A Pause to Refresh


Morning Coffee with Ella Rhea
 Wanted to share a funny photo with you.  It isn't the best quality, since I took it with my cell phone instead of my camera.  But, I thought it would bring a smile to your face, too.  As you can probably guess, we are dog-sitting this week, and Ella Rhea has her own special spot for squirrel recon duty.  Ahem.

OK, it's official.  I'm thoroughly sick of writing.  No, that's not quite right...I'm thoroughly sick of feeling like I'm being forced to write.  That's it.

So, I'll take a little break from writing for NaNoWriMo (where I'm behind on my word count...but I don't care...nah, nah, nah, nah...:) and will, well, write a post for my blog.   Ah, much better.

I actually have had to give myself permission to slack off (at least, from writing) this week because Mr. T is taking some of his vacation days...the "use 'em or lose 'em" variety, since he had 11 days to take off between November 1 and November 30, which already had two Holiday-days for Thanksgiving.  Oh well, that's a whole 'nother story, as Andy Griffith used to say.

Anyway, since we were away on such a lovely vacation just a couple months ago (can it really be 2 months since we were in Hawaii??), we decided to stay home and use these vacation days to tackle some of the things on the ever-present To Do list. 

[Why use vacation days to do work, you ask?  I guess the best answer is that Mr. T travels so much with his job that he doesn't have the luxury of getting things done through-out the week...and the weekends are just too precious to give them all over to w-o-r-k.  They are much better suited to going to football games...like we did last weekend...]

OK, so the main things we wanted to accomplish before the end of this month include:  get the garden ready for its Winter nap, fence off the Way Back so the dogs can roam freely (more on that in a sec), do a few things inside the house, and build a garden shed in the back yard.  Whew!  I'm tired already.

Since we had our first Big Frost this past weekend, the gardening activities all moved to the top of the list...with a bullet.  Prior to the freezing temps arriving on Sunday, I installed floating row covers on all the tender vegetation we hoped to save:  three rows of leaf-type lettuces, one row of spinach, and the strawberry bed.  Mr. T covered the English peas, the broccoli, the cabbage, and the three rows of onions with straw. 

[I've never used floating row covers before, but I am now a true believer.  These things are the best thing since sliced bread!  Every single tender plant that we covered survived...and the thermometer said that it dropped down to 31 degrees out in the garden.  Amazing!  And, I can't wait to employ them to protect plants from pests next summer.]

Mr. T also "plasticized" our screen porch, turning it into a mini-greenhouse for the potted plants we want to protect: the ferns, the porch palms, the lemon tree, the two pineapples, etc.  He stapled plastic sheeting on the inside and outside, creating a cozy environment for the ornamentals, where the temps are 10-15 degrees warmer than outdoors.  When the really cold weather threatens, we can add a space heater and grow-lamps for extra warmth.

On Monday, Mr. T began harvesting the zinnias and marigolds for seed-heads to save for next year's garden, while pulling up all the frost-damaged flower, tomato, and pepper plants.  I dug up the sweet potato bed for the rest of this year's crop (wow!), and while they were curing in the sunshine, I re-worked the bed into a new strawberry row...then transplanted 25 "daughter" plants that had grown out from the "mother" plants in the original strawberry bed, which is next to the bed-formerly-known-as-the-sweet-potato-bed.  Since the temps have gone back up towards the 70's this week, I left the row cover off the strawberry patch...just relying on a good layer of straw to offer protection. 

The lima bean plants were frost-singed, so I pulled them up...harvesting a last crop of limas for the freezer in the process.  The peas survived the freeze without a problem, protected from the drop in temps by a nice, warm layer of straw.  I had already picked the plumpest pods on Friday (along with the last of the peppers and tomatoes...both red and green), so we'll have to wait a few more days for another mess.

And, before my back seized up from being pushed beyond the limit, I grabbed the rake and cleaned up the remains of tomatoes and peppers that littered the ground.  (I don't want thousands of volunteer plants to pop up there next year!)  Now, where is that extra-strength aspirin?

So, what's left to do, you ask?  Well, we've had an issue from Day One with not having a fence across the back property line.  We built the Fence To Nowhere along the east side of the Way Back, but Duke Power (which has an easement on the back portion of our property for their transmission lines) wouldn't approve a permanent fence across the north property line, which would connect the FTN with our neighbor's fence that runs down the west side of the Way Back.  "Put you a nice hedge across there," said the man from Duke.

Yeah, right.  Did that...did NOT work for us.  Created a huge issue.

Well, two issues, really.  Number 1:  critters from far and near can enter the Way Back any time they darn well please; and Number 2:  our dogs can't police our property because, well, they are hounds.  Hounds=all nose, knows no boundaries.  And no fence=potential disaster if one of them follows his/her nose over into the next neighborhood...which Gus did just the other day when he was in the Way Back, supervising Mr. T's activities.  Elmo...the blind one...has gotten almost as far on occasion. We have a new no-tether law in Guilford County, so we can't put them out on leads when we are in the garden...and we certainly can't just let them run loose.  Enough, already.

So, new plan.  We are going to put up TEMPORARY fencing to close the gap.  Metal posts, sunk into the ground, with vinyl-coated galvanized wire attached.  Oh, sure.  The wood fence would have looked better, but that would be considered permanent.  So, we'll see if this will fly with the powers that be.  We actually have some of this up IN the garden, serving as what we call the Bean Fence, where our pole beans would have grown into lush, green vines...if only the bunnies hadn't devoured the tender shoots.  Well, now all I have to say to you bunnies is BEWARE: enter our garden only if you dare!

Meanwhile, in our spare time, we've been doing a few things inside of the house.  Moving furniture (yet again), putting pictures up on the walls (help - I'm running out of wall-space...:), changing out some lighting fixtures, putting new batteries in the smoke alarms and new filters in the heating returns, etc., etc.  You know...just some stuff.

And that leaves Build a Garden Shed.  We have pondered...and researched...and sketched...and measured...and done it all over again...and again.  Mr. T even took landscape timbers and laid out the foundation dimensions...first one way, and then another, until we got it sited just right.  And, we finally decided on a do-it-yourself kit from Home Depot.  Hopefully that link will take you to a picture and description of our future Garden Shed...only where it has a red door, we will have one painted Blooming Wisteria.  I kid you not.

We went to HD tonight to place our order for the shed kit...and pallets of mulch, garden soil, and all the materials to build a simple deck in the garden (just a few more items on the To Do list, don't you know?...:)...which will be delivered on Thursday.  And, then the W-o-r-k will begin in earnest.  As if, all that we've been doing up until now is p-l-a-y.  As if.

Stay tuned for updates...and more than likely, photos.  You know you'll have to return to see a picture of Patricia's Purple Door, right?  And, also, whether our marriage can survive building a garden shed together.  I just love a test, don't you?

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