Renewal Inside and Out

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Spring is coming to my long-neglected house and yard. The photo above is my amazing arborist, Aaron Danforth, de-limbing one of two green ash trees in my front yard. Neither has had an arborist's attention in a long time--perhaps never, and this one has a split in its main trunk so deep that it groans when the wind blows, and spits out fist-sized chunks of rotten wood. 

Despite some windy days and a toddler with croup, Aaron, a rock-climber who became an arborist because he loves trees and loves climbing, has managed to de-limb three of the eight huge spruces in my front and back-yard, fell one entirely, and take that ash tree down to its fat trunk. Which is why I have some sizable piles of mulch to deal with (the front-yard one is to the right of the ash tree in the photo above). 

While Aaron was climbing and sawing and chipping, my contractor, Jeff Durham, installed eighteen insulated roman shades throughout the house, a job that involved quite some finagling. Retrofitting anything in a 60-year-old house is not simple. 

The shades have already made a difference in the nighttime temperatures inside, and since this house was not even slightly energy efficient when it came to me, that's a big deal.

They also look elegant. The fabric is a pewter gray color with the slubbed look of raw silk and a slight sheen. I think it's the same fabric as the roman shades I loved in the casita where I stayed for my Women's International Study Center fellowship in Santa Fe last fall with playwright DS Magid, and scholar Stanlie James

(DS and Stanlie, do you recognize that fabric?)

Jeff also replaced the non-working light and ugly pole at the end of my driveway with a new post and working solar-powered light, and framed in the en-suite bath in the unused end of my bedroom so that it's ready for wiring and plumbing rough-in. 

When the bath is finished, we'll replace the floor, which was in such bad shape we couldn't save it, and paint my bedroom. (The bookshelves in the opening on the right are in my office--I have a short commute!)

Jeff's daughter Shantel, ace painter, finished applying the soft yellow color inspired by my vintage kitchen cabinets to three walls of the living/dining room (it's a long room, so that's a lot of wall!), and then painted the end wall of the dining room in the more sagey of the two green shades that I'm using as accent colors throughout the house. 

The color is less minty in person than in this photo

Then she painted another wall in the breakfast nook in that same soft yellow, brightening the space considerably.

 

While Aaron sawed, chipped, and felled, Jeff built, and Shantel painted, what was I doing? When I wasn't coordinating the restoration work and ordering supplies, I was at my desk writing. I finished a feature article for WILDFLOWER Magazine, and my monthly column for Houzz, which you can read here

Best office ever...

This weekend I took a break from writing to join the restoration work. I rolled my wheelbarrow out of the garage, grabbed my leaf rake and scoop shovel, and went to work spreading fragrant spruce-bough mulch on the eroded and bare soil in my yard resulting from my too many trees. 

Mulch will not only shade the soil from both hot summer sun and winter cold, it'll help retain moisture and allow rain and snow-melt to sink in rather than running off. Its sheltering qualities will make the community of micro- and macro-organisms living below the surface happier, and they thus will work their own brand of renewal magic, making the soil healthier for my remaining trees and all else rooted there. 

As I spread mulch in my east-side yard, I discovered neon-green daylily sprouts along the house foundation, plus daffodils poking up darker green leaves. Both are emerging in response to sunlight, which hasn't reached that area in decades. 

By the time I had reduced the front-yard mulch pile to almost nothing late this afternoon, my back and shoulders were protesting. So I stowed my tools, came inside and cleaned up, and made myself dinner. And then headed for that long teal couch in the living room, where I sit now with my feet up, writing this post and admiring the stars in the night sky out the window. 

I feel very grateful to have the work of writing and helping bring this house and yard back to life. There is much hard work ahead, but I am heartened by how far we have come. Spring is coming, and with it the promise of renewal. We can all take heart from that. 

Arabella the Christmas cactus thinks it's spring already!