Today, after a week and half of full-time painting and floor staining, it was back to business as usual. As it snowed, I trekked across the prairie to light the morning fire. Tom the Builder’s crew showed up at 10 with a load of cabinets. They set to installing and were pretty much done by 4.
Hanging cabinets takes two (Tom and Dave) which left Brent to hang our new cherry doors.
Meanwhile, I struggled with the most un-Mike-like job of my life: fussily painting the reveal. Our red elm siding will stop ½ inch from the ceiling, leaving a gap, a deep shadow called the reveal. It can look cool, but not when marred by unfinished lumber and undulating plastic, dripped with white paint and mud. So my job, if I decided to accept it, was to paint the reveal brown.
Imagine the challenge of cutting a brown line beneath a white ceiling. Now imagine that the surface to be painted writhes, twists and rolls. Now imagine handing a ladder, a can of brown paint and a tiny brush to a gorilla and saying, “Whatever you do, don’t touch the ceiling.” I’m the gorilla. I’m the guy who chops wood, empties sawdust toilet buckets, maybe rolls a wall. But this? Every brushstroke (left to right is all I could manage) invoked such a nervousness. Rubbing my lungs with Styrofoam would be more relaxing. The banter of Tom and Dave as they hung cabinets was my only relief; “almost a hair off plumb”, “the way Mike’s new concrete floor reflects, a woman in a dress might get nervous”, “Mike looks good painting up there”. But in the end, it was done. At least the easy part. Now for the space above the windows, 60 feet of it, far too narrow for the 1” brush I just used. So, tomorrow, I want you to imagine an artist brush between the fingers of a gorilla drawing the brown line beneath the white ceiling. I beg you, please pray for that gorilla.
At 5:30 AM, as I continued revising my novel for the seventh and (hopefully) final time, I suddenly got excited. Of course I knew the plot twist was coming, but I’d forgotten how wonderfully twisting it was. Little did I know how my novel would foreshadow my day, an entire day of plot twists.
After Linda left for work in Minneapolis, I strolled down the “grassy lane” trying to rise to my challenge ahead: painting that darned reveal with an artist brush. Well that never happened. Not the artist brush. Not painting the reveal in any way. Shortly after I arrived on sight, poof!, the lights go out. The basement lights, that is, the only lights in the house. And with the lights went Tom the Builder’s miter saw and compressor. And with that went any progress whatsoever. I opened the electric panel. Not a single breaker tripped. Now I knew the villain had to be the Outback Invertor, the brains of our off-grid electric. There it sat, blinking a error code at me. I called Solar Curt. He gave me what I needed: the courage to try. And so I did. After twenty minutes of surfing its Mate3 display I finally saw that the Invertor was OFF. With one press of a button it was ON. That solved, another crisis reared: missing door hardware. A few calls to Marty at Root River Hardwoods and we had a delivery on the way.
With kitchen carpentry on hold for now, it was time for me to get to work. I gathered brown paint, artist brush, a pound of courage and approached the windows. Or at least I tried to, but I then discovered I had no access. Tom had stacked red elm in front of every window. Before I did anything really stupid with a ladder and a plank, Tom pulled me into the master bedroom.
Atop a completed wall of red elm (so beautiful I could weep) Brent had configured a couple simulations of what it might look like without or without the reveal. “Hmmm…”, I thought. Fortunately I’ve gained enough wisdom not to make such a decision without Linda. Painting the reveal would have to wait. What now? Fortunately there’s such a thing as a good plot twist, or as Tolkien liked to call it, a eucatastrophe, a sudden and unexpected change for the good, like when Gollum seizes the One Ring from Frodo and falls into the Crack of Doom. My eucatastrophe might have been somewhat less dramatic, but it did feel good. My dear friend Bob called. He’s coming tomorrow. And we’re painting the Yoga loft. And he’s a bona fide, 7000 hours of experience, painter. And we’ll have a great time. Can’t wait! So I hauled wood into garage. I’ve discovered that the most time consuming element in the heat-your-house-with-wood work breakdown structure is NOT cutting it. Or splitting it. Or building the fires. Its moving it, bar far! And given there’s really not much about moving wood that’s terribly fun, I just might have to build a wood shed next year. Right next to the house. Or at those were my thoughts as I hauled and stacked sick cartloads of wood into the garage, where it will be moved again into the house before building a fire. So if artistically painting a reveal can twist into the need to build a wood shed, have a care next to think you know how your day is going to go.
I really just want to say one thing about my day with Bob. Yes, we painted the yoga loft and stairwell up to it.
Yes, I gave him the tour.
But really there’s nothing like time with a friend, a dear friend. Shrugging off paint marks on the ceiling. Swapping embarrassing moments. Talking math! Does life get any better than debating whether or not the transcendental numbers are more infinite than the integers? All this, after all, is why I’m here. I’m not building a new house, I’m building a new life. A life more connected than ever. More connected to the Land. More connected to Bob. More connected to you. In two months (or whenever we move in), the blog Alternative Home Builder will end. And, if I decide to keep blogging (quite likely since it’s part of that connection), it will be a new chapter of Rah-dur. No longer leaving old house or leaving old home or entering new home but engaging new life and maintaining what matters. That’s what it’s all about. Thank you, dear Bob, for reminding me. And thank you, dear blog readers, for granting me this, this most important of connections. Do know you're invited to call, anytime, and ask, "how about if I come down tomorrow?"
Tom the Builder’s train’s a-rolling and I can’t keep up. Swinging their mighty hammers, they need, and except, us to lay down the next rail before their next blow strikes. “Lay the Marmoleum kitchen tile,” barks Tom, “you’re holding up the staircase.” Linda hauled 34 boxes home from Minneapolis but they need to acclimate until Sunday. “Get your Yoga loft cork flooring down, we can’t hang the closet door.” Today we’re driving to Minneapolis to decide which, among hundreds of corks, we’ll order. Then it’s two weeks to get it. Ugh! Light fixtures. Cabinet pulls. Polycarbonate sheets. All holding up Tom’s next swing.
“You don’t have to paint now,” says Tom. “But if you don’t it will be a lot more work once we’ve hung all the wood.” We’re trying. We’re trying. But we can’t paint with sawdust flying, so that pretty much leaves us Saturday and Sunday to squeeze in another wall. Of course I exaggerate, but only in Tom’s tone. In his Winona-polite way, he still intends to get this house done. And soon. And so do we! The glamour of alternative home building is wearing as thin as Tom’s patience. And really, we just want a home, a (relatively) dust-free nest. For us. For you. So, pick up that rail and lets lay another track!
I’m smitten! All I really want to do is stand and stare. I’m supposed to start prepping the jambs for paint, but look...white cedar….black cherry…red elm.
Wood of the Land and our lives. I’m supposed to start prepping the kitchen floor for tile, but look…cinnamon concrete floors…flat white ceiling…Seaspray stairwell walls. Colors infused with our own sweat.
I’m supposed to roof the humanure hacienda but look…out the big bank of windows…out the Corridor door…out the Yoga loft perch. The alchemy of carpentry invites the outside in and the inside out.
If only we weren’t building such a beautiful home, perhaps I’d already have it done.