Thursday, March 31, 2011

Friday Morning Update:

In the words of the immortal Yogi Berra, "I'm having a deja view (sic) all over again.

On April 1, 1997 we had a particularly vicious ice storm in Boston.  Power in the Roslindale neighborhood where I lived was out for four days.  In the western suburb of Wellesley where lightning took out the electric substation, there was no power for a week.  Roads were blocked by trees that fell over or were torn apart by the weight of the ice, and live power lines were down everywhere.

Well, below are three pictures of what the property looks like this morning.  It's a heavy, wet snow but fortunately, nothing like as bad as April Fools day 1997.  But even that storm's clouds had a silver lining: less than two months later, I met Fritz and my life got kicked into the stratosphere forever.       


We return you to the regularly scheduled Thursday March 31 entry:

We went down to the Center this morning to begin the fire in the maple sap boiler.  I had other chores to do, mainly cutting a lot of fire wood from among the wreckage of trees left in the wake of a serious windstorm a couple of years ago.  Just as we were entering the parking area, Fritz pointed excitedly to a long line of wild turkeys coming over the New England stone fence from the next property in a long, fluid line.  We missed the beginning of the line but after we sighted them, Fritz counted 25 of the big birds.

Wild Turkeys move in a smooth, calm manner that's quite graceful.  Even when surprised and they feel the need to move away quickly, they do so with considerable dignity.  Here, they're arriving at the edge of the field next to the parking lot, their next stop being the woods.  The two big maple trees, left and center, had just had their taps for gathering maple sap removed the day before.

Speaking of maple sap, we still have the final boil-down on the home stove and straining into preserve jars to do.  The last batch looks like it will give a bit over two gallons of syrup, meaning our total will be around seven and a quarter gallons for the season.  It means also that we carried about 280 gallons of sap from the trees to the evaporator.


Dr. Seuss was right! but where's the ham"

No, that's not an Easter egg in there.  It's a green egg. We were given three that had come from a home egg farm.  They were completely indistinguishable from "regular"white or brown eggs in flavor, size of yolk, etc.


I like stories like the one below partly, I think, because I have always been impressed by, and felt protective toward, objects and structures that have survived through the ages.  As a child I was fascinated by antiques and anything that was out of the ordinary.  In many ways, I still am.  In the arts I am a great proponent of the new, but the old is an important part of my life.

Given the many perils buildings face from fire and natural causes, a four hundred year-old building in the US is close to miraculous.  In the early 1980s, I saw many of Boston's 18th and early 19th century buildings destroyed in the transformation of the waterfront and financial area into a collection of modern and often undistinguished modern buildings.

In any rate, dedicated people with a clear vision, and the stamina to wait out years of obstacles and delay, took a stand and have made a difference.  Jersey City has a somewhat dog eared, depressed town that will, I think, benefit from this little bit of care to its early history.

Jersey City Independent
Plan to Complete Restoration of Jersey City’s Historic Apple Tree House Gets Approval
By Matt Hunger • Mar 11th, 2011

Seven years after it began, the restoration of Jersey City’s historic Apple Tree House entered its final phase Wednesday night with the passage of two resolutions by the City Council. Despite what has by all accounts been a long and frustrating process, and despite the city’s fiscal problems, the council — urged on by community members supporting the cause — found the landmark a worthwhile cause even in tight economic times.

The Academy Street home, which is on the Register of Historic Places at both the state and national levels, dates back to the 17th century, making it one of Jersey City’s oldest structures. The house is perhaps best-known for playing host to a supposed meeting between General George Washington and General Lafayette to discuss strategy over a meal during the Revolutionary War.

“These and other accounts about the Van Wagenen property have found their way into many histories about the Revolutionary War and New Jersey,” the Jersey City Past and Present project at New Jersey City University notes. “Without question, the legend has provided the added benefit of sustained interest in the property and its preservation for further study.”

Last owned by Provident Bank, the city purchased the house in 1999 to prevent a historic landmark from turning into a drive-through bank.

Even when faced with such a rich history right in their backyards, the council members on Wednesday expressed the difficulty of continuing what has become a lengthy and costly restoration project in the face of the city’s economic crisis.

According to Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) director Roberta Farber, approximately $600,000 of UEZ funding will be needed for the final phase of the restoration, which will include the construction of 16 parking spots, a security system and the completion of its landscaping. The restoration, which has come almost exclusively from UEZ funding, also utilized an $800,000 grant from the Hudson County Open Space Recreation Plan.

Current plans call for the first floor of the House to be used as a visitors center and a historic museum, with the offices on the second floor, according to city spokesperson Jennifer Morrill, will likely be used for the Division of Cultural Affairs.

While the final vote was unanimously in favor, there were some cold feet at the caucus meeting. Farber, who came to Monday’s caucus meeting expecting only to give a presentation on the final stages, instead found herself justifying the project’s existence seven years into its long restoration process.

Ward E councilman Steven Fulop maintained that in tough financial times the money could be used differently. While supporting the eventual completion of the plan, he said the city should focus on more pressing concerns.  “We just sold a museum that was hemorrhaging money,” he said, referring to the Jersey City Museum. “I’m sorry, but no one is coming to the city to see the Apple Tree House.”

But Cultural Affairs director Maryanne Kelleher gave an impassioned defense of the project, noting the House’s importance as a city landmark that not only celebrates the city’s history but can act as a potential revenue-generator.  Though acknowledging it wouldn’t raise “millions,” she said that Cultural Affairs would use the space for a variety of events that would take it beyond mere historical landmark.

“The Apple Tree House cannot stagnate as a house museum,” she said. “We plan to hold events there that will be cosponsored by nonprofits.” She said that would include monthly events such as history talks.

“This house is the oldest building in Jersey City and it was saved by the hard work, love, and dedication of conservationists throughout Jersey City,” Kelleher said. “In 2004 the administration and the council at the time made a commitment to Jersey City to get [the restoration] done. You’ve been gracious enough to see it through.”

I do read DesignerBlog regularly, but comment infrequently, as sometimes my remarks can veer to the insipid (self-assessment). Love the second snow picture with the buff glow in the midst of all the gray and white. "Even when surprised and they feel the need to move away quickly, they do so with considerable dignity." Stephen and I get fairly giddy every time we spot wild turkeys on our rural property. Too bad Ben Franklin didn't get his way with making the turkey the national bird instead of the bald eagle. Not that 'considerable dignity' fits the national character much these days.
Hi Bill,

I had turkeys at my old house, and it was so cold last winter, I found them sitting in the trees several times. And not in really big trees, either, in trees just barely big enough to hold them, that had branches fairly close to the ground. They really looked funny sitting in those trees.

I miss those turkeys and the deer - it is too build up for that kind of wild life where I am now. The birds are back though, including the cardinal couple from last year, so that helps.
The snow looks lovely; why would you not like this ?
Michael, I think it's a classic case of "too much of a good thing." We have been slammed hard this year.
I couldn't read the whole article about the Jersey City house, because my browser is rendering your page with the "Defend Equality, Love Unites" thingie in the middle of it for some reason, but I got the idea. And I love seeing old structures preserved! We're way too quick to destroy our history in this young country. It's especially gratifying to see people in New Jersey taking steps like this. Certainly, the typical view of the state government in NJ these days wouldn't support it. Their POS, arrogant, narrow-minded, miserable prick of a governor (can you tell I'm not a fan?) has already shown that he's too short-sighted to do anything that might cost his multi-millionaire supporters a few tax dollars, even if it's for the long-term good of the people. God forbid the rich pay their share. Makes me long for the days when the top tax bracket was around 90%!

On to happier things--if I pay UPS to back up a truck to your house, can you fill it with maple syrup and send it down? ;)
I believe it is time for spring in NH. Can't you arrange that? You have power in your state. The snow photos are actually lovely.

We need to save our historic buildings, but poor Jersey City. They needed to do it themselves...& good for them!
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