This poor old house. Built in about 1872 not one of her owners could leave her alone. Built of salvaged lumber – probably even her granite sills were secondhand – she rarely got a new thing. If she were indeed a sentient being, she’d definitely be female. She was never right in their eyes– too small, too plain. They probably started messing with her right from the beginning. Cut off half her kitchen to start with; her truncated back wall could only have been where the kitchen used to be. But of course they needed a kitchen, so they promptly tacked on an ell.
Somewhere along the way the folks who lived here realized they didn’t have to haul water into the house from what may once have been a spring across the road. Or perhaps the spring was destroyed by road work. So the next improvement was a massive concrete cistern smack in the middle of her cellar, complete with gutters on the roof to divert rainwater into it, and a pipe to the new kitchen where a hand pump was installed at the sink.
The ell was built in a couple of stages, gradually filling in the space between house and barn. You can see its progress in the changing floorboards. One fine day somebody took a saw to those boards, cutting out a man-sized opening smack in the middle of what was then her kitchen. To this day you have to move the furniture and lift them out one by one, then the subfloor boards to get down into the crawl space.
The new ell needed a chimney of course, for the woodstove, so they hauled in a slab of granite the size of a double bed and built the chimney on that. We discovered that massive piece of granite the day we took a saw to the floorboards, installing a fireproof barrier under the two woodstoves that now flank that chimney, one for the kitchen one for the living room.
Perhaps it was a wife who persuaded her husband to move the kitchen another notch closer to the barn so they could have a proper parlor, though don’t imagine a stuffy Victorian-type parlor. A couple of rocking chairs, maybe a table for family meals along with the requisite mantel shelf for clock and kerosene lamp, where the man of the house kept his tobacco and pipe. The homemade cupboards, counter and oversized porcelain sink, including the pump were pried up off the floor and moved along the ell into the new space. The outline still showed when Vonnie, the owner before us, took up the old linoleum and revealed the original boards.
TUESDAY, Oct. 22
Walk to the Millerite Ledges – The Great Disappointment, 6:30 a.m., end of Maiden’s Cliff Road
Lakes and Ponds Committee, 7 p.m., Town Office
THURSDAY, Oct. 24
Soup Café, Noon-1p.m., Community Building
SATURDAY, Oct. 26
Intro to Pickleball and Open Play, 9-11 a.m., LCS Outdoor Courts, 523 Hope Road
AA meetings, Tuesdays & Fridays at 12:15 p.m., Wednesdays & Sundays at 6 p.m., United Christian Church
Lincolnville Community Library, open Tuesdays 4-7, Wednesdays, 2-7, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon. For information call 706-3896.
Soup Café, every Thursday, noon—1p.m., Community Building, Sponsored by United Christian Church. Free, though donations to the Community Building are appreciated
Schoolhouse Museum open by appointment, 505-5101 or 789-5987
Bayshore Baptist Church, Sunday School for all ages, 9:30 a.m., Worship Service at 11 a.m., Atlantic Highway
United Christian Church, Worship Service 9:30 a.m., Children’s Church during service, 18 Searsmont Road
Wally and I were the fifth owners of this rambling old place at the top of Sleepy Hollow. People tended to stay here until the day they were carried out, and that included my husband. I hope as much for myself.
But meanwhile, like all her previous owners, I keep busy improving her. Or, to be more specific, repairing my original improvements.
Yes, my house is female, perhaps in some weird way an extension of my own woman-ness. Just as a mother will fuss with her young daughter’s hair, I can’t stop messing with her. From the little wooden shelves I installed on every windowsill to hold winter’s electric candles to the many bookcases and cabinets, the six workbenches (yes, I currently have six workbenches in this place – all for the use of just one person: me), the outside greenhouse and the inside sunroom. Everywhere I look I see my handwork, some I’m proud of, some not so much.
I built it all. Somehow I ended up being the builder in our family. Wally did the mowing, wood cutting/stacking/woodbox-filling, the milking, shoveling, tilling. The bread-winning. In retirement he was the weaver, the reader, the anchor.
He hated power tools, and barely tolerated gas engines, though he spent countless hours tinkering with them, doing the work of this place with them. But an electric saw? Even a battery-operated drill. No way.
I, on the other hand, love them. Perhaps because I learned to use them at the hands of an early boy-friend, working together on stage sets in college. The boy-friend didn’t last, but the excitement, yes, the romance of mastering those tools has.
Some fifteen years ago we decided to add a new room to the back of the house where that amputated old kitchen had stood. Actually, in our early years here the two of us had built a smaller addition there, and now we were going to replace it.
Wisely, this time we hired a carpenter, John LaCasse, and ended up with two large rooms, one up and one down. The downstairs room we imagined would be for our old age and included a bathroom. I wanted a shower like the ones we’d seen in Taiwan when visiting our son, with the room all tiled and a shower head and drain at one end; no shower door or curtain. Something you could push a wheelchair into.
John had installed cement board on the walls and floor of the bathroom and lent me his tile saw to finish it off. That saw, suspended over a tray of water, kept cool with a constant spray on its diamond blade was a whole new exciting tool to master. I was installing heavy, brick-red quarry tile, the only kind I could afford in the quantity I needed, and I had to cut much of it to fit the corners and edges. I even did the floor in a quilt-like pattern, cutting each square tile into four diamonds
I read up on how to construct a shower bed, and ignoring the dire warnings that always preceded these instructions, that building a proper shower bed wasn’t for the faint of heart, I went ahead anyway. No faint heart here.
When the whole thing was done, floor, walls and a drain I asked our artist daughter-in-law to add the finishing touch: a wide, zigzaggy band of beach pebbles and the broken crockery pieces we’d found in the garden. It was a masterpiece.
All was well for several years, us happily showering in our one-of-a-kind space. Every now and then I’d check its underpinnings when down in the cellar – nice and dry, I’d assure myself. Until the day it wasn’t. Moisture was beginning to spread into the subfloor. Uh oh. A few dabs of silicone caulk here and there and it’ll be fine. But it always came back; I was adding caulk on top of caulk, until finally there was a steady drip-drip-drip around the drain and every few days I had to dump out the tin can underneath it.
As she so often does, my resident daughter-in-law pointed out the inevitable: “you’ve got to replace the floor.”
I’m pretty sure she wasn’t suggesting that I actually do the work, but I scarcely considered hiring anyone. I’d screwed it up in the first place; I had to fix it.
It took six weeks, six weeks of shower surfing all around town (oh yes, I exaggerate, but let’s just say I grabbed a chance to shower whenever it cropped up) six weeks of waking up every morning to the inevitable awful chore that faced me: dismantling some 20 square feet of quarry tile, subfloor, walls and insulation. And then of course, rebuilding the whole thing, only this time, water-tight.
Every step was agonizing in its own way. Chiseling out the floor tiles took forever, then discovering the supposedly impenetrable cement board had turned to mud, and under that, the unspeakably gooshy particle board that I removed by the handful.
Along the way I became acquainted with a couple of new tools thanks to friend Don’s apparently bottomless supply. First up was the angle grinder he lent me. It scared the beejeezus out of me with its deadly blade whirling inches away from my fingers as I tried to cut a straight line across the tile walls; I’d decided to remove the first 20 inches of the three walls surrounding the shower floor. Another day of wacking at them with a hammer brought the whole mess down.
Demolition I discovered is harder than building, and then there’s all that junk you have to haul away. I got down to the floor joists and wall studs, trimming around the edges with the other scarey tool Don lent me – the Saws-all. And then I built it back, installing a new subfloor level with the top of the joists, (thanks to some advice from Amy during an acupuncture treatment, and another day, encouragement and the loan of a tool from Jo-ann during a therapy appointment), then a layer of plywood on top of that, and new insulation in the walls. No surprise, the old stuff was wet.
I’d seen a bathroom under construction this past spring at the Lincolnville Beach house Wally’s cousin Steve was building. He’d talked enthusiastically about the Schluter-Kerdi shower system, and for some reason, months later, that name came back to me when I realized I’d have to replace my own. That company has detailed YouTube videos showing how to install their components. If you do it right there’s no way the water can go anywhere but right down the drain.
Hammond Lumber (aka EBS, aka Passmore’s) in Camden carries the stuff, and a neighbor, Mark Kelly, an expert tile guy, stopped by a couple of times to check on my progress. Once you mortar down the S-K shower pan and cover the walls with their impermeable membrane, including sealing the corners with special pieces you’re ready to tile.
Don and I made several trips to Home Depot – the slightest excuse and we’re down there anyway, walking the aisles, examining every single thing we see. I found all the tiles I’d need right there, assorted pebbles on a mesh background for the floor and rough-looking subway tiles for the walls. Minutes after posting a plea on the Lincolnville Bulletin Board (LBB) for the loan of a tile saw, and another neighbor, Randy, said he had one I could use.
What took six weeks? Working on the floor, getting my 75-year-old knees and legs up and down dozens of times, fetching a tool across the room, moving to a better position, carrying off hundreds of pounds of broken tile or mixing huge buckets of mortar, then using it all up at one go. Rubbing grout into the spaces between tiles and pebbles was fun; wiping off the excess grout wasn’t.
I may think I can do anything I want to this old girl, my house, but this job almost did me in. The best part, what I kept muttering to myself – by the time this thing leaks I’ll be out there in the garden with Wally.
The cross country season ended last week with the championship meet at Damariscotta River Preserve. The girls team finished third behind Camden-Rockport Middle School and Great Salt Bay with Lincolnville eighth grader Jaden Johnson finishing first in a field of 138 runners, her 12th consecutive win for LCS. Thea Laukka finished third.
The boys team placed second behind CRMS with Brandon Nelson finishing 7th in a field of 130. See all the results posted on the LCS newsletter, the Lynx.
The Great Disappointment
Oct. 22, this Tuesday, is the day remembered at The Great Disappointment, when dozens of Lincolnville people, believing the world would end on that day in 1844, climbed up Megunticook to the cliffs overlooking the lake to be pulled up at midnight to heaven from that high place. They were followers for a charismatic preacher, William Miller, and thus were called Millerites by everyone else. They gave their name to the ledges near the summit of Megunticook, the Millerite Ledges on the map.
Of course, the world didn’t end, and as far as we know no one was raptured. Everyone had to come back down and face the neighbors who, in many cases, had ridiculed them.
Rosey Gerry leads an annual walk to the Ledges, starting at the end of Maidens Cliff Road off Youngtown Road near the Inn. Drive as far up as you can, then park and join the other walkers. “Rowdy people and dogs should be on leash,” Rosey says, or something to that effect. It’s always brisk at 6:30 a.m. when the walkers assemble, so dress for it. It takes about an hour to walk up and about 35 minutes to come down. It’s always informative as Rosey points out cellarholes and other features along the way, and as always, tells good stories.