Sunday, May 18, 2014




Three weeks after arriving on April 16th, we left the job site very tired on May 9th. I had gulped prophylactic Ibuprofen daily. I call it “I Be Broken” (thanks Connie!) for good reason; this was the hardest work I’ve done since loading my own moving trailer in moving from Arkysaw. In fact, it was MUCH harder.

The company put us up in the local Holiday Inn, which made the ten-hour days bearable, but a cage is a cage, and it was good to get home. My farm’s foliage was in full bloom and I had LOTS of work in which I was behind. Go to to watch THAT saga unfold for the next few years.

Ken and I returned for half a day of cleanup and loading the company van with all the architectural goodies we couldn’t fit in our trucks or trust to ride gently on the flatbed. These included a box of small items, the hogshead, some doors (including an eighteenth century door I’ll feature in the next post), and a handful of rough-sawn 1x that the Boss didn’t want and so will be used to help sheath my barn with authentic-looking boards and battens.

So we are done with the thing for now. We unloaded the trailer on the 15th, and its components are under cover and await reconstruction down in Avondale, Rhode Island. I’ll feature it again in a future post, I assure you.
February 24th 2014
May 14th 2014



Once the siding and south addition were removed, we started the rafter and ridgepole removal. As we progressed, we selectively stripped the building of its sheathing. We did this in phases, as the wide sheathing boards were partially responsible for the building's structural integrity. So many post bases and plate ends were rotted or missing that we had to add bracing in a few places; more was added to the rafters themselves.

The ridgepole had some damage near the south end, so we sandwiched the deteriorated area with 2x6.

As rafters were removed, we laid them over the front plates; this allowed for a place to put the 40-foot ridgepole so we could adjust the straps.

                                                   Lowering the ridgepole to the ground

Loft floor with raised ceiling under the hogshead barrel. The hogshead had a family of mice we gently displaced and kept doing so until there were no more places for them to go. They eventually leapt from the ceiling to the workroom floor and finally hightailed it to the brush on the last day of demo.
Looking north
Half of the flooring and floor joists removed before one of two rain days
                          Beginning to remove the frame for real; first plate to the ground

                          Removing a stubborn hurricane brace by pounding out the trunnel

                                           More trunnel pounding. Some had to be drilled.

Removing the last piece of sheathing. My t-shirt reads "Without Struggle The is No Progress." How true.
                                Last wall standing. The plate is sandwiched at a rotted area.

                                            Dan and I wrestling timbers onto the lull.

Nothing left but the piles of lumber to be banded. Note the plywood to the right of the piles. It covers the partially-removed workroom floor.

The last bit of demolition gave us another hidden extra as exciting as the 'slaughter table' we found the second week. We had removed one layer of the three (!!!?) that composed the workroom floor, and had seen the end of a very thick chestnut timber holding up the flooring as an improvised joist. As Ken removed the last layers, he hollered at me.

"You're not gonna believe this!" he called. I looked and saw a round hole in the 20" x 20" timber being revealed.

"It's got a hole!" I said. "Wonder what it was for?"

"Like I said, you're not gonna believe it!"

When he pulled the last boards off, he revealed not one but three holes.

And two of them were threaded.

It was a frame for a large press, likely for cider. The remaining 'joists' were other members of the press, and though it was incomplete, it was pretty impressive.

               Though chestnut is a comparatively light wood, it took the lull to lift the headframe.

We brought it back and I hope we'll eventually make some of the missing pieces, but who knows? It may be milled into a mantle somewhere. Hopefully the threaded holes will be prominently displayed.

      Banding the sheathing, flooring, roofers, and timbers in preparation for transport to Rhode Island.

40-foot flatbed partially loaded; note the railroad ties as dunnage. The lull's ability to tilt its forks gave out the second to the last day, so we needed tall dunnage and strong backs.
Guiding the forks
Loading the ridgepole; it rode between the stacks in the middle of the trailer
Spider Jim examining the load as it is stacked
Preparing to finish stacking the load, though last time it was loading the stacks.
Last to be loaded; a ton of slate
Thanks God for the lull! Note the straps are being used to lift the slate, even though it's on a pallet. The lull's forks would not tilt.
Fully loaded; note the cider press pieces in the center of the stacks.
Not too high
Nor too wide
After three weeks, only the dumpster remains

Monday, April 21, 2014





If you are an attentive reader, you’ll undoubtedly remember that the company for which I work (Early New England Restorations) has been hired to deconstruct a circa-1800-to-1810 carriage/wagon shed in Harvard, Massachusetts, and bring it down to Westerly, Rhode Island (specifically Avondale, which some in Stonington, Connecticut jokingly refer to ‘a-VON-da-lay) to be reconstructed there.

Damn, that was a long sentence.

Well, we started the project last week. There was a bit of poli-tickling to do beforehand (it IS Mass, after all), and now the snow is off the ground, the blackflies and yellowjackets are buzzing, and the Project has begun. I’ll be trying to add daily posts to keep you all informed. But it is VERY physically demanding, and my time in the hotel is often cut short by    my  *yaaawn*   dozing      offffff

….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzghghggg! snurk snurk……


                                         Shed in winter; note the height of the plowed snow

Shed in spring; note the removed addition and the only other difference is a scattering of day lilies sprouting under the mailbox frame. We hope leaves on trees will soon follow, but we doubt it after this winter
  More very cool pics to follow!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Being the unabashed rockhound that I am, I got quite excited when I found the location for Soapstone Mountain on my way from the airport at Windor Locks, CT to Norwich last June.

At 1075 feet above sea level, it’s not exactly Everest, but it does rise rather precipitously from the lowlands below.

Soapstone, also called steatite, is a talc-rich mineral that can be carved into many items, both useful and ornamental. I found the mountain’s location on the DeLorme Atlas of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and it took some doing, but after several false starts, I climbed the mountain’s twisty road to a collection of towers at the crest of the mountain. I never found the soapstone deposit (I didn’t look very hard; I was more interested in getting to Norwich), but I did find the tower (a Doppler Weather Radar installation), a great view towards the north, and some interesting graffiti.

I like to think that the bare trees and patches if ice surrounding my farm will soon turn as green and warm as on the day I took the pictures.

The city in the distance is likely Springfield Massachusetts.

Monday, February 24, 2014



This is likely more than a carriage house; it probably sheltered a number of working farm vehicles, as it belonged to a…working farm.

This is the farmhouse.

                                                          Rear with Attached Kitchen
                                           Magnificent Front with Bays and Porticos
And this is the barn.

They really knew how to build barns back then, didn’t they?

But I digress, and after a plate of asparagus, that sometimes smells pretty bad.

Back inna goodle days, nails were expensive and often hard to come by. And if you wanted a piece of wood of a specific size, you made it yourself.

This circa 1800 carriage house in Harvard, Massachusetts (a small town north of Worcester, not the University in Cambridge) is about to be deconstructed by yours truly and accompanying Crew from Early New England Restorations. Once in pieces, we will bring the building down to Rhode Island where it will be reassembled in Avondale, next door to Watch Hill. The collapsing end is an addition and likely will not be rebuilt, but who knows?

Not I.

The land around the site will get developed, so it either gets moved or destroyed.

The timbers are hand hewn and squared using a broadaxe, which has a curved handle and a wide, curved blade. This tool is wielded from atop the log, and the curved handle allowed for even strokes without gouging the wood or cutting off one’s toes, which I’ve heard is a good thing both ways. It also leaves specific marks in the wood, some of which can be seen here.

After the timbers are hewn into shape, their ends are cut into tenons (they’re narrower than the timber and stick out) and mortises (holes to accept that which sticks out [oh my!]), then the two are drilled with a round hole and pinned together with tapered pieces of wood. These pieces are deliberately hand-whittled to give their surface many small angles that dig into the round walls of the drilled hole. It’s the square peg in a round hole philosophy; works pretty well in Colonial architecture and has been the mainstay of shipbuilding for eons. The pins are nearly impossible to remove and they hold the joint fast. I’ll give some examples of this when we do the job in the next few weeks.

These whittled pieces of wood, by the way, are known as ‘trunnels.’ ‘Trunnel’ comes from a shortened version of the term ‘tree-nail,’ and that is named for obvious reasons. I like the word trunnel. It seems so permanent. I just can’t pin down its origin, sorry for the pun. What pun? It seems Anglo-Saxon but my sources are unclear on the matter.

I just like the scallops in the wood. Knowing they were put there two hundred years ago by someone that just needed to do so, not by some sort of ‘expert,’ makes me even gladder.

Because we all were experts in those days. We were just working the land for a living.

And a hard living it was. But it gave us something we can only copy today.

Because who today could come up with a term like ‘trunnel?’