One stone at a time

My husband. If you know him, you know that he loves fire. He had been talking about building a fire pit on the land practically since we bought it. Last August he wanted to start. I asked our friend to dig us a shallow hole with the excavator so we could start with an actual pit and he obliged. Here’s how it began:

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See the excavator tooth marks!

Each of those rocks were sourced from the property. You can see it’s quite a mishmash of shapes. Justin got much more picky as the project continued. He actually had to rebuild the interior wall once to make it more sturdy.

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Here is the first ring. Now many people might stop around here and say, “Hey, that looks fairly functional. Great.” Justin, though, had a vision. He wanted to create a patio around the fire pit as well as a ring of standing stones. How big of a patio? Who knew, at that point.

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String to monitor how level the rocks were

 

And so it began. Each rock was selected for its thickness and flat shape. Fortunately because of the road construction we had plenty to choose from. We bought a metal cart and hauled rocks up and down. I helped choose rocks but mine were decidedly smaller than the ones Justin picked. It’s good to have a range of sizes!

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Once the first ring went down, we started our first celebratory fire. Notice how it’s dirt in the pit under the fire. Now it’s all ashes and charred wood. Cheery fire!

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Because the winter was so mild Justin was able to continue working through the beginning of winter. This next photo is from early December, after about 3.5 months of occasional weekend work:

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While I did none of the rock laying, many of our friends chipped in. Considering the weight of these stones, I wouldn’t have been able to pick up most of them to maneuver. I did vote on the fit and kept him company  🙂

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You can see one of the standing stones placed in the back. There are four currently, with another four planned. They are roughly equidistant from each other and the center of the pit. While Justin had originally wanted to extend the patio to the standing stones we were able to convince him that about halfway between was adequate. We didn’t want a huge 20 foot diameter circle of stone nor did we think the hours of work would be worth it. Fortunately Justin was getting a real sense of how exhausting this was and agreed.

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Here is the edge, which is about 10 feet from the center of the fire pit. It was awesome when Justin was able to first link up to the edge. This was mid March.

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From there, things moved at a pretty rapid clip. He made really amazing progress each afternoon. It took him about 4 hours to make about 8 stones of progress. This includes finding the rocks, digging the dirt to the proper depth, fitting rocks together, and leveling it all. We kept up a steady pace of rocks so he would have enough to choose from. At this point we had the blasted rocks from the road construction so there was plenty to pick through.

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Then spring started to peek through again to keep us company. Days like this were gorgeous and so pleasant. I worked on brush clearing while he kept up his rock placement.

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Almost there. So close! You can see he had been placing grass back along the edge to return the vegetation.

And here it is:

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Yes, I know, our tarp covered cart is there ruining the full effect. But it was such a vital part of the process it’s okay that it’s in there. You can see the four standing stones. Each of them have their own interesting shape.

Lastly, a view of the fire pit complete:

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Of course Justin is still working on it. One of the standing stones is near an elevation so he has started on a retaining wall surrounding it. Once that’s done I know he has other hardscape plans. I’ve been asking him to work on the area around the well so he’s started to bring rocks over there too. He’s done an amazing job and he’s so pleased when people compliment him on it.

-Clara

 

 

 

 

 

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A Common Purpose

Something I haven’t written about much is our plans to create an intentional community on the land. Wikipedia offers up this definition:

An intentional community is a planned residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, religious, or spiritual vision and often follow an alternative lifestyle.

The whole project started out as a way for my friend and me to be neighbors. He ended up buying a ready-made farm down the road but we will still be involved in his projects and vice versa. However, two other couples will be sharing the land with us. We are making specific decisions to both combine our resources but also live independently from each other. Many towns don’t support easy communal living and specifically zone against multifamily structures. This was okay for us because we wanted to have separate financial stakes in the community. I have functioned as the financial coordinator: purchasing and organizing the land to support several build-able lots adjacent to each other. Once the road is complete I will sell two lots at cost to the two couples. One of the individuals has been instrumental in constructing the private road. Everyone has been pitching in where they can. Once the road is complete each of us will build our own homes. I expect that the other two couples will be doing much more of the house construction on their own while we will be working with a builder. I know having three separate houses for six people is wasteful but we each have fairly different needs and want to maintain our own spaces.

Here are some of our current plans for resource sharing:

  • Vegetable garden on my field (best sun, already cleared)
  • Chicken coop attached to the garden
  • Additional field (no house on that lot) available for future cultivation
  • Shared hiking paths through all the lots
  • Skills: woodworking, carpentry, technical, business, artistry, etc
  • One big media room in one home
  • Shared tools and machinery
  • Fire pit in one yard
  • Pizza oven in another
  • Communal root cellar
  • Hardworking help for everyone’s hobbies and projects

It takes a lot of trust and shared expectations. I know many people worry on our behalf about our future. But it’s honestly low-risk because of the individual lots. If we ever part ways in the future, no one is going to be kicked out of their home. We feel we’ve made some good decisions with regard to temperament and friendship. This is family you choose.

-Clara