Friday, October 7, 2011

How It's Going, First Week in October

Here we go again!  Carl's been on vacation since Tuesday afternoon, so we've been working on the Stone Thingie non-stop.  Well, we do stop to eat and sleep.  We're not THAT dedicated.  The week is going much too fast, but we sure can't complain about the weather, which has been wonderful.  We've had temps in the upper 70's during the day with nonstop sunshine.  Just perfect for mortaring.  Should we mix some up?

There's Carl demonstrating the process of mixing mortar.  His recipe:  Five shovels of sand and two shovels of mortar and add water to taste.  Well, ok, not taste, that wouldn't be a good idea.  Add water until you have the desired consistency to hold a bunch of unruly stones together. Remember I said you can't mortar in rainy weather?  You can't.  Even fluctuations in the humidity levels can make the mortar too wet or too dry. 

After the old mortar mixer has done it's job and everything looks well-stirred, it's time to dump it out on your handy piece of plywood.  We don't own a hawk, which is a traditional tool of bricklayers or plasterers.  We mix up too much mortar to hold onto comfortably in every batch.

If you're really strong (or feeling especially ambitious, like Joel, when he's around to help) you can carry the plywood mortar board over to the stone house, but if you're two middle-aged people, you resort to using the wheelbarrow to make life easier.
The mortar looks fairly dry, doesn't it?  It is, but works wonderfully to hold the stones together.  We found our recipe is really strong when we tried to remove a few stones that weren't in the right place.  Certainly took a whole lot of time and energy to whack those rocks out. 
We wheel the load of mortar over to the Stone House.  See the stones sitting on top the wall? 

They're the next course, waiting to happen.  The process of finding and cutting those stones to size took a good ten hours of work.  Nothing happens fast with this project, especially since the tallest stones are around four inches thick at the most.  We had twenty-four feet of cut stone to mortar last night, counting the inside and outside of the wall. 

Here's Carl's tool of choice, a big trowel. 

 First he has to wet all surfaces of the stones to be joined so the mortar adheres well.  I skipped a step---we use our big air compressor to blow any dust and debris off the stones and the wall before we start plopping mortar on the wall to set stones.

After wetting the surface of the stone above and below, Carl slices off a hunk of mortar and plops it on top of the previous course of stones and makes a nice, level layer.  Then he takes the loose rock and sets it carefully in place in the bed of wet mortar.

Carl moves on down the line of rocks, repeating the above steps over and over until he runs out of mortar.  If Joel is home, he is kept busy making batch after batch of new mortar for us while we work on setting the stones.  The construction goes so much faster when Joel's home.  When he isn't, Carl has to stop setting stones when he runs out of mortar and go make some more.  Progress is not as quick then!

My job (not illustrated) is to cram mortar in between the stones in the vertical joints between each one.  Then I go back and rake out the excess mortar after it has had a chance to set up a little.  Everyone has their own style of mortaring, and since we're not professionals, we have our own amateur style, which is to remove (or rake) out about a half inch of the mortar so as to have consistent joints between the stones. 

Once we have all the loose stones mortared in, Joel abandons his post at the mixer and comes to help with filling in the gaps in the middle of the wall with leftover rocks and more mortar and smooths the top out.  See the dark line under the stones?  That's the new mortar and my handiwork after the mortar has set a little.  I 'try' to keep the faces of the stones as clean as possible (though I fail often) and then blend and sort of sculpt the wet mortar into smooth faces.  

This is really a three person job and much less hectic and difficult with Joel's help.
Mortaring is my favorite part of the entire process of building the Stone Thingie.  You may recall my post about 'finding the right rocks? Without the right size and shape of rocks, the construction doesn't move very quickly.  The find-ering of the 'Perfect Rock' is definitely not on my Top Ten List of fun things to do.

  Carl (for some reason) doesn't have a problem with the way I rake and finish the mortar joints.  Tomorrow I'll take a picture of my assorted tools.  I just know you're waiting with bated breath to see them, ha.

There's the completed course on Thursday night.  All that's left to do is put a damp blanket over the wet mortar so it cures nice and slow.  Then we have to clean up all of our tools and the mortar mixer (can't have dried mortar stuck to everything)  and go in for the night.  See the slightly taller rock on the left side?  That's a 'shiner', a rock that's a little taller than the rest of the course and adds some interest to break up the monotony of stones all the same height.  We have several shiners all around the building. 
 Another day of vacation over and though it's not much, we have another three inches of wall height to our credit.

Just like Scarlett O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day."

Time for this Old Unit to hit the hay.  Oh, but wait, I promised I'd talk about the class reunion, didn't I?   We had an enjoyable time at the reunion, visiting with old friends and catching up on what's been going on with each other.  I certainly was one of the biggest chicks at the reunion, but well, I guess someone has to be, right?  (Bigger is better only applies to bank accounts, by the way, lol!)

The jacket I sewed was ok.  I had decided to put lace sleeves in it so it would be a little cooler in case I danced the night away, but we never left the banquet hall to go to the bar where the live band was playing.  The band was too loud to talk over (or am I just getting that old?) so we stayed in the other hall and just listened from afar.
There I am, as good as it's going to get, just before we left for the reunion last Saturday.   Like I said, we had an enjoyable time, but I think Jill's wedding would have been a whole lot more fun.  Leave it to us to be invited to two Fun Things in almost a year and have them both be on the same day.

Scarlett O. was right, Tomorrow is another day.  (And it's gonna be here faster than I thought.)


Sue said...

Karen-I love the jacket! You look fantastic.
And the stonework is amazing. You have a lot of talent......

Anonymous said...

You two I mean three have been busy this week. The Thingie is looking more and more like a Thingie should and if I should have a Thingie then I hope my Thingie would look as good……….

Don’t know why you were worried about how you looked fro the reunion do ….Frankly my dear you look gorgeous.

Zoey said...

You look great! I hate loud bands, too--always have, so it's not an aging thing for me.

How many more mortared layers do you think it will take to finish the Thingie? I could not help wonder that as I was reading about all the work involved. :) It is really looking good. I so wish it was in my backyard -- all finished, of course.

Darla said...

The stone thingy is coming along nicely. Is Carl perfectionist? Joel has a nice smile and you my dear, oh la la! You look beautiful, love the jacket!

FlowerLady said...

I love your jacket Karen and think you look just lovely. I can't imagine whipping up something like that in between the other things you have been up to.

I always enjoy seeing the work that you all accomplish. The stone work is beautiful and you are doing a great job. What a really neat place this is going to be. Thank you for sharing the process with us.


Sandy said...

You both have energy to burn and taking that burning to great levels... The stone house is amazing.. can't wait to see the finished product!
We also have great weather and I've been able to get outside and pull some of the weeds that took over during rainy season.. it's Fall and I'm thrilled!
Good luck with the stone house!

Kelsie From Our Country Home said...

It is looking great...and obviously a labor of love...Joel is such a great son for helping out, love his work seat too lol.
I am so far behind with all my blog reading and not sure if I could ever catch up...Have missed you.

Blessings Kelsie

El Gaucho said...

I'm just wondering if it's ever going to have a name above and beyond "stone thingie" or "thingie"? Do you have to wait until it's done for its official christening? I hope that I didn't just somehow jinx you by asking such questions.

Junebug said...

First you looked fabulous for your reunion!!! I'm so enjoying watching the thingie being built. Let's hope Joel has a little more time to help before winter sets in and the thingie comes to a halt. This truly is a labor of love.

shannon i olson said...

that is an amazing project, I would love it....without all the work! You look just lovely too.

Karen said...

Hi Sue! Thanks for the encouragement on the stone house. Carl thanks you, too. And (blush) thank you about how I looked for the ol' reunion. I didn't have time to sew a tent, lol.

Sueb, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a.....hoot that I looked a bit chunky. Well, ok, I did, but I fulfilled my destiny of making the Skinny Chicks feel better about themselves! lol (Loved Rhett Butler, he just knew how to say everything perfectly!) If we didn't live so far apart, I'd come over and help you build a Stone Thingie, too! :-)

Hi Zoey, thanks, but my jacket was in No Way as cool as the ones you own, I always drool over your finds! As far as the level of the wall goes, we're one course away from the window sill height as of last night on the south side and about two to three courses away on the rest of the building. Once the window frames are in place, we will build stone pillars between the windows to the roof height, which will be about five feet higher yet. (I hope that parts goes would be so much fun to get this job done!)

Darla, yes Carl is a Perfectionistic Pain in the Drain at times, ugh! I'm always amazed Joel actually wants to help us finish this job, and smiles about it to boot.

FlowerLady, Thank you so know I could have/should have just worn something in my closet, but it was a nice break to sew again, too. I love to make garments. Fabric is way more flexible than those hard-headed rocks, lol. If the stone house doesn't turn out, we could turn it into a huge planter or a fountain!

Sandy, glad to hear your weather is great, too. I do love Fall, and wish it would last right up until December. Then we could have some snow for the month and Christmas and then Ma Nature could bring on Spring in January. don't work that way around here, lol.

Kelsie, I don't know what we would do without Joel (and hope I NEVER find out!) He's not home much anymore, but when he is, stuff gets done. He's 25 now, and I don't know where the time went. I have a problem reading all the blogs out there, too...looking forward to winter (a little, ok, not much) when I'll have more time.

El Gaucho.....I will leave it up to your Creative Mind to suggest a fitting name for the Thingie. I wish I had the nerve to call it something Grand, like 'Castle Conundrum'. Wait, maybe 'Conundrum Castle'? It is just a big, stone jigsaw puzzle of sorts. Hmmmmm....stay tuned to the next post. I have an idea.

June, thank you, about the reunion outfit, lol. If we had to do it all over again, I think we would have sent the leftover quarry stones to be made into gravel instead of taking on this job, but it is going to be Something when it's done. Not sure what, exactly, but Something, lol.

Shannon, thank you! Someday we'll have fond memories of what it took to build the Thingie. (Maybe!)

Sall's Country Life said...

Hey Karen,
You looked really snazzy for your reunion! I bet you got lots of compliments! It must be all that work you do in your quarry gardens that keeps you looking so young! The stone thingie is shaping up quite nicely - again I can't imagine all that work and how soar you must all be at the end of the day! You must own some stock in Ben-Gay!Ha! Have a great weekend and take a little time to relax,PLEASE!

Alison said...

You looked wonderful in your newly made outfit, Karen. I think I would have preferred going to a wedding rather than a high school reunion myself. What a bummer that you couldn't do both.

I'm glad to see you are making more progress on the stone house. I wondered about that one stone that was bigger than the others. What a good son Joel is to help you out.

HolleyGarden said...

I just loved hearing how you mortar the stones. Must take a lot of patience. Loved learning the term 'shiner'. Now I'll throw that term around sometime and feel so smart! You look great in your jacket - it is very pretty. I'm glad you had a good time. That's what it's all about. I bet you were one of the most interesting people there. I hope you impressed them all with your knowledge and spunk and energy. Or, have you always been that way?

Carol said...

Your stone thingie is really looking good! We are on a working vacation here too but nothing as dramatic showing for our work. But the place is starting to look good again after a a few years of neglect :) said...

Beautiful Woman!! And you look amazing, do NOT lose weight. Sometimes we look just as we are supposed to and skinny does not equate to "attractive." You are beautifully designed...just as you area. You are blessed indeed.

I love see the progress out there! I'll be back!


Rosemary said...

My gosh Karen you are so multi talented from gardening to writing humourous blog posts to stain glass and now sewing..... makes me feel like a slug.... LOL.
Stone thingie is coming along but I did notice the shadows in some of the photos making me think fall is really here with the dreaded snow not far away..

Karen said...

Hi Lisa, yes, there are days when I could use a hot tub full of Ben Gay to soak in, lol.

Alison, yes, seems as if we are always getting invitations on the same day. I sense a conspiracy, lol!

Holley, good heavens no, in high school I was very quiet. Several people said they didn't even remember I went to school with them, lol. I specialized in being invisible!

Carol, working vacations are fun, sort of, aren't they? It is satisfying to get something done, but then you need a vacation from your vacation!

Lana, Bless Your Heart!! I'm taking you along to my doctor's visit this coming week. I need all the support I can get, lol. Thank you.

Rosemary, You are a talented artist, so no feeling sluggish allowed! Yes, we are living on borrowed time with winter in the wings. Sigh.

Dandelion and Daisy said...

Your stone thingy is going to be fabulous when it is finished. With all the heavy lifting you do, girl, you have to be a solid block of muscle, making you just the right size! said...

P.S. Your black jacket is elegant and fits you so perfectly. I don't think you'd be able to buy something that nice, even in a high-end boutique...You are GOOD. I love to sew as well, but don't think I could do something that nice. Beautiful.


Barbara Rosenzweig said...

You look great in your new jacket!
Thanks so much for sharing the process of making the stone thingie. Quite an eye-opener! ...and it looks wonderful!

Have a wonderful week!

Anonymous said...

Clara is a real stone mason in the making. Cute images. I love you first photo, the sky is stunning.

Beth said...

Your outfit is beautiful, Karen! You look great!

Corner Gardener Sue said...

I love that jacket! You looked very nice in it. You are "sew" much more creative than I am! I remember trying to sew in high school. A dress I made with a crooked zipper in the back. I kind of gave up after that. I did make a few simple things, but can't remember what now.