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Friday, December 23, 2011

Alternative Home Builder: Week 20

Today I feel like I’m waiting.  Waiting for House the Land Built to be completely built, when we quit firing the masonry heater and plaster its decorative American Clay exterior.  May?  Really, really waiting to move out of the cabin and into the house, when sheetrock dust settles and floors are covered (acid-etch on the concrete, Marmoleum in the kitchen, cork in the Yoga loft, carpet on the stairs).  March?  Waiting for a cozy house, when everything is buttoned and insulated and I fire the masonry heater and all that cold, cold concrete finally warms .  Early January?    This morning I waited to leave the cabin and walk to the homesite.  I knew the insulators were driving from Shakopee MN, so why rush on over?  And then, arriving at the homesite, I waited for the insulators to arrive.  Which they didn’t until 10:30.    And while I waited for them, I rediscovered the best cure for waiting:  splitting wood.  I love all of it.  Selecting a chunk of wood.  Balancing the chunk on the hefty splitting log.  The smooth feel of the splitting maul’s handle.  Focusing my aim like a laser beam.  The lift, the fall, the whack and (hopefully) the pop! of splitting wood.  The surprise inside:  bursts of red, tightly rolled leaves, the black tracery of fungal spalting.  Picking up the split pieces.  Stacking them.  Starting over and over and over.  And all this is just the wood splitting process.  Better yet, perhaps, is just being out there. 
 The caw of a solitary crow.  The white flash of eagle feathers, high overhead.  The cold brush of wind on my cheeks.  Then, there’s the anticipation of actually stuffing the split wood into the masonry heater, lighting it, and whoosh!  Heat from the Land.  So, it’s a good thing I’m waiting:  for waiting gives me the time to create something else to wait for. 
I may very well be the only person you know who, when the water quits running in their home, gets excited.   After lunch (or dinner as Tom the Builder reminds me to call the noon meal)---a tasty bowl of Linda’s pumpkin chili---I placed my dirty dishes in our cabin’s sink, turned the faucet and…and nothing.   No water.  “All right then,” I smiled and texted landlord Kim.  Soon, with her guiding voice on the other end of the life, I found myself in the secret water supply sanctuary, a concrete bomb-shelter of a place buried in the hill behind their garage.  “Nothing looks terrible,” I reported back to Kim after resurfacing.  “Floor’s dry.  Pump isn’t burning up or anything.”    Ranking in the bottom 2% of handymen, I was pretty much useless after that and told Kim as much.  Chop wood.  Haul water.  Be gorilla.  That’s me.    And now the gorilla in me was excited.  The real gorilla, the one who not only tromps about the fields and woods, but thrives on them, feels invigorated by them.  “Maybe we’ll go a week without water,” I thought.  “Wouldn’t that be great?”   Chopping wood at the homesite, I watched the day-before-solstice sun with anticipation.  Never rising far above my new house, it never really set, rather it just leaned a little into the horizon.   And as it did, with no word from Kim about the water, I felt the exciting urge to prepare.  Ah, camping again!  Soon I’d stuffed the back of the CRV with four blue water containers, a sawdust toilet, bucket of sawdust and even the toilet paper.  Not that we don’t have toilet paper in the cabin.  It just felt poetically correct:  everything else was from the campsite, why not the toilet paper?  I’d just snapped the proud photo when the phone rings.  It was Kim.   Husband Troy found a loose wire on the pump.  I had water again.  While I was certainly grateful for Kim and Troy’s quick response and handy work, I hope I didn’t sound as disappointed as I felt.  I glumly hauled the blue buckets, sawdust toilet and even the toilet paper back into the shed.  Camping would have to wait.  Or maybe I should just crawl under the cabin, turn off the water and beat my gorilla chest.
 It must have been a really, really good day:  an hour since coming inside and my feet are finally beginning to warm.   When I feel this good, my inner imp surfaces.   And what my inner imp feels like doing is giving you a quiz tour.  You know, I present pictures from the day followed by ridiculously hard questions.  Ready?

The frosted structure in the foreground is…
(a)     My failed palm tree experiment
(b)   The ghost of Christmas past
(c)    The dreaded wild parsnip (finally getting what it deserves)

Here, while my neighbors are erecting a new greenhouse, I’m…
(a)    Looking for work since there never seems to be enough on the house project
(b)   Discovering just how much mud the bottom of a boot can collect
(c)    Actually helping, and it’s about time gosh darn it all

My bent over neighbor Lonnie and his on-looking son Matt are…
(a)    Bowing in preparation for their annual Christmas mud-wrestling match
(b)   Desperately trying to catch Lonnie’s wife Sandy who Matt just turned into a horny toad
(c)     Picking spilt bolts out of the muck

At the big, red wheel Dave (one of Tom the Builder’s boys) is…
(a)    Stamping my entire novel onto the ceiling
(b)   Trying to avoid a dangerous iceberg as he steers the house across the Land
(c)    Hoisting sheetrock up onto our dining room ceiling

Dave and Tom the Builder (the two with their arms up) are…
(a)    Wishing they were up in the yoga loft, but they’ll do sun salutation anytime, anywhere
(b)   Holding up the ceiling.   Oh no!  Oh no!  Get out of …
(c)    Aligning sheetrock until Dave (in the background) screws it in place
Just to prove how impish I feel, I’m only going to give you a clue:  all correct answers are the same letter. Please send me your answers, along with your first born and a check payable to me.  On second thought, just the check.

9AM just a little more light…enjoying myself all week, I split the last of the boxelder stack, about ¾ cord total to fuel the masonry heater next year.
10AM just a little more light…Tom the Builder’s crew sheet-rocks final ceiling.
11AM just a little more light…Excavator Steve spreads gravel in front of garage, covering mud holes and allowing our CRV to drive on in.
1PM just a little more light…two feet of insulation sprayed into our attic, completing our home’s thick coat.
2PM just a little more light…after a morning of gray clouds the sun begins to break free.
3PM just a little more light…Tom the Builder’s crew screws second layer of sheet-rock onto yoga loft walls, ready now to resist slamming heels.
3:30PM just a little more light…thanks to all the insulation, basement temperature climbs to 40F, from a low of 28F three weeks ago, creating a no-freeze zone into which we can finally bring water from the cistern.
4:00PM just a little more light…off-grid batteries, fed by the late afternoon solar rally, battle back from a 1PM low of 89% all the way to 97%.
4:25PM just a little more light…driving back to the cabin from the homesite, I snap picture of our rooftop peaking over the sunbathed prairie ridge (can you see it?).
5:15PM just a little more light…our dear organic farmer neighbors, the Dietz’s, turned on their first much needed light in their geo-thermally heated greenhouse
5:45PM just a little more light…Under a starry sky, I return from a successful “shopping” trip into the Dietz’s cooler with 6 pounds of potatoes for Christmas dinner.
6:30PM just a little more light…after last night’s solstice vigil, high on the prairie, I’m still feeling good about just a little more light.


I feel so very, very blessed.  Like our off-grid solar panels try to teach me every day, there is so much more light in this world than I could ever see or imagine.  So know that right now, I’m doing what I can to send you---to each of you my dear blog readers---not only the blessings of that light, but the sigh of peace from knowing it can never ever run out and the soaring ecstasy of its grace.


1 comment:

  1. thank you for this beautiful, joyful, tour. I could feel your energy and smiles right through. Fantastic progress, really!