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Aerial view of gardenI lead a simple life. I get up in the morning, make the exact same thing for breakfast, drink 8 cups of coffee (I’m sure they’re small cups–it’s just what it says on the coffee pot when it’s just past half full), go to work, come home, work on the project at the work site on the south side of my house, make the exact same thing for supper (I ran out of the “same thing” so tomorrow there will be some change), read Great Expectations, sleep; then repeat.

It was a difficult week for me, plagued by doubt. What I had started with, what I suppose I would describe as great expectations, became, seemingly, a futile exercise with an endpoint so distant and so uncertain that I could do nothing but stand in the middle of my chaotic muddle and wonder what in the hell had I done with my garden. My trenches and concrete block that seemed to make so much sense when I dug them, placed them and then concreted them in for good were to my eye now unsightly and something arranged slightly less than random.

The shadow of doubt moved across the field of my enlightened vision four afternoons ago after I had spent a number of hours cutting stone for a section of the walkway/floor. It looked like this:

stone paversOf course I loved it; but, then, when I propped up the same stone against the concrete block, it all seemed too too monotonous. It was definitely too monotonous, and would not do. I think if I would have only vomited that I might have felt better. I had to do something different with the walls, but what–stucco was the only thing that I could think of, but how much more would that cost, and how in the F*^& do I do that. I still don’t even know how to be a stone mason.

After some consultation with a designer (thanks Honey), it was obvious that I would need to change the floor from stone to something else, and what better than the river rock that we already have around the pond that I was going to replace anyway; and that is what you see in the aerial view of the leading image. The river rock is constrained by the stone and flush to the top of it. It has all of the colors as the stone I’m sticking to the walls.

Lower entrypath






There. That’s better. I haven’t yet laid the concrete block at the top of the work site. I had intended to do all of that first, as part of my Part Two; but then I entered the winter of my doubt and thought I’d better figure this out before pouring another 1500 lbs. of concrete.

A second doubt-shadow invaded my consciousness three days ago when I mortared the back of a stone, stuck it against the concrete block wall, and it fell down. I wanted to vomit again. Faced with somewhere between 50 and a 100 concrete blocks, not so expertly laid with neat joints, etc. that needed covering with stone, I found myself mightily disheartened. This was shortly after my revelation of monotony. Clearly, I was doing something wrong, and most likely, to my thinking, it had to do with the mortar.

Now, I don’t know who’s the genius that came up with the instructions for pre-mixed mortar and concrete; about mixing a few ounces of water into each 60 pound bag of dust, but they must surely be short a few cards in the proverbial mental deck because it takes a hell of a lot more than what they say, by at least a factor of 2. When I hung my first stone, I thought I’d be exact, and I mixed and I mixed, and I mixed the 60 pounds of dust with a few ounces of water, and it was dry–but I followed the directions dammit. They were wrong.

Now I know that you add water until it is right. You make it a little drier if you want to roll it or do joints, but it can be a little wetter for the veneer application. Type N mortar will work for anything. Type S mortar is not sticky enough for vertical application. And by now, of three things I am certain; it is impossible to cut anything other than a straight line in Door County limestone, limestone dust doesn’t smell half bad, and, I’m going to need more rock.

Ornamental treeThis ornamental tree is at the top of my garden on a slope. The entry into my terracing project will be just to the right of this tree. I’m going to lay some fabric and then black rock around the tree.




Now that I am aesthetically okay with what I have done below, I can now lay the rest of the block above. I have a six foot pillar of 30 blocks sitting in the driveway between the garage doors where I will be less like to back into them. I hope there’s enough.

I’m exhausted. Some people play the piano; some paint pictures; others golf or fly planes or drive boats; me, I prefer something much more self-flagellatory.