Tyler wraps me in his mud-smeared arms, and I bury my face into his sweaty, grimy neck, whispering, "We can do this, right?" He's trying to keep it together as much as I am—we're both outwardly calm and inwardly teetering on the brink of total meltdown. Taking a deep breath, he responds, and the answer is neither reassuring nor depressing:
We are doing this.
By this, we mean getting our workshop foundation done before our timber framing class begins. Never mind building our house, when neither of us has ever done anything of the kind. Or finishing my book some time this century. Or wrangling the stupid wire mesh we're laying into submission so we can affix radiant heat tubing to it. All of this while squelching in a maddening mess of calf-deep mud.
Above all, I mean surviving this phase of our existence. Earlier this year we moved our entire lives across the country, setting sail into uncharted waters in search of a quiet life of gardening and homesteading. Right now, the safe harbor of "normalcy" is long behind us, and our destination is achingly far away. Who knows when or if we'll ever reach it?
Today, I feel like we're just bobbing along in the open ocean, slow, seasick, and dirty, with a never ending stream of sea monsters to battle. Being so far from where we've come and where we're going, it's easy to lose perspective. I find it nearly impossible to believe that we only moved out here three months ago—it feels like we've been here a lifetime.
It poured this morning, with an onslaught of torrential rains that reminded me of May and June all over again. We had intended on waking at 5AM to attack The Final Step of Finishing our Concrete Forms, but with drenching rains sheeting down, we slept in a couple hours longer, until the worst of the storm abated. Then, on our misty, dark, mud-filled hill, we got to work installing radiant floor heat tubing and laying wire mesh, the final two items on our workshop form to-do list.
I've been dreading this day.
Wire mesh is awful to work with. It's rusty and dirty, and even with gloves on, it somehow makes my fingernails feel chalky, which in turn gives me a nails-on-a-blackboard feeling no matter what I touch. It has sharp, rusty metallic spears sticking out of it every six inches. It snags on everything, including itself—the sharp tines weave themselves into everything, creating infuriating tangles.
As it rains in fits and starts, soaking our clothes, we fight through the mud, weaving unruly heat tubing through the web of rebar we've already laid. We need to place one run deep in the floor along the outer perimeter, as a "dump zone", something we now realize we should have done before laying the rebar. Every step we take knocks a few more carefully raked rocks out of place. Mosquitoes swarm around me, doing their drunken zombie dance, buzzing their ear-piercing drones as they land and begin to feast before I can swat them away.
We can only shimmy the heat tubing along a few inches at a time before one of us has to run back over to the main coil to dispense some more, trying hard not to tangle it, making sure we won't kink it as we drag it along. It's a slow, muddy, frustrating process that takes immense patience to complete. Once we have the first course of mostly laid out, we zip-tie it to the rebar every few feet.
Miraculously, we get two loops installed and we only kink it once. We have a repair kit, so we'll have to fix it eventually. Now, we need to lay wire mesh over the entire surface of the form, threading it over all the pipes and outlets we have installed everywhere. We complete the job, but not without cutting my finger open, blood mixing with mud.
Finally, I attach the mesh grids together with metal ties. It takes every ounce of my wherewithal to not run like a crazy person from the work-site. The stupid mesh won't freaking line up because the tines are all fucked up, getting caught on things. "If I burst out screaming suddenly," I tell Tyler, "don't mind me." "Roger that," he says, understanding. He's liable to run screaming, too.
After fighting with the mesh for another hour, the job is complete. All that remains is to run radiant heat loops over the entire surface. But that will have to wait until tomorrow. Right now, I need a shower, I need a break, and most especially, I need a hug.