Lowering himself off the backside of the cabin--little more of a drop that way, but he didn’t want Liz thinking he was done and insisting he stop for a drink or snack as she sometimes did; he had a job to complete!--Einar hurried around and into the cabin, where he scooped a pot full of water from their nearly half full water barrel. Sure was glad he’d made that thing. It was coming in awfully handy to have a significant amount of water there in the house. Would have been even handier, for the purposes of mixing up the chimney plaster, if the cabin sat nearer a water source, but that had not been an option. Carrying the water out behind the cabin Einar sprinkled and then poured it into a pile of fine soil that he had lumped onto the surface of a large flat granite slab, soil dug from beneath the layer of duff and other forest debris that was so prevalent there in the clearing. He would later add some of the debris back in to help strengthen the plaster, but for the moment just needed to get some sticky good mud going. Which he did, mixing, stirring, smearing some of the stuff on his face to test it out--good, felt very good against the persistent itch and burn of those stings--before going to look for the dried grass that he knew would make the best material for strengthening the mixture. Mustn’t get too much grass mixed in, or the entire thing could become a fire hazard, but as long as all the dried plant material was thoroughly coated with mud, he knew it would only make the mix stronger, more long-lasting. Allow it to harden up like brick, if he did it right, and last for years.
As if there’s any real chance of us being able to stay here for years, in any one place for years, ever…but I’ve got to plan like we will, just in case. To which end he wandered about in the brush at the edges of the clearing, ripping up handsfull of fall-dried grass--fall, Einar, it’s already here, and he shivered--that already stood yellow and bowed, its short time of growing and seed-bearing already finished. Crumbling and tearing until the grass was nothing more than a pile of chaff he mixed it by hand into the ooze of mud there on the rock, adding water as he went to keep its texture moist and sticky. Good enough. This ought to hold real strong once it’s packed in tight and allowed to dry. Now to get it up there without losing half of it, having it splat to the ground…don’t have a basket large enough to haul this up there in, except for the one that’s holding the honey, so guess I’ll just have to--a grunt as he lifted the granite slab with its load of mud, got himself under it and slowly raised, using a one knee and every available irregularity in the cabin logs to help him, shoulders still not functioning as they should have--have to lift it up here and…there, good, got it…whew! Take a break here, Einar, and breathe. Getting awful dark all of a sudden. His sight regained after a minute of careful breathing, Einar hoisted himself up onto the roof and dragged the mud-sled over to the chimney, taking a handful of mortar and smearing it against the rocks where the chimney passed through the opening. Packing cracks between rocks, filling them in, he gradually worked out towards the chopped away logs of the roof, pausing to fit pieces of split aspen log against the sides of the roughly square opening to help fill in the space, jamming them so that they held themselves in place before filling in around them with mortar. Good. The gap was filled, and though he knew he would have to add a bit of mortar here and there as that already in place dried and shrank slightly, he was well on his way to sealing the roof back up against the encroachment of moisture. Would give it a day to dry, fill in any remaining cracks, then bring the roofing materials--strips of aspen bark and such--up until they touched the chimney, better sealing the entire thing off and keeping the mortar dry.
Done, then, on the roof for the time, and again he crept over to the edge and lowered himself to the ground. Out in her sunny little sitting spot beneath the aspens Liz appeared to be finishing up the last basket; almost time to help her coat their interiors with pitch, and then separate the rest of the honey. In the meantime he had some mud-mortar left and, not wanting it to dry out, hauled it inside to begin work on plastering the outside of the stove and chimney. The job was going to require many batches of mud to complete, but for now his main focus was the chimney, itself, as the stove rocks had been very carefully chosen and placed so that he really doubted much, if any smoke would try to escape between them once a draft was established up the chimney. Starting at the top, at ceiling level--seemed like the thing to do, since he knew it was going to be the most challenging portion of the job, for him--Einar worked mud in between the rocks, smoothing, pressing, crouching atop a pile of remaining rocks to keep from having to reach so far above chest level. Stopping, mud all used up, he stepped back and inspected his work. Looked good. Another two loads of mortar and he ought to be finished. Just in time for the arrival of the really cold weather, which--he shivered again, couldn’t seem to stop all of a sudden; really was cold there in the deep shade of the cabin, and he found himself missing the sunny roof just a bit--judging from the state of the aspen leaves and the way things had felt the last couple of mornings, was just around the corner. Speaking of just around the corner, he felt eyes on him, glanced up and discovered Liz standing just outside the door, watching him, a strange look in her eyes. Wiping the partially dried mud from his hands he joined her out there in the sunlight, blinking and shivering and feeling a bit dazed at the sudden brightness.
“Get the baskets done?”
“Yep, got them done. I even finished the pitch coatings on all but one of them, but then I ran out of pitch. You’ve got some more stashed away in here, haven’t you?”
“Good bit of it over there on top of the far beam. Not melted down and cleaned, just raw lumps I’ve been sticking up there whenever I find them, but ought to work for this job.”
“I’ll get some of it melting. I was thinking though, won’t the pitch affect the taste of the honey after a while? Make it taste like a spruce tree, maybe?”
“Would that be a bad thing? Spruce honey? Sounds alright to me… Truth is I really don’t know. Never stored honey this way, before. Never had any to store! I know if you keep any oil in contact with spruce or pine pitch, olive oil, liquefied bearfat, anything like that, it’ll eventually start combining with the pitch, dissolving it and eventually you end up with pine or spruce oil. I’ve made the oil that way deliberately in the past, by putting chunks of pitch in a glass jar of olive oil, and used the results in medicinal preparations, as an antiseptic, but I don’t think the pitch will combine with honey the same way. No grease in honey. Pitch is completely watertight, and I think it’ll be honey-tight, too. If you’re concerned though, guess we could brush on a light coat of melted beeswax on the insides of the baskets before pouring in the honey.”
“That might be a good idea. It tastes so good and fresh now, tastes perfect, and I’d hate to do anything to change that.”
“Well, I mostly just want to stash the stuff in some good secure containers that’ll be real portable if we have to take off out of here at any time, but I guess you really do have a point there. Ok. Beeswax coating it is. How about you get a little wax softening and melting while I melt the rest of this pitch and finish the pitch coating on those you have left, and then you can warm and press the rest of the honey while I make the wood collars and some real wide ‘cork’ tops for the honey jars?”
Which sounded fine to Liz, sounded great, actually, as the day was turning into a rather productive one, except that she really wished Einar would slow down for a time, take a rest and simply breathe for a while. Was still having an awful time with his ribs, she could see--though he was making quite an effort to conceal the fact--and it was no wonder, the way he’d been lifting rocks and climbing around on the roof for the past several hours. Well. Hopefully he would rest with the coming of darkness, but she could see from the animated look in his eyes that there was little chance of any such thing happening in the immediate future; she could practically see the wheels turning in his brain as he planned out the remainder of the day, organized the tasks and set priorities, and Liz was well aware that it had been quite a while since she’d seen him like that. Things were definitely going to get done, and--nodding in acknowledgement of a cool breeze that swept up from the basin, dropping a shower of aspen leaves around them--without a moment to spare.