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Landmark #1…   Leave a comment

7 September 2019

We moved. Our STUFF hasn’t moved (or rather, hasn’t finished moving), but we moved. Post Office change of address notice has been filed, MA auto plates cancelled, ME auto plates attached, we moved.  We are residents of Maine, as of 30 August.  But we’re not really Mainers.  We’ll always be “…from away*.”

The move itself turned out to be a bit of a nightmare.  We wanted to get the Massachusetts house on the market and sold, but the Maine house wasn’t done yet, so it couldn’t be a “pick up stakes in Woburn and set them down in Newcastle” move.  We decided to use PODs™ instead of a traditional “pick-it-up, drive-it, drop-it-off” mover ’cause we couldn’t drop it off yet.

We did have a place to stay, though. We had the builders finish the quilt studio over the garage first because it has a “half-bath” (better to call it a “no-bath”… toilet, sink, no-bath), and we use that space as a studio apartment of sorts, with a bed and some clothes storage space. That way we didn’t have to pay in-season inn rates when we were up to check on progress.  We’re still camping there while the bathroom flooring (needed for the rest of the toilets to be put in place) and the heating system (Mitsubishi heat pumps; two compressors, five heads) gets installed.  Other than that, some electrical fixture installations, the 2nd bannister on the main house stairwell, and a deep cleaning, the house is basically done.

Our schedule for the move depended on a lot of independant moving parts meshing together (we call that “choreography”), and it didn’t choreograph quite as well as we hoped and planned.  Our PODs™ were to be delivered on Wednesday the 21st of August, with the packers/movers scheduled to do their magic on the 22nd, the filled PODs™ scheduled to be picked up on the Friday the 23rd and brought to Portland ME to be put in storage for a month or two, the whole-house cleaners scheduled to do their thing Saturday the 24th, and the carpet cleaners scheduled to swing through on Tuesday the 27th.

There was also a family party in Portland on Sunday the 25th that Lynn would attend while I stayed south to babysit the carpet cleaners.

But, as they so-often say, the “best-laid plans” often go awry… The PODs™ were delivered Wednesday as scheduled. That was the last thing to be on-schedule. The packers/movers were scheduled to arrive at noon or Thursday.  We got a call around 11:30am saying they’d be there at 4pm. When they hadn’t arrived by 5:30pm, I decided to call the PODs™ folks to reschedule the next-day PODs™ pickup, just in case. Next available pickup was Monday, but they were parked in the driveway so their presence wouldn’t disrupt anyone else. That reschedule was prescient.

The three mover/packers arrived at 7pm, exhausted, having started their day at 5am (supposedly). By 10:30pm they quit, saying they couldn’t do any more and our neighbors were probably annoyed at the noise. They had packed only one POD™ (it was well-packed, to their credit). We expected them to come back the next day (Friday), but they couldn’t come back until Sunday afternoon, so that meant the cleaners had to be rescheduled too; they could come Monday afternoon.

Friday and Saturday was spent in limbo, half-packed, with the house in a bit of a shambles. Lynn headed north Saturday to spend the night at her sister’s and they both went to the Sunday family party together, after which Lynn drove the rest of the way to the Maine house and set up camp.

Two of the three mover/packers returned Sunday (in a minivan instead of a moving van) around 1pm, filled the 2nd POD™, ran out of boxes and packing paper, and left – leaving the job unfinished. The rest was left to me. I scooted out to the local U-Haul store and bought boxes and paper, came back and picked up where they left off, packing stuff. Luckily most of the furniture that was being moved (some was left for “staging” when the house got on the market) was in the PODs™ and stored in Portland, waiting for our word to have it delivered to the new Ballot Box once it’s ready for full occupancy.

So we have our Maine license plates, will soon get our Maine licenses, have filed “change of address” notices with most of the people and companies that need to know.  We live in Maine now!


* “From Away” – Anyone not born in Maine.  Sometimes carries with it the connotation that you’re not really welcome and don’t know scratch.

Posted 7 September 2019 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

And So It Continues to Continue…   2 comments

27 July 2019

Two months past the target date, and still not done. We want to be done.

“Sherman, set the ‘Way-Back’ machine to September 2016…”

Once we had committed to a target retirement date (my 66th birthday, in early 2019), we began pulling the string on that deceptively enormous ball of yarn that is “relocating.” First we had to decide WHERE to relocate. We knew we wanted to live in the area where the Ballot Box was, but could we live full-time in the Ballot Box as it was? An easy question, because the answer was obvious… no. We each had hobbies and other parts of our lives that had physical accoutrements that we kept in the southern house (an 11-room 2,000 sq. ft. 5-bedroom split-level ranch with a huge living room, full kitchen, dining room, downstairs family room, 2nd kitchen, no basement, and an oversized detached 2-car garage with loft) that had no place to be stored… and used… at the Ballot Box (a 900 sq. ft. 2-bedroom carriage house with an open 1st floor layout with living room, galley-style kitchen, and dining nook… effectively a 3-room house). We’d need more space.

Se we consulted architects for ideas but the best ideas came from an architectural designer who worked for a building supply company, and her services were gratis if the raw materials were obtained from them. We had our general contractor lined up and we pulled the trigger using the architectural designer’s plans (see below).


The plan was to start construction in mid-July, but the first thing that had to be done – excavating, needed to set the forms for the foundations for the new construction – was delayed because of an AWOL excavator. The GC finally found another excavator and work began 18 September 2018, two months behind schedule from the get-go.  A blow-by-blow report on progress – with photos – can be found on the web site’s CHANGES page.

So we’ve been waiting… past the first completion target (1 May), past other hoped-for targets, and still we wait. Six months since I retired, 2+ months since we were supposed to be in the new house, we’ve been trying to get the southern house ready to be put on the market with showings and such, but lots of stuff has been packed up with no place to put the boxes so its in no condition to “show” from a real estate point of view.  In truth it looks like a few FedEx trucks dumped their contents all over the house!

We want to be done.



Posted 27 July 2019 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

And So It Continues…   Leave a comment

28 February 2019

Five months (and about $120k) into the big adventure… we’ve got almost all the new construction built out; the 2-story garage is framed, roofed, and mostly buttoned up, the whole-front bump-out is framed, roofed and insulated, the entirely-new sun-room is framed, roofed and insulated, the front dormers have been rebuilt and roofed with the rest of the original roof front, and the connecting mudroom between the original house and the new garage has been framed and roofed.  New siding has been installed on most of the new construction and some of the old (all exterior walls will eventually get new siding).  The windows have been ordered, delivered, and installed.  We’re waiting on the two new exterior doors (being painted), the front bay window (in-hand but the window cut-out is the only way into the bump-out area until they break through the existing wall), and the rebuild of the back dormer in the master bedroom.  A hell of a lot has been accomplished in 5 months, but there’s a hell of a lot more work to do.

At first we were able to stay in the house while work was being done (once the water got turned back on and the septic tank was re-attached after being moved), but the house became uninhabitable fairly quickly with frequent power outages and water shut-offs.  We were able to stay at some friends’ house while they were away for 2+ months, and after that we’ve been alternating between staying with Lynn’s sister who lives in Brunswick (about 28 miles south of the Ballot Box) or staying at the Cod Cove Inn in Edgecomb (about 5 miles south of the Ballot Box).

Lynn’s been wrestling with kitchen issues; layout, cabinets, appliances, lighting, and more.  Lots of moving parts here.  She’s also been grappling with what kind of floor we want; solid wood, laminate, etc.  Lots of decisions.

The outside rendering from the architectural designer is online here (yellow shows the original structure we started with), and progressive sets of photos of the progress can be seen on the website’s “Changes Are Afoot” page, that get’s updated every week or two when we drive up to check on progress or consult with the General Contractor or need to research fixtures or cabinets or need to talk with the electrician.

The GC is still saying the house will be able to host the tenth annual Lobster Feed that we throw for Lynn’s side of the family on Memorial Day weekend.  We’ll take him at his word.

Bird-Friendly Bird-Lovers, Bordering on Bird-Voyeurs…   4 comments

24 February 2018

We have a number of bird nesting facilities at the Ballot Box, and I suspect we’ll have even more once we move up here permanently.  Our first accommodation was a swallow house that we mount on a fence-post each spring.  It’s been used every year so far, is visible from our dining area table and is great entertainment as spring progresses.  We soon added a wren house on a post at the edge of the woods on the other side of the leach field that is also heavily used, and a couple of generic houses on trees just into the woods on the deck side of the house, by the brook.

Our most recent addition is a phoebe 2018-02-24 15.21.39 50pct20xshelf that we added before last spring, mounted up under the deck and between the joists at the Ballot Box.  It got used a lot – at least two sets of fledges, maybe more! We tried to peek down through the deck boards at the nest with mediocre success, but it was busy most of the spring and into the early summer.

In an initially unrelated event, I bought a USB video borescope (sometimes incorrectly called an endoscope) over the winter to experiment with, and after playing with it I immediately got the idea to set it up to monitor the phoebe nesting shelf for the coming season, hopefully giving us undisruptive visual access to the nesting activities!  Mostly we wanted to be able to observe the fledges without disturbing them, and the borescope (a tiny USB-based video camera about the size of the eraser on a wooden pencil, mounted on a long flexible cable) seemed like the ideal tool to accomplish that at an extremely reasonable price (~$15 on Woot!).

2018-02-24 15.23.00 50pct20xAnnotatedFirst I configured a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (a 3.4″ x 2.2″ $35 Linux computer about the size of a deck of cards that can run without keyboard or screen) to capture an image from the borescope once every five minutes and upload it over the internet to the BallotBox web site.  Then I set the “Pi” up on a small shelf between the joists in the Ballot Box basement, drilled a small 5/16ths inch hole in the sill by the phoebe shelf and snaked the borescope through the sill hole and out to the phoebe shelf. Finally I built a “NestCam” web page that displayed the current uploaded image, and refreshed itself every two minutes to display the newest image recently uploaded.  The borescope didn’t break the bank (remember, ~$15) so the resolution from dusk until dawn is anywhere from mediocre to non-existent, even though it does have LEDs encircling the camera lens (not InfraRed/NightVision, though). Don’t expect to see much at night!  Perhaps I’ll adjust the snapshot-saving to only occur during daylight… we’ll see.

And that’s how we came to host the NestCam!  Enjoy!!


Reference the SWALLOW HOUSE mentioned in the first paragraph above, we lost last year’s fledges to a predatory animal (likely a raccoon) who knocked the house off the post, ripped the bottom off the house, and decimated the nest inside, so during my last weekend up north I rebuilt and fortified the house (which is actually a bluebird house but the swallows always beat the bluebirds to it each spring).  Surprise surprise – just a week later (Lynn was up for the weekend with her sister but I was not) bluebirds have been spotted checking out the house!! We’ve still got snowbanks on the ground in places, but Spring is on it’s way!!!

No sign of the phoebes yet, but I keep checking the NestCam and live in hope!


Up at the Ballot Box this weekend, had at least three swallow pairs fighting over the two birdhouses (the one on the fence, and the one on the post on the far side of the leach field), saw hummingbirds so the nectar feeders got prepped and hung, and the phoebes are fluttering around the deck but haven’t found the Nestcam nest… yet!  Also heard a few pileated woodpeckers beating the crap out of trees in the woods.  Spring has arrived!


We had a prospective tenant checking out the digs recently… evidently didn’t like the color scheme since she didn’t move in.  Real Estate can be a cut-throat business!!



Posted 24 February 2018 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

Best-Laid Schemes…   Leave a comment

7 January 2018

Robert Burns was right… Plan all you want, you’re not in control. OUR well-laid plan was to celebrate Christmas with the family (or however many were around) and head north to the Ballot Box on the day after (Tuesday).  BUT… Lynn contracted a fast-acting norovirus stomach ailment – probably on Christmas Eve – and by Christmas night it was raging in full force.  Luckily I did not contract it so I was able to play the Florence Nightingale role for her while we waited it out.  We hung back until Friday and then headed north once Lynn felt like she could do without a bathroom for an hour or two.

IMG_7924a-33pct25xWe arrived at the house around 3pm – before dark – so the drive up was without incident, but it was C-O-L-D up in mid-coast Maine.  I snapped a photo of the thermometer on the north side of the house at 7:30am on Saturday the 30th… -21°F (-30°C)! A bit chilly!  We’re “weekenders” at the house so we don’t use heating fuel (propane) at the same rate as if we were permanent residents.  We heat with two Rinnai wall furnaces (one in the basement, one on the first floor) and turn them down to the lowest setting – but not off – when we’re not there, so our consumption is less than the average customer.  BUT we only have one 100-gallon propane bottle so we get deliveries at the usual rate during the winter – scheduled for every two weeks. Well, it’s been COLD up in mid-coast Maine lately, and I have a habit of checking the tank gauge when we arrive for a weekend visit. On Friday afternoon it showed about 40%.

Because it was so cold, I would check the gauge each day and watch it go down at a rate that didn’t give me confidence that it would last until next Wednesday (our next scheduled delivery date).  By Tuesday morning of the day we planned on heading south it was below 5% so I called and asked to schedule delivery a day early (for an extra fee, naturally).  We turned the Rinnai’s down to almost the lowest setting, bundled up, and hunkered down to wait for the delivery truck.  Our plan to hit the road by noon was a bust.

Delivery guy finally came about 7:30pm and said he was looking at his 3rd 16-hour day. Yikes! Delivery took about 15 minutes (only 3 of which was actually pumping propane into the bottle/tank), then we set the thermostats to low, shut off the well pump (don’t want it pumping water into the house if a pipe freezes), shut off the water heater (no sense heating water in an unoccupied house), flushed the toilet tanks empty (so they wouldn’t freeze and crack if we did lose heat), packed the car and hit the road.  Got home before 11pm.

Posted 7 January 2018 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

To Every Thing (Turn, Turn, Turn)…   Leave a comment

1 December 2017

There is a season… and this season’s “thing” is preparation.  Winters in Maine carry the threat of being harsh, though along the coast I think it’s tempered a bit by that large body of salt water to the east.  We don’t see ten feet of snow very often in the mid-coast region, but it’s not a tropical paradise either.

Our recent visit (21-28 November) was my first since mid-October, so the winter prep chores were way over-due.  I took down and put away the window and door screens, mounted the glass storm insert on the entryway door, weatherstripped all the double-hung windows on both floors, stored all the deck furniture in the cellar, took down the music speakers on the deck and coiled up the speaker wires from the stereo, and pounded holes for and set the snow stakes along the driveway for the snow plow.  Then we set to work putting up our modest Christmas decorations; 300 traditional white Christmas mini-lights on the (getting large) arborvitae out front (set to go on at dusk with no human intervention), more (solar-powered) mini-LED lights along the the picket fence (also set to go on at dusk with no human intervention), a balsam wreath on the 26197859_10214936381309007_3932977264586496989_oentryway door, a dozen crystal plastic snowflakes in the dining area picture window (click on photo, right, for a clearer view), electric candle-lights in the windows (also set to go on at dusk with no human intervention), a Christmas Packages quilt on the wall in the living room, a small collection of Christmas trinkets scattered around the first floor, and my Dad’s tabletop Christmas Tree (complete with lights and ornaments and presents under the tree) in the living room. Quite festive.  Then we did a deep-clean of both floors – dusting and vacuuming – and dusted and vacuumed the stairway and railings.

In between all the prepping and decorating and cleaning we consulted with our architectural designer about the first batch of proposed plans for the renovation and expansion of the Ballot Box in preparation for our eventual permanent relocation, and just to keep all options on the table we spent time with our friend/real-estate-agent looking at current real estate offerings on the market in the area. That, plus enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner with some family at the Squire Tarbox Inn and Restaurant on Westport Island in Wiscasset and meeting friends for dinner at a local favorite restaurant.  We were busy, but it was a long visit so it was restful and refreshing as well.

We’ll likely get up one more weekend in December, then our traditional last week of the year visit, when we come up on the day after Christmas and stay until a day or two after New Year’s… toasting in 2018 with our traditional Dinner For One video, a tradition we picked up while living in Germany in the 90’s and continue even now.

Posted 1 December 2017 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

Where’d the Sign Go… This Time??   Leave a comment

8 October 2017

The IMG_20150815_112732264a-25pct20x“Ballot Box” sign is gone again.  The sign was a gift from Lynn for Christmas 2009.  I had planted a 4×4 post at the end of the driveway by the road to hold the address numerals, and we hung the sign on that post to declare the nickname for our newly-acquired escape destination.  It also helped visitors coming to visit for the first time to find the right driveway in the woods.

BB SignThe sign manned it’s “post” (pun intended) for six years, but back in the summer of 2015 it was showing it’s age a bit – the Maine seasons had faded it a bit and some wood-rot had started to creep in – so I took it down for a month or so while I refurbished it.

My 2015 refurbishment didn’t last as long as the initial stint.  It’s showing it’s age even worse than before, so we’ve taken it down again in preparation for a winter-long restoration.  Not sure how long it’ll be in the shop, but it will return – probably by spring at the latest.  Until then the post will have to go a bit naked.

My chore list for this slightly longer visit started to get end-of-summer-ish, with prepare-for-winter entries.  (I decided to stay up through Columbus Day even though I don’t get it off as a holiday – I plan on telecommuting during the morning before we hit the road south and join all the leaf-peepers heading back to the rat race).  We removed and stowed the window air conditioning units, did some garden cleanup, shut off the drip watering system for the deck plants, paid the annual bill at the post office for the P.O. box rental, and did some house-cleaning.  We also discovered the Ballot Box fridge is failing.  Usually a failing fridge just can’t keep stuff cold anymore, but this fridge’s symptom is that it doesn’t cycle off and on anymore so stuff in the fridge-section freezes.  We set the dial to OFF and it still freezes the milk.  I rigged a heavy-duty extension cord to come up to the top of the fridge and plugged it in that way, so we can reach the plug and are able to unplug the fridge without pulling the fridge out away from the wall.  That’s let’s us cycle it off and on manually at least.  We want to avoid having to buy a new fridge right now as we’re planning on doing pre-move renovations that will include redoing the kitchen so we want to wait until we know what the new kitchen will look like before buying a new fridge.  Timing is everything!

Next trip up will be for the annual Goods From the Woods festival at the local brewery, so there won’t be too many chores taken care of on that trip!


9 March 2018 Update (five months and a day later…)

2018-03-09 10.07.39 Refurbished Ballot Box SignThe sign is back… again. I spent most of the winter staring at the beat-up sign, trying to screw up my courage to try and touch up the lettering on the sign, but distrusting my skill and hand-steadiness to repaint it.  After a few false starts (erased with turpentine before the paint dried) I decided to punt and just re-edge the sign in fresh black paint and then urethane it with 5-6 coats of marine spar for weather-proofing.  Our only disappointment is that the spar dried with a yellowish tinge to it so the sign is no longer a gray that matches the color of the house.  Bummer.

Now I see that I need to refurbish the black band and the address numbers on the post. My chores never end!  🙂

Posted 8 October 2017 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized