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Home Improvement, Part 1

Agriculture.com Staff 07/11/2010 @ 11:00pm

Jerry Nelson
South Dakota

It's been a busy time at our house in the area of home repair, with changes almost as big as those described in the first chapters of Genesis.

Most of these changes are thanks to Illinois Boy, also known as our youngest son. He is youthful and full of go, so when he recently found himself with time off between construction jobs, he decided to do some volunteer work for an older couple. Specifically, he came home to tackle various one-of-these-days tasks on my honey-do list.

The first thing he took on was to convert our centenarian granary into a garden shed.

Our lawn mower had been sleeping in our rickety old garage. Said garage was of undetermined age, but had the number "1918" stenciled above its door. My guess is that number ether referred to the year it was built or its original price tag of $19.18.

In any case, the ramshackle garage was literally falling down around the mower. Finding a rake or a shovel in there was like wading into the wreckage left by a hurricane.

I was thinking about replacing the decrepit garage with a new prefab garden shed. But Illinois Boy pointed out that our aged granary would house the mower quite nicely with room leftover for rakes, hoes, hose, and so on.

I was skeptical, but told him to see what he could do. He soon had the granary all cleaned out, had removed its wooden partitions, and was well on his way to transforming the erstwhile grain depot into a lawn mower Taj Mahal.

An issue that needed to be addressed early on involved elevation, as the granary's floor is a step higher than the surrounding terrain. I was in favor of building a wooden ramp, but Illinois Boy had a better idea: rocks.

A stone ramp, he insisted, would not just be cheaper to build, it would also last longer than anything made of wood. It was hard to argue with the longevity part given the fact that the stones on our farm have been around for about a million years. In other words, our rocks are nearly as old as the Rolling Stones.

So one Saturday we set to building a stone ramp, even though we had no experience in the art of stonemasonry. Our theory was: you simply stack the stones and slap some mortar between them. How hard can it be?

Hard as rocks, it turns out. We both quickly acquired a new level of respect for stonemasons.

Building with stone, we discovered, is quite taxing on the musculoskeletal system. There's no drive-through where you can pick up a rock structure quickly and for a nominal fee. Aching muscles and joints are the price of do-it-yourself stonework.

Stonemasonry is much more difficult mentally than one might think. You find yourself pondering if this rock will fit into that void and begin to hold flat-sided stones in very high esteem.

Many of the rocks we used were picked and piled by me. Some were put into the pile by this farm's previous owners: my grandfather, and before him, my great-grandfather.

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