Monday, June 18, 2007

Tale of Two Projects - and One to Come

This has been the year for finishing projects! I already mentioned in a previous post how I finished my fireplace project back in April. What I didn't mention was that I started that project back in 1999. That was to be our Y2K heat source. That means it took me about 8 years to finish that fireplace. That's not too good.

I won't go into all the different times I built that wall surround myself, and ended up having to tear it down because the angles were wrong, and how I finally had a carpenter friend of mine come this year to finish the wall: redoing the framing and drywall. I did build the oak surround with some pre-built parts and do the staining and finish. Although I'm not too proud about it taking me 8 years, I sure am glad it's done!

By God's grace, I am getting better at projects. We just finished another major project: our front walkway. And this one took only a couple months and involved the whole family!

We were able to get about 2-1/2 pallets of pavers for free from a Landscape Supply that was going out of business. I started out by doing a dry run on the driveway. This enabled me to do all my measurings so I would know how the walkway would turn out. We sure got a lot of comments from our neighbors about how they'd never seen anyone build a walkway in the middle of their driveway before!

The hard part was the excavation. We had to dig down about 8 inches to give us enough room for the foundation, sand, and pavers. We also had to dig about 16 inches wider than the finished walkway. I took a couple days off work, and expected this to take about three days total. It turned out to be a larger job than we anticipated.

The excavation didn't have to be exactly level, but we did need to be sure we were at least 8 inches down. I strung bright orange string at the height and pitch of the finished walk and was able to measure down from that. The excavation took longer than expected because of all the rocks we found.

After laying separation fabric down, we then laid our foundation of at least 4 inches of modified gravel. This is the part that had to be as good as we wanted our finished walk. This foundation layer had to be the exact pitch and smoothness as we wanted the walk, and exactly 3-1/2 inches below where we wanted the finished walk to be. When everything looked perfect, we rented a vibrating plate compactor and compacted everything into a solid foundation.

By using a notched 2x4, I was then able to spread out an inch layer of course sand. Then the careful laying of the pavers. This is the part of the project that finally lets you see some hint of the finished work. It wasn't quite as easy as I thought it was going to be to get all the pieces to fit together just right. I ended up re-doing this first two feet a second time. It was surprising how your forearm muscles feel the strain of picking up and laying down hundreds of these pavers.

After all the pavers were laid, I rented another vibrating plate compactor, this one with a rubber mat so as not to scuff the pavers. This step helped to seat the pavers into the bed of sand. Once everything was in place, we had to brush sand into all the spaces between the pavers which serves to lock them into place.

The best part of the project. The satisfaction of seeing the finished job. Now we we just have to invite some friends over to use our new walk!

What's my next project? I just got my new copy of Herrick Kimball's book, Anyone Can Build a Whizbang Garden Cart., in the mail. I am looking forward to working on this with my two boys, and I'm hoping that it will be a lot easier and quicker than the walkway. Stay tuned for future updates on our Whizbang Garden Cart project. We will probably get started after I order my wheels.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Lie of Easy Submission

The other day I heard a message about the husbands and wives passage of Ephesians 5:21-33. After emphasizing the sacrificial nature of the love a husband is to show his wife, the comment was made, "Now what woman wouldn't willingly submit to such a husband?" Although this wasn't the first time I had heard this claim, this day as I thought about it in depth, I came to the conclusion that this statement is not true for several reasons:

It Minimizes the Effect of the Fall and the Curse
As a result of the Fall, we all have sinful natures. Even as redeemed sons of God, our hearts are still corrupt and we are blind to our own failings. It is not fair to tell a women that she would find it easy to submit to a godly man. We all struggle with obedience and this is no less true in the area of submission. In addition to the general sinfulness of our hearts, this is an area that is specifically addressed in the curse to Eve. It is part of the curse that the woman does not want to submit to her husband, but rather desires to be over him. It is wrong to say that, if she only had a sacrificial, loving husband, she would no longer feel the effect of the curse. Besides, is not Christ the perfect, sacrificial, loving husband? Therefore, why does His bride, the Church, have such a hard time submitting to Him? The reason is simple: submission goes against our sinful nature and this is magnified as a result of the curse to the woman.

It Ignores the Order of the Passage
Did you ever notice that when Ephesians talks about family relations, it does not do so in a predictable order? One might expect the passage to first address husbands, then wives, then children, and then servants. Also, if it were true that wives would find it easy to submit to loving husbands if only the men would get their act together, then we might also expect the passage to address the husbands first. But it doesn't. God address the wives first.

It Contradicts Our Experience
In talking about this with my wife, she said--with a twinkle in her eye--"I sometimes find it hard to be submissive to you, and you're a perfect husband!" :-) But for those who might discount this evidence, I'll add the testimony of Elisabeth Elliott. My wife tells me that Elisabeth writes about all three of her husbands (having been widowed twice) as being extremely godly men; however she still had difficulty at times submitting to all three of them!


Monday, June 4, 2007

Frontier House and Agrarianism

Some nights ago, our family finished watching the PBS DVD series Frontier House. For those who don't know the series, they take three families and have them live for five months as though they were part of the homesteaders coming to Montana in 1883.

The series is one of those "can modern families make it without modern conveniences" kind of shows. They showed the mother and daughter of one family (from California) actually in tears when they were told that they would have to leave their makeup behind.

Although the emphasis was on whether these modern families could make it - I found that there was something very interesting going on as the series progressed. Whether they knew it or not, these three families were becoming immersed in an agrarian lifestyle. The families spent all day together: working together and learning together. They had to build cabins, plant gardens, tend to livestock and cut hay by hand.

It was fascinating to see the changes in the families as they spent more time together as a family than they probably ever had before. There was one time when the young son of a corporate CEO said as he was working with his dad in the garden, "I really enjoy being with my Dad. I want to be just like him when I grow up." Is this not just like how our Father wants us to be? Not only in our relationship with Him, but also in our relationships with our own children.

The sad part was when they showed in the last episode the three families a couple months after returning to their normal lives. That corporate CEO casually mentions that his job has him traveling all over the country and that he is hardly at home any more. And my heart aches for that young son whose dad doesn't have time for him anymore. And my mind goes back to that old song, "Cat's in the Cradle" where the neglected son sings, "I'm gonna be just like you, Dad. You know I'm gonna be just like you."

When they first arrived at "Frontier Valley," they all complained about how hard all the work was, especially the children. The children complained about leaving their friends and video games behind. But after five months of living the agrarian good life, they had changed. They loved working with their families, seeing the fruits of their labor as they could look around at the things they had helped their families build: corrals, root cellars, growing herds, etc.

After being back home for a couple months, they all mentioned how bored they were to be back in civilization, how there was nothing to do, and how much they missed their frontier life (I would say their "agrarian" life!) Another sad moment was when one boy was shown to now be spending all his time playing video games.

I asked my sons, why do you think these children would rather have been back on the frontier where it was all such hard work? My youngest replied, "Because they knew they were needed." They knew they were needed! Children don't need all the latest toys or video games. They need to know that they are needed (and I would say "loved" as well).

This is one of the things that draws me to agrarianism. The desire to be able to raise my boys in an environment where each is a contributing member of the family, where they can see that they are making a difference, that they are needed, that they are wanted.

It was also interesting to note that the men all had tears in their eyes when they looked around at their homesteads and all that they had built, and had to say good-bye and return to their modern lives. For them, it was the ending of something good. Although it was saying good-bye to hard work, it had been hard, satisfying work. I would say that they had experienced the nobility of working hard with one's own hands, and had seen that it was good. And they were reluctant to leave it all behind.

Their wives, however had a totally different reaction. They had worked hard too, spending most of their time with the daily chores of preparing meals, cleaning up after meals, making butter, doing laundry, etc. Each of the wives thought of leaving Frontier Valley as Freedom! They left, not with tears, but with smiles.

What was the difference? I don't know. Is it part of the curse? Does it have to do with the endless repetition of household chores, the feeling that nothing "stays done"? I remember one mother I know saying how she enjoyed cutting the lawn because it was the only time she could accomplish something that would last for a week! I don't know what made the difference, I just feel that something was wrong. Why was the agrarian life so fulfilling for the men and the children and not for the wives? What was missing?

I also wonder if what these three ladies went through, and their response, might also be related to why some women may be cautious about embracing agrarianism? Maybe they fear that an agrarian lifestyle may be the prison these three ladies felt it was?