Our House - In the Middle of the Street
(Remember that 80s song (tune ) by Madness ?)
April 28, 2010

41º75’07” N 70º58’31” W

After more than fifteen years of moving about and renting - including five years renting a beautiful house in Bridgewater - we finally decided to take the plunge and buy a house in 2002. We have been in our "new" house for eight years now! Where does the time go? In this case, the time went in to a lot of painting, mending, landscaping, and a bit of remodeling. Now the house is just about perfect for us. The neighborhood is good, too, but that takes maintenance as well. In late 2009 we formed the Bridgewater Center Neighborhood Association.

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BEFORE: Realtor's listing photo.

The photo below it was taken in the summer of 2007. In the 1980s, I did landscaping for a living and occasionally as a favor for friends and relatives, but this has been my first chance to take care of my own plantings. I do my best to keep flowers in bloom through the entire growing season, from the first crocuses of early spring through the last mums and asters of fall.

For a rather small piece of property (0.31 acres), we have an amazing diversity of growing environments; and I endeavor to find the plants that will do the best in each of our many microclimates. Fortunately, the front of the property faces south and slopes slightly, so that the soil is warmed throughout the year. Sun-loving plants thrive here, keeping the front of the house in a varied blanket of colors through much of the year.

I am far from being a master gardener, but I do try to maintain the gardens with a few self-imposed limits. I rarely use power tools, preferring a reel mower for the lawn and a scythe for the meadow in the back. I also use no pesticides and minimal fertilizer. We compost yard and kitchen waste on-site, and use it to amend the soil, especially for tomatoes and certain flowers. For very special flowers such as hydrangeas, I use coffee grounds, with sometimes amazing results. I buy my flowers from local growers who know the region, especially Stephanie's Perennials in Lakeville and Wright's Garden Center in West Bridgewater.

By our sixth year on the property, the "meadow" was still supporting a lot of biodiversity, but looked more like "weeds," including a lot of invasives that are not conducive to local species. We are currently working to improve the meadow and create even better bird and insect habitat with the help of the Vermont Wildflower Farm. Photos will be posted here as the project unfolds.
With Flowers!

Mt. Harrington
In mid-December 2007, we received three substantial snowfalls in eight days, just as the semester was winding down.

Much of the snow in Harrington Lot was pushed onto our yard, but Paloma and her friends did not mind -- a sledding/climbing hill right in the back of our house! Fortunately, my friends in Facilities did cut a notch for us to maintain our path to work.

Snow yard
Lake John
On Friday, February 27, 2003, in time for the silver anniversary of the famous New England Blizzard of 1978, we received more than a foot of snow.

The snow fell steadily all day, and everything was beautiful on the Saturday, which was very sunny.  This photo shows the 13-14 inches of snow in our yard, the fence (which was not present in the summer photo below), and our beautiful conversation swing.

In the background is the college's Harrington Hall and the buses that are parked just at our property line. Behind the left-most bus is a giant, old-fashioned plow that is used in the center of the street only in the most extreme storms. It was not used for this snowfall.
In April 2005, heavy rains, melting snow, and a blocked street drain combined to give our back yard its most impressive flood yet! Our swing ended up surrounded on an island. The ground there is elevated about two feet, because the foundation bricks of the old Bridgewater Normal School were dumped there in the 1960s.

We had our first experience with an ice dam and creeping leak, resulting in a small leak in the center of the dining room. Fortunately, our old-house friend Tom explained it to us, and we are the proud owners of a snow rake for the roof.

This is what we call the "before" picture of the kitchen. We had this ceiling (actually, these ceilings) removed before we moved in. The closeup shows part of the scrap-wood-and-bailing-wire system that supported the four or five layers of ceilings.
Kitchen-before Precarious Ceiling


This is the "during" picture. Our contractor looked like a coal miner as he worked on demolishing the kitchen. Apparently, every time the strapping support started to pull out, more layers of ceiling were added. Our contractor was amazed that it had not come crashing down already, as each strap was supported  only a nail at each end! The cord hanging down in the foreground was part of the electrical scheme for the room, which we are also having replaced.

Kitchen with new ceilingAnd finally ... the "after" picture. The photo on the left was taken on our move-in day, June 29, 2002. The center fixture has since been installed, and most of the junk moved from the middle of the room. I actually cooked a quiche (after replacing the rather dangerous-looking oven) on July 8.

Notice the space between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling; in the "before" picture above, the ceiling was actually resting on the cabinets!

And the "way after" pictures: We continued to invest in our kitchen, because we like to cook and eat good food at home. In November 2007, we are shown putting it to good use, as Pam made manicotti for a small dinner party, while James made some bread. The beautiful colors in our kitchen were done by our friends and professional painters, Tom and Sue.

Pam in the kitchen James in the kitchen

We had a quiet Thanksgiving at home, and Paloma liked helping with the pumpkin pie!

Paloma and pumpkin pie

Our Land
These photos show three of the great things about the house. First, it has a deep back yard that is essentially empty, so we can arrange the garden however we like. Second, and most important, it is close to the college. (That is Harrington Hall in the background through the trees.) Third, it has a lot of charm. The photo below shows the cool brass lamp in the dining room and the great wood floors that are throughout the house (except the kitchen!) We had these floors sanded and polished prior to move-in, and they look great!

Shiny floors!

Courtesy of Google Maps, it is possible to see something of the diversity of our small lot. The image to the right shows that our 0.31 acres includes a stand of mature spruce in the southwest corner, a small bit of deciduous swamp along the rest of the western edge, tall deciduous trees along the northern boundary with the college, and turf along the northeastern edge of the property and inside the fenced area behind the house.

The real key to the diversity, though, is the tall grass I maintain in the north-central part of the property -- shown in tan in this aerial photograph. This is where I use my Austrian scythe once or twice a year to keep the grass from succeeding to forest. The result is a very high level of grass and flower biodiversity, which supports insect biodiversity, and therefore pretty strong bird biodiversity. The insects include dragonflies, which are the natural enemy of mosquitos, and help to reduce the bugginess induced by the wetlands and by the abandoned swimming pool shown a bit to our east.

You can also see the house relative to our work places in a marked-up 1995 aerial photograph, which also shows the college's former garage immediately northeast of our place.

An interesting thing about the neighborhood -- the parking lot near us to the west was the location of a small house much like our own. It was put on the market not long after we bought our house. One day, the shrubbery was being offered to neighbors. The next day, the windows were all missing when I walked by in the morning, and a young man was just arriving with a piece of heavy equipment. When I came home that afternoon, the house was completely gone. The funeral home next door had purchased the house specifically to create parking. As is all-too-common in small towns, however, the new owners had decided to seek forgiveness after the fact instead of permission ahead of the act, so the effort did not lead to any parking relief for a year or more.

The image below shows our house relative to the collegeneighborhood.

Our slice of paradise
Our Neighborhood - Bridgewater State College map

That concludes our tour. We look forward to visitors!