Sunday, December 30, 2012

When the family's away... Kitchen Building!

A lovely, relaxed, wet and cold outside, warm and semi-dry inside, Christmas was had at the new farm.

Then, the next morning, Alexe and the munchkins packed up and headed to Virginia to spend a little quality time with Alexe's family. (They've arrived safely, and are having a fine time.  Started missing them late last night.)

Which has left me here, with three dogs, a cat, four pigs, and endless projects. (The chickens have been eaten / run off by Olive, one of the new pups.  Goldilocks, the little one, has just crawled into the crook of my arm and fallen asleep as I type, feet up, fire crackling, VPR streaming APHC in the background.)

Wed. saw a ton of errands getting taken care of.  The french doors, 8 sets, have been ordered, for example, though they won't be ready for 5 weeks.  Plenty of things to do in the mean time.

Thursday I headed up to Memphis to meet our kitchen sink, which came down from North of Memphis.  A craigslist find, the sink I've always wanted, born on Jun 20, 1962, a big deep double basin ceramic beast.  No drain board, so if you see one of the old detachable porcelain deals around, please let me know.

Interesting story behind the folks who sold us the sink.  At 16 the woman gave a child up for adoption. The child was three months premature, had several health issues including a hole in the heart, and she never knew if he made it or not.

Flash forward 32 years to 2008, she is married to a meth addict in Colorado, her son is working nights in a grocery store in TN, he's looking for her but knows nothing beyond her name and is having no luck.  A coworker hears his story, repeats it to a friend, who happens to be the mother's cousin, who makes the connection.  They arrange a visit, the mother flies to TN, and never goes back to her abusive husband.  They've been living together since, and seem shocked by the contrast of their current happiness to everything that came before.

I did a few things in Memphis, went to Whole Foods and was shell shocked by the prices, ended up walking out with yogurt and tofu and two slices of bad pizza.  My last stop was a demolition company that salvages architectural stuff, to see if they had a cool tub, spiral staircases, and some used bricks. 

My last attempt to buy some used bricks resulted in an elderly lady acting like I was a hoodlum trying to stick her up at her front door, so I was ready to buy them.

I got lost, and ended up winding my way through some run down neighborhoods on my way to the demolition company.  A few blocks away I passed a pile of rubble covered with guys pulling scrap metals out of it.  I rolled down the window and asked what was going on, they were defensive and said the owner had knocked the old building down the day before, and said anyone could take anything they wanted.  I said cool, and drove on to the demo company.

It was closed.

So I turned around, went back to the pile of rubble, and asked the group if anyone was taking the bricks.  They said nope, so I back up and spent an hour loading up.  I fielded lots of questions about why I was bothering with old brick as guys around me dug out I-beams, copper wire, etc, and I dustily stacked chipped bricks.  

I stopped when the truck springs sagged impressively, and drove home.

It took another 2.5 hours to clean, unload, and stack them inside.

There was a delay, as Alexe, on her vacation, is anxious about her store, and I took a shift to pick up produce and make the store look full and beautiful for the weekend.  Only thing I have to say about that, I'm glad Alexe loves what she does.  Ooof.

It was maybe 2 on Friday when I was home, all supplies in place, and could start laying out the kitchen.  Alexe and I figured out the counter plans before she left, but it's a ways from lines on a floor to lovely brick supports for those counters.

And I've never laid any bricks.  With a trusty book, and a bunch of mortar-sized wood spacers I cut, I started dry-laying to see how it would look.

I quickly became annoyed with that process, and mixed up some mortar.  First thing was to get my supports in place, at least up to the level of the more intricate work that would tie them together.  These seven+ pillars took six freakin' hours.  I went to bed at 1 am, tired, dusty, and a bit discouraged.

(Notice the lovely sink in the background, inside courtesy of my good friend Casey, who showed up 5 minutes after I reached out for help.)

It's not any more impressive from this angle.

The next morning I was back at it.  I suppose this isn't the best starting point for learning how to build in brick.  In my book the arches are in the back chapters...

I spent a little time figuring out the angles, and made a form from one of the old arched windows I replaced in the building.  This was a bit of a cheat, as I was able to skip the arch-brick ratio calculations and piggyback the calculations that had been done when these windows were fit to the brick arches at the building.

I was at it all day.

I took breaks to add wood to the fire, and eat every now and again, but for the most part I didn't leave this room.  For 14 hours.

It was a balance of pleasant, with VPR streaming their excellent Saturday programming schedule, (oh, how I wish the Mississippi public station was better,) and underlying annoyance that it was progressing sooooo sloooowly.

I could only mix half a bag of mortar at a time, adding a scoop of Portland cement to make sure the structure will withstand kids and dogs and many, many years of living.  Racing stiffening mortar, adding water and remixing, picking up the scrapings from the floor and remixing, repeat, repeat.

By midnight I had something that finally felt like it was somewhere.  Yes, it's less than half of the kitchen, but it turned the corner, and is flat across the top, ready for the counter to be set.

I have one more arch to tie around the corner, and the rest will be a series of columns and square-ties similar to the short edges already done, to work around the stove and sink/dishwasher.  I'm going to give the arch another day to cure before taking the form out and moving it to do the other one.

There's plenty of other stuff to do today.


Papa said...

Fantastic project...I am wonderfully impressed. Grampa Max would be so proud!

CAITLIN! said...

Oh, poor baby only got *a brick arch and columns* built in a day. ;-( You know what I did yesterday? I made fuzzy or crisp smoke for Arisia invitations and looked at fabric swatches on the internets. The amount of stuff you get done makes me INSANE with jealousy, and if you hadn't built me a bridge and a greenhouse this year, I would probably be plotting your murder. :-) Mostly because you complained it wasn't going FAST enough for you. MURDER DEATH KILL! :-)

Maman said...

Kagan I always marvel at your ingenuity and ambition . You are the fellow that does and finish projects .You truly inspire me and yes ,who is not jealous of your fantastic accomplishments .
I was wondering what your floor supports are for this truly heavy brick work ???
Of course I did not get a bridge and a green house built !!! Congratulations on your hard work Bo-boy ,Way to go ,Much love ,God Bless ,maman

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to eat, Kagan! Pretty impressive stuff here--I'd love to get Nick's comments.
I'm thinking that by the time I come next spring
, I won't recognize that house.


Anonymous said...

You are incredible - is there NOTHING you can't do better than most? LOVE seeing your work and learning as I read - nothing daunts you - now it's brickwork! Happy to see the fam, but surely sorely missed YOU - MUCH love, Auntie J