I Battle the Local Telecommunication Provider, and Other Headaches

cropped-img_17751.jpgThis morning finds me at the Blue Hill Library, a comforting establishment that is hand’s down nicer than any branch of the public library that I’ve patronized in Austin. It’s a pleasant place to work, with several quiet rooms where folks with laptops and devices congregate. When my daughter was here last month, she spent many afternoons here watching movies and television on her iPad. The library also sponsors a wide variety of events — there is even an art gallery upstairs — and has things on display like the facsimile edition of a book written in calligraphy and magnificently illustrated by Carl Jung. It’s a great resource to have.

The Peninsula is an interesting amalgamation of wealthy summer people, writers and artists who live here year round, and locals who keep the infrastructure running. I feel that I simply could not have picked a better place to live once Jane graduates high school and I move here for good. My neighbors are friendly and welcoming. Several women are fixing up (or have fixed up) old houses on their own, just like me, and my next door neighbor is cleaning out the Anchorage for the first renters.

Yet the process I’ve stepped into is daunting.

For instance, I am here at the library, rather than drinking a cup of coffee and sitting at my laptop in the privacy of home, because Fairpoint Communications refuses to install my wireless. Well, refuses is perhaps not the right word. They can’t bring DSL to my property because they are at capacity along my phone line and need to put in some new piece of equipment to boost the signal or whatever it is they do. Speeds at the tiny Sargentville Library branch, just three doors down from the Anchorage, are considerably down from last summer, suggesting that the boost is needed already.

And yet, a simple fix that would take three days in Austin is scheduled to take three months in this neck of the woods. I have been calling the company every few days, but they are comfortable stonewalling and remain resolutely courteous, a tough nut to crack. As the only internet provider to this part of the world, they can simply do what they want. The worst part? The DSL capacity is 15 mbps. That’s not enough to watch a movie or download any documents of consequence, so it looks like I’ll be working at the Blue Hill Library some days even after the service is finally installed.

And There’s More

Complaining about the lack of a 15 mbps internet service seems ridiculous when problems are cropping up everywhere around me:

  • The foundation of the Anchorage desperately needs shoring up beneath the dining room floor. The obviousness of this problem, which I feel should have been taken care of last year, makes me doubt the carpenter’s abilities.
  • There is a serious looking drywall crack in a downstairs corridor ceiling that I hope the carpenter can fix before the renters arrive on Saturday.
  • The gardens are a mess.
  • The woman who mows my lawn quit after breaking two windows last time she was here because she kicked up rocks under the mower. (She did fix the windows. Sort of.) The rocks are there because the excavator never cleaned the site after moving earth last year. I hesitate to reprimand him because he so cheap and otherwise decent and has a huge backlog of work. Besides, I hired the woman who mows to seed those areas. That work was not really done satisfactorily. The woman’s elderly mother has wrested the account from her daughter and will be coming to do the lawns tomorrow after a day of chemo treatments. This is not confidence inspiring.
  • The tree guy I hired has completely disappeared on me.
  • There has been some sort of argument or misunderstanding between the painter and the carpenter, and some of the work I contracted never was finished. I don’t believe this is work I paid for, just work they promised to do and never did. I have spoken with them several times, and they play dumb. Very frustrating.

Looking around the cabin yesterday afternoon — one can ascend into the building from a stepladder placed on the concrete footing where the bedroom fireplace once stood — I noticed something rather alarming. The north wall of the building is a bit out of whack and seems perilously close to slipping off its support beam. This would be kind of bad. Some of the workmen will be at the house tomorrow, and I’ll have them take a look and see what can be done.

If I had internet at my place, I’d post a picture of this problem. Instead, enjoy this little video of two poodles playing at the local beach.

The Journey Continues


A lot has happened since I posted that snowy photo of Maine in the middle of last winter.

Now here it is, the beginning of the summer season, and my cabin is still perched high in the air as the slow layers of a new foundation take shape underneath. The ground is so boggy on the north side that Ben Webb, my pragmatic excavator, decided that this side had to be poured after the rest of the structure, and that is the reason I will be forced out of the place during the first week I use the main house as a summer vacation rental.

More on that tomorrow. For today, enjoy some beautiful flowers from the property back when I visited in May.


An Update on the Site


Hey, Everyone.

I haven’t posted in a while because I need to upgrade this site from a blog to a website, which means there’s a bunch of stuff I have to figure out. Best guess for that development is mid March. That also sounds like a good time to start gearing up for the summer.

Meanwhile, it’s a balmy 80 degrees here in Austin. Happy winter!

Cover image: “Snowy Trees,” by Michael Heisel

Happy New Year!

the anchorage 2

When I arrived back in town a few days ago, my neighbor, who’d been taking in the mail for me, handed me a package containing a bound edition of the Sedgwick Bicentennial publication, “Life and Times in a Coastal Village.” Also included was the photograph above, of my house, the Anchorage, as it once was.

It had always wondered what made the house seem just slightly wrong architecturally. It was the dormer windows added to the house at some later time. The west wing porch was also partially removed, along with steps leading into the house.

Thank you so much, Jan Anderson and the rest of the Sargentville Chapel’s Thursday Club, for this wonderful gift.

If any of my readers choose to follow the link, you can see all the wonderful pies members baked for the annual auction held on December 6, 2015. The proceeds go to benefit the Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society and its restoration of the Sedgwick Baptist Church, which I discussed in a previous post. Continue reading “Happy New Year!”

Finally, A Closer Look Inside


It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Not only is this the grueling part of my teaching semester, but I also feel more generally burnt out. Since the divorce a few years ago, I’ve been tackling one big project at a time without a significant pause to focus on myself or slow things down. My mind and body have decided, I suppose, to stage a coup. I am sleeping more and ramped up my self-care efforts; after a long phase of very little activity other than walking my dog, I’ve begun strength training and regular aerobic exercise again. Fortunately, in a couple of weeks, the semester will be over, and I’ll have time to get in a rhythm of weekly blog posts and think about how to present information in the year ahead.

Meanwhile, I decided to hire the Davis Agency, which lists properties on the Blue Hill Peninsula as well as nearby Mount Desert Island, to manage the Anchorage and Cabin for me as seasonal vacation rentals next summer. I sent their representative some photos so that she could give me an estimate of how much I might charge per week for the place. Once she and I talk on the phone again, I’ll start posting this information to the blog and on my Facebook page.

It occurred to me, as I compiled the photos, that I have never really given my readers here a run through of the place.

Although I’m not thrilled with the quality of these photographs — many were taken on a cloudy day, and a few are not well focused — at least they give an idea of what the houses look like on the inside.

The Tour

Let’s start with the barn. Note the row of small square windows near the Mail Attachment 4corner roof. There are two lofts inside; the one with the windows was used as a home gym. An ancient bench press that must weigh several hundred pounds is parked in there. There is even a shower, though it doesn’t work at present. The ground floor is big enough for someone to work on a small boat or have an artist’s studio; there are nice workbenches in place.

As everyone has remarked, the barn is “spooky.” I thought so myself. It’s dark in there! If you open both large, sliding doors it’s quite nice, though. I especially like the view of the house from there. But I need to have an electrician out to see about reinstalling the electricity.


The main house, the Anchorage, was built in 1812 by a member of the John Billings family, who received a large land grant in the area. Details about the first years of the house vary. It is described as the “Billings Homestead” in the Sedgwick Bicentennial brochures; copies of the original deed hang in one of the downstairs bedrooms. I will write more on the history of the house at another time, though. I need to speak with the Sargentville librarian and the family who owned the place before me so that I can piece together the facts and place the construction and occupancy of the house in a proper historical context. It’s clear that at least two additions to the original house have been made — at the north end of the house, someone grafted an outhouse and a pig shed on to the back — and that one bedroom, possibly a parlor or winter kitchen, was converted into a downstairs bath.

The house has three wings radiating out from the dining room, which is the center of the house. Each of these wings can be a separate apartment; they have their own baths, doors that close them off from the rest of the house, and separate entrances.

  • The east wing has one double bedroom and a full bath with clawfoot tub. I imagine that the full bath was crafted out of a sitting room or parlor — note the circular window in the shower, which looks out on the wraparound porch on the south side of the house.
  • The west wing, right off the dining room, is composed of a sitting room (also known as “the Map Room”), two bedrooms — a single twin and a double — and a bath with shower. The Map Room currently has a fireplace, but that is the chimney I had removed, and the carpenter recommended that the internal fireplace be taken out as well because its weight is putting a strain on the foundation. This is the only real structural change I intend to make to the Anchorage.
  • The north wing, which contains the functional parts of the house, runs from the kitchen back through a beautiful bedroom with a bay window, a large utility room, a shower and a very unique toilet, which the contractors have dubbed “the throne.”

The house is full of nooks and rambling passage, like the walk through closet that links the single bedroom on the west wing to the Map Room. The steep stairs to the second floor are behind a doorway off the dining room that, at first glance, seems to be a closet. In the north wing, a long corridor ends with an the laundry room, then veers off to the left, where there is a winter entrance leading to a rambling three-quarter bath.

The toilets in the house are wonderful. Apparently bathrooms were installed only recently because the summer family that owned the place did not want to destroy the authenticity of the experience with modern conveniences. Perhaps that is why they created such unique, fun, and comfortable baths when they finally got around to it.

“The throne,” a toilet perched high at the north end of the house, beyond the utility room, is perhaps my favorite place in the house. Open panels on either side of the stairs that lead to this toilet let in fresh air and summer breeze; you can sit uninterrupted, reading in the natural light. The bathrooms also have working heaters, which is a nice touch.


I’m especially disappointed in the photos of the Cabin. They completely fail to capture the charm of the place — its high ceilings, the finished bedrooms contrasting with the unfinished kitchen, the comfort of the porch. It looks ramshackle in the pictures, and it isn’t, not at all. It was built of solid materials and is durable and well-thought out in terms of its design. The Adirondack rusticity forms a nice counterpoint to the Continental touches of the Anchorage. It is so pleasant that several people who were interested in buying the property expressed a desire to keep the Cabin and tear down the main building. Unthinkable — but a good indication of how the Cabin makes you feel when you step inside and walk around.

I will be finishing this house off over the next several years, starting with a proper foundation next June. The back wing of the house is sinking badly and needs immediate attention. I thought about tearing off that wing –and the contractors didn’t disagree — but I like the idea of dividing off a section of the big bedroom at the back of the house to make a utility room. Skylights in that bedroom will bring in light, and once the brush is down, and some landscaping is in place out back, it will make a wonderful room for guests.