A long day outdoors yesterday. Rained on in the morning and sunburned in the afternoon, hair smoky and muscles aching, but after three years as eyesores the two giant 10×20′ piles of brush and broken lumber are gone at last, and I dug out the garage pier footings to the correct depth and leveled the mudroom floor in time for Monday’s scheduled 7 AM concrete pour — plus grunted half the deep bedding out of the sheep pen.
I learned we would be able to burn at 6 AM when I called the fire department and found that the ranger had finally left a permit for me. After cooking waffles for the kids I drove into town and signed for it. Luke arrived early and we had the first bonfire lit by 9 AM. Not being a sadist, after the wet wood finally caught, I put Luke in charge of the fire and I began the tedious digging. Who could keep a boy away from a fire?
Luke is a great worker. Creative problem-solver, hard worker, cheerful attitude. The only thing I ever worry about is his physical caution. He doesn’t have much. “Do not get hurt,” I always remind him. “Remember your mother.”
Despite rain showers, by noon the footings were dug out, all the reinforcing rod and wire re-laid, and most of the first brush pile burned. We’d found that my giant paper grain and shavings bags, crushed and thrust deep in the damp pile, made the best fire starter, so I drove the truck — groaning under the old sugaring tank full of water, which was our fire suppression system — back to school to pick up more empty bags, while Luke ate his lunch sitting on a boulder, fireside.
Then, as Luke lit the second fire, I tackled the mudroom. Hands duct-taped and back in the foundation, raking, I was grateful all over again to Allen for dumping a pile of fill for me. It took me two hours to rake out the rocks and concrete chips and level the surface. Since the concrete company had roughly chopped up the inside of the foundation wall — trying to fix one of their mistakes — measuring was problematic. Nothing could be judged by eye. In the end I did my best to bring the floor level four inches below a tight string stretched wall to wall (Allen’s suggestion), moving the string around in a checkerboard pattern. Having to shovel in the fill in the first place would have made it an all-day job.
As it was, I looked at all the foundation j-bolts, some not placed symmetrically, and realized I was too tired and too afraid to look at the plans in case the concrete company has screwed those up too. But I’ll have to check before Monday.
The sun came out and Jonny rode his bike down to the farm. He helped Luke throw some dry-rotted roof trusses onto the fire and very thoughtfully took all these photos. He even got me to take off my hat — and I never take off my hat when I’m working.
Looking at this picture I realize it may have recorded one of my last moments of full brain cells yesterday. After finishing the foundation and tending the remains of the first fire, I headed down to the barn to work on digging out the sheep stall, prying out a foot of ground-together wet hay and manure. Never a fun task, but with the warm weather the frozen pack of months has thawed and the ammonia is overpowering — not healthy. (I’ve been leaving the sheep out overnight whenever possible.) Somewhere in the second or third hour of digging, lifting, and trundling the heavy mess out of the barn, I crossed the line from tired to too tired. In athletic terms, I was bonking. Moving in a stupor, my ability to think shutting down.
I did realize I was dehydrated. DH keeps water at the cabin so I forced myself up there. I was too tired to look for cups so sat drinking glass after glass of water out of a champagne flute on the counter. It seemed to have little effect.
I drove the truckload of water up to the upper fire site and, moving slowly and stupidly, raked and watered the hot coals. Slowly, stupidly, I fed the animals, turned them out again, and refilled the sap tank with water. In a fog, I took the truck up to the second bonfire site where Luke was waiting. I hooked up the hose and automatically told him, “It doesn’t take two people to do this so I’ll go back and work a bit more on the sheep stall while you douse the fire.”
It was only when I was standing in the barn looking at the pitchfork that I realized I didn’t even have the energy left to lift the fork off the wall. I trudged back up the hill and helped Luke rake coals. The rubber soles of my boots began smoking and only the smell alerted me to turn the hose on them. When we were finally done at 6 PM Luke asked me a question or two about putting things away and I could barely answer. “Luke,” I said with a little laugh, “I think I’m completely out of gas.”
I’m not sure why I hit the wall so hard. Rereading the blog I notice that I mention being tearful several times in the last few days. I’m an emotional person but not generally weepy. I think the combination of anxiety over the concrete problems, deadlines, and money must be wearing me down a bit. I’m just tuckered out.
Today I drive to Albany to earn a few more shekels against Allen’s return.