Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How It's Going: Word For Wednesday--Evolution

Today's post is inspired by Donna from Garden Walk, Garden Talk.  If you are not familiar with Donna's excellent blog, you will be pleasantly surprised after your first visit.  It is always informative, beautifully photographed and impeccably researched and written.  And now she has another wonderful addition: Donna has posted a challenge on her blog: 

Word for Wednesday: Evolution.  

My mission, if I choose to accept it, is to write about evolution as it pertains to me.  I chose to accept it, now let's see if I can pull it off.

Donna kindly listed the definitions of the word, and I immediately zeroed in on the second one:
evolution |ˌevəˈloō sh ən|
2 the gradual development of something, esp. from a simple to a more complex form.

When it comes to evolution in my life, well, there's many things that come to mind, but the one in the forefront right now is, of course, Castle Aaargh.  

The other day, Carl found some pictures of it's beginnings down in the basement.  They were on an old bulletin board we used to prop up for garden walks to help explain to people what the 'ruin' was eventually going to be in our yard.  

The beginnings of this stony adventure were,  like many things in life, out of necessity.  Having hauled in tons and tons of stone over the years to build our faux quarry, (why does the French language make the word 'fake' look so much more elegant?  I wonder what the word for Aaargh is in French?  Anyone?) we found ourselves with leftover stone to use up which was much too small for landscaping, too chunky for walls and too big for gravel driveways; so when you have literally hundreds of pallets of stone leftover, what do you do with it?  

You could do what we first did, let it sit out in the field on wooden pallets surrounded by tall grass and try to forget you have it.  But that seems like such a waste, doesn't it?  And if you have a yard landscaped by a husband who arranged it in the shape of a three ring circus, you need an act going on in the third ring.  So, that's when I dreamed up the Brilliant Idea.  We will build a round stone cottage.  Sure we will.
Before this evolving dream could become a reality, I had to get across what I wanted to build, which meant putting something on paper.   So I did.  There it is, what Carl had to work with, my Grand Plans for what to build with leftover stones.
Never said I was an artist, but I am a Dreamer.
There you go, Carl, build one of these four things out of stone, please.  Take your pick.

Um....well....Carl was a bit underwhelmed by my artistic renderings and sat down with his computer and drew what he envisioned the stone house should look like:
Ta da.  Carl's rendition at least is not lopsided, leaning, or in danger of the roof sliding off and he also did not dream up more garden beds to weed around, either.  Good for him, we don't need any more work.  Without much ado, we went to work on the stone thing in July of 2005.

Here's another piece of evolutionary literature; a little disclaimer I had posted along with that lame drawing at a garden walk back in 2006:
Ha ha ha.......'the work will probably take another two years to finish'.....famous last words!  Make that another six to seven years IF we're lucky.
But anyway, we had high hopes when we first started that we'd be done with the stone cottage/ potting shed by 2007.  Well, let's see some more evolutionary pictures, shall we?

  First, we had to pour a floor for the building.  That meant Carl had to make a concrete form, something for the wet cement to flow to the sides of and become round.  We had to prepare the site and level it before the pour, too.
 2005, Joel and I towing the form, a heavy gauge steel that Carl welded up, to the site of the stone house.  (These pictures are in terrible shape, and I apologize; no, a chicken did not explode in any of these shots despite the fact it looks like feathers are flying everywhere--what happened was the bulletin board got left out in the rain one day and the pictures got wet.) 

Once the form was set up in place, we ordered cement and assembled a crew:  Carl and I, Joel and David, and Ann's family (yes, that's right, Ann has worked on this job since Day One) and with help from our neighbor, Dale, too.
July 5, 2005  Pouring the floor

After several days, the form was ready to be taken off and we had a slab to start putting stone on. 
 We did not have a clue what we were doing when we first started, just dragged a bunch of pallets of rock up and started mortaring rocks in place.  That summer of 2005 went so fast, but we actually did get quite a way on the project. 
Pallets are really hard on lawns, by the if I were you, I wouldn't leave them there as long as we did, ok?
We still weren't sure what we're really building at this point, like everything else we do, we tend to wing it and hope for the best.  I know, this is not a good idea, but it's the way we operate.  

We figured the plan would Evolve.

Going up.  Slowly.  Looking at the size of the trees in these pictures, I'm amazed at how much has changed, how big the trees have grown and how many of them are missing, too.  We made a lot of changes to the entire yard during this time period.
November 5, 2005, the last day of work for the year.  The weather was just too cold to have mortar cure without freezing.  We had all good intentions of getting started right away in the sping of 2006, but well, we got sidetracked by a big garden walk coming here in July of 2006 so we worked like crazy to get the rest of the place walk-worthy.  And then we had a bright idea to redo part of the Quarry itself and then other stuff got in the way and more garden ideas.   As a consequence, the stone project just sat.  And sat.  And, yes, sat some more.  
  When Cindy from FW Dirt and Toni from Signature Gardens came all the way from Texas for a visit this past summer, we really knew we had to do something with the stone house.  They both gave us the incentive we needed to get going.  True, we still didn't know what it was exactly going to look like (and we still don't) but evolution waits for no one.  

Getting back to working on the Stone Thing was a big deal, we decided to either commit to finishing it or tear it down and forgeddaboutit.  The Thing was an embarrassment to us both; when were we going to do something with it?  

Every time someone asked what it was, we felt guilty.  'Someday this will be a Stone Cottage' sounds pretty lame after saying it for six years running.   Especially when you have garden visitors and friends come several times over the years, like Larry and Sarah from  Conrad Art Glass and Gardens and you have nothing to show for progress, well, it's pretty embarrassing.  

(So many parallels to Monty Python and the Holy Grail---'Someday this will all be yours!'  What, the curtains??)  But joking about Monty Python also led to the evolution of a name (El Gaucho over at Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes wondered just when we would come up with a better name than Stone Thingy) and that's how the name Castle Aaargh evolved.  

Chad from Me So Thorny asked us if we'd ever watched the epic saga 'Pillars of the Earth' so of course, that led to us renting it from the video store and over the course of one rainy weekend, we watched the eight hour story unfold of the building of a huge stone cathedral back in the twelfth century...(before they had mortar in a bag, dynamite, and Autocad, not necessarily in that order) and thanks to Chad we stayed up until 3AM one Friday night just to see the end.  We were short on sleep the next day, but long on inspiration.  If they could build a soaring, towering Gothic Cathedral way, way back in the day with no tools to speak of, I guess we can build a little stone hut.

And I've evolved too:  I was much younger when we first started this Thing:

OH, wait, not THAT young!  (That's Clara, our friend's baby.)  

In this 2005 photo, my hair was still a little darker than it is
 now in 2011.  And I'm a coupla stones heavier, too.  Sigh.  

Thanks to all of our friends, we did get going on Castle Aaargh in the beginning of September, 2011.  Just check out the list of blogs I follow on my sidebar; everyone of you are inspirational to us.

So many words of encouragement kept us going so far, and people sharing their stories of living with a perfectionistic husband, like Sueb from My Garden and Me (she's English and if anyone would know what a proper English Cottage Garden looks like, it would be Sue!)  
And we're still working on it, and will be until the snow flies, or it freezes up.  Whichever comes first.

 Yes, we have a long way to go yet...and more evolution will undoubtedly take place.  I want the round window to be solid stained glass, maybe a 'rose' window done in roses (loved the play on words) like Patrick from Patrick's Garden 
This is a picture of one of our stained glass lamps built last year, the Rosebush.
I like the idea of making either a 'rose' window or a Four Seasons themed window, time will tell what evolves with that plan, too.

The round window could have any of the flowers in it from the lamps we've made so far...

There are lots of flowers there to draw inspiration from or I'll come up with something else.  (I just hope something else doesn't look as bad as my original rendering of what the stone house would look like.)  

But the Evolution of Castle Aaargh weighs heavily on the shoulders of one man:
 He's the Carl Darwin of Castle Aaargh.

All the plans are in his head.  
He went to bed with a headache tonight.  

I hope he feels better tomorrow.

My thanks to Donna at Garden Walk, Garden Talk for hosting!  Check out the other participants at W4W, you'll be glad you did!

P.S. I would LOVE to mention all the wonderful garden bloggers I follow, but this post would be Humongous if I did....please know I value each and every one of you more than you'll ever know.    My hat is off to you all.


One said...

Goodness gracious! You actually build this on your own with 'Carl Darwin'?! It is a HUGE project. The stained glass are awesome! The baby with the hammer could be of great help.

Anonymous said...

Like all good things in a garden, they take time to grow and evolve into a thing of great beauty. You know as well as I do that you will get there one day.It doesn't matter how long it takes.
It may be locked in Carl Darwin’s head, but being the perfectionist he is I know it will be amazing. Thank you for the mention (she blushes!) :0)x

FlowerLady said...

Dear Karen & Carl ~ You two are such an inspiration, in your marriage and in all of the projects you take on together. Evolution takes time, something from an idea takes time, from a pile of rocks to a beautiful work of art with a stained glass round window. Part of evolution is enjoying the process. It is always great looking back through pictures to see what has been accomplished. Sometimes it is looking with amazement. Sometimes we don't remember small details, but there they are in photos.

Carl took your wish and drawings and you all are turning it into a dream come true.

Enjoy and thanks for sharing your evolutional journey.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

heather @ what's blooming this week said...

Wow. Now that's a project!!! It looks beautiful already. Such an undertaking and yet so much fun to see it evolve over time.

Gatsbys Gardens said...


In between all of this you do stained glass! I don't know how you do it all. This little stone house is going to be wonderful.


El Gaucho said...

That's a great photo retrospective of the whole project. It's very interesting to see the beginnings of big projects like this to see how they evolve and the forces that shape their eventual form. Don't feel bad about it taking longer than you planned, everyone should have one or two or three albatross/white elephant/source of garden angst in their yards, it keeps us humble. I look forward to how awesome it will look when it is complete.

Anonymous said...

I am really amazed Karen. I had no idea Castle Aaargh was being constructed for all that time. It really gives a greater sense to the project seeing and reading all that lead up to it. But what I noticed here that seemed secondary to what is evolving in the garden, is also the blogging friends that evolved along the way. You have made many wonderful and sharing friends. Thanks for joining the meme. You really did a wonderful contribution and thanks for saying nice things about my blog too. You made me blush!

Rosemary said...

Your evolution never ceases to amaze...

Donna said...

Karen you have quite the evolutionary dream there. With all the work on the quarry, the stained glass and gardens how did you ever find any time to work on the Castle. Personally I can't wait to see the "curtains" that movie...anyway I can't wait to see how Carl and you finish this will be well worth the wait...

Carol said...

You really have gotten a lot done this year! It was great to see the beginning process too. Your stain glass work is as amazing as your gardens!!! You are both so talented :)

Tufa Girl said...

Google translate helps me with the following: Castle Aaargh = château aaargh. Hmm, that's not it.

How about stone cottage = maison en pierre OR Quarry castle = château de carrière.

HolleyGarden said...

I could never build that in a million years, so I am impressed that you've only been working on this since 2005. And I love your drawings - especially the wooden doors with metal hinges and the weathervane on top! I hope you can incorporate them into your finalized plans.

Beth said...

You two are amazing! Love your stained glass work too. Gives you something to keep busy over the winter, I imagine. Loved your post and its humor.
Hugs, Beth

Andrea said...

This really is a big project, Project of Love! The humor is big too, maybe you were stone masons who built the Stonehenge in your previous lives before you evolved today! LOL. But you are actually lucky those stones did not come from afar, they are just there. BTW, you didn't mention the diameter of Castle Aaargh! I thought you will be making a small coliseum when you started! Kidding aside that really is Evolution in a different scale, and thank you for sharing.

Jennifer@threedogsinagarden said...

Hi Karen, We have been renovating our fixer-upper of a house for years now and so I can identify with your frustrations over the slow progress of Castle Aaarg (love the name BTW). It is off to a good start though and I bet it will be the talk of the neighbourhood when it is done.

The Sage Butterfly said...

Wow...I was entranced as I watched this evolve. It will be so beautiful when it is done. I like how you placed the table and chairs inside while it was being built. Great post!

Shirley @ The Gardening Life said...

Oh my goodness! You are truly one of the most talented people I know Karen! You have such vision! Love the new stone building and your stained glass! said...

Hand building a stone structure is no small undertaking. Keep at it, all of the construction, by hand, the old-fashioned way, will surely pay off and that structure will probably be standing long after many of these modern structures are crumbling.

As for your stained glass lamps; those are beautiful and intricate. I love the one with the dark reds, such bold, yet elegant colors.

I can only imagine your stone house appearance after all the elements are fit together. I will be gladly following to see the finished product, even if it takes ten years. If so, we'll just have a lot of fun in between with our blogging!!!!


Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Goodness, suddenly our projects here pale in comparison! I love that you're building this round stone house, it's going to be gorgeous when it's finished. I can't wait to see the further evolution, and eventual completion of this project. I know how easy it is to get distracted though. It took us almost three years just to put up a greenhouse, and that's tiny compared to this project!

Mac_fromAustralia said...

I can identify with both you and Jennifer over the frustrations with progress. Maybe it's easier for someone to say from a dispassionate distance but I think Castle Aaargh already looks great, and I love your sketches.

Corner Gardener Sue said...

It's time for us to get home to get my car to go pick up our grandsons. We have them over every Saturday. I just had time to read the first part of this post, then show Larry the photos of your castle and that awesomely beautiful stained glass work. Any of those designs would look wonderful in your circle.