My neighbor says he’s worked harder in retirement than at any time in his life. I have no reason to disagree, if this summer is any indication. The past two months have been filled with backbreaking labor that is quite possibly the hardest I’ve worked in my life, as well. And we are not anywhere near finished, as I seem to be very poor at estimating time requirements to build our dreams. I am likely the world’s worst construction foreman.
The barn is not as squared away as I would like, the orchard will have to wait until spring for planting, and the house still looks like a construction zone. However, hay has been put up, the chickens and rabbits are reasonably well housed, the vineyard installed, and all the rough carpentry in the house is complete.
Considering much of the house was stripped to the studs to fulfill Mrs. Cunha’s desire to make the house “hers,” despite her name being on the deed right next to mine, the two solid months of sunrise-to-sunset projects worked in between farm chores was really a labor of love.
It’s amazing the amount of energy you can muster when it’s your project, your farm, and your neck on the block. The kids would be happy to live in a dank cave, if they never again had to break a sweat.
Thank God for YouTube and helpful electrician types who are generous with their knowledge because I had to re-learn some of the trickier aspects of electricity I had forgotten in two decades.
Note to self: Hot and common really should be capped off separately.
Actually, I learned that lesson all on my own, and frightened Mrs. Cunha quite badly in the process. Being the religious sort, it seems she associates sparks and the smell of burning insulation with demonic forces. It was a big enough flash to make anyone believe in the devil.
Somewhere between “Hey, I have an idea” and “Maybe we should just set the place on fire and sell the scavenged scrap metal,” I decided to give Mrs. Cunha a thrill by incorporating a curved wall on the walk-in closet we were framing in one of the rooms.
I had seen it done before and the math didn’t seem too difficult. What I didn’t count on was the men I watched create this magnificent arced wall were far more skilled carpenters than I. That plus I’m terrible at math. Well, it’s not so much that I’m bad at math. My house is bad at math.
The first rule of construction is there is no such thing as a plumb wall or a square room.
Don’t believe for a second that a measurement at one end bears any relationship to the middle or bottom. And on the rare, lucky occasion everything measures out perfectly, it will invariably look catawampus compared to everything around it. Luckily, there aren’t many construction problems that can’t be fixed with a hammer.
Speaking of beating lumber into submission, the barn is constructed of white oak, which I prefer to call by its Indian name, “Can’t drive a God-Damn Nail into It.”
The Amish who milled this lumber must have reinforced it with steel because I cannot think of any other reason a sixteen-penny nail won’t make it through two of the boards. The barn is pretty old, so maybe I need those old-fashioned rectangular nails instead of the modern, round ones.
Anyone with insight into this problem is welcome to enlighten me in the comments because I’ve run out of men in my family who can.
The upshot is my kids have been provided material for several anecdotes to pass on to their children about Grandpa Carlos bending and cursing nails, Amish, and oak trees. The only thing that has kept me from hurling my hammer into the hay field is the knowledge that I would only have to find the son-of-a-bitch when I calmed down, lest it break a mower blade.
As it stands now, there is still a ton of work to accomplish. At least, we got the Japanese beetles under control. The house is a wreck, the farm is still very much in the start-up phase, and I’m not sure where I’m going to store all the hay from the next couple of cuts.
I’ve never been more exhausted and I’ve never been happier. It will probably get worse when I retire.
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