Friday, December 15, 2017



            Layers, in this essay, are not about egg laying poultry production.
            Layers, in this essay, are not about the clothing worn in Maine during the winters.
            Layers, in this essay, are about the ‘things’ (“the stuff”) in old houses and the role the
            Layers of that “the stuff” play in my interest in pursuing an active excavation within the ‘things’ found in the layers of the stuff within an old house.  And:  How I make very rapid intuitive decisions about the state of the layers and their potential to harbor “good” antiques and rare books.
            Layers is about the behind my eyes walk through of what I see when I
            Walk through.

            To begin with, I am looking for layers.  Once I see them (sense them), I look at them “very hard”.  I am told.  Of course I never let on that I am doing
            I don’t even ever tell anyone at all about layers.
            And very few people ever figure that out
            That pretty much leaves me alone... in an old house... looking at the layers.
            “If you don’t know... you don’t know” with this including the what... you... don’t know.
            Yes:  There is that much of a bottom drag on all this that the mire of that usually wins.  ‘Winning’ is that the ‘the stuff’ in the ‘the layers’ is protected and preserved for the ‘few people ever figure that out’ give up, cease actions and... go away.  Presuming I have been “let in”... I then am ‘left alone’ with the layers and... well...
            That is that.
            What does that mean?  It means that the next time any ‘few people’ go into the old house it is empty; it has been ‘cleaned out’.  I did that.  I don’t talk about that.  I just do it.  I take away everything including all the layers.  I take away every... thing.  That is what I do.

            I have to take away every thing so I may be sure that all ‘the stuff’ in the layers of household contents is... “complete”.  For example, I do not want to have you suddenly latching on to, and keeping (taking out of the estate contents), your grandmother’s teaspoon that she
            Administered her medicines to her self in addition to stirring her tea with it for
;            SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS.
            It is MY SPOON NOW; part of the LAYERS.
            IN SHORT... I want it all; all ‘the stuff’ and all the layers, complete.  Nothing is left out or left behind.

            Of course there are stupid people meddling with this by, well, “wanting”... stupid things.  A good example is a “FAMILY” “PAINTING”.  The house contents “HAS ONE”; an ‘old’ ‘oil’ painting and it is too... an “I WANT”.
            “Yes.  Okay.  Here we go.”
            I say that and finalize with “Take it:  It is all yours.”  Delighted, they scurry away clutching the “PAINTING”... too.  Occasionally I am asked “what do I think” of the “PAINTING”.  For these sorts of paintings I do not have to think and... carefully sidestep what I actually ...feel... about the “PAINTING”.  No reason to spoil such fun.  Right?
            What am I conveying here exactly?  I am assuring that most all cases... old “PAINTINGS” found in old New England layered home contents are of little merit or value.  The big feature is that they are “FREE” when found in an estate so... continue the heritage of the painting as being ‘good’ because it
            Allows folks who have never owned a painting... who would never buy a painting (Yankee Wasp characteristic)... who know nothing about “PAINTINGS”... have barely ever looked at a “PAINTING” and... etcetera.... to ‘smug up’ about a truly crummy ‘thing’ that they found in the bedroom of long dead great-uncle George. “WHERE” (what, how, why) “DID HE GET THAT!”
            Great Uncle George was a quasi trash picker later examination of his layer reveals.  But I never say anything about that fine old cheapskate Yankee bugaboo.  I, too, certainly do not stop the purloinment of the old painting “within the estate” (private family distribution).  A problem with this last is that the purloin does not have an ‘appraised value’.  I ‘don’t do those things’ (appraisals) I say when queried.  And... they DO ‘love’ “IT” (that painting) still:  “It is valuable”.  What ever that means.

            Turning from an example of stupid people meddling and ‘wanting’ to the actual layer-e (a plural), I advise from the get-go that that is where one should ‘seek’ layers.  Most all of those layer-e... who were any good at it... are
But look for “fondly remembered family” trails and you’ll start to notice, for example, old but recent photographs of the short past generation’s grand old bitch matron who ‘rode herd’ over the house, the family, the things, the stuff and... their layers.  Spot that woman and you are way ahead of great-uncle-George (Dartmouth 1928)’s old painting that I assure the Matron dismissed too.
            Now I with her, eye to eye including she KNEW what I KNOW... lets me tie off with clothes line rope “HER” “DESK”.  That is, I tie the whole Grand Old Bitch Matron’s desk up like it’s a crate full of “stuff” packed by the “FAMILY” in its drawers and... never looked at...:  If the Matron was alive she would spend TWO WEEKS showing me EACH iota in the drawers ‘from her family’ but... as it is I am the best game in town so her ghost lets me tie it off and carry it out... unchallenged.  Yes and that cubby is full of ‘all about the family’ including great uncle George at Dartmouth in twenty-eight.  She, bless her ghost soul, gives me the maelstrom center of her layer whole.  It proves to be the skeleton key to ALL the home’s layers.

            Traveling from crummy old painting to tied off desk holding the family’s preserved archive... are one sensing the meaning of layers?  Who is doing better at this?  Once I locate and purloin the master vault box I simply pile the rest of all of the layers “in there” on top of this golden treasure chest and... I don’t, once I remove all the layers undisturbed and intact... have to touch them for years... should I choose. “Storage” is a big feature of my antiquarian dealer side.  And of course... am I in some sort of hurry doing this?
            That (hurry) is too... a fatal mistake.  Not in a hurry allows one to absorb the layers better (mentally and physically).  Six layers are like reading a six volume family history (as if they are old books in dust jackets).  I enjoy studying the souls of the layers for... as long as their intrigue lasts... preferring them with a strong “dash”, that they are characters and too... “did something”.

            May I review?
            Layers are a multitude of ‘things’ (“the stuff”) that make them up.  They are not ‘a thing’ or single things or great things or fine things.  No.  They are not an actual old painting.  But they are part of a layer’s painting.  They are the gathered material residue of old dead souls; the stuff they ‘left behind’.  They are little things in abundance that ‘don’t matter at all’ until noticed that they are part of a layer.  Perhaps even a very notable layer... that is surrounded by other related layers of related layer-e dead souls.  It (layers) do become quite rich and reaching “very fast”... should one learn to look.  For example the OLD SHAVING equipment for eight different men of a time passage of one hundred and ten years...  Each shaver was young, then old, then dead ‘in there’; in THEIR layers.  The shaving equipage is “worthless” without the association; its role in the layer.  The layer is worthless without its soul.  The soul is found in “the stuff”.  The more stuff in a layer...  It (an estate and its layers) may become vivid beyond words and last for decades.  By 1969 I had become familiar with and knowing of layered estates.  In 1973 I acquired my first full bore layers estate that “lasted for decades”.  There are still bits, pieces and smidgens of that one around to this day.
            “You may not want to wipe the old pigeon dung off the chair when you get one (a layered estate)” an old dealer advised me early.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sealing the Foundation of a Colonial Maine Homestead With Balsam Fir Bows

Sealing the Foundation of a Colonial Maine Homestead With Balsam Fir Bows

            This is an annual domestic activity.  It is not a task.
            The lethargic of the seated homeowners and their passive
            Pathetic energies merge with their misappropriated sound stance that they;
            Doing nothing
            Therefore know what a task is and
            This (sealing the foundation of a colonial Maine homestead with Balsam Fir bows)
            Is one.

            That’s done.  Or is it?
            No.  Restating:
            MOST PEOPLE... “need the exercise” (so spoken), avoid physical activities and title such actions as this (sealing the foundation of a Colonial Maine homestead with Balsam Fir bows) as ‘work’ “to be avoided”; this annual task (sealing the foundation of a Colonial Maine homestead with Balsam Fir bows).
            “Are we done with this now?”
            NO:  Your still just sitting there in front of the lost titled “boob tube”.

            I, in the Maine November air, am “out in the woods”  We have forty acres of “woods” (“forest land”).  I am looking, as annually, for Balsam Fir tree “blow downs”; large and larger trees that have recently “BLOWN DOWN”.  Preferably blown down since the first of the month (November).  There is always at least one.  And I find it.
            I want a dream tree; forty five feet tall once standing on a high rock ledge “overlooking” towards the sea.  A ‘been there for decades’ thick top bushy mess of dense packed wonderfully smelling long, long, long wind worn mashed thickness of tiptop leafage that came crashing down some windy night.  And nobody saw this.
            But I, hunting for it, find it in the November afternoon light and...
            “It’s mine”.
            I actually found two smaller (shorter) ones this fall.  That is not uncommon.  But... it means I have ‘enough’ ‘bows’ to do ‘everything’(seal the foundation of a Colonial Maine homestead with Balsam Fir bows).  “And more”
            “And more” includes covering small Rhododendrons from being eaten by the winter’s starving deer, covering the heather bed on their exposed rock ledge, covering the Pachysandra along the front door’s path and... making a wreath to hang on that front door.

All of this from blown down Balsam leafage ‘hauled’ from the forest?  Just giddy and dizzy I am from the pungent airs wrapping my clothing.  “Almost pitch covered” that smell.  “Isn’t that so?”.  So armed, literally, with the fragrance it becomes my seasonal utopia; my estuary of air chasing my every action.

            The action is the ‘work’ and ‘task’ I noted earlier.  Yes:  I smell like that from doing something and that something is hauling cart loads of thick Balsam Fir bows... for days.  Oh yes that IS a peril that wishes the holiday’s away?  Yes is it not:  To smell strongly of Balsam Fir for late November days... as I “work”.

            I have always been ‘the Balsam Fir’.  And never anything else including the “fake Christmas tree’.  A lot (all?) of ‘that stuff’ has come along in my lifetime.  I missed it; these innovative adoptions that wantonly foist the November / December holidays with “PINE BOWS” of the ‘all sorts’.  I have never bought a Christmas Tree.
            My parents did; along the roadside with the white light bulbs.  I remember that very clearly.  Always the same and always “a Balsam Fir”.  That last was ‘done’, not spoken of.  My father’s eye for a ‘good tree’ was savage.  No overruling or second suggestion was ever needed; Balsam Fir is New England Wasp.

            My family, in our Christmas Tree lifetime, cut ours ‘in the woods’.  No “this one no this one” stuff.  We cut a young Balsam Fir that just ‘touches’ the (1750) Colonial Maine homestead’s ceiling (82”) without considering the old “not level” floor of Colonial boards.  Our “tree” just goes “up”.  The real action is around the outside foundation line of the house.  We... “ho, ho, ho”, decorate that.  Carefully... but not obsessively.

            While somewhere along the way a wreath is made for the front door, the real outside Balsam Fir bows sleigh ride starts at the coldest corner; the northeast, and covers the whole homestead’s foundation line; the line where cut stone (field quarried granite) contacts the ‘old wood’ (sills) of the actual old wooden box of ‘house’.  “Around the house we go”... what?  We work in both direction from the corner to reach its far point sunny friend corner at the full opposite of the ‘cold corner’.  Carefully and considerately done this takes ‘days’ of ‘an hour or so here and there’.  Unless an early fall blizzard is coming “TONIGHT” there is “no hurry”.  Relax and enjoy this task... this work.  Have you seen what other people do with their time on earth?  One is much better off with ‘foundation level’ Balsam Fir bows.

            Originally I laid old rough cut pine boards against the foundation line and then buried those under Balsam bows.  The intention is to prepare the foundation line to ‘catch’ and ‘capture’ the snow.  This crusts and freezes in place so ‘seals’ the line “from the wind” (and cold).  Today... and the last decades... large sheets of plastic have appeared in neglect and ‘don’t want’ at household clean out sales.  These, acquired for ‘pittance’ I cut into four foot wide (sort of) strips and tack them with small shingle nails along the foundation line.  I then support these placements with scraps of pine poles and ... in actual fact... 1830’s handmade bricks “made right here” I was given when a neighbor took down an old chimney of an 1830 addition “butted onto his cape”.  They are my collection.  I show them around the foundation when they are not in actual use (for this annual foundation sealing).

            Just for the record I will notice that this ‘old handmade brick’ is “quite nice”.  Handling them each season increases ones sense of what an ‘old brick’ may be... could be... can be... and... can be a part of ones aesthetic AND Colonial New England aesthetic should one choose to include ‘old bricks’ in ones life... style.  They do not sell them at box stores and one... must keep the eye out if one becomes an ‘old brick hunter’.  They are around but are rare in piles. Most are found in small gathers and, of course, the “OH!” discovery of a  “very old” lone lost brick... one promptly purloins. That may make one giddy with delight.

            As the plastic with the pole pieces and brick are placed along the foundation, the Balsam bows follow behind being placed to fully cover this plastic shield.  The more and the thicker, denser the Balsam bows the more abundant the cover and... the more ‘full contact’ the bow man has with the stink and smell of these ...wonderful holiday wonders; the Balsam Fir bow. I find myself puttering and dawdling in the November sun with the bushy bundles.  I use a pitch fork to place the bows.  A pitchfork is my friend for it removes a lot of ‘bending over’.  Upright one always feels in command of the task... the work... in progress. 
Before I know it I am done;
Rounding the far corner
            In the sun.

            I stand back and admire the fair job; the horrid holiday task, now a ‘completed work’.  The task was a special moment of my ‘each fall’.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Thick and Shaggy

Thick and Shaggy

Between ... and about... November fourteenth and December fourth I have my annual active contact with Balsam Fur trees and their leafage.  This is the season slot when I employ, by harvest, their leafage for the winterization of our ...Maine (New England) Colonial era homestead.  I’ll get back to that in another post.

The do-course of that annual farm ritual includes a dumpage of a utility hand cart load... of the thickest Balsam Fur bows I “can get”... out in front of the barn’s doors...

So I may make our wreath

For our front door
Of our
Colonial era (1750’s) Maine (New England) homestead.

This is not a craft project.  This is not an art thought.  This is not a “What do you think?”


When the right moment arrives... with I preferring the mid-afternoon time slot on Thanksgiving Day... because no one will bother me and... being in front of the barn doors that are “back from the road” the holiday drive-by “I SEE YOU” are too far off AND ‘on mission’ preoccupied to


NONE THE LESS my exposed position IS factored in so I ...stick to task.  That’s where we first part company.  This is not a ‘start up’ event for I.  No.  I have been doing this for... I say... thirty-five to forty years... ‘here now’.  Yep.  And just this same every year.

I ‘fetch-off’ last years now browned but otherwise ‘whole’ wreath from under its ‘chucked there’ woodshed repose.  (I DO see it all year in this ritual storage.)  I carry the wreath in the cart to the front of the barn.  I get my nippers, scissors and “wreath wire” off of and out of the tool bench.  (I have never ‘bought’ any of these ‘tools’ because I ‘get’ them from ‘estate cleanouts’).  I stand before the open barn doors.  I am dressed in my go in the woods during ‘Deer Season’ full ‘safety orange’ battle gear.  I... START

By snipping off the dead dry old Balsam Fur bows with the scissors cutting the last years wire.  This dead waste falls off into the empty cart.  Next I snip up a bountiful pile of “THAT-OUGHT-tah do it!” fresh ‘thickest possible’ Balsam bows from the dumpage pile.  The ‘doing that’ smells great.

Once piled, I turn back to the old (thirty plus years of same yearly usage) wire wreath ring.  Additionally... I have preserved the old 1970’s cheesy and ratty red wreath bow that, once again, I notice the thick dust on its backside that I always look at and... never clean off.  (no one has ever noticed this dust safe)

No one knows that ...treasure... is there... ever... either.

Going hard tack (sailor’s term) around the wreath ring with fist full and hard handed gripped grabs of bows that are cinched wrapped by the wire from the wreath wire roll following these grabs right behind... I bind these bow grabs to the wire ring.  Again:  This is a vigorous and swift action... enhanced by being out in front of a Maine (old) barn door and having NO ONE else THERE.

Left alone at this creation procedure I quickly create a heavy (15 pounds) full
            THICK and SHAGGY
Christmas / Holidays wreath for our
Old Colonial era homestead’s front door.

I ‘balance’ the wreath by ‘trimming’ it  (“giving it a haircut”); very quickly hanging it “UP” on an old nail on the small barn door and “going at that”... and tying the old dust safe... safe harbor... bow on with its ‘I’ve done that for forty years’ twisted wire and

Stand back and snip a bit more and
On down to the house’s (“I HEARD IT GOING UP” – The Wife)
Front door
To be hung up’
On that..
Front door

That is ‘making’ a
Real old Colonial Maine farm Balsam Fur wreath
Takes about an hour from bow pile at the barn door to front door
Of our home

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Using the Antique Garden Basket Properly For the Late Fall Harvests.

Using the Antique Garden Basket Properly For the Late Fall Harvests.

Properly using the (your)
Antique antebellum (pre 1860) handmade
Old New England ash splint wood
Garden basket
For the (your)
Late fall vegetable garden harvests.

This is a pleasant undertaking.
Take the old basket(s) from the 
(Old) (garden) shed(s).
Harvest a prescribed crop or
Engage in gleaning
On a mid November morning when one is
Attending to other putterings about the (your) garden

The sun need not be out.
A flake of snow may be in the air.

An example of a seasonal Fall crop harvest is,
Of course,
The Brussel Sprouts; a last ‘row’ at waiting.
The fall frosts have cleaned up the Sprout’s neighborhood
At their garden plot.
“They aren’t any good until AFTER the FROST.”
Is their time honored harvest instruction.
We pick ours and head straight to the cast iron skillet with them
(The tiny ones especially)
They are ‘fried’ with three diced strips of the local bacon.
A ‘very simple’ of the mid fall season.
And only a short outing for the
Antique splint wood old New England garden basket.

By far more fun
For the old basket
Is when I take it gleaning
When I have ‘work along’ in a
Garden plot here and there.
Come with me my senior friend and have some
Bright crisp fall air
Upon your wooden weave.

Today I turn over (by hand with shovel) a tomato plot
In effort to expose the Tomato Caterpillar’s (Hornworm) winter roust
(Buried Cocoon)
So they may freeze to death.

Along the plot’s edge I turn up with my shovel lost onions that we grow
As a border edge.  The onion border was long ago harvested.  These are the hidden few escaping notice during harvest;
A gleaning.

My antique garden basket creeps along the plot’s edge with my shovel.
I toss the find into it’s
Demanding trove keep.
A little dirt.  A little dry
A crinkled skin.
A sprouting top.

Each brushes time aside for it;
(The old New England splint wood garden basket).
The basket lives its life again as it follows the shovel
Along the plot.
Is not that a pleasant
Way to be;
To properly use the (your) old New England splint wood
Garden basket?