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Well, it’s the first week in July and I’m three months behind on my summer schedule.

That’s nothing new. I’m twenty-six years behind on my campaign for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and on a somber note, also the People Magazine Sexiest Man award, although there’s a chance that ship may have sailed.

Even by my standards, to fall three months behind schedule on a project I’ve yet to start is kind of an accomplishment.

It’s my great-grandfather's fault. In 1897, he built a barn that very nicely served four generations of Olsons, housing cattle, pigs, horses, chickens, ducks, and even a couple of miniature goats.

But times change. Just east of the barn was what was a soggy pasture in the 1800s. It slowly turned into a duck slough and then around the turn of the century, became a small lake that lapped against the bottom stones of the foundation.

There are rules about animal manure washing into lakes, and by and large those are rules I agree with. So, no more animals in the barn. The rising water was hard on the foundation and when it was time to shingle, I was deeply involved in putting three kids through college. That took up most of my time and ALL my money, so the useless old barn came out on the short end of the maintenance stick. I was sad, to say the least, when I decided it had passed the point of no return, but I think Great Grandpa and I would agree that sentiment only takes you so far. Over the course of a summer, I extracted all the beams and some of the other dimension lumber and then one day lit a match to the rest.

When the flames died down the only thing left was the massive stone foundation, including a chiseled granite cornerstone noting the year 1897.

So, like any reasonable person would do, I decided to build a stone writer’s cottage.

I thought about it for a year before I said the idea out loud. In what may be a family mistake, no one tried to talk me out of it. My plan was to start on it this spring as soon as the snow melted, but there were a number of interruptions involving storm damage and earning a living. I’ve run out of excuses, so a couple days ago I put a new battery in the excavator, filled it with fuel, and saddled up.

There’s one small problem. I’ve never built a stone house.

But how hard can it be? The Egyptians built pyramids 5000 years ago, and without jackhammers - although they did have a few thousand slaves. What I’m planning will be much smaller than a pyramid, about twelve feet square with a grass roof. I saw houses just like it in Norway and Iceland, and those had been slapped up 1,000 years ago by a Viking with a hangover.

The biggest rocks are about the same size as my torso after Thanksgiving dinner. So far, I haven’t found any that our excavator can’t lift. That seems a little like cheating, since Great-Grandad had to use a tripod, block and tackle, and a couple horses, while I sit in a cushioned chair and use a joystick. On the other hand, Great Grandpa probably just sent out an email saying, “Barn raising at my place! Jello shots when we’re done!” and about fifty competent Norwegians showed up to help. I’m on my own, and, truthfully, the fewer witnesses the better.

I bulldozed some junk out of the way and outlined a square in yellow paint to guide my efforts. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

And only three months behind schedule.

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson


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