People putting paintbrushes to playgrounds

Spring has (fingers crossed) sprung in our little corner of Ukraine, and to Emma and me that means it’s time to get going on our (your) playgrounds! In our last update, we saw that pieces of the playgrounds were starting to take shape in the local workshop. The carpentry crew has been working steadily, and we’re happy to say that just about all the pieces for our playgrounds have been cut and sanded. Meanwhile, Emma and I have been in discussions with Tanya (our primary community partner) and Petro Yuriovich (the mayor), trying to balance our American obsession with planning against what you might call “Ukrainian pragmatism”: who knows what will happen by next week, so figure it out then and everything will work out.

Behind the Workshop
Workers put together a bench in the lumber yard behind the workshop.

We’ve learned a couple new details and changed plans a little. First of all, it turns out that we need to treat all of the wood with a flame-retardant liquid before we can paint it. Ukrainians traditionally love going to the park and cooking shashlik (grilled meat) over an open fire. We don’t want some “resourceful” fellow using our beautiful picket fences as shashlik fuel! Secondly, we learned the carpenters are planning to bring the wood to our sites and assemble the playgrounds on-site, rather than put them together at the workshop. So our part in this is now two stages: treat the wood with flame-retardant while it’s in pieces at the workshop, and then paint it after it’s assembled on-site.

So, for these last two weekends, we got busy slathering on flame-retardant. We recruited some volunteers from among the students we know at the school and lyceum to help us get it done.

Getting Started
We started treating the fences inside, since it was still cold out.
Olya and Carina
Olya and Carina worked hard to help us finish the fences. Alex wore his iContact t-shirt as a shout out to colleagues who donated.

We started last weekend with the little picket fences that will surround the playgrounds. A couple of my star English-speaking students at school, Olya and Carina, volunteered to give us a hand. It was still a little cold outside, so we worked inside the workshop. We had 50 2-meter sections of fence, 20 pickets per section, 4 sides on each picket – and we had to cover it all with the clear liquid. It was tedious, thankless work, but Olya and Carina were real troopers. They helped us knock out almost all the fencing that first day, and then volunteered to come back and finish off the rest after school. The fence pieces were the hardest parts to treat, so we owe Olya and Carina a big thanks for their hard work.

Lyceum Students Help
Lyceum students and the mayor pose with Alex for an action shot. Those bench legs, by the way, are made of recycled school desks.

After the fencing, we mostly just had a huge stack of flat lumber to treat, which we managed to finish off in one long Friday’s work. In the morning, we recruited 6 volunteers from the 2nd course farmer class at Emma’s lyceum: Roma, Kolya, Sasha, Dima, Vitaliy, and Sasha. These guys made swift work of a sizable stack of lumber, so Emma and I were able finish the rest that afternoon.

It felt satisfying to finally get our hands dirty (or chemically, I should say), and put some “elbow grease” into this project rather than just the “brain grease” we’ve invested thus far. To see and actually pick up and carry around the giant stack of heavy-duty lumber our friends and family bought with their hard-earned dollars – it makes us really grateful once again for your support.

Taking a Break
Emma, Olya, and Carina take a break from their hard work on a new bench behind the workshop.
A Lot of Lumber
We had a lot of heavy-duty boards to treat with flame-retardant.
New Bench
Alex and one of the carpenters share a moment on one of our benches.
Wrapping Up
Emma finishes off the last batch: a stack of roof slats.

You can see all our photos of the project in this gallery. Next weekend, weather permitting, we’re planning to install the first playground in our neighborhood! Wish us luck!

3 thoughts on “People putting paintbrushes to playgrounds”

  1. Emma and Alex, your project is impressive. I could use you at the creek to help me create and install a picket fence I’m planning for the garden I hope to begin this week. I look forward to future pictures to see how everything comes together. Alex, I enjoyed your alliteration in the blog title! I might use it as a voice exercise. It was wonderful talking to and looking at you and your friend yesterday and this morning.
    Pappa G.

  2. Oh, I know what a pain–“tedious” is indeed the word–it is to paint fence pickets (yes, all 4 sides!). The work seems endless and so unrewarding, especially if you’re not even putting on a shiny coat of paint but just pre-treating with fire retardant–UGH! “Huzzah” to you and your helpers for sticking with it! The benches look beautiful–so nice and sturdy, once they are (I presume) anchored in concrete. Yeah for spring and mild weather! Have fun!

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