The finished stone hut, full pond, maple tree stump from the tree we dropped
It is now late September and enough flat stone has been hunted from the woods to lay down the hut floor. It will be all stone. Mortar the edges. Some stones are over three feet wide and with Susan’s help I loaded them into the Willys. They were found near our old springhouse, mostly flat. But I don’t worry about perfection — what I have is what I have to work with, and it will work. A half day is spent hauling stone to the hut and carefully unloaded; trying to wheel or pivot large stone on the ground close to the doorway. The less handled the better. Half of this work is how you position the material you work with. When the ground is dry the Willys can back tight with the hut and allow easy access. During days of rain, like we had after the floor stone was hauled to the site, I wheelbarrowed the two yards of gravel from the last of the pile across the yard and spread it over the dirt floor as a pad for the stone. A chance is taken the frost won’t settle under and heave the floor. But ledge is everywhere around: the entire rear wall is ledge, and ledge was struck in places when I dug out the side wall footings. I feel pretty secure. When the pond is dry you can see where the ledge pops up into a table shape in the middle and if you follow with your eye further it will run through the western corner of the house and all that is ledge too. A reason for the half-cellar under the house — the old timers knew when to stop digging. And into the front yard, still leaning on the western side, large ledge croppings appear — we planted daylilies around each one. Finally the ledge shows its face again, like it does in the backyard where the hut is, 1200 feet away from the hut in the river. We dive from it when we swim. I spread and tamp the gravel inside the hut, working it under the lip of bottom course stone, then I carried in the stone, easing each into place while shifting them level with my eye. I worked from the rear to the front and saved the widest stone for the width of the doorway and patterned a few of the other large stone into a design with smaller stone. Later, using a 2" x 4" straightedge, I placed a four-foot level on it and roughed together a near level floor. Where there was a dip, the stone was lifted and gravel thickened under it, and where a dip was in the stone itself and couldn’t be helped, I lived with it…laid it in the corner where the woodstove would cover it. In our back door terrace at the house I saved a stone for the top step because it had a dip in it that gathered rain water as a drinking bowl for the cats. Every stone has a use. Now the stone floor was done. It took a half day to mix the mortar and butter it around all the edges — smooth the dips — trowel and pointing tool. When the mortar was between wet and set it was swept with a broom. It grizzled the look of the mortar that much closer to stone.
The old barn wood door, and Bob's stenciling
I found the barn board door hung on the hut doorway, which now made it a home, but I won’t say where. Someplace where I was working and this old door was neglected, tipped on its side, bottom edges burned away to ground rot. I had a bowsaw with me on the job and sawed off the exact height to the hut doorway — six-foot six inches — that dropped away the rot to serviceable wood, lovely wood. Darkened just right. I would rip the width of the door when fitted back at the hut. Four strap hinges were already with this door and they came along. I used two of the hinges and saved the other pair for another job someday — hacksawed off the rusted bolts. Back at the hut the door was sized to its three-foot width, and since the door was a single plank thickness I kept that for the exterior but added another thickness to the inside, battening whatever scrap lumber I had horizontally to the interior barn board. That filled all cracks and gave the door twice the weight. I stained the new lumber smoky. Hinged the door to the left doorway post; the same pressure treated post that was set four months ago. The right hand post needed a chisel to nitch out a depth for the draw bolt latch to drive into. Now a door handle had to be found, and for ten dollars my friend Scott, now doing less treework and more ironwork, hammered out a foot long pull handle for me. It took him about a week to forge and mail down from Maine. While waiting, the handmade door jambs were nailed together and stained. That loft railing for Carson was built, plus a ladder. The handle arrived and I screwed it on. There was a subtle swirl to the handle where the hand gripped it that I liked. Scott knew I would.
Bob digging in a stone stairway years later under the tall maple trees
A ladder had to be built to reach from the stone floor to the loft. I went into the woodlot with a bowsaw and found one straight maple sapling growing in a clump and it was a perfect pole shape and just what was needed. I carried the whole sapling back, thirty feet of it, and sawed off the top. With a hatchet I lopped off the lower branches and any burrs on the tree to make a clear surface to nail on the ladder rungs. I narrowed the top and widened the bottom like an orchard ladder. Two poles for ladder stringers nine feet long. I nailed on the 1" x 4" slats for rungs from the butt ends of the strapping saved from the roof job and rounded the edges. Used 8-penny flooring nails which bit into the maple. While rounding edges to the ladder rungs I took a four-inch slat of barn board and drilled a hole in the center, then fastened it with a long screw and washer into the right doorframe post — it worked good as a swivel lock for the door. Turn it and walk inside. There would be no lock on the door. When inside the draw bolt could be used for privacy. I turned the swivel lock and walked inside with the ladder. The stone floor had set for a week but dry mortar was still being swept off the stone. I eased the top of the ladder against the rail of the loft and set the ladder down on the floor. A 10° cut on the bottom of the ladder legs made it stand firm. I climbed up. That evening Susan climbed up while I held Carson, then I took Carson up. The next day our new neighbors were visiting…one at a time they climbed up, especially their five year old son Matthew, and through Matthew I could see what Carson might do with this hut. After everyone was gone I lifted the ladder away from the loft and placed it on top of the length of side wall stone. It had inches to spare between the front wall beam and ledge wall in the rear, and lay over the top of the window frame. That felt good to set it there. I hadn’t planned it that way.
Bob away at work making a living roofing an A-frame
All sorts of jobs went on during that six months from May to October beside the work on the hut. The outside jobs paid for the time at home laying stone: Bob Hauptman’s house was framed by mid-August and he would return the following summer and finish the interior work himself. I had three roofing jobs going that summer and fall: for a house, porch, and repair of a large barn. Asphalt, steel, slate were the materials used. I remember nailing the shingles for the porch roof through an October week of rain. At the porch job there was also treework to do. It was a two-man job but I didn’t know anyone nearby to lend a hand so I did it alone —usual story. A sugar maple very close to a house had one of its two main leaders dying and the job was to cut out the dying leader. It took a thirty-foot ladder to reach the crotch of the tree, then to work between a heavy rope and chain saw. Wrapping the rope high on the leader, letting the rope drop through the lower branches to the ground, I would cut with the chain saw at the crotch of the leader, climb down and tug the rope, climb back up and saw more, climb down and pull, etc. Two wedges in the back-cut cracked it into a lean and by pleading with the rope on the ground it began its dive between the house and barn. It takes about an hour for the tension — obtained from the tree’s tension — to quiet down in your own body. It’s just one way to do treework. Other treework was done that fall: a friend had bought land in southern Vermont and wanted a house built. I might be building the house so I went to the land one day to mark trees to clear for the house site, driveway, and yard. The land had good looking trees but not many of tremendous size: black birch, beech, maple, ash, hemlock. I wasn’t planning to drop trees the next day — in fact Susan had plans to climb Mount Monadnock with me and Carson — but this friend was in a hurry, and a job is a job when you are self-employed. Two gallons of gas were emptied into both chain saws the next day. With my friend hand clearing the logs and brush I dropped tree after tree making a swath for the driveway and then cleared a wide area for the house site on an upper shelf of the land. It faced the sun at nine in the morning. Between us we finished the job in a day. And I went back to laying stone the next day and we promised Carson a hike up Monadnock in the spring. He didn’t mind. Life for him, four months old, was a few feet around him, and how much joy he got just from that. Lucky guy. Those six months of building the hut were made up also of slow, dirty, loner jobs, or what Susan terms “junk jobs”…digging an underground electric line with pick and shovel, weeding asparagus gardens, cutting brush, piling brush, burning brush in the rain…and no complaints, it is all part of it. Like Carson I was willing to look only a few feet around me and enjoy it.
all photographs by Susan Arnold
Stone Hut a builder's notebook Bob Arnold 1988, 2013
A poem (or more) will be offered by the hour or with the day and at the very least once a week. So stay on your webbed toes. The aim is to share good hearty-to-eat poetry. This is a birdhouse size file from the larger Longhouse which has been publishing from backwoods Vermont since 1971 books, hundreds of foldout booklets, postcards, sheafs, CD, landscape art, street readings, web publication, and notes left for the milkman. Established by Bob & Susan Arnold for your pleasure. The poems, essays, films & photographs on this site are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without the author's go-ahead.
New from Bob Arnold ~ "Faraway Like The Deer's Eye" ~ Bob Arnold Faraway Like the Deer’s Eye — A Saga — FOUR BOOKS IN ONE VOLUME ~ A Poet’s Memoir // 50 Years of Longhouse & Poets // A Builder’s Life, with photo assembly // The Selected Poems of Bob Arnold // An afterword by Andrew Schelling
Longhouse Bibliography Quick Link —
Link to the Birdhouse Bibliography
Read about Longhouse (a press edited by Bob Arnold) ~
Available from Longhouse. Please link on the image for ordering information. Drawing from years of poetry and also new poems, The Woodcutter Talks is Bob Arnold at his finest branching love poems with back country work poems and settlement with community, family and individual portraits. The extensive collection also showcases vintage photographs from woodcutters and woodchoppers and big-saw-pullers of old. Sweat runs down the cheeks of the mere literary and they adore one another.
Stone Hut by Bob Arnold
"Once again, my friends, this is your best book! Exquisite in design, fat enough to be a feast, pretty enough to just wade around in, but deep enough to dive into and stay with, all I can say is WOW, you guys really did it – it’s the first of its kind, a scrapbook novel that is also a how-to and a mystery -- how did he do it, and how does he make rocks balance like Thor? — Gerald Hausman" ~
Museum, An Unlikely Meditation, written by the poet Bob Arnold, is as much an unlikely novel. Visit this page for details.
Cid Corman's Of, Volumes 4 & 5 from Longhouse.
ANNOUNCING. The final volumes to Corman's opus in one book ~ of, volumes 4 & by Cid Corman. 1500 poems, 850 pages edited by Bob Arnold, now available in a limited edition from Longhouse, 2015. Please link on the cover image for details & Paypal payment information ~
'Fully a book ~
An interview with Bob Arnold on Cid Corman’s ‘of’
Janina by Janine Pommy Vega
New and available now from Longhouse ~ Janine Pommy Vega Janina Visions, Tales & Lovesongs 288 pages perfect bound packed with poems and photographs. Janine's full course album of photographs, travel journals, poems, facsimile notebooks of poems, childhood photographs, and family, Beat family, plus her unfinished memoir of Jerusalem.
Walking Woman with the Tambourine is the final book of poems by Janine Pommy Vega.
"Walking Woman with the Tambourine is the final book of poems by Janine Pommy Vega. The author completed the manuscript and left it as she wished with her executor Bob Arnold … New and available now from Longhouse ~ Poetry. 144 pages. Perfect bound softcover. Please link on the image for ordering information
New! James Koller : Selected Poems 2003-2004-2005
James Koller — Selected Poems 2003-2004-2005 Longhouse 2016, 72 pages, perfect bound. Please link on the cover image for details & Paypal payment information PLUS more from Longhouse
OPENINGS by JAMES KOLLER
Selected poems 1959 ~ 1985 edited by Bob Arnold. New and available now from Longhouse ~ 72 pages . Perfect bound softcover. Please link on the cover image for details & Paypal payment information PLUS more from Longhouse
Lorine Niedecker's A Cooking Book
A Cooking Book Lorine Niedecker Longhouse 2015 72 pages, perfect bound. Please link on the image to purchase this new title from Longhouse.
Kent Johnson's "I Once Met"
Available once again now in 2022! $25 plus shippingVisit the Birdhouse for Kent's book information :
JD Whitney's Selected Poems
J.D. Whitney ~Sweeping the Broom Shorter Selected Poems 1964-2014 from ~ Longhouse 2014. 192 pages. Please link on the cover image for details & Paypal payment information PLUS more from Longhouse
New! from Longhouse ~ Island Dreams by Gerald Hausman Please link for details & Paypal payment
ISLAND DREAMS by GERALD HAUSMAN Selected Poems 1968 ~ 2015 chosen & edited by Bob Arnold New and available now from Longhouse ~ 160 pages Perfect bound softcover. Please link on the cover image for details & Paypal payment information PLUS more from Longhouse
John Bradley's "And Thereby Everything"
L O N G H O U S E is very proud to announce a new book by John Bradley in their on going series of S C O U T book publications — other titles from the series have been by Kent Johnson, Janine Pommy Vega, James Koller, Bob Arnold and Lorine Niedecker with more in the works. An opening salvo at the front of the book by Patrick Lawler should provide ample cover for what the reader should come to expect. And Thereby Everything John Bradley Longhouse 2015 First edition only issued in softcover 208 pages, perfect bound illustrated throughout by Bob Arnold with 150 photographs
Dudley Laufman : Bull & More Bull
Visit this page for information on this new Longhouse by Dudley Kaufman (2016)
Dudley Laufman's Islandian Poems
The Islandian Poems & Fables Dudley Laufman Longhouse 2015. 72 pages, perfect bound. Please link on the image to purchase this new title from Longhouse.
MIRZA ABD AL-QADER BIDEL / ROBIN MAGOWAN ~
New from Longhouse. Please click on the image
New from Longouse ~ Robin Magowan
New from Longhouse. Robin Magowan. The Garden of Amazement, Scattered Gems After Sâeb. large softcover glossy bound with an introduction by the translator, 112 pages
Duo by Bob Arnold — New from Longhouse Please link to A Longhouse Birdhouse for more information
DUO Bird Poems by BOB ARNOLD. New and available now from Longhouse ~ 92 pages. Perfect bound softcover. Please link on the cover image for details & Paypal payment information PLUS more from Longhouse
Start With The Tree by Bob Arnold
New in 2015. Building a marriage, building a family, building a small barn out in the woodlands together as a family, as a marriage, and seeing the roof go on. Over 150 color photographs
Beautiful Days by Bob Arnold
Beautiful Days ~ new poems of living and working in the Vermont woodlands and to Hurricane Irene
Yokel by Bob Arnold
[from "Yokel, A Long Green Mountain Poem" by Bob Arnold] ~ that and more at Bob Arnold webpage of books & poems: Please link on this image for more
Go West by Bob Arnold
Filled with poems and travel photography — shares one cross-country trip the couple took in the mid-1980s to California from Vermont.
"I'm In Love With You Who Is In Love With Me" by Bob Arnold
from Bob Arnold's new book "I'm In Love With You Who Is In Love With Me" ~~~~~~~40 years of love poems
"Rain Bear" by Bob Arnold
Bob Arnold's first children's book "Rain Bear" New and available now from Longhouse ~ 50 pages. Perfect bound softcover with photographs ~ & drawings by Jason Clark
"Heretic" by John Phillips from Longhouse
New from Longhouse ~ John Phillips "Heretic". Poems with collages by the author. Click on the image for more ~
Kim Dorman — "Owner"
"Owner" by Kim Dorman. Including photographs by Kim Dorman. Selected and edited by Bob Arnold. New and available now from Longhouse 2016 ~ 80 pages. Perfect bound softcover