September 29, 2021

RIP Brookside Dairy



RIP Brookside Dairy
John R. Greenwood

Hall's Brookside Dairy
Wilton Rd.


I lost a dear friend today, and I'm having a hard time with it. A few days ago I was told the remaining buildings on the old Brookside Dairy property would be torn down. Praying they were mistaken, I drove by the farm on my way to a Greenfield Historical Society Event. The Brookside property had been cordoned off with caution tape and there were two demolition dumpsters sitting next to the main house. Personally, I think crime tape would have been a better choice. It was Saturday morning, and no one I spoke with knew anything about what was happening at the old farm.





Jump ahead three days. I received a text message that Captain John St. John's 1789 home was no longer standing and that it was on its way to the landfill. Ironically, there is a drawing of that same home on the cover of a long-forgotten 1970s publication titled "Greenfield Heritage Resource Inventory." On page #3 of that Heritage Resource Inventory, under a section titled, "AN EVALUATION OF WHAT THERE IS IN THE TOWN," is the following paragraph under HISTORIC RESOURCES:



A detailed analysis of the history of the area and its architectural record is given in chapter one. Some forty structures were felt to have historical significance, and the report isolates each one, shows its importance, and urges a general program for preservation and enhancement of these areas. 




Guess which structure is now a pile of dust—yes, #9. The Captain St. John house was in the top ten! 

Thank goodness they designated the Greenfield Town Hall #1.



Enlarged photo of Heritage Resource Inventory book cover




Captain John St. John Home 
later became Harold L. Hall's Brookside Dairy 




Description on Page #51 
Greenfield Heritage Resource Inventory 


Excuse my anger; it manifests itself when someone hurts or threatens someone close to me. Brookside Dairy was not a part of my family, but it played a significant role in who I became. Brookside Dairy taught me work ethic when I was still in single digits. It's where I learned how to build a hay fort and friendships. It set a foundation for a career in the milk business, which put a roof over my head and fed my family. It nurtured my lifelong leaning to the positive side of the road and my passion for saving and sharing stories of good times. It fueled my love of history and tightened my grip on nostalgia. Most of all, I learned the lesson of compassion. In the 1990s, Harold L. Hall shared an oral history of his life. You can find it on the Saratoga County Historical Center's website. He shared one story that stuck with me. He tells of a day in the farm's early years when he was sick with the flu and could barely move. He was in the barn milking when one of his immigrant neighbors came in the barn and saw how sick he was. He told Harold to go in the house and that he'd be right back. When he returned, he had others with him, and they proceeded to finish the milking and other chores. Harold seemed to pause in quiet reflection as he told the story.



I'm told that mold and vandalism riddled the buildings on the property and that the cost to save them would have been in the millions. That may or may not be true but what hurts the most is knowing that the people responsible will never experience the way I felt when I saw those two dumpsters. 


DOD 9/27/2021




At least we have a book cover to hold on to...





The Greenfield Historical Society's Chatfield Museum in the Odd Fellows Hall in Middle Grove is #24 on the Heritage Resource Historic Structure List. If you see a dumpster there tomorrow, call 911.





June 13, 2021

Destruction Contractor

Destruction Contractor

 By John R. Greenwood




I’m on to my next home improvement project. It has slowly risen to the top of my original retirement to-do list. We have an exterior door on the east side of the house, leading to a small pressure-treated deck. That door is seldom used, so the deck does not get a lot of attention. I built it many years ago, years before YouTube, and long before acquiring the battery-operated-tool-arsenal, I have at my disposal today. Back then, I relied on Family Handyman Magazine, DIY books purchased at mall bookstores, and my years of experience as dad’s tool-gopher. Our two boys were as small as the budget, so I worked with what I had. Electrician taped lead cords, hammers with loose handles, and buckets of old bent nails were the norm. Despite the condition of my tools, the deck performed as designed, and in all honesty, was still rock solid. The reason for the overhaul is one of aesthetics and ease of maintenance. The look and easy care of the composite I used on the front porch in 2019 persuaded me to tackle his smaller and less complicated little brother. 

The high price and scarcity of lumber nudged me to buy the materials in early spring when I saw it and a month before the summer deck surge kicked in. Big Orange’s rack of composite boards was full one day, so I did what any red-blooded American DIY’er would do—I emptied it. Now the time has come to use it. Before I do, I had to take off the old pressure-treated boards. When I built this deck, I had no idea what 5/4 decking boards were. All I knew about was 2x6’s, so that’s what I bought. That’s why the deck is still as solid as it is.

Another thing I didn’t know pre-YouTube was that painting wet pressure-treated wood doesn’t work well. To be more precise, it doesn’t work at all unless it’s dry as a scone and has more primer than a 1980 F-150. My knowledge and skill level have not always paired well with my ambition. This deck was a prime example.

With the material on-premises, the lawn mowed, and weeds whacked, I began the destruction of ‘my’ deck. I say, ‘my’ deck because most of my remodeling projects have been on someone else’s work. We’ve lived here so long now that I’m starting to revisit projects I did 15-20 years ago. I was vividly aware of that when I went to pull off the first 2x6. I’d nailed that puppy with enough galvanized 16d’s to build Fort Northern Pines. I really didn’t want to unleash the reciprocating saw right off the bat. I was hoping to remove the 2x6’s without doing any damage to the stringers underneath. As long as they were still in good shape, I would be putting the new composite decking on them. I would remove the nails from the 2x6’s in hopes they could be repurposed. One board in, and I realized it was time for Big Hammer and Big Pry. A few hours and a sore back later, I had the “deck cleared.” I had all the nails pulled and the boards stacked. The Daddy Longlegs would have to find temporary quarters until the new decking was installed, and the chipmunks from hell had one less place to hide.

There is no point to this story other than sharing that I am much better suited to destruct than I am to construct. I feel more confident in my ability to take things apart than I do in my skills to put them together. One saving grace has been the addition of YouTube to my repertoire. The other is having an iPhone and Google in my tool belt.

If I don’t see something shiny in the next week or so, I will do my best to share an update on this latest project. 

Like the warranty on my work, there are no guarantees. 

* Disclaimer - Yeah, yeah, I ran the stringers the wrong way in 1989. It's going to stay that way. I choose to be different...



June 04, 2021

I'm No Wheelbarrow Mechanic


I’m No Wheelbarrow Mechanic
By John R. Greenwood


I’m no wheelbarrow mechanic. Although I am capable of fixing all sorts of things around my house, the probability that it's done correctly runs around 38%. Today’s wheelbarrow revival was no exception. Also, I’m not known for my ROI when it comes to repair versus replace either. To further that point, today’s wheelbarrow rebirth would be a great example to use in a course titled, Homeowner #101, Episode #1, Take your time.

To be clear, this particular wheelbarrow is not my go-to means of transporting yard debris around my property. The mover of choice is the Cadillac of dirt haulers; my indestructible Rubbermaid Commercial 7.5 cu. ft. Plastic Yard Cart. It was the best $150 investment I ever made. Buy one, and it will be yours too. Today’s fixer-upper is a 4 cu. ft. Craftsman that I purchased from an old store you may remember called Sears. I paid $39 over 15 years ago. You can buy the very same wheelbarrow from Lowes today with the name BlueHawk on the side and the cost—you guessed it, $39.

I like having the ‘4cuber’ for small jobs like planting a shrub. Mrs. G likes the nimble little guy for moving a flat of petunias from the backyard to the front yard. (By the way—why is backyard one word and front yard two?) Let’s just say if you own more than a half-acre, you can never have enough dirt movers leaning against the side of the garage.

So…

When the tire on the ‘4cuber’ kept going flat, I decided to replace the tube. Like all my repairs go, they never have the size, shape, or model I need when I need it. This repair adventure was rolling down the same path. Instead of replacing just the tube, I forked out $30 for a new wheel with the tire already mounted.

Easy peasy, right?

Well, yes and no.

The first time I loaded the ‘4cuber’ with the spanking new $30 wheel/tire combo, one of the handles crumbled like a milk-soaked cookie and left my feather-lite load in a heap in the middle of the side-yard. (side-yard requires a hyphen. Geez, even our yards can't agree on anything?) The plot thickens. Do I replace one of the handles? Do I buy a new ‘4cuber’? Do I really need a ‘4Cuber’? What will I do with a brand new wheel/tire combo that doesn’t fit anything else I own? Is anyone on Facebook Market Place going to pay full price for a lightly, slightly, barely used wheel/tire combo? Don’t answer that one. A closer look reveals that the remaining handle looks worse than the one that actually broke. Now my head hurts. I summon my inner adult and decide to buy two new handles and paint the barrow portion of the ‘4cuber.’ She’ll be like a brand new $39 ‘4cuber’ and last another 15 years! How much can two replacement handles possibly cost—$18 apiece plus tax and mileage, to be exact. 


Here’s where the intelligence portion of the story really kicks in. How hard can it be to replace two wheelbarrow handles? For anyone with a better than 38% repair accuracy, it’s probably not hard. To a “How hard can it be knucklehead,” it was obviously over my pay grade. As I drilled the last four holes through the handles to attach them to the barrow, I realized that the handles I thought were square were actually rectangular. I had drilled the holes through the wrong sides. It wasn’t a life-altering mistake, but it did have me standing in the middle of my garage, LOL’ing myself. It also makes you look at the ‘4cuber’ with your head slightly askew like a curious canine. You know there’s something not quite right, but you just can’t put your paw on it. It reminded me of when I upcycled a few old boards and four porch railing posts into a “chic” side-table. That table was in my living room for a year or two before realizing I had installed one of the legs upside down and opposite the other three. I remember the day I sold that table to an unknowing garage-sale’r. I often wondered if she ever caught my construction snafu.

The moral of the story is this. Don’t take life too seriously. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Most importantly, don’t spend $66 repairing a 15-year-old $39 ‘4cuber’.

But, if you do, enjoy the ride…


'4 Cuber' Before Paint




'4 Cuber' After Paint





'7.5 Cuber' 
Best Yard Implement In The Arsenal





"6 Cuber'
2018 Dumpster Rescue
($38 Wheel/Tire Added)









April 12, 2021

Peaceful Persistence: A Book Review 

By John R. Greenwood 



This is more of a Thank You Letter than it is a book review. It's also more about the author and his influence on me, than it is his latest collection of essays titled, Peaceful Persistence. I first discovered Michael Perry when I stumbled upon a book called Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time. That was over ten years ago. I’d plucked it from a table of random paperbacks just inside the door of our local Barnes & Noble. To say it changed my life wouldn’t be a stretch. To say it enhanced my life in the following decade would be more accurate. The cover of Population 485 pictured a man walking down a country road. There was a barn and an old maple in the distance. The visual grabbed my arm while the description of the books theme rang familiar. For the price of a turkey sub and chips, the purchase of that book continues to pay life-altering dividends. That may sound melodramatic but I’m being truthful. It wasn’t just the parallel stories or characters in the book that resonated, it was the journey he took writing and publishing it. His early years were spent wrestling with being strong and gentle, brave and cautious, hunter and gatherer. In the end he carved a path that kept his values intact and his passion for writing true to his upbringing. I embraced the common thread that keeps me here at my desk today pecking away at a keyboard. More importantly his story allowed me the courage to wear my heart on my sleeve and do it without reservation or fear of what someone thinks or says. If someone can inspire you through their words or actions, it's a gift that keeps on giving. 


Peaceful Persistence, takes Michael Perry’s short, hand-picked newspaper columns, and puts them in a collection that basically wraps my life in a blanket of affirmation. It’s a compass-reading that confirms I didn’t wander off the trail and that treating people with compassion and understanding is the ultimate path to a full life. Somewhere along the way you realize the world is bigger than you thought and it’s not revolving around you. You begin to look for signs telling you what purpose you serve. I began to feel it was best to live with compassion and understanding and not fill my head with mistrust and anger toward anything or anyone who presented a conflicting opinion. I’m in this over sixty years now and that path is proving to be a bigger challenge than expected. Peaceful Persistence, reassures me that I’m not alone in wanting to hang my hat on optimism and the simpler joys of life. 


Peaceful Persistence showed up in the mail just as Covid-19 was kicking us shin high on a daily basis. It provided assurance that peace would indeed return to the valley. It’s short two-page vignettes of life through the eyes of a writer/father/artist/husband/human realigned my outlook better than my cataract surgery. The tone of the book is to take longer looks at simpler things. What does it take to make you truly happy? I find comfort in the knowledge that my ability to savor everyday tasks around my home and property is shared by others. 


Every morning my willpower is limp and I find myself scrolling through the news like everyone else. I’ve tried to banish this habit with limited success. It’s like leaning into a fast ball. I just grabbed my phone to list a few examples: 


Former NFL player kills 5 in South Carolina, then himself.


Pa. Woman Was Stabbed When She Showed Up to Buy Fridge on Facebook Market Place


Popular Diets That May Cause Damage to Your Kidneys.


Hazardous spill in Florida highlights environmental threat decades in the making. 


I won’t even begin to list the political headlines for fear of bursting into flames and igniting a wildfire. My inability to ignore the train wreck that plates itself on my phone everyday is the greatest threat to my well-being, yet I slurp it up like a thirsty dog. When I do come to my senses with a snort of smelling salts I can’t wait to find a quiet corner to hide in. Once I have my bearings I come out swinging and scouring the day for something positive. Most days those optimist-bits are within reach. It might be the sight of a goldfinch clinging to a bag of thistle outside my window or that first sip of morning coffee. How we measure happiness is how we value life. It’s also how we survive intact and craving more. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lifetime to enjoy a lifetime. It’s an experience cocktail. You mix all the good things, bad things, mediocre days and celebratory days, births and deaths, memories and memorials, and you stir them briskly, pour them over ice and gulp them down like glass of Citrucel. A few hours later you're revived and ready to take on the next Vehicle Warranty phone call.  


Peaceful Persistence reminds you, chapter by chapter, the importance of appreciating the day-to-day. It’s not a self-help book its a self-awareness book. There’s the chapter tilted Montaigne and Mercy. In it Perry tries to explain the irony of reading Montaigne’s works from the 1500s while sitting in a deer stand dosed in buck lure. His efforts to navigate between worlds of flannel shirts and tweed jackets is one that not only appeals to me, it defines me. A chapter or two later called Barnyard Ballet was a precise reflection of my own cloddishness. He takes the simple act of climbing over a short section of fence surrounding the chicken coop and regurgitates it into a word ballet. Not only does his word choice capture the scene with humor and grace he takes a similar ice ballet of mine from a few months ago and replays it in 4G right before my eyes. I vividly remember stepping backward to capture the full beauty of my wife’s outdoor Christmas lanterns only to go one step too far under the dripping eves. The glossy ice beneath my feet placed me horizontal in a NY second and when I regained consciousness my first move was to kneel there in the wet laughing at what would have easily made AFV’s Top Ten. Lucky to be alive and destined to need a helmet to take the trash out I relish the life I’ve been afforded. How happy can we be? Does your freshly detailed Mercedes make you happier than me and my dusty Tundra squatted low with compost? I think not. 


Whether you read one of Michael Perry’s books or not, you’d be wise to follow his lead and my advice. Be true to the person in the mirror. Savor the small stuff don’t sweat it. Take inventory on a daily basis. Peaceful Persistence is full of two-page examples of what gratitude looks like and how to recognize it when you see it, hear it, taste it, feel it, or smell it. Based on the other reading options on your iPhone you can’t go wrong. 






Thanks Mike, you mak(d)e my day(s). 






J.R.G aka Raining Iguanas 


March 21, 2021

The Dealership

By John R. Greenwood 



"Tail Light"
It's no surprise that the online appointment at my local car dealership never reached its intended destination. I would have been more surprised if it had. The young woman at the Service Counter assured me it wasn't a problem. She said there'd been two no-shows anyway, so they would get me in asap. Her voice sounded sincere, but after decades of repair nightmares, my gray-haired skepticism kept me on alert.  I've resigned myself to treating any positive experiences as unexpected gifts. Based on my previous post about refreshing my personal page to positivity, I will keep my word and edit this post accordingly. 


First of all, I have no reason to complain. After years of questionable decisions and limited resources, Mrs. G. and I now own two reliable vehicles. They both have low miles for their age, indicating a lack of car payments with a dash of crossed fingers. They are the two most reliable things on four wheels that have ever parked in our driveway. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate in the transportation department. Even after its long winter slumber, my seventeen-year-old motorcycle with 60k miles started without hesitation. 


I've owned dozens of motorized vehicles in my life. The first was a Lil' Indian minibike with a 3.5hp Briggs & Stratton. It was serviced by the ten-year-old who rode it. I treated it like it treated me—with pure joy. I've tried to recreate the experience of that first taste of freedom for the last half-century. I conclude that the goal is unattainable as a full head of hair and 34 waist Levi's. 


Now back to the dealership. 


This place is as clean as Urgent Care up the road, and everyone is as pleasant as a Holiday Inn receptionist. That's when I wait for the proverbial hammer to drop. 


"Your tires are riddled with road fungus. We can treat them with tire antibiotics for $49.95 per tire. Plus tax."


"I'm sorry for the wait, but we don't carry the rare viscosity oil your car requires, so we had to order it on eBay. It will be here next month. Do you want to make that appointment now or do it online at your convenience?" 


"Did you know there's a recall on the brake pads we installed last year? They say they may burst in flames and fail without warning. Did you want us to take care of that for you? We have an opening in 2022." 


None of these scenarios played out this morning. I'm only two hours in for my, maybe it was, or maybe it wasn't a scheduled appointment, and I'm still in the "positive lane." I'm starving and have a headache, but I remain smiling under my masked facade. I'm praying that if I'm out of here by noon, I'll be okay. 


Another waiting room resident just received her doctor's report. The service rep informed her that her car would be done shortly. She and her two preschoolers were glad to hear the news. Have you ever waited more than an hour with two little ones with no toys and a Deadliest Catch Marathon locked in on TV? She handled the information that even though her tires were still legal, she should consider new ones before the next snowflake hit the ground. No worries, she's told they have a 12-month promotion on tires. Buy three for an inflated price, get the fourth free! If she takes the bait and gets reeled in, I'm confident she'll end up paying for new valve stems. There I go again, drifting over into the opposing lane. This positive reboot may take some time. 


It's the next day, and I'm putting the final touches on this sarcastic slice of reality. In the end, the service on my vehicle was executed without incident, and the bill was fair. They didn't try to upsell me any additional services, and I was home in time for lunch. Whether it's an oil change, tire rotation, or battery replacement, I always feel like I'm involved in high-stakes gambling. I'd label this trip a break-even one. In my book, that rings positive. Tomorrow I head down the Northway for a doctor's appointment. Let's hope that routine maintenance has the same outcome. Doctor visits, another nail biting evaluation that puts us at the mercy of others. After a year of playing Russian roulette with a virus, we could all use some good news. With shot #1 one in my arm and #2 a week away, this spring is shaping up better than the last and just enough to keep me thumbs-up happy.  


Peace.