12.10.2013

Peaceable Kingdom

A long winter's walk, perfectly still and blue-skyed in a way only brutal cold produces.  Coggeshall Farm, in Bristol, RI, where I feel it is destiny for me to work as a docent in period garb.

The creatures of the field sun themselves; they're no fools.



They know it's best to enjoy the field without petty conflicts -- a flock of sheep, two bulls, a cow, a donkey, all in the same field sunning.




Perhaps it's the view from this field -- restorative, no?


12.02.2013

Under the Little House

We found many things when we picked the Little House up to cast new footings.  Some we suspected, others were a surprise.  Lots of fieldstones, perfect for use in the sloped beds in front of our house.



Tombstones, anyone?  We've got seven.  I found this one incorporated into a path last year:



 And this one was under a bush:

They're much weathered, having been out for who knows how long -- but the others, sheltered
 by the building for 170 years, are sharp as stones carved yesterday:































But this one is really the best -- Charles Henry Cornell was the nephew of the man who owned our house in the 1840s, Henry Cole.  Mary Cornell, Charles' mother, lived in our house through at least the mid 1850s.  It's very meaningful to us to discover this piece of our home's history, especially as it is very likely Charles Henry died in one of the rooms of our house.

 This one is even inscribed with the name of the stone engraver:



Why so many tombstones?  Well, Henry Cole, owner of our house from the 1840s on, was caretaker of the oldest cemetery in town.  These must have been the rejected stones, or temporary placeholders for more elaborate pieces.  The steps of our bulkhead are similarly macabre, and the staircase to the basement rests on part of the wall of a collapsed mausoleum.

Not all was so grim -- we also found this large section of granite edging, very smooth on the side not shown, which we'll use as a stoop to the little house:



And then this elaborate thing, a monumental granite hitching post more than six feet in length.







It's form is far too elaborate to have been intended for our place, and I suspect it was made for Waterman House, an imposing edifice lost in the 1930s.  More on that to follow.

11.28.2013

Little House: Picked Up and Put Down Again

In the many months since our last update, quite a bit has been happened in the Nick Haus-hold -- the latest big action has been an overhaul of the structural systems of the outbuilding, which we have dubbed the Little House.


Cute, right?  But it had no foundation, was sinking into the ground and the back of the wooden building was buried six inches into the ground for decades.  Not so cute.

 First, they prepared interim support for the building while it was being lifted:











Jacks were placed on the temporary supports, and brackets were screwed into the building to rest on the jacks as it was lifted.

Cylinder forms are put in place to cast concrete piers to support the corners and halfway-points on the long sides of the building.

And today, against a resplendent Thanksgiving sky, our newly supported Little House.

Seemingly small in scope, this is a project long in the making.  It follows an overall effort to stabilize the building, which began with replacing the roof and significant interior structural work, and in this latest step involved creating airspace and keeping moisture from further damaging the building's structural integrity.

Next step: white cedar shingles over the whole thing.  Spring?  Crossed fingers.

Up next: what we found under the building (it's a bit ... ghoulish). 

AND:  Happy Thanksgiving!

7.05.2013

Wild Strawberries

I was originally going to call this post "The Fruits of Our Labors," as it's inspiration was the wild strawberries (ok, not so wild ... I did plant them) that are just coming to fruition this year in our yard.  Here are the first two, which Steven brought to me one morning for breakfast, laying in a porphyry salt cellar on a Roman marble slab:



I'm here in the Maritimes for several weeks at Steven's family's summer place, and it's a spot redolent of family memories, with photos of long dead relations and books with notes in the margins in the Palmer style.  There are wild strawberries everywhere here -- up through the cracks in the roads, running through the lawn and down to the cliffs above the sea.  All of these wild strawberries made me think of






and by extension of



Foods that draw back memories -- and whether there are any of these in my life.  I can think of favorite foods, or even of foods that I don't like that remind me of certain times, or foods that beloved relatives made, but I don't think my mind is very food-centric.  I'm a poorly built animal.  If Steven didn't remind me to eat at particular times each day, I would probably starve to death.

Oddly enough, I ran into the closest contender from my life yesterday, at a small grocery store in an even smaller coastal town -- cheese curds:



My delight was balanced by Steven's mother's horror; here cheese curds are served in poutine, a combination of fries, gravy and cheese that revolts her (DELICIOUS!).  In my youth, cheese curds meant Wisconsin and stops at the local dairy, long summer days of wading in the river and climbing trees and going to country auctions and dinners at the Ding, the local haunt filled with smoke and hunters and pinball machines and jukebox and of course, fried cheese curds.  It's certainly less romantic than Bergman's wild strawberries or Proust's madeleines, but it will have to do.

Is there a food that conjures up the past for you?

1.19.2013

I love winter --


-- but not the dismal slushy mess we've had most of the last week.  Why not have some lovely snow instead?  I really like that it's been colder today.  Send more of this, posthaste.

I was photographing a few vases in the Little House (which is not heated; it was lovely and frigid in a way that I perversely enjoy), and I needed some flowers to demonstrate scale and use.  These pathetic posies were the best thing my frozen garden could produce:





Blackened sticks, almost.  Reviled vinca, which I tried in vain to eradicate in the fall, looks better than anything else that I was willing to cut (the rhododendrons & mountain laurel look lovely, of course, and the rhododendrons are even starting to bud).  I really haven't yet reached the level of sophistication as a gardener where I can pontificate on how lovely my grounds are even when everything is dead or in dormancy, waxing poetic on husks and dessicated stems, Piet Oudolf style (which I love from afar).

I miss growing, thriving things with leaves and berries.  I don't miss flowers all that much, though I am looking forward to the fruit trees this year, which should give us a pretty good show for the first time this spring.

Still, I'll must admit that I lust for something more like these memories of Lake Como in late summer; taken at Villa Melzi and Villa Carlotta.  I love a good old fashioned specimen garden:


Did that silly Italian peasant majolica vase put me in this frame of mind?  I'm sure it's a little dismal on the lakes as well, but I doubt there's slush falling from the sky. Shall we go for a few weeks?

12.18.2012

Christmas at Pastiche

Things have gotten busy here at Nick Haus, leaving the blog to fend for itself; the holidays have made my day job and little store bustle as never before.  But I want to show you a fun recent project that I worked on with my neighbors, who happen to own a truly delicious bakery -- I helped Eileen & Brandt (the owners) to make Pastiche look like Christmas:



Several garlands, a dove milagro and a bushel of lacquered berries do the trick.  You can never have too much milk glass and sugared fruit:



But what they are truly known for is their astonishingly good desserts -- it's almost painful to watch:




If I don't send out another missive before, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

All beautiful photos taken by Steven, who is not feeling very appreciated tonight, though I assure you this is not the case.

10.31.2012

Death (with lace)

... from a mausoleum in Southern France: Happy Halloween!
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