Shangri La

Shangri La

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Damn Yankee Flatlanders

LSW here. Let's just get this straight. We have no business building a cabin in Vermont. Case in point: this weekend. When we went up on Sunday, it was kind of a gray, mushy day. Vermont was not at its most beautiful, but-- good news-- the cabin was still standing.
We went into the big city to have dinner (trying to use a gift certificate, only to be told the restaurant is closed on Sunday nights), but we found another place and had a yummy spinach salad with roasted winter vegetables, candied almonds and fried goat cheese, pizza and a burger. The Boy behaved himself and even ate some food, and we returned to the inn for some reading and snifters of Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur.*
That's when it all started to go to hell. The Boy, who had been saying how tired he was, decided that, in fact, he'd rather just chat. All. Night. Long.
He finally fell asleep and around 4 a.m., I heard a loud noise. I recognized it immediately: a snow plow.We woke up to find about six inches of beautiful, shimmering white snow capping the trees. It was Vermont at one of its most stunning times.
We tried to go down to the dining room to have breakfast, but The Boy decided he wanted a particular croissant after having already picked out a muffin and proceeded to throw a fit. The Vermonster grabbed him and hauled him upstairs where we waited for the trauma to dissipate. It was time to leave.
So we headed out in the snow-- all of us wearing sneakers-- and realized that we didn't have an ice scraper to get the snow off the car. I'm embarrassed to say, an umbrella was utilized for the task.
Then it was onto the cabin, to take one more look and to take pictures of it in its winter finery.
Let's just cut to the chase: not only do I not have 4-wheel drive, I also have four almost completely bald tires. Yes, we got stuck, right in the middle of the road in front of the cabin. We tried pushing the car, only now it turned horizontally in the road, so now no one would be able to pass if they came up the hill.Picture it, friends. The two of us-- no gloves, no hats (fortunately The Vermonster had boots in the car), with our Connecticut license plate, trying to figure out what the hell we were going to do, while The Boy talked non-stop about anything and everything that came into his field of vision.
We checked one neighbor's house. He wasn't home, but there was a shovel. When that didn't help, we checked another neighbor. No answer there, either. I suspect they were home and laughing their asses off, waiting to see what we'd do next. We finally found another neighbor who had some sand in his truck. We managed to drive the car up a bit and then back it all the way down the hill.
We are so lame.
Is this cabin really going to happen? Because suddenly, I'm just not picturing it. Before, I imagined cozy nights in front of the fireplace. Now I'm envisioning being trapped in an unheated shell, trying to fashion some sort of snow shoes out of tree branches and signaling for help with a flare gun. We can do this, right? Please tell me we can do this.
*Have we told you about this? Vermont Maple Liqueur. This stuff is amazing. Sounds like it'd be overly sweet, but it's got a nice, smooth sweetness up front and then a serious kick at the end.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Checking In - January Edition

I'm writing from one of the common rooms at the Saxtons River Inn, enjoying a Switchback ale and trying not to let the gloomy, overcast day get me down. On the plus side, it's in the lower 40s; on the minus, there is mud and dirt everywhere. Blah. But you take the bad with the good, right? Bob (the inn's owner) was here to welcome us back, there's a game on in the pub, and The Boy is behaving, so all in all I can't complain.

The cabin? Still standing and dry on the inside, looking just a little forelorn beneath the grey skies. The only tracks on the property seem to be those of Michael Marquise - the site engineer who stopped by 2 days ago to make sure all of the monitoring tubes were in order for the septic reassessment. I traced his path around the cabin and noticed that the southern side of the roof is completely barren of snow, in contrast to the north side, which still has about 2' worth, trimmed in icicles.

I spoke with Michael (of Marquise and Morano, LLC) a few days earlier to confirm the reassessment work. He had taken the letter I had drafted giving permission to access the property, combined it with the monitoring tube plan he had provided to my excavator last spring, and forwarded both to the State of Vermont. As I understand it, Michael will monitor the tubes weekly throughout March, April and May to see how high the water table rises. Generally speaking, at least 2 of the 11 tubes need to show water no more than about 4' from the surface for the test to be successful. If all goes well, the engineering plans can be revised and turned around to me by mid-June. I'll be about $1,200 poorer, but the savings on the septic work could be as much as $6,000. If the test fails, Michael will stop monitoring immediately and only bill for the time spent. Some of the people around me have in-ground systems, so I've got a better than average shot.

At first I thought this would delay the work this year, but I suppose it doesn't. I've still got siding to finish, the front porch to build, and a few interior walls to put up. Most of the materials for those jobs is already in hand, so I can start when the weather is good enough. Beyond that, I won't know how much cash I'll have to work with this year until around April 15 anyway, so - with a little luck - the septic and well work can begin as soon as the odd jobs are done.

For now, however, there's nothing to do but check on the place once a month and dream of sunny, warmer weather...