Saturday, March 24, 2012


You betcha!

Abandoned insane asylum

What a beautiful Spring day! So why on earth would I be out wandering the grounds of an abandoned insane asylum?!

West St. facing north

North St. facing west. Building D2.

There were much worse places than Medfield State Hospital.

Medfield State Hospital was the very first "cottage plan" (insane) asylum, here in the States anyway, which, I suppose, was quite altruistic in its intent. Rather than treating the mentally ill in large intimidating Kirkbride Institutions, the Cottage Plan included small residential treatment centers in a generally remote, isolated, peaceful, village like environment.

The quintessential mental institution in the gentle rolling hills is basically the model Cottage Plan asylum.

Ok. So why am I out wandering around an abandoned asylum?

The Clark Building

I read online this week that the Clark Building is coming down.

Being the closest building to the street, with its fortified (block house?) appearance and the guard towers, to us local people the Clark Building is the hospital. And yes we thought it was pretty scary.

It was basically the state hospital admission center. Built in the late 1950s (1958?) its architectural style is wildly different from almost every other building on the property. On the one hand, it's a very ugly building. On the other hand, it is the very embodiment of a public building in the 50s. It is to the 1950s what Greek Revival is to the 1820s.

I wanted to be an architect. I did a paper on Greek Revival architecture. It's the signature style of an era.

Well anyway. It saddens me to see the Clark Building being prepared for demolition. The entire site is on the National Register of Historic Places. All of the buildings except for the Clark Building require some procedures with the Massachusetts Historical Commission to alter. All of these sites have been a nightmare for the local communities. It sometimes takes decades to negotiate the purchase and rights to the properties. And then most of these buildings are loaded with asbestos and lead paint and costs millions to clean up. Not to mention the politics. The State won't sell the property to the community until the community changes the zoning laws. The community won't change the zoning laws until the State sells them the property. The impasse goes on for years. And years. And years.

But even so I'm all for their historic preservation. Intact.

The cafeteria?

This has to be about the ugliest building I've ever seen. It's hard to determine its architectural "style". Brutalist? Post Modern? The sign says "Vocational Services". The map says "Canteen". Looking in the window it looks a lot like a cafeteria. The loading dock has a prominent "Kitchen" stenciled on a door.

The site has some historical significance and the buildings are (almost) all perfect jewels of Victorian architecture.

Building B4

Not a happy place I'm sure. Building D2.

That's all hardened chain link around the porches. I'm pretty sure it's not there to keep out trespassers.

Building D2, another angle.

In spite of its relatively small scale buildings and all good intentions it's definitely a creepy place. There are lots of reasons to be uncomfortable here. All kinds of things I hardly care to think about. But the fact remains it's a an architectural and historical jewel.

Lest one think this place is a fountain of compassion there's a cemetery nearby. With well over 800 graves of the poor unfortunates that came here and died. With small numbered stones marking their graves. Nothing more than a practical matter to the State and a sad footnote to any good intentions.

Update 6 April 2012: Here's a moving article about adding named markers in the Medfield State Hospital cemetery.

I went here because they're going to tear down the Clark Building. And to a a large extent these places are all gone. And I think we really should remember them.

There's an agreement to replace any existing structurally unsound buildings with building(s) that meet the same specs as the existing building(s). Agreements with whom? Oh, I don't know. But I really don't buy that.

Real things happened here

Monday, March 19, 2012


Spring arrives tomorrow morning, 1:14 am EDT. Just about my most favorite day of the year.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Choosing wine

I collect teacups.
Royal Crown Derby (made sometime after 1890)

What does that have to do with choosing wine?!

Well. There's a saying in the antiques and collectibles world: "buy things you like". I think art collectors say the same thing.

I think the same phrase applies to wine.

Good stuff

This is a much "nicer" wine than I'd normally have. Well. It's a more "expensive" wine than I'd normally have. I liked it. But I couldn't help but wonder how it really stood up against my favorite. Carlo Rossi Chianti.

I'm a *huge* fan of blind taste tests. I like Top Chef but I'd really rather see blind judging. We just can't help our biases and preconceptions.

I often blind taste test things. Sometimes I need help with that and sometimes, if things look similar enough, I can label containers and shuffle them around enough so I don't which is which. And that's what I did here. My hands down favorite? Well I probably wouldn't write about this if it was the expensive one! Yes, I preferred jug wine to the Fancy Pants Stuff. I was a little surprised with how easily I made my decision. I didn't have to go back and forth to think about it.

Maybe I just have an untrained palate. Maybe genetically I can't really tell. No that's not it. Because I can tell one from the other. I just prefer my wine from a jug. Mostly. Food will often have something to do with what I prefer.

So here's my advice when choosing wine. Pick something different now and then and if you *really* like it a lot, make a note of it. I have several favorites. But most of the time? It's more like Pepsi vs. Coke.

Never mind expert opinions. Every time I read a review where the author comments on the "quick legs" and what's "on the nose" and the "peppery" or worse..the "grassy notes" along with poetic descriptions of the "finish" I'm sorry, I just want to gag. I want the kind of wine old men drink from water glasses on hot dusty days with people dancing in the street.

Pussy willows are out! A week or so earlier than last year.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

I actually first noticed these on 7 March while out walking.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Simple Salmon

Over a month ago I planned on fixing a simple parchment baked salmon fillet, or salmon en papillote.

There's a salmon fillet in there

You basically seal your food in this parchment paper envelope with some vegetables, herbs, olive oil and a splash of wine, and bake it.

You can use this technique with almost any type of fish or a chicken breast.

It started here

I folded and creased a sheet of parchment paper and trimmed it into a semi circle. I used a salmon fillet. I added cut grape tomatoes, broccoli florets, and parsnips. I just happened to have those around and I wanted to use up the last couple of parsnips. I think broccoli goes well with salmon. If this were halibut I'd have used summer squash and snow peas.

I splashed on some dry vermouth and added some Herbs de Provence. I didn't use any olive oil because I think salmon is moist enough.

Folding the parchment paper can be a little tricky. I looked for videos but couldn't find any I thought worth anything. But really, if I can do this, anyone can do this. You start at one corner and fold the parchment paper over at the edge. Then move along the edge. You start about halfway along your last fold and fold again and crease it, then continue along until you reach the other corner. Use a spring clip to seal it.

Then just pop it in a 425 degree F oven and have some wine.

A Spanish Pinot Noir!

This time of year I like Pinot Noir with salmon.

About 12 minutes later it looked like this:

You put the whole pouch on a plate, cut the top open and eat it right out of the paper.

Simple and delicious. Healthy too.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


I first noticed these on the 25th of February..

Daffodils. 27 February 2012

I've been told Crocus are coming up too although I haven't seen any.

We may have had a wintry mix blow through here in the last day or two but I don't mind snow so much. It's the cold I have a problem with. The threat of having the temperature go below 0 is over for this season. It never ever goes below after the first of March. Which is, after all the first day of meteorological Spring!

What an extraordinary Winter.
  • Daffodils coming up the end of February.
  • Red-winged Blackbirds at the barn on 28 February!
  • My long underwear is right wear I left it last year.
  • So is my sheepskin hat.
  • So is my (expedition) down parka.
  • So are my quilted overalls.
  • I didn't wear a flannel shirt to work all Winter. Not even once.
  • (edited to add) I didn't even wear a scarf all season. Not once!
  • Hardly touched the hot chocolate.
We had a couple of cold mornings. Just one morning was below 10 degrees F, I think, and not a single minute below 0. I think my pond was completely ice covered for 1 day. I vaguely remember I was going to make a note of it but I couldn't have been bothered.

Not much of a winter. Thankfully. And this time of year my spirits generally rise right along with the rising temperatures.
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