Slipforming, part 13 – Kitty’s take on it

The following post is a guest post from my dear friend Kitty, who constituted one-third of the initial work “crew.”  This post follows Slipforming, part 12 – Repairing masonry blunders.  To see a complete index of slipforming posts, click here.  For an index of comical posts, click here.

First let me start by saying I have known Dani since high school. I was not all that surprised when she said she was going to build a house.  In many ways it is so “Dani.”

When we first met on the site we went into a little camp trailer where she enthusiastically showed me a copy of “Mother Earth” magazine and outlined the project to me. I had a hard time grasping that we were going to use these Styrofoam panel things and later do rock work. I was available to help Dani in the mornings because my middle son David was going to a nearby preschool. I neglected to tell her I was pregnant with my third child.  My husband and I had not broke the news to anyone yet.

Even though I could not grasp the entire project, I signed on to help explaining to Dani I was a little confused but could certainly follow directions and be a good grunt. The footers had been poured and you could tell where the windows and door were going to be. I painted many a panel with linseed oil as Dani mentions in a prior post.

When I saw my first panel I wondered, “How many Styrofoam cups did somebody mash to make this thing?” I remember asking and needing reassurance, “These are going to be the walls – we are going to lay the rock directly against these – the same with the interior- the sheet rock will go up against this?” Quite frankly I had my doubts. I thought the panels would break or shift.

I was the Martha Stewart of the work crew.  What a crew – her dad, Dani and myself. I’m sure when people drove by they thought, “What the hell are those three doing?” Dani was forever misplacing things like her pliers, the wire, etc. So, my plan was to put everything in the wheelbarrow when not in use. Dani, why didn’t we have tool belts? So a conversation might go something like this:

Dani: Kitty we are ready to pull the wire through the panel.  Have you seen my pliers?

Kitty: No, have you checked the wheelbarrow?

Dani: They’re not there. Don’t start Martha; I know if I had put them there I’d be able to find them.

DG adds comment:  Kitty was right.  My brain was running 200 mph, and often I’d be thinking about a step five steps ahead before realizing I had set down the pliers in an “unapproved” place.  My disorganization was definitely a thorn in everyone’s side.  Kitty was particularly good hearted at reminding without nagging – a skill she possesses that no one else can seem to duplicate.

I remember the day we set our first rock. Her dad and I (I’m 46 years old and don’t know whether to call the man Mr. Lemoine or Bill!) Anyway, we tried to talk her into just going three foot high or so with the rock all the way around so if problems were encountered she could adapt her plan and finish the house as a stick build. But nooo- we did our first slip forms and the next day the second until we had committed ourselves to 12 feet high, I believe. I was thinking Dani should be committed!  DG:  It was nine feet high – it just seemed like 12 feet!

One has to picture the scene to truly appreciate this wonderful house. We worked on makeshift scaffolding constructed from railroad ties and wobbled our way around.  Later, after I was off the project, Dani got “real” scaffolding.  (DG:  But Kitty, admit it, childbirth was sooo much easier having carted around railroad ties for the first seven months of pregnancy, no?)

We poured cement from coffee cans. I was the runner, giving Dani coffee cans of cement and additional rocks when necessary. Dani would dump the can then holler, “I need another rock bigger than a softball but not as big as a cantaloupe.” Her dad would ask, “How many shovels full of sand did I put in that last batch? It was a nice consistency.” Surely we looked like the three stooges at times. And, what a sport her dad was. I think he found great humor in it all. He mixed cement faithfully never questioning our methods to my memory.

My days ended as I was now beginning to show, I finally confessed my pregnancy. Dani was shutting things down for the winter also. I am proud and honored to have worked on this house with Dani. I drive by the house with friends and relatives and boast, “I helped build that house.” Keep in mind we had young kids that helped us gather rock – my two boys and Dani with Heidi and Ben it was quite a sight to behold. It was a wonderful adventure with lively conversation with such topics as what animated cartoon character would you like to be? Or, true heart-to-heart talks – the things girlfriends discuss. I now enjoy cups of tea at Dani’s kitchen counter in the wonderful house that Dani built.

(See Slipforming, part 14 – Cold seam repair for the next post in this series.)