Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rockin': Building the New Wall: Phase 1, part 2

I ended my last post with the finish of work on Saturday, August 15. As usual, I did not work on Sunday, using it as a day to go to church and visit with family. I grew up in Meriden, Connecticut about a two-hour car ride from Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Most of my family still lives in the CT/RI area, so it doesn't take too long to go see any of them.

I was about to begin my last week of work on the wall. In early September I would be accompanying my wife and daughter to Israel and the West Bank (where they've been working for the past year) for three weeks. I had to drive back to Seattle and knew that it would take me longer than coming out had, as I planned to stop and see several people along the way. The end of the space where I would be putting the wall (which still needed to be dug and filled) was still 40' away and I had only gotten 12' of wall completed (though it was 20' at the bottom) in four days. I was somewhat depressed because it looked like I wouldn't complete the project and that had been the picture in my mind the whole time since volunteering. All I could do was work as hard as possible and see what I could get accomplished.

One thing that had happened over the past week, though, was that Louis had begun to take my work seriously and was about to begin stepping up his support of it through more timely delivery of materials. When I first volunteered to do the wall, Louis was skeptical. Everything he knew about me to that point did nothing to suggest that I would be successful with the project. He didn't know about my previous stone projects and didn't know whether I was just a dilettante or what. Two things convinced him that I had the ability; first, when he saw the repair work on the old wall during an interim phase he was seriously impressed with the quality of the work, and second, when I took the big hump out of the wall so that I could run it to the level of the neighbor's wall without talking to him about it. At that point, he saw that I had an eye for quality and the ability and drive to back it up.

I know I mentioned it in passing earlier that there was a hump in the wall quite close to the small cherry tree. My theory is that whoever built the wall to begin with was maintaining a constant height. When the ground rose or fell, so did the level of the wall. It bothered me to see that big hump in it, so I took it out. All I had to do was to pick up about 5 capstones and then strategically shift some of the stones around so the height was reduced.

One of my goals with the wall was to have it harmonize with those of the neighbors. The property directly north of EFI has a beautiful, straight, even dry stone wall. It sits at a constant height and really adds a finished look to the property. I figured if I brought my wall to that level over its full length, then it would look like a continuation of the one to the north, adding value to both properties. To that end I pounded a stake in near the sign post, took my roll of mason's twine and established a height line that started far back on the old wall and went all the way to the sign, ending at the same height as the neighboring wall. The picture below was taken at the end of the day, Friday, August 14th and shows the level line and the old wall sans hump

Level set; hump removed

I don't know what happened to my Facebook posts. The ones from before August 18 have disappeared, so I don't have any record of Monday, August 17. In the picture below you can see that I am, once again, at a standstill. I am at the end of the 26' long gravel trench and there is not much stone lying around. I'd put the length of the wall at about 22' at the top and 25.5' at the bottom. At dinner that night I told Louis that I needed to have him finish digging the trench, fill it with gravel, and deliver a load of stone as early as possible on Tuesday so that I could keep working.

Monday end of day

Louis took me seriously. Before I had even finished my breakfast, he and his grandson, Jason, were out in front of the Inn with the backhoe, digging the rest of the trench.

Digging the rest of the trench

Though he would say otherwise, Louis is a skilled backhoe operator. Look at how close he gets to the surrounding obstacles and still is able to do the careful, straight dig he needs to deliver.

The little backhoe that could

He started at the open end of the trench and dug as far as he could, then turned the backhoe around and finished the job. When you realize that he had to straddle an open trench to do that, you can begin to appreciate the skill that let him position that multi-ton Ford beast and get the accurate results that he did. I'm amazed at how closely he dug to the line without breaking it even once.

Precision backhoe work

So now I had a trench stretching the full length of the job site. Next step, fill it with gravel.


By the end of the day, it had been filled in and another load of stones had been delivered.

had a good day of wall building. The bottom is at 28', the top is at 24', and the entire foundation trench has been dug out and filled with gravel.
August 18 at 5:24pm (Tuesday)

Tuesday end of day

At the beginning of building I often had to wait for materials deliveries from Louis, this slowed down my progress somewhat. At this point he began delivering stone to me twice a day, once in the morning and a second time in the early afternoon. This allowed me to keep up quite a pace as you can see by how much wall I was putting in according to my Facebook posts.

had a good day of wall building. Bottom is at 35' and the top is at 27'. Hot day, but the relatively constant breeze made it manageable.
August 19 at 6:08pm (Wednesday)

I only had three more work days left, but the bottom of the wall was now over half way and I had built 15' of wall in three days. That was encouraging, but I also knew there was no way I was going to finish the whole thing.

Wednesday end of day

My FB post the next morning reflects that realization:

is entering his last few days of the project. I have to leave on Sunday or Monday to drive back to Seattle, so Saturday will be my last work day. It is frustrating and somewhat disheartening to know that I will not complete this project, but it has been good work thus far. Hot and humid at 9 a.m., tough to get working.
August 20 at 9:36am (Thursday)

Later that day, I had a somewhat different take on things, though, and, as you can see from the picture had made some good progress.

despite my misgivings earlier today, I had an awesome day of wall building. 40' at the bottom, 35' at the top -- mostly because Louis brought me two incredible loads of stone. I have enough left to make good progress tomorrow as well.
August 20 at 5:19pm

a href="http://s718.photobucket.com/albums/ww185/jlrzegocki/?action=view&current=IMG_6589.jpg" target="_blank">Thursday end of day

My youngest sister, Mary, had arrived that day for a visit with Jane. The next day, she helped me all day; cleaning and sorting rocks, doing whatever I asked her to do. Together we made great progress.

A spectacular day! Mary, my sister from Minnesota, arrived last night; today she helped me by cleaning and sorting stone. Louis delivered some truly excellent stones. Bottom of the wall, 49.5'; top of the wall, 44'.
August 21 at 5:55pm (Friday)

Friday end of day

I had one day left; though it was hard to believe, I (with the help of many) had been able to build almost 30' of wall in 5 days. The last day of Phase 1 was, in many ways, the best one. While Mary and I were sitting on the porch eating breakfast, we both noticed a space toward the bottom of the wall that you could see daylight through. It bothered her as much as it did me (a good sign) and when we got out to work, she worked at fixing that.

Working with my sister

Up to this point, I had been the only photographer of my work. That Saturday my middle sister, Margaret, also came out for a visit. That's why I ended up in a few of the pictures. This next one seems to be typical of the way I spent lots of time working on the wall. I'm just standing there looking at the wall, looking at the stones, looking at the wall, looking at the stones. Eventually, I see a stone that will fit in a place, then pick it up and place it.

Just looking

My next visitor was Steve, my younger brother. He arrived in the late morning to look at the progress we had made. It was almost a mini family reunion with 5 of the 7 Rzegocki children there. This was not the last time that that occurred, though the next one was even more surprising. I'll write about that in Phase 2.

By the end of the day Saturday, I placed my last stones and cleaned up the remaining ones, putting them in a compact group near the base of the wall. The wall wasn't finished, but it had progressed significantly farther than I had thought possible. I was definitely pleased with the results.

EFI Phase 1

In this picture you can see just how close I came to finishing.

2nd End of phase 1

My part of the stone wall at the front of Escobar Farmhouse Inn is done. My sisters Margaret and Mary helped today; we got an amazing amount done. Final measurements: 57' at the bottom, 55' at the top. What a good work to have done.
August 22 at 5:31pm (Saturday)

I thought that I was finished. Little did I know that I would be back in Rhode Island in just six weeks.

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.