Mending Fences

Another day, another job.  This fence, which might look like a joint project for neighbors to share, is all mine.  It's a good twenty feet inside the property line, so no chance that someone else is going to take care of this job for me.

Hard to believe, but the fence blew down in a modest storm.  No hurricane-force winds, just a few gusts, but that's all it takes when the fenceposts are rotten.  

The good news is that demolition is fun, especially for middle-school boys, so I rounded up Son Two and a wheelbarrow, and we spent an hour or two pulling the downed part of the fence apart and stacking it for later use, probably as firewood.  Son Two is not a big fan of chores, but destruction does appeal to him, so getting rid of the fallen fence was a positive and productive activity.  

Great to be able to find a chore that he enjoys.  Whacking the longer fence rails on the ground to break them into manageable pieces was a highlight.  Son Two had so much fun with that, he hardly complained about having to lug the wheelbarrow full of fence debris up the hill to where it needed to be stacked.  

Getting rid of the mess was a plus, but even better was being able to thank Son Two for pitching in.  So much better than nagging about how this or that job wasn't done or wasn't done right.  Lesson learned:  find chores for your kids that are at least a little bit fun.  You'll thank yourself for setting up a situation where you can thank them.

Headgear for the Intrepid


I am not a hat person.  When I wear a hat any longer than about five seconds, I get something I call "hat head," which for me is the worst kind of bad-hair day.    Consequently, I am willing to wear a hat only if I know that I won't have to remove it in public and if there's a guarantee that I'll be able to take a shower immediately once I do (privately) remove the hat.  

I will wear a hat only if it solves a problem that is worse than "hat head."  I have encountered only a few hats like that in my life.  This is one of them:

Canadian-made Cape Ann sou'wester hat

Canadian-made Cape Ann sou'wester hat


The sou'wester hat has its origins in Cape Ann, Massachusetts, but it's also wildly popular in Nova Scotia.  I bought mine in Halifax as a souvenir thinking it would be amusing to make my husband wear it when it was his turn to walk the dog in the rain.  It seemed best suited to someone who had a beard that smelled like raw cod, like this fellow here:

Old salt in a sou'wester

Old salt in a sou'wester


Then one day it was my turn to walk the dog in the rain.  Not just any rain, either--more like an epic hundred-year-flood kind of monsoon.  The kind of weather that makes you not care what you look like.  So I put on the hat and headed out, hoping not to encounter anyone I knew. Happily, I didn't, as everyone I knew probably had the good sense to stay indoors.  I may not have looked fashionable, but I discovered that what I thought was a goofy souvenir was in fact one of the most useful things I have ever bought on vacation, kind of like a cozy umbrella for your head. The flannel lining kept my head warm, the flaps protected my ears, the rolled brim in the front worked like a gutter, and all the rainwater ran off the sloping backside.  

That was over twenty years ago.  I still have my sou'wester, and I rely on it for doing outdoor chores in rain and sleet and any other kind of wettish precipitation.  These Canadian-made hats are available from the Dock Shoppe, of Toronto, and from the Bluenose II online store, run by the Lunenber Marine Museum Society, of Nova Scotia.    

A Change in the Weather

Yesterday was another fun February day in the wilds of northern suburbia:  four inches of snow, followed by ice pellets, followed by sleet, followed by light rain turned torrential.  Two nights ago it was nine below, with wind chills I don't even want to talk about.  By yesterday afternoon, the temperature was in the low fifties.  A sixty-degree swing like that is enough to give anybody whiplash:  we went from blizzard to monsoon in under forty-eight hours.  

If you're like me, unsettled weather unsettles you.  But one good thing about yesterday's crazy weather is that it changed up my outdoor activities.  By the time the weather had progressed to a drizzle, I decided it was time to get moving.  I put on my trusty Canadian sou'wester (nothing better for keeping the rain from running down the back of your neck) and started scraping slush off the driveway and the walks.    

Not having checked the weather forecast, I was worried about the slush turning to ice, making my sloped driveway into something like a bobsled run.  As the day wore on, and the drizzle turned into a downpour, the driveway started to look more like a spillway.  And my front yard, which had been buried under four inches of powder just the day before, turned into a waterlogged stretch of sod.  Let's just say this wasn't a positive transformation.  Suddenly, all the snowplow damage down at the front edge of my lawn, which I don't usually confront until April or so, was unpleasantly visible.  (No curb and gutter here in the wilds of northern suburbia, so sometimes the snowplow mangles the lawn.)  

Typical early-April sod damage.

Typical early-April sod damage.

It would be easy to find yesterday's oddly warm weather depressing.  After all, what I think of a "mud season" (usually mid April) is right up there with November as one of the unloveliest times of the year.  But this premature taste of mud season was also an opportunity.  Although most of the ground is still frozen, yesterday was warm and wet enough that the thin layer of sod down by the road was thawed and pliable. The reason I usually have to wait until April to tidy up down by the road is that everything stays frozen until then.  Yesterday was an unusual and unseasonable chance to make repairs early.   

I don't think I've ever started a day shoveling and ended it with sod repair, but yesterday was very strange.   An hour or so before dark, with the temperature still well above freezing, I broke out a hoe and my trusty dirt tamper (also great on gravel and asphalt) and headed out to the road.  My dirt tamper is a hefty one, so just carrying it down to the road is a project, and repairing the length of our frontage is a not insignificant job.  But afterward it looked great.  Very satisfying.

After yesterday's clean-up.

After yesterday's clean-up.

Wednesday-Morning Workout

cropped footprints in snow.png

It's just me and the snow this morning.  Mr. Darcy is in Chicago, and there's no snow day for the kids (see footprints leading down the driveway toward the bus stop).  So it's pretty clear what my exercise for the day is going to be.  With only three or four inches of powder, I can't justify firing up the blower, so I'll be getting a shovel-based workout.  At least there's plenty of motivation:  at the end of the job, I get a cleared driveway, an endorphin high, a pleasant ache in my core muscles, and (way down at the bottom of the driveway) the morning papers.