Thursday, August 27, 2015

Chapter 25/ Barn Restoration

Windy Hill Barn

 Following Chapter 25 are photographs of the renovation of the Windy Hill barn that took place earlier this summer. For the prelude and links to all of the chapters go to Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann. 

The early part of January 1937 was made unpleasant first by a long rain and then ice. Going to the barn I slipped and fell and smashed the lan­tern. I didn’t dare let the cows out and so had to carry them water, Dinah, especially, being in "a delicate condition" was heavy and clumsy and we expected her to drop her calf any day, We fortunately got by this period without mishap and kept busy for the next six weeks with nothing happening of special note.

At town meeting in March I was "chosen" as a trustee of the Town Library, a very nominal office in those days but it gave me my first inside look at town affairs. Actually there were two branch libraries (as neither village would countenance having the town library in the other) the one in Proctorsville, tho small being the more active. In fact the one in Cavendish was moribund and had almost no use, Supposedly ye town clerk was also librarian but she had little time to give to it and there was no money to hire someone else so the books were in a room in her buil­ding. The status quo had existed for some time and the other trustees (we were five) were reluctant to stir up trouble and the situation was impossible to change. However, I remained in office only half of the five-year term as the result of as even more impossible state of affairs in Proctorsville. This branch was left a small sum of money, and the trustees representing that village thought it a fine opportunity to acquire something more impressive than their one room next to the Post Office. No one could quarrel with that; but when they came up with a plan to buy "the old opera house" which was a great ark of a building, I objected strenuously. There was quite a row culminating in a meet­ing of the village to vote on the plan. As the vote was favorable, and also some hard feelings were involved, I resigned. I felt very unhappy about this, even when later on my judgment was vindicated. The newly acquired building was impossible to maintain and had to be given up at some loss, and the library went into cramped rented quarters over the fire-house.

There were other town affairs in which I was interested. Anyone speaking up at Town Meeting inevitably called attention to himself; while plenty of people could talk very few would. So by venturing to question the ex­isting practice of hiring the town's trucks, which seemed to me a most uneconomical way to operate, I became a marked man,- the more so when the voters agreed it might be a good idea to purchase a truck as an ex­periment. I don't know how this might have turned out if, in 1938, I had not been elected an auditor, which put me in a position to keep compar­ative records of costs of running the trucks. One of my fellow auditors (there were three, on this board - which could have used twice the num­ber) was of like mind, and fortunately the road commissioner was very willing to work with us. By the end of a year's operation it was shown conclusively that the town could save money by owning its road equip­ment. So from then on this policy was followed. Of course it was not achieved peacefully and I was pretty unpopular in some quarters, but there could be no question of the benefit to the town.

The people must have been satisfied, as early in 1940 some of the neigh­bors called to ask me to run for selectman. In those days there always was enough competition for office to make things lively, and I consented with reluctance, feeling that I would have little chance against local men who were better known. So when the day came, I was surprised to re­ceive a majority vote; and thus my education in town affairs continued. This was a vary interesting period. The Depression was really hurting, and various means to assist people who were hardest up (nobody was fluent) were in operation thru town, state, and federal agencies. I remember well cooperating with the Overseer of the Poor, who certainly had an almost impossible and thankless job, one phase being the periodic issuance of food stuffs supplied by the government. Also, because of my interest in roads, I found myself in charge of the WPA crew, or rather, of the projects they were working on. It was during the summer of 1940 that we constructed the first strip of hard-surface highway from the edge of Cavendish village northeast all of a mile to Whitesville (a few houses at a road intersection.)

But this is getting way ahead of myself. Town affairs could be spared only a limited time (paying a very limited wage) and I fitted them into my schedule as best I could, sometimes at considerable inconvenience. Returning to 1937: by April the roads had dried out pretty well but were badly washed and cut up and had been very hastily repaired if at all, so that I made some very unkind remarks about the road crew when going down Langworthy Hill [now known as Wiley Hill] to the village several dozen eggs were jounc­ed of the seat with dire results. That was on a weekly trip for my bookkeeping stint, when 1 expected also to shop and then pick up grain at the freight yards.

Sugaring was about over, and we enjoyed the annual sugar-on-snow party with one of the neighbors. Then it was a wet spring, which held up out­door work, but we managed to get the garden in between showers, and also set out more raspberry bushes. After this we had to devote time first, to coning with a bad infestation of tent caterpillars, which spread from the wild cherry growth to the apple trees (another reason to keep the walls free of growth) and required tedious and messy work burning them out; and next it was essential to spray the apples which were load­ed with tiny fruit (they should have been done twice before this, first in the dormant stage and then after the blossom petals had fallen.) And finally, probably because of the bad weather, the calf got sick and re­quired nursing. After she recovered I sold her and bought a better one.

The saying is that "a cold wet May fills the barns with hay" and so it proved. Aided by a heat wave and dry weather in mid-summer, the crop was so good that in July I again had it mowed "on shares" and there was ample; in fact the. Barn could not have taken it all. This conserved my own time for other things, and the weather was grand for outdoor work. But it was altogether too dry for the garden, which suffered severely; we carried some water from the brook but of course the latter was low. A brief downpour about the first of August was most welcome. Then we were again short on water until late in October when there were two heavy rains, the first since June. Altho the deluge stripped the trees of their last bright leaves everyone was thankful to go into winter with full springs.

Besides the gardens, my summer was devoted to making improvements around the place. I was relieved of considerable of the wood chore as I was able to hire a couple of men to work up into cordwood a number of old maple trees over near the road which was our eastern boundary: they were "going" and would otherwise have boon lost as they were bigger than I could have handled. I made use of this "saved" time by continuing clear­ing along the walls of the big mowing. A machine never gets close enough to do a really good job, as it is too easy to snag the end of the cutter bar. So wild growth encroaches fast unless during or immediately after haying, the edges are kept "picked" clean with a scythe. Evidently this had not been done for years so now a scythe was inadequate. I had to use heavy clippers and sometimes a saw or axe and, like co many jobs of rel­ative unimportance, it was slow work. When the children could occasionally help it was pleasant to have their company, and they all were good work­ers. As a number of trees wore involved it also provided some cordwood.

After a while 1 had to drop the clearing when I received a shipment of barbed wire, and begin stringing it on posts I had previously put in. around the edge of the pasture. This was designed to keep the animals out of the woods, a -practice advocated by the government, which provided e subsidy to defray actual out-of-pocket cost. It prevented the cows from browsing on or trampling down new growth and hence theoretically resulted in eventual improvement of the woodland. It also restricted the pasture area, which did not please the cows. I was dubious as to what had been gained by a lot of hard work, but at least it was easier to find them.

Our youngest cow dropped a heifer calf and this one was named Shirley, I suspect after a movie celebrity. But Bobby (the mother) did not have a very good bag which was disappointing for, like all farmers, I wanted to reach the point where I could share milk and was commencing to wonder if we ever would.

So spring merged into summer and summer into fall, without our quite knowing where the time went, But we were able to get fall work done un­usually early,- all garden .produce in, storm windows hung, some manure spread, and the fencing project carried well along. In fact by early November I had completed 134 rods of three-wire fence.

This year when we moved the kitchen range into the house it was placed in the space it was to occupy as long as we had to cook with it, that is, until the power came thru after the war when we were able to have an electric stove. We put it in the corner of the long back room next to the partition with the dining-room, and passed the pipe thru a metal thimble in the wall and thence into the pipe outlet in the dining-room chimney above the fireplace. Isabel always disliked this but it was the best arrangement I could make, At least it had good light from the north window, which then was one of the only two windows in the room, the other at the living-room end looking out back; this presently would belong to the bathroom. Now it gave light for the "dry" sink against the back wall. As previously mentioned, there was no outside door. So the immediate set up was far from ideal, but at least it was convenient to the dining-room. It also left the whole of the "old" kitchen free for use as our living-room. Nor was I sorry to no longer have to move both the range and the water out to the shed-room every spring and back again in the fall. We no longer had the bother of carrying in wood, as I had modified the range to take a double-chimney oil burner, which I had been lured into buying by an attractive catalog. It was no mean undertaking, but I was beginning to feel I could do almost anything. When adjusted, it worked fine; Isabel found she could keep a more even heat than with wood, and also by leaving it "on" overnight the kitchen was warm in the morning, Of course it increased our oil consumption, I had to refill the oil-tank daily from the barrel in the shed room, but this was less of a chore and far cleaner than carrying wood, And it saved wood!

A good outside interest for me was the American Legion. I joined the Post in Proctorsville and generally attended the monthly evening meetings. At that time a great deal was made of the special commemorative holidays. It was considered a duty to always decorate soldiers’ graves just before Memorial Day, A number of old cemeteries are scattered about the town, and a few individual burials such as one a mile above our house close to the old Crown Point military highway. Flag placing was assigned as was most convenient for members of the Post, and helping with this gave me quite a time searching out-of-the-way locations. Then on the day itself there was a parade behind a good hired band, and ceremonies were hold alternate years in the two village schools. As my father had been a Union veteran I was brought up in the tradition and was happy to help carry it on.

The Legion this year held a special ceremony the evening of what I still think of as Armistice Day, 11 November, with a tableau and singing and the awarding of prizes to school children who were winners in an essay contest sponsored by the Post. Events in Europe were beginning to make an impression here, undoubtedly stirring the memories of veterans of what was then the World War, Whatever the reason, activities increased,
Our piano was proving its worth, Not only was Ann getting on well with her lessons, but Isabel enjoyed playing. I had almost forgotten the long ago times at her home when family and various friends used to gather around the same old Chickering, which I now have to play and sing. [Chickering and Sons was an American Piano manufacturer. Founded in 1823, Chickering pianos were made until 1983, and were known for producing award-winning instruments of superb quality and design.] It was very pleasant.

Having discovered that by shopping in Rutland we more than saved the cost of gas and  also found greater variety to choose from, we drove there more frequently when we could spare the time. Even under good conditions the gravel roads with their sharp curves and steep grades were not too easy for Lizzy, and if we made the trip (33 miles) in an hour and a half we were doing well. But it was nice to have a little change, and we took the children when we could,

There also was an amusing puppet show at Fletcher Farm, and the usual 4-11 round-up at Windsor. So the year would have ended on a happy note had not Isabel become ill, requiring an operation, which was performed at the hospital in Burlington in mid-December. She was not able to be about for Christmas, so I made up a bed for her in the window embrasure of the living-room where we usually had the tree, and put up the tree in the dining-room where she could see it thru the open doors. For me it was a period of very great worry.

Pete Newton checking out the flooring
Windy Hill Barn Renovation: This summer, the current owners of Windy Hill had the barn restored, which figured so prominently in Tiemann's Memoirs. Thanks to Mary Anne Butler, below are pictures she took during the renovation.  
Amos Newton one of the restorers

Barn floor
Side view of barn
Nailing the door in place.
Door Raising with Pete and Amos.
Pete Newton unloading lumber for the barn 

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