If the last entry was a hardware post, this is a people post.
I finished securing the casita to the trailer frame with some new drill bits and suddenly drilling through steel was like a knife through butter, and I wondered what I had been so resistant about. Turns out my dad’s ancient collection of rusty drill bits had their limitations, after all. Still super grateful that he shared them with me, though. 🙂
A couple weeks ago, I halfheartedly posted to Craigslist under the “gigs” section that I was looking for a carpenter/builder to help me sheath and roof the casita. I couldn’t pay much, I warned ($10/hr), but would cover lunch and provide a really laid-back atmosphere for someone with extra time looking for a few bucks on the side. I got many replies in a short 24-hour period (I got overwhelmed, in fact, so removed the post); mostly positive, two outstanding, and several that were quite hateful and angry. As it turns out, there are soooo many carpenters who are out of work and scrounging for jobs. I really felt for them! Some of them have great attitudes and are just grateful for the opportunities that are out there. Others were righteously disgusted that I would offer such low pay for skilled labor, and didn’t hesitate to tell me so in (sometimes) lewd and obscene terms. Some were, although irritated, respectful in their disagreement. One guy even took the time to helpfully list all of the concerns he had with my project (thank goodness most were things I was already aware of). The experience was yet another gracious opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the scope of humanity, which really enlivened me; I’ve been getting a good close look lately at many of my assumptions and preconceived notions of normality…
One of the people who stood out was John. We talked on the phone for a bit and I just got a good vibration off of him right away. He was subdued but driven, humble yet knowledgeable, and available and open to the project. He went to trade school in Lancaster for building/carpentry. I probed a little further via email, got references, and sent him my plans, and he had some thoughtful and thorough responses. So I gave him a chance and he came two days last week and suddenly this project got kicked into high gear.
John seemed at first like a pretty stereotypical builder, who self-proclaimedly runs on caffeine and cigarettes and works 7 hour blocks without taking a break, peeing, or sitting down. Of course ‘normal’ is a pretty abstract concept, and in reality he is quite extraordinary in his own ways. He weaves thoughts on Thoreau and transcendentalism with his softly-jousting remarks about how my tiny house belongs in Hawaii or Oregon more than PA and how smart I was to use wool insulation so that when my ultra-tiny wood stove goes out, I can pull some wool out of my walls and start knitting sweaters.
After moving so slowly all summer and learning to surrender to the time things take, we sheathed the house in two days and should have the roof framed in another two. Having another able body with lots more skill than me and time to burn has created a completely different reality. It’s been a nice shift indeed! As it turns out, I am totally OK with paying someone to do some of the more complex aspects of the build (alright, I admit it, it’s nice not having to do math equations) even if it means I have to work longer to make more money to complete the build.
I’ve also been scouring Craigslist (which, as I think I mentioned previously, is quite underutilized here compared with the West Coast) for a wood door, preferably antique. I wanted one with glass. There have been a couple that have come up over the last several months but either I was too lazy or just wasn’t sure about the door dimensions, as I am looking for something that can be cut down to my odd R.O. size (28″x77″) which requires a certain amount of clearance on either side of the glass pane(s). Recently, though, I saw a post for a bunch of antique doors an hour southwest from here for $40. One was cute, 30″x78″. I offered the guy $25, which he accepted, but then I got sidetracked that week. A week later I was going to go in the evening with my dad, but he didn’t want me at his place after dark (this kind of skeptical trepidation appears pretty common in the Mid-Atlantic, so I’m used to it) so we postponed again. I called him the next day after work and made it down to his house in beautiful Chester County beneath a piercing blue sky and shimmering fall sunshine.
Sometimes good things take a lot of effort.
Chuck is a semi-retired animal lover who lives on three acres in a beautiful rural part of PA. When I arrived, he was walking up the hill with two ducks and greeted me with a sparkly-eyed smile.
“Do they have names?” I asked.
“Well, this one’s named Din, and this one is Din, too.”
“Din and Din, huh?”
“Yep, Din-Din. Poor things!” He exclaimed, chuckling to himself.
“Are they going to be?” I ask.
“No, I eat their eggs, but that’s it.”
Chuck walked me down to the garage where the doors were propped. I started admiring my future front door when I heard a squalking sound behind me.
“Oh, don’t mind them, they’re just chatty little guys.” I turned around to see a pen of 8 or 10 teenage turkeys in the corner. Assuming he would be like “everyone else” around here, I inquired,
“Are these your mid-winter dinners?”
“Nah, I raise and release them.”
Now he was really breaking up my ass-umptions.
Chuck proceeded to tell me about all sorts of things, like how he’s raised and released turkeys before and they do great since they like to roost in trees at night. He said it’s not legal to release wild turkeys in certain states where there are overpopulations (down south, apparently). He also told me about working for the government for 20 or 30 years, being in the marines, traveling all over the West, how Montana was his favorite state, how they’re planning on getting some goats, and how much he loves animals.
“In my next life,” he told me, “I want to come back as an animal caretaker. I just love them.”
“Looks like you’re already an animal caretaker in this life,” I noted.
He went on smiling and chuckling, herding the ducks around while I tied the door to my roof rack. I asked him if he knew anything about the history of my door. He said he didn’t, but that it came from the State College area, where he goes once a month to a small cabin on 3 acres where he only pays $700/year for taxes and electricity. He buys up lots of old doors, windows, etc. and drives them back down to Chester County where he sells them at a profit. Even at $25.
“You wouldn’t believe how cheap I get these things,” he told me with a glimmer in his eyes.
After standing around chatting a few more minutes and asking if I could take his picture with his ducks (about which he seemed quite amused), I shook Chuck’s hand and got in my car to drive back north.
“Bye Din-Din!” I called out.
“Din-Din! Poor things!” he chuckled, shaking his head as I drove away.
These experiences make my world go ’round.
People are beautiful and compelling mysteries.
Speaking of beautiful and mysterious people, do any of you remember GRANDPA??? I was driving to the hardware store today to pick up some more wood for the roof, when I got this voicemail on my phone:
“Chris? Chris? This is Wilmer Myer, grandpa, the man who delivered your trailer? I’m wondering how you’re making out on your building project. Call me and let me know. Thank you.”
I always wanted a surrogate grandpa.
You didn’t really want to read about BUILDING, did you?! Next time. 🙂 Too much too fast, in these waning days of sunlight and warmth. I’m lucky if I can bathe myself and eat something I made with my own hands these days.
Coming soon: the labyrinth of chasing a now-rare wood siding (pine shiplap), adventures in door refinishing, hopefully many more interesting characters, and a long-put-off update to my materials list as I dive into a big ugly pile of receipts!