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HOME > Classical Novels > Norma: A Flower Scout > CHAPTER X THE WATER GARDEN COMPLETED.
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 Farmer Ames brought another cartload of manure1 the next morning, so the muck heaps could all be mixed and finished that day. The scouts2 from camp had asked to be allowed to help the work along this last day, and Mrs. James gladly accepted their offers.  
Breakfast was early, so a long day could be given to the various tasks to be done before the water could be turned into the reservoir. The cement was waiting beside a wooden trough that Sam had quickly constructed, the gravel3 that had been carted the day before was in a pile, and the sand for the concrete work had also been brought from the pit down the road.
Mr. Ames had selected such lumber4 at the barn as he could use and hitched5 the boards to Ben’s harness; the horse was driven over to the site for the new dam and the planks6 were then roughly framed up to make two standing7 partitions with about a foot of space between.
As breakfast was over at such an early hour, Rachel felt justified8 in taking the spare time to visit the scene of work, and give her opinion on the water garden which was to be. She stood with her hands on her large hips9 and surveyed the wide depression for a while, then spoke10 to Mrs. James and any one who was concerned.
“’Pears to me you-all is goin’ to a hull11 lot of trouble jus’ to fill dis holler wid water. Diden you-all know dat you cud stop up the crick down by the barn and back all the water you want into this place?”
“But the reeds and briars had to be removed, Rachel,” said Mrs. James.
“Jus’ chop ’em down wid a sickle—da’s all,” was the lofty reply.
“We had to get the roots out, too,” added Mrs. James.
“Diden you know dey woul’ rot ef dey was under water a long time?” asked the maid, with astonishment12 at such ignorance.
“They would sprout13 before they would decay, and we had to clean off the bog14 so the roots would come out with the marsh15 muck,” was Mrs. James’s patient reply.
Rachel made no further comment for she was too intent on watching the girls carrying the well-mixed soil from the banks back into the hollow again. Here they carefully spread out the enriched soil to the depth of about twenty inches.
“Well—sus!” ejaculated Rachel. “Dem gals16 is carryin’ all dat muck back where Ames tuk it from all dis week!”
“It has been so thoroughly17 mixed with manure that it is now ready to use for plants. All the roots and rocks have been cleared out of it while it was spread out upon the banks.”
Rachel felt that her valuable advice had been ignored in this direction, so she walked along until she came to the piles of rocks. Some had been rolled into place where they were to be left, but many were piled up waiting to be artistically18 arranged in various spots.
“I ain’t never hear tell of plantin’ rocks fer a garden, but nuttin’ is queer dese days, ’cause the hull world is gone clean crazy!” commented Rachel scornfully.
Norma and Natalie overheard her remark and laughed. Then Rachel looked back at Mrs. James and said: “I s’pose growin’ rocks is one of dese gals’ crazes—and you let ’em do such stunts20?”
“You wait until the garden is finished and then judge if the rocks look crazy where we intend putting them,” laughed Mrs. James, hoping to quiet Rachel’s fault-findings.
But the maid took offense21 at being told to waive22 judgment23 for the time being and turned away to stride back to the house without another word or look for the gardeners.
There was too much to be done, however, for anyone to pay the least attention to Rachel’s wounded pride, and soon the scouts were bustling24 about like bees at a hive. The wooden mold, or frame, for the dam was completed and Ames now gave his attention to the islands.
“You show me about where you want them made,” said he to Norma and Mrs. James. “I sent Sam to the barn to bring some more small boards for more frame-ups.”
The three most interested ones now descended25 to the floor of the hollow and prospected26 carefully before locating the main island which was to be in the wildest part of the pool. The distance from the bank to the desired spot, had to be taken into consideration, as the rustic27 bridge must not have piers28 or supports in the center of it—the foundations on either end were to be sufficient to uphold it. When the location was finally decided29 upon, Mr. Ames drove his crowbar into the hard ground to mark the site.
The sites for the two smaller islands were next considered and located, before the farmer paid any attention to Sam who had been trying to attract notice from the three in the depression.
“Now—whad do you want?” bawled30 Farmer Ames, going toward Sam as he spoke.
“I ain’t found no board what’s big enough for making islands,” shouted Sam.
“I told you to fetch all the strong boards you could find, ’cause I’ll make them big enough!”
Sam went back to do as he was told, and Mr. Ames came up out of the hollow to start mixing the materials for the concrete. The scouts all stood around during this interesting process, as they wished to learn how to do the work in order to be able to build whatever they needed in the future.
A temporary floor of heavy planks was laid and upon this the farmer proposed mixing the cement. He took a bag of cement, added a barrow full of fine sand, another barrow full of gravel and scrap31 junk,—such as bits of iron, trap-rock, slate32 and other hard sharp splinters—and mixed all thoroughly together. Before he began adding water to this preparation, he called to Sam to carry the boards he had brought from the barn down to the place where the largest island was to be built.
A number of boards were adjusted to form a frame about the size of the basis for the island, and these were braced33 and fastened in place to keep them from being pushed outwards34 once the concrete was poured into the mold. Then the farmer called to Sam to help him in mixing the cement and other materials. The water was slowly added and Sam kept mixing with a steel hoe, until the composition was the required consistency35 to easily pour.
When Mr. Ames gave the word, every one helped filling buckets and pans and boxes and carrying them over to the island. They were quickly emptied into the large mold, and the scouts ran back for more concrete. Here and there Mr. Ames pressed a rock or a number of smaller stones into the soft preparation, and as this hardened and set, the rocks became embedded36 as firmly as if cast that way by Nature.
When the concrete reached the top edge of the board mold Mr. Ames topped it off with a rim37 of rocks, and into this hollowed center, more concrete was poured until the mold was filled still higher. Its full height from the floor of the basin now reached to about thirty inches, and this was considered high enough. The large rocks were now placed as Mrs. James directed, so that the effect was one of Nature’s handiworks. In between the crevices38 and hollows made by the large and jagged rocks, the soil would be filled when the concrete was set. And in this soil the vines and plants or shrubs39 would be planted.
The side of the island nearest the shore had been kept smooth and flat as the concrete rose higher about the rocks, and upon this wide flat wall the end of the rustic bridge was to be laid.
The two smaller islands were now formed in the same way, Mrs. James being careful to superintend the sides which had to be left smooth for the bridges to rest upon.
It took all morning and into the middle of the afternoon to finish the concrete work on the islands, but once they were done, the scouts felt that the hardest part of the water gardening was completed. Mr. Ames then began work on the concrete dam, but was concerned to discover that all the sand had been used for the islands.
“Somebody’s got to drive Ben to the sand pit and fetch a load of sand for the dam. And then git more for the covering of that soil, ’cause you said you wanted at least an inch of white sand spread over the muck to keep the water clear and clean,” said Farmer Ames.
“Let me drive Ben and get the sand!” exclaimed Janet.
“Norma and you can drive Ben, and we girls will use the car to reach the place. Then all hands can shovel40 and fill the cart the sooner. We can then fill baskets or bags and put them in the car and bring them here to help out for the concrete work. By that time you can have Ben back at the pit again, and fill the cart a second time,” suggested Frances eagerly.
This was a very good plan and the scouts all approved heartily41 of it, especially so because it offered a possibility of sport. So Norma and Janet climbed to the seat of the cart and made Ben quit his feast on the luscious42 lawn grass.
Mr. Ames stood smiling while he watched the merry scouts jump into the automobile43 and call for Frances to hurry and get off. Then he turned to Janet who was chirping44 to Ben to make him go faster to keep up with the car.
“If you saw away at Ben’s mouth like that he will balk45 and never move a step. He knows a woman is drivin’ when you do that way, and he takes a mean advantage of you for it,” laughed Ben’s owner, as the two girls in the cart endeavored to inspire the easy-going horse with more ambition.
Then he turned to Mrs. James and said: “While I have to wait for that sand, Sam and I may as well begin placing the posts for the bridge ends. I brought my post-hole digger over this morning in case we had a need of boring holes in the ground.”
Mrs. James had never seen a post-hole digger at work, so she watched curiously46 while the wonderful tool bored the holes the required size of the posts. It worked after the manner of an augur47, but it bored the hole in the ground instead of through wood. The holes were made so rapidly that Mrs. James was amazed, and Mr. Ames laughed at her expression.
“I don’t s’pose anyone brought the railroad ties I told you of the other day?” ventured Farmer Ames.
“Yes, Si Tompkins had them given him by the station agent who said he was glad to have them moved out of his way. He even offered to help get them over to the farm, as they had cluttered48 the ground ever since the new ties had been laid down a few months ago. So they were left by the fence just outside the front gate,” explained Mrs. James.
Ames and Sam then brought in several posts—or ties—and fixed49 them securely in the holes; earth and gravel were tamped50 down in the holes, and when it was well filled, the posts were as firm as if they had grown there.
Still no sight nor sound of the cart with sand could be had, so Mrs. James suggested that Ames and Sam help her build an artistic19 flight of steps from the clump51 of pines down to the place where the bridge would span the water to the first island.
As there were enough railroad ties for this purpose, as well as for bridge supports, Mrs. James felt that she need not stint52 herself in the use of them. So she marked out the line she wished the steps to follow. They were to curve gracefully53 down to approach the bridge indirectly54, and not straight down from the high knoll55 of pine trees to the lake edge.
Sam and Mr. Ames cut out the solid ground where the steps were to be set, beginning at the bottom near the bridge posts. The ties were set for treads, the flat side facing upward and when it was fitted in place, Sam took it up again while Ames poured a smooth foundation of concrete on the ground. Then the log was replaced and pressed down to make the cement bite into the rough wood. At the final securing of each log, enough concrete was filled in back of it, to form a solid wall of cement when it hardened, and this made the basis of the back of the step, or riser, for the next tread.
As Mrs. James wanted the steps to be shallow in order to use the more and curve the flight more artistically before coming to the bridge, it was easier to build the concrete risers at the back of each log. The moment the two men had finished with a step, Mrs. James carried large stones and rocks to the spot and pressed them firmly in at the sides where the concrete
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