Wednesday, August 9, 2017

You Can Take the Boy Out of Blackrock . . .

A. had to learn many home repair skills while living at Blackrock. Unless you want to spend a literal fortune to pay carpenters and so forth, it's kind of a necessity with a 160-year-old house. 

One of the skills he learned that is definitely unusual was masonry. Because, of course, Blackrock is not just an old house, it's an old cobblestone house. With stone foundations. And those foundations require periodic repair if you don't want your house to literally fall out from under your feet.

So he learned how to replace stones and re-point mortar. He even learned how to mix his own mortar, because the mortar used on old houses like Blackrock is not the same as the modern pre-mixed bags of concrete and so forth available at places like Home Depot. Apparently the old mortar was more flexible than the modern mixes, and therefore is less likely to crack as the foundations shift with freezing and thawing and so on. 

A. also discovered that he has a great affinity and liking for stonework. Handy if you live in a place like Blackrock. He got pretty good at it.

But then we moved. Our current home is only fifteen years old and made of wood on a poured foundation. No need for masonry here.

Except . . .

The church we attend in the village happens to be an imposing stone edifice. And one of the first things A. the Amateur Mason noted was the sad condition of the mortar on the cut-stone front steps. It's crumbling and in many cases completely missing and growing grass. There are other areas that need repair work, but he was pretty sure he could repair the steps in an appropriately professional fashion.

However, the fact that he's not a professional made him a little shy to bring this up with those in charge of church maintenance. I mean, how many random people would really be able to do a repair like that in any kind of acceptable manner? Most people would just slap some modern concrete in there and call it good. 

The thought of this horrifies A., however, and he was particularly concerned that if the deterioration continued, the powers that be would decide to just take out the existing cut-stone steps and replace them with poured concrete steps.

Sacrilege in A.'s eyes.

So he got up the courage to ask the deacon if he might repair the steps for them. (For free, obviously.) After the deacon consulted with whoever he needed to consult, A. got the go-ahead.

Last time we were at Blackrock, he stopped at his favorite masonry supply yard to pick up the supplies he would need. And then he got to work.

This is very slow work. It takes him about two hours to do one step. There are ten steps. He can only work if there's at least a 12-hour window with no rain to enable the mortar to set. This has been somewhat difficult to achieve during this cool, wet summer we've been having.

There is also the issue that the children do not appreciate it when Daddy disappears for hours without them.

A. brought Cubby along with him the first time he went, figuring Cubby might find it interesting. He did find it interesting. He also learned how to do it. It seems ridiculous to think that a seven-year-old can do masonry work, but apparently Cubby's affinity with tools extends to trowels. A. reported with some amazement that not only does Cubby help, but he can actually just DO the work. Like, the two of them just work along side by side. Cubby actually makes the work go faster.

Of course, then Charlie wanted to try. Which meant Jack had to go. And THAT meant that I had to go, too. So we all loaded up on Sunday afternoon and descended upon the church.

Charlie's contribution was mostly scraping and sweeping the old mortar and dirt and grass from the cracks so A. and Cubby could mortar it. Charlie tried working with the trowels, but he doesn't appear to have the same natural feel for it that Cubby does. 

Thankfully, the third (and definitely least helpful) apprentice mason fell asleep in the car on the way to the church, so I just left him sleeping in there while the other three worked. When the inevitable fighting over tools began, I removed Charlie and Jack to the playground. Cubby elected to stay behind to keep working.

A.'s goal is to finish the steps before freezing weather arrives. Mortar won't set in freezing temperatures. So he's got about a month and half. With Cubby's able assistance--and mine in the form of keeping the other two out of the way--he should make it.

So the church gets its steps repaired for free and A. gets to do his beloved masonry. Everyone wins.


Anonymous said...

This was make for a great memory for Cubby and A. Father and son bonding! Mary in MN

Anonymous said...

That was supposed to be "will" make for a great memory. M.

Drew @ How To Cook Like Your Grandmother said...

So, child labor already. You *are* a woodchuck. :)

Anonymous said...

I am amazed, amused and second hand proud of Cubby.

mil said...

This work might be in the genes. Great-uncle R. built a reservoir with a bit of leftover concrete when he was about Cubby's age, and it was a feature of our play for years. I have a feeling that Cubby's skills are accelerated by working with A.

sheila said...

Cubby is learning that he can do anything he puts his mind to. A valuable skill in life!

flask said...

oh. jeebers.

for a long time i have been thinking "blackrock is clearly in a town i know well" and then you moved, and clearly to a place closer to me and an area i know passable well, but the ALMOST being able to place the location has niggled at me a little.

d'ya ever have a moment where you go hey, wait a moment, i know where this is. and then you're like not sure, but you've seen it a bazilion times? and PUZZLE.


something tells me that you live very close to the place where i had my most entertaining encounter with the border patrol ever.

the punchline to the story is i'm lying in the middle of the road when the guys in the black SUV pull up with weapons ready and when they ask me what i'm doing i look at them like they've grown an extra head and say "taking pictures of fuzzy kitties" and continue to take pictures of fuzzy kitties. because camera. and fuzzy kittes. res ipsa loquitur.