Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   kicking butt on Fording Place
Wednesday, April 27 2005
Despite cool temperatures and intermittent rains, I worked most of the day on the bluestone sidewalk project, which is itself a sub-project of the greater "ditch project." Since the weather was keeping people indoors throughout the region, I was free to conduct a well-planned expedition to a nearby municipal park to gather sheets of bluestone from a massive jumble of native rock located behind one of the ball fields. I don't know whether or not taking this bluestone is legal, but I figure that no matter whether it is or isn't, it's an act best done without witnesses. Since my visit was so well-planned, I'd actually brought a handtruck with me, which meant I could wheel huge pieces across the field. This allowed me to gather pieces that I couldn't have possibly carried.
Later I took the handtruck down "the farm road" near our house and gathered bluestone from an long-forgotten micromine about a half mile away. While I was going about my business, the dogs started barking and of course I immediately ran over to see what animal they could have possibly discovered this time. From quite a distance I could see it was a porcupine, a surprisingly large animal about the size of a twenty inch television set. I started yelling "No!" and "Porcupine!" in hopes of reminding the dogs of those two different days last year when each of them received her virgin quilling. Luckily the porcupine was slowly climbing a hemlock tree and was already well clear of the dogs. When I made it to them, I inspected them both to see if they'd been unlucky enough to make contact, but they were both quill-free. Interestingly, Eleanor, who wasn't barking at all, was giving the porcupine much greater berth than Sally. For her part, Sally (usually the smarter and wiser of our two dogs) stood at the bottom of the tree barking persistently, as if she'd learned nothing from last year's encounter. But perhaps she's smarter than her actions betrayed. Perhaps she herself had given the porcupine sufficient time to climb the tree.

The recent flooding of Esopus Creek didn't just rip away people's yards and doghouses. It also provided. Up and down the floodplain you can see its random gifts: here a rusty oil tank, there a massive piece of driftwood. A couple hundred feet downstream from Fording Place is what looks to be a perfectly good Toyota Pickup truck, in much better shape than the one I drive, but stranded irretrievable in the middle of the channel.
Much of what floodwater does appears random, but that's not really the case. A flood is an interaction between the complexities of a landform and a massive amount of water trying to find the easiest method to go downhill. Sometimes it's easiest just to wash away a fence, a house, a car, or a hill that stands in the way.
Whenever the flood water finds itself slowing down or pooling someplace it loses its ability to carry whatever is mixed up in it and this is when it turns from thief into Santa Claus. If it slows down just a little from the full force of its main stream, the gifts are likely to be large and dense: boulders and cobblestones. If the water stops completely the gift will be an important one for the valley's corn farmers: silt. Elsewhere the gifts may be banks of sand, driftwood, or Toyota pickups.
From past visits, I knew about a brand new deposit of sand a couple hundred feet west of the Esopus on Fording Place. So this afternoon I decided to go collect some to form the bed of the bluestone sidewalk I'm building.
When I got near to where the sand was, I found Fording Place had been blocked by a barricade erected by the Marbletown Highway Department. No problem, I thought, I'd just get around it on a weird old abandoned bridge running on a little roadway adjacent to the main roadbed. It turned out, though, that I was crossing someone's scales, the kind that measure the weight of a vehicle before and after something is loaded into it. And no, these scales weren't abandoned. Evidently whenever a vehicle enters the scales they sound some sort of alarm in one of the buildings along Fording Place, and then someone comes out to supervise the loading, weighing, and sale of some bulk product (usually cow manure).
Before anyone appeared I had time to gather several hundred pounds of grey-brown Esopus sand. It wasn't the purest sand in the world; buried in it were occasional seams of woodchips or dead grass.
Then I saw an old dump truck rumbling towards me. Not knowing it was coming in response to my having crossed the scales, I feared maybe he was going to yell at me for stealing the sand (which had been located just off the roadway, possibly on private land). By the time the truck came to a stop about fifty feet away from me, I'd secreted my shovel and bucket and was calling the dogs, who were roaming somewhere within a 200 foot radius. The diver, a grim-faced man with a sharp line down his cheek glared at me and I volunteered a hello. "If you ever drive across my scales," he said, "I'm going to kick your butt!" His use of the word "butt" instead of "ass" signaled one of two things, both icky in their own respective way. Either he was a Christian who thought "butt" was less of a profanity. Or else he thought maybe I was a kid in need of shielding from the rough and tumble of adult language. (To me whenever someone uses the word "butt" to mean "ass," it reveals subtle crypto-pædophilic predilections.) I didn't know what to do except apologize and, once I'd collected the dogs, drive off.
Actually, though, I found the encounter to be something of a relief because the dumptruck driver had said nothing at all about what I might have been up to (obviously I must have been up to something). This had the effect of giving me license to come back and get more sand, provided I didn't drive across the scales and risk getting my butt kicked.
Nevertheless, I thought it might be good if I could maybe find another source of Esopus sand. So later in the early evening Sally and I drove down to the muddy lowlands across Wynkoop from the Hurley Mountain Inn (in "downtown" Hurley) to look for sand. Unfortunately, though, the only Esopus gift we could find there was fine-grained silt (in other words, mud). So next we went to the north end of Hurley Mountain Road where it joins up with Route 28. There are lowlands in this region that were impassibly inundated during the Esopus floods, but I couldn't find any silt, sand, or driftwood (let alone Toyota pickups) anywhere near the road.
So I ended up taking Sally to Onteora Lake, where we were able to gather a few interesting pieces of bluestone, a material I need just as much as sand.

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