Tindril sends in a great report from the Project Elanor event that Sean Astin was involved in over the weekend.

Tindril writes:

What a day we had!

I had been assigned the duty to oversee the construction of a deck and some benches. Keep in mind that I have never built anything like this before, but I was willing to give it my best. I had my husband with me for guidance (and he was also on the construction team) and I imagined that there would be some detailed plans to follow… I felt confident I could to that: I can read, I can follow directions and I learn quickly.

We arrived at the site about 9:45, a bit later than I had planned, but I didn’t miss anything, so it turned out OK. We brought all our tools and a case of Diet Dr. Pepper, what else do you need? The prep work had been done by some very intrepid Bit of Earth people the day before, so all the sod had been removed. But it had been rather rainy lately, and the ground was really soggy. I tried hard not to slip on the mud and make an utter fool of myself.

Sean Astin came out and played MC, introducing Orangeblossom (one of the organizers of Project Elanor) and the director of the Riggs Institute (the benefactor of our efforts). After the brief opening talks, we got down to some buisiness.

We started out by marking off the layout with spray paint, then everyone got busy with shovels, picks, hoes or whatever, to dig up and loosen the soil in the planting areas. The paths were also marked and dug. I had a flat shovel and worked on turning the edges along the marked paths.

Then it was time to assemble the construction team. Those authorized to operate power tools were given orange arm bands, and those who were team leaders also had armbands, so I got to wear two! I was given a “cut list” for the lumber and dimensions, but the plans weren’t there yet. We first moved the power tools next to where the lumber was stacked, getting everything set up. Then tried to make sense out of the matrials list. It wasn’t making sense because the dimentions needed didn’t seem to match the
materials in the pile….

My husband wisely advised that we should not cut any lumber until the plans arrived. So we began helping unload and spread the gravel over the area where the deck would be. I weilded a metal rake while others trundled wheelbarrows of gravel from the pile. Our goal was to level out the ground and provide drainage under the deck. While we were working on the gravel, Sean was helping the path and planting bed crews. It was now after 11:00 and still no plans…

Finally the person who had gone to fetch the box which contained the plans arrived… unfortunately, the box did NOT contain the plans for the deck and benches, only the garden plans. Mr. Frodo decided to send someone to the nearby Home Depot to buy the book from which they had gotten the plans in the first place.

Since I was waiting for some plans to begin figuring out how to build the deck and furnishings, I decided to take a break and have some breakfast. There were some very yummy brownies and some bagels and cream cheese.

Some time after noon the plans arrived. Except they weren’t really *plans* they were detailed instructions for how to build a deck. My comment to Mr. Frodo was, “What, you want me to actually *think*??” LOL… I spent some time poring over the instructions while he explained what they had in mind. We scribbled some diagrams on the inner cover of the book and I set out to come up with an actual PLAN for how to build it. We (this was mostly help from the Riggs institute director’s husband, my husband and Josh, the men on my team) managed to figure out the construction of the deck frame (which would rest directly on the gravel).

It seems like we had just begun getting into the construction phase when lunch arrived. Delicious fish and chips and salad. Yum! Just as we finished up eatin lunch the rain arrived. It began pouring so hard we though perhaps it might hail. Luckily the rain did not last too long, but the book with the plans got a bit soggy…

Once the basic frame was constructed, it was decided that the joists needed some support in the middle to keep it from shifting. By this time Sean was involved with the deck building. It was a good thing, too, he is extremely good at organizing labor! Cross members were added, staggered along a line and nailed into place. I had the privilege to work right along-side Sean swinging a hammer.

Once the deck top was begun I turned my attention back to figuring out what lumber needed to be cut, the lengths, number of pieces and construction of the benches. I really didn’t want to operate large power tools like the chop saw and table saw… delegation is the privilege of a leader ;). Josh did a lot of the work of cutting lumber, as did my husband. There were not enough 2x4s so some of the 2x8s had to be ripped
lengthwise and then chopped.

The work on the benches got put on hold so that we could see to it that the deck top would get mostly done. It was clear that we would not be able to finish the job today.

Sean needed to leave early to catch a plane home. He took a break from construction to sign any items for those who hadn’t yet had the chance (he had been doing personalized autographs periodically throughout the day). I handed over my Project Elanor “who’s who” brochure to Orangeblossom for Sean to sign, then went back to work. It would not be a personalized autograph, but I will cherish it along with all my mementos.

All day the work progress and action was being photographed by one of the volunteers. She must have used up a dozen rolls of film or more, actually laying down in the mud to get interesting shots of people at work. I cannot wait to see the pictures! Someone else also filmed the event with a video camera.

Just before Sean had to leave the volunteers were all called together for a group picture. There was a raffle for a book and for a special photo with Sean. Then Sean came out for his goodbyes. After the photos, he began giving out hugs and last minute meetings with volunteers.

I shook his hand and asked if I could brag on my husband, “I’m married to the *real* Samwise Gamgee”, I said.

“Sam’s a great character,” he commented to those who were gathered around him, “she must love him a lot!” Then he turned to me again and asked, “So where is he?”

“He’s the guy back there who’s still working,” I said as I motioned with my thumb over my shoulder. He had continued to work on the deck while everyone else was getting their pictures taken and meeting with Sean.

“We’ll have to go on over to him, then!” and he marched over to where my husband was to shake his hand and talk to him a bit. “Your wife tells me you’re the real Sam, but you’re way too tall!” (almost 6’4″) That generated some laughter from those who had come along. Sean affibly agreed with my husband’s suggestion that they should get together for a beer some time. Sounds like something Sam would say… 😉

After Sean left I managed to construct some legs for the benches, but by now my arm was aching and my feet hurt, so I delegated the task to younger hands. All the pieces needed for the legs of the benches had been cut and put together by the time we left, shortly before dusk. Work on the project will continue this week and next Saturday.

What a wonderful and memorable day we had!

God bless! Tinidril