THE STITCHING LIFE
It’s finished. This morning I hand stitched the last of the binding on my quilt The Butterflies Came from Maryland.
After agonizing (OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) over the binding, I ended up thinking that that purple/blue/gold fabric was just right.
So it’s wrapped up, and on its way to Maryland to be part of a silent auction fundraiser for the Dream Builders of Maryland.
Sure hope it goes a long way toward helping them reach their financial goals. I know they have a lot of needs they want to fill this year.
OK, what’s next on the list?
THE STITCHING LIFE
In two weeks, the Dream Builders of Maryland will host their biggest fundraiser of the year. I understand it’s a spaghetti supper and a silent auction.
I’m making a quilt for their silent auction, a promise I made when we had dinner with the Dream Builders when they came to help on our Irene recovery last year.
Ordinarily, I fuse a tiny label on the back of whatever I’m making. (If I remember, that is.) I put a picture of those labels below.
But we’ve had two speakers at my guild who made me rethink the whole labels-on-stuff-I-make idea.
One was this extraordinary quilter named Pat Delaney. She puts large labels, handwritten, on the backs of her quilts. She irons some muslin onto freezer paper so that it’s temporarily stabilized. Then she dates and writes out her label, telling the story behind the quilt.
Well, the story part sure made sense to me because historically, that’s the part that’s often filed under “anonymous” when it comes to art created by women.
The second speaker was a quilt appraiser named Sandy Palmer. Sandy made my eyes open wide when she started talking about the monetary value of quilts. And she strongly advocated labels (dated and signed, at the very least) that are quilted right into the back of the quilt.
She explained that as the worth of quilts has increased, so has the theft of quilts. And excising a label that’s quilted into a piece is very difficult if not downright impossible.
Hence the label you see at the top, the one I wrote out last night for the back of my quilt for the Dream Builders. Now that I’ve done one, I really like this idea.
I just finished this second top for our weekend of Sewing for Sandy relief.
While I didn’t reach my goal of using up all my precut scraps, I did empty three of eight bags. And I have ideas for all of the rest of the precuts for quilts for my Parkinson’s Comfort Quilt Project.
The Northern Lights Quilt Guild met last night, the last meeting before our Sandy Sewing, and I was quite moved by the outpouring of help. When I asked how many folks thought they would be on hand to quilt this weekend, at least two-thirds of the room raised their hands.
One of the goals of those of us who are organizing this event was to have some tops ready to tie when we opened the doors on Saturday morning.
As of this morning, we have twelve completed tops coming our way. This should be quite the weekend whirl.
Life will be a little uneven over the next two weeks as I move my quilting studio and office into the new building we constructed after Hurricane Irene.
The building has been essentially enclosed since September, and my amazingly creative husband, Jay Davis, has been working his magic on the space I’ll shortly inhabit ever since.
It’s been painted, hardwood flooring installed, and he’s just finished the cabinetry.
The picture at the top shows Jay standing by the cabinet that will house my fabric stash. It’s incredible.
The inside of the lefthand door is filled with shelves to accommodate fat quarters (mostly). When you open the righthand door, there’s a set of shallow sliding shelves to hold whatever doesn’t fit inside the lefthand door.
Then there are shelves for yardage. And at the top, a narrow but deep space with a flip-up door (it’s closed in this picture) where I’ll put my batting.
The second picture is of a wall of cabinetry. The large, empty space you see on the right (where the ladder is now) is where my two file cabinets will fit. Then there are shelves for my quilt book library above them.
The cabinetry on the left includes six drawers, shelves, a granite countertop, and CUBBIES.
As a friend of mine, who’s an art quilter, says: You can never have too many cubbies.
The first order of business is an extremely thorough vacuuming and wash to get up all the dust from the sanding Jay’s done. I’ll even be washing the lightbulbs!
This is a real cause for celebration.
Not washing the lightbulbs, you understand. Moving into my new space.
Just wanted to be clear about that.
It’s a year today since Tropical Storm Irene dumped 11.23 inches of rain on Vermont. Given our topography, there was nowhere else for all that water to go than downhill to fill up the creeks, brooks, ditches and then the rivers of our state.
Behind our house, the White River rose 30 feet. At its crest—12:15 a.m. on Monday, August 29—the waters had isolated our house, covering the road on both sides of us.
While we did not get water in the house (a fact that still amazes us), it devastated our land, particularly the slope behind and to the side of our house. In West Hartford, we lost our store (now reopened), our library (still closed), our post office (now torn down), and our park (being renovated).
Our 14 acres of riverside land was covered by a thick blanket of silt, a fine, powdery concoction that’s half clay, half sand. At the most upstream end of our land, we have a two-acre debris pile of stripped trees, and assorted human debris. Our island was flattened, and a second debris pile covers its center.
It was so disorienting, nothing was the same.
We lost nine cords of wood. Many people, especially folks on the north side of the river, lost their homes when rampaging streams that were blocked by the rising waters of the White River flowed behind their homes, gouging huge holes out of the land.
People fled, sometimes on foot, struggling for safety.
The next morning, we couldn’t believe our eyes.
As news filtered in, Vermonters realized that we had to pull together in order to put ourselves together.
So began our yearlong odyssey of pulling ourselves upright. And we all did this with the kindness of our friends, folks we didn’t know but got to know, people who work for the town of Hartford, the state of Vermont, and the federal government.
Everyone here will tell you that the outpouring of volunteer effort, and the kindness and compassion of those around us carried us through the bleakest time. The hugs which kept us together, the phone calls, the cleanup, help with moving out, help with moving in, shelter from the storm, the amazing compassion of the folks at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church who made sure everyone was fed, the volunteers who ran the community food program in our community church when so many of us had no kitchens.
The list of folks who helped just us numbers somewhere around 300 people when you total everyone up who was involved.
The winter was bleak. No snow to cover the aching landscape. At the worst of times, I despaired of ever getting what we needed to stay on our land and in our home.
But then spring came with its eternal promise.
Our island, so destroyed, struggled to reclaim some of its beauty. And our spirits rose. We stood up. Time to get back to work.
We decided we needed three things for our recovery: trees to replace those we lost; a new building to replace the office/studio that I lost and the shop that Jay lost; and rock on the damaged slope behind our house.
Friends helped us plant trees in May.
This incredible group of volunteers from Maryland, the Dream Builders, showed up in June with hammers at the ready to help us start our new building.
That building is nearly done. We hope to occupy it by early October.
And then on August 20, after clearing numerous paperwork hurdles and, with the help of the wonderful guys at the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Irene recovery specialist Sam Harvey, and the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund, we welcomed Brent Cadwell and Frank Harris of Earthworks Unlimited here to put rock on our slope.
Here’s Frank in his excavator. The man’s an artist in this huge machine.
Space is very tight here so the rock deliveries had to be made by a big dump truck backing into the tight space between our house and garage to let the stone fall down the slope to where Frank and Brent built this HUGE stone wall.
Here’s what that slope looks like this morning.
And the river just keeps on rolling.
With gratitude in our hearts, we want to thank everyone everywhere who helped us get back on our feet. We could never have done this without all of you.
In four days, it will be a full year since Hurricane Irene dumped 11 inches of rain on Vermont. We’ve all been struggling to recover ever since.
There are a number of commemorations (for want of a better term) of that day being planned around here. Jay and I are still uncertain whether we’ll join in, mostly because we feel a bit like out-of-shape marathon runners crossing the finish line—exhausted but grateful to still be standing.
The one thing I’m planning to do is post about Irene recovery one last time on that day. At some point, this whole experience will be part of a Carding, Vermont novel but that’s still some months off.
For right now, we crave normalcy, getting our house back to ourselves, and stacking wood for the winter. Nothing makes an ordinary day seem so sweet as a string of non-ordinary events.
Of all the issues we had here, fixing the slope behind and to the side of our house was critical to our decision to save our home. This week, the big rocks that will do that finally arrived.
Here’s an overview:
When Irene was done, and the White River returned to its banks, this is what the slope looked like behind our house.
The first rocks arrived at our house on Monday and Earthworks Unlimited (Brent Cadwell and Frank Harris) started replacing what Irene took with a rock wall. This is a cross section of the beginning of that wall.
This is what it looks like behind our house now. Pretty formidable, eh?
We’ve been living and trying to work in the middle of a construction zone since Monday morning.
Even though we know the outcome will keep our home safe, living through this has been disconcerting, to say the least.
Imagine the sound that those boulders make as they fall down that slope.
Imagine the sound of the excavator (driven by the very capable Frank of Earthworks Unlimited) as it picks up those rocks, and places them with a gentleness that has to be seen to be believed between our house and the river.
And then take a gander at the formidable barrier that’s rising up to save our home.
Believe me when I tell you, this is the experience of a lifetime.
Ever since we witnessed Hurricane Irene’s destruction on the slope below our house, I have spent hours and hours of time trying to put together a way to stabilize it.
Yesterday morning, the folks doing the work—Earthworks Unlimited—showed up. They are here courtesy of a grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund.
This morning, the big rocks I’ve been seeking came in a dump truck that backed into the tight space between our home and garage. And I do mean tight—as in only-a-couple-of-inches-to-spare tight.
One of the many lessons I’ve learned through this process is an appreciation for the guys (and it’s been all guys so far) who move dirt and lay down rock and drive the equipment to make that happen. To someone who doesn’t know the first thing about this stuff, they are amazing.
I’ve watched Frank Harris of Earthworks Unlimited, a gentleman who’s 73 years old, maneuver that excavator around as though it’s an extension of his own hands. He can make the scoop (is that what it’s called?) smooth a bit of dirt one minute, and then grab a huge boulder the next to drop into its designated place on the slope.
And his partner, Brent Cadwell, is just a gem. Considerate, right on top of what needs to be done, running equipment, directing the trucks.
Truly good guys.
So it’s crash, boom, bang today!! Big rock!
We are less than two weeks away from the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Irene’s memorable visit to Vermont.
Even though I’d like to think of August 28 as just another day, that’s impossible. We are in the full-blown midst of the construction of the building that will replace the work spaces we lost to Irene.
And on Friday afternoon, the heavy equipment that will move the rock into place on our slope—the single most important piece of our recovery.
I believe it fair to say that Jay and I will be the living center of our personal Irene recovery next week with big trucks dropping rock, air compressors roaring to power air guns that the building crew are using in their work, electric lines snaking over our driveway and yard, and the crash of trees as they are removed from the slope to make way for the necessary stone.
It’s all good, and yet unsettling. Yesterday, it took me an hour to get into the shower because guys were asking questions, the phone was ringing with more questions, and my iPad kept signaling the arrival of yet more questions in my inbox.
As my husband always says when he’s working on (yet another) construction project, it will be good when it’s done.
This series of pictures is of our Cute Little Building (and yes, we do call it the CLB) rising from the ground at the far end of our yard.
When it’s complete, Jay’s new woodworking shop will be in the downstairs and my office/quilt studio will be on the top.
In the weeks following Hurricane Irene, my emotions zipped from OK to downright awful at times.
One morning, I bottomed out, overwhelmed by what seemed like a Wall-of-No when it came to getting the promised help to save our house.
My husband is not used to seeing me that way, and it scared him. So he called in the cavalry—my sister Heidi.
She telephoned after talking with Jay, and listened to my frustrations and my tears.
I’m not used to not knowing where to turn, and I was exhausted from the trauma of one emergency after another—Irene, no electricity, having engineers tell us it was not safe to live here, moving out, moving back in, our dog nearly dying because she ingested silt, the uncertainty surrounding the safety of the land on which our house sits.
And the refrain that was constant then from every agency I contacted—we can’t promise anything—just made everything worse.
But…but…but, I would say, the geotechnical engineer claims the slope will get more dangerous during the winter because the cold can reach further into the soil, and destabilize it.
Sorry, no help. Don’t know if you’ll ever get any.
What about the 500-gallon propane tank on our land that could float to the base of our slope with the spring runoff?
Oh, we’ll get to it. Maybe. We can’t promise anything.
You get the idea.
After Heidi listened to me wail, she and her husband sent us a card with a small rose plant.
That rose went into the little garden just outside our front door earlier this summer. It’s sunny there, and I have watered it often during this very-dry summer.
It’s blooming. So are we. Finally.
I think of it as my guardian rose.