Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   hoisting the bluestone shelf
Thursday, December 2 2004
This morning I dedicated myself to cutting that long piece of bluestone I hauled home yesterday. It was partly cut already, but it needed much more work. To accomplish anything, I had to have it out in the open air, where the acrid smouldering of an evaporating plastic and carbide masonry blade wouldn't precipitate instantaneous acute brain cancer. But even when I was free to tear up the stone with that blade, I found it was disintegrating too quickly to cut the whole stone. Mind you, I did my best to preserve the saw by keeping the cut lubricated with motor oil (I didn't want to use water for fear of being electrocuted). But by the time I was done with it, the saw only had enough radius remaining to cut trench a half inch deep. So I had to graduate to other tools. I tried positioning the stone over my little wetsaw, but the damn thing weighed about 200 pounds and it was ridiculous. What finally gave me the real cuts was a hard diamond-studded wet saw blade mounted in my handsaw. I know you're not supposed to use a wetsaw blade this way, but I was desperate. It gave me the depth of cut I needed. Then I started spanking the excess with a large framing hammer until it cracked off. The breakinging didn't always follow my scoring, but the edge I was cutting would be against the wall and I knew irregularities could all be filled in with the fake rock I make by mixing Portland cement with coloring agents.

I went to New Paltz for a couple housecalls and felt kind of sick the whole time I was down there, as if my guts were staging a doomed but nonetheless dogged insurrection. Despite this, both housecalls went remarkably well. [REDACTED]
When I returned home I was eager to lift my newly-cut shelf rock up into position at the the top of the heat shield. Judging from the weight of sandstone (similar to bluestone) and the calculated volume of this piece (a little more than a cubic foot), I'd estimate this shelf piece weighed about eighty pounds. I found it too heavy to simply hoist up onto its support stones, so I had to gradually get it up to the top of a six foot step ladder (where I had it balanced precariously - what a catastrophe had it fallen!). From there I rotated it so that one end was perched on one of the support stones. Then I swung the thing into place. It was sitting on a layer of wet tinted Portland cement I'd prepared, but there wasn't nearly enough to fill in all the gaps. And on top of one of the support stones I had to insert a thin shim of bluestone. It was a relatively trivial task to goop Portland cement, my favorite moletn rock, into any gap that remained. The shelf ended up fitting remarkably well in all dimensions. After putting it in place, I couldn't really convince myself that it would stay there, and I'd become nervous every time a cat or dog would wander underneath. I didn't have anything to worry about. It's held in place by four solid river stones that have been solidly attached to the wall studs using long screws designed for attaching gutters to rafters.

In addition to mild intestinal problems described earlier, I found myself being a little out of sorts today from worry, the kind of worry that one can't do much about. According to Gretchen, the property behind ours recently came on the market and then immediately sold for something less than thirty thousand dollars. That's not much money for a parcel of real estate, especially one fifteen acres in size. But there's a reason it sold for so little; much of the land is nearly inaccessible and virtually worthless for development. It includes lots of steep ravines, gullies, and exposed bluestone outcrops. In terms of building sites or percable soil, it has little to offer. Furthermore, the property has absolutely no road frontage and depends for access on a right of way that begins a little uphill from our house. The only possible building sites are on several acres uphill from this right of way, not in the part of this parcel that we deal with on a regular basis. But who knows what sort of person is buying this land and how rational he might be? Anyone who closes on a property so soon after it goes on the market is behaving impulsively, and it's never good to have an impulsive neighbor. What if this guy is a gun nut who wants to set up a hunting camp? The land has quite a few large trees and what if he wants to clearcut his parcel? And what if he forbids us from passing through his land? His is the first property the Stick Trail enters after it leaves ours. These are the sorts of thoughts that can eat at you and distract you from other thoughts, particularly when you've become accustomed to having it so good with regard to neighbors.

Gretchen returned this evening while I had a big fire blazing in the woodstove. I hadn't told her about the progress with the bluestone shelf because every now and then one has to surprise the spouse. More surprising to me was how hot the stove became when Gretchen dumped an armload of junkmail into it. The resulting fire burned so hot that a few inches of stovepipe started glowing. The last time I'd seen such a thing was during a chimney fire, so I was momentarily terrified. But it calmed down soon enough. Occasional hot fires are good for preventing the sort of creosote buildup that leads to chimney fires. For the same reason it's good to allow small forest fires to keep big ones from happening. Or, if you're George W. Bush's Department of Interior, you tailor your planning to take into account the near-term certainty of the Rapture.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next