How To Have Fun Painting a Porch (aka The Joy of Work)



The joy of work is not to be underestimated. Neither is the need for painting a new porch, be it fun or be it drudgery.

A few days ago, it seemed like this year, 2013, was turning into the Year of Unfinished Projects. One of those unfinished projects was the new front porch we added to the Border Fort (our southern Arizona home) in June. The shell was finished, including the two thick coats of concrete stucco that sealed the exterior and bonded it to the wavy front wall of the house, but it had never been painted.

Why wavy?

Good question. For the first six feet of height, our house has walls made of earthbags, some eleven inches thick. When stucco is troweled over and into earthbag curves, the end result is always going to include a bit of waviness.

The final stucco coat had only been applied a week or so before the first monsoon rains hit in late June. Since stucco needs to cure for a while before being painted, waiting until later in the summer (preferably after the heaviest rains had abated considerably), there was every good reason to postpone the painting.

Today, however, the time had come for paint brush action. My wife was off with her son and his family for the day, which meant I was free to be me until sunset at least.

Time to get cracking.

Walmart cobbled together 5 gallons of semi-gloss paint in a shade called Afternoon Tea. We’d used that color for the bird feeder gazebo which sits next to the porch and figured to continue with the same theme.

Would it really be the same shade? Only time would tell. Walmart has discontinued Afternoon Tea…except for leaving instructions for the paint department, telling them how to match the color on the fly. Their color matches aren’t always perfect, though, so….

Heading south from Sierra Vista with the paint in the back of the truck at around 1:00 p.m. (September 3, 2013), I found myself singing. This is not terribly unusual; I’m (among other things) a singer songwriter. But I wasn’t writing anything new or singing any of my old stuff. I was just belting out old hit tunes for fun.

I was going to bust my butt with a four inch paint brush for the rest of the day, and I was happy.

Man is meant to work. Our bodies are built for it. Inactive couch potatoes, especially those who’ve never been taught to work (as I was by my Dad, back in the day), don’t know what they’re missing. Their bodies fall apart without work. Meaningful work.

Forget about play. Hey, I was a professional rodeo cowboy for a time in my younger years, but I never once thought of rodeo as a game or a sport in the recreational sense. It was my job.

Huge numbers of Americans die within a few years after taking retirement. Not me. I’ll turn 70 years of age in a couple of months, and I’m busier in my so-called retirement than I’ve ever been.

Of course, taking care of a disabled life partner will do that, but today we’re talking about painting a porch.

Time to have some fun.

The new front porch needs painting.  Time to have some fun.

The new front porch needs painting. Time to have some fun.

The sky was overcast, keeping the temperature down in the eighties, though that might mean rain later on. Decent working conditions and no time to waste. Out of those town clothes, into the wornout shirt and jeans, both marked with plenty of multicolored splatters from previous paint encounters. Pick the overgrown weeds out of the way, brushing hands and arms vigorously right afterward to reduce the likelihood of chigger bites. Up the stepladder to tape off and do the on-roof part.

Oh. Forgot to photograph that.

Are we having fun yet? You betchum, Red Ryder. The eight inch wide top-of-roof strip has always allowed a little water to permeate the stucco down between porch and main structure during heavy rains. It’s easy to see why; the intense summer heat cracked the stucco in half a dozen places during the curing process.

Lots of paint slapped onto and into those cracks should both cure the problem and be fun-fun-fun, right?

Um…after the paint half-dries and lets the cracks show up again for the twentieth time, maybe not so much fun after all. But not bad. It shouldn’t leak as much now, anyway. Maybe a few more coats in the cracks. This next weekend should be good.

Back down the ladder. Stand on top of the loaded five gallon paint bucket in order to reach the rafters. Rafters are never any fun to paint, but I build with them left open to the sky, anyway. Painting them may not be a lot of fun, but it’s more fun than dealing with fascia boards and the like, any time.

Before I know it, slap-sloppity-slop, the south side wall is done. Ah, the joy of work. We are having fun now.


A bit of paint slapped wherever there's bare wood or gray stucco, and...

A bit of paint slapped wherever there’s bare wood or gray stucco, and…

...voila!  One freshly painted porch wall, good to go.

The grass pulling and wall taping, along with getting everything together for the painting project, took about half an hour. The actual painting began pretty close to 3:00 p.m. sharp. With the roof bit and the south wall done, it was now 4:21.

Hm. Better pick up the pace a bit. The atmosphere has gone deathly still, not a breath of air moving. Sultry. We are definitely going to get hit.

The pace doesn’t get picked up all that much, though. My pace is my pace. Trying to hustle too hard leads to disaster every time. Ask those ribs on the right side. They got clobbered pretty hard in that June fall, kicking the little two foot stepladder out from under myself on a brain fart day.

Besides, there’s a bit of side entertainment. Out on the street, our nearest neighbor drives by, heading home in his newest truck.

This is entertaining because (a) we’re not speaking to each other (long story), (b) his missing dog is obviously sitting in the back, no longer missing, and (c) he drives funny, on and off the footfeed, never a steady run.

Back to work. Wow. The front, around the entry door, the east end, is done. I didn’t even muck up the job. Definitely fun…but what’s that?

Thunder, rolling in the distance, down in Mexico. Our place is just one mile from the border.

At least it’s still in the distance. There’s still the whole north side to go, though. 5:19 p.m. If the rain holds off, the light should be good until at least 6:30, but will it hold off?

Only the rain gods know for sure.

The south side and east end are done, but...

The south side and east end are done, but…

...there's still the whole north wall to go, and it's thundering in the distance.

And…made it! At 6:21 p.m., the final (north) side was fully painted. By 6:30 p.m., the paint brush was rinsed clean. Supplies and equipment were all returned to their usual storage places after that; then it was time to add a bit of oil to the Yamaha generator that powers our off grid domicile during the dark hours.

The extension cords had just been plugged into the purring gennie when the rain hit with a vengeance, thunder and lightning and buckets of water cloudbursting down.

I dashed for the door, ducked inside, buttoned the place up–and realized I was singing again. Must have been in love, either with the job I’d just completed (quite possible) or the vibrant, stunningly beautiful young redhead with whom I’d exchanged a bit of banter in the book section at Walmart earlier in the day (dream on, cowboy) or with the knowledge I could now show off the newly painted porch to my redheaded wife when she got home (likely).

At any rate, the song was an old Jimmie Rodgers hit, a classic, and suited my mood perfectly.

Oh, Honeycomb, won’t you be my baby?

Honeycomb, be my own

He took a hank of hair and a piece of bone

Made a walkin’, talkin’ Honeycomb

Painted Porch 009

And that is how to have fun painting a porch. At least, it’s fun if you understand the joy of work. Besides, this particular Afternoon Tea paint color applied over stucco makes the entire structure look like it’s covered with fine leather. Bonus!

It doesn’t get any better than that.

2 thoughts on “How To Have Fun Painting a Porch (aka The Joy of Work)

  1. We rather like it, too. You’re certainly welcome; we’ll be delighted to give you the nickel tour any time you can make it out this way.

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