Monday, September 12, 2011

How It's Going

My thanks to everyone for the good wishes on our anniversary this past weekend.  Yes, we made it through another year in a marriage that has consisted largely of being around each other for days on end while both being armed with rather large rocks, heavy equipment and hammers in the summer and sharp, pointy stained glass in the winter.  Any one of those ingredients could easily turn out to be a recipe for disaster if tempers flare, but we're still all in one piece.  Surprising to some people, and I guess to me too, is the fact we rarely fight or even mildly disagree when we're working on the Big Projects, especially when it involves Big Rocks.

Ah, Big Rocks.....sorry, I just waxed a little sentimental there, dreaming of the days when loads of them were dumped off here.  Ah, the joy of scrambling amongst the piles and imagining what they will look like in a new project.   But, alas, we have no more big rocks left to place, and we're both having a bit of trouble with withdrawal.  They truly are addictive, just like potato chips, you can't stop at just one. 

Memories, like the Corners of my Yard, Misty Watercolor Memories, of the Piles We Had....(C'mon, sing along, you know this one.)
I'm reposting this picture of the last time we got big rocks in 2009.  We had 'em dumped right on our front lawn and yes, we're grinning because we're insane.  I think this is my favorite picture of the two of us even though I look like an escapee from an asylum.  Carl isn't a big smiler in most pictures, but even he's giddy at the prospect of using that Trusty Rusty Wrecker sitting behind him to create something new.  In the end, this pile became the Pachyberm and the Something Else beds.  Ah, good times.

But I interrupt this glorious remembrance to haul us back to the present and the other project we have had lurking in the shadows which we should be working on, the dreaded Stone Round House/Ruin/Thing.  Do you see all those smaller rocks at our feet in the picture above?  When you get Big Rocks dumped out of a dump truck they clunk together and that's where Small Rocks come from.  (You knew where babies come from, so now I'm telling you the Facts of  Life as it pertains to limestone.)   So, take roughly 800 tons of big rocks, and you'll end up with around 100+ tons of small ones, it's amazing how they multiply.  And what would you do with those rocks?  Well, if you were me you would suggest to your charming husband, "Let's use them to build a little stone cottage," and then your nightmare would begin.

Big Rocks making Little Rocks as they come out of the truck.  Circa 2009
Here's some of the 200 pallets of smaller rocks leftover after pulling apart the dump truck loads of rocks to get the big ones out.  This picture Circa 2005 (and yes, we loaded all those stones by hand)
Sounds like such a simple proposition, doesn't it?  Just take the smaller rocks and mortar them together into a reasonable facsimile of a round building.  Why, it will be Easy! And if the rocks you had were nice and flat and not all lumpy and unruly, it would have been much simpler, but we have Wild Rocks which have a terrible mind of their own and simply insist on resisting the temptation to become flat.  And all those lumpy bumps must be whacked off with a hammer which, when done by professionals, is termed 'dressing the stones'.  When done by us, it's called 'whaling away with a hammer'.

It would be easier to put clothing on these rocks than it is to make them  flat or fit where they're going, but we plow on, whacking and cracking for hours on end.  Which, by the way, is no fun in the hot, hot sun, so we normally only work on the Stone House when the weather cools off in the fall and again in early spring before the garden work takes all our time.  Mortar is a touchy thing too, and should not freeze for some time until it has cured, so we have to time our rock work with the weather, too, and of course, you can't work with mortar in the rain, either, so there's all sorts of variables.

We have a 'thing' about starting new projects when there are old projects waiting in the wings, but this is the way it goes around here due to the nature of the work and Mother Nature, too.  We now have half of the wall done in the Formal Garden, but have abandoned that project to go back to the Round House which has been sitting neglected since we poured the floor in 2005.

2005!  Egads, I was racking my brain trying to figure out what we've been doing for the last six years, and did come up with a plausible excuse.  The floor was poured in July 2005.  But then we had to get ready for a really big garden walk from Green Bay, so the round house was put on hold as we worked frantically on getting the garden looking the best it could before  July of 2006.  As soon as the big garden walk was over (800 people in two days with 100 degree temps, fun, fun) we yanked out all the trees behind the Quarry and built the North Hill which took another two years (2007) and then since we had leftover big rocks, we built the West Hill and then the East Hill (2008) and then our furnace died in 2009 so we put in geothermal and the Pachyberm and then the Something Else beds (2009-2010).  That's where we spent the last six years.  Phew, so that's where the time went.   I thought we were goofing around or something. 

There's Carl on Friday night, dressing stone for the next course.  We're not sure yet just how this is going to turn out; I had an Artist's Rendering of what I thought would be cute, basically just a round house with an arched door and three round windows, but my computer suffered a Hissy Fit and I have to relocate all those pictures.  But then we rethought the project after actually going into a very similar building one day at our local botanical garden.  Yes, we stole the idea from them, sort of, but I wanted ours to look a bit different.  Though this little thumbnail is not a very good picture, there are three round windows in the building and it looks so cute!
Garden Cottage at Green Bay Botanical Garden

 One day we were at the botanical garden and the door was open, so I took a quick peek inside and though I hate to say it, I was dismayed.  The building was rather dark and damp and they keep hoses and assorted lawn tools inside of it.  I guess I was thinking it would be different somehow, but I was poking around where I shouldn't have been. 

Then there's a little silo we drive by on a regular basis near here that always caught our eye, too.

Not the greatest picture of the silo, either, but they had machinery parked in front of it and we were on the road.  There's just something about the little, round building that always appealed to me.  Growing up with silos on the farm however, taught me one thing, they are dark and damp....and if we only put three round windows in the building, that's what our structure would be, too.  So, more thinking is in order and probably, more windows.  Windows that open (and close, hopefully) and a different type of roof and on and on.   I think the cottage at the botanical garden was built the same way as the silo above, they poured cement walls and faced the cement with stone.  Much faster than our silly two foot thick solid stone walls that take an inordinate amount of fussy time.
Here Carl is using a grinder with a diamond blade and is leveling off some of the bumps in preparation for mortar.  He's gotten much less picky on this job now, we both want to try to get as much done before the snow flies.  This building has been a thorn in both of our sides since we started it; we have had some fantastic arguments over this project.  (That's because the rocks are too little, if they were huge rocks we would have had no arguments, lol.)  I would spend an hour 'dressing' a stone, only to have Carl tell me it wasn't the right size, shape, thickness, thinness, consistency, etc, 'Just take that little bump off of there, ok?' and then I'd act like a spoiled brat and give the rock a mighty whack with my hammer only to have the stupid thing split in two and fall on my foot.  Ah, Not Such Good Times.  Carl is notoriously Picky with his projects, ask anyone who works with him.  My favorite saying is, "Eh, you can't see it from the road."  We're trying to find middle ground here.  That's what marriage is all about.  Compromise.
Very dusty job, he's wearing a respirator, you just can't see it in this picture.
There, the dust has settled and he's checking for fit.  This was on Saturday night.  We have this course mortared in already and a few more on the other side of the building, too, which we finished up on Sunday night.  We still have a LONG way to go yet, though we are happy to be back in the swing of things.  Sometimes a job is overwhelming just contemplating it, but then when you get going, it's not so bad.  On Saturday night and Sunday night we had some company and Richard, Cody and Briana all helped with the mortaring. 

And of course, where would we be on this job (or any of the huge projects) without Joel.  He was manning the mortar mixer all weekend, helping us out as he always does, with his quiet patience and strength.  As always, we owe him so much for his devotion to the garden.

We ended every night this weekend with a campfire, just sitting around talking and eating and having a good time, still all dusty from the day's work.

After the company left last night, I sat by the waning fire listening to the cricket chorus and a hoot owl off in the Back Eight trying to scare up some supper.  This place is a lot of work, but it is worth it.  We don't get away from here real often to 'go up North and sit by the lake' but we have our little Quarry Puddle which is north of the house so hey, it works. 

Toss another hunk o' wood on the fire, would you?  It's getting a little chilly.


Peonies & Magnolias said...

I love your stories and look forward to the day your little round house is complete. Hang in there. I hope you have a great week.


Becky said...

We always seem to have projects to do in our yard too. When we finish up a project we say thats it, no more projects but we always seem to come up with more things we want to do. We don't have alot of time to go either but we enjoy working in our gardens. Would love to see your round house when it gets finished. I'm sure it will be amazing.
Becky at Ginger Creme Hollow

Zoey said...

Hi Karen,
I cannot imagine having to do as much work as you and Carl do in your yard. We can all see how much you both love the work by the outcome of your projects.

Glad you had a nice anniversary.

Sue said...

I can't think of a better way to spend a life!

Tufa Girl said...

After I get this indoor "project" done I am looking forward to working out in the 80's and 90's again. Your pallets of rocks have given me new strength for tackling the loft garden.

Missy said...

If hauling rocks is your secret maybe we should give all newly married couples a truck load to set them on their way.

Sueb said...

your love for each other and your garden is Rock Solid! ...... :0)

The round house is going to be fabulous.

Sandy said...

I have a love for Rocks! But every time we go somewhere I want a rock. To collect for the garden... My husband will have no part of it... You and your husband simply amaze me! Congratulations for still being friends and happy!
Love reading your posts!

Carol said...

I keep telling my husband about your wonderful gardens and your round stone building and he keeps threatening to disconnect the computer. LOL! He actually loves the idea but is not into the manual labor it would take. I love your stories and can't wait to hear more.

Beth said...

Karen, The stone house will be a masterpiece, as is all of your garden. An amazing work of art, and also a work of HEART. Good luck!
Hugs, Beth

HolleyGarden said...

I am amazed. At all the projects you have completed. At all the rocks - big and small. At all the work you both do, have done, and are still doing. But what's most amazing to me is how cheerful you are! It's very much apparent you love rocks, and working with rocks. I know your round house will turn out beautifully. You both do wonderful work. But - I hope when you're done with it, that you will get more rocks. Because I think you'd really enjoy that.

El Gaucho said...

Thanks for getting me in trouble at work. There I am reading what I think is a good, clean, wholesome family blog at work and the boss walks by right as I'm looking at the picture of big rocks making baby rocks. So then I get yelled at by the boss and a big lecture from Human Resources about inappropriate usage of the Internet, get a write-up in my permanent file, etc. Sigh.

africanaussie said...

I knew you had a lot of rocks but didn't realize you started out with 800 tonne! my gosh! You have a rock solid marriage! I love your little round house, and I am sure it will be nice and cosy once it is finished. What will you be using it for? entertaining? I have seen some partially built walls that look like ruins, and they give a bit of protection from the wind and look quite lovely. Just saying.... said...

I can barely remember what I did last week and you can go back years. This project may be your best one yet and quite a challenge. When do you get time just to mow the grass?

Dirt Princess said...

Wow....that is a lot of back breaking work!! But just think of how much enjoyment you are going to get from it!!! And to say YOU built it!!! Amazing

Barbara Rosenzweig said...

You and Carl are totally amazing! Are you sure that you're not a couple of 20 year olds? What energy!

Thanks so much for your vote! You may want my ambition, but I'l love to have your energy and stamina!

Have a great week!

Alison said...

I'm glad you're working on the little round house again, I'm looking forward to seeing it completed some day. It's going to be fabulous! What will you use it for? I truly don't know how you get so much done.

Toni - Signature Gardens said...

"Memories, like the Corners of my Yard, Misty Watercolor Memories, of the Piles We Had..." I LOVE IT!! Ha! Crack me up! Didn't you have a picture of a little stone house that you saw on one of your garden walks -- that would be cute. I know y'all will turn this into something spectacular. Keep whacking away at it; you'll get it done one of these, years :-)

Toni - Signature Gardens said...

Me again... It was the little house from Garden Walk Season July 7. The little windmill house. Probably too small. Too cute, though. Check out the rock work on that little building, though. Not all uniform. Not all the same type of rock even. Just adds to the character, I think. (You know like when you buy something and it has this little tag that says "slight imperfections only add to the beauty of this fill-in-the-blank.") Might make your project go a little faster if all the rocks weren't uniform (I know, I'm preaching to the choir, right?) Just sayin' :-)

Randy Emmitt said...


You never seem to cease to amaze me. This rock house will be so cool, Carl has a lot of talent.

WE looked at buying a rock house on Sunday Riggsbee Rock House on the Nation Historic Register. Might post photos, my next post will be my 300th.

200 pallets of rocks, oh my.....

Karen said...

Sandy, thank you, and we look forward to that mythical day too!

Becky, isn't that the way it always goes? We have said that so many times, 'This is it,' only to come up with another idea. Keeps us young, right?

Zoey, thank you, this project is a nail-biter, though!

Sue, you're right, gardening is a good life, isn't it?

TufaGirl, 'indoor projects' scare me, so I hope you post how-to's on your blog so I can follow along and learn.

Missy, maybe not a bad idea to give rocks for a wedding gift! Is that one of the traditional wedding anniversary gifts? Paper, tin, silver, gold and Rock?

SueB, I hope the round house turns out, we're having Technical Difficulties at the moment, lol.

Sandy, you have a Very Smart Husband, lol! He knows how addictive rocks are and Just Says No.

Carol, your husband is also Very Smart! The Idea of a stone building is wonderful, the Reality is yet to be seen. We might not be able to pull this off.

Beth, thank you for the good wishes, we really, really need them.

HolleyGarden, thank you for the vote of confidence, too. And I know you're right, we'll probably always have something going on with rocks, even if it's gravel mosaics as we get older, lol.

El Gaucho, oh no! Not your Permanent File! Sorry, I should have put a rating on this post, rest assured, in the future I will make certain to keep it 'G' (for Goofy).

Karen said...

africanaussie, I'm liking your idea of a partially finished ruin very much. We were intending to have it just be a little cottage-y place to sit and enjoy the scenery. Not sure what it will really look like when we're done. I do know if we wait much longer, it will be a real ruin, lol.

Donna, I went out and mowed lawn last night, it's what I do when I get frustrated and have to think things through. This job is a challenge, all right, and one of our own making. I often wish I'd never dreamed it up.

Dirt Princess, I sure hope we get to enjoy it someday, right now it's being a pain, lol.

Barbara, it feels like we were 20 when we started the round house, gosh, this has been a long process.

Alison, in my fantasies, I see the Round House of my dreams just being a little garden cottage surrounded by hollyhocks and a low stone wall (oh, there I go again, more stone) and it would be a nice place to just take in the view of the Quarry from. A little free-standing wood stove in the wintertime where a person could work on stained glass. (Wow, I'm a dreamer!)

Toni, if I could get Carl on the same page as me about making it a little more irregular, well, then this job would be done much faster, but he's so PICKY! He has to be picky though, I know the building has to be structurally sound, and if I built it my way (with more than slight imperfections, LOL) well, that might not be the case. I loved the little stone windmill, too, it's just adorable.

Randy, right about now, Carl could use some input from a builder...trying to figure out how to put windows in a stone wall is a bit of a head scratcher, at least for me. He has an idea that hopefully will work out. Looking forward to your post on the historic stone house.

Junebug said...

Wow, you guys just work circle around all of us! I'm sure the little house will be absolutely adorable when it is finished. It is so great to see a couple who loves working together. Hugs!!!

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

I think my husband would be ga-ga over a load of rocks like that too. So exciting! I love using boulders in landscaping.

Patrick's Garden said...

How inspiring. Such beautiful bolder turned into such art. Keep up the great work

Rosemary said...

If you 2 are looney then I want to be there with you. Impressed as usual with the work and with your most amusing post.... Tho I hate to see summer go I am loving the nights that need a bonfire...... glad you got a moment to sit back and enjoy.....

El Gaucho said...

Don't worry, I was merely joking in order to capitalize on the "big rocks making baby rocks". I don't have an actual job let alone a permanent file to be ruined, so fear not!!!

Pam's English Garden said...

Dear Karen, You must realize there are garden bloggers all around the world in awe of your accomplishments! Congratulations on a wonderful marriage, and on a fabulous garden! P. x

greggo said...

I would love to do that. My wife would not! lol

Karen said...

June, we aren't always hugging and kissing, believe me, but we're going to try to get this thing done to the best of our ability.

Lana, any big rocks on your acreage? Oh, I hope there are, you'd have such fun!

Patrick, Thank you!

Rosemary, welcome to the Loony Bin, you're most welcome to join in. And you can come and sit by my campfire any time, too!

El Gaucho, PHEW, glad to know I didn't cause your Permanent Record to be defiled.

Pam, gosh, thank you!

greggo, she might love to do stonework, you never know! Just be careful, they are addictive.

Chad B said...

Karen, I'm a new reader to your blog and I have to say that I'm quite impressed with your writing and with the breadth and beauty of your projects together. Consider me a fan of your blog! I can't wait to read more.

Carolyn ♥ said...

Karen your header pic is absolutely drop dead gorgeous! You really should take us all through a tour. You and your sweetheart have done a wonderful job creating a slice of heaven. Absolutely beautiful.

mudderbear said...

You make me want to be happier...this has been delightful.

Mac_fromAustralia said...

A little late but Happy Anniversary!