I continue to be amazed by concrete.
My first experience with it was last fall, when Kevin and I built the deck of the wood-fired oven (still under construction – don’t ask). Until then, it had been on the (very long) list of Things That Are Way Too Complicated to Mess With. I had thought you needed a proper construction education, carefully controlled conditions, and one of those big trucks. Turns out, all you need is concrete mix and a wheelbarrow, and you can work miracles.
And it is miraculous. You take dust, you add water, you get stone. In any shape you want.
The series of chemical reactions that creates the dust in the first place, and then creates the stone once you add the water, is enormously complicated, but the end user doesn’t need to understand it. All the end user has to do is empty the bag in the wheelbarrow and add water until the mix has the consistency of peanut butter. Then you just put it in your mold, or your hole, and wait for it to harden.
On top of everything else, concrete is cheap. I didn’t think you could buy 80 pounds of anything for $3.75, let alone something they made the Pantheon out of. Yes, for pocket change, you, too can build something that will last until the world ends. Concrete is the best shot most of us will ever have at timelessness.
Such is our commitment to lox that we are using concrete in the foundation of our smokehouse.
We’ve been planning it for months, but we finally got started this past weekend. The timing isn’t a coincidence; we have a deadline. Our six ducks have their date with destiny this week, and we have to get the smokehouse built, and tested, if there’s going to be smoked tea duck in our future.
Kevin borrowed the basic design from Cowgirl of Cowgirl’s Country Life, and the first step of construction was buying a woodstove made from a 55-gallon drum from a junk dealer in Harwich. That woodstove will be the firebox, and Kevin painted it black and put it next to the woodshed. The flue pipe will go uphill, through a rhododendron, to the smokehouse.
And there’s where the concrete comes in. To build the smokehouse, we leveled the ground and built a foundation out of cinderblocks (made from concrete!). In the holes in each corner, we sunk a length of rebar into the ground and then filled the hole with … concrete! Into the concrete we put a length of strapping so we have a way to attach the house to the foundation. The house itself we’ll make out of two layers of rough-sawn pine with insulation in between.
This is the first smokehouse we’ve built, and the permanence of concrete is a double-edged sword. If we screw it up, we’ll have to look at that foundation every day for the rest of our lives, or at least until we can train the rhododendron to grow over it. If, however, our smokehouse is a success, we’ll be able to smoke things until the world ends.