Monday, May 06, 2013

Made in the Shade

Or at least made FOR shade.

Last year it bugged me that no matter where you went around here it was hot. Inside, the ancient windows did nothing to allay the summer heat. If it was 82 outside, it was 82 inside. Outside there was not a spot of shade to be found, unless you wanted to walk out to the bees and sit in their shade - in front of their hives - which is also where Gene brings deer ticks back from. 

When we were in Virginia we saw this really awesome shade thing made by Shade Sail set up at Sea Star. I even made notes on a scrap of paper showing how the sail was attached to the roof of the building and to the 4x4 posts of the deck. We don't have a deck here, but the ground is soft so dropping a couple of 4x4's for some shade would not be a big deal. Then I priced the sails and found out some things. The brand name "Shade Sail" that we'd seen in Virginia was definitely well over our budget. The less expensive versions seemed to be made of inferior materials, and might not last the summer. I hate spending money for something that isn't going to last.

We have a big blue umbrella that I bought two years ago from Lands' End to fit into our deck table. It's proven to be very sturdy over time, and I love it. But we sold the table at a tag sale and really don't want to buy a new one until we have a patio to plunk it on - and that's going to be a while! We looked at patio umbrella stands this weekend - for $9 you get a plastic job that looks like it wouldn't support a toothpick, let alone a big umbrella. For $40 you can get a more substantial stand that looked pretty solid... but at $40, I really thought I could do better. My original plan, forged yesterday in the car between Lowe's and home, involved an empty 5 gallon bucket, some stones, and a drill (drainage for the bucket). When I headed down cellar for the drill and a bit, I saw an old, empty planter pot on the floor. I think it once held my lime tree. I "hmmmm"-d, and dragged it upstairs with me.

Quite the pile, right? Marble chips (two bags at $3 a bag from Home Depot), our old umbrella, an empty stoneware pot, and a chunk of pvc pipe. If I just dropped the umbrella into a 5 gallon bucket full of rocks, it would certainly do the job. But if I wanted to move the umbrella for, say, an impending hurricane, the rocks would just tumble into the space where the umbrella was and I'd have to dump the rocks out and start all over again post-storm. That's when the pipe idea came to me - this morning in the pool, somewhere around lap 30 or so, I saw it. A pipe, stuck in the center of the pot, slightly larger than the diameter of the umbrella stick, would allow me to remove the umbrella at will if wind threatened.

I dug around the basement and found a piece of pvc pipe. I cut it taller than the planter because I was concerned about the stability of the umbrella with only a foot or so of rock around it. I really wanted some extra height to control the potential sway. I dumped one bag of rock into the planter. For a moment I debated returning the second bag ($3 refund!!) but then I pushed on the pipe a bit, and decided to open the second bag and fill the planter to the top.

"What's that dear? You had a hard day at the office? Let me pour you something cool and you can sit in the shade and overlook your back....4."

I slid the umbrella into the pipe, popped it open and voila! El Rancho Em N' Gee O shady spot! You may have noticed that we are a rather traditional family around here. Mr. W goes off to the factory and makes the donuts, while I... swim, dig holes, plant things, make ponds and occasionally watch soap operas and eat bon bons (No. Not. Seriously? Me? No. Iced coffee and old movies, maybe.)

I also get into something that can only be called "wikkid trouble" with all these DIY things.  Sometimes things work, and I save a fortune. Sometimes they almost work and I swear a lot, and save slightly less. Sometimes they totally fail and I spend a day or so thinking I am utterly stupid. Then I bounce back with NEW ridiculous schemes, visions of grandeur, and indomitable enthusiasm. (This is because I am a slow learner...)

Bird baths, squirrel baffles, ponds...and new baby chicken spaces. The layers had really outgrown their stock tank space, and it was time for new digs. I can't mix them with the big birds just yet, but they really need room to grow. Sometimes I think they are like carp - give them room and they fill it. I expanded the meat birds space earlier in the weekend and I think they've doubled in size. For them it's simple - move bales of shavings around in an open 8 x 10 foot shed to make their brood space a bit bigger every week or so until eventually I am down to a tiny space to get into the shed and they own the remainder. For the layers it's not as easy. About half of the layers shed has been walled off for the adult chickens; 5 x 8 or so. The other half, also about 5 x 8, holds feed, shavings, and the babies in a stock tank. It's important that they have as much space as they can have, while still keeping the size manageable from a heat perspective. With temperatures in the high 30's this week overnight, they still need their heat lamp from dusk until mid-morning.

Using a homemade interior door from the old shed (we're talking years ago, before we built the barn at the old house) I created a new space for the babies. I can still get into the shed for feed and water changes, although I have to go around to the back door to feed and water the big birds for a while, but that's minor. The babies space more than doubled in a matter of minutes. When I moved them into their new, expanded space they were, as always, hesitant at first...

but then they get a little more bold...

and eventually they own the room!

I think the fluffy footed partridge Cochins are the most brave. They are also the most personable. The older they get the more I can see who they will be when they're grown. The Cochins run to my hands, and a couple hop up and sit on my palm and look down on their siblings. I love the grab bag nature of assortments. It's like an endless quest to discover what these babies are. Combs start to take shape, feathers grow in certain ways, behavior and size indicates a lot as well... I can see a couple of roosters already. Delawares, two colors of Polish, then Spitzhauben, Hamburgs and possibly Campines...and a few I am not sure of yet.

I was very excited the other day to see that my peonies are coming up. These are from "the aunts' house" - the house we had Christmas and Thanksgiving at almost every year of my childhood, the house my mother bought when the last of the aunts had died - and then lost to unscrupulous mortgage brokers before any presidents bailed out any old people who got taken advantage of. The house was foreclosed on, and I took a few reminders away with me. They mean a lot to me, and I've moved them twice now, and on each move they seem to get bigger, faster than the move before. These were just bits of woody nothing when I planted them last year. In a couple of years they will be huge and will fill the space, at this rate!

I also have loveage, which I love. The last two times I have planted it, it's died. Here it seems to thrive.

My replacements for the tidy, orderly evergreen shrubs are growing, as well.

All of these - a dwarf forsythia (who knew?!), some potentilla, and an ornamental quince were bought on clearance. The deader the shrub, the more likely I am to buy it. Sometimes that doesn't work out so well, and other times I get really lucky. There's also elderberry at the end; three bushes that wrap around the corner of the house. Those are food, so I am willing to buy good stock. These are from St. Lawrence Nursery, which is also where we get the majority of our fruit trees and bushes, and our nuts.

Spring has sprung, with a vengeance. It's getting harder and harder to apply myself to yarn and needles. But soon it will be arid, hot, horrible summer - and with a little air conditioning, I will be back to work!

1 comment:

GerryART said...

Thanks, your post cheered me up
Love your shade umbrella adventure!!!!