Thursday, July 2, 2015

Chapter 18: Tiemann Memoirs/Cavendish Mills

To read the prelude and other chapters of Tiemann’s Memoirs go to Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann. Following Chapter 18 is a history of the mills in Cavendish and Proctorsville. 


The seasons roll around and the years go by, and established farm life does not change very much, But we were far from being established; for us every change of season had a fresh face and presented not only interesting problems but new ideas and opportunities. People have said to us "How in the world do you stand it? It must get so boring!" There was no adequate answer, as they never would have understood, Boring it certainly was not, as there was constant challenge. I believe, the only thing we missed was some of our more intimate personal contacts, and despite distance these have never been entirely lost. We gradually made new friends, and found new interests some of which have provided greater satisfaction than anything available to us in our old community. Not having to com­mute or to be tied to a desk was a real life-saver for me, I loved the out-doors and, as I became more adept, I found that I enjoyed doing with my hands. Perhaps what mattered most to us both was that we felt we were doing something, which had a very real meaning to us. We were young enough not to mind what today I probably would consider hardships, and derived many small pleasures as we want along.

The winter of 1934-35 was a good Vermont winter but nothing like as rugged as our first one had been. Also we knew what to expect and were ready for it, with one notable exception- our initiation into winter driving and care of the car. That was enough by itself.

Not to again be caught napping I bought anti-freeze early, and got a sot of chains, and thought we were all seta Then one golden autumn afternoon before it was really cold Isabel suggested "Let's go for a drive and learn some of the back roads around here" which we proceeded to do. It was de­lightful until we came to a muddy spot on a steep hill, where we couldn’t go forward and it was too narrow to turn. When I managed to back out the radiator was boiling merrily, The anti-freeze contained alcohol and by the time we reached home there wasn't much left, Fortunately there was some extra on hand. But as soon as possible I changed to permanent type and have kept it in the car the year round ever since.
The Fords of those days were light cars and their traction not too good on slippery roads, Great care to avoid skidding was a "must" even with chains. The town seldom got around with sand and salt had not been heard of, so on our hills an icy surface was more cause for concern than snow. When we sometimes had to go out under these conditions there were some near misses with other cars and plenty of encounters with snow-banks.

If we slid off the road we generally were stuck. Then it was a case of get out the shovel and the jack - always part of winter equipment and find some flat stones to wedge under the wheels. This might or might not be successful. If someone came by you always could count on a pull or a push. But it sometimes was necessary to hunt up the nearest farmer and ask him to bring his team. Occasionally one would take payment but more often not. Then coming home, it often was more difficult to get up the little incline just before reaching the house than all the rest of the trip had been. Not infrequently I-and others- would wade thru the snow-bank to the stone wall and dig out a couple of heavy stones to weight the rear of the car. Backing down for a little run we generally could make it. (It happens sometimes even now, and that part of our wall is rather denuded,) But there have been times when we had to leave the car and walk.

Most frustrating of all was not being able to start. Even when the doors of the carriage house could be rolled shut (impossible when snow was banked against them) it was a cold place for a car to stand, perhaps for a week or more without being used. I had not learned that during a cold. period the motor should be started and run a few minutes every day,- in the afternoon if there was any sun to shine thru the doorway and give a bit of warmth. Trouble was, we generally wanted to go out in the morning. One of the "good" things about the old days was that cars had cranks -which was a big help but didn't always work. If not, the next step was to warm the carburetor by pouring a kettle-full of hot water over it. When even this failed - and it sometimes did - the last resort was to push the car out and to the top of the down slope, quickly mount, put it in high gear, let in the clutch, as it got rolling and hope. As a rule the motor would catch. If not, you let the car come to rest, as close to the roadside as possible and went home. Sooner or later, if someone didn't come by who could tow you to the next hill for another try, you knew it would get mild enough so the crank would work. How fortunate that those old cars were built 'to take it.

Altho we felt we were very much bettor off, we remained hard up for cash. Neither then nor later was the farm self-sufficient, It gave us the house and water and fuel and part of our food, yet there remained many things which could be obtained only by going to the store and paying for them. Besides certain groceries, this included oil. for the lamps (and later for the range), gas and lubricants for the car, clothing for three active and growing children an4 occasionally for ourselves, tools, stock feed,- and the larger items coming under “overhead" such as mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, and medical bills (the latter fortunately very small at the time,) Pared to the limit, we got by for a while on about $600 actual cash money a year. If this seems impossible, remember it still was "the depression.' Even this meager amount didn't come automatically. Two or three times we had to borrow which, until the loans were repaid, made the situation worse.

This subject started me thinking. How much is being poor an attitude of mind? For some years we were sufficiently hard up to have to squeeze every penny, yet I don't recall that we ever thought we were poor. In fact I'm sure we would have resented the implication, The poor were those not fortunate enough to own their own homes, and who had to take handouts in order to live, We wore near enough the ragged edge so that I did not appreciate at the time what those people must have suffered even if they did not actually go hungry (and some did.) I confess that having to haggle over everything we bought, always taking the cheapest and sometimes going without, did something to me which I never have quite gotten over, Partly bad, perhaps partly good. How Very fortunate we were!

I had discovered that more than a few of the men round-a-bout worked for the town whenever they could. So, with some trepidation in view of my short shift as a "carpenter" the previous year, I applied to the road commissioner for a job and was taken on. I sometimes am reminded of that period as I drive along the highway on which I labored for a number of weeks, until the weather became too bad for such activity, Next I obtained from down-country a few orders for Christmas tress at $1. each, express collect. Those had to be cut, inspected, bundled, and taken to the depot. It didn't pay for my labor, but it brought in some cash. I even tried my hand at writing and that winter sold a couple of stories to boys' magazines.- Very, rarely someone needed help for a day badly enough to be willing to pay, rather than the more usual custom of exchanging work. If such an opportunity arose I grabbed it.

So it happened that when a neighbor stopped by and said "I'm getting in some wood tomorrow, want to come over and help? It's a cash deal" I was happy to accept. This particular man was very good in the woods. I noticed immediately that ho had a double-bitted axe, which when I picked it up seemed lighter and better balanced than the single-bitted one I was using. "We'll put that on the stone, first," he directed, and so while l turned the handle of the old circular grindstone, he expertly brought both edges of .the axe to almost razor—sharpness: this condition was kept, while working by an occasional "touch" with a small hand stone. Before the day was over x decided his was the kind of axe I must have.

Later as we were doing some splitting it was necessary to use wedges. I was having trouble, "How do you keep them from bouncing out of the log when it's so cold?" I asked. My mentor grinned, He had started a little fire and thrown' his wedges down. by it, "Try one of these warm ones," he suggested. I did, and the wedge stayed in the log instead of jumping out each time I wacked it. A simple solution . when you knew it, Then he gave me a compliment, and some advice "That's a right good idea, having red paint on your things. I'm always losing in in the snow. But you'd bettor use this hammer" (handing me a sledge) "instead of your axe, else you'll be liable to crack the head."
In such practical ways my education continued.

Murdock Mill under construction on
what is today the Proctorsville Green. 
History of Cavendish Mills: While Tiemann was able to make additional money from his writing and odd jobs around town; it doesn’t appear that he applied for a job at “the Mill.”

Starting in 1832, the first Cavendish mill was constructed on the Black River. Below is a timeline of the mill industry in Cavendish and Proctorsville.

1832: The Black River Canal and Manufacturing Company. It was the first stone building in town and burned in 1873

1836: The Proctorsville Woolen Mill started. Failed in the panic of 1873-74 and was not used for three years. It was reopened with new owners in 1877 and became known as the Crescent Woolen Mill. This Mill was to undergo a number of different names and ownership as follows:
• 1890: Murdock’s Mill-A large brick addition of four stories was built and the machinery was increased to 12 sets of cards and sixty broad looms. Employed 175 people
• 1927-Proctor Mill
• 1932- 1937-Black Bear Woolen Mill

Proctorsville bought the building in 1938. In the 1940’s this building was used by Proctor Reels to make furniture as well as reels. This building was used by Acousti-Phase and burned in 1982. Part of the Mill area is now the Proctorsville Green.

1867: Spring Mill (known as Fitton Mill) started in 1867 and burned in 1875. The fire was thought to have been set by the Mill owner Robert Fitton.

1887: Gay Brothers Mill opens on the site of the Black River Canal and Manufacturing Company. The Gay brothers operate the Mill until 1951 when it is sold to F.C. Hyuck and Sons, and it was renamed Kenwood Mills. Operations were discontinued in 1957 and the building was sold to a Rutland firm. In 1962 Mac Molding purchased the building and continues to use it for injection plastic moldings.















Monday, June 29, 2015

CHS Plant Sales Past

Thanks to Nancy McMillian, the daughter of Pat and Craig Rankin, we have a wonderful collection of photographs of previous year's plant sales. None of us are sure when Craig, a landscape architect, decided he could make money for the Cavendish Historical Society and enjoy doing what he loved best, planting and sharing his bounty with his community. Pat made delicious jellies and jams to sell that day. While we're getting a better handle on keeping Craig's tradition alive, his last one was in 2007, we're going to work on the jellies and jams recipes for 2016.

Pieter van Schaik took up the challenge of continuing the plant sale and has done a remarkable job. So we're wondering if there is something about suspenders and planting. Thoughts on that?

Craig's Price List 
Craig tending his plant sale gardens. 
Unloading plants for the July 4, 2006 plant sale. Pieter van Schaik is in the truck. 

Craig tending his plant sale nursery gardens. 

Pat relaxing on the steps of the Cavendish Historical Society Museum. 


Craig probably 2006 sale.

Craig and Pat at the Great Hosta Sale
Pieter van Schaik unloading the hosta. He's still using the same
truck to haul hosta to and from the sale.





Sunday, June 28, 2015

Cavendish Historical Society Plant Sale Photographs


Many thanks to all those who made the Cavendish Historical Society Plant Sale a great success-Pieter van Schaik and his team (Norma Randall and Brian Pelkey); Steine van Schaik;  Kem and Svetlana Phillips; Bruce McEnaney; Lou Choinere; Jen Leak; Gloria Leven; the Tings and Moonlite Meadows Farm (best compost ever); Anna Shapiro; Bob Naess; Cooper Naess; and Margo Caulfield. Photographs by Svetlana Phillips.

Since it's a rainy day-the perfect planting day-CHS will continue to sell plants at their "rainy day special" from 2-4 pm on Sunday, June 28. The Museum will be open so stop by and explore the new exhibit areas.

Still some good plants left at the end of the day.




Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tiemann Memoirs: Chapter 17/Calculating Wood Need

Getting the wood in for the coming winter was an important summer focus for Philip Tiemann. Following Chapter 17, is information on gagging how much wood you might need for a Cavendish winter.

To read the prelude and other chapters of Tiemann’s Memoirs go to Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann.

 Our first year at Windy Hill ended most pleasantly with the visit of a family of former neighbors from New Jersey. The brooks provided entertainment for the younger fry,- in fact, we older folks took advantage of the swimmin’ hold to get cool on hot summer afternoons after work. Also I derived great benefit from help and instruction in car mechanics, - the new cylinder was installed and other adjustment made, and be­fore the friends left Lizzie was ready to take the road again. And may­be we didn’t appreciate it!

If the hay is in, August is something of a between month; still plenty to do but with the crops under control and time to devote to other things. While Isabel and the children took care of the garden produce, (such as it was) and picked berries, I put the finishing touches on the new chicken shed,- wire across the open front (which later would be protected by a sunray-admitting, translucent plastic material) and a sliding door, besides various small projects. I also "changed work" for a few days with neighbors, helping them get in hay. It was necessary to cut more wood (not a very good job in the summer.) And I took time to walk over the place, checking boundary walls and fences, estimating possibilities of fields and pastures and reviewing successes and fail­ures of the past year.

For such greenhorns as we were, we certainly had been blessed with good luck,. Especially had our associations with our several neighbors been valuable, both in a personal way and in what I had learned. Working in company with practical farmers was the best possible method to acquire, knowledge of how to do things: not always the most up-to-date, perhaps, but the fundamentals were sound, Also I had a pile of Government bullet­ins which I studied as they applied to whatever I happened to be doing, which offered a more scientific approach. (As a result of this and the arguments it sometimes led to with my more experienced friends, I discovered I had been dubbed "the book farmer.") Of course my year of practi­cal experience was quite priceless, and altho I still did some things the hard way I was learning fast.

As a start for the second year I was determined to do better with the wood supply. There was enough in the shed to carry us for a while. Any which was cut at this time of year could be stacked to season for a couple of months; then altho still green it should not be sappy and after being sawed and in the shed for a while it should be usable- un­like some of the logs I had dug out of the snow the past, winter and burned almost immediately. The selection would be better, too,- gold rock maple and beech and birch (both yellow and white) with a minimum. of other species. I hoped thus to avoid further trouble with creosote, that bubbling, black, sticky, smelly goop dripping from the pipe joints.

Not only was it messy but it could be a hazard. When one of our friends noticed the condition he cautioned  us, "You'd better clean that pipe and probably the chimney. Get clogged up and you'll have a good chimney fire. If that ever happens," he advised, "throw a lot of kitchen salt into the stove and close the drafts, and call the fire department. They may get here in time to help but it may burn itself out anyway without setting the house afire." I lost no time in doing as suggested and found both the pipe and the chimney lined with a combustible crust. After the job was finished my clothes had to go into the wash and it took a couple of days to get the grime out of my skin. Thereafter 1 emptied the pipes of soot at least twice every winter. Despite precautions we once did have a chimney fire. It started mildly but soon was burning with a whooshing roar that turned the pipe rod-hot and was more than a little terri­fying. This is why sound chimneys are important, as crevasses in the brick may permit fire to reach interior woodwork,- and then, so long, house! Even a good volunteer fire company can't do much arriving after a fire gets a start and too often having a limited water supply, (So, country houses have high insurance rates.)

Like so many other good intentions I didn't begin to accomplish as much as I had planned, nor as soon, 1 did at least stack up several cords of wood and continued adding more until time to get it up from the woods to the shed, where my pile grew to about seven cords ready for sawing, It looked like a lot. Just about as snow was in the air a neighbor with whom I had worked - this one, from over the hill - came with his big old circular saw rig (drawn by a team) and set it between the woodpile and the shed, "Don't expect that to go you all winter, do you?" ho joshed me, "I thought you'd have twice as much," "There's a good seven cord," I responded. - "I guess maybe, Well, let's get it sawed up. But next time leave more room for me to get in with the rig," He put up the horses; then with some delay and a good deal of sputtering the single-cylinder engine was persuaded to start and the saw picked up its high-pitched whine,- As he could not spare more than a few hours at any one tine we worked off and ­on for a number of days, he "laying on" and I "taking away," that is, he pulled and lifted the logs from the stack onto the saw table with a stove length projecting and pushed it into the teeth. As the saw sliced thru with an angry buzz I supported the end of the log so its weight would not pinch the saw and when it came off heaved it as far as I could into the shed. I confess I was very glad the sawing periods were no longer, and that there was time, helped by the children, to pick up the chunks which had accumulated in piles and stack them properly else there would not have been sufficient space. When this was finished the supply was quite impressive...but it still proved less than enough for a long Vermont winter.

As hoped, the summer kitchen had proved-more comfortable, when the heat was not boxed in by a ceiling, But this worked both ways, and when it commenced to get really cold we couldn't keep any warmth out there, We hated to move the stove inside so Isabel stuck it out until the canning was completed, which was in early October, By that time the scrub wood we had been burning in the fireplace had boon used, and I didn't want to waste our precious supply of stove wood. So the stove came in.
That autumn we were lucky in not having a real freeze before October, when one night it got down to 26, This time we recognized the signs and prepared for it. Most of the more perishable things were already harvest­ed, the field corn was in, and the soybean hay mowed down so it would not suffer much flat on the ground, We hastily got in the last pumpkins and squash and covered some remaining beans. The latter were all we lost: they froze thru the covers. The cabbages being hardy were left out under baskets and pails hoping they would grow some more. Next morning the Swiss chard looked rather sad despite protection but I immediately cut and soaked several bushels and Isabel canned it at once. I had to strip the outer leaves from the smaller cabbages but the tender and succulent hearts could be used. - We finished the harvest soon after. As I pulled the large cabbage heads, they were hung by the roots in the cellar. This way they keep well, However, as I have indicated the kitchen garden was a disappointment and we had less on hand than the previous year.

This was not the only misfortune: the apple crop was short and besides those we used currently during August and September we had very-few to keep. This was thru no fault of ours, as fruit blossoms had been nipped generally by a late spring frost. In order to have some on hand we pur­chased a couple of bushels from a roadside stand on the way to Brattle­boro, - However, the field crops were in good condition, especially the hay. When I came to husk the corn it was very nice. Also it was a satisfaction to have the garden cleaned up and things in shape for the winter somewhat earlier than before. And having weathered a pretty rugged year on our own we were much more self-assured, and felt that our technique was improving.

So How Much Firewood Do you Need for a Cavendish Winter: As we’ve read in the first 17 chapters, Tiemann had a hard time figuring out how much firewood he would need. So how does one judge what you’ll need for the coming winter?

• Insulation: How much do you have in your house? The less you have, the more wood you’ll burn.

• Size of the area you plan to heat: Whole house or just one room?

• How warm do you want to be? If you are comfortable keeping the house at 65, you’ll need a lot less

• Type of Stove

• What type of wood do you have- very high-heat-value woods (equivalent to more than 220 gallons of oil per cord) which include hickory, apple, white oak, beech, and hornbeam, will give you steady fires of long duration and create deep beds of coals. The low-heat-value woods (less than 140 gallons of oil per cord), include most softwoods, poplars, basswood, and butternut, burn fast and make few coals. How seasoned the wood is also impact burn time.

Ultimately it’s better to have too much than too little. So if you think five cords will get you through the winter, add another cord or two just to be on the safe side.


Did you know that Vermont has a Roadside Firewood Lottery?  Between Jan. 2 and Jan. 16 you can apply to be part of the lottery. Names are drawn at the end of Feb. Those who receive permits are responsible for cutting and hauling their own wood from marked trees in the state’s forests. Learn more about residential wood heating at the VT Dept. of Forests, Parks and Recreation website.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

CHS Plant Sale: A Tradition that has continued for over 35 years


No one seems to remember the exact date, but at least 35 years ago, Craig Rankin started a plant sale to raise money for the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS). Craig came to Vermont from Long Island where he was a landscape architect working on a wide range of high-profile projects, including Yankee Stadium, the Wollman skating rink in Central Park, Jones Beach, and the New York State Thruway.

Craig was to hosta as Johnny Appleseed was to the apple-everyone needed to have one. As a result, nearly every home in Cavendish has a hosta plant.

Craig also graced Cavendish with his incredible artistic skill, of pen and ink drawings of well known landmarks in and around Cavendish. CHS has some of his original cards for sale that he drew as part of the "Save the Valley" campaign, which prevented the damming of the Black River. 

With Craig's passing in 2008, his legacy of the plant sale continued. This year the sale will be on Saturday, June 27, from 9-2 at the CHS Museum on Route 131 in the Village of Cavendish. Yes, there will be many different varieties of hosta, along with other types of perennials (iris, day lilies, pachysandra, ginger, forsythia, Lady's Mantle and more). For the first time, we have tomato plants all ready for your porch or patio. 


Other items for sale include fire starters and magical flowers made from the cans found on Cavendish’s highways and byways.

FMI: margoc@tds.net or 802-226-7807