Last week, I wrote about my “Cemetery Santa.” I knew that I would have the opportunity to work with him further, but I had no idea just what he had in his bag of gifts!
I discovered him, and his assistant, working one the headstone of Jennie Carter. They were already into the process, but I was able to watch, learn and ask questions of them both as they went about their work.
Jennie’s marker had started to lean, and was sitting about 11 degrees off, towards the grave. Simply put, the earth and gravity work together to apply force to the stone, which then of course, makes it move. The task of the day was to give the marker enough of its own stability so that it could sit upright once again – plumb. (This is where that handy Bubble Level app I mentioned last time comes in. Download it now. Really.)
Some of the photos I took during the next three hours tell the story better than I could, so I will share a few of them here. When I joined the party, they had already dug out the earth from in front of the marker enough to accomplish the task. They were inserting pieces of stone underneath the marker (very carefully, I might add) so that it was level in all directions. As they worked through that process, they measured and calculated, and determined that this marker and base combined were probably around 800 pounds. They quizzed me and at some point must have made the determination that I was worthy of more education, so eventually, I was asked to come back.
Above: This is where I walked into the process. They are lifting the approximately 800 pound stone marker and base with a central fulcrum point, just a little at a time. As Cemetery Santa (he looks like Santa, doesn't he?) lifts, his assistant cleans out underneath the grave any loose debris and inserts carefully shaped pieces of stone, to build a platform for the marker to sit on top of.
Above: After the inserted the correct amount of stones to bring the marker back to plumb, they filled in some of the dirt and loose sand. Once the sand had been poured in, they added water, so that it would filter down underneath the marker and around the new platform. It works its way into the small gaps and other places, providing an even more stable base. After this picture, they also used a soft brush to clean the front of the base – the part that had worked its way underground during the last 100 years or so. This area would now be visible, so they made sure it was as clean as the rest of the area. Note the difference in the pictures below.
Above: They had carefully removed the sod from around the front of the stone before I arrived, and had done so in a particular order, placing everything on the tarp. Once the loose dirt was back in, they moved the tarp close and put those sod blocks back, in the same order. The objective was to leave as little disturbance as possible, it was very clear they wanted it to look like they had never even been there when they were done.
After putting all the dirt and sod back in, this is what the disturbed area looked like.
Above: A bit more work to get it just right. We stripped old branches of dead pine needles to add the duff back to the grave site.
Above: The project is complete! The headstone is standing erect, and you can hardly tell any work was done at all. It’s been a couple of days since this work has happened, so I’m sure it looks even more natural now. I think Jennie would be very happy with it.
I am excited to say that I will be joining them once again this coming week, and will be much more actively involved in what Cemetery Santa called, “easy re-setting.” I’m very much looking forward to getting a hands-on lesson in preserving the cemetery I care so much about. The opportunity really has been incredible.
I hope you are enjoying my journey as well! Please comment or ask questions here on the blog, I can perhaps get an answer!