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Good people, good things, sad news


That there in the foreground is “Saintly Syrup,” pure maple syrup made (so I gather) as a fundraiser for a church in the upper midwest. It arrived last week in a Big Box O’ Stuff, including the unsaintly (but equally welcome, and equally midwestern) Bloody Mary Mix you see behind.

So cool! I knew my correspondent had been spending his snowy spring weekends maple sugaring — but I had no idea he was doing it for a charitable cause. And though he’d hinted I might see a little of the bounty, I was never expecting a precious quart. That’s a lot of maple syrup — especially now that I know how much of my friend’s work went into producing it.

Thank you, Friend-Who-Prefers-Not-to-Be-Named!


Thursday was hectic. I’ve got a big house project looming — the kind where it’s way, way, way too much for me to do myself, and in fact so complicated that a teardown may be wiser than a rebuild. I’m in the process of finding out.

I’ve been having weeks of trouble trying to get contractors out here. Of course, they’re crazy-busy this time of year. Three weeks — not much of nothin’. Then, between 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. I suddenly had more phone calls than I usually get in a month plus a multitude of contractors and potential sub-contractors showed up — sometimes unannounced and sometimes repeatedly. Plus a couple of delivery men and a neighbor. This hermit is feeling like she’s taken up residence in Grand Central Station.

In the midst of all this, the guy who mows my lawn pulls into the driveway even though it’s not that time yet. “What now?” I’m grumbling.

Then he comes to the door and says, “I was mowing a lawn down the way and a cop I know stopped to warm me that there’s a thief on the loose. The guy was last seen coming up your street.” He described the thief in detail (having himself encountered the guy earlier in the week). “His MO is to come up to you and be really friendly while he’s actually scoping out your property. I thought I should warn you.”

I never did encounter the thief. If he came near here I’d hope the noisy dogs (at every house) would deter him (not to mention the “Forget the dog; beware of owner” sign in my window). Still, it was a wonderfully neighborly thought.


Fred, the wonderful man who decided to spend the last months of his life doing good deeds, died a week ago today.

His wife asked me, for privacy’s sake, not to reprint his obituary or link to it here, but it’s wonderful. It made me wish more than ever that I’d known Fred in person. Fred was many things that freedomistas aspire to be, and above all, he was a great soul.

In lieu of flowers or contributions, he requests that all who remember him perpetrate “random acts of kindness” to celebrate his life.


  1. Karen
    Karen May 25, 2014 5:56 pm

    Darn I hate to hear that news. He sure has left a legacy of kindness and generosity! I’ll say a prayer that his wife finds peace and comfort and strength in the next leg of her journey.

  2. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty May 26, 2014 4:19 am

    I had forgotten that he did have family, and am so glad to hear his wife was probably with him in the last hours. That means so very much to most people. Bless her, and I hope she finds all the comfort she needs.

    And yes, random acts of kindness and joy are very much the order of the day! Each and every day. Some of my on line friends have become so discouraged, even angry and hopeless. They see nothing but tyranny and even hate around them. All I can give them is the old saying: Don’t curse the darkness… light a candle.

  3. zelda
    zelda May 26, 2014 4:34 pm

    Claire, based on what you’ve written about your house, I hope you decide on teardown. You can buy or build a lovely little house that will work for you (instead of you working for it) for decades. I’ve done my share of house rehab, and hope you can believe that an older house that has not been maintained is a black hole for money, and without gutting it and rebuilding major parts it will never function as well as a modern house. If you have foundation or roof truss issues, it won’t function at all for very long. Most old rehabs (and some not so old) are not in the end worth the time or money spent on them. You can have a house that is energy and time efficient and requires a minimum of constant inputs to be habitable. Salvage anything interesting that you want or that can be sold (wood, fixtures, glass, trim) and then tear it down.

  4. Claire
    Claire May 26, 2014 5:32 pm

    zelda, I hear ya. Fortunately, it’s only a part of the house that’s involved, but the more I see, the more convinced I am that a teardown and partial rebuild (only about half as large) would be the better way to go for a number of reasons. Thanks for the voice of experience.

  5. zelda
    zelda May 29, 2014 1:51 pm

    Before you decide and start writing checks, take a look at a home built with structural insulated panels and other information at the SIPA website
    There are kits, including universal design, or you can do a custom design. The pieces will arrive on one or two flatbed trucks, and your SIPA approved builder will put it together in a few days. (To avoid Issues, you must work with a SIPA trained/certified/approved builder.) It needs to be properly wrapped with Tyvek (see Dorothy Ainsworth’s house building article in Backwoods Home) which may or may not be included in the price. Once wrapped, it can sit for years before you put siding on (HardyBoard fiber cement fire resistant, see Backwoods Home for an article about that), but you can live in it covered with Tyvek like her son did. Put it on an insulated slab, install decent quality windows placed for maximum light and heat gain, R68 insulation in the attic with a radiant barrier. You can heat that with a 40w incandescent light bulb (if you can find one) or a Kelly kettle or a minimum of wood in a very small stove. And I got so involved in typing I overcooked my bread. If a part of a house as old as yours needs a teardown and partial rebuild, is the rest far behind? and what will you have when your money is spent and that part is done? I’m doing my TearItDown dance. The house is a candidate for a salvage sale. Disclaimer: In addition to having done my lifetime share of house rehabs, I live in a SIP house. It’s heaven. Quiet. Efficient to build and live in. No way would I ever again live in a stick built house. You’ll excuse me for putting my view out so emphatically? Back to the bread making. 🙂

  6. Claire
    Claire May 29, 2014 3:31 pm

    zelda — Thanks and sorry ’bout the bread! I’ve heard about structural panels and even helped a friend look into them a few years ago. I was impressed & interested. But LOL, there’s no way I’m going to tear down a whole house and rebuild with structural panels. I don’t even begin to have that kind of money!

    I’d certainly look into them for a partial rebuild or an add-on (though I expect the local handyman/builders that I can afford would freak out at the prospect of anything other than stick-built). Definitely like the quiet and the efficiency.

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