We didn’t do it entirely by ourselves………

A step back to reminisce about the building stage:

We would wake up in the boatshed around 7:00-ish and Sal would make a quick breakfast. Then we’d head out and start on the next job.

At first, it was easy.  The next job was the first thing in front of you.  Literally.  You couldn’t get anywhere until you handled the job that sat but a few feet away from the front door of the shed.  We had to construct our way up the hill to get to the next spot.  And there were ten or more ‘set-up’ spots before we would be anywhere near the building site for the house.

The house site was 75 feet up and away and needed funiculars, stairs, decks, wiring (from the genset) and other things built and installed before we could even get to addressing the actual foundation of the house.

In fact, because the house was to be built on a 30 degree slope, we had to build the 500 sft southside deck before house construction could commence otherwise we would have had nowhere level from which to work.  I estimate that it took us three months of part-time work (we would come up from the city and toil away for the weekend) just to be able to access the actual home site.

And this was after the first year (summer) spent building the first two sheds.

One weekend some city friends came with us to help.  They wore matching new gore-tex outfits and carried plenty of bottled water.  “Right!  Here we are.  Put us to work.  What can we do to help?”

“Well, have you ever built anything before?”

“No.  But we are willing to learn.  Instruct us.  By the way, do you have any extra sunscreen?  SPF 40 or higher?  And we forgot our gloves so maybe a chore that is easy on the hands?  Unh, and where exactly is the loo?”

“Hmmm, the loo is free-range.  Here’s some screen.  And I’ll get the tools.   I have to build little square foundation ‘feet’ on which to place the vertical supports for the middle deck.  I’ll need nine such footings.  I’ll drill and pin each location and, if you could, please make small square forms in which we can pour the reddi-mix concrete.  Aesthetics are not too important.  No one will see the footings but, of course, the frames have to be done right.  Waddya think?”

“Great!  Do you have plans we can follow?  Do you have tools?  Do you have a Kleenex I can wipe my hands with?  And what exactly do you mean by a form?”

It wasn’t long after I had cut the pieces and provided everything needed and shown them how to do it that I heard, “Hey!  This is impossible.  Are we doing this right?  Everything keeps sliding down the hill.  Hell, we are sliding down the hill!  And, do you have more screws.  The last bunch fell over the side.”

After about eight hours, there were nine little boxes sitting higgledy piggledy on the side of the hill awaiting concrete.  There was a fixed pin of re-bar in the centre of each.  None of the boxes had been levelled or squared.  They just hung there on their pins.

Surveying them and the boxes, I had a sense of carnival.…..like ‘ring-toss’…….I dunno………..I just did.

Our friends were not overly pleased at the day’s pastime or their efforts.  They were sweaty, their new boots and outfits were scuffed and dirty, they didn’t think building was fun and they were clearly reevaluating the entire relationship they had with us.  They were polite but, by 4:00 pm, they were ready to go back to the B&B where we were staying (to make it more comfortable for them) and light the BBQ.

“So, are we done here?  Gawd, I need a martini!  How long is this house building thing going to take you, anyway?  Ya know…..building on a slope is not really a good idea.  Why not choose a level site?  And why not get a contractor to do it, anyway? What exactly are you trying to prove?”

To be fair, it was a bit unfair to them.  We had waxed romantic over the past few months about the adventure of it all and they wanted a taste of that.  I hadn’t really emphasized the difficulty and discomfort of it all.  In fact, I glossed over it sounding macho and confident instead.  Flaunting my tan.  It really does sound like fun when you are sitting in a townhouse in the city drinking wine and eating cheese.

Actually, they were very good sports but clearly this was not their thing.  We just laughed as they kept rolling down the hill, thanked them for their help at the end of the day and launched the boat early so that we could go BBQ.  Honestly?  I was just glad to have an end to the day.  Taking care of helpers is a lot of work.


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