Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cabinet and Countertops

On Monday the garage thermometer reads -14. When Dawn pulls her car out of the garage for the 18 mile drive to work, I sneak my car in the workshop/garage. I'm hoping that by noon the car will have thawed enough to drive without ( myself and the car included) shaking and squealing. I need to drive to the Amish cabinet maker and confer with him about the birch cabinets I have on order.

It snows every two days. Saturday's snowfall was light. We consult the National Weather Service before attempting the 45 minute drive to The Big City. The radar( whoops I spelled it backwards) image shows a band of light snow in an hourglass shape. By late afternoon, the snow is supposed to dissipate. At 3 PM we're enjoying lunch at Piggy's. Despite the name, Piggy's is elegantly furnished-lots of walnut woodwork, antique chandeliers, comfortable seating, low lights and waitresses dressed in the European fashion. I look outside apprehensively at heavy snow falling.I order a pint of a local craft brew which costs more than the six pack of beer I purchase at the Kwikstop in Readstown. Then again, drinking Pig's Eye Beer-you get what you pay for. You may think I have a pig fetish. Normally, I wouldn't drink anything and attempt an hour's drive back home. I just don't care.

Dawn and I are construction geeks. We have little background in fine carpentry. We're smart enough to make up for the lack of experience. The clerk at the building supplies store tells us he's never heard of tile board. Later we show him where the tile board is kept. His response, " Oh, that's another department." The display of countertops is confusing. We have three choices. Real stone, fake stone and really fake stone. We sort through samples of Formica with a fancy name. The sign tells us that countertops can be ordered in standard widths of 30, 40... Wait! 30 inches wide? That'll cause havoc. The existing countertop is 25 5/8 inches wide.

That's why I need to confer with the cabinet maker. The frequent snowfalls make driving the back road to the Amish farm a white knuckle experience. The first hill is so steep one has to get a running start. There's no guard rails on Moore Road. Sliding off the road would be more than a quick call for a tow truck. I'd have to abandon the car, if I survived, and wait until spring to pull it out of the ravine. So, I take the main roads and avoid hairpin sharp turns and a grade to Shady Lane cabinets designed by the devil himself.

On the US highway, the trees lining School Road are covered with hoarfrost. Leafless, they look like lace creations on a Belgian tablecloth. The cabinet shop is empty. I hope I've timed my visit to avoid interrupting lunch. Off in the distance, I hear chain saws whining. The black and white mutt and the new rust colored puppy are frolicking along the fence line. There are only two daughters in the kitchen. The youngest, a wide eyed 5 year old, is sitting on a chair looking out the window. Another daughter is fixing lunch on the woodstove. I ask for eggs and the cabinet maker. Only the eggs are available. I tell the young lady I'll return in the afternoon.

When I return, Titus comes out of the house in stocking feet and asks me to park my car closer to the house. They're expecting a delivery. The bobtail truck pulls in immediately behind me. I volunteer to help unload the truck. The matriarch of the family tells me in a matter of fact voice, "You know those are 50 pound sacks." I reply, "That's OK. As long as there aren't 5000 bags." Four daughters, the truck driver, Titus and I unload two wrapped palettes of baking and cooking supplies. The daughters and Titus are working barehanded. The breeze on the hilltop is brisk. With characteristic understatement, Titus quips, "Kinda chilly, isn't it." I hold a leather gloved hand to my right ear to ward off frostbite from the biting wind. The driver drops a 50 bag of brown sugar into the crook of the right arm. I boost it to one of the daughters in the old house, turned general store. She grabs it as if it were a feather pillow.

Inside after unloading the bobtail, my glasses immediately steam up. A visiting neighbor says I look like a cartoon figure. Monday is wash day. Inside and on the outside porch, there's household of laundry drying. When another daughter brings in the frozen shirts. they look like flat bodies. "I've got questions. You have answers," I tell Titus. For an hour I learn the basics of cabinetry.

In a sudden flash of inspiration, I ask about the next baking session. I need bread. Viola says, "Just made some this morning." The two loaves she made will last for several days. She volunteers that there will be more bread by Friday. "That's fine," I tell her. I visualize the thick cuts of fresh bread I use for making french toast with their organic eggs. I put off asking her to teach me to make bread. I must first decide if I have the time and the energy to put into bread making. I marvel at the amount of hard work these people perform. Titus reels off a list of afternoon chores and tells Viola it may be too chilly to shuck and grind corn.

Walking back to my car, I notice a snow white goose standing motionless near the old house. "When did they get a goose statute, " I wonder. I'm often surprised at some of the Amish ways. For awhile there was a highway sign posted at the house end of the drive that said, "Parking for turkeys." It looked like any ordinary street sign. I never asked, but assumed it was a gift from English friends. The latest addition to the household is a canary. Goose statues? Then it moves. Perhaps not all the geese became Christmas dinners like ours.

My original intentions were to pick up hardware for a table I am making and then visit the building supplies store in Seneca. There is no such thing as a short visit to the Amish. Almost by design, getting coat and gloves on will not hasten my departure. I'm standing in a large open kitchen next to a hot woodstove fully dressed and sweating. Titus is showing me the underside of his cabinets, suggesting ways for us to operate a temporary kitchen sink ( I complain of having to do dishes in the bathtub), describing the installation of the countertop and a dozen other details. I drive off to the library to drop off a few movies. There's no such thing as a short visit to the library, either.

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