Author Archives: smedleyman

So Shoot Me…

It’s been a while…

We are in and mostly unpacked with a long list of details to finish while winnowing boxes of “stuff” one accumulates over the years. This house has close to the same square footage as our old one but 3 less closets and much less wall space in which to hang our artwork, family pictures, and bookshelves.  While I am constantly questioning the necessity of keeping everything I touch, which items have value enough to keep? My father won a golf tournament at a club outside Washington DC and the 3′ cup was presented by the Japanese Ambassador (go figure). Keep or toss? My mother’s parents, originally from Italy, had a glass wine dispenser, on a wrought iron stand with an insert for ice.  A unique item…pitch or relish? The wine dispenser actually took a trip to Goodwill but couldn’t get out of the car. I don’t display either item yet I have to keep them.

Things are valued because of sentimentality, design, perceived future use  (I love reference books), comfort, a myriad of personal judgements, all valid. It continues…


Here’s a tour of the place…

The Last Standup2 from Ned Warner on Vimeo.

“Space, the Formal Frontier”

   house under construction 2 (1 of 1) The house has gone through an unexpected transformation. With the sheet rock going up, starting on the ground floor, this construction site of wiring within the walls, plastic covered insulation, conduit hanging limp, has transformed into a house.

r construction 3 (1 of 2)Construction sites are messy. Extension cords and hoses snake through piles of scrap lumber and unused materials while shingles litter the ground, coffee cups sit upon windowsills. While the walls were unsheathed, the mess of construction mattered not. With the addition of drywall encasing the bare 2×4 walls, the space becomes more real, more imaginable, and I have an unquenchable urge to clean. Sweep, pickup, repeat.

    house under construction (1 of 7) Preparing the interior for drywall entails visualizing the planes made by the studs, corners, doorways, etc., and seeing where the drywaller needs additional wood to place a screw. Even with walls up, interiors can be in need of much additional, non structural wood.  This “deadwood” allows sheet rock to be properly affixed. So one must be able to picture the closed space even while looking through the transparent space. An unusual exercise.

house under construction (5 of 7)

    The interiors have become manageable constructs. Visually, a house of stud walls, is difficult to parse. I can walk up the stairs and see the bathroom on my right and guest room on my left but being able to see through the walls, it still feels like  a very large space in which someone has nailed 2×4’s vertically in front of me. With the addition of drywall, these spaces are enclosed and formalized. r construction 3 (2 of 2)Where once I could see and walk through walls, I now have to obey laws of physics and walk the proscribed paths. This has formalized the space, allowed me to imagine a defined existence within.  See-through walls afford no visual or aural privacy, characteristics essential to a home.

house under construction (3 of 7)

Oh yea…the bald guy speaks….

Mass = Anticipation + Snow


Gravity, (”the Earth sucks”, literally), and small crepuscular furry rodents, are joining forces to rain down upon my land, at all times of the day, with no warning for what could be a painful convergence – acorns. Similar in some way to the yearly Persid meteor shower, randomness and regularity somehow showing up together, the small orbs manage to strike a variety of materials which by necessity litter my lawn. 100 year old beams, aluminum staging, a diesel two-man lift, aluminum, canvas, plastic, cardboard, grass.  If you got hit on the head with a falling oak nut  would you think it happened “to” you or “for” you? And would it hurt?

(Assuming the mass of the acorn is .005kg , and is dropped from a height of 10 m, then the velocity just before impact is 14m/s. The kinetic energy just before impact is equal to its gravitational potential energy at the height from which it was dropped-K.E. = .49 J, leading to an average impact force  F= 4.9N….I’m just saying)

I heard something one time about Mainers enjoying summer till  July 4th or so, then preparing for winter.  At the time I couldn’t quite understand.  Now , having been here  five months, and not having spent a winter in the far north since college at Syracuse,  I am beginning to prepare, at least mentally, and I can see that the natural world is also. A neighbor has finished splitting wood for this season and has taken delivery of 3 or 4 chords of green wood for next year.  I have also put up some wood but only because we had to take down a tree and it would be wasteful in this place to let wood rot. Snowblowers and canning supplies are being advertised in Sunday newspaper inserts which oddly don’t appear in Florida papers.

I wake before the sun rises and the frequency of falling acorns has increased to where its a game now to imagine what exactly the small nut hit on its path that gravity and perhaps eager chipmunks have propelled it on.  But acorns weren’t falling a several weeks ago when the hummidity was like a sauna, the box of salt almost falling apart because as you probably know, salt is hygroscopic. Autumn approaches, critters stuff their cheeks, or nests or whatever they stuff with food, wood is being delivered.  Soon leaves will color and fall in a mass vertical exodus.

Insulation is almost complete as is plumbing and electrical rough in. Perhaps a plumbing inspection next week then drywall. I will spend today and tomorrow staining cedar shakes from the lift so the porch can be started. The list of things to do, or buy, or make continues expanding, anxiety gnaws at me. (“Take me away Calgon.”)  I make decisions and quickly forget. What would the Donald do?


“Shakes Alive Melvin!” from Ned Warner on Vimeo.




When I was growing up and living in Maryland, my family would drive up to our summer house in Maine. With no siblings, it was a long and interminable ordeal made more bearable by curling up on the back seat shelf and wondering how many miles I could see once we crested a hill. Along the way the Maine license plates grew more prevalent, all proclaiming “Vacationland”. Summers were for exploring, catching frogs, and sleep away camp. That was my definition, by default, of “vacation”. Fast forward 20 years and I found myself living in “The Land Of Mickey”…Orlando. Home of two major theme parks then (Universal would start building in a few years), central Florida employed close to 30,000 people in the tourist industry. So consider Orlando as a “vacationland”.  A county fair on steroids. Rollercoasters, fantasy lands carved out of swampland, idealized Main streets, fake back lots which are fake to begin with (fake “fake”-a double negative. Does that make them “real”?), monorails, performing alligators and ten ton whales, miles of strip malls, chain hotels, mom and pop motor lodges, t-shirt outlets, factory outlet malls. I understand the allure of the theme parks, my kids loved it and I loved taking them there. Florida-the-Winter-Vacationland-Postcard

Two different ways to spend your time off, two different vacations, whatever it takes to relieve family stress or create memories and experiences.  I’m not judging, obviously I’ve made my choice clear.  Here in Maine I feel more attuned to my history and the permanence of things. I don’t always need new things to be satisfied contrary to our consumer culture. In fact I appreciate what imagined history I can see in old things, antiques, even as I am becoming one. Don’t we all love the feel of old, worn blue jeans? blue jeans (1 of 1) One of my old t-shirts, perhaps 20 years old, is lovely to wear even with holes and paint stains. My satisfaction approaches reverence and the shirt may end up retired and living on the wall as a sculpture. As opposed to my phone which is maybe 4 years old and will not probably be updated and who knows how long it will last in these days of weekly updates. Don’t get me wrong, I like my phone, it’s great to have a computer in your pocket. But I do miss the permanence of the rotary phone, or is that just some nostalgia creeping in? As we get older do we want the old things back? I may yet hook up my turntable.

But why is it that, as it happens I need some cabinet pulls and I am thinking of a used ones not sleek and modern from Home Depot or Restoration Hardware? I would like a peavey (look it up) but would prefer a used one. I never thought I liked antiques much but walking through an antiques mall I found myself fascinated at the history of our culture, read through those artifacts.  Is this nostalgia or just a reverence for the old….or is that the same thing? I wouldn’t give up my cell phone for a rotary, but the voice quality was better.

I think it has something to do with my history that I feel around me. The table I am writing on is a simple one with two somewhat flimsy drop leaves, but I value it for who originally used it, dinged it, and dropped paint on it.clydes table (1 of 1) To refinish it would be anathema, irreverent. Tearing down the old house was gut wrenching for that reason.  Part of it’s value lies with it’s history and as I get older that becomes much more important and something I cherish. The new house will be better in many ways but it comes at a price.

Inquisitive Folk

lamp (1 of 1)I used to work as a video journalist for a news station in Orlando, going out and about each day looking for news, chasing ambulances (literally), or doing live shots. We drove marked vehicles, our logo and call letters brandished across every inch of metal, and became inured to frequent intrusions by the viewing public enamored with the thought of being on tv (“Hi mom”) or simply the proximity, however remote, to their favorite news anchors. We worked in a fishbowl, subject to scrutiny from the unwashed masses. It was hard to go unnoticed.

weather vane (1 of 1)Now I sit in my guest cottage, 50 feet from home construction, old floor joists littering the lawn, stacks of lumber nearby, a two man hydraulic lift at rest, and watch as boats slow down to gawk or make u-turns to inspect the progress. Had we a dock to park your vessels, I would welcome you for a tour. Come in and talk for a spell. Admittedly I am putting myself out there for scrutiny with this bloggy thing but don’t we all welcome talking about ourselves, what we love, or love to do? I am literally building my home, lack of skills notwithstanding, stick by stick and I would love to show it to you.  Today a confluence of kayakers came by, wondering about the boathouse, the new house, the guest house, the moorings, the sign advertising this blog, etc. I found myself  waffling between mild annoyance and an urge to explain and had I not been spotted, which necessitated a greeting (I try to be polite), I would have stayed quiet. But because of that simple connection though I was eager to chat, explain the situation, show off my dogs, and spend a few minutes with inquisitive folk.water dancing (1 of 1)

Nail Gun to the Heart

Another home building frivolity for your dining and dancing pleasure. The big things, walls, rafters, sheathing, have been finished and now small stuff compels…nailers for drywall, interior walls, checking nail patterns, headers for closets. Shingles go on the roof in a day or so if we get our special drip edge delivered.

More time lapse, home building silliness, truncated and enunciated for your viewing pleasure. from Ned Warner on Vimeo.

“Cut a cripple for the dustpan”

It’s been a good week of banging nails.

Mo Betta Bangin’ from Ned Warner on Vimeo.

This is conventional framing, that is without much in the way of blueprints. And since we altered the basic floor plan, it does lead to unintended consequences. An alteration on the first floor ends up hitting you in the face on the third floor. We are using no manufactured trusses, so the roof is measured and cut on site, piece by piece, which necessitates knowledgeable framers. We have them, but there are always several ways of getting the job done, so opinions vary and discussions ensue. I can listen to two guys on site talk about a framing issue and marvel that although they use English and understand each other, I am at an almost complete loss. It does remind me how much of a visual thinker I am and my need to “see it” to aid comprehension.

The third floor is framed in along with three dormers…”dustpan” dormers as one of the carpenters said. The flat roof of this shed dormer may resemble a dustpan, it’s been hard to find any etymological history on the term, but I am fascinated by words specific to a profession.

Having been in two other professions  (television news and kitchens), terminology specific to each sometimes was completely foreign to those not in the business. The worlds of home building and architecture, have some distinct jargon. In carpentry, a “jack stud” or “trimmer” refers to a stud holding up a “header”, which is a beam running horizontally above a window or door to transfer the weight above it. “King rafter” (not sure),  “king stud”(immediately outside a “jack”, and “cripple” which is a smaller, vertical stud under a window sill. terms typical-wall-framing

“Birdmouth” or “crowsmouth” refers to a diagonal cut in a rafter that lets it rest on the “top plate”, which is the horizontal length of wood on top of a wall. I wonder if that is related to “dovecote”- a shelter, sometimes built on the gable end or eaves, for birds or pigeons?DSCF2069

“Cats paw”, “plumb bob”, “crown”, “scissor truss”, the list goes on, identifying tools or procedures specific to a profession, enabling workers to communicate in a shorthand. Not surprisingly, some words are common to both architecture and carpentry, they are after all  intricately linked together. So excuse me while I go cut some cripples.

Get Woody


drawings (1 of 1)-2                                                                                                                Lake view

Here are the plans that were drawn up.  Last summer I sat down with my architect, Bob Hayford, over the course of a month or so and hashed out our needs and wants, blended that with the conditions of the town, and came up with some drawings. Just the bare minimum of drawings but Tom was ok with that. Of course that means a lot of computations on his part, stringer lengths, window choices, meetings and phone calls with Dave at Hammond (he must be on speed dial), revisions and decisions. So far so good. (Thank you Dave for the pastries). I barely know how to lay out a wall so I can’t imagine the calculations for the wood, load limits, board feet, etc. Like anything it comes with experience.

drawings (1 of 1)

This is day 4 & 5, set to music that although wonderful,  is quit overused for this sort of thing…so my apologies to Signore Giachino Rossini.

day 4 from Ned Warner on Vimeo.



I’m Just Beaming…

So we spent a day cutting and nailing headers together. Getting ready. In a professional kitchen,(it works well in the home also,)  that would be “getting your shit together”, or “mise en place”, in its place. When service starts you want your food out as quickly and efficiently as possible. There are not the same time constraints in construction, aside from the fact that snow will fall in a couple of months and shelter is desirable. So I spent an hour or so cutting 2×6’s to stud length…(89 7/8″, if you’re interested), about 140 of them. Tom cut 2×10’s for headers for the various windows and doors, wood was stacked close to where we would need it, sweep the floor, snap a chalk line. What you can do in one day, when you’re organized, is impressive.

framing day 1 from Ned Warner on Vimeo.

Day Two..continue on soldier…

Day Three…Wherein 6 men lift and place…kinda like clean and jerk…a 850 lb, 24 ft., Parallam PSL Engineered Wood Beam ( “A great room can be even greater”).

“Parallam is made from clipped veneer strands laid in parallel alignment and bonded with adhesive. .. the world’s only commercially manufactured and marketed parallel strand lumber product.”