Devil in the Details

A large truck squeezes down the driveway to dump a full load of dirt onto the build site. This brown sandy mountain sits next to the smaller mountain of clay we harvested the day before for the first plaster coat. Both of these piles lie a comfortable ten feet away from the heaping pile of gravel we’re working with today.

As a crew we chip away at the pile, scooping up gravel with the same five shovels I’ve come to know closely. We’re transferring a few hundred pounds of rock this morning. This amount of scooping and hauling used to seem like an insurmountable task, but after seven weeks at community rebuilds I smoothly work on the line, knowing this is only the beginning of the work these stones will need today. The wheelbarrows and five-gallon bucks are passed into the interior of the framed, roofed, and straw stacked house.

9:30. Inspectors and plumbers converge on the site, checking and rechecking pipes, walls, and waterproofing on our project. They give Doug the go ahead we’ve been waiting for to start the next level of flooring. We haul in more gravel. A few more of our crew use rakes to spread it around in order to create a level surface about 7 inches below the finished floor.


On our knees, we sweep the gravel back and forth. Levels duct taped or screwed onto spare 2×4” boards help make sure the floor changes from “about” level to “this needs to be completely exact before we move on” level. Once this layer is perfect we’ll be able to install the 2” of cotton candy blue foam insulation that comprise the next layer of floor. It turns out there’s too much gravel inside, so a few of us start shovel gravel into buckets to dump it back onto the original pile.

These days my life is counted in buckets and shovels, angles on speed squares and the fractions of inches on my measuring tape. Every single step of our build, from mapping out the house on a bare patch of land to this scoop of gravel has required this amount of detail and precision. Every inch. Each piece of the puzzle needs to be checked, adjusted and rechecked before the next piece can even be addressed. The precise details translate into hours of grunt work. The devil is in the detail, no question.

What have I learned so far as a fresh faced natural builder? I have learned that the parts of a home that look so large and single- one roof, one floor, a painted flat wall- are actually made of thousands of details. Details attended to every minute of every workday on site. All of the grueling repetition of buckets in, buckets out, buckets scrubbed raw is blending together into a house. At the close, both Lynn and Heather will have breathtaking, sustainable homes that look and feel one with the earth, as though they sprang up organically one day of their own accord. Each fidgety detail will converge into a flowing work of functional art that presents as one entity. An entity we as interns build with learning, laughter, teamwork, and pride.

So bring me a shovel. Bring me a bucket. I can’t wait.

Juliana Dearr
Community Rebuilds Intern

Moab Spring 2015

2 Responses to “Devil in the Details”
  1. Georgia Lyn Atkinson says:

    Thank you Julianna, I really appreciated your write up about the build. I’m very interested in following the progress of your work as a team.

  2. C R Dearr says:

    I could smell the gravel, I can hear the shovels…

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