Monday, January 10, 2011

April 2008

When I arrived on the property in April 2008 I found a barren place. The snow had recently melted away revealing only sparse vegetation and a lot of mud. The area around the house was littered with building materials and bits of wood scraps that had been buried by the snow falls over the winter. The house in it's surroundings looked bleak, but the warmer weather was a welcome thing especially in light of my next project: installing a metal roof.
Some of the metal came from Buxton's Building Supply nearby, but most came from my neighbor, Peter, who had a surplus of blue metal that he had left over from a previous job. He sold it to me at a good price and even delivered it to me.
I spent the next several days on the roof. Before putting down the metal I attached firing strips to the sheathing and rafters. It was important for a metal roof to have these strips of wood underneath to account for air flow and expansion and contraction. After that it was all about laying down and lining up sheets of metal and screwing them down. During some of that time I had company on the ground; a couple of electricians from Mac Electric.

Since the Fall of '07 I had been going through the motions required to bring electricity to the house. At first it involved making some phone calls and getting permits. There were power lines along rt.139 (also known as Main St. or the Monroe Highway) so there was not a considerable distance to run the line. My first step early in the Fall was to have a pole sunk roughly 125 ft. in from the pole at the road. I contacted an older fellow by the name of Gene Bonnie to set the pole. Gene was well liked and well known to the folks at the power company and the local electricians. Apparently Gene had worked for the Central Maine Power Co. inventing some of the devices used to set poles in areas with difficult access. He was reliable and quick to sink a pole for me. I would have liked to see how he did it but he ended up putting it in when I was between trips.
I contacted a handful of local electricians starting in the Fall of '07 and all had proved to be either very elusive or drunk, perhaps a little of both. The first guy to come by was nice enough but struck me as strange with very spastic mannerisms. I thought I caught a whiff of whiskey on his breath as he bounced out of his van. He actually jumped into my camper when I mentioned my plans to build off of it. He talked endlessly about his family troubles and his dismal living situation (he lived in a trailer next to his mother-in-law). His ideas for how the cable would run to the house and how the meter would be mounted seemed overly complicated and redundant. When I told him I wanted to bury the cable he suggested I employ his friend to dig the trench (at that time I did not yet have a tractor). The guy made me uneasy with his weird suggestions and stories of personal misfortune. When he asked for a consulting fee at the end of his visit I knew he was not to be trusted.
I asked the few folks I knew locally for recommendations for a good electrician. I came up with two names. I called them both over and over again. Eventually one of them returned my calls; I think his name was Eric. He lived nearby and said he would come out to assess my situation the next morning. It was getting close to Winter at this point, maybe it was November. By that time I had purchased a small John Deere tractor and had used it to dig a trench between the pole and the house. He arrived in a white van with his teenage son in tow. He was a morbidly obese man in coveralls and prominent whiskers. He looked like a walrus standing upright. He seemed knowledgeable in his trade but as I found out later, some of his information was erroneous. He was slow to move, he was so fat. He instructed his son to measure the length of the trench. The boy ran the length of the trench, hopping in and out as he made his way to the house with his measuring tape. He came back with a measurement of about 130 ft.. We made tenative plans for them to come back and do the job of running the cable with a meter box. After that I did not hear from him again even after leaving several follow-up messages. A couple of times I ran into him at the local market/gas station in Brooks during the Winter and each time he assured me that he would get to it in the spring, just give him a call. But as Spring rolled around all new messages I left remained unanswered. So I decided to give someone else a try.
At the beginning of my April visit I called on my neighbor Walter who was qualified to write me a fire permit to burn a large brush pile. Walter owned a small dairy farm and had recently had his power upgraded to 200amps. He recommended Mac electric in Belfast. So I gave them a call and talked to Mark the owner. He came by the next day to check out my situation. He was a young guy for a master electrician, maybe about my age and was quick and knowledgeable. I told him of the recommendations made by the first guy and he politely confirmed my suspicions that the guy was an idiot. A couple days later two guys from Mac showed up in the morning in a white van and got to work. One of them immediately scaled the pole while the other began laying out conduit beside the trench for the underground cable. Mark came by shortly to make sure his guys knew what to do and had all they needed.
In the meantime I worked on my roof.
After only a few hours, the guys from Mac Electric had finished the job of running the electric line from the top of the pole to a meter box at the bottom of the pole and from there to the breaker box inside the house. The breaker box was salvage from a demolition on the Cape. They had also installed a power outlet just below the box; a very professional, efficient job. Now all I had to do was call the power company and wait for them to link me to the grid. That part took a little longer. It was at some point during the summer while I was away working that they hooked me up.

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