Friday, November 19, 2010

How This All Started, Part 14

January 2004.  Winter in the Quarry, the 2nd year.
All right, now I am back from my tale of the First Garden Walk held here, in 1999.  Where was I going with this?  Oh, yes, the windmill tower had just been put up and it was now the Winter of 2004.

We had another garden club scheduled to tour in June 2004, and our niece's wedding was the day after the garden walk.   Since it was very cold out, we had ample time to dream up more goofy projects.    With all of these events planned (ok, only two events, but for us, that's a big deal) we wanted to add something to the Formal/Rock Garden so people wouldn't be disappointed.   

The Formal/Rock Garden was the second garden we had built way back in the day, and no, we didn't know what we were doing.  We had sort of copied the idea from a prominent art center's Sunken English Garden.  Their garden was rectangular, with flat limestone lining the walls, so I guess we copied the idea rather loosely, but at least it was sunken.  A little.

My, it did look pitiful in the beginning...
The Rock Garden 1988
Same garden maybe around 1990-something  Blah-looking.
 For years we had tried all sorts of things to make our Formal/Rock garden look nicer, from changing the plantings to rearranging the stone walls to putting in and taking out a small pond.  We felt the middle of the garden needed something, maybe a large ornament or structure of some type.  A birdbath seemed woefully insignificant and the pond was too much maintenance.

Joel and the former Formal Garden Pond, around 1994---can you see the tiny Dwarf Alberta Spruces around the pond?

One day I happened to come across an image of Thomas Kinkade's 'Pools of Serenity' and the gazebo in the painting just stopped me in my tracks.  This was the kind of structure we needed in the Formal Garden. ( I would have added the picture here, but I believe it's copyrighted...)

I don't know if I've even mentioned this before, but Carl works full-time as a metal fabricator for a mid-sized company about fifteen miles from home.  He's been at the same job for the past 34 years, starting at age 18.  Since he grew up a blacksmith's son, working with metal comes naturally to him.

Carl looked at the picture and agreed it was a possibility.  He could make the gazebo out of wrought iron curls, just like the painting, but when we thought about it, we decided it would be nicer to have a covered structure instead.  When we worked in the Formal garden on a hot summer's day, there was no shade and very little air circulation as the spruce trees planted in a semi-circle around the garden block breezes.  If we made our structure with a solid roof, we'd have some shade and even shelter from the rain.  (We weren't sure what to call the structure, some people referred to them as gazebos, or belvederes or domes...we have sort of settled on 'the dome' lately.)

But what should we make the dome out of?  While mild steel would be ok, it would rust eventually. Copper was our first choice for durability and beauty.  Carl's dad had frequented steel recycling centers for years and said that sometimes the recycling centers obtain all sorts of things.  Carl asked him to keep a lookout for scrap copper sheet metal, and by February, 2004, he hit the jackpot.  We were the proud owners of several sheets of copper.  (Luckily, at the time, copper hadn't hit the all-time high price for scrap metals, or nobody could have afforded it.)  Carl's folks decided to give us the copper for Christmas, and we were so appreciative.  What a great gift!

So, in February, Carl set to work making the framework for the new garden structure  There's the aluminum framework for the dome, below, on our little trailer:

Dome Framework after Carl welded it up.  February 2004
After he had the framework made, Carl had to figure out what size to cut the flat copper sheets and how to bend them to a rounded shape.  He worked on the math for this for weeks; I always thought he should have been an engineer, for he is a true genius with math and metals.  Once all the dimensions were correct, Joel and I helped him shear the copper to size and run it through his press, bending the pieces.  Then we could place the copper on top of the aluminum framework and solder the entire thing together.

Look at how SHINY the copper was!   Here it is cut and bent to shape and awaiting soldering.
By this time, the weather was still very cold out, so working in our driveway wasn't an option.  Carl does have a large workshop here at home, but, well, it's not accessible due to his hoard of 'things to build things out of'.  (This is a family sore point, so I won't go into it here, suffice it to say, he knows he has a problem, but see, to him, all of the junk is GOOD stuff, and to be fair, he does build so many things, but still.......)  Anyway, Carl's father graciously said we could use part of his heated blacksmith shop to work in, so we hauled the entire contraption over there to begin soldering.

I wish I could say the soldering went smoothly, without a hitch, but it didn't.  We battled on for days with this project.  Carl used a hand held propane torch which was rather cumbersome to hang onto,  especially when soldering these long, long seams.  He would start out by rotating the copper piece's seams to rest up against the dome framework underneath, so he had something to support the copper when it was pressed down.

Then he would begin tacking the seams together in increments six or seven inches apart.  He couldn't hold the copper together with anything like a vise grip or clamp, so Joel and I would take turns pressing down on the two pieces to be joined with a piece of steel rod so the two pieces of copper to be joined would be touching before the solder melted.     We had to hold the solder joint in place until the solder tack cooled and hardened and then we could move on to the next spot.  Then, way too often, as we'd move down the sheet to the floor, we'd find we were off center, so we'd have to untack all the seams again by melting them open and  start over, carefully removing the old solder joints by hand.  It was a hassle, to say the least.  We lost count of how many times we removed all of the solder tacks and started over. 

Carl's mom joked several times that since it didn't seem to be working out, at least he could take the copper back to the scrapyard and get his money back if he recycled it again, but Optimistic Carl persevered.  I knew he could do it.  I may be the pessimist in this marriage, but I have faith in Carl's abilities.   

After two and a half weeks of soldering after work and on weekends, we had the dome solid enough to move back home and out of Carl's dad's shop.

Carl and Joel, soldering on the top cap of the dome, March 2004
Once we got the dome home, Carl had to figure out how to put a 'top cap' on the seams, so he decided on a round piece of copper to be soldered right on the very top.  In the picture above, you can see Carl soldering and Joel pressing the cap down until the solder sets up. The copper had lost it's gorgeous shiny surface by this time, but we knew it wouldn't last.

Copper dome, soldering completed, March 2004.
So, we finished the soldering and there we had it, a lovely copper dome.  I got to fussing a bit now, I thought maybe it looked just a little too plain at this stage, and we still hadn't decided how or what we were going to attach the dome to yet, either.  I asked Carl about maybe adding some trim to the bottom for looks.   We had some aluminum rose castings left over from our house when Carl had made the shutters, so we fished them out of the garage and Carl welded them into a circle; fabricated some aluminum borders to hold them in place and applied the trim around the bottom.
In the picture above, the trim ring is in place and Carl and Joel are back to touching up the solder joints.

Joel, 18 yrs old, decided to see how strong the construction was after the soldering. 

Now we had the dome complete and ready to install in the Formal Garden.  But what would it stand on?  We had been giving this a lot of thought.  Fancy pillars would be wonderful, but....well, once again, the budget came into play.  Or, I guess I should say, lack thereof. 

Since we had such good luck in the past at Arnie's scrapyard, finding both the wrecker and the windmill, we went back over there to see what he had lying around.  Carl was thinking maybe he'd have some beams or something, you never know until you see it.  Carl has all sorts of 'things' lying around here, too, but nothing fit the dome's character.  We needed to find a fresh pile of 'things'.  As luck would have it, Arnie did have something we could use; some five inch pipe just sitting in a pile in the woods, waiting for a dome to come along.  The pipe was originally from a now-defunct department store's fire protection/sprinkler system and Arnie was willing to sell us six of them which were about 12' long.  For under $100, the Dome had pillars.

(On another sad note:  Arnie passed away shortly after we put the windmill head up.  I had sent him a card with a picture of his windmill on the tower, thanking him for selling it to me and invited him to stop in anytime to visit.  He never did as he was not well, but I hope he knew how much we appreciated his help.)
The 'pillars-to-be' at our house,  getting their tops, bottoms and braces welded in.

Carl had to make some caps for the pipe to keep water from getting inside and also had to create a way to attach the dome itself to the top of the pipe/pillars. 
April 2004
 After the pillars were ready to go, we went down to the Formal Garden and started to prepare the base for the pillars to sit on.  We took out the old pond, dug the hole much deeper and brought in very fine gravel and made a base.  Just look how much those Dwarf Alberta spruce trees grew in a few short years!
Carl and Dave trying to level the pipes in the ground--you can barely see the metal bracing between the pillars.  The bracing would be buried.
Carl had another dilemma...he had to figure out how to put six pipes in the ground and keep them steady so they would all move at the same time when the frost heaved them up and down.  He rigged up some scrap metal bracing and welded two of the pipes together at a time near the bottom.  We carried this contraption down to the hole in the Formal Garden.
David, seated, Carl and Joel, working on putting the Dome legs up.  May 2004.  In the background, you can see the windmill tower.
We had barely enough room to put the Dome where the old pond used to be, and tried very hard not to disturb the wind-burned Dwarf Alberta spruce trees too much.  May  2004.
The pillar installation took us a good two weeks to finish.  In the meantime, I had been working on the Dome itself, trying various polishing methods.  Copper does not like to stay shiny. It's too bad, because when I had it polished, it was gorgeous! We found a mixture of lemon juice and salt (with a bit of ketchup) worked wonders on removing the tarnish.  But as soon as the dew would fall on it, or it rained, by the next morning, tarnish had already started to creep across the surface again.

There were spray-on lacquers we could apply too, to keep the Dome sealed, but if the lacquer would fail in even one, tiny spot, the tarnish would spread under the lacquer eventually, leaving an uneven finish.  And the thought of trying to remove a dome-full of lacquer didn't appeal to us, either.

 If we couldn't have a beautiful, shiny dome, we hoped the copper would at least patina to a nice verdigris green color.  We looked into various chemicals that would hasten the patination process,  but got scared when we read about their toxicity....I think cuprous chloride hydrochloric acid was one I read about, but wowza, we'd need a lot of gallons of it, and there's a lot of details to follow and I wasn't sure I wanted to take a chance on messing the entire thing up or polluting the ground, either. 

Then I read another article on 'How To Turn Copper Green', but we didn't use that method either.  What is it, you may ask?  Well, the author was part of a construction crew and they were installing copper flashing and roofing materials on a high-end house.  The homeowner said he disliked the bright copper color and wanted it green.   The construction boss told the homeowner not to worry as he had a solution.   The boss took matters into his own hands, so to speak, and ordered every guy on the crew to pee into a five gallon pail during the day until they had enough 'solution' to pour over the copper.  Apparently, it worked, I guess the copper turned green!    Hmmmmmmmm...........I wonder if he told the homeowner?  Somehow, I doubt it.  (And no, we didn't pee on the Dome,  we decided we would just wait for a natural patina over time.)

  The June deadline for the garden walk and wedding was approaching fast.  We had less than two days to go.  I gave the Dome one last polish and we loaded it up onto the trailer and the old Murray lawnmower towed it to the Formal garden.  (Oh, I wish it could have stayed that color!)
Dome on trailer, awaiting installation.  Joel is in background by the pillars, early June 2004.

 Once again, we really did not know how we were going to lift the dome up on top of the pillars.  There was no way to get any sort of tractor or even a crane into the area as it is between the Quarry and the sunken garden and there's no room to drive.  The dome weighs around 150 pounds, and two people could handle it fairly well.  We picked a quiet Friday afternoon when Joel was home and decided to see if we could lift it.  My mom came down and took the pictures as this part of the adventure unfolded.

Carl rigged up some two by fours and other wooden braces and put them across the pillars.
Joel & Carl, installing wooden braces on top of the pillars...the dome is in the background, sitting on the trailer.
June 2004
 We were all uneasy again, the thought of dropping the dome was not a pleasant one.  Finally we'd done all we could to get ready, it was time to give it a try.
Carl and Joel carrying the dome down the steps to the pillars.

In the picture below, you can see the two by four braces and the step ladder.  The plan was for Carl to lift his third of the dome and walk backward up the ladder, raising the dome higher as he went.  I was to help him get the dome started going up the ladder and then we were all to shift to take thirds of the weight as it ascended.  Joel is barely seen almost straight across from Carl in this photo: 

Everybody ready??
Carl got a good start going up the ladder, so I switched to counter him on the other can't see him from this angle, but Joel is taking his third of the dome's weight to the right of me.

All of us lifting...see my face on the low side, both Joel and I were squished.

As Carl went up the ladder, Joel and I ended up almost on our knees as the bottom side of the dome was tilted lower and lower to the ground.  Our faces were literally 'smooshed' into the dome's surface as it went up.  We couldn't figure out why it tarnished there first until we thought about it and realized we'd left our face-prints on the copper!   Carl had to lift  the dome up over his head and get it steadied on the two by fours before we could all shift positions and get the bottom side of the dome up in the air and carefully set the entire structure on top of its pillars.  It was a Major Relief when we had it up there!  We made it one try with no human injuries and no dented copper.

Joel moving ladder, Carl (in shadow) getting ready to remove the braces.

After we had the dome secured to the pillars, we took a well-deserved break.  Then we realized we needed a floor in the dome.    We had thought about installing flat limestone pavers, or pouring a cement floor, but then we remembered seeing some cobblestone circular pavers at a home and garden show.   We went to a brickyard, found just the right ones and the Mighty Buick ended up towing another very heavy ton home again.  We installed the little cobblestones after some trial and error, but the floor turned out very well.  (We still have problems with the frost raising the floor every winter though, and have to come up with a fix next spring.)    The two steps are marble we found in the local dump and had lying around...they fit the dome very well.
Teddy Dog and the Dome floor
 The garden walk was next...(and I'm happy to report, this walk turned out much better than the first one we had in 1999, there were no Garden Critics present!)

Garden Visitors by the Formal Garden and the Quarry, June 2004

After the garden walk, the next day was our niece's wedding, the first wedding to ever have pictures taken here.  We were so honored!
The Wedding

Starting to tarnish..June 2004
The Dome June 2010 (No, it's still not green!)

A rare sighting of the two of us just before the wedding--2004  (we have tarnished quite a bit too....sigh!)

Ok, that's it for the Dome installation.

I guess I should add this disclaimer to all of my posts lately:

"The stunts you see depicted here were performed by People in Serious Need of Mental Health Checkups.  Do NOT try this at home!"

P.S. I'm linking to Tootsie's Fertilizer Friday and Kitchen Bouquet Flashback Friday's a retro-flashback...and I think there's some flowers in here somewhere.


FlowerLady said...

Another GREAT post in this series, and I love your disclaimer. I also saved the picture of you and Carl.

It's wonderful that he can do things like this, and that you all work together as a team.

'The Dome' is beautiful and makes a wonderful addition to your gardens. I really love the trim of roses, and to think you have these as shutters on your house. Wow.

Have a great weekend ~ FlowerLady

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Karen, the dome is beautiful. I have copper on a couple of overhangs on my house and it still has no green on it after seven years.


Anonymous said...

Karen, this as my favorite post in the series so far. My husband is a welder, but unlike Carl does nothing around the house, let alone build such a work of art like Carl did with the dome. Remarkable project. Your projects at your gardens should be put into a magazine. I wish my husband would be helpful, because I have so many ideas I will never have completed. I am too busy mowing grass, raking leaves, shoveling snow to learn a new trade myself. LOL.

Cass @ That Old House said...

OH MY GOSH Karen my heart was in my mouth seeing you folks hoist that dome up on its pillars! Of course, the face prints part was funny, but YIKES you had me scared!

I am in awe of what you have created with this garden -- it's stunning, creative, gorgeous.

Wow. But that dome thing? I was sure the next picture was going to be the dome on the ground, with 6 human legs sticking out of it.


xoxoxo said...

Just in time for my coffee!
Fantastic story. I love the face tarnish part!

Darla said...

Carl is very talented and you are so blessed to have him and his generous spirit ... (at least that's how he's portrayed, lol) Everything in this series has been nothing less than impressive Karen. I know you are so glad that your have photos of all this.

fer said...

Love to see the transformations that you garden has had. That dome looks amazing, as all your garden does.

Alison said...

When I saw in my list of posts that you had another one in your series, like xoxoxo I had to go and get another cup of coffee and settle down to read! What a fantastic undertaking this was! You folks are so clever, and Carl and your boys are all absolute treasures.

Great picture of the two of you in front of the quarry pond!

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

It is just so beautiful and was just ideal for that garden bed. What a talented husband you have. I do not know how any of you have backs left even with the equipment you use. LOL!

Dishesdone said...

Found you from Suzy's Flashback Friday at Kitchen Bouquet! Your dome is gorgeous as is your garden! Love how you've tarnished as well, great line :)

Shirley said...

Karen, I love the dome! What a lot of work or rather labour of love! Thomas Kincaide's paintings are inspirational and I'm glad to see this inspiration in your garden. It is perfect!

Junebug said...

I am so enjoying your How This All Started series. I see a book coming on!!! I've added your blog to my list of favorites so I don't miss a chapter. And I'd keep that talented Carl around for many more projects. What a great team you two make!

noel said...

aloha karen,

what an amazing transformation and labor of love, i'm in awe with all the work that went on and this cutom gazebo, its stunning as are your gardens....thanks for sharing in this adventure.


Tallulah's Antique Closet said...

It is a lot of work to have a beautiful garden but the rewards are worth every minute of it. Thank You for stopping by have a great day....Julian

Suzy said...

Wow what a great post and perfect for my Flashback! Thanks for participating. Your gazebo is amazing! What a vision :-) Teddy Dog looks a lot like my baby Jigs.

Sall's Country Life said...

Wow, yet another amazing accomplishment over at the Flintstones (hehe)! You all are so amazing. I'm now always telling my husband about all your hard work and your gorgeous yard...I don't think he believes me! You all are an amazing team! I love this post especially (my former gift shop was called The Gazebo), they've always attracted me and yours is stunning!

Beth said...

Karen, Your gazebo is stunning. You and Carl and Joel did a great job! What creative minds you have; and it shows in beautiful and very unique gardens. I have a giveaway at both of my blogs. Stop by if you have a chance. Happy Thanksgiving!

Toni - Signature Gardens said...

Just when I think you've amazed me all you possibly can, you blow me away with another unbelievable project!! I think the simpler question would be what CAN'T you-all do?? Never mind; I already know the answer! Hey, if Carl can build structures like that dome and is okay with having a gazillion tons of boulders hauled into your yard and then goes about putting them into place one by one, I think I'd let him do a little (or a lot of) "stuff" hoarding. I'm sure there's another mind-boggling project in the waiting, and who knows what he might pull out of his "stuff stash" to add the finishing touches :-) Can't wait to read the next entry. Amazing!!