – and diverted the propane line out to the deck to connect up the grille. No more 20-lb tanks for the grill!! Once the heat pump head is installed we’ll furnish it and it’ll be ready for guests (if Maine ever lets certain out-of-staters back in again!)

Lynn got her birthday present – 3 months late – recently. Her 2016 Mazda CX-5 got washed, waxed, and fully detailed! Four years of boot- and shoe-dirt removed from the inside – four years of paint oxidation removed from the outside… it looks brand new again! Even the grocery-carriage scratches disappeared!

Posted 30 August 2020 by Gene Vogt in General, Maine, The Ballot Box

Three Months Have Passed… Did You Notice??   Leave a comment

[23 June 2020] So… the Coronavirus pandemic and the resulting social distancing and sheltering-in-place has consumed a third of a year so far with no real end in sight. The new norm is much more boring for sure… for months we didn’t go out or see anyone. Gene did the grocery shopping, once a week, with a mask. Getting used to managed traffic patterns inside the store was bumpy (one-way aisles, single queue for check-out aisles, etc.); temporary shut-down of the deli, fish-market, and butcher shop counters was understandable but disappointing; unexpected (and mostly unexplained) shortages of certain staple items (necessities like TP and tissues) made grocery shopping into a bit of a lottery of sorts. If nothing else, humans can adapt… but not without a grumble or three.

We finally ventured out for take-out when things started opening up just a bit… our big treat was to pick up sandwiches at a semi-gourmet sandwich shop in the neighboring town and take them down to the municipal parking lot by the river and eat them in the car while looking out over the river’s tidal motion.

Over-arching the pandemic excitement – and everything else for quite a while now – has been our multi-faceted epic adventure of house reconstruction, retirement, and moving. Our epic really began when we bought a tiny little 1860s carriage-house in mid-coast Maine in 2009 as an experiment to see if we wanted to retire and live the rest of our lives in this location. We spent vacations and long weekends and holidays up here and quickly fell in love with the location and the environment and the house.

Things really began to get interesting back in 2016 when we started considering our options for life-after-work… how did we want to sculpt our entry into the retirement phase of our lives. The four words (“Let’s Retire to Maine”) we uttered oh so many years ago had unimagined logistical impact.

Lynn had slipped out of the workforce a few years ago, her last paying job being a clerk and teacher at a quilt shop in Cambridge MA. That gave her the opportunity to spend long stretches of time at the Ballot Box, sometimes a month or more at a time. When she was “in-residence” at the Ballot Box I would take the “DownEaster” Amtrak train up to the end-of-the-line Brunswick ME station from the Woburn MA station on Thursdays after work, leaving my car in Woburn. Lynn’s sister and her partner lived in Brunswick, so Lynn would visit while waiting for the train, pick me up and we’d drive the 45 more minutes further north to the Ballot Box. It actually was cheaper to take the train than to drive alone, factoring in gas and tolls and factoring out the cost of parking at the Woburn station.

We made the decision that I would retire when I qualified for full social security, which for a baby-boomer born in 1953 was 66 years, zero months. Born in January, retired in January… on my birth date. We made this decision 3-4 years prior to that date, which gave us general targets for precursor actions, like when to start renovations on the soon-to-be retirement home up in Maine. We figured a year for construction… it took two. That saga had numerous twists and turns, and is well-documented elsewhere.

So we took up full-time residence in Maine in August 2019, sold the Woburn house in November 2019, and then March 2020 hit.

Posted 23 June 2020 by Gene Vogt in Home Ownership, Newcastle, Retirement