Thursday, June 26, 2008

Were You Brought Up In A Barn?

This is a question I used to ask my children regularly, especially after finding old ice cream dishes under the bed, wet towels on the floor, smelly socks tucked down under the furniture cushions. And that was just the boys. We won't even discuss Amy's room. If they had just hung around home a few more years, they might have answered "yes," because now we actually do live in a barn (not the one in the photo though). From the information I received from the former owners, our barn was built around 1797 and converted to a residence in 1965. We have the original pegged beams with roman numerals, a hayloft and, if you look closely up in the attic, the outline of an old barn door. It's all very charming and quaint. Except for one thing. Mice. There are many secret passageways traveling up and down the old beams and through the floors into the cellar that generations of mice have passed through on their way to a cozy, warm houseful of food. Usually we start seeing signs of them in the fall when the weather turns nippy. Imagine our surprise, then, when last night as we were sitting watching tv, a small furry body launched itself across the living room floor and disappeared into the baseboard heat register. My first impulse was to scream "eek" and pull my (bare) feet up off the floor. Don't get me wrong here, I am an animal lover to the core. I open doors to let flies out, I care for the critters in my yard as if they were pets, but I have to draw the line at mice. I just refuse to share my barn with mice. Although, when I really think about it, it was probably theirs before it was mine.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bush's Flawed Oil Plan

Oil drilling rig from Press of Atlantic City (Alex Brandon) June 18, 2008.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer, Saturday, June 21, 2008.

Drill. There will be oil.

That was the dominant message from President Bush in an aggressive Rose Garden speech Wednesday on energy policy. But he should know it is wrongheaded to stress supply over demand as the solution to high energy prices. It allows people to pretend oil is the only issue, when a truly wise energy strategy requires a mix of solutions.

The speech's emphasis on looking for more oil was especially disappointing in that Bush only this year seemed to finally come around to the belief that Americans need to consume less energy and to have more energy choices.

Bush has even acknowledged the need to address global climate change through U.S. energy policy. But with gasoline prices having pushed past $4 a gallon, the president now has dusted off his old rhetoric.

Both he and Republican presidential candidate John McCain called on Congress to lift 27-year-old bans on oil drilling in the oceanic continental shelf. Bush also seeks to speed processing of oil shale in Colorado and elsewhere, and to expand and improve U.S. refineries.

In a tale of two coasts, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist likes these ideas while fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger of California doesn't.

The McCain Bush argument boils down to this: Why should we drill? Because oil is expensive. Put that way, it's a lame argument.
Yes, consumers are ticked; oil prices bulk large in the present economic sludge. This is not, however, a survival issue. When voters are cranky, it's easy enough to cry crisis. Bullying rhetoric, seeking to exploit a commercial opportunity, is both inaccurate and misleading.

Drilling on a Bush McCain scale is hardly an "inevitable" measure. Opening up offshore drilling won't affect world oil prices much. The United States produces only 3 percent of the world's oil. Besides, exploration and construction will take three to 10 years at best, and an additional 10 years for full ramp-up, leading to a savings per gallon of . . . pennies.

Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (another Bush McCain mantra) may not bother polar bears much, but it would supply only a little oil for a little while. Energy companies can and should continue exploring for oil where they're allowed; judicious measures encouraging that are in order.

Bush rightly calls for expanded refining capacity and streamlined permit processes. U.S. refining capacity reached a raging 89.3 percent the week of June 9-13, and yet supply lines are stressed. But notice: Expanding refineries and speeding new construction simply make the beast hungrier. It ignores demand, which must be reduced. Such studied ignorance can't hope to address the country's energy woes. Coming decades will bring an increase in energy choices that include wind, geothermal, hydro, alternative fuels, new storage tech, and nuclear - to accompany petro and coal, which won't soon go away.

Barack Obama has consistently supported an energy policy that promoted myriad alternatives. McCain once did, but he needs to be more vocal if he still has that belief.

When Bush spoke on March 5 to the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference, he cheered new energy technologies, alternative fuels and energy efficiency. But he's not talking as loud about that now. He should. Because the more you feed the beast, the hungrier it gets.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Please Make Him Stop

I got this email from the Ocean Conservancy and thought it was worth passing along. Give George a call.

Dear Meredith,

We urgently need you today to make your voice heard: Tell President Bush how dangerous and short-sighted his plan is to start drilling in the ocean by lifting a 27 year ban. Our ocean drives the planet's climate and is the first victim of global climate change -- more drilling only guarantees its further destruction while doing nothing to solve our energy crisis. President Bush says America is addicted to oil, but his solution is more oil! Call the White House now to tell him NO: 202-456-1414

Any oil discovered by drilling off our coastline will take 7-10 years to get to the pump, and it will not relieve the pain we are feeling. Even the U.S. Energy Information Administration agrees that opening up vast new areas to drilling will not likely affect prices until a decade from now, and then by just pennies a gallon. It is clear that we cannot drill our way out of this problem. Why would we open our coasts to drilling, putting our environment at risk and continuing our addiction to oil all while increasing the threat of global warming? It is up to you to tell the White House: NO DRILLING IN OUR OCEAN FOR OIL.

Learn more on
Warner Chabot
Vice President, Campaign Strategies
Ocean Conservancy

Monday, June 16, 2008

Play And Learn

Last week's photography challenge was "Play." I took this at the shore on Thursday.
I don't know these people but the three little girls were bouncing along the beach after the woman like ducklings. Suddenly she spied something interesting in the sand and bent down to show it to them. I liked the way they gathered around her so focused and intent on whatever it was she had. I used it for my challenge photo.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

We See Some Houses And Discover An Old Friend

We took our annual library tour of homes in Southern Chester County yesterday. There were 8 homes and 1 historical building on the tour. Of the homes, 3 were spectacular, 4 were so-so, and 1 I couldn't wait to get out of.

Here's our absolute #1 favorite--Fox Hill Farm.

What a gorgeous place this was. Perfection. I wish I could show you pictures of the indoors, but like many of these tours, no photography was allowed inside. This is a brand new house on a beautiful old property. The house that originally stood here was in such bad shape it couldn't be salvaged, so the owners tore it down and started all over again. They describe the interior as 1920's English Country. In the entry hall they placed antique English marble tiles that look aged and worn and just right for the space. Throughout they used beautiful old building materials such as fireplace mantles and surrounds, tiles, and ironwork. They salvaged a piece of hand-painted wallpaper from somewhere in New York State, had it framed, and displayed it as a large (it must have been about 3 x 6') work of art on the living room wall. Magnificent. The trim, wainscoting and mouldings are wonderfully detailed and thoughtfully chosen. There is a butler's pantry with the loveliest tiger maple cabinets I ever saw. Every detail is inspired. You really do not have the sense that you are in a new home. Everything is so well chosen that it could have been there for 50 years, and they just moved in last December. A large kitchen with marble-topped walnut island opens to a covered porch that runs along the full length of the house. Here's the view from there.

As if all this wasn't enough, off on the right side of the house are the pool, gardens, and tennis court. (They are building a conservatory [but of course] off the dining room to the left of the house, but it's not finished yet--oh, please let me go back and see it when it is). And although the house itself is new, all this looks like it has been here forever. I overheard that the tennis courts were saved from the old house, but I don't know about the rest.

They obviously did preserve this old root cellar--garden shed.

Now look right and you'll see the pool, gardens, and tennis courts.

I could move in tomorrow.

Our second favorite was Laurel Hill. These people heard about an old barn that was slated for demolition and, of course you know this story, bought it, took it apart, and moved it plank by plank, stone by stone, to this piece of ground overlooking miles and miles of open country. The inside features huge beams of Alabama long leaf yellow pine (now extinct) and a 37' stone chimney constructed from the original barn's foundation. One end of the living room is a kind of balcony in front of a wall of windows and looks down into a charming indoor garden complete with running stream.

Here's a picture of the front.
This is from the front looking back up the hill to the barns and paddocks. This is horse country
and so there are lots of acres devoted to the dear creatures.

Here's the view from the patio.
And speaking of dear creatures, who did we happen to run into in the dining room but Amy's Mr. Fox. We were so happy to see him there and he still wears his Blue & Lucy label. We gave him a big pat on the head and I snuck this picture when no one was looking. He certainly does seem to have a seat of honor and is privy to all the family news.
Since I haven't had much to blog about lately, tomorrow I'll tell you about a couple of the other places we saw.