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Years End at the Farmhouse

December 25, 1999 - January 1, 2000

On The Road

This has been one of the more hectic holiday seasons in memory, and we were grateful to be able to settle into the Farmhouse for the week between Christmas and the New Year. One of my principal "day job" projects this summer and fall has been a water project in the Four Corners area of Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. Activity grew to a fever pitch over the holidays, as my team and I put the final touches on our environmental report. I had spent the two weeks before Christmas in Denver, Salt Lake City and Sacramento, and finally got to fly back home on Christmas Eve.

It was altogether a terrible time to be away from home, not just because of the holidays. December is always one of the busiest times with book orders, and Penny had to handle it all this year. Not much fun for either of us, unfortunately.

In passing through Salt Lake City I had Saturday free, and was able to get fishing with my buddy Lee for a couple of hours on the Provo River. We caught a few nice brown trout, and enjoyed the snowy mountains and a chance to visit. I was also able to take in the Christmas Concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir - always a spectacular show with all the decorations. This years concert featured a full symphony orchestra, and a 25-handbell group to complement the choir - truly a breathtaking event. The Family History Library was also open, and I was able to fill in nearly all of the gaps in the history of the Farmhouse. The John Meserve Farm Journal Entry has been updated and changed to reflect new information we've gathered. If you've not visited it since it was first posted in November, you should revisit it.

My flight climbed out of Sacramento on Christmas Eve, heading east and home. All-in-all a pretty pleasant passage across the country. Gustav Holst's "Jupiter Suite" came on the plane's headset as we passed over the darkened Sierras, with the rosy gleam of the sun rimming the horizon. A good meal, a bottomless champagne mimosa, and a brilliant snowy landscape all across the country to Chicago. The connection was on time. Arriving in Albany, my bags were the first off the baggage carousel, and I remembered where I'd parked the car two weeks before! I was home by supper time on Christmas Eve.

We loaded up the trailer and headed north on Christmas morning for Vermont. We shared Christmas with son Chris and daughter-in-law April at their place near Burlington, and then drove east across Vermont towards the Farmhouse. The headlights started to pick up snow banks along the side of the highway once we got east of Montpelier, but by the time we reached the Connecticut River all the snow had disappeared. It was cold, windy, and brown - not the White Christmas we'd been looking for at all!

With all my time on the road, we'd never gotten around to putting up our Christmas tree this year - either in Clifton Park or at the Farmhouse. It was now 7:00 PM on Christmas night and we'd stopped for gas and to walk the dogs in Lebanon, NH. Standing in the dark and the cold next to the gas station were three or four bedraggled Balsam fir trees, left unsold. Here was our Christmas tree - I could just toss it in the trailer and take it along with us - we'd set it up at the Farmhouse!

"What are you going to do with your left-over Christmas trees?" I asked the attendant in the gas station.

"I don't know" she answered.

"Since it is already Christmas night, you're not likely to sell any more of them - how about if I take one off your hands? It'll be one less for you to haul to the dump tomorrow."

My reasoning falls on deaf ears - "The trees are all on consignment - we don't own 'em."

"Well, could you check with someone to see if it would be OK?"

"I'll check with the manager" she offered, and ducked into the back room.

The manager came out - "we can give you 10% off the tag price - that's what our markup is."

"But they're all going to the dump tomorrow" I argued. "I don't want to pay $25 for a tree that has no value."

"Sorry, that's the best we can do" as he went back into the back room.

Oh well, it probably would have been so dry that we'd have just spread needles around the house anyway - or so I rationalized to myself. Here was a case where getting forgiveness would have been easier than getting permission. Bah humbug anyway.

We had a second Christmas with son Jim's family in Wells, and a third one with just Penny and I and the dogs at the Farmhouse. Weather was cold, and not even a skim of snow to be seen anywhere. Not the typical winter scene in Maine. However, it made little difference to me. I was stuck in front of the computer and on the phone to Colorado and California all week long between Christmas and New Years doing the final edits on our report for the Department of the Interior.

A Brown Christmas at the Farmhouse

Bringing in the New Year

By the time New Year's Eve rolled around, all I wanted to do was quietly shut down the computer and relax. Penny and I got together with Dot and Ed for dinner, and then back to the North Sebago church for a watchnight service. Penny and I were back at the Farmhouse before 11:00 PM, ready to quietly bring in the New Year - just the two of us. We opened the bottle of champagne that the stewardess had given me when I got off the plane on Christmas Eve, and we watched the new millenium begin around the world.

The only fireworks we saw were on television in the sky over Washington, DC. As the clock moved past midnight, the power stayed on and all the trappings of civilization carried on without incident at the Farmhouse - and throughout the rest of the world. The only glitch we had was one of our computers. The date rolled over to 1900 instead of 2000, but a simple utility fixed it without incident.

Dawn of the New Millenium

The dogs awoke me at 6:00 AM on New Years Day. The sunrise was appropriate for the start of a new century, and filled the sky over the woods with subtle shades of pink. Although the spectacle was lost on the dogs, it was an auspicious beginning to what we hope will be a momentous year. If all goes according to plan, sometime this year we hope to move into the Farmhouse full time.

Paul and Marilyn came up to visit, and we took a hard look at the rest of the major projects that remain to complete the renovation. We worked out a schedule for the completion of all the major projects by the end of April. We'll then be able to set up the shelving in the barn for the books, and all of the other aspects of the book business. There will be enough minor projects, like painting and wallpapering, to keep us busy for years. Sonny our electrician came by to take a look at the electrical work that needs to be done to connect the generator to the existing house emergency system and some new wiring on the second floor. Dave from Smart Systems also dropped by to discuss making the final connections for the house cabling and network system, for our book business computer LAN and communications network.

In the meantime, every trip to the Farmhouse involves hauling another load of boxes, furniture, books, and whatever. The moving seems to be much longer and drawn out this way, being in so many small pieces, but will still be easier overall than doing it all at once. We're getting there, and the rest comes along, load by load.

And The Frost Line Gets Deeper

Christina G. Rosetti wrote "In The Bleak Midwinter" in 1872, in reponse to a request from Scribner’s Monthly magazine for a Christmas poem. The words were later set to music by Gustav Holst in 1906. The first stanza fits our winter world well - cold days and colder nights, bleak and brown fields, and frost in the ground.

In the bleak midwinter,
frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone...

Other than a couple of inches of snow in mid November (see "The Mystery of the Hanging Chimney" that didn't stay long, we've had no real snow storms this winter. After a long stretch of mild weather, the cold temperatures of winter have finally arrived. Without an insulating blanket of snow on the ground, the frost line goes deeper every day that we have temperatures below freezing. The frost line is now down to 1 1/2 feet or more in places. If it goes much deeper, buried water lines will start to freeze. We're OK at the Farmhouse down to about three to four feet, but this is something that we've not tested, and are not exactly sure about. Oh well, we'll find out, probably soon enough!

Allen and Penny Crabtree

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Last updated May 25, 2001

Copyright © 2000, Allen Crabtree