Friday, April 20, 2007

Spring cleaning

When I think of farming I think of fruit trees. So does Beloved, but much more of her thought includes a section called Animal Husbandry. We've been down to one chicken (a legally blind Banty hen) for some time, so I was not really surprised to come home, the other day, to find, on the freezer in the mudroom, a large carton with twelve cheeping Barred Rocks in it.

We can assume they'll grow like rockets, so that moves the long-forestalled Barn Projects to the front burner.

When we bought Stony Run, back in 1993, the place was even more run down than it is now, and Beloved wanted a barn but none came with the place. There was a stamping shed up at the other end, across the creek, right next to the neighbors' back yard, but that was too inconvenient to consider, so it slowly filled with all the trash from the place that couldn't be recycled in place or conveniently hauled to the county dump.

Much nearer to the house, and in a convenient location, there was a shed roof on posts and beams, in dreadful condition, which had contained much of the detritus that we moved up to the stamping shed. The neighbor had come to the fence to beg us to take it down, and we murmured something that might have sounded mollifying. But I had noticed that the beams in question were too massive to dismantle safely while working alone, and the more I looked at the mess the more I thought it could be made into the barn that was wanted.

A friend who works in landscaping after office hours connected me to the steady stream of fence boards that she was hauling away from various job sides. There were unbroken sash windows and sliding glass doors lying about the place. And I had a few squares of three-tab roofing asphalt left over from re-roofing the house.

So I did a remodel -- of sorts.

Beloved asked me the "style" of the result and I told her it was "Vernacular Architecture."

"A vernacular of one isn't vernacular," was her reply. "That's Idiosyncratic Architecture."


Two-thirds barn and one-third greenhouse-potting shed, the structure has met our needs over the last decade. Its very is that it never looked not saggy and so has forgiven us for those times -- which was nearly always -- that we deferred maintenance.

With new chickens a-growing in their box under a heat lamp, we went shopping for poultry netting and the like, and have been putzing about the barn in trousers and chore coats ever since.

When not working.

Weather permitting. It's been a very icy spring.

I've painted the barn -- our regulation colors are Red With Green Trim -- and made a few desultory repairs to the woodwork.

Among the things I got from my landscaper friend are heavy-duty iron t-posts that had all been pulled by a tractor, with the result that they are all bent out of shape.

These I've been straightening and repainting and hammering into the wet ground (something that could not be done -- by me, anyway -- in August). There will be a chicken run along the east and south sides of the barn, with netting all the way to the roofline (for raccoon prevention), and a sheep fence (replacing an older one that had seen better days), with a gate.

Once the netting is in place, I'll redo the leaky roof with 90-lb. roll roofing, then do the sheep fence. No sheep yet -- or ducks or geese. But I know the signs. They're probably already on their way.

risa b

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Rhodie roundup

Spent the weekend cleaning up the yard and orchard, throwing bagged grass clippings at the feet of apple trees or onto the garden, and planting rhododendrons.

Before Beloved left for her trip, we talked about how we would replace the torn-down fence with rhodies.

"Red rhodies," she said. "No white flowers."

What I remembered was "no white flowers." What she remembers is "red."

It makes a difference.

I went to Gray's and they had lots of red-blooming rhodies but only in the $29.99 size. I felt I was on a budget and picked out four nice-looking pinks for $9.99 each.

Took them home, dug their holes, watered them in, and pulled the grass-clipping blankets up around their little green chins.

Stood back and admired. Nice!

I picked Beloved up from the train station.

Among other news, I told about getting the rhodies.

"What color are they?"


We said red."


I burst into tears, and it took rather awhile for the conversation to proceed from there. It was true, red had been specifically mentioned. She's not as into pink as I am and it didn't help in this instance that at least I hadn't gotten anything with white blooms, which neither of us cares for.

Friends of our like to give us plants -- but invariably the giveaways bloom white, and we'd have overdosed on white even if we really liked it. In flowers.

At home, when I had recovered somewhat, we cautiously reopened the discussion and I went to the whiteboard and drew a grounds plan with the row of pink rhodies across the top, by the driveway and along the road.

"I can pull these two and put them here" -- drawing quickly -- "and here, and then get three red rhodies and put them here, here, and here."

"That would work," she said. "But you say there aren't any red ones?"

"Not in our size, not at Gray's right now. But somebody might have them."

She had other errands to run, so I went out and hit the nurseries. All red rhodies, such as Taurus or Vulcan, were in the $29.99 size. Until I got to Jerry's.

Jerry's Home Improvement is mostly about paint, tools, and lumber, but there is a fenced-in plant sales area in the parking lot, and here there were hundreds of white, pink, or purple rhodies in $9.99 pots -- and three red Vulcans in monster 4-gallon tubs for $19.99 each.

"I'll take them."

While I was putting these in, I noticed that men in pickup trucks wave to me these days. They didn't used to. But, then, in those days I didn't look the way I do now.

I do like it that they do that, even though I have feelings about equality that are maybe in conflict with that feeling.

But when all is said and done, I don't mind smiling and getting smiles, while putting a red rhody in among the pinks.

-- Back in the house, later, I found a heart drawn on the landscape plan, and in it, the words "Thank You!"

--risa b