Why’s it have to be so Heavy!?! (or, Towards a More Substantial Life)

A few weeks ago, my wife finally gave me the green light for a project I’ve been talking about for years. She gave me permission to build a brick oven.

You can imagine my surprise, since I’m really not that handy and she knows it. Usually I can count on her to keep me grounded, you know? “Patrick, do you really think you can do this or that?” That’s the phrase I’m used to hearing. That, or a sarcastic “Oh yeah, sure, go ahead”. Until this point, I’ve been able to count on her to gently puncture my inflated ego and keep me from getting both of us in over our head in one hair-brained scheme or another.

So I don’t know if it was a moment of weakness, or a genuine desire to see me follow through on a dream for a change…but a few weeks ago the eyeroll turned to a “I think you should”.

So I like to think I did the same thing any happily married father of two would do.

I quickly went to the yard and dug a big hole in the ground. Like any sizeable endeavor, I would need a good, solid foundation upon which to build my hopes and dreams for a better future. (Plus, I figured that way she couldn’t change her mind. I’m only now beginning to realize the folly of my ways).

I dug the hole (do you know how much I sweat even thinking about actual work?) and built a form from 2 by 6 lumber.  So far so good. Then I took the frame and tried to make it fit in that hole.

Nope. It wasn’t deep enough, wide enough, or long enough. Grab the shovel again, son. This hole was shaping up to be the foundation slab for what would come, but it wasn’t fitting. I had to go deeper.

And deeper.

A little further, a little wider, and now we’re in business.

I started to question the sanity of my decision to dig this blessed hole in the ground. As a nation, we’re on the brink of nuclear war and we’re being “led” by a child given to frequent tantrums and whims. Cold weather should be here any day now (although global warming has pushed that a few more weeks away), I have two very small children and I work full time.

The last thing I need is an all-consuming project like this to take up more of my time.

I unload 2,000 pounds of concrete and stack it in my garage. Then I unload 1,500 pounds of gravel, shovel by shovel, into my hole in the ground. I lay down some plastic for a moisture barrier and arrange my rebar in something like a grid.

In the middle of it all, somehow, it becomes as therapeutic as I thought it might. If I’m going to be vaporized in a prelude to nuclear winter, I might as well go out trying to do something “concrete”, right? I might as well at least make an attempt to realize one ambition I’ve had.

Finally, today I had some friends over and we mixed/poured 30 of those 80 pound bags of concrete into that same hole. We happened to do it the same day as our new neighbors are moving in next door. They’ve been over a handful of times already to watch the progress on this oven. It makes me feel good, like I’m not just improving my patio area, but just maybe I’m helping build a sense of community in my corner of Millersburg as well.

So there you have it. In the past few weeks, I’ve moved 15-20 wheelbarrow loads of dirt. I’ve moved somewhere in neighborhood of 1750 pounds of gravel with a truck and a shovel. I’ve moved 2800 pounds of cement and thankfully had three long suffering friends give me a hand with the mixing and pouring today.

That’s just laying the groundwork so that I can actually start building this thing! Why does it all have to be so blessed heavy!

Because that’s the nature of substance. That’s why. 🙂





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