Recent trip to California

I just got back from a short trip to California.  Besides normal things like meeting up with friends, checking in on things in the office, we had a work BBQ.  8 folks from our office in Pune India are over visiting for training and the team self organized a wonderful BBQ at Shadow Cliffs Recreation Area in Pleasanton, CA.  I think it is a re-use of a former gravel pit (there is a cement and gravel company up the road).  A wonderful place for families – there is a swim area with full lifeguard support that very gradually goes out into the lake and the water is warm.

We had about 60 people show up and I was so busy chatting and flipping burgers and dogs on the grill, I forgot to take any people shots.  All I personally took was when I took a brief walk to check out the rest of the lake

Coming back to New England was a bit of a shock.  May 2017 was the 5th wettest month on record and was cold (40’s and 50’s mostly).  When I left for California it was mid forties – stepping out of the airport on my return, it was 97 degrees and very humid.  Driving home (around 5:00pm at this point) – I was heading south on Rte 95 when I passed through a thunderstorm.  Sheeting down rain and in 1/3 of a mile the temperature dropped from 98 degrees to 81 degrees!  The storm was only 1 mile wide and then the temp shot back up again on the other side.  Very weird!

Summer is finally coming!

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2017 – A cold and wet spring in Carlisle

Spring so far has been a bit disorganized for me – which has been mirrored on the weather front as well.  Since my last post, we had a least one late snow & ice storm and several cold fronts of rain blowing in.  But grass is growing, trees are budding and planting is going on.

In terms of planting, I have been working with John Bakewell of Carlislearboriculture to put in a traditional English hedge along my property line with the Kimball’s property.  See my prior post here

John arranged for Rototilling and in April I helped him plant the Hornbeam, Hawthorn and Arrowwood.  Yesterday I planted the Blueberries, Grapes and I also planted my four American Chestnut seeds.

  1. Twenty Five seedlings of Hornbeam
  2. Twenty Five seedlings of Hawthorn
  3. Twenty Five seedlings of Arrowwood
  4. Six seedlings of Concord Grape
  5. Six seedlings of Frontenac Grape
  6. Six potted Blue Berrys

I stumbled across the American Chestnut Foundation a few years ago somehow and I joined last year as a Chestnut Leaf Sponser, which as a benefit, allowed me to get 4 chestnuts for planting.  The ACF is attempting to get around Chestnut blight and re-establish the American Chestnut tree into the North American forest.  Before joining, I had never realized that Chestnuts made up 25% of all trees in the US forests and in some places, fallen chestnuts could be a foot deep or more.  When you think of today’s forests, they are out of balance from what they used to be – the calories inherent in the chestnuts are missing.

The four chestnuts that I have planted are the property of the ACF and I have to report back regularly on their progress – a neat way to participate in something that could be very transformative of the countryside in the coming decades!

Speaking of transforming, my Dad and I are working on reconstructing his workshop and decluttering it of equipment and stuff that he is not regularly using.  For his birthday, he received a new sander.  I am taking his old sander out of the shop.  We are also looking at getting the wiring re-done and a lot more lighting that is also task focused.  My birthday gift to him is building a customized workbench for the new sander.  In the picture below, you can see the shop at maximum clutter – now thankfully already being reduced

Plenty of projects still to go!

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Winter decided it was not finished

A quick post because I haven’t accomplished much on the personal front in the last few weeks.  Winter decided that it wasn’t really finished with New England and it got really cold again and winter storm Stella showed up with 18″ or so of very heavy wet snow (at least in Carlisle) – our biggest snowfall all season.

I haven’t really gotten my heated shop set up yet because I need to make my first workbench (plus other things) and it has been routinely in the single digits or the teens every morning for the past month (?) – or for a while anyway.  That is bit too cold to easily overcome in my Dad’s unheated (and not insulated) shop.  So a bit of a hiatus on building stuff at the moment.  But scheming – I mean PLANNING, yes that is what they call it – planning! has continued.  I have pretty much decided on a main workbench structure.  It will combine a Ruobo (French) bench with some features of old German benches (sliding deadmen) and English work benchs.  German and Ruobo are very close cousins in that they are heavy structures while an English bench is more light weight and designed as a torsion box or monocoque.  I like the idea of sliding dual vises but also the large clamping surface of the English bench.

Anyway my “plan” is to assemble the top using threaded steel rod and nuts that are through drilled instead of doing a giant glue up of the top surface – an idea that my Dad had.  Some glueing will be needed in order to handle the joint work around where the legs are – but ideally I can avoid laminating a 300-400 pound top!  More to come on this

Also planned is a new Drill Press from Woodcraft supply – my Dad and I really like this one – it is very, very smooth operating.  Precise.  It is a couple hundred more dollars than the well respected JET floor height model, but it is noticeably better made

Pictures below of the various bench design families I am talking about here

Ok – now I have more coffee – where was I  (I am sitting at my kitchen island with the sun coming up over my shoulder, coffee in hand and Amazon Alexa playing some Chris Isaak from the cloud).  Thats right – winter and snow.  Definitely spring feels far away at the moment – it is clear right now but supposedly it is going to snow latter today.

Plans for the spring are to do house stuff but also get out and map out the old mill sites around Carlisle and compare them to site on my property.   Something I want to do BEFORE the poison ivy arrives – lol


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San Simeon California arrives in Carlisle

I just got back from a quick trip to San Francisco and a package was waiting – the metal print version of California Red Carpet – taken my sister in law Tenley Fohl.  This print is for sale on Jetset Times and is just wonderful.  Taken near Moonstone Beach, looking north towards San Simeon, it really catches the special feel you get along the coast near The Hearst Castle.  She also has her photos up on Tenley Fohl Photography found here

I flew in last night and so today we trooped over to my house, unpacked it (super pack job Tenley and Pete – thank you!) and did a little layout work.  It has pride of placement as the first piece to go up on the wall and it fit absolutely perfectly in the kitchen right off the patio and entry way.  Out of the sun so it won’t fade (though I am not sure these metallic prints are susceptible to that or not – but definitely not a problem where we hung it).


We tested the hot water and it seems to be smell free – yay for water filtration!

I unpacked two books as well – does that mean that I am all done unpacking???

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A month gone by already – whoops!

It has been busy here in Carlisle (plus I had a trip to San Francisco in there as well).

First up Deck Acorn surprised me with a fantastic bench for my entry way – custom built and finished to match the house.  It is tremendous.   They wanted to thank me for allowing them to use the house in their media and to bring clients and prospects by while it was being built.  It was my total pleasure and they didn’t have to do anything – but man it is a nice piece and oh so comfortable.

Then my parent’s had a maple tree taken out which was sick and dying AND leaning over the power lines.  John Bakewell arranged for it to be taken down by heavy equipment and then stump ground – while his friend was here, he did 4 other stumps as well.  A definite heavy machine – it ground things down to about 1 foot underground

Then I went out and got a TV (an LG hi-def model that is middle of the road) so that I had something to hook up when the satellite guys arrived.  I ordered DirecTV for regular TV service (comes with a DVR and I had them arrange things so the guest room has TV too).  I also got Exede Internet  which is pure up & down satellite internet service (no land lines).  I got the 12Mbytes download package but it seems to run at 18Mbs (upload is about 2.6Mb).  Latency is about 600ms.  I haven’t really tried anything with it yet but it seems to work pretty well.  The cost was less than a cellular modem setup – but I have to do that as well in order to get my work VPN to run – experimentation in the future.

Finally, the small amounts of free time I have had this month, I have been working on a couple of custom bookshelves for under the windows on my northern wall in the living room.  I have one done and installed as of today (not enough room for all the piece parts in my Dad’s shop to fully complete both at the same time).  I got a 4’x8′ sheet of birch plywood at Concord Lumber, some threaded rod and stainless steel nuts and was thinking originally that was all I would need (bolts and nuts hold up each shelf).  Dumb-dumb me forgot that the steel rod would be strong under tension but bendy and wobbly under compression (like holding UP a shelf).  So I went out and got some panels from that are aluminum layup sandwiches – called an Alumalite™ Panel – to stiffen the sides and back.  This turned out to be an advantage because they come in colors!  I choose red for the ends and metallic silver for the back.  For a couple hundred bucks in materials, I think they are coming out nice.  Oak 2×2 runners are the feet so it sits off the floor and the airvents are not blocked.  The intent is that these will hold my unfortunately large amount of coffee table books!

Final thing that is going on – I am scheming with John Bakewell to plant an English style hedgerow (wild – not manicured) along the property line with Kimballs.  The intent is that it will act as a natural place for my Concord Grapes – a natural trellis.  I have been reading up on the olde skills around the laying of hedges, proper cutting of pleachers and other neat things.  I need to place my order soon with John for this spring and I am still trying to figure out what mix of species of plants we want (Hornbeam and grape vines are all that is on the list so far)

Here is a Midlands style hedge to give you an idea of what is possible (there are MANY different styles)

Should be an interesting project and if I don’t like it, I can go in a different direction.  This book has been very helpful:  Hedges and Hedgelaying: A Guide to Planting, Management and Conservation Hardcover – October 1, 2006
by Murray Maclean (Author)

Ok – enough of the wall of text – time for photos and then off for some cocktails!


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Start of a new year – 2017 in Carlisle

The holidays have been a busy but fortunately not very stressful time.  To catch up, the town came through with my occupancy permit and Paul has mostly finished his punch list items.  Armstrong Hearth & Home (from New Hampshire) came down and used an industrial vacuum system to pull any and all dust from the vents in the house (mostly just drywall dust – but still glad to have it out before moving in!).  The movers came last Thursday and very, very efficiently moved all my stuff out of my storage locker and over to the house.  Because it was snowing/raining on Thursday, we asked them to put the furniture in the house and everything else into the garage.  Worked out great!

During the New Year’s weekend, my parent’s very, very graciously offered to help unbox and alphabetize my books (which if you know me, is a large percentage of my “stuff”).  I focused on carrying the boxes in from the garage and they unboxed and sorted out all the paperbacks.  The larger art/coffee table books are staying in their boxes till I have more shelf space arranged.  I did manage to put up one shelving system and it looks really good – it is from and is the same system my parent’s have in their house – an aluminum track and then bar stock that is infinitely adjustable up and down in the track as supports for the shelves.  I put it in next to where my computer is going to go – just off the kitchen.

We also went bed shopping this weekend and I ordered a no-frills bed and mattress set – nice and firm and not any extras (which usually are making it softer and I don’t really enjoy those).  It should be delivered Friday – my parent’s again are going to help out and be there to meet the delivery folks – thank you again!

The next step is going to be to get some shelving for under the north windows and get the books off the floor and get the rest of the stuff out of the garage – from there, build a work bench and get constructing on the rest of the furniture.  🙂

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Thanksgiving in Carlisle, 2016

Thanksgiving here in Carlisle was fun and relaxed.   My parent’s and I enjoyed a wonderful turkey, succotash, potatoes and cranberry sauce dinner that my Mother prepared in splendid fashion – verrrry good!

Today (Friday after) is a bit cold and rainy – but we met the Maryland Collins’ and went over to look at my house.  We had a good time checking everything out (including some off trail adventures through the prickers to look at the neighbors Mack telephone pole truck – complete with hydraulic grapple and telephone poles).  I had a great time discussing the thought processes behind the design, Deck House, the land and just plain old catching up.  Thanks guys!

Very much a day for a fire in the fireplace later!


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Celebratory Dinner at the Colonial Inn in Concord

Now that the Town has issued my Occupancy Permit, it was time last night (Saturday) for a celebratory dinner.  My Mom, Dad and I went over last night to the Colonial Inn and had drinks and dinner in the tap room (one of the older parts of the Inn).

We had a very good time – things were lively without being crazy.  The Inn looked like it was completely full (the parking lot behind the buildings was 100% full at least) and there were a lot of people coming and going.  We think there were a lot of tourists with some locals mixed in.

This might be normal or it might be because yesterday, the town of Concord unveiled the installation of the ship’s bell near the war monument of the USS Concord.  The USS Concord was an Omaha Class Light Cruiser, built during the 1920’s and she served through WWII.  She was decommissioned in 1946.  According to Wikipedia, she fired the last shot of the war – how anybody knows this, I have no idea – unless it was purely ceremonial?  Apparently the ship’s bell has been in the basement of the Concord Library since 1946 and they have been working on getting it installed since 2005 or so.  I haven’t seen it yet – we were over at Vanderhoof’s hardware about an hour before the unveiling and it was causing quite a bit of traffic congestion, so we didn’t hang around.  I will try and get a picture of it at some point.

Here is a link to a picture of here, in the Panama Canal Zone during the War

USS Concord

The Inn itself is a kind of a neat place – 2016 is it’s 300th anniversary.  I asked our waitress if they had any commemorative T-Shirts or what not for sale.  She said no and it was a total missed opportunity on their part!  Clearly they are not fully up on the idea that they should be a merchandising machine with an Inn attached 🙂

From their site, this is a quick bullet point history.  If you are reading this from out of town and you are coming out to Carlisle or Concord – this is a good place to stay – very central and it is a nice walk to the Minute Man National Historic Park and the Old North Bridge Battlefield (plus it is only a few minutes drive to my house and my parent’s house)


Learn more about our Inn’s rich 300 year history with these key facts and dates:

  • 1716 – Concord’s Colonial Inn’s original structure was built.
  • 1775 – One of the Inn’s original buildings was used as a storehouse for arms and provisions during the Revolutionary War. When the British came to seize and destroy the supplies, the Minutemen met them at the North Bridge on April 19th for what became the first battle of the American Revolution. The event is commemorated every April with a parade near the Inn and a ceremony at the North Bridge on Patriots’ Day.
  • Early 1800s – Parts of the Inn were used as a variety store and a residence.
  • 1835 – 1837 – Henry David Thoreau resided with us while he attended Harvard.
  • Mid 1800s – The building was used as a boarding house and a small hotel, named the Thoreau House after Henry’s aunts, the “Thoreau Girls.”
  • 1889 – The Inn as we know it today begins operating. Situated on Concord’s town common, known as Monument Square, the Inn is surrounded by landmarks of our nation’s literary and revolutionary history.
  • 1900 – The property was given its current name: Concord’s Colonial Inn.
  • 1988 – The Inn is purchased by German Hotelier, Jurgen Demisch.
  • 2012 – The Prescott Wing undergoes a top-to-bottom restoration.

So what is going on now with the house?

I ordered towel rods, toilet paper holders and what not from Amazon but they are on a bit of a back order.  Toilet paper may be better off in the vanities from a space and streamlining point of view – more thought needed there.  Shower curtain and rod for the guest bathroom too.

I also, with my Mom’s help, am getting Armstrong Hearth and Duct (New Hampshire) to do a giant vacuum clean of the duct work.  The idea is to clear out anything that may have managed to work its way into the duct work, despite all the precautions Paul and team took (dust mostly).

Then it is have movers move everything over from my storage locker.  I am thinking that my bureau would go in my room and the books and what not would go in the garage – but I may rethink that.  Book case systems of course too – lots and lots of stuff to do!  But no need to have everything done at once – step one will clear the way for step two!!!

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Occupancy Permit….? Achievement unlocked

Very quick update here – Paul and I spoke today and the Town has wrapped things up and as of today, I have my Occupancy Permit.  All permits in order – we are done!

Paul – awwwwwesome work sir!

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Picture heavy post after missing a week of posts

I was wrapped up last weekend in doing work trying to continue momentum for my occupancy permit and I never got around to posting anything.

All permits are complete, except for the occupancy permit. The Carlisle Fire Chief has requested that the we fill in some gaps in the documentation around the common drive way due to what appears to have been some gaps in what was passed to him from the prior Chief.  We have rounded all of that up except for the documentation that the maintenance agreement for the driveway has been maintained.  Stamski and McNary has agreed to do the inspection and provide documentation.  Their commentary was that:

  1. The sight line for inbound fire trucks along Bedford Road was blocked by my new mailbox (which it was doing but I had not noticed),
  2. The brush had encroached a bit on the driveway and
  3. There was no house number at the point where my driveway split off from the common driveway.

Last weekend I resolved all three.  To simplify things, I completely removed the mailbox (I will get a PO box or continue to have mail sent to my parent’s place and figure something out later if I get a mailbox out in the future).  Then I trailered over the Billy Goat brush hog and chewed through the blackberry bushes.  Finally, Dad and I got a 4×4 pressure treated post, a post hole digger and some house numbers and I installed that.  Fingers crossed this is the last item before the final permit

Last week we also took my Dad’s old racing shell (which had de-laminated) over to Ted Van Dusen for repairs and donation to a youth rowing group in Holeyoke along the Connecticut River.  Ted runs Composite Engineering and they build a lot of the racing boats for a LOT of Olympic teams.  A run down place on the outside but amazing on the inside.  Definitely different from our place!


In other news, Paul’s team laid down coat 3 of 3 on the hardwood floor, pulled the tools and stuff from the workshop, is working through their punch list – AND – this weekend, did the final layout of the loam for the lawn.  This includes laying out the large rocks along the property line between me and Kimball’s.  It looks great!!

Before shots of the shop and looking at the “front yard”

Now here is what things look like on the outside after this weekend’s worth of work

And on the inside things are truly wonderful

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