Friday, November 14, 2014

Car In Garage!

 And just in time: we had snow last night.

So Terry and Kyle finished a spectacular patio, then it was Bill's turn to bring the yards and yards of topsoil they took from here when they built the garage that he'd been stockpiling for me and bring everything up to grade.

Here's Kyle spreading topsoil, patio in the foreground

Walkways from house to garage and from driveway to patio
Terry spreads topsoil by hand

Laika will miss them!

Bill's guys put on the final layer of pea stone in the parking area today; planting will have to wait until spring...

I made my maiden voyage into the garage, at long last!

2015 Tanglewood Schedule

The BSO announced its 2015 Tanglewood schedule yesterday.  Here is a link:

Looks like something for everybody except hard rock!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More rock work

The monumental wall is finished, but we are still obsessed with rocks!  Terry and Kyle have graciously agreed to keep working, though their services are demanded elsewhere, and they've built me a magnificent set of steps to the back door on my side of the house.

Finished grade will be brought up to the level
of the rocks on the right;
 the wooden steps will be removed.
On the other side, they've begun steps, a walkway to the garage and a patio. All summer they put aside big flat rocks for use in walkways and the patio, and there are lots of wonderful specimens to use.  But they wanted one really big, exciting rock for the patio and they decided they just had to peel one off from the ledge.

Terry drills a line of holes along where
they want it to break off while
Kyle inserts rods between the layers of rock

A little nudge is all it takes for it to separate
Then slide it down the ledge face

They've brought it over to the patio area and have begun to fit other rocks around it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Almost ready for guests

While Kyle and Terry have been working outside, and Mark, Matt, Gerry, Mike, Noel, Chris, Jeff, et al.  have been working inside, I have been busy shopping for furniture (and cleaning, painting, assembling and moving it).

My organizing principle was which quilts would go on which beds in which rooms.  (With one exception, I made all the quilts and wall hangings.)

I bought some things from Ikea, some from second hand shops and yard sales, and some on the internet, and finally it's ready for guests.  It could still use a few chairs and small pieces, but it is habitable, and just in time, for I have a group coming in October!

Here's how the great room downstairs came together:

Wall hangings I made for the stairwell:

Upstairs bedrooms:


One of the beds for the downstairs bedroom had a defective part, so they sent a new one, but it was for the wrong model. I am supposed to be getting the correct part next week. Not quite down to the wire, but close enough to make me a bit anxious!

Monday, September 22, 2014

One rock shy

On September 2nd, it was time to remove the ramp and start putting in the stairs.

Unlike with the wall, the stairs all had to be the same size, so there was much more cutting involved.  The first rock placed was the landing rock at the base of the stairs.

Then slowly stairs were placed atop each other, nine in all. The tenth step will be the "capstone".

With nine steps in place, the walls on either side can be finished.

Finally, nearly three weeks later,  on September 19th the capstone was placed. The side walls are all complete except for one rock.  They'll cut one and place it this morning.  Then maybe I'll break out the champagne!

Capstone is lowered into place

Terry checks to see if it's level

He removes some gravel from underneath

After lowering it into place again, he "jiggles" it a little

Kyle checks to make sure the capstone is
at the right level

Finished, except for one rock!

But...there's more work to be done.  I need Terry and Kyle to make me four rock steps, one each for the east and west side of the front and back porches.  They'll also make me some flat rocks to use as a patio.  There will be lots of rocks left over, so I'll have them build me a rough stone wall parallel to the road along the front of the lot.  The idea is for it to look like one of those tumble-down walls you encounter in the New England woods all the time that show that the land was once farmed.

The people who dug out the rock and did the excavation for the garage will come and back fill around the top and bottom of the wall and around the garage in a week or so.  After that I'll be able to start landscaping and preparing some planting beds.  We'll aim at getting the hardscape done this fall and probably wait until spring to do any planting.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A month of progress, and lots of visitors

The bathrooms on my side were finished a few days after my last post, and immediately I began to receive visitors: first was my dear brother for two nights. We went to see a New York based chamber orchestra called The Knights at Tanglewood. I had had 3 different members of that group stay with me in Boston while they were guest musicians for A Far Cry, a wonderful young chamber orchestra based in Jamaica Plain. We arrived at Tanglewood in a downpour, ran to Ozawa Hall, and when we came out, we couldn’t remember where we had parked the car!  The next day my brother, who is a triathlete, took a 30 mile bike ride, then we went to pick blueberries at Windy Hill Orchards (delicious!) then that evening we dined at a little restaurant in Stockbridge that I’d been wanting to try: Once Upon a Table, and we pronounced it very good.

Next came Mary and Ruth, two friends of my mother’s, for two nights, then three cousins from Ohio and Connecticut. They were intrigued by the stone wall building and took lots of pictures.  
My cousins Kim and Annie watching Terry and Kyle
We tried the Mexican restaurant in Great Barrington and liked it, but since we had feasted on our own home-made guacamole beforehand I can’t say how theirs is. (My test of a Mexican place is if the guacamole tastes like avocado.) We also went to Hancock Shaker Village and Naumkeag, both of which are wonderful.
My cousin Audrey in front of the
iconic blue steps at Naumkeag

We must share a Subaru gene

The day my cousins left, my daughter arrived with her husband and two kids. My grandson helped me sand the bookshelves I was trying to paint in between guests. 

Once they were all done, I was really happy to unpack the 25 boxes of books that had been waiting in the garage.

 My son-in-law and my grandson and I explored Tyringham a bit.  My grandson had remembered the fairy tale house there (Santarella) so we went to look at it, then took a little hike.  We were all intrigued with a rock formation on the way to Tyringham Cobble.

This weathered piece of marble looks like a rabbit
I had a break of a few days and then my quartet came for an overnight visit and pronounced the acoustics in my living room excellent for playing.  We also went to see Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Shakespeare & Company after a delicious dinner at Perigee, the restaurant just across the street from me.

A lovely young couple from France came via AirBnB to stay for one night, then Sonia, another chamber music friend from Boston, came for a night and a nice hike (without Laika: no dogs allowed) in the Mass Audubon Pleasant Valley Sanctuary in Lenox. When visitors come I rope them into trying out all the restaurants in the area. Unfortunately Sonia came with me to one that was mediocre: Michaels in Stockbridge.

My mother came again and we went to an outstanding performance of Handel’s Teseo in Ozawa Hall (we were going to join some other friends for a picnic at Tanglewood but it was rainy and cool, so we had supper here instead), and the next night we heard Emmanual Ax in the shed.  The next day was the concert of the little orchestra I joined earlier in the summer, the Stockbridge Sinfonia, at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

Whew, I've had a busy month! 

Meanwhile, as I was out gallivanting around with friends and relatives, slow but steady progress was made on the rental unit. Floors sanded and polyurethaned, painting all done but for a few odds and ends, bathrooms tiled, and kitchen cabinets installed.  Next week the countertops will arrive, then the kitchen appliances. Bathrooms should be soon after that.  Mike is working on the HVAC: his initial goal was Labor Day but it’s clear that’s not happening.

But of course the big question on everybody’s mind is how is The Wall coming along.  Terry and Kyle started from either end and worked towards the middle, where there will be steps going up to the upper part of the yard.  While they are working there is an earthen ramp so they can go up and down with their machines to bring down the rocks that they want to work with.

At this point the shorter, right hand portion of the wall is complete and the longer, left hand side is getting very near. 
This is the side they started on

The left hand side of the wall nearing completion
Soon they will need to bring down all the rocks they anticipate using on the steps, because once they start on the steps it will be difficult if not impossible to go up and down with the big equipment.

The left hand side goes behind the barn and turns a corner.  And what a corner they made: a beautiful curve, painstakingly put together. 
Terry making sure the curve is just right

I had been planning to put my compost piles in that space, but the wall is so beautiful that I’m re-thinking that.  I think I’ll put a small table & chairs or maybe a hammock there.  It will be a nice shady space in the middle of the day.

Now I'm beginning to turn my attention to furnishing and decorating the rental unit.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How to lift 10 tons of rock

When you're building a wall, you can't just pick up the rock with a fork lift and set it on top of the other rock, because you can't slide the fork lift out from under it.  So you use a lifting device called a pin Lewis. (I found out from Wikipedia that no one knows exactly why it's called this: maybe somebody named Lewis invented it, or maybe it comes from the Latin levo, meaning to lift. In any event, it has been used since Roman times in one version or another.)

Two holes are drilled in the top of the rock, angled toward each other.  The exact placement of the holes and their angles is determined by the mason based on his years of experience judging where the mass of the rock is. Two pins at either end of a chain or sling are inserted into the holes, and when the sling is lifted, the weight of the stone itself holds the pins in place. This seems so simple, yet the physics of it are amazing.

On the day that Terry and Kyle set the first stone of the wall in place, I had a chance to see this in action.

These are the pins.

Kyle shows what part of the fork lift to
hang them from. If you twist the chain, the rock
turns itself around as it is lifted.
Two sizes of pins: the larger ones can
lift 10 tons.

Terry drills the holes...

and inserts the pins.

When my rocks were quarried out the the ground, they left in place a ridge of ledge that will become one wall of sort of a courtyard.  The part of the wall that Terry and Kyle are building needs to butt up against that ledge.  Getting the first base rock into just the right place took many hours. First they lifted the rock into position.

They measured and eyeballed how the rock was going to fit against the ledge, lifted the rock back out of the way, and measured some more.

They chipped away bits of the rock to make it fit just right, then put it back to make sure.

They weren't satisfied, so they took it off again and flipped it over to take some off the bottom so it would lie level.

Back into place, more measuring and eyeballing.

Still not right, so they decided they needed to bring out the saw.  Kyle sawed into the rock, then Terry went at it with a sledge hammer until pieces came off at a natural seam.

Then back in place to check if it's level.

Finally, they were happy with the placement of the first rock and began to place the second rock.

But they didn't like how fit against the first rock, so they needed to make some adjustments in the first rock. Kyle sawed parallel lines into the rock, and Terry whacked them with a hammer and chisel to knock the pieces off.

The second rock went back and they checked the fit.

It needed a few nudges from the forklift to get it in just the right spot.

Finally they were satisfied and called it a day (and it had been a long day).  In the week since, they've added more layers to this section of the wall. Here's how it looked this morning before they came and started back to work.