Rigorous Ten Point Quality Control

I’m making some spaghetti sauce with the last of the tomatoes from the garden. For quality control I’m following a rigorous inspection process. I inspect the tomato and then I check my cider, then tomatoes and a bite from a cider donut.
Sauce came out pretty good for my first try, but I didn’t make enough and ended up eating it all pretty quickly. Nothing frozen or canned.
Looks like we’ll need to plant a few more tomatoes next year for sauce.

Lipstick on the Pig

Years ago when I was small my family spent about seven years living in a house trailer. This was a single wide probably about seven hundred square feet. My father had this placed on top of a concrete block foundation with a mechanical room, bedroom, living room and laundry in the basement, this nearly doubled the living space. This was my parents and five of us kids. We lived next to my grandparents with a shared driveway and yard.
Three bedrooms, one bathroom, a small kitchen and dining room were on the first floor. Dad had also built a small addition on the back of the trailer that was maybe 144 square feet. Altogether that probably gave us 1300 square feet or so of actual living space.
The pig was of course that trailer, and the lipstick to my mind was the basement and the addition on the back.

Pretty sure Dad saw this cabin in his minds eye. But he ended up with something else.

This is the house that I grew up in as it looks today. That door on the left with no stairs was where my Dad jumped from it down into the open hole where the new septic system was located and then bounced off the top of said tank. The roof is new, when we lived there it was a flat trailer roof with tires on it to hold the tin down. The large window over on the right in the basement was something recovered from an old barn and recycled before recycling was cool.
I remember a lot of good times from that place as we lived there twice with a couple of years gap when we moved away and then back. Christmas Eves over at my grandparents house on the other side of that driveway. Eating so much pumpkin pie I threw up later that night.


We lived next to my Grandparents when I was growing up, it made for some good times between my Father and Grand Father.

One time a family of birds made a nest in the eaves of the addition my dad built. The addition contained my parents bedroom and the sound of the baby birds would wake my mother every morning. She insisted my father remove the birds, so he found a good use for them.
Dad caught those babies and put them in a paper lunch bag, took them over to my grandparents house in the evening when grandpa had fallen asleep in his favorite chair and placed the bag on the floor near grandpa. Then dad snuck back outside and watched through the window as the birds began to make noises and escape from the bag. My grand father woke up to the noise and sat there trying to figure out what on earth was going on while dad stood outside the window laughing.
Every year grandpa would plant a garden and my father would plant one to try and compete with his. Each would brag about what they were growing and egg the other on. One year dad had a row of potatoes in, one plant did so much better than the others it was two or three times the size of everything else. It turns out my grand father would wait until dark and sneak over to put fertilizer on that one plant, then come over and mention to my dad how well that one plant was doing and wonder out loud why it was so much bigger than the others. He did this all summer finally telling dad what was going on, they both had a good laugh over that.
There was a truck that grandpa had down by the road and was trying to sell. He also had an old mannequin. He took that mannequin and left the legs hanging out of the hood, boy the cars slowed up and some even stopped to look at that. Not sure how long it took to sell that truck but it did raise some interest in it.

Darkest Days

My Mother considers these days a failure, I think they are a triumph for her and my Father. I might have killed myself after a year like this for them they both survived and were still together when it was over.
We lived in an old farmhouse in the town of Root. It was cold and drafty. We had no phone because it was disconnected. My Father was between jobs. We eventually were asked to leave because the rent wasn’t paid for months. Things happen, yes they do. My parents church stepped in and cleaned up the rent payments at that house.
It wasn’t all bad, I remember a lot of kids in this house including the five of us and friends coming over. We made root beer and a few of the jars exploded from the pressure, what a mess all over the ceiling and walls. It was the 1980’s and I listened to John Cougar Mellencamp singing Jack & Diane.
One night after dark we saw a State Police cruiser going up and down the road shining a spotlight on the houses looking for house numbers. He was looking for our house, Dad was out working or looking for work or something. It turned out the hospital sent the trooper because we had no phone. My sister had been in for some tests related to why she wasn’t feeling well and her epilepsy medication didn’t seem to be working. The trooper didn’t say what was going on but the hospital wanted my sister in Cooperstown immediately. My mom was home with us four kids, no car, and no phone.  I think she went to the neighbors and borrowed the phone reached my father and somehow made arrangements with a family friend to get a ride.
My sister was diagnosed with Leukemia, and along with my parents she went off to Syracuse for treatment. Mom and Dad stayed in the Ronald McDonald House there while she spent some time in the hospital. Eventually my parents had care transferred to Albany Medical Center and Dr Aronson.
There were more stays at the Ronald McDonald house in NYC and Albany, while she underwent more treatments. Things didn’t go well and the doctors were talking about doing a bone marrow transplant.
We all went in and had blood tests done to find the closest match for a donor. My youngest brother Andrew fainted from the sight of blood and my middle brother Chris turned out to be the closest match.
For a while everything spiraled out of control we moved twice more, once to Richmondville and then back to the house trailer on Mineral Springs Rd. There was a half step in between with a move over to 145 next to the Catafalmo’s, but when they found out about the rent not being paid at the last place they wouldn’t rent to us.
My Grandfather died in the spring and my Uncle on his way up from Florida to collect a few things from my Grandfather was killed in a traffic accident in August. September 10th 1984 my sister died from the Leukemia.

Mineral Springs Rd


The trailer on the full basement. We had some problems with water coming in sometimes at this place and would wake up in the morning with three or four inches of water across the entire basement. Dad moved the trailer furnace into the basement and set it up to blow air into a series of concrete blocks that were laid on their sides, a furnace repairman came once and he said he had never seen anything like this. A floor with linoleum was then built on top of this and we had a bedroom and living room down there with a utility room that had the furnace and washing machine.
I can remember crossing the driveway to my grand parents house for Christmas Eve with my fathers family. Everyone would bring something and we would hang out in the living room near the pot belly stove. Once when I was about eight or ten I ate so much pumpkin pie at one of these that I was sick all night and and still almost forty years later I avoid pumpkin pie.

My brother and I would ride our bicycles back in forth in the attached driveway and chase each other back and forth across the yard.
When they built I88 it took a small strip in the back yard and we had a chain link fence up there after that. I used to watch traffic on I88 sometimes and see the State Police practice making traffic stops there.
We would go up in the back yard and watch the fireworks in the Cobleskill Fairgrounds on July Forth. Aunt Anna’s husband Uncle Bob would bring his bee smoker and keep the bugs down while the kids played around the old wire spools that my grand father was saving up there. One year Uncle Victor got a bottle rocket stuck in his sweater, you’ve never seen a whale dance so light on his feet until you have seen this.
Grandpa Smith had a cannon that he made from a  set of wagon wheels and a hollow post from a porch. He would take lighter fluid put it in a metal coffee can, point the cannon at the hill side across the road and light the fluid. The ensuing bang would echo back off the hill side and the kids would all holler and yell. This only made him want to do it more of course. We lived such a safe life back then.


Years ago we moved around a lot, sometimes because the rent didn’t get paid sometimes because there was a job some place that my father was chasing.
There was the trailer park in Randall and the park in Warnerville but they were both before I was old enough to remember them. There was the house near Hindsville that burned to the ground taking everything with it, I also was to young to remember this place.
The first place I do remember was Mineral Springs Road across the driveway from my Grandparents. Some sort of deal was struck and my parents had use of the land to put that trailer on. My father somehow got a full basement built and put the trailer on top of that. We had a picture window in the front of the basement that was a large 6’x6′ window from a barn. It had wires in the glass to reinforce things, not what the average family would have had. We lived here a period of seven years over two separate stays.
From there we moved to Route Twenty outside Carlisle,  this place had a big walk in pantry and a dug well in the backyard that was about ten feet across and stuck up about four feet above ground level. We had two dogs there first a Sheltie that drove me nuts and eventually ran away, then a German Shepherd that walked into the yard one day and stayed. The shepherd was a great dog that would protect us kids from anyone it thought might try to hurt us.
We moved to Esperance next in the house next to Jim Gage’s law office and lived there until Dad got a job down near Hudson.
Next was a rented place outside Valatie with a big porch all the way across the front of the house. The back of the house had a seven room addition that was removed with a bulldozer and when we moved in there were still spots where you could look out through the wall and see daylight. There was a furnace that had been converted from coal to oil and my father converted it to wood with a grate and we burned scrap wood and trees to keep the place warm. There were five bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor, as well as a door that opened to where the addition had been but was just a big step down to nowhere now. On the first floor we had a large kitchen and dining room with a breakfast nook. In the entrance way was a large metal grate that sat on top of the furnace and the heat gravity fed up from there to the entire house. There was also a living room with a fireplace in it and nice wood working throughout. Down front near the road was a set of slate steps and hitching posts for horses.
The next move was rented farm house, near Carlisle. We lived here for a couple of months and then moved again. The rent didn’t get paid and I think my parents church stepped in to help out, those were dark days.
Next was a house in Richmondville we stayed here for about three months, my mother still is upset about losing the deposit on this one because the oil tank was empty when we left, it was also empty when we moved in but they never checked it.
This time back to Mineral Springs Road, this was the shorter of the two stays here and we eventually moved one last time.
Dad talked a good friend into selling him an acre of land over by Carlisle. He then found a used double wide with three bedrooms and two baths. It was hauled up from Pennsylvania and some where along the way it changed to two bedrooms and a single bath. A slight conversion by Dad and it was three bedrooms again and we moved in. by this time i graduated school and moved out. My mom still lives in this house and it has become a very nice spot with flower gardens, a garage and a few sheds around for storage.

Doug “Maintenance Man” Smith

It’s a little known fact that “Maintenance Man” was my fathers nick name. Some people claim he got this for the regular twenty thousand mile oil change but I know the truth.

In about 1979 – 1980 we lived in a house that had a bathroom added on where it had once been a porch. Every winter the pipes would freeze out there because they went out of the basement and into the area that was the porch. This was enclosed from the outside by some plywood, concrete blocks and not a whole lot more. My father would wake up in the middle of the night during January to the sound of an ice plug in the water line hitting the corner in those pipes. He would then run to the basement and get the torch out to heat that area of copper pipe and melt the plug down before things got worse and a pipe burst.
Sometimes to keep the plug from forming he would just go in that bathroom and run the water every hour or so. Unfortunately this was before global warming so we had to deal with temperatures below zero on a regular basis. Some people think they would have just put some heat tape on that pipe or maybe even insulated the area but since we only lived there for about two years it was more cost effective to keep the torch on hand or just run the water every now and then.
As a side note, my mother told me the payments on that house were about $40 a month. I am writing this at about three AM since I just made the rounds of the house to run water through all the pipes. It’s a family tradition.

My Great Grandfather Smith

He sat down when he was in his sixties, he lived on till he was in his ninety’s. I can remember a phone call that he had run over his neighbors trash cans, he lost his license after that. Somehow not having that and his failing eye sight made him sit down for the rest of his life.
I don’t think I ever saw him after he sat down, but I do recall hearing him holler “Do I like this?” from the other room.
My Great Grandmother waited on him hand and foot. He died by pieces, slowly one leg went and then the other was amputated from lack of circulation, while he lay in a hospital bed at the house.
Me I think I’d like to go all at once one big bang and done, no long lingering goodbye’s. I kid with my sister and brothers now asking them “Do I like this?” My sister mumbles back under her breath “He does now.”