Monday -- December 1, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
John Matthews Junior showed up this morning to repair the leaks on the roof above the kitchen. "Leak" may be too strong a word, as the real problem is probably just a case of water being wind-blown under the edge of the rubber roofing sheet that covers the kitchen at the edges. The rubber sheet has contracted somewhat and no longer folds over the edge at some places where it meets the gutter. John Junior brought additional rubber sheeting which we cut into strips and he applied around the edges with an adhesive. Before any of this could be done the Styrofoam floatation that has been tied down and stored on the roof had to be taken up, and the accumulated leaves, soil, and growing plants raked over the side.

Tuesday -- December 2, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
John Matthews Junior came down early to finish the kitchen roof. He recalled that he had helped install the rubber sheeting over 20 years ago, and that when one considers that only a minor patching job is being done now, this means that it has held up pretty good. Late in the afternoon the Captain himself came down and cut the tree trunk on the hill that had fallen against the line to the hill lights. It was quite large and there was some concern that it might eventually break the line. It was also necessary this be done before the project be started to run an additional line to a new light at the towpath landing. Because we hope to splice it to this line to the hill lights that was installed (surreptitiously) by Ken maybe 12 years ago, Determining how much slack we had after the tree trunk was cut became important... and in fact it looks like plenty. The Captain also cut the stump off of the huge fallen tree trunk near the swimming float that had caused so much difficulty during the workfest. This allowed the tree trunk itself to float down river.

Wednesday -- December 3, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
This was the day to restore the extra flotation to its place on the Clubhouse kitchen roof. It has been discussed that the best way to really store it is to use it in another working float. The captain has always wanted a floating platform in the river mid-Island near the area where the fires are made so that another water view could be enjoyed.

Monday -- December 8, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
The Captain reports finding the lost picnic table downstream below Lock 5. An expedition will be mounted tomorrow to re-locate, dismantle, and retrieve it. It was apparently up a tree almost 100 yards off the towpath. Water temp is down to 39 degrees.

Tuesday -- December 9, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN

During last night's rounds multiple and alarming beaver depredation was noticed. We are talking about NINETEEN (19) trees that have been chewed on. Two are already lost and one will need quick attention to save it. It is a though the beaver went around the island tasting the various trees to see what is ready or to mark them for the coming season. The expedition to retrieve the picnic table is cancelled until this is taken care of. Looks like several trips top the hardware store today and a lot of wrapping... sleet or no sleet.

Thursday -- December 11, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Finally, the day of the Great Picnic Table Expedition. At 1000 hours the caretaker met with Tryon Wells, David Winer, and Captain Matthews at the Clara Barton parking lot. The Captain had his wife's van and drove us down to a place on the towpath below Lock 5. He had scoured this large area between the towpath and the river for several days, most recently with a son in law as sidekick because the terrain was very wild and very rocky, and anyone who might fall and break a leg would surely not be able to crawl out and would surely never be found. The rest of us were amazed that such a lost and forbidding place could even exist so close to the center of things, and just trying to walk in to such an overgrown tangle with such treacherous footing was very difficult. When we finally made it to the location of the table it was brought home to us the magnitude of the Captain's accomplishment. Because it was in an area that was virtually impenetrable, one could walk right by the table and not notice it was there. I guess you had to be there to appreciate the magic or persistence or luck involved. Because let me tell you folks, after disassembling the table it was no easy task to walk the pieces out of there one by one. At some point during the lengthy retrieval stage we were joined by Johnna Robinson and Jane Winer, who had searched out the parked van on the towpath. With their help we loaded the pieces of the table into the van and down the towpath to the Island we went... in high spirits as only a team that has overcome great obstacles can feel. We ferried the pieces over and the table is now reassembled in its original position... securely tied to an adjacent tree. The author's message here is that anyone who was not on expedition with us missed great fun!

Monday -- December 15, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
The phone was ringing off the hook at 0901 hours this morning... and it turned out to be someone wanting information about Membership. He had waited all weekend after seeing the Island from the towpath and calling Sycamore Island was the first thing on his Monday morning list. And in December!!! Hey... I should not have been surprised... it happens a couple of times each week... although not usually so early. Whenever asked for information on this from passers-by on the towpath, I always ask them to call back the next day during business hours. This means their interest has to survive a night's sleep and then they have to deal with directory assistance as sort of a test of their determination. Still, Peter Winkler is the unsung hero in all this, as all of these calls get referred to him. I hate to think of the number of times his phone must ring or of the disruption to his family life.

Wednesday -- December 17, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
This morning started off on a sour note as the phone rang at 0814 hours with a man demanding to know more about the Island and how to apply for Membership. Already this equates to 3 applications in 3 days this week! I would like to see some statistics on the growth of the waiting list and the guest card list over the last three years. Is there an upper limit on when a moratorium will be placed on the issuance of new guest cards? Obviously this increase can not go on forever, and those of you already complaining about the increased crowding and usage of the Island should give some thought to this. Perhaps guest cards should be issued only once a year during the annual billing cycle, instead of willy-nilly during the year in response to any call about Membership.

Thursday -- December 18, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
The Captain has put the new Island ladder to use... this being a new $100 extension ladder as recommended by one of his painters of heavy duty sufficient to not worry about Caretakers being up in trees. Today's project was attaching a steel cable from the top of the sycamore tree near the ferry landing (the one that already has the cable attachments to raise and lower the ferry rope) to the large multi-trunked maple tree nearby. The idea is to further reinforce the sycamore tree, which already leans greatly over the river so that we will not lose all of our cabling during a flood because of something catching the ferry rope during high water.

Friday -- December 19, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Blair Bower brought yet another paper log maker, this one of the type I am familiar with and know to produce a good product. Now that the caretaker's Wife has a full time job and the caretaker has no access to a vehicle during the day, the Captain had to be drafted to go to the hardware store and bring me 50 pounds of the rough cut bluegrass seed that has been so successful on the Island. He also brought a quartz element heater I ordered for the Sunday caretakers. This heats by radiant heat as opposed to convection heating... warming surfaces (like people) rather than large, airy rooms. Busy today for this time of year... half a dozen folks and two out on the water.

Saturday -- December 20, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Gosh... now I am getting complaints about being lazy on my daily reports... justly deserved in the case of the last week. Of course... I am so amazed that anyone actually reads this stuff... you have to get on me and remind me from time to time as it seldom occurs to me that anyone would notice.

Monday -- December 22, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Morning sleet... what a thrill!!! Well... maybe not for the Caretaker's Wife, who walked up the hill in it early this morning, but certainly for the Caretaker. Now I know that some of you think that the Caretaker's feelings on this arise from his advanced studies program into hermiting, but this is not the only reason, especially as he already has empirical evidence this year that temperatures in the 30's and cold precipitation are no guarantee that the bell will not ring. No... this is the most exciting time of year for the seeding of grass. All last week was devoted to raking and sowing at a furious pace in anticipation of the sleet and freezing rain forecast for today and Christmas eve. You see... most of the successfully replenished grass on the Island following the 1996 floods was sown last year at about this time in exactly the same conditions of weather. It is possible that by next weekend the Island will be covered in the fresh green of newly sprouted grass. No night time freezing temperatures are expected this week, even though that did not affect last year's sprouting. This is reason number 3 for special ordering and paying extra for this rough cut bluegrass called Sabre. Normal fescue should also be sown now... but only for a March 25th germination.

Tuesday -- December 23 , 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
We had just settled down for a long winter's nap... about midnight that is... when out in the kitchen there arose such a clatter that the Caretaker's Wife pushed me to see what was the matter. "It is just Barney playing again in a loud and obnoxious manner because we kicked him off the bed." "No, " she said, " it sounds as though he is chasing another animal other than Madelyn around the kitchen." And he was!!!! It was a juvenile squirrel, not very big, and when we got out there the squirrel ran up and rested on top of the door between the bedroom and the kitchen. Now boys and girls, let me assure you that by the time the Caretaker got all the lights on, the Caretaker's wife and her visiting niece (who was awakened from sleeping on the living room floor) ran to see what the trouble was, and Barney and everyone else focused on the squirrel sitting above us all... the squirrel was far and away the calmest one in the house. What to do?? Well, the cat and womenfolk were sent away, and donning gloves, the Caretaker proceeded to have a calm chat with the squirrel, wondering all the while how the squirrel got in. Barney is such a totally Buddhist kitty (and stereotypical scaredy cat) that it is inconceivable he would have pounced upon and grabbed a squirrel, even the smallest birds are safe from him. Did he wander in the kitty door (and if so the womenfolk should certainly not be informed.) Eventually the Caretaker's voice bored or otherwise lulled the squirrel so that he could be picked carefully up and put outside. This episode has caused the Caretaker to reflect upon all those times Barney has made a point to sit or lie in the house at a location from which he could keep the kitty door under careful surveillance... and would frequently look up as though someone were about to come through. And of course I always assumed that he was watching out for his sister Madelyn. But now I am not so sure... that squirrel did not look particularly afraid or, even worse, did not look lost! The kitty door is the only other door into the house, and it is never closed! We already know Madelyn and Barney have an accommodation with Rocky the racoon. I am now suspicious how often other "Island folk" might be visiting and playing in the kitchen while we are asleep. One can imagine Barney and the young squirrel getting chewed out by their peers for creating such a loud ruckus and "letting the squirrel out of the bag..." so to speak. Those of you who have or have been children know what I mean. And so, as I lay awake at night listening to sounds of playing or eating in the kitchen, I keep my suspicions to myself that Madelyn or Barney might be entertaining. More importantly, I understand that I must be guardian of the secret... the Caretaker's Wife must never know!!!!

Wednesday -- December 24, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Last night we received a call from Johnna Robinson to inform us that the officers of the Club had agreed that we could install a portable hot tub in the outside corner adjacent to the Caretaker's bedroom near the well head, where it should be inconspicuous. The Caretaker's Wife has gotten a well paying executive position and we consider such a device as a health and physical well being investment. We will pay any increase over last year's monthly electricity bills.

Thursday -- December 25, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
It was a wonderful Christmas day, with several Members visiting the Island and friends and family of the Caretaker aboard for a festive dinner. Unfortunately the occasion was marred by another auto break in. This is the fifth known time this year (three times the Caretaker's car has been vandalized) and the first to happen in the lower lot. A rock was thrown through the passenger window so that the car could be entered and rifled. Worse, this happened in the daylight between 3 and 5 in the afternoon. This is a security situation that should be monitored, and any Members that have had problems with leaving their cars parked should report such incidents to the Caretaker so that statistics can be kept and the extent of the problem measured.

Monday -- December 29, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
There is a big "Northeaster" forecast for later today. Hopefully it will be more rain than snow. The biggest winter problem about living on the Island is ice on the wooden bridge over the towpath. Yesterday as we went up we encountered a couple with a dog trying to convince the dog to cross the bridge. The dog would have none of it. Once as he stepped tentatively onto the bridge his feet splayed out from under him. We had just worked our way up the icy steps from the towpath and yelled to them to follow the dog's example... he knew what was right. And they did. The sun does not really hit the steps on the bridge, and once covered with ice, only warm temperatures or a Caretaker with hammer and chisel can make the bridge and steps safe.

Tuesday -- December 30, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Ode to the Caretaker's Wife
The Caretaker's Wife goes up the hill at 0745 every morning... but this was the first day I have gone with her... the occasion being the necessity to retrieve the family auto so that I could take my Mother to the airport later today. It started normally enough... me pulling the ferry across to the towpath. But then things got serious. The steps to the ferry were icy and slippery... the towpath was slushy deeply enough that my socks got wet... and then cold. The steps up the bridge were icy in a treacherous way that required a hand on the railing at all times. The bridge itself was covered with snow... that itself covered ice. Again, clutching the railing while trying not to look down was essential. The walk up the hill was silent on my part, not just because I was out of breath trying to keep up with the Caretaker's Wife, but because anything I might have said would have fallen into the category of complaining and moaning. And also because the Caretaker's Wife was totally oblivious to my travail... herself marching ahead up the hill in cheerful good humor, just like it was the most normal everyday occurrence in the world... which of course it was. So I kept quiet trying not to embarrass myself... and trying to keep up... and thinking to myself how lucky I and the Island are to have such a good and uncomplaining woman willing to trek up that hill every morning.

Wednesday -- December 31, 1997 -- The Club is OPEN
Yesterday I noticed another dead racoon up the hill... this time on Clara Barton near the pedestrian overpass. And again we hope this is not Rocky. That is two neighborhood racoons dead in as many months. It makes one wonder what the unseen local racoon census might be. That same group of 7-9 geese continues to show up to eat the Island grass that is now so pretty and green. I mention this because some nay sayers have e-mailed me expressing doubt that my efforts to rake and sow would result in newly sprouting grass this time of year. But in fact the Island is covered with new grass seedlings poking through the snow, Betty Burchell can verify. I insert this fact now because tonight the temperature will go to the low teens, and this might finally trigger dormancy. The Island continues to have daily visitors despite temperatures in the 30's... the day after Christmas being the only exception because the weather was so sleety. And still, more calls yesterday about Membership... amazing!